Review: The Next Story by Tim Challies
by Tim Challies
2011, Zondervan, Kindle Edition
Are you concerned that you are becoming a slave to technology? Do you worry that you check your email / twitter / facebook too often? Do you feel that your mobile phone is often too intrusive? Are you lost without it? Are you interested in how to best utilise technology and digital media and to see how it fits into God’s creation? If you answer any of these positively, then this is a book for you.
One might simply describe this book as a theology of technology. The author, Tim Challies, aims to find the ‘sweet spot’ where
“our use of technology is not just thoughtful and informed, but it is informed by the Bible, by an understanding of God’s purpose for technology”.
Challies looks at how technology fits into a Christian view of creation, noting both the God-ordained creativity and potential for blessing that technology brings, but also recognising that in a fallen world this blessing can be distorted. The benefits of technology, he notes, are often obvious, while the pitfalls and costs it may bring are not, and thus we need to think carefully about these issues when introducing a new technology into our lives. Often we mistake technology for being additive, adding a certain functionality to our lives, when it reality it is ecological, actually changing the way we live.
He looks at how technology and information can become addictive. He points out that we too often begin to see ourselves the way we evaluate technology, thinking faster and greater capacity is best, and warning that we are beginning to lose the ability to read and think deeply, often outsourcing what our brains ought to be doing, to pieces of hardware and software.
This book also looks at issues of authority and perception of truth and the way sites like Google and Wikipedia have changed our understanding in this area, both helpfully and unhelpfully, looking in particular at the danger of truth by consensus.
Challies is certainly not arguing for any kind of anti-progress, anti-technology Ludditism, but rather calls for us to be more discerning and thoughtful in the technologies we use and how we use them. Putting this in the context of faithful Christian living, he helpfully raises issues of accountability and idolatory. He is arguing for a view of technology that sees it as a good gift from God, to be used as our tools, not for us to become enslaved to it. After each chapter he ends with a few questions which help the reader formulate their own ideas and see how these issues might play out in their own life.
I found this book very enjoyable but also very challenging. I recognised many of the pitfalls and related to some the struggles he writes about. I appreciated some of the suggestions he gives and have begun to try and implement some of the disciplines which I was challenged about*. It is a very timely book, and in my experience, a unique one which deserves to be widely read (and re-read).
Here’s the promo video:
*Sometimes it’s simple things, e.g. he notes:
Inherent in the analog clock, a synchronous measure of time, is a sense of the past and the future. One glance shows time past and time to come as the hands sweep across the face of the clock. … But inherent in the digital clock, an asynchronous measure, is a nonlinear sense of time, stripping the present moment from any kind of continuity with the past or future. There is only right now.
In my experience, this is right. Too many times I’ve been watching the digital clock on my computer only to be surprised by ‘is that the time!’. Having changed that to an analogue style clock in the bottom corner I tend to have a better sense of how much time I ‘have left’ etc.