Technology, Sin and Goodness

The evangelical publishing house IVP Academic released the computer scientist Derek Schuurman's Shaping a Digital World: Faith Culture and Computer Technology.

The book is a highly important addition to a growing volume of theological volumes reflecting on the issue of technology from a theological standpoint, not the least because it is one of the rare volumes generated by a practitioner in the field of computer science rather than theology.

Schuurman also provides one important nuance to theological reflections that either uncritically baptise or impose blanket condemnations on a Christian engagement with technology. Within a few pages, Schuurman makes 2 important points. 

Building on the passage in Genesis where Cain builds the first city after his act of fratricide, Schuurman  notes that all cultural artifacts, including urban cultures shaped by computer technology, are unavoidably tainted by sin. Because of this, it is impossible to say technology can only be a good thing. 

Nevertheless, Schuurman also argues (again with reference to Genesis) that even though it is stained by sin, computer technology also remains part of the mandate to "fill the earth". And because culture, including computer-generated cultures, is constitutive of this mandate, computer technology must also be seen as an inherently good thing. 

Schuurman's qualified point, which turns on the goodness of things that are nonetheless negated by sin, is key in opening up a space for the Church to maneuver within an environment whereby escape from techno-culture is all but impossible. To bless it without caveats would be to ignore the salience of sin, whilst to curse it without reserve would be to render the church acultural as well as deny the redemptive work of God.

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