We are living in one of those remarkable periods in Christian history. These periods roll around every few hundred years or so, it seems. These are times laden with days in which the ‘ole approach to life and living nostalgically referred to as “the way things have always been done” gets all messed up, and permanently too! The familiar is exposed as something ephemeral and it is discarded for new, unexpected, unimagined, and unavoidable potential and possibility. We know we must continue to do, but we know we must do differently. Today, the way we “do” Christianity is changing. The way we “do” church is changing too. Our faith practice and ecclesiology are gradually being altered. It is all changing, even as I write this essay.
In fact, I’ll ask you to simply consider, but for a moment, the manner in which I am actually writing this abstract. I am typing it, on a keyboard, in front of a very slick Sony LCD screen. This method of writing is ridiculously widespread and common, I know. It is so seemingly ordinary; few of us actually give the act a moment’s thought. We really should critically consider what we are doing more often! Why? Well, for starters, it points us toward what we are not doing anymore! What we are not doing anymore points to ramifications of real-time change! We have changed! We are in the midst of change! I can’t recall, for example, the last time I actually used an ink or graphite stick to scratch something substantial upon a sheet of hydrogen-bonded cellulose (aka paper). In fact, I’m not sure I even remember how to hand-write a letter! Well, that last exclamation may just be pushing the limits of hyperbole, but in all honestly I rarely do any substantial pen and paper writing. I write 98% of my material on screen and I left-click a print or a send e-mail icon upon completion. Too, if I take classroom or lecture notes, it’s usually via laptop. This is a monumental shift in practical, everyday living. It is also only one small example of today’s technologically induced social change.
There are countless other examples, and all of them point to a huge but surprisingly subtle shift in everyday, contemporary living and practice. The way we do theology has changed too, consequently. Where the winds of everyday change blow, you can count on changes in theological expression soon following. Our basic theological foundations do not change, but our practical expressions of it do. This is especially obvious in the rise of Online Social Networking and the theological tremors accompanying it.
Theology has been technologically decentralized, people. Can you see it?