Habits of the High-Tech Heart

A friend asked me to compile a list of books for a student who is writing a paper on a Christian perspective on computer technologies and cyberspace. I thought you might enjoy seeing the descriptions of the titles I told him about. Is there somebody you know who you might forward this to? We all are influenced by this virtual stuff and there is no doubt that the high-tech world is a culturally-significant feature of our times. How best to be fully human and honor God in these times?
I also want to share this biblio with you since, I am told, not too many Christian bookstores carry this kind of stuff. We think it is important to hold up the call to distinctive Christian thinking across the whole of life, and is illustrative of our efforts here at Heart
s & Minds. We welcome you to look over my shoulder as I offer some suggestions for this wise collegiate.
Dear _____

Thanks for your request to send a list of books that would help college students Òthink ChristianlyÓ about cyberspace and computer science. Integrating faith and learning, and offering resources to do that, as you know, is one of our great passions. Please feel free to pass this on to others, too. We usually have all of these in stock and are eager to serve you further. Thanks.
WeÕve got others titles that could be mentioned, too, of course; I will just list our favorites. For starters, thought, here are a few excellent ones on the general theme of Christian faith and technology. Although these may or may not have much in them about cyber technologies and computer science, they do provide the essential framework for thinking worldviewishly about a cultural milieu that is as high-tech as ours. I think these are very good and important for foundational thinking.
Faith & Hope in Technology Egbert Schuurman (Clements) $19.95 This Dutch neo-Calvinist is the guy to read on this topic, and this is his most recent major work. It isn’t distributed widely in the states, we are very happy to stock it. Not only is he an engineering professor, he is a member of the Senate of the Dutch Parliament. Very important.
The Technological World Picture and an Ethic of Responsibility: Struggles in the Ethics of Technology Egbert Schuurman (Dordt College Press) $9.00 This is his brand new one, brief and informative, calling on us to be responsible in our globalized world, and to be attentive to the worldview of faith in technique. Substantial and very nice.
Discerning Prometheus: The Cry for Wisdom in Our Technological Society Robert Wauzzinski (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press) $39.95 DonÕt get me started about academic presses and their overly expensive books. This one, though, is worth every penny. Bob is not only a friend, a Presbyterian pastor, a former staff worker with PittsburghÕs Coalition for Christian Outreach, he is a bone fide prophet when it comes to cultural discernment. This book is well grounded in a Biblical worldview, wonderfully interdisciplinary, and practical. (He works doing degree completion stuff with prisoners, so he cannot be accused of being esoteric in his philosophical critique.) Wauzzinski gives the best overview of the different schools of thought about the philosophy of technology, using a typology that he has developed in light of a Christian worldview, which is a very helpful feature, making this a useful guide to the current literature.
Power Failure: Christianity in the Culture of Technology Albert Borgmann (Brazos) $14.99 WeÕve been a fan of Borgman since we read his important Crossing the Postmodern Divide. Eugene Peterson once told me that he thinks one of the most urgent books for ordinary pastors to read and ponder is BorgmanÕs Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life. You will see one listed below on information technologies which will be very germane to your topic. This, though, is a wonderful and shorter version of his take on things, written more explicitly out of his Catholic faith and presuming a Christian reader. Rave blurbs on the back from the likes of Robert Bellah, Marva Dawn and David Gill may help you see the significance of this little book, packed with helpful insight.
The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention David Noble (Penguin) $14.95 Hold on to your hatÑwhat a provocative and interesting study of the religious roots of Western technology. On everybodyÕs list, especially on the history and philosophy of the rise of the technological age.
Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology Neil Postman (Vintage) $12.00 How could I not list a Postman book! Read everything the man wrote! Here, he passionately invites us to resist the ideology of technique, calling us to become Òloving resistance fightersÓ by living somewhat differently than the world around us. More fun and feisty, but brings to mind the eloquent and wise writings of Wendell Berry. His essay on why he doesnÕt use a computer, in Another Turn of the Crank is well worth reading, even if he is appears to be too much of a Luddite.
Christians in a .com World: Getting Connected Without Being Consumed Gene Edward Veith & Chris Stamper (Crossway) $14.99 You may know these two from World magazine. Veith is a good and accessible cultural critic from a solid Christian perspective, and Chris does (or used to do) the pop culture column in that mag. This is basic, readable, and gives the helpful framework that all technologies, including computers, are able to exist because of the possibilities put into GodÕs creation; yet, things are fallen and can be distorted due to sin and human ideologies, and, still, in Christ, we can reclaim and restore cultural artifacts for proper and appropriate use and service. For those who think either Ã’good or badÓ or “safe or dangerous” catagories, this Bibilical creation-fall-redemption call to be both active and discerning in this field may be refreshing. For some, it may be a bit basic. Perfect for highschoolers or first year college students who have never attended to integrating faith and scholarship or reflecting on a Christian perspective on something as common as computer use. Nice.
The Soul in CyberSpace Douglas Groothuis (Wipf & Stock) $22.00 This basic paperback came out in the 90Õs and at the time seemed brilliant. It has been reprinted as it is still used in some seminaryÕs or colleges; this is not a superficial critique (takes too much of our time, isnÕt real, can be used for pornography, say) but rather looks at the structures and presumptions and how they order our thinking and experiences. Profound without being scholarly. Very useful.
Habits of the High-Tech Heart: Living Virtuously in the Information Age Quentin Schultze (Baker) $18.99 Quite simply the most important work done yet on how cyberspace effects us, and what sort of Christ-like character we need to stand strong amidst these new experiences. Blurbs from scholars like Walter Ong and theologians like Rich Mouw illustrate that this really is a book to be taken seriously. And, it is a delight to read. Every field of study should have a spiritually minded and thoughtful book like this.
Information Technology and Cyberspace: Extra-Connected Living? David Pullinger (Pilgrim) $16.00 British Christians have long been particularly thoughtful about emerging cultures and willing to bring together faith and the issues of the day. This is part of a series of books, published by the UCC, which grapple in introductory ways with ethical concerns (reproductive technologies and such.) This one, a small paperback, is very nicely done, raising all kinds of ethical questions, noting new ways e-commerce or virtual experiences can effect us, both positively and negatively.
Holding On To Reality: The Nature of Information at the Turn of the Millennium Albert Borgmann (University of Chicago Press) $14.00 A significant and meaty paperback, this gives really clear and persuasive assessment of what one quote calls our Òhype-addled age.Ó Makes the case for using technologies in ways that still allow for mystery and grace, rather than reductionistic claims of hard data. Very important, if a bit philosophical. (I mentioned some of his other books above.)
Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation Don Tapscott (McGraw Hill) $14.95 It may seem dated, but it might be fun (and helpful) for current youngsters to read this study, written just a few years back, profiling their generation and the one right before them—and the major changes that the digital revolution has brought. A great guidebook to kidsÕ brains and how they think these days. It brings to mind Leonard SweetÕs quip in Carpe Manana, that some people were Ã’born hereÓ in this hot-wired culture, and for us older ones, we are immigrants, learning a new language and way of being that is not our native tongue.
The Talmud and the Internet: A Journey Between Worlds Jonathan Rosen (Picador) $10.00 A gracious study of how reading, and especially devotional reading, happens in books and on line. ÒWisdom, intelligence and tenderness in one slim volumeÓ says one reviewer. Very interesting.
Cyberselfish Paulinea Borsook (PublicAffairs) $13.00 This woman was a contributing writer at Wired during the magazineÕs glory years and writes with great passion and wit. She is examining the culture of computer geeks in a savvy and sharp way. The subtitle is: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High Tech. Wow.
The Gospel in Cyberspace: Nurturing Faith in the Internet Age Pierre Babin & Angela Ann Zukowski (Loyola University Press) $15.95 This isnÕt exactly on developing a uniquely Christian or Biblically-wise approach to computer science, but, rather, how faith can be developed given the reality of our cyberspace experiences. Still, it is insightful and helpful, written from an explicitly Roman Catholic faith development perspective. Clever, provacative and unique.
The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age Sven Birketts (Ballantine) $19.00 My goodness, I loved this book. It isnÕt, again, exactly about computers, but, rather, the fate of reading. He tells marvelous stories in this memoir of his experiences of reading, working in a bookstore, learning to love the printed page and bound volume. You can see why I so enjoyedÑand was deeply moved byÑthis great reflection. One of our best essayists. Some people contrast it with the more optimistic book by Richard Lanham called The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology and the Arts published in the 90Õs by University of Chicago Press. Not sure of thatÉ
Anybody else know of any essential ones which would be fruitful in this project?

6 thoughts on “Habits of the High-Tech Heart

  1. I made a similar list last year. I would say that Monsma’s “Responsible Technology” should probably be on any reading list about how to “think Christianly” about technology.

  2. Great list! I’d agree with Macht – Responsible Technology is a must; it’s criminal that it’s out of print.

  3. I tried to post something the other day, but somehow it didn’t “take” (ahhh, technology.) The title Responsible Technology IS available again. I didn’t list it since much of it’s emphasis is engineering and not computer science which was what the customer needed. Schuurman helped with that, by the way.We’ve got it in stock–for any engineers out there; Wauzzinski’s book draws on it a bit, too. Great stuff.I’ve got a little listing of other books on engineers and a Christin view of technology at our website, in the section “Books By Vocation.” Thanks!Byron

  4. By the way, if anybody is skimming these comments, both of the above guys have marvelously done, excellent blogs. Check em out asap. Byron

  5. The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul is a classic, albeit difficult read. To give a flavor, here’s a quote from the translator’s introduction: “The reduction of everything to quantity is partly a cause, and partly an effect, of the modern omnipresence of computing machines and cybernated factories.”Although not from a Christian perspective, Jerry Mander’s In the Absence of the Sacred is an excellent critique of modern technology and highly recommended.

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