Protestant Technology Myths

An interesting post over at Michael Sacasas’ “The Frailest Thing” on what he names the myth around the relationship between technology and Protestant Christianity, which he describes like this:

The myth, briefly stated in intentionally anachronistic terms, runs something like this. Marin Luther’s success was owed to his visionary embrace of a cutting edge media technology, the printing press. While the Catholic church reacted with a moral panic about the religious and social consequences of easily accessible information and their inability to control it, Luther and his followers understood that information wanted to be free and institutions needed to be disrupted. And history testifies to the rightness of Luther’s attitude toward new technology.

Sacacas contends that this myth isn’t untrue to some extent, but it does get used to sanction or ‘baptise’ technology uncritically, and to support a narrative to technological progress connected to an “adapt or die” mentality.

It’s worth a read, not the least because it comes with the caveat “Finally, big generalizations ahead. Carry on” (something more of my some of my students should use), and a reference to  Borg Complex claims about technology and church.

You can find the article here: The Technological Origins of Protestantism, or the Martin Luther Tech Myth | L.M. Sacasas

Posted in Faith & Religion, Science, Technology & Religion, Technology | 2 Comments

Moving books

WP_20170106_15_40_29_Pro_LIProbably the most important thing I’ve read so far this year.

Probably needs how to add to move DVDs and comics too. (Comics are hard to pack and are heavy in bulk).

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Goodbye 2016

Last post of 2016, a year with about 700 days of life experience compressed into 365 days.

Mistakes were made; lessons were learned. Some projects unborn or uncompleted, other projects unforeseen in 2015 brought to fruition. Various companions on the way departed; new ones joined the peregrination; and others faithfully encouraged as we walked through the year.

2017 will be both different and the same. Given each of the last four years have turned out completely differently than I expected, I can make no predictions except anticipating ongoing, rapid change.

My prayer for 2017 (shamelessly flogged from Babylon 5)

God be between you and harm in all the empty places where you must walk.
Babylon 5, 2.4 “A Distant Star”

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Christmas, Sin City and John’s Gospel

Our Christmas Eve evening service focused particularly upon the opening of John’s Gospel with the Word coming into the world – “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (Jn 1:9). With glowsticks instead of candles (the wax on the carpet from previous years being avoided), the dimmed church highlighted that the smallest light can make a real difference in a darkened place. And that the darkness did not apprehend (by understanding or restraining) the light of God in Jesus of Nazareth.

That’s all well and good, and something worth meditating on, but in the southern hemisphere when the we’ve just had the summer solstice a few days before, where it’s beginning to head into summer proper, and the night comes late in the evening, physical darkness is sometimes hard to come by, obscuring the very real emotional and spiritual darkness that is present in parts of our everyday world.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been watching the cinematic adaptation of Frank Miller’s “Sin City” (2005). It’s a film noir series of vignettes in a world bereft of hope and love, starring an ensemble cast of well-known actors, and can be watched in one sitting or story by story. The vignettes intersect with each other, with characters crossing paths in their own stories, and with a single story in two parts, “That Yellow Bastard,” bracketing the film like a kind of inclusio.

The film is brutal both in its violence and its portrayal of a world without hope. The cinematography aids this with everything in being monochromatic, with the occasional splash of colour, such as the red of lipstick or blood to emphasise the inherent sexuality or violence in a scene (and similar to two other film projects of Miller’s “The Spirit” and “300“). All of this rams home the world as dark and violent place, with a few anonymous good people and where any act of love or kindness is ephemeral; stamped out by the darkness.

Perhaps then, this is a portrayal of the world that John’s Gospel describes the light of God entering into – one which captures the inability of humanity to save itself from itself, and where human efforts at love and hope, as political theologian Duncan Forrester notes “tends to disintegrate in the face of radical evil.” As such, it is a world which cannot imagine, let alone apprehend, the light and life of God, full of grace and truth, because it has no place such a thing.

And this is the mystery of Christmas, which is borne out at Easter and beyond – violence, despair and hopelessness – are recognised as inescapably part of a human condition. Not the only part, it must be said, but the particular part that needs the ultimate source of hope and truth as found in, borrowing Eugene Peterson’s words, “God becoming flesh and blood and moving into our neighbourhood” and in doing so adding much needed brightness and colour to the monochromatic landscape.

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Computer Nostalgia

Walking down Railside Ave in Henderson the other day and saw this old 8-bit Commodore 64 system with paddles, joystick and floppy drive for sale in the secondhand shop.


Overcome with nostalgia (in a very geeky kind of way), I’ve put together a graphical timeline of various computer systems I’ve spent a lot of time with. I’ve missed a few out – like the Sun workstations and the NeXT systems at various universities, various Linux and OS/2 systems, and a number of other systems like the old BBC Model B for playing Elite, but these are the ones that I’ve worked with day in and day out. The graphics are below and the PDF is here at: Stephen’s Computers (PDF).


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Loading Docs 2016

A selection of short documentaries from the Loading Docs 2016 collection, hosted by Radio New Zealand.

RNZ is proud to present three short documentaries from Loading Docs 2016. Watch all here, including one that delves into a friendship in transition.

Source: What happens when your best mate becomes a woman?

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Serendipities – Len Hjalmarson

len_180In a little while, Len Hjalmarson will join us at Laidlaw College (Henderson) to teach an intensive course on missional leadership. Len and I connected initially through the Wikiklesia project back in 2007, and more recently through our mutual activities as faculty advisors for the George Fox University DMin in Leadership and Global Perspectives programme.

However, recently I came across a series of magazine articles that Len wrote for the old Bible College of New Zealand (now Laidlaw College) magazine ‘Reality‘ back in the early 90s. A serendipitous moment.

You can read the articles at the links below:

Len’s posting on his upcoming visit is here –

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Robotic hand that learns from experience

An article following on from the one the other day – though from a different source. This time, work on creating a hand with human-like dexterity as part of a larger project to create robots that interact with the everyday world. Combine this form of inductive learning with the ‘pain’ sensitivity of the other robotic model and you get something that might be more responsive and, in the examples of making coffee in the article, able to react to the heat of the cup when passing it to someone.

Source: Researchers created a robotic hand that is eerily human-like and can learn on its own

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Robots to be taught how to feel pain

While we’re working to insulate ourselves from pain, we’re also working to make robots feel it. Makes for some interesting ethical scenarios about both human and machine pain.

An artificial nervous system aimed at teaching robots how to feel pain is being developed by German researchers.

Source: Robots to be taught how to feel pain

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Ellul, Technique & Confronting the Technological Society

Had occasion to direct a student to Jacques Ellul’s work the other day to look at his idea of la technique seen as ‘the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity.’* In the process of doing that, I came across these two links.

Source: Confronting the Technological Society

With the conclusion of that piece ending with the following:

Neither of these two options — wholeheartedly embracing the technological imperative or shunning it with anti-civilizational escapism à la Rousseau — is a fitting response to the warning of The Technological Society. We ought instead to take Ellul’s book, placed in the context of his larger work, as an appeal to walk a middle path between unrestrained technophilia and reactionary technophobia, a path we see only if we refocus on human ends, which are familial, communal, political, and ecclesial. This requires that we are willing to admit that among our vast array of technical means many fail to serve us well, that progress on this path has often little to do with innovation, and that control over our means is not simply given but something we must struggle for by confronting them with these higher than technical ends.

See also:

Source: Ellul and Technique | | The International Jacques Ellul Society

* Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society, trans. John Wilkinson (New York: Vintage Books, 1964), xxv.

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