If you have been paying attention to the Heart Man Book Reviews, you will remember that I read a book on the use of modern technology and a book about fostering online education. Admittedly, this field has been of interest to me ever since I read The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. So I couldn’t help myself when InterVarsity Press released Transhumanism and the Image of God: Today’s Technology and the Future of Christian Discipleship by Jacob Shatzer. Shatzer has a PhD from Marquette University and is an ordained Baptist pastor. This book was released in April of 2019 and is incredibly important in our world as we live with increasing usage of technology. Shatzer argues that digital technology trains us, little by little, in transhumanist philosophy, allowing us to one day accept it completely. He asks the simple question of whether this is an appropriate formation for Christians or if we should be cautious about trying to adopt new digital technologies.
Shatzer is careful to state from the beginning that he believes that it is digital technology (computers, smartphones, mobile devices, video games, the internet, etc) that is the most worrisome as it “invite[s] an immersion that affects our formation in a more persistent way than” other technologies that have come before it. This is because digital technology has, according to Shatzer, extreme ease of access, addictive capabilites, and it has the ability to convince us that we need it to have a better life. He believes that digital technology is slowly changing us to accept a transhumanist worldview which is a “faith in technology to vastly expand the capabilites of humans.” Transhumanism is, ultimately, a belief that humanity has the ability to control its own destiny through the use of technology so that we can become more than human, or “posthuman.”
“We must incorporate practices into our lives that give us space away from and formation in the face of encroaching immersive technology.”
After spending the first half of the book defining transhumanism and showing his concern with it, he then turns his attention to show that orthodox Christian theology already has beliefs and practices that combat this worldview. Shatzer writes, “We must incorporate practices into our lives that give us space away from and formation in the face of encroaching immersive technology. Such practices will involve an element of withdrawal, but they als must give us something to focus on, to be formed by.” His ideas for these practices include practicing sabbath, seeking solitude, using our physical bodies for work and play, and prayer. The practices that we should look for are the ones that will connect us to God and physical people not to a form of digital technology, even if that technology “connects” us to the people in our lives.
“Rather than encouraging us to be disciples of technological escapism, Christan themes and practices encourage us to humbly rely on God for redemption, to put off the old self for the new self from God, and to find ourselves among the others who are in front of us…”
Of all that I have read on this topic, this book has certainly been my favorite. I keep coming back to it. I even wrote a paper for one of my classes this past sememster because of the ideas presented in this book. I recommend it for anyone asking about appropriate use of technology. Shatzer helped me to see that while there is so much to worry about with technology, we do not need to be afraid of it. We simply have to recognize who the master of it is. It is our responsiblity, especially for our formation, to make sure we stay connected to the real source of life and not one that merely displays a virtual reality. Please go pick yourself up a copy and engage in conversation in the comments.