Information and the Future

This is the blog of the Information and the Future task force of the Rolfing Library at Trinity International University. The IF task force exists to explore the role of libraries in the future of Christian higher education.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Quentin Schultze' Scripture and Ministry Lecture on Using Technology Wisely

On Wednesday Afternoon, 11/1, Dr. Quentin Schultze delivered the first Scripture and Ministry Lecture for this year titled, "Beyond the Digital Rat Race : Using Technology Wisely in Our Lives, Work, and Churches." After a couple of personal illustrations about the pervasiveness of technology and generational attitudes toward it, Dr. Schultze spoke about the hope that often surrounds technology in our society. Each new application is seen as the one that may lead to a great leap forward in our personal, social, and work lives. He described the hope that surrounds new technologies as almost salvific, using the example of fading churches turning to new technologies as a means of attracting young people. Our cultural obsession with technology is almost "babelish" in that in many ways it represents a desire to make a name for ourselves and control our universe apart from God. In the end, according to Dr. Schultze, each new technology is accompanied by the same old problems and the same false hopes but is also accompanied by opportunities that require wisdom and moderation. Human life and society is composed of institutions and relationships ordained by God (e.g. marriage, family, church, government, etc.) with good purposes. The key is to adapt technology to serve these institutions and purposes rather than allowing technology to shape and possibly corrupt them. In order to achieve this adaptation we need wisdom and moderation.

Dr. Schultze spoke about wisdom as an orientation to ultimate reality. Biblically a fool may have knowledge or skill but not wisdom. Wisdom comes by listening and faithfully obeying God when we open ourselves to Him. We listen to God through scripture, preaching, worship, theological reading and discussion and there we learn our purposes and limits. In addition there is a horizontal dimension to wisdom that comes from listening to life and the world around us. Once we have listened to God and aligned ourselves with His will and purposes we are prepared to ask the questions about what are the purposes of our various institutions and relationships and how technology might serve or enhance them.

Dr. Schultze spoke of moderation as the classical virtue that stood at the point between deprivation and excess. Moderation is related to technology in two ways. First, we need to seek a balance in our lives so that to the extent that we lead technological lives we should also lead non-technological lives. If parts of our life are pervaded by technology there should be corresponding parts that are tech. free. He emphasized that we need to focus especially on spiritual disciplines that are low-tech, citing prayer, contemplation, and fellowship. He also noted that one of the opportunities of the digital world lies in the need to create circles of fellowship that emphasize the importance of bodily communion. Second, we need to effective stewards of our resources. Human lives are resource limited especially in the areas of time and money. Because of the expense and excitement that often surround technologies we need to protect resources, especially time, for non-technological areas of life and not allow ourselves to be swept away.

The lecture was followed by a question and answer period. The first questioner noted that technology often carries an inherent value for speed and efficiency. Dr. Schultze agreed and added that a technology is usually considered good if it increases efficiency or control. Therefore we need to ask ourselves if what we are attempting to enhance with technology lends itself to efficiency or control. What are the specific purposes and values appropriate to the institution? The second question related to whether "virtual reality is a mission field". Dr. Schultze agreed that it was. "In addition to cyber-nerds we need cyber-saints." Some people are only available online and so we need to reach them there. He also pointed the use of internet resources to reach those in closed-countries where perhaps only the government and military establishment have unfettered access to technology. The next person asked about how we go about forming communities of wise and virtuous people in light of the pervasiveness of individualism in our culture. Dr. Schultze responded that we must begin to lead such lives ourselves. We get almost nowhere by criticizing people's attitude toward and use of technology. We need to be able to present them with a better way. They need to see real lives flourishing in scriptural ways that are not in technological bondage. The fourth question focused on Dr. Schultze' meaning and whether each different institution might have its own special efficiency. Schultze agreed with the latter portion of the question. In response to the first part he said that he was thinking primarily of communications technologies. He went on to observe that most technologies become vehicles for communication despite their intended or primary uses pointing out how cars became more than a means of conveyance by becoming a crucial part of many people's social lives. The final question was about how we can overcome the power of technology to lull people into entertainment. Dr. Schultze reiterated the point about living lives and showing examples of people who have successfully broken free of technology and described measures he and his wife took to encourage their children to use the technologies of television, personal computers, and the vcr reflectively and to build relationships rather than as substitutes for them.

1 Comments:

  • At 1:08 PM, Blogger Matt said…

    Thanks Everett for the excellent summary.

    When speaking on wisdom Schultze made the point that often today student papers consists of listing information from several sources rather than taking that information, learning from it, and then offering our original and hopeful wise thoughts.

    I thought this comment was on target, at least for me. It may be good for us all to reflect how to move research beyond compiling and annotating sources to creating knowledge. To make the move from information to wisdom.

     

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