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The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion Hardcover – April 19, 2011
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Tim Challies knows technology and he knows the faith. So, when he writes on the intersection of technology and faith, it's a must read. The Next Story gives solid counsel to living out the gospel in the context of today's rapid progression of technology. -- Ed Stetzer
When we think about technology, most of us are content to focus naively on features and price. Thankfully, Tim Challies calls us to something deeper. The Next Story is a compelling call for God's people to consider technology's implications, effects, and tendencies. Challies demonstrates thoughtful examination of what technology can do to us, rather than what it can do for us. --- Scott McClellan, Echo Conference -- Scott McClellan
This is an important book. As someone who has spent almost two decades helping couples and families grow stronger and thrive, I have seen how what Tim Challies calls the digital explosion is sending shock waves through homes – everything from Facebook threatening marriages to couples who can’t have a conversation that goes deeper than a tweet. It’s time we think seriously about the subtle way technology is reordering our lives. The Next Story helps us do that. - Bob Lepine, Co-Host, FamilyLife Today -- Bob Lepine
We all marvel at the rapid technological advances that have taken place in our lifetime. But few of us stop to reflect on the profound way these changes are shaping what it means to be human. The Next Story is a great place to start. It moves beyond warnings simply to be careful what we see (important though these are) to explore how the medium of new technology affects how we know God, relate to other people and even how we think. Instead of simplistic rules or proof texts, it offers a penetrating analysis of the modern world in the light of the biblical story together with practical principles that will enable you to ensure technology is your tool and not your master. - Tim Chester, author, leader in The Crowded House, and co-director of The Porterbrook Network -- Tim Chester, Author
As the co-author of 13 words in Tim's new book, I'm very happy that he, with his skill as a writer, his experience with as a web designer, and his deeply informed, discerning faith, wrote the other 60,000. Tim's new book helps believers better understand and live faithfully in the electronic age. Rather than blindly embracing or fearfully rejecting new media and technology, Tim skillfully weaves together Biblical wisdom, historical background, and critical insight, giving readers practical application they can use today. - John Dyer, Director of Web Development for Dallas Theological Seminary, author of From the Garden to the City -- John Dyer, Director
The digital revolution is one of the most important developments of our times. Christians need good, solid, and insightful guidance as to how to engage the digital world without surrendering to the digital mind. Tim Challies is uniquely qualified to write this book and I greet its arrival with enthusiasm. -- R. Albert Mohler Jr, President
There are many books evaluating the nature and impact of new media. There are many books on Christian discipleship. However, this book brings these issues together, with profound simplicity and well-informed analysis. This is an important book not only for church leaders but for all of us who seek to understand how we are used by our technology as well as use it. -- Michael Horton, Professor
If I outsource memory is it an advance or a loss? Where is wisdom in the immediacy of the information explosion? Can we really affirm biblical authority when Wikipedia is truth? Tim Challies uses theoretical, experiential and theological lenses to give us a prophetic assessment of our digital age. He unpacks the opportunities of increased connection as well as the new Gnosticism of the dis-incarnations of the virtual society. He calls us to extricate ourselves from the ADHD world of information overload to live as whole persons giving ourselves to wisdom and worship of God alone. -- Dr. Gerry Breshears, Professor
All of us today---whether 'digital immigrants' or 'digital natives'---are living in the after-shock of the 'digital explosion.' Though our world has radically and rapidly changed, the fundamental question has remained the same: will we be found faithful? Tim Challies proves to be a faithful navigator, though humble enough to admit that he identifies with the rest of us as a fellow struggler. The result of his labors is an accessible guide full of wise reflection and practical counsel. What hath technology to do with the biblical worldview? Come and see. -- Justin Taylor, Managing Editor
About the Author
A pastor, noted speaker, and author of numerous articles, Tim Challies is a pioneer in the Christian blogosphere. Over 20,000 people visit Challies.com each day, making it one of the most widely read and recognized Christian blogs in the world. Tim is also the editor of DiscerningReader.com, a site dedicated to offering thoughtful reviews of books that are of interest to Christians. Tim is the author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment and Sexual Detox. He and his family reside near Toronto, Ontario.
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I can't think of a person better qualified to address the place of the Christian in the midst of this digital explosion than Tim Challies. Challies is both a solid Christian with a Reformed background, as well as someone who is intimately familiar with the effects of the digital world on the lives of Christians. Challies is not only a web designer but also a very popular Christian blogger and book reviewer.
This past year, I've read a large number of books dealing with exactly the issue of how Christians should engage the digital world all around us: "The Next Story" is to date the best book I've read on the issue. There are a number of reasons for this. First, Challies ties what he says back to a theological foundation for what he writes. He brings a distinctly Christian perspective that avoids the extremes of jumping on the digital bandwagon or of being afraid to use the new technologies. Instead, he advocates what he calls "disciplined discernment," a trait that he himself manifests throughout the entire book. Second, Challies deals with a large number of relevant issues. While he provides something of a theological basis for what he says, he also writes about the particular issues that are most relevant to the digital world. In this way, "The Next Story" bridges the gap between theory and practice, between theology and real life. Third, Challies has provided what I think is the best overall discussion of the impact of the various digital technologies on our lives and souls - as well as the best discussion of some of the things that we as Christians must practice if we are not be to distracted and led astray by this omnipresent digital world. Throughout "The Next Story," Challies has read and interacted with the best thinkers in the area of media and its influence in our lives.
Let me be more specific about a few of the issues with which "The Next Story" deals. While the book is a little slow in the beginning, Challies really hits his stride in Part 2 of the book when he shows us how to put the theory into practice. In Chapter 4 on Communication, Challies hits the nail on the proverbial head when he dissects some of the ways in which digital communication can become idolatrous: we have fashioned idols of productivity, significance, and a desire for information.
Chapter 5 is even better, when Challies discusses the nature of the mediated world we live in. He sustains an important discussion of the way that digital technologies are disembodying us or "disincarnating" us. One all too real example is the notion of how in the digital world identity is fluid and something we create for ourselves. We take "avatars" for ourselves, and multiple ones at that. We begin to think of ourselves as something apart from our bodies and as beings we can re-create in any image we desire to. We also pursue "networked individualism," based not on a real community but only on the basis of similar, ephemeral shared interests.
Chapter 6 deals with Distraction, a topic I'm keenly aware of as a father of five children and as a high school teacher. Distraction, Challies argues, leads to shallow thinking, which in turn leads to shallow living. And the truth is that we are all more distracted by our digital technologies than we recognize. Even multi-tasking turns out to be highly overrated as a strategy for dealing with our communication overload.
One of my favorite chapters is Chapter 8, on Truth and Authority. Challies' reflection on the "authority" that Wikipedia has developed for itself is worth the price of the book all by itself. Isn't it a little scary that the number one page that shows up on Google for almost any search is Wikipedia, an encyclopedia which has only relatively poor oversight and which has been known to have inaccuracies? What happens when authority is based on popularity, rather than expertise, tradition, or revelation?
Make sure you read the Epilogue, in which Challies reveals to us some of the ways in which he personally has learned to combat the challenges of the digital world. In so doing, he begins to teach us some of the spiritual disciplines we will all need to undertake if we don't want the digital technologies to distract us from Christ. Challies also provides additional suggestions at the end of each of the chapters in Part 2 of the book.
Highly recommended for any Christian who wants to live more faithfully in this digital world!
Here's an outline of the book so you can better see the flow of Challies' thought:
Chapter 1 - Discerning Technology
Chapter 2 - Understanding Technology
Chapter 3 - A Digital History
Chapter 4 - Speaking, Truthing, Loving, Living (Communication)
Chapter 5 - Life in the Real World (Mediation/ Identity)
Chapter 6 - Turn Off and Tune In (Distraction)
Chapter 7 - More is Better (Informationism)
Chapter 8 - Here Comes Everybody (Truth/Authority)
Chapter 9 - Seeing and Believing (Visibility and Privacy)
Epilogue- The Next Story and the Next Story after That . . .
Many worry about what the role of technology plays in the lives of Christians and whether there is more to our story. In fact, technology plays a vital role in each one of our stories. “God has gifted human beings with remarkable ability to dream, create, and invest technologies that serve us as we serve him, technologies that enable us to better serve him.” This book is an excellent book from beginning to end as we join Challies in the story of the digital explosion. In this book, Christians can learn and explore different suggestions and ideas to use technology with new “character, virtue and wisdom” and how to respond faithfully as the next story unfolds.
Throughout this book, Challies explains that it is no good to live as “experience rich and theology poor.” I have never been explained how to use technology this way until reading this book. I had never made sense of the consequences I would experience while using technology. I relate to others who find a “tension between how we use technology, how we know technology operates, and how God expects us to use technology.” If we use technology without actually thinking deeply about it, then we will never understand how it is impacting our lives and hearts.
I enjoyed reading this book because it helped me to be not just thoughtful and informed but also informed by the Bible and more deeply understanding God’s purpose for technology. “In that place of thoughtful, technological discernment, we live in light of what we know to be true about technology, what we know to be true about ourselves, and what we know to be true about the God who made us.”If we use technology without questioning our use of it, then it is no good. And if we use technology with critical insight, it still does us no good if we don’t understand God’s purpose.
Challies writes this book in an extremely relatable way that is easy to understand. He connects with those of us who are tempted to embrace technology without a second look and those who are a little bit scared and separated from technology. The goal of this book is to make all of us into discerning Christians. It is in this response that we learn to “look carefully at the new realities, weight and evaluate them, and educate himself, thinking deeply about the potential consequences and effects of using a particular technology.” This book disciples us to both embrace and reject the proper technologies while relying on the Holy Spirit, and “learn how he can live with virtue in this new digital world.” If that is something that you are interested in, then I definitely recommend this book.
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