Disruptive Witness by Alan Noble
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Noble argues that we live in a distracted age. Secularism bombards us with a paralyzing amount of “options” in terms of what to think about ultimate matters of meaning and existence. And the technological forms and habits of our current existence keep us sufficiently preoccupied such that the tide of modern life pushes us towards diminishing space for deep reflection. Both of these factors work to make modern humanity a deeply distracted, shallowly reflective bunch. The views we hold are “thin,” often inconsistent, and performative (cue social media)–perceived not so much as actual truth claims about the core of reality, but expressions of self-identity, and thus on par with personal preferences. In part 1 Noble unpacks this situation, drawing on observations from folks like Charles Taylor; and then in part 2 he offers practical counter-measures for how we can bear a sort of witness that disrupts the distracted, anesthetized age in which we live.
Relating this book to other literature: I felt like Noble’s work here was like a particular practical application of a slice of Carl Trueman’s recent work, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self (cf. expressive individualism). In addition, I sensed a lot of overlap in philosophical-cultural analysis with Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option (cf. we live in a now “unenchanted” world). Noble also expressly draws on the work of James K.A. Smith’s “cultural liturgies” and the church’s counter-formative liturgy. And then finally, there’s Charles Taylor of course.
Very thoughtful. Very insightful. Very good.
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The following is a list of discussion questions composed for a CrossWay Community Church small group, Christ & Culture, for use in March of 2019. It is based on chapters 2 and 4 of James K.A. Smith’s book You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit.
A Theology of Technology
Jim Samra, Mini Theology of Technology (from Gen 1-11)
Definition (broad) — “Technology includes all tools, machines, utensils, weapons, instruments, housing, clothing, communicating and transporting devices and the skills by which we produce and use them.”
- Technology is possible because man is created in the image of God (Adam and Eve — see Gen 1:26-30 — bearing God’s image; having dominion over creation).
- Technology often hinders our ability to recognize our need for God and can be used to attempt to render God unnecessary (Cain — killing Abel, ch. 4).
- Technology can free us to sin by attempting to shield us from some of the consequences of sin (Lamech — murder — and Tubal-Cain — forger of bronze and iron instruments).
- Technology is used by God to rescue us, to help alleviate some of the consequences of the fall, and to help us worship God (Noah, e.g., the ark).
- Technology is inherently dangerous because it is the product of purposive human activity, and we need help from God in limiting its use (Tower of Babel).
- Studying the cross as a form of technology led to my recognizing that technology is dangerous inasmuch as it is constantly tempting us to imagine a better life available to us through technology: to covet and to put our faith in technology rather than God. The cross is associated with the Jewish leaders coveting a world without Jesus (Luke 20:9-19) and their idolatry in embracing Caesar rather than God (John 19:13–16).
Questions for discussion:
- What do you find helpful here?
- Is there anything you are not sure you understand, or you think you might disagree with?
- Which points do you see rooted in scripture? … How so?
- How do you see these things playing out today in our world with today’s technology?