Are Christians Ready for the Digital Age?
Dr. David Zietsma examines how Christians are engaging with society's digital revolution

Not long ago, Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows warned that addiction to digital distraction was negatively impacting our brains. Carr’s book became a best-seller, but in the half decade since its publication we have become even more consumed with our digital devices.

Toddlers have favorite apps, iPads entertain children and employees can’t really leave work behind. Even grandparents are getting connected. How else to keep up with the latest activities and pictures of the grandchildren?

How are Christians responding to these significant changes in the way we interact with each other and the wider world?

“Technology “Sabbaths” are becoming a regular spiritual discipline.”

On the one hand, there is reason to be concerned. As Carr explained in his book, digital devices are rewiring how we think. Digital interactions exercise neural pathways responsible for short-term judgment. But areas of our brain responsible for critical thinking, comprehension, memory and empathy are becoming weaker through disuse as we engage in brief bursts of distraction.

Christians certainly have spoken, written and blogged about the challenges. Technology “Sabbaths” — brief tech-free interludes that allow us to purge our mental toxicity — are becoming a regular spiritual discipline.

On the flip side, the digital revolution gives us much to celebrate. Staying in touch with family and friends, instantaneous how-to guides and up-to-the-second news and weather updates do have benefits.

Churches, businesses and other organizations have often utilized modern technology to accomplish their missions more effectively. Without a digital presence organizations can suddenly be invisible, no matter their size.

“Some commentators might predict “the end of college” thanks to the digital revolution, but that’s only if we limit our idea of higher education to knowledge transfer and skills training.”

Universities are no exception. Reaching today’s youth requires relevant communications platforms. A recent decline in the high-school demographic and increased competition has meant significant increases in recruitment efforts, especially through digital communication platforms.

At Redeemer, our integrated digital marketing efforts mirror our commitment to curriculum that engages students in the digital revolution. That doesn’t mean we are replacing classroom teaching, face-to-face faculty-student interaction and campus life with online course delivery. Some commentators might predict “the end of college” thanks to the digital revolution, but that’s only if we limit our idea of higher education to knowledge transfer and skills training.

Christian higher education is about something more: it embeds knowledge and skills in a process of discipleship through learning. Spiritual growth and education go hand-in-hand.

As a Christian university, Redeemer is preparing the next generation of Christians to bring the gospel’s transformative power to all kinds of careers and vocations. And that means we want graduates to be able to communicate, critique and lead in a digital world. A new required course on “being and knowing in the digital age” and new programs like Media and Communication Studies are part of how we help students understand who they are created to be and whom they serve in a hyper-mediated culture.

Christian universities are only one part of how the Christian community is engaging the digital revolution. But the role that universities like Redeemer play is critical in shaping the next generation to continue to give witness to the gospel in a rapidly changing context.

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