Lesson 18: Conclusion (Part 1)

For decades, I have thought that all of our modern problems stem to some degree from the conflict between culture and technology—the two offer completely different understandings of human life and decision-making.

Technology defines truth as the accumulation of information. The more facts determined by science, the closer you are to truth (usually designated as “reality”).

Culture, on the other hand, regards truth as related to judgment. It provides the wisdom for using information properly.

This has become critical in the last few years because science has produced significant advances in knowledge, and technology has provided access to this through massive algorithms.

These advances have been so significant that society no longer questions the need for ethics. The idea is that the computer supplies enough information to make all decisions adequately and fairly. Supposedly, we are approaching a unified theory of existence that enables us to understand all things and achieve whatever we desire. In this context, ethics is reduced to getting what you want. Donald Trump is the exemplar because he sees the secret of life as knowing how to excel at the art of the deal.

Culture, at least as traditionally understood, involves ethics. It provides the tools for determining what is good and what is bad. Its stories, customs, and canons do not necessarily divide things into black-and-white but supply nuanced understandings of acceptable beliefs and actions.

You see much the same with religion. If you think God’s function is to explain everything for us, science long ago began to replace God. The church became where you go to fill in the gaps left by science. With the great increase in knowledge, there remains no room for the divine.

However, the function of Christian religion is not primarily to grant knowledge but guidance for living the good life. The Bible is one of the canons that presents guidelines for our relationships with God and other people. One of its goals is to prioritize or place in proper order the powers and authorities of this world.

Today, we obviously have tremendous amounts of information and few tools to evaluate it. A recent study showed that sermons and devotions were based on accumulated statistics from algorithms analyzing people’s favorite Bible passages. The results featured a therapeutic spirituality. Gone were calls for social justice and prophetic judgment.

The big question is where to go from here. After making this study, I did not find many answers. Some points of view are fatalistic, some are optimistic, but most have no idea. I’ll report on that next week.

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