Great article by Singaporean theologian Simon Chan. This is a timely follow up from my previous post.
The Mission of the Trinity
What is the place of new communication technologies in worship and mission?
I believe that if we have a clear, coherent ecclesiology, if we know what it is to be the church, then technology will have its proper place. It’s when we lack a clear understanding of our own identity and are driven by a pragmatic understanding of the church and its mission that technology becomes a threat to the life of the church. For too long, evangelicals have been driven by a rather shallow understanding of the church. We tend to see the church as a kind of pragmatic organization to fulfill certain tasks. And of course, if the church is viewed in this way, then we use technology very uncritically as long as those tasks are done.
This is especially important when it comes to the ultimate meaning of communion. Technology has created what we call virtual reality. It can give you a sense of intimacy. But whether it is real intimacy or not is quite another matter. I think this is where the Christian understanding of community enables us to look beyond what modern technology can offer, because the Christian understanding of real communion is embodied communion. Communion means bodily presence. That’s at the heart of our incarnational theology, God coming to us in person; it’s the meaning of the resurrection of the body. So no matter what virtual reality technology can create, it will never be an adequate substitute for communion.
But a high-definition video screen seems to bring us much closer to the preacher. Does that sense of intimacy happen in liturgical worship?
The traditional liturgy doesn’t exist primarily to foster interpersonal relationships. It operates on a very different paradigm. In the liturgy we are, in a very real sense, objectively recognizing God for who he is. And in the midst of proclaiming who God is, we encounter God. At the end of the day, we may not be particularly drawn toward individuals, but in a good liturgy, we are drawn to God. We recognize him for who he is.