Cover Image: Following Jesus in a Digital Age

Following Jesus in a Digital Age

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Great book about living for Jesus in the digital age . Written with knowledge of the Bible and the love for God . Highly recommend it

Was this review helpful?

There is both opposition to and support of technology, specifically social media, in the Christian life. At the most basic level, the internet and the sites it includes are tools, neither good or bad. Their purposes and intent are formed by those who use them. Social media is no different, but it can be much more pervasive in our lives.

In Following Jesus in a Digital Age, Jason Thacker writes about how technology will influence how we walk with God if we are not careful. Not that it has the innate power to control us, but that we let go of our control just because it easier that way. We should not let what we see online sway us, but we should instead remain grounded in God's word.

This may not be the first time this warning has been brought up and it won't be the last. However, we need to keep it in mind. To help with that, Thacker presents practical ways to help keep technology in its place as a tool and not as an influence.

I received a free copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Helpful and encouraging resource that is really applicable for this season. While it was similar to other books I’ve read on the subject, it still had some fresh perspectives I appreciated.

Was this review helpful?

Following Jesus in a Digital Age shares a great message about social media...that most Christians already know. The book was a good read but doesn't share a message that it "new". Would be great for someone struggling with social media issues.

Was this review helpful?

I’m not sure what kind of audience this is geared towards, but I feel like Millennials and below know this already. Social media is bad, yes, but are people going to stop using it? I highly doubt it. Everything is online. This is the world we live in now. The examples feel to forced and mainstream and I feel like there’s a whole lot of fluff added in to seem relevant but it’s just distracting. This is not a book I would recommend to my audience. Nonetheless, thank you to Goodreads and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

This is a timely, insightful, and frankly convicting look at technology, ethics, and faith in our current age. I particularly appreciated the thought-provoking questions for reflection, peppered throughout the book (although they also annoyed me at times, as they might have hit a tad too close to home--ha!).

Thacker does a fantastic job at setting the stage and placing each topic in both context and historical setting. I was particularly intrigued at the ethics components and the examination of technology advancements (both the good and the bad), along with Thacker's reminder to the reader that there is such a thing as absolute truth. The read makes a nice Venn-diagram pairing with some other books I've read lately critiquing "self care" and "your truth," and provides a helpful framework for dialogue with others--no matter where we fall on the political, social, or religious spectrums.

I received an eARC of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Was this review helpful?

Following Jesus in a Digital Age is about not just how we are using and should use technology, but how technology and the digital age is actually shaping us in both good ways and harmful ones. Above all, the goal of the book is to understand our relationship with technology and the digital world and how it is discipling us daily, whether we realize it or not.

The author says: “…this book is not really designed to help you craft better technology habits, or a book about tips and tricks to use technology better. Rather, it is (1) an attempt to open your eyes to all the ways technology is profoundly shaping you toward efficiency, falsehood, self-absorption, and division, and (2) a call to a moral, holistic, and deeply biblical way of navigating such a shaping force by walking (not just believing in) a more Christlike direction of wisdom, truth, responsibility, and our true identity in Christ.”

Throughout the book, I learned a lot about the issues facing us in our current time, such as society’s shift to a more individualistic culture that has thus bred loneliness and division, as well as the seriousness of technology used with malicious intent.

As I read, my eyes were opened to the ways technology affects us and even altered how we have developed throughout our lives. I was reminded of how the digital world has caused us to be always “on,” to feel like we must be reachable 24/7, or always checking our devices out of FOMO (the fear of missing out on something or of being left behind).

One of my favorite quotes from the book is one I think most everyone needs to consider:

“Professor Jacob Shatzer [says], ‘When you’ve got a smartphone with a camera, everything looks like a status update.’ The truth is that technology is shaping us in ways that we may not even notice and that should concern us all.”

As put forth in the book, the key question we need to ask ourselves is, “How do we identify the good [technology] can do for us, while also pinpointing the bad it’s doing to us?” How this book reflects on this question makes it an important read for our day.

I received a review copy of this book for free from Netgalley, and I am leaving this review voluntarily. All opinions are my own.

Was this review helpful?

My thoughts:
Maybe I am just getting to familiar with these books about christianity and technology but this book didn’t seem spectacular. The use of wisdom is clever. Framing our relationship with technology in wisdom is a smart approach that many other authors on the topic hint at but don’t outright do. I think the author has many good points/ideas as well as some thoughts I wasn’t thrilled to read.

Who is this book for:
If you are interested in technology, especially social media, and how you interact with it from a christian perspective.

Critique, Questions, Comments:
There is a great list of questions in the section on misinformation. These are important as we interact with sources online.
This might be the first book I’ve seen to reference deep fakes.
The other let personal opinions slip into his arguments (this isn’t necessarily an issue. However these opinions were situated in the section discussing personal truths and it seemed counter intuitive to me).

Was this review helpful?

Android, Apple TV, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, etc are all familiar names in our modern culture. The news that we get in the past via newspapers, TV, and radio, are now being disseminated faster and more efficiently throughout the world. No more waiting for the latest paper edition at our regular newsstands. All it takes now is an Internet connection all at the convenience of a modern smartphone. Unsurprisingly, this modern innovation has changed the way we interact with people and communicate with one another. Traditional barriers of entry have been lowered. The communications bigwigs now have to compete not just with their mega-peers, but also with individual social media enthusiasts. The Internet and social media are here to stay. This will affect our relationships in how we live and what we say. Due to the ease of getting into social media, fake news are also on the rise. How do we deal with this new reality? How could we discern each piece of news as they come along? Are all sensational news false? Are all routinely boring stuff true at all? Technology is shaping us in more ways than one. Like the proverbial face of beauty that launched a thousand ships, an insensitive Tweet or a scandalous post could launch thousands of reactions, protests, and even violence. Author Jason Thacker notices the impact of technology and offers us some powerful reflections on what technology is, what technology demands of us, and how we could co-exist ethically and meaningfully with people in a society drowning in technological waters. Thacker offers us four reflections to help us recognize the technology that is trying to shape us, and the need to be true to ourselves.

First, he reflects on the true nature of technology itself, that we should pursue wisdom. In a digital age, it is easy to let technology direct our ways. For many people, the smartphone is the first thing they instinctively pick up in the morning, and the last thing they reluctantly put down before they go to bed. In between waking and sleeping, they are constantly mindful of the phone's battery levels. He makes a powerful point about our use of technology is "assumed and assimilated" instead of "examined or questioned." The problem is thus not technology per se but the uncritical use of technology, and ultimately letting technology pull us by the nose. Even the use of the increasingly popular video doorbell is a case in point. While online shopping has become convenient without us having to leave our homes, it causes a different problem: Porch thieves. If technology helps us solve one problem but creates another, how helpful is it then?

Second, he focuses on the state of Truth and how we need to let the pursuit of Truth be the key motivation in our use of Technology. From conspiracy theories to mischievous trolls, the Internet has become a messy place for misguided politicking and misinformation that twists the truth. Even half-truths could branch off to become a new strain of deception. This is especially when the news presented before us, is exactly what we want to believe in the first place. Crouch laments about the state of online conversations that easily lead to blatant judgments and ugly words. Almost anything could become a hotpot of controversy. This is aggravated by "deepfake technology" that includes the widespread use of doctored images and fake videos in order to disseminate something. Learning to question what we see or hear is increasingly necessary. He gave five helpful ways to pursue truth and not to become distracted by the sensational or the incredible.

Third, he reflects on the trajectory of personalization technologies, and the need to maintain personal responsibility. We should not become distracted by what we want to look like in front of others. Instead, we need to be honest to God, to self, and to one another. Looking at curation, we become the audience that technology makes us out to be. When truth is mixed with personalization algorithms, we end up becoming the problem the Bible has warned us against; That we have eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear. He gives us several questions to equip us in our discernment.

Finally, he looks at the critical step of pursuing our true identity in the midst of conflicting demands on us. The truth is, Technology is a principality that could be used against us. Today, it has polarized society in more ways than one. With rising tensions, anything could become contentious and controversial. It tempts even the most moderate individuals to take sides, letting the position engulf the authenticity of the person concerned. How do we become peacemakers in an increasingly polarized society? Help understand our own identities, and in the process, help others to understand their own. Pointing out five different kinds of identity, he helps us to recognize each of them, subtly reminding us not to be trapped by any of them.

My Thoughts
As I read this book, one key New Testament verse stands out. That is Romans 12:2 which says "Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Applying this to technology, it is essentially resisting the temptations of technology that threaten to make us conform to its mold. Crouch highlights the four such temptations:
1) Temptation to trust Technology as some neutral innocent medium
2) Temptation to believe in the Tainted Truth
3) Temptation to believe in a false self, paraded by personalization technologies
4) Temptation to become something that we are not.

All of these temptations come subtly at us each day. Over time, like the familiar frog in a warming water metaphor, we get cooked in the end. One of the most important reminders is the way technology seduces us to surrender to any innate desires for egoistic thoughts and egotistic acts. As more people, especially the digital natives get more comfortable with the technology they live and breathe in, over time, they become so conditioned to the nature of technology that they no longer question what technology is and the impacts it will have on our relationships and self-identity. Against popular opinion that technology is simply a neutral medium, I remember one professor asserting that technology is not neutral. More often than not, it has become a medium that breaks down humanity. The examples pointed out in this book support that view. Against these temptations, Crouch equips us with four critical push-backs.

There is still time to manage technology before technology mangles us into some inauthentic persons. We are created in the image of God but sin messes us up. We are saved in Christ and though we are not of the world, we are still in the world. This calls for spiritual discernment through and through. Before we tweet, post, or share a message or video, perhaps we need to pause before sending that. This book shows us not only what to do during the pause, it guides us toward becoming not just the better versions of ourselves, it facilitates the recovery of our true identities.

Jason serves as chair of research in technology ethics at The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. His work has been featured at Christianity Today, The Week, Slate, Politico, The Gospel Coalition, and Desiring God. He is also the author of "The Age of AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity" with Zondervan (March 2020). He is married to Dorie and they have two sons.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.

This book has been provided courtesy of B&H Publishing and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Was this review helpful?