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Quotable: Simon Chan on Technology in the Church

June 20th, 2007 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Simon Chan, author of Liturgical Theology and Spiritual Theology, recently sat down with Andy Crouch to discuss Christianity's contemporary expression.  Chan clearly is extremely thoughtful and very grounded in tradition.

On missional theology:

I think that missional theology is a very positive development. But some missional theology has not gone far enough. It hasn't asked, What is the mission of the Trinity? And the answer to that question is communion. Ultimately, all things are to be brought back into communion with the triune God. Communion is the ultimate end, not mission.

On technology in the evangelical church:

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.

On what we can learn from Pentecostals:

I think they need to be willing to recognize that God can and often does surprise us. We cannot control God. The Pentecostal willingness to change things at the spur of the moment may not be a bad thing at times! Liturgical churches need to be open to what Jonathan Edwards called "the surprising works of God."

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.