Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Next Story by Tim Challies

If you are reading this, you are engaged in the use of technology. You may be reading this on your computer or even your phone. If you have set yourself up as a follower of my blog, then you may have heard a BEEP! as you received an email on your phone, alerting you to the fact that I had posted something. It is difficult- I would say impossible- to live in this digital age and not be "connected" with some sort of digital device.

This digital age we find ourselves in has not always existed. In fact, I remember the day of rotary phones, 8-track players, and television with a very limited number of channels (I was fortunate enough to grow up in the Atlanta area when Ted Turner was getting his conglomerate started, so we had a few extras. If you don't know who Ted Turner is, then Google his name and you will see what I mean). I am what Tim Challies, in his new book The Next Story, would call a digital immigrant...I remember the pre-digital world. My children, however, are digital natives...they were born into it.They move from one device to the next effortlessly and , unfortunately, with little thought or reflection to how they are being affected by it.

In The Next Story, Challies provides us with an excellent resource broken into two main sections: the first helping us to understand technology and the history of the digital that has brought us to where we are today; the second part helps us to understand the implications of this digital world we live in and how to be discerning, as a Christian, in our use of it.

Because I think everyone should read this, Christians and non-Christians alike, I am not going to go over all the details of the book, but will highlight the points that I found most helpful. In Chapter 5 of The Next Story, Challies discusses "media" or "mediated information", basically meaning there is a medium ( a device of some sort) that stand between the sender and the receiver of information. He points to the introduction, and the eventual dominance, of "the screen" into our lives. This began with the movie screen, that people went to another location to view, and has become controlling in our lives where we may be monitoring multiple screens at the same time (i.e. looking at our laptop while watching television and keeping tabs on our cell phone simultaneously). Until reading the statistics Challies provides on the average time spent looking at "the screen", I was oblivious to was just a typical day for me. Is this good or bad? The answer depends on if the things that God says are important are being sacrificed on the altar of technology. It could be face-to-face time in real relationships or the false intimacy of Facebook "friends", neglected responsibilities, or disintegrating ability to think deeply about the things that matter, primarily the things of God and his purposes and will. When I seriously looked at it, I was convicted by what I saw in myself and my use of technology.

Another aspect that I found so intriguing about this book was the discussion of truth and relevance and the subtle way these can be undermined with our use of technology. Challies educates his readers about how Google and Wikipedia function and how they try to determine for us what is relevant and true about any particular topic. For instance, if you do a Google search on any topic, it will be determine the most "relevant" link for you to go to find your information, with Wikipedia usually being either the first or second choice. Interestingly, many people will blindly accept as truth what Wikipedia says, not understanding the fact that anyone can write or edit a Wikipedia article, without any regard for accuracy or truthfulness, or of the writer being an authority on the subject. I am sure you can see the implications of all this. Basically, the consensus determines truth and relevance in this digital age, which is why Christians must be discerning. We know that God is Truth, so we must hold to God's Word as the Truth source.

I highly recommend this book and hope you will read it. It will help you in traversing the digital landscape as we live in The Next Story.

Thanks to Tim Challies and Zodervan for providing me this book to read and review. I highly recommend Tim Challies'blog at

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