Not long ago, Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows warned that addiction to digital distraction was negatively impacting our
brains. Carr’s book became a best
seller, but in the half decade since its
publication we have become even more
consumed with our digital devices.
Toddlers have favorite apps, iPads
entertain children and employees
can’t really leave work behind. Even
grandparents are getting connected.
How else to keep up with the latest
activities and pictures of the grandchildren?
How are Christians responding to
these significant changes in the way
we interact with each other and the
On the one hand there is reason to
be concerned. As Carr explained in
his book, digital devices are rewiring
how we think. Digital interactions
exercise neural pathways responsible
for short-term judgment. But areas of
our brain responsible for critical
thinking, comprehension, memory
and empathy are becoming weaker
through disuse as we engage in brief
bursts of distraction.
Christians certainly have spoken,
written and blogged about the challenges. Technology “Sabbaths” – brief
tech-free interludes that allow us to
purge our mental toxicity – are becoming a regular spiritual discipline.
On the flip side, the digital revolution gives us much to celebrate.
Staying in touch with family and
friends, instant how-to guides and
up-to-the-second news and weather
updates do have benefits.
Churches, businesses and other
organizations have often used modern
technology to accomplish their missions
more effectively. Without a digital
presence organizations can suddenly
be invisible, no matter their size.
Universities are no exception.
Reaching today’s youth requires relevant communication platforms. A
recent decline in the high school
demographic and increased competition has meant significant increases in
recruitment efforts, especially through
digital communication platforms.
At Redeemer, our integrated digital
marketing efforts mirror our commitment to curricula that engage students
in the digital revolution. That doesn’t
mean we are replacing classroom
teaching, face-to-face faculty-student
interaction and campus life with online course delivery. Some commentators might predict the end of college
thanks to the digital revolution, but
that’s only if we limit our idea of
higher education to knowledge transfer and skills training.
Christian higher education is about
something more – it embeds know-
ledge and skills in a process of disciple-
ship through learning. Spiritual growth
and education go hand in hand.
As a Christian university, Redeemer
is preparing the next generation of
Christians to bring the gospel’s transformative power to all kinds of careers
and vocations. And that means we want
graduates to be able to communicate,
critique and lead in a digital world. A
new required course on being and
knowing in the digital age, and new
programs like Media and Communication Studies, are part of how we help
students understand who they are
created to be and whom they serve in
a hypermediated culture.
Christian universities are only one
part of how the Christian community
is engaging the digital revolution. But
the role universities like Redeemer play
is critical in shaping the next generation to continue to give witness to the
gospel in a rapidly changing context.
Are Christians ready for the digital age?
A MESSAGE FROM REDEEMER UNIVERSITY
David Zietsma, PhD, is vice-president,
external relations and enrolment. To find
out more about Redeemer University, visit
www.Redeemer.ca P H