Technology is transforming the world, and the latest issue of The Ecumenical Review, the quarterly journal of the World Council of Churches (WCC), offers theological and ethical perspectives on the digital age.
“Do we live in a ‘post‐truth’ era?” asks theologian Jürgen Moltmann in his article, “The Spirit of Truth,” that opens this issue of the journal, warning that truth is endangered by the political and economic control exercised by digital surveillance and big tech.
Contributors to the issue – titled “The Spirit of Truth in a Digital Age” – explore the implications of digital transformation for economics and politics, as well as for theological reflection, and what it means to be human in a digital world.
“Digital technology,” writes Heinrich Bedford‐Strohm, “does not represent the promise of salvation, but neither is it a prophecy of doom.” He draws on the biblical tradition to develop proposals to make digital transformation socially and theologically accountable.
Philip Lee in his article argues that digital transformation should not be left to market forces but must be driven by the needs of peoples and communities and be firmly rooted in principles of justice, freedom, equality, and mutual solidarity.
One specific aspect of the digital age – artificial intelligence and its military, commercial, and industrial application – is the focus for Erin Green, who develops a contextual, ecotheological critique of such technologies, based on the insights of theologian Sallie McFague.
Meanwhile, for Anna Cloete, the presence of digital media as an integral part of everyday life offers the possibility of new forms of digital living, such as internet‐based Christian communities or “online churches.”
Taking their cue from digitally enabled “citizen science,” Benedikt Friedrich, Hanna Reichel and Thomas Renkert develop a model of collaborative and exploratory “citizen theology,” involving the whole of the body of Christ.
Joana Puntel and Moisés Sbardelotto draw parallels between today’s “digital reformation” and Luther’s 16th-century Reformation embedded in the then newly-developed technology of printing, while Hugo Aznar focuses on how media ethics developed in the context of more recent phenomena such as mass-circulation newspapers, cinema, radio and television.
Korean theologian Young‐cheol Cheon offers insights from Christian and East Asian traditions of love, to help overcome a human-focused perspective of “communication in cyberspace.”
Stephen Brown, editor of The Ecumenical Review, offers a survey of the communication statements that emerged from past WCC assemblies to seek ecumenical and theological resources to help deal with digital transformation today, in advance of the WCC’s forthcoming 11th Assembly.
Looking to the 11th Assembly, this issue includes a reflection on the assembly theme, “Christ's love moves the world to reconciliation and unity,” by the vice-moderator of the WCC central committee, Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima.
The Ecumenical Review is published by Wiley on behalf of the World Council of Churches.
Download this free to read article, “The Ethical Challenges of the Digital Age,” by Heinrich Bedford-Strohm