by | Jul 29, 2014 | Uncategorized

To understand how the internet is changing religion, we have to think about how the internet is changing our humanness. And to think about that, we need to think about how we relate to knowledge and truth. We need to examine what we think knowledge is. How do we get it? What do we do with it once we do? Is knowledge truth? Are facts knowledge?
What is knowledge?
We tend to distinguish between knowledge and opinion, don’t we? Before the change I’ll describe later, it was common to make a hard and fast distinction between the many, many opinions out there, and the few, hard, reliable, facts.
The things we knew, we thought, were undeniable; they were bedrock-solid and undeniably true. Opinion, on the other hand, was fuzzier. There were many opinions, but knowing something, gives it a different status.
emergent christianity right wrongAlso, the things we know take on the nature of exclusivity. Once we know something, debate stops. If something is true, if something is known, its opposite is not also true. Once I know that your shirt is red, it is not also blue. If something is true, it is not, at the same time, false.
So yes, the things we know have an exclusive quality about them.
But the things we know also have a universal quality. If something is true for me, it is also true for you. If your shirt is red, it is red for both of us. It remains red no matter how many people we ask. This instinct is so deep, we don’t even have a plural form of the word “knowledge.” Why would we? If I know something, there is no other thing to compete with it.
Perhaps you can see where I’m heading. In the next post, I’ll talk about how these fundamental assumptions about what is known and true, are being undercut by the common experience of being able to go online and find everything human beings know with a few clicks. When all human “the-shirt-is-red” knowledge is is digitized, stored online, and immediately accessible, something happens to the way we experience it.
religion_i-am-right_you-are-wrong TNIn the old, familiar way of thinking about what we know, “the facts” were orderly, stable, and didn’t change over time. That is no longer true. Things we knew never changed. Opinions changed, and sometimes we realized that things we once thought we knew, had in fact, only been opinion. Nevertheless, when something was reliably known, it didn’t change. What an orderly world it used to be! Things were stable, firm under our feet, and unwavering in their reliability. Know something . . . and you were done. You never needed to re-know it.
In the coming posts, I’ll suggest that our most visceral ways of experiencing truth are eroding under us. Our experience of this profound, new technology, the internet, is changing some long-held ways of thinking, living, being community, and being Christian.
Next post.

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