Sunday, May 1, 2011

Book Review: Digital Disciple

Author: Adam Thomas
Title: Digital Disciple: Real Christianity in a Virtual World
Description (source):  We connect with people everyday around the world through websites, blogs, and a myriad of social networks. But do we really connect while we're isolated in the Internet bubble? In Digital Disciple, millennial, blogger, and Episcopal priest Adam Thomas explores this contradiction between connection and isolation through the perspective of one who's always known a world with the Internet. (publisher’s info)
Review source: ARC provided by publisher through Netgalley
Major ideas: Adam Thomas writes from the perspective of a digital native wondering what effect the internet (and related technologies) will have on his relationship with God. Mostly, Thomas sees a pretty bleak picture of separation, disembodiment, lack of mindfulness, and even addiction as he reflects on Tech (as he terms it) and the changes it has made in society. The solutions he offers, then, are for the most part suggestions about how to live without the internet.
Writing style: As I was reading, I was trying to figure out the audience for this book. Thomas includes definitions of really basic tech terms throughout (i.e. “google,” “facebook”); these make you think that the book might be geared for someone who knows nothing at all about the internet. But really, who is left in our society who doesn’t know what Google and Facebook are? There are a lot of books being written right now that deal with these ideas from a secular viewpoint (Lessig, Shirky, etc.); Thomas did not seem to have engaged with these authors much if at all. His few references were to the standard Christian authors like C.S. Lewis.
Take-aways: Because of my confusion about his audience (or perhaps because I was not his audience), I sometimes found myself frustrated that Thomas did not really grapple with some of the issues that he raises. In other words, I found the questions raised in the book to be pertinent and thought-provoking; the suggested solutions much less so. My take-aways from the book will be the questions: What might it mean to “do church” online? How will the internet change society, the church, and the individual believer? Does the disembodied self of the avatar deny the incarnation?
Wrap-up: I would recommend this book for the layperson who wonders about the difference between Millennial and non-Millennial believers, or about the ramifications of technology upon faith. I would not recommend the book for anyone doing scholarly work. 3/5*


  1. Point taken. I'm glad you read it instead of me!

    What's especially interesting is that I've been meaning to download's free audiobook of the month, Tim Challies's The Next Story. Here's their blurb:

    Even the least technical among us are being pressed from all sides by advances in digital technology. We rely upon computers, cell phones, and the Internet for communication, commerce, and entertainment. Yet even though we live in this "instant message" culture, many of us feel disconnected, and we question if all this technology is really good for our souls.

    (Back to Kyle) I guess it's a trend that some Christian publishers see as something to jump onto right now? But I admit that my excitement about the audiobook is tempered now by a realization that it might all sound old hat to us expert tech-rhetors.

  2. Yeah, I guess it's considered pretty hip to say that all this connection leads to disconnection. But unplugging was suggested decades ago (for TV, even before the internet came about). So until there is a different approach that embraces technology rather than holds it at arms length, it's all old stuff.

  3. Quentin's dissertation directly addresses the questions you raise here--my guess is that (once he finishes!) you should just give his diss a read.

  4. I'd go even further and guess that Quentin's diss. might have a popular audience, if it can address this kind of question in a meaningful way!