The Digital Tower of Babel
I was with a friend recently, and he told me a funny story. He was visiting a world renown seminary, and the theologians asked him a question.
Does your avatar in virtual reality have a soul?
When he told me that story, I giggled. It’s a ridiculous question. The question from the theologians gets to a more significant issue with expressing Christian life digitally. People are trying to make an all or nothing argument. If the avatar doesn’t have a soul, then the Christian life can’t be expressed online. I believe the argument needs reframing.
There is a famous totem pole argument made when talking about the creation order. The higher you are on the totem pole means, the closer you are to being like a god. The top of the totem pole is for humans and at the bottom are things like ants. The reason for this distinction is because the Bible says humans are created in God’s likeness, but other creations like dogs, snakes, and ants have some expression of our Creator while not the fullest representation. You and I pragmatically experience this when we feel no remorse from stepping on a spider while hitting a dog with our car would trigger more emotions. The totem pole argument says the dog is more like God and the spider is low on the totem pole. I reference the totem pole argument because it’s helpful for my Digital Tower of Babel argument.
The Tower of Babel was man’s attempt to become a god. At the top of the Digital Tower of Babel for the biblical commandment of fellowship is face to face community, and at the bottom is something as simple as texting. I still believe face to face community isn’t going anywhere for the church. The purpose of fellowshipping with one another is best-expressed face to face. Hebrews 10:25, "not neglecting to meet together…”, should be ringing in the back of your minds. That doesn’t mean texting a friend, taking a phone call, or video meeting can’t express a percentage of fellowship. I know this to be true because group texting has encouraged me and video meetings on Zoom.us have grown me closer to my brothers in Christ.
I’m not sure if that means an ant is Facebook and virtual reality is the dog, but I do know each platform can and is used to express my faith. Additionally, some platforms are higher on the tower than others. You can and should create a Digital Tower of Babel for each purpose and different elements of the church as well. Instead of saying nothing can be done online think about where it sits on the tower.