What is digitalization doing to the church and theology?? What challenges does this create??
The book “Theology and Digitality” has now been published on this question. Co-editor Joachim Valentin wants to arouse curiosity.
this site: Why did you deal with the topic of digitality from a theological point of view?
Prof. Joachim Valentin (Director of the Catholic Academy Rabanus Maurus and Professor of Christian Theory of Religion and Culture at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main): We have been doing this for five years in a “Digital” Rhine-Main working group here in Frankfurt with various experts from within and outside the church. Because we believe that digitalization challenges us as a mega ie just like climate change or globalization. Theology is by no means a niche science that refers only to sexual morality or something like that, but it actually has something to say about everything, about art, about aesthetics, about communication. And that is what we do in this book in four different dimensions.
this site: Which problems, which chances arise, if one still wants to tell the good news in a digital environment??
Valentin: First of all, it must be asked in what form and to what extent digitization is to be approved of at all and what changes it brings for the image of man and for the image of God. This is what we are concerned with in the tape. It is not a guidebook for preaching under conditions of digitalization. However, there are articles on the church under digital conditions. It is then that one realizes that hierarchical communication on TikTok or Instagram is difficult, because there people meet people, and that which is personally and aesthetically convincing is convincing.
But there are also questions about the home office, the smart city, urban design and, of course, the question: What does it actually mean to be human if there is an AI that claims to be able to technically reproduce all human characteristics??
this site: In your book, you write that the promises of the Internet show surprising parallels to religious promises of salvation. What do you mean?
Valentin: We believe with good reason that God and only God is omnipotent, omniscient and eternal. And these are precisely the promises that masterminds like Ray Kurzweil are making to us around the world – effectively at Google, for example – as the promise of digitalization anew. We can upload our Hir content and then it can exist on the hard drive forever.
We use Google and Wikipedia and know everything or nothing, because we get used to looking up everything. And omnipotent is the Internet too, at least in our small context: I only have to click a button and then the Amazon package or the sexual offer or some other service is immediately there. So that means the Internet, digitalization has para-religious dimensions that need to be reflected on and that we think are problematic.
this site: What does this digital age do to our view of humanity?? What would you say?
Valentin: I believe that the human being is no longer the measure of all things, but – if we take the thoughts of Ray Kurzweil, for example, and other masterminds of Silicon Valley seriously – technical feasibility will become the decisive measure, and human consciousness, that which actually makes us, not our intelligence, but that we know who wakes up in the morning, cannot be reproduced by machines.
But that will increasingly fade into the background if humans are measured in the future by what a machine can do. This means, then, that man as a human being is disappearing as a less capable wetware, as it is called in cyberpunk, i.e., as a mortal, imperfect mass that lags behind every computer in terms of its capabilities.
this site: A gloomy prognosis, or?
Valentin: It's the one we often see implemented very intelligently in science fiction movies. But we are optimistic, because we believe that it simply can not be done. They are promises that cannot be kept. It is a new ideology, which acts in the way it does, mainly because of capitalist, consumer interests, and which, we hope, we believe, will fail because of various resistances, above all because it is technically unfeasible.
If you like, what we are doing is a critique of ideology. The book has very many facets. That is more than 20 contributions. But this is such a decisive point that theology should not remain silent here, but that a profound testimony, an evaluation of this new development is demanded from the church and theology and is about time.
The interview was conducted by Tobias Fricke