Monday, December 31, 2012

Book Review: The Next Story by Tim Challies

I reviewed Tim Challies' book "The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment" about a year ago. I used to subscribe to his blog, but in an exercise similar to one he recommends in "The Next Story", I unsubscribed because of a lack of personal value for the time reading.

My review of "The Next Story" will be different, because I listened to it in the form of an audiobook. It was one of Christian Audio's freebies at one point. I wasn't sure if I should try to review it, or how to review it. With a paper or electronic book, you can make notes and go back and forth over the text. With an audiobook, I often listen while driving or walking and making notes is hard. So this review will be fairly brief. I'm not going back through 12+ hours of audio.

"The Next Story" is Tim Challies' second book. I can tell his writing and thinking have matured since "The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment". This book had less "Can I get an amen!" content and a little bit more meat. It still had some fuzzy thinking.

"The Next Story" is about technology. It talks some about the history of technology, the present state of technology, the theology we should consider our technology with, and the future or "next story" of technology.

Overall, I liked and agreed with what I heard, and I think it's a pretty good book and I recommend it. Here are a few points I disagreed or struggled with:
  • Beeps- Tim spends a lot of time on how our gadgets demand our attention. In the years I followed his blog, this came up a lot. But Tim seems to take it as less of a personal discipline and more of the technology's fault. He mentioned the only salvation he had at one point was to spend a week in a cabin in the woods in Virginia to keep his technology from distracting him from his family. 
Tim? You know these things have off switches, right? iOS 6 has a "Do Not Disturb" mode. You can also customize the notifications you receive. I got tired of my iPhone chiming every time an email came in, so I set it to not chime when I got a new email. Much better.

You can also TELL people "Look, I'm busy right now. I won't be responding to you until I hit this milestone."

Those strategies have worked pretty well for me.

I left a comment about off switches and silent modes and just plain ignoring the damn things on one of Tim Challies' posts a couple years ago, and several commenters said I must be a stronger man than they are. Sure, it's the technology's fault.
  • The medium is the message- This is one I heard frequently when I read Tim Challies' blog. It came up quite a bit in this book. I can't quite get my mind around it though. It seems to have something to do with the medium you choose to send your message through also somehow influence how the message is received. I hope I'm not rendering that inaccurately. 
Certainly, for each message you wish to convey, there is a medium that works best. There are some media that are not suitable. The telegraph can be quite a useful tool, but you wouldn't use it to deliver a sermon or a Presidential address. It would also be a horrific alternative to YouTube. If you're choosing the wrong media through which to send a message, I don't see this being the fault of "technology". It's your own lack of maturity in understanding the available tools and proper uses for those tools. I have learned over the years that although I would much rather use email and chat, there are some messages that I HAVE to pick up the phone, or go in person to deliver. That's a result of wisdom and experience, and understanding the available tools and their proper uses.

So I don't think the medium is the message. Perhaps the misuse of the medium can become the message. But that's PEBKAC (Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair) not a factor of technology.

Overall, I think this is a good book, and I recommend it for Christians to consider the intersection of theology and technology as we move forward into whatever comes next.

And one point I realized was good is that separating the Bible from your device (at least some of the time) can be good. I can see how at times, having a single function device (paper Bible) can result in much better study and devotion. there is something about a Bible sitting on the table that helps you to focus on what you're doing when you're doing it. I'm still going to be using my iPhone and its massive theological library in church though.

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