08 May 2014

Book Review: Mediating Faith by Clint Schnekloth

(c) 2013 by Fortress Press

Contemporary media studies would remind us, if nothing else, that all of life is mediated, and much more is media than we are often aware. (p. 3) 
Humans, though they speak of technology as if it were separate from them, are virtually incapable of living a nontechnological existence. (p. 102)
--Clint Schnekloth, Mediating Faith:  Faith Formation in a Trans-Media Era

It is with these thoughts in mind that Clint Schnekloth embarks on an examination of what it means to be faithful, as an individual Christian and as a leader of Christian community, in an age of constantly developing media and technology.  Published from a dissertation presented toward earning the Doctor of Ministry degree at Fuller Theological Seminary, there is much here that will be helpful for all of us trying to navigate the waters of our trans-media times.

It's a very helpful resource from an incredibly well-read, imaginative thinker in our church.  Instead of lifting up new media as THE salvation of the church or THE thing that will bring down human culture, Schnekloth engages a number of voices and realities to chart a path down which he believes the Spirit is actively leading the church, bringing the future of God into the world through means that would not have even been imagined possible less than 50 years ago.  Moving from well-reasoned critiques of the trans-media era through the catechumenate and MMPORGs and social media, the picture that emerges is far more hopeful and far more anti-alarmist than many of our colleagues have been.  In fact, if there is a note of alarm in the book, it is aimed toward those who will refuse to have anything to do with new media:  if one admits that the Spirit could indeed be active through this sort of media (as it has been through the spoken, sung and printed word throughout preceding centuries), then a refusal to engage in some sort of new media is in a sense a refusal to join in the missio Dei itself.

This book was well-worth the time involved in savoring and reflecting upon it.  The bibliography alone provides resources that should keep any thoughtful Christian engaged for months.  I would especially recommend Mediating Faith to pastors and church professionals who are wondering about the philosophical and spiritual aspects of new media - it provides both cautionary critique and a faithful engagement of what is possible - both for the church and for the One we wish to serve faithfully.

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