CHAPTER 1 – SETTING THE STAGE
In 1985, renowned physicist Freeman Dyson cited technology as the greatest gift from God after life itself. At that point the first Macintosh personal computer was only one-year old, and Windows 1.0 would be released just a few months later. Reflecting on the power of nuclear energy and basic flow of information, Dyson concluded that it takes fifty to one hundred years for a new scientific technology to catch on and that even though technology is often thought to be growing more rapidly than in former times, this is an illusion caused by our current perspective. Undoubtedly, the invention of the microchip changed that forecast: technology today is advancing exponentially—doubling nearly every two years according to Moore’s Law. It is no surprise then that as a society just over thirty years removed from Dyson’s proclamation that record rates of technological consumption have resulted in generational segments that are now more often defined by technical innovation than decades or political movements. As a result, the contemporary church, which remained relatively stagnant in its liturgical worship methods for centuries at a time, has had to answer to how it will embrace modern technological advances. Quentin Schultze suggests that “the idea of technological adaptation brings us to the biblical basis for human use of technology, namely, our calling as caretakers or stewards of God’s creation.” This technological calling has historically been overlooked in both contemporary scholarly research and everyday church practice.
The product of a skilled technical artist can present the biblical narrative in the same imaginative and meaningful way as other great works of art utilized by the church throughout history. Just as an artist once realized the telling of God’s story could be enhanced through converting a standard window into stained glass, Michelangelo forever impressed the creation of Adam onto humanity through a paint-brushed fresco upon the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel. David’s physique is immortalized in our modern minds through stone. So, too, the method by which the church would deliver its message forever changed when Emile Berliner combined his microphone invention with a modified Thomas Edison phonograph to create the first usable tool for recording and playback of sound to large groups of people at long distances simultaneously. When C. W. Rice and E. W. Kellogg patented the first loudspeaker in 1925, technology entered the realm of everyday public speaking and, in turn, the pulpit and pew. Church art became a technological endeavor. Over the next forty years, as affordable lighting and video capabilities developed for the general public, the church sanctuary became a living theatre for God. To the chagrin of some, sanctuary projection screens have become the cross and stained glass for the electronic age, constantly creating and forming religious imagery that was previously represented by architecture and icons. And thus, high-tech, digital liturgy is now the contemporary church’s art form and vehicle for presenting the gospel message to a technological generation.
Even with nine decades of technological assistance in presenting the pastoral message, the study into the theology of church technology has been glaringly absent. Thus, this book moves us towards a theology of church technical arts and the practice of “producing worship.” It performs a theological examination of church technical arts, developing a technological metanarrative through three key relevant texts: Exodus 35:30–36:1; Hebrews 2:12–13; and Colossians 3:16. In practice the texts can be read to view technical artists as serving as Christ’s mediators between the stage and congregation (Heb 2:12–13) for the purpose of building up one another in the church through multi-medium worship (Col 3:16) and that technical artists are defined by artistic excellence through craftsmanship, skill, creativity inspired by the Spirit, and performance through a heart of service possessing the characteristics of intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, and the ability to teach their craft to others (Exod 35:30–36:1). The characteristics of ability, artistry, wisdom, craftsmanship, and technology are demonstrated through the Old Testament artisans Bezalel and Oholiab and the construction of the tabernacle. The New Testament verses of Hebrews 2:12–13 and Colossians 3:16 first clarify the use of technology in contemporary worship practices by presenting Jesus as the perfect intercessor between the worshipers and worshiped and, second, by offering the purpose for how the church should institute technological worship, namely, the sanctification and building up of the congregation. Last, the findings are viewed in light of current practice. The view presented formulates a portrait for contemporary sound, lighting, and visual techniques, as well as the technical artists’ purpose and position within the church. In this way, the technical arts become representative of larger theological principles when engaged within the church context.
This book forms a portrait of the church technical artist. It is not for those looking for a light work of praise or excuse. It is an exegetical work exploring the biblical text with practical application. Chapter one is contextual; chapter two historical; three, four, and five are textual, and chapter six is practical. Each chapter builds one pillar of the theological tower that is formed in chapter six. As a reader, be prepared to explore the texts as would biblical scholars. The remainder of chapter 1 establishes the purpose and aim and its relevance to the modern church. Working definitions of relevant terms are presented, along with explanation of the various research methodologies utilized. … …