Another one of the reasons why the All Books Project has been beneficial is in the discussion about interfaces to faith. Specifically, how the tools we use within our faith – these can be sacraments, behaviors, doctrines, as well as computational helps – give us an approach to our faith which may or may not be something that can resonate with others. Where we might esteem one method or another, or one tool or another, but that doesn’t mean its the last answer on the topic. What’s interesting though is how the idea of interface begins to play out within the space of having and manipulating content on the screens and keyboards of our mobile devices. If these devices and their content are viable, then we should see them actively drawing one another closer to God. If not, then they are an interface that causes the wrong kind of friction… one that should probably be removed.
Over at the website The Cooper Journal, there was the reignition of the discussion about interfaces and how when interfaces into actions or events are not well thought out, we end up with expereinces that degrade the impressions that we were to get from them. I liked the quote that was near the beginning of this, because when it comes to mobile ministry (#mobmin), I think we sometimes lose sight of this in the midst of making sure that we are mobile and are doing/performing/proving ministry:
As Donald Norman said in 1990, “The real problem with the interface is that it is an interface. Interfaces get in the way. I don’t want to focus my energies on an interface. I want to focus on the job… I don’t want to think of myself as using a computer, I want to think of myself as doing my job.”
When I think about the effect of this tech as a tool and enabler of the faith, I honestly start from this end. I don’t want to think of my faith as “ooh, I have a Bible app, now I can engage God as I should in this age.” I am learning and beginning to feel that if the faith doesn’t make Emmanuel (“God with us” – Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14) more palatable to living, then its probably something that’s getting in the way of faith developing as it should.
For faith’s interface, I’m constantly reminded that the Israelites had a chance to have the simpliest of interfaces with God, but then chose to have Moses speak and entreat God on their behalf (Exodus 20:19). They chose a system of building a relationship with God where there was an additional 50 chapters of legal documents needed. A system that all parties agreed was flawed, but that one party only wanted to get rid of (God, who does this through Jesus’s death and resurrection).
I restate Norman’s quote, I don’t want to focus my energies on keeping devices charged, keeping content updated, worrying about where my email address might be going or be sold to. I want to focus on living a life that looks like it was gifted from Jesus Himself. I don’t want to think of myself as using this tool or service as my faith, I only want to be in the posture and position (Colossians 3:1-4) of living such that it looks like Him (Matthew 5:14-16).
I don’t believe that the work that’s done to build these computer tech tools and services for minsitry are evil. I don’t think they are the measure of our faith’s maturity either. I’m drawing close to God because of and in spite of these tools. We had a similar discussion in the past about sacraments – if they increase the tension that we have at making and keeping a relationship with God, then they are of no good use. But, if they bear witness of our maturing into the fact that God is with us, then let us use them to His glory and not our own; loving and esteeming one another… spurring one another unto all good works.