There was constant chatter throughout the meeting, both the gentle whispering of old friends and the incessant tapping of young leaders who inhabit a digital world. Someone needed access to the agenda on Google docs
. Another requested the link to that book on parenting. While she was tweeting, one of the co-chairs of the board of The Young Clergy Women Project
meeting in Durham, North Carolina, found a wayward board member tweeting as well. She had forgotten to sign onto Scribblar
for the live chat section of the agenda that connected those present in Durham with the few who couldn’t make it in person. Soon the missing board member’s icon appeared in the chat room. Minutes later, another board member looked up from her computer with mild panic in her eyes after watching the wild machinations of the stock market; a few prayers for the nations and for the poor were posted on Facebook. These young leaders are co-partners with God caring for creation using online tools and resources like it was the most normal thing in the world.
In my previous post
I asked whether our ability to drill down into online resources and ideas empowers us to co-create with God and become better stewards of our resources and time. What does it means to be co-creators? First, I affirm with countless theologians past and present that being created by God in God’s own image does not mean we are the same as God. As that which is created by God, we are utterly different from God. We are finite, particular, flesh and blood, trapped in certain historical moments, not quasi-divine. We are, indeed, loved and cherished by God and given responsibilities in creation, but we are not God.
Perhaps a better term than “co-creator” (and all that it suggests about being God-like) is the term used by Joe R. Jones in his work, Grammar of Faith
— “co-partner.” Using the term, Jones makes this distinction: “We are not co-partners of God in creating the world, though we are given dominion and co-partnership in the management
of the world.” He urges us to be careful with Genesis’s word, “dominion”: “It is not said that [other creatures] are created for the sole purpose of providing for human good. Other creatures are as such good and valuable to God
.” He sees management as basically good stewardship of the gift of creation in which God has placed us, i.e, making sure it flourishes and grows. Therefore, “dominion is a trust given by God that confers responsibility.” (disclaimer: Joe R. Jones, Professor Emeritus of Theology and Ethics at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Ind., is my father.)
This responsibility, theologically-speaking, is not something we can shirk. We are meant to step up and partner with God in stewarding the world. We might even say that in order to express our full humanity, we must be concerned about the world, its creatures, and all of creation, including our fellow human beings.
From this viewpoint, I don’t think it’s much of leap to suggest that the explosion of information and ideas online can help us more fully express our humanity as co-partners with God. Don’t we have a responsibility to mine online resources for all that will help us become better stewards of life?
Of course, we have to discern useful from useless information, helpful from harmful ideas. But the act of drilling down into online resources is not inherently a distraction from things that matter. Accessing data online and sharing it with friends and colleagues can be an essential expression of our creatureliness in relationship with the divine. Might we think of it as multi-tasking with God?
Verity A. Jones is the project director of the New Media Project, and a Research Fellow at Union Theological Seminary. The New Media Project is a research project helping religious leaders become theologically savvy about technology. To request permission to repost this content, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.