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Digital disciple : real Christianity in a virtual world

by Adam Thomas

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Is your avatar an authentic Christian?   (2011-05-23)

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by gladeslibrarian

Reverend Adam Thomas was one of the first in the Millennial generation to be ordained to the Episcopal priesthood. He writes a daily online devotional, devotiONEighty, and publishes a blog entitled WhereTheWind. Through these and other outlets, he maintains a voice in the virtual world on the need for and challenges of being authentic disciples of Jesus Christ in both the real world and in the digital environment. Thomas identifies both connection and communion as foundational to the Christian experience. He cautions that the virtual environment can provide the unaware with a false sense of intimacy. He distinguishes this from the Biblical concept of relationship and communion taught by Jesus during His earthly ministry. Thomas teaches how to move from superficial connection to authentic communion. He provides practical guidance in the real-world spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditation, Bible study and sacrificial living.

In addition to promoting the opportunities the internet provides for spiritual connection, Thomas cautions his readers to stay vigilant against some of the dangers inherent in the virtual world. For example, the knowledge-base online is virtually unlimited. There is a danger in relying on the ease of using internet search engines for knowledge-seeking in lieu of relying on memory and of personally developing and using critical thinking skills. With lack of practice, an individual’s mental capacity for learning, understanding and critical thinking can be diminished. In speaking to digital disciples, Thomas expresses concern that an increased reliance on the wealth of online spiritual resources can result in the decline of time spent practicing spiritual disciplines offline. Rather than hiding scripture in one’s heart, individuals are choosing to outsource that function to keyword searching on the internet. Rather than actually praying, the internet offers literally millions of pages to read about prayer. These practices can result in the decline of an individual’s personal communion with God.

In Digital Disciple, Thomas brings that discourse to a book format. His writing is casual, his tone conversational, and his personality engaging. Yes, he expressly identifies himself as one of the youngest Episcopal priests but you will find no air of superiority or condescension. It is only given to validate his unique perspective on the subject matter. His intent in writing is to engage the local church body in an exchange of ideas on discipleship and what that might look like in today’s world. Rev. Thomas broadens his audience via footnotes where he clarifies and defines colloquial terms that may not be familiar to older readers who are interested in reaching out to today’s youth. His message is valid for the Church today. The topics discussed in Digital Disciple hold potential for small group discussions at the local level as well as for breakout sessions at youth pastor conferences.


NOTE:  I requested and received a galley of this title from NetGalley but made no commitment to write a review.




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