The Christian potential of cyberspace: An appraisal

TitleThe Christian potential of cyberspace: An appraisal
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsSonsteby, A
Date Published13 May 2002
UniversityGustavus Adolphus College
CitySt. Peter, Minnesota

Today the Internet is increasingly permeating industrial societies. Affluent people in these cultures are e-mailing their friends and family, browsing the Web, and participating in online discussions through newsgroups and "chat rooms." Churches are sprouting Web sites; online "communities," such as, offer prayer groups and religion news and information; and some amateur theologians are using the Internet to publish their own theologies. But some believe that the Internet's contributions to religion may be far greater. For example, some people see the Internet leading to a greater and greater connectivity among all people, culminating in what Catholic theologian Teilhard de Chardin called the "Omega Point," a type of global consciousness. Others believe that it will be possible for individuals one day to transfer (upload) their consciousnesses into a computer and communicate electronically with other such people through a network. Some have suggested that the Internet might be a metaphor for God. People might easily dismiss these predictions, such as mind uploads, since the technology is not here yet or because they sound ridiculous. But the fact that some have conceptualized a computerized eschatology (such as the Omega Point) or a network god invites examination. Do these claims have any theological value, that is, do they contribute anything new to the discussion about God, or are they simply new manifestations of the dreams of immortality and omniscience that Western civilization has long sought to realize? This thesis assesses whether the Internet can contribute anything "new" to Christian theology, that is, whether the hopes of seeing in the Internet a metaphor for God or using it as a mechanism for searching for God are possible. Or does the Internet instead make possible for worldwide religious communities and an image for contemplating process theology? In other words, can religion speak theologically about the Internet?