Today I heard a sermon on the durability of hope embedded in Isaiah’s image of the peaceful kingdom that stands against the transient coming and passing of technological change. The message was illustrated by a couple of YouTube “Did You Know” videos about the accelerating speed of technological change. While the intent of the sermon was to anchor us in the greater reality God’s salvation promises, the immediate effect was to discomfit some part of the congregation who already feel left behind by obsolete computers, the Internet, social networking, and a society that makes little sense to them. If, as the video claimed, that what we are teaching in our best schools is obsolete before the kids even graduate, how can anyone ever hope to keep up with the knowledge needed to succeed?
The answer is that keeping up with operational knowledge of the latest in technology is not the most important thing to teach. In fact it’s impossible. Moreover, technological change is only one aspect of change in contemporary life. Social, economic and political change is fast, accelerating and global. Coping with that requires a different kind of teaching, and modern day Luddites digging in their heels to slow things down, or turn them back, may gain a little public traction for a while, but are doomed to failure in the end.
More important is to ground students in the discipline of life long learning; in the art of using creative reason to engage the unknown and unpredictable; and in the wisdom bequeathed to us from generations past. The ability to quickly accommodate one’s self to rapid changes is a worthy skill, even a necessary skill. But without a sense of direction and intentionality, one becomes not much more than a human pin ball being banged around by the direction and intentions of others. Some marketers depend on that, but that’s for another time.
I made the point in a recent post that too many, maybe most, adult Christians operate from a faith based on no more than an inadequate fifth or sixth grade Sunday School curriculum. If what I think about the need for life long learning in the secular world is true, it is even more important in the world of the Church. It’s more important because the kingdom is more important than what is happening with technology, society, economics and politics. While everything else has only transient existence, the kingdom Isaiah envisioned twenty-five hundred years ago, the kingdom Jesus said was at hand two thousand years ago, is the same kingdom that is at hand today and will be tomorrow. How can we know that if we become intent on keeping up with technology but are complacent about living with a juvenile faith? How can we know that if we teach our children how to be life long learners about everything except God? The three legged stool of Scripture,Tradition and Reason is more than a decorative Reformation artifact. It is the key to a mature Christian Faith.