2019 Abstracts

TECHNOLOGY AND THEOLOGY ABSTRACTS

The Tower of Babel and Technology by Dr Bill Anderson from Concordia University of Edmonton in Alberta Canada

Technology is “nothing new under the sun”. The Cradle of Civilization in the Ancient Near East birthed technology and its relationship with religion (theology) is well-known. This is the context for the Tower of Babel pericope in Genesis 11.1-9. This presentation begins with an exegesis of the biblical text and the theology distilled from it as a callback to the Fall in Genesis 3 and in an Ancient Near East context. This presentation argues that the essential behavior in the Tower of Babel narrative is an example of pride, rebellion and attempt to live interdependent from God (non-contingency) in the context of creation. While there is nothing inherently wrong or bad with technology—indeed it may be argued that it is a gift from God—the real problem lies in human nature and its use of technology. Thus, the fallacy of modernist views that technology will lead to utopia as found in Star Trek—are categorically rejected by the theology of the Tower of Babel—which rather indicates that the human tendency to misuse technology will lead to disaster (dystopia) and futility as represented in Blade Runner. Therefore, the Tower of Babel functions as a theological morality tale in relation to technology paralleled in such science fiction classics as Frankenstein and Blade Runner which both were based on Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Is it Possible for Artificial Intelligence to Have Soul? by Ms Erin Archer from Concordia University of Edmonton in Alberta Canada

Artificial Intelligence and the theological and ethical issues it raises is not a new idea. Humanity has been thinking about artificial intelligence (albeit not necessarily in those terms) for millennia, and it may finally become a reality. From the Ancient Greek poets to the Medieval Rabbis to modern science fiction writers, humanity has been asking the same questions: Is artificial intelligence possible? Can it achieve consciousness and truly be sentient? Would such beings possess souls? With the rapid advancement of technology in the twenty-first century, these are questions that society must try to answer. Theology has a long history of dealing with just some of the ethical issues technology is now raising. Therefore, this presentation will examine artificial intelligence and issues of consciousness, sentience and “soul” through various historical, theological, and philosophical perspectives. Soul can be a difficult idea to define and understand. But a look through historical theology will demonstrate that scholars had varying views on what a soul was and who, or what, could posses one. This paper will apply the soul theologies of two early Church Fathers Origen and St. Thomas Aquinas, as well as the theory of apocalyptic artificial intelligence, in an attempt to finally answer whether or not it is possible for artificial intelligence to have soul.

A Christian Anthropological Inquiry into the Star Trek Universe by Ms Jamela Camat from Newman Theological College in Edmonton in Alberta Canada

This paper shows how the science-fiction television series franchise Star Trek (ST) demonstrates a Christian view of the human condition. I will examine several texts regarding the Christian understanding of the human person and how this is embodied in various ST episodes, particularly through the character of Data, and the violation of the Prime Directive. Although the ST universe portrays humanity with a predominantly secularist lens, Starfleet crewmembers frequently encounter ethical issues in their travels that the secular principles of Starfleet are unable to provide satisfying solutions for. The crew often turn to the philosophies and religions of different human and alien civilisations to deal with these dilemmas; however, it is ultimately up to starship captains and their advisors to determine the next course of action, typically violating the Prime Directive in the process.

Technology and Social Media in Filipino Megachurches by Joel Agpalo Tejedo from Asia Pacific Theological Seminary in Baguio Philippines

There are many misconceptions of Pentecostal megachurches in the Philippines fueled by popular media. They are often perceived as advocates of prosperity theology and thus motivated by financial gain. Their charismatic leaders are viewed as individuals with a messiah complex. This is perhaps because of the strong leadership they demonstrate over their congregations and prominent role they play in society. This presentation explores the growth of Pentecostal megachurches in the Philippines and their innovative indigenization of the Christian faith, as well as the influence of their Western counterparts. It begins with a review of the contemporary scholarship which has identifies the major Pentecostal megachurches and the qualities which have been at the forefront of reinventing Christian witness in the Philippine society. It will examine Pentecostal megachurches historical development with links to the poor and the middle class, social media technology and networks, locations in the political landscape, doctrine of prosperity, and the form of their social and civic engagement. In doing so, this presentation seeks to answer the following questions: How have Pentecostal megachurches developed and what attracts the masses to attend them? What form of civic engagement do they play in indigenizing gospel messages in the Philippine society? This presentation will focus on the use of technology and Social Media facilitating the success of Pentecostal megachurches in the Philippines.