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Digital Disciple: Real Christianity in a Virtual World Paperback – 26 May 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press (26 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426712200
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426712203
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 17.2 x 0.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,197,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Digital Disciple We connect with people everyday around the world through websites, blogs, and a myriad of social networks. But do we really connect from while we're isolated in the Internet bubble? Full description

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
I've really enjoyed this thought provoking book, its not all bad and doom and gloom either!
The excercises at the back are particularly encouraging.
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By caravan lady on 22 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Interesting book re technology and Christianity. Will recommend to my friends, buy as a gift.
Easy to follow, pick up when time .
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 17 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A Good Primer for Reflection on Technology and Christian Faith 4 May 2011
By Benjamin A. Simpson - Published on
Format: Paperback
I have been thinking and writing about church and media now for a handful of years. The topic, and the reality, is fascinating. The Internet is a present reality and an overwhelming force in our world, and for those of us who depend and rely on its powers to enhance our productivity and increase our social reach, the challenges it presents for maintaining a grip on our essential humanity while being digitized and virtualized are immense. Christians should be thinking about technology, its effects, and the opportunities we now have as followers of Jesus in light of this new and evolving facet of so many of our lives.

Adam Thomas' Digital Disciple is just such a work. Thomas, an Episcopal priest, is a member of the Millennial generation and a product of the digital age. In the telling of his life narrative, Thomas sounds a number of notes concerning embodiment and disembodiment, physicality and virtuality, and connection and isolation that are pressing and relevant concerns for all of us.

Within each chapter of his book, Thomas turns his attention toward a specific technological challenge for Christian discipleship. He examines virtual and physical connection (and the value in both), the difference between loose ties and deep communion, the buffers technology surrounds us with and the need for intimacy, the embodied nature of human existence, and the hurried world we live in that can be a barrier to prayer. For each of these concerns, Thomas turns his attention to Scripture, helping his reader to see where ancient words provide a contemporary challenge to modern maladies. He seeks to answer the challenges and opportunities present within the use of technology with theological truth, providing a God-centered account of both sin and redemption in our use of modern tools.

Overall, my impression of this work is very positive. It is a short book, and an easy read. It is filled with personal illustrations that concretize technological concerns, rather than relegate them to abstraction. Thomas has a self-depreciating style, and commonly exposes his nerdiness in the footnotes. He is authentic, transparent, and honest concerning his own struggles. He teaches from his own life.

To learn more about Thomas, visit his blog or follow him on Twitter. It is very clear that he is quite passionate about all things technology, is analytical concerning its use, and is deeply passionate about Christian discipleship.

DISCLAIMER: In accordance with FTC guidelines, I'd like to alert the reader that I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. However, I am committed to speaking truthfully concerning any book that I review, as I am obligated to my readership to provide a biblically and theologically informed perspective that can help my readers either take up or avoid resources that may prove useful for ongoing Christian reflection and maturity.
25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Turning it off? Is that the best we can do? 1 May 2011
By Let's Book - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Description (source): We connect with people everyday around the world through websites, blogs, and a myriad of social networks. But do we really connect while we're isolated in the Internet bubble? In Digital Disciple, millennial, blogger, and Episcopal priest Adam Thomas explores this contradiction between connection and isolation through the perspective of one who's always known a world with the Internet. (publisher's info)

Review source: ARC provided by publisher through Netgalley (note: misplaced footnotes made the book very difficult to read in the kindle ARC I was given. It's to be hoped that this was cleaned up before publication.

Major ideas: Adam Thomas writes from the perspective of a digital native wondering what effect the internet (and related technologies) will have on his relationship with God. Mostly, Thomas sees a pretty bleak picture of separation, disembodiment, lack of mindfulness, and even addiction as he reflects on Tech (as he terms it) and the changes it has made in society. The solutions he offers, then, are for the most part suggestions about how to live without the internet.

Writing style: As I was reading, I was trying to figure out the audience for this book. Thomas includes definitions of really basic tech terms throughout (i.e. "google," "facebook"); these make you think that the book might be geared for someone who knows nothing at all about the internet. But really, who is left in our society who doesn't know what Google and Facebook are? There are a lot of books being written right now that deal with these ideas from a secular viewpoint (Lessig, Shirky, etc.); Thomas did not seem to have engaged with these authors much if at all. His few references were to the standard Christian authors like C.S. Lewis.

Take-aways: Because of my confusion about his audience (or perhaps because I was not his audience), I sometimes found myself frustrated that Thomas did not really grapple with some of the issues that he raises. In other words, I found the questions raised in the book to be pertinent and thought-provoking; the suggested solutions much less so. My take-aways from the book will be the questions: What might it mean to "do church" online? How will the internet change society, the church, and the individual believer? Does the disembodied self of the avatar deny the incarnation?

Wrap-up: I would recommend this book for the layperson who wonders about the difference between Millennial and non-Millennial believers, or about the ramifications of technology upon faith. I would not recommend the book for anyone doing scholarly work. 3/5*
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
If "Family Guy" did theology. . . 25 Jun. 2011
By Rev A Patrick K Funston - Published on
Format: Paperback
I read Fr. Thomas' book because a mentor of mine gave it to me after using it in a small group study at his parish. He was interested in what a member of Fr. Thomas' own generation thought of his ideas, mostly because he said that the most common reaction from his congregation was, "I don't understand what's bad about Facebook! My kids and grandkids don't call me, so I use Facebook to see what they are doing!"

Fr. Thomas examines the life of the Christian in the digital age. This short book is easy to read if you are part of his target demographic, but I can imagine it would be difficult if you aren't. A Kansas City to Cleveland plane ride did it for me.

The writing style is very reminiscent of an episode of the TV show "Family Guy." Fr. Thomas makes frequent parenthetical asides, most often to interject humor. Even as a fellow member of the Millennial generation, the generation who's ability to "multi-task" defines the term ADD, it took me several paragraphs to get used to his voice. Fr. Thomas also has a huge vocabulary, flowing easily from pop-culture references to 50-cent words that would make an English teacher proud.

As a self-described blogger, Fr. Thomas' content in incredibly self-referential. The number of times he uses the first-person pronoun verges on the unnecessary. This is clearly not a book for scholarly interest, it is best used for self-reflection and small group study. For small group study, Fr. Thomas does provide questions for discussion. Such small group study would best be contained to groups of 20-somethings or younger, Fr. Thomas' contemporaries, to whom the book seems to be directed.

A completely un-mathematical assessment of Digital Disciple's content finds about 50% self-reference, mostly examining the author's life around video games and Facebook, 20% F. Scott Fitzgerald-esque scene painting for the purpose of proving a point, and about 30% theology.

Fr. Thomas' theology is the bright point of this book. Most of it is well thought out and generally agreeable. However, it regularly sits at the surface. Routinely, Fr. Thomas ends a section with only a couple paragraphs of theological analysis and the book suffers for it, I wanted to hear more of what he has to say! Bright points include analyses of Paul's ecclesiology and Fr. Thomas' understanding of the Incarnation in light of the digital age.

I recommend this book to Millennials who are realizing that their digital selves are lacking Christ and who want to follow one man's journey toward a happy medium.
Is your avatar an authentic Christian? 6 May 2011
By Kimberly Bower (gladeslibrarian) - Published on
Format: Paperback
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.
Tackling Faith and Tech - How Far Do We Go? 4 Oct. 2011
By Upstate New York Reader - Published on
Format: Paperback
Much of my career was spent responding to the role of technology within the church. Adam Thomas' book has attempted to do just that. He recognizes that "the Tech" both provides opportunities to bring people together - people we may never have met except for the technology we have chosen to use. The relationships developed with the Tech are real, they are limited.

"The Tech" also will put up a wall between those same people. Though efforts have been made to incorporate more than two senses into the connections we make, we will be limited to using only 40% of the senses God has given to us when we use the Tech as our communication medium.

Ultimately, the author argues, relationships have to be intentional. Whether they are relationships with people or with God, we need to work at building them. If the relationships are going to be real and deep we must move beyond the limitations placed by the Tech upon those relationships. And that takes work - hard work.

This review is based on an electronic copy of the book provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating an unbiased review.
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