Friday, 23 September 2011

The Bible in a Digital Age

Codec (n) co'dec:  A device for coverting data from one format to another, esp. from analogue to digital format. In communications engineering, an integrated circuit or chip. The term is an acronym for 'coder/decoder'.

Research Centre in Biblical and Media Literacy
Durham University

What difference does the digital age make to the ways we think and do things in our churches and faith communities? We're living through a revolution that will have as great an effect on society as the printing press did - probably much greater and more far reaching, in fact. Whether we understand the digital world and use socia networking media or not, they are having an impact on our lives all the time. Life is speeding up, information about us is held in ways that we don't know about but which shapes our lives, relationships are formed differently and are less embodied, our real and digital identities may not be the same, so questions of authenticity and truth arise. I could go on... The other end of the spectrum leads to the realm of the really quite mind blowing. What does theology have to say about brains that have been digitally enhanced and can therefore out-think everyone who has only a 'natural' brain? It makes in vitro fertilization and genetic engineering seem a bit tame, really! Then there are the justice and power shaped questions about who is included and excluded from the digital world. And the questions about sacramentality in a disembodied world.  

I spent a fascinating day in Durham, yesterday, hearing all about CODEC, a research project based at St John's College, Durham University. It was established in 2008 to develop a national survey of levels of Biblical literacy. Since then it has gone on to gain a national and international reputation in the whole area of Christian communication in the digtal age. The project is asking
  • How does the 21st century world interact with the world of the Christian faith and vice versa?
  • How do we communicate our faith with its ancient roots in a digital world?
  • How do we allow the insights born of faith, discipline and wisdom in a Biblical sense to help us be properly critical of a digital world in which the impetus to react to everything out there, or as much of it as possible, is very strong?  
CODEC has done work for a number of agencies and individuals such as MPs and peers, the Church of England, the Methodist Church, Premier Christian Media, the Bible Society and SPCK as well as contributing to TV and radio in the UK and abroad. It has worked with the Faith and Globalisation Porject at Durham University and the Tony Blair Foundation to establish Faith online 0.2 We benefit from it locally because of the North Yorkshire Dales Biblical Literacy Project which has a project worker, David Wood, working in Swaledale and Wensleydale to promote understanding of the Bible and to reserach how it has an impact on community life in rural communities. 

The Revd Dr Pete Phillips, Director of CODEC
 at Durham University

You might be interested in looking at the BigBible website which has a mass of material about the Bible - events, stories of social action inspired by the Bible and projects focusing on the Bible, including Tom Wright's The BigRead12 - Lent group resources on Mark's gospel.

CODEC also hosts preaching conferences which concentrate on apologetics in a digital age and the use of imagination in preaching. The conferences make use of research and material by some of the leading Biblical scholars. You can find details of these on the CODEC website

The Revd Kate Bruce,
Research Fellow in Preaching,
CODEC, Durham University
This is a wonderful (and very practical) resource for us in North Yorkshire, especially those of us who preach, teach, blog and use other social media. This is the up and coming area of hermeneutic study - the study of interpretation across languages, social groups, media which is at the heart of incarnational theology.

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