I wasn't going to write about the 500th anniversary of John's Calvin's birth, but, while speaking today to one of the most faithful readers of this blog, I was told, "I'll be looking for your post about John Calvin on your blog tonight."  So, it occurred to me to ask, "What would John Calvin think about our new technology and social networking tools?" 

Yesterday, I drove over to Tampa to participate in a coffee shop discussion about the church and new technology.  It was a very informal gathering and the participants were members of a large Presbyterian Church in Tampa.  The conversation was for anyone who showed up.  I was there with five other people. The moderator of the discussion simply announced that he would be at Panera on Wednesday night and twice on Thursday morning for the next three weeks.  The topic was simply, "what should the church do with all of the new technology and social networking tools that are available to us?"

John Calvin did not enter the discussion except for a brief mention noting that Friday was his birthday. I'm not a historian so I can't really give an informed opinion of Pastor John's possible opinion on the use of Facebook today in the church.  But I remember that he was a reformer.  He did not tolerate the status quo when it stood in the way of what he thought was the authentic church.  I am certain if John Calvin had been notified that he had a Facebook friend request from Michael Servetus, Calvin would have denied the request.

At Panera yesterday, we discussed and debated the value of new technology such as Facebook, Twitter, email, internet resources, and things like the ability to broadcast a worship service to remote sites across town or even across the planet.   One person spoke about church members who were US soldiers in Iraq participating in worship services back in the US through a lap top PC connected to the internet. Others spoke of a church in England that has multiple sites around the world each Sunday where worship participants view a preacher who is live and in person in only one location but is simultaneously leading worship through a live video presentation in many other locations around the world.  This church was trying to figure out how to respond to a baptism request from a participant in New Zealand (or some location) very far from the home church in England.

Library Books History of the Church 2009 These examples cause us to ask important questions about ecclesiology (questions about the nature of the church) and mission.  I remember the late Jack Stotts, then President of McCormick Seminary, teaching an ethics class using the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, saying, "just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do something."

Then again, that doesn't mean we shouldn't be using new technology.  We sometimes forget that books are a relatively new technology.  The Gutenburg Press was only invented around 1440 CE.  The church has been around for about 2000 years and the printing press (and easily available Bibles) has only been around for a little over 500 years.  Books from a printing press were a relatively new technology in the time of John Calvin.

The conversations and debates about new technology and their use in the church (or the refusal to use new technology) will continue in coffee shops, church committee rooms, and in seminaries from Switzerland to New Zealand to the US.  What questions about the nature of the church are raised for you by the new technology available today?  Does new technology enhance mission efforts or hurt those efforts?  What do you think about the new technology and the church?  If you are not already my Facebook friend, you can find my FB badge on the lower left sidebar of this blog.  ;-)