Scholar’s Top 5: Stephen Garner on Technological Narratives of Salvation

My career prior to theology was in computer science, and whilst in that environment I was intrigued by the amount of ‘God-language’ used by colleagues to describe their computing work, as well as the stories of ‘technology as saviour’ being told by technologists and others around the world. My PhD in theology allowed me to further explore these narratives, together with religious accounts of technology. My research focused upon the speculative narratives of salvation being told by the transhumanist community – that through technology we can seize control of our own evolution and become like ‘gods’ – in dialogue with Christian engagement with technology through the motif of human beings as bearers of God’s image and likeness (see Journal of Evolution and Technology 14/2; Colloquium 37/2). Using the theological metaphor of human beings as ‘created co-creators’ to examine different theological responses to technology and transhumanism, I argued that human beings might live well as ‘hopeful cyborgs,’ maintaining a critical balance of both apprehension and hope about human technological agency.

My current research is drawn out of that initial project looking at Christian responses to emerging technologies and media, and continues to develop the ‘created co-creator’ metaphor in dialogue with social justice themes. Other related research includes reflection upon theology, spirituality and the Internet, including religious lament and the new media, and the positive and negative visions of the posthuman in popular culture, where technology can serve as a either a transcendent medium or dehumanizing force respectively. I'm also interested in popular culture as a site for doing contextual theology (Studies in World Christianity 17/2).

Further reading related to technological narratives of salvation can be found in the following resources:

  1. Graham, Elaine. Representations of the Post/Human: Monsters, Aliens and Others in Popular Culture. Manchester Studies in Religion, Culture, and Gender. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002.
    Explores historical and contemporary relationship between technology and being human with connections to religion, cultural studies, and popular culture.
  2. Cole-Turner, Ronald. Transhumanism and Transcendence: Christian Hope in an Age of Technology Enhancement. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2011.
    A recent collection of essays by established and emerging scholars exploring theological perspectives on transhumanism. Contains my essay ‘The Hopeful Cyborg’ which looks at the intersection of the cyborg with images of hybridity located within Christianity.
  3. Hughes, James. Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2004.
    An overview of differing technological optimistic trajectories and the spectrum of transhumanism from an insider within that community. Hughes also has Buddhist connections.
  4. Maher, Derek F., and Calvin R. Mercer. Religion and the Implications of Radical Life Extension. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
    A collection of essays exploring different religious perspectives (including atheism) towards technology in general and gerontological technologies in particular.
  5. Waters, Brent. From Human to Posthuman : Christian Theology and Technology in a Postmodern World. Aldershot, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006.
    Addresses the relationship between technology and being human from a Christian theological perspective with the aim of assisting with Christian discourse, deliberation and discernment for living well in contemporary technoculture.