Christian 'Values'


A Short Annotated Bibliography of Sources Relevant to a Christian Perspective on Technology

Anonymous (1959). Luddites. In Yust, W. (Ed.), Encyclopedia Britannica (Vol. 14, pp. 468-469).

The Luddites were the first to form an organized resistance to technological development. This is a good summary.

Bickerman, E. & Smith, M. (1976). The characteristics of ancient civilization, in The Ancient History of Western Civilization. New York: Harper and Row, pp. 218-241.

This is a description of everyday life in ancient western civilization,. The authors describe city life and culture, and focus on the backwardness of science, medicine, and technology, as compared to today. They also note the significance of religion and the spiritual life of the ancients, in contrast to today's secularism.

Blanshard, Brand (1961). Reason and Goodness. London: George Allen & Unwin.

The author examines goodness as it relates to human reason and in so doing gives us a very systematic study of value, covering both meta-normative and normative theories.

Bunch, B.& Hellemans, A., editors (1993). The Timetables of Technology. New York: Simon & Schuster.

The editors have compiled massive, detailed chronological tables of technology all the way from the first use of fire and tools, right up to the Pentium microprocessor. Each major technological period is prefaced by a summary and the tables are interspersed with interesting historical notes.

Clark, W. N. (1963). Technology and man: a Christian vision, in Stover, C.F, editor, The Technological Order. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, pp. 38-58.

In this thoughtful Christian perspective on technology, the author reminds the reader that the material should be subordinate to the spiritual and that one of Man's roles is steward of creation. The development and use of technology should be informed by both of those facts.

Derry, T.K. & Williams, T. I. (1960). A Short History of Technology. London: Oxford.

The authors present a very readable summary of the history of technology, broken into two periods: pre-industrial revolution and industrial revolution to 1900. They further break down the history by area: food and agriculture, domestic needs, materials, building, transport, communication, power, tools, and chemical industry.

Ellul, J. (1963). The technological order, in Stover, C.F, editor, The Technological Order. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, pp. 10-37.

Jacques Ellul was one of the best-known critics of modern technology. This short article is a good summary of his thinking on the matter. In it he describes technology as, among other things, artificial and autonomous, subordinating ends to means. In Ellul's view, man is in danger of losing control and the only solution is to be aware of the problem and to be more reflective in the development and use of technology.

Ellul, J. (1964). The Technological Society. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

To Ellul, technique (for our purposes, synonymous with technology) is "... the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity." In this classic work he describes the characteristics of technology (automatic, self-augmenting, universal, autonomous, etc.), its importance to economics (the driving force), its relation to the state (the state is a technical organism), and its permeation of everyday life (medicine, entertainment, work, etc.). Ellul feels that technology has quickly cut man off from the ancient milieu to which he adapted for millennia.

Ellul, J. (1980). The Technological System. New York: Continuum.

Most of this book is a reiteration of The Technological Society. But he goes on to say that technology is a concept, an environment, a determining factor, and a unified but unregulated system. Perhaps most significant in this book is Ellul's observation that man is now left with no intellectual, moral, or spiritual standard with which to evaluate technology.

Ellul, J. (1990). The Technological Bluff. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Aside from some coverage of recent technological developments, this book is more of the same material found in the previous works. But Ellul does reveal technology's bluff: that of increased productivity. The bluff is that though technology does increase productivity, those things produced are not really very valuable. People are fascinated by technology and diverted by it away from loftier goals.

Florman, S.C. (1994) The Existential Pleasures of Engineering. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Florman takes on the critics of technology in general and engineering and engineers in particular. He specifically deals with the like of Ellul, but his defense is predicable. To his credit, the book is well-written and engaging.

Frankena, W.K. (1967). Value, valuation. In Edwards, P. (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Vol. 8, pp. 229 - 232). New York: Macmillan.

Frankena presents a good, concise introduction to and summary of axiology, the theory of value and valuation. A short but helpful bibliography is also provided.

Healy, J.M. (1990). Endangered Minds, Why Children Don't Think and What We Can Do About It, New York: Touchstone.

We all have our opinions about the negative effects of television on human behavior. Healy provides evidence that proonged television viewing by children actually impairs brain development.

Kraybill, D.B. (1988). The Riddle of Amish Culture. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

The author describes a group of people who have developed their own response to the problems of technology: the Amish. This book covers their history, culture, and everyday life, devoting a whole chapter to technology. The Amish have been reasonably successful in subordinating technology to God and community. They do not reject technology out of hand, but instead put new technology on probation until they feel they understand its consequences. This often (but by no means always) leads to rejection of certain technologies.


Mead, H. (1946).

Types and Problems of Philosophy. New York: Henry Holt and Company

Mead's book is an outstanding, well-written, and extremely even-handed summary of philosophy. Chapters XII and XIII are an excellent introduction to axiology and ethics.

Merkel, A. (1996). "Summary of the Conference Results," in One Decade After Chernobyl, Vienna: International Atomic Energy Agency, pp. 1-17.

Although the Chernobyl nuclear accident did not kill as many outright as did the chemical plany accident in Bhopal, India, its long term human health and environmental effects could be very far-reaching. This is a summary of a conference on the accident.

Monsma, S. V., editor (1986). Responsible Technology. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

This book is the result of a study by a group of Christian scholars at Calvin College. They attempted to look at technology from a Christian perspective and to derive principles, founded on Biblical teaching, for its development and use. The identified seven principles that responsible technology should conform to: cultural appropriateness, information or openness, communication, stewardship, delightful harmony, justice, caring, and trust.

Moore, G.E. (1903). Principia Ethica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

In this classical work, the author establishes value as the basis for ethics, acknowledging that value is a simple, unanalyzable term. He goes on to examine what is intrinsically good and how ethics derives from that.

Perry, R.B. (1926). General Theory of Value. New York: Longman, Green and Company.

This is a classic and comprehensive examination of value. Perry defines it as "... the peculiar relation between any interest and its object ...".

Postman, N. (1992). Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

This book is about how technology, especially in the United States, has forced aside traditional culture and tried to replace it with a new order under the direction of bureaucracies, narrowly focussed technical experts, social science, and other technical machinery. The resulting society is not only incomprehensible, but also devoid of legitimate moral authority.

Raven, P.H., Berg, L.R., & Johnson, G.B. (1993). Environment. Fort Worth, TX: Saunders College Publishing.

The authors give a general overview of man's impact on the environment. Although not specifically about technology, it is clear that much of the negative impact is due to or at least amplified by technology. The authors also point out that technology facilitates environmental conservation, although the balance seems to be in favor of technology's negative impacts.

Rochell, C. & Spellman, C. (1987). Dreams Betrayed: Working in the Technological Age. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

In this book the authors claim that technology is destroying the middle class -- shifting jobs both up and down the income and social scales -- and that the best way to stop the trend is through government intervention.

Schumacher, E.F. (1973). Small is Beautiful. New York: Harper & Row.

In modern society, materialism has led to a logic of production in which wealth is paramount. This leads to resource depletion, pollution, unemployment, and poverty, to name a few ills. Shumacher argues for moderation in economics, partly in the implementation of intermediate (as opposed to large-scale) technology.

Shelley, Mary W. (1818). Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. London: J.M. Dent & Sons.

This classic novel, set in eighteenth century Europe, is about a young scientist driven by an insatiable thirst for knowledge and unbridled ambition. After long and difficult endeavor, Victor Frankenstein created a living being, human-like but hideous in appearance. Though the creature possessed a subtle intellect, a remarkable capacity for learning, and deep emotions, Frankenstein's rejection and abandonment of it due to his revulsion at its appearance and his horror at his own acts to bring it about caused it to turn on him and those he loved. Though clearly possessed of a capacity for good, it was driven to evil. Frankenstein's failure to fulfill his responsibility to society and to his creation led to his own destruction.

Shrivastava, P. (1987). Bhopal: Anatomy of a Crisis, Cambridge, MA: Ballinder.

The author describes the causes and consequences of a major technological accident in India in 1984 in which a chemical plant explosion killed thousands.

Sire, James W. (1990). Discipleship of the Mind. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

The book as a whole is about developing a comprehensive, Christian worldview. Chapter 7 argues that a Bible-based perspective on technology is part of that worldview and goes on to summarize Monsma (1986).

Stock, Gregory (1993). Metaman. New York: Simon & Schuster.

This book is an argument for technological optimism. Stock considers humans and their technology to comprise a super-organism he calls Metaman. Like regular organisms, Metaman is adaptive and is conquering such problems as the threat of nuclear war and global warming. The only real challenge to Metaman is overpopulation, which he is confident will be beaten.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (1959). The Phenomenon of Man. New York: Harper Row.

Although not specifically about technology, this is a Christian counterpoint to Stock (1993): evolution with a goal. The reader can infer technology’s role in the continuation of evolution towards the "Omega Point".

US Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics (1994). National Transportation Statistics, 1995, Washington: US DOT.

This is a compilation of transportation statistics, including the number of transportation accidents that occurred in 1994.

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