The invention of the printing press catalyzed Martin Luther’s reformation; radios and televisions delivered Billy Graham’s gospel proclamations to millions of households. Technological advancements have undoubtedly advanced kingdom work for centuries—but is the same true for the burgeoning technologies of today?
As virtual reality becomes increasingly prominent throughout society, churches must assess how to respond thoughtfully and biblically. In Virtual Reality Church, theologians Darrell Bock and Jonathan Armstrong present a systematic reflection on how to faithfully apply virtual reality for ministry purposes. They examine the risks—like compromising the meaning of tangible worship—and opportunities—like safely reaching persecuted churches—of integrating revolutionary technologies into the Christian life. Learn to think critically, theologically, and pastorally about new technologies so that you can faithfully advance the gospel into the future.
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About the Author
JONATHAN J. ARMSTRONG is Professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute, where he lectures in New Testament studies and church history. He consults at the intersection of faith and technology and serves as the president of the Aqueduct Project (www.aqueductproject.org). He lives in the Chicago area with his wife and three children.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Technology: A Surprising Coronavirus Substitute 11
1 New Media and the Good News 23
2 The Only Constant Is Change 55
3 The Church Steps into Virtual Reality 81
4 The Nature of Virtuality 105
5 God, Creation, and New Creation 149
6 The Incarnation and Pentecost 175
7 The New People of God and Visible Signs of Invisible Grace 201
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Virtual Reality Church
“In a world connected globally by the internet and increasingly affected by virtual reality, Bock and Armstrong help us––whether we receive the help eagerly or with apprehension––to understand the brave new world in which we find ourselves. The authors observe accurately the place of innovation in the history of evangelicalism, as evangelicals seized new technologies for the sake of the gospel. They provide a useful history of the rise of technology from newspapers in the day of Whitefield, to radio, to controversial televangelists, to D.J. Soto’s recent VR Church. Their assessment of both helpful and harmful aspects of the new technologies available to the church will help every church leader think through the ramifications of technology. This is a topic every Christian leader post-2020 needs to understand, and Virtual Reality Church boldly goes to where few in the church have gone before.” —ED STETZERDean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership, Wheaton College, and Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center
“The church today rarely discusses with substance its greatest available missions tool. Read Virtual Reality Church and catch a vision for what God can do. The VR harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few!”—DOUGLAS ESTESAuthor of SimChurch and Braving the Future
“Informed by history and shaped by solid biblical commitments, Virtual Reality Church raises the important questions about the application of virtual and augmented reality for ministry, Christian living, worship, and the formation of Christian community. Exploring the theological meaning of church, including the practice of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, Jonathan Armstrong and Darrell Bock reach across the denominational spectrum to offer thoughtful and pastoral guidance on these pressing issues, always with the goal of advancing the gospel message in our rapidly changing world. While readers will likely yearn for more answers and additional guidance to these perplexing challenges, Virtual Reality Church is the best introduction available on this subject. Moreover, this volume will become an essential prerequisite for those wishing to engage these issues in the days to come. Highly recommended!”—DAVID S. DOCKERYPresident of International Alliance for Christian Education
“The most robust book on understanding virtual reality for the church. You get a great historical overview of all the ways the church has creatively embraced the newest tech along with a solid theological framework for embracing VR and whatever else comes online down the road.”—JAY KRANDAOnline Campus Pastor at Saddleback Church
“Technology is evolving at a rapid pace and many church leaders find themselves unprepared. How are new digital realities affecting our ecclesiology? What does it mean to be the church in the internet age? Are online and digital connections real connections? These questions are complex, nuanced, and require critical engagement on multiple levels. In this book, Darrell Bock and Jonathan Armstrong offer us several tremendous and timely gifts—deep and thoughtful reflections, thorough surveys of the current and potential future landscape, and maybe most importantly, a confident reassurance in knowing that “the one who created the universe will supply His church with sufficient creativity and guidance” to navigate this and any forthcoming technological changes we may encounter. This book is a must-read for any and all who are serving and leading the local church in the digital age.”—JAY Y. KIMPastor and author of Analog Church
“Bock and Armstrong describe in this well-researched volume the fascinating and at times mind-boggling possibilities of virtual reality technology. They explore through a biblical lens the opportunities and challenges it holds for the church. Be informed and be prepared for the future by reading Virtual Reality Church.”—CRAIG OTTProfessor of Mission and Intercultural Studies, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
“Two of the main reasons Jesus sent the disciples out two by two (Mark 6:7) was to create a trustworthy account of the spreading of the Word, and garner a great reward that could be shared and validated throughout history. It is clear that Jesus did the same in the inspirational writing of Virtual Reality Church. He sent Darrell Bock and Jonathan Armstrong to share the credible and trustworthy witness that God is not offended by advanced technologies but will use them prudently and wisely to reach, teach, and preach to a global society in a pandemic world. If you invest the time and hear the voice of these two witnesses, you will be part of the great reward—as God spreads the knowledge of His glory around the world (Hab. 2:14). It is completely plausible God is using Bock and Armstrong to fulfill Habakkuk 2:4 and digitally run like heralds with His vision that is awaiting the appointed time. The outcome of this book will affect billions of people as it inspires every educator and minister to move forward with every means possible to carry out their mission, and the Great Commission, in unique and exciting methods.” —MICHAEL L. MATHEWSVice President of Technology and Innovation, Oral Roberts University