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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Divinity

Postgraduate Course: Theology, Ethics and Technology (DIVI11027)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryWhat is technology seen from the perspective of Christian theology? Can we develop a theology of technology so as to bring Christian theological loci into dialogue with various technologies and philosophies of technology? How can theological ethics contribute to building technomoral futures for humankind? This course offers an orientation to and substantial exploration of theological and ethical engagements with contemporary technologies and philosophies of technology.
Course description Academic description:

This course aims to offer an interdisciplinary between theology and contemporary technological advancements, bringing theological loci and ethics into dialogue with philosophies of technology. It will orient students to the current debates on technology, theology, and ethics, and help them develop critical and constructive engagements with key ideas and theories.


This course will bring theology, ethics, and technology into dialogue. It is divided into two parts: sessions 1-4 and sessions 5-10. The first part is focused on several prolegomenal aspects of the dialogue between theology, ethics and technology. It will include the following important themes: theology of technology, digital theology, ethics of technology, and big data. The second part examines specific theological and ethical themes related to technology and philosophy of technology. It will engage theologically with technology from the perspectives of digital Bible reading, doctrine of God, the imago Dei, soteriology, ecclesiology, and eschatology. Overall, this course will provide an interdisciplinary lens through which students can articulate theology in the age of technology.

Student Learning Experience:

Every week, this course will offer a one-hour lecture and a one-hour tutorial. Two essential articles or book chapters are provided for tutorial discussions. Students need to make a ten-minute presentation, which engages critically with the seminar texts. Formative feedback on presentation will be given as the semester progresses, but the overall mark for participation will be assigned at the end of the course. Students need to write a 3000-word essay, exploring one seminar theme and critically engaging with key sources in the field.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  10
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 100% Coursework:

80%: One 3000-word essay. Students should write an essay, being guided by the reading lists and being encouraged to read more widely. Students need to agree an essay title with the course manager.

20%: A ten-minute presentation. Students should engage critically with the seminar texts. Formative feedback will be given as the semester progresses, but the overall mark for participation will be assigned at the end of the course.
Feedback Students will receive formative feedback on their essay plans within one week. The formative feedback on students¿ presentation will be returned within two weeks.

No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand the key areas and ideas in the current interface between theology, ethics and technology.
  2. Comment intelligently on key theological writings in the field, and engage critically with cross-disciplinary conversations.
  3. Show an awareness of how theological loci are used to deal with the ethical questions raised by technological advances.
  4. Demonstrate the ability to interact with debates in recent scholarship, theological and philosophical, when constructing an argument.
  5. Display enhanced skills of oral presentation to a wide-ranging audience.
Reading List
Indicative Bibliography

Week 1

Essential Reading

Gill, David W. Prolegomena to A Theology of Technology. Bridges: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy, Theology, History and Science 5, no. 3/4 (1998): 155-173.

Pattison, George. Thinking About God in an Age of Technology. 37-65. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Recommended Reading

Barbour, Ian G. Ethics in an Age of Technology: The Gifford Lectures 1989-1991. 3-25. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993.

Gay, Craig M. Modern Technology and the Human Future: A Christian Appraisal. 93-131. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2018.

Herzfeld, Noreen. Technology and Religion: Remaining Human in a Co-created World. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press, 2009.

Peters, Ted. Techno-Secularism, Religion, and the Created Co-Creator. Zygon 40, no. 4 (2005): 845-862.

Stewart, Jacqui. Technology and Christianity. In God, Humanity and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion. Edited by Christopher Southgate. 371-389. London: T&T Clark, 2011.

Week 2

Essential Reading

Phillips, Peter, Kyle Schiefelbein-Guerrero, and Jonas Kurlberg. Defining Digital Theology: Digital Humanities, Digital Religion and the Particular Work of the CODEC Research Centre and Network. Open Theology 5, no. 1 (2019): 29-43.

Pontifical Council for Social Communications. The Church and Internet. 22 February 2002.

Recommended Reading

Baab, Lynne M. Toward a Theology of the Internet: Place, Relationship, and Sin. In Digital Religion, Social Media and Culture: Perspectives, Practices and Futures. Edited by Pauline Hope Cheong, Peter Fischer-Nielsen, Stefan Gelfgren, and Charles Ess. 277-91. New York: Peter Lang, 2012.

Crizaldo, Rei Lemnuel. Digital Theology: Practising Local Theology in an Age of Global Technology. In Missio Dei in a Digital Age. Edited by Jonas Kurlberg and Peter M. Phillips. 51-72. London: SCM Press, 2020.

Schmidt, Katherine. Digital Theology as Contextual Theology: A Preliminary Reflection. Cursor_ Zeitschrift Für Explorative Theologie (2020).

Spadaro, Antonio. The Internet: Between Technology and Theology.In Cybertheology: Thinking Christianity in the Era of the Internet. 1-18. New York: Fordham University Press, 2014.

Week 3

Essential Reading

Ott, Kate. Christian Ethics for a Digital Society. 43-69. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019.

Floridi, Luciano. Ethics after the Information Revolution. In The Cambridge Handbook of Information and Computer Ethics. Edited by Luciano Floridi. 3-19. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Recommended Reading

Barbour, Ian G. Ethics in an Age of Technology: The Gifford Lectures 1989-1991 Volume 2. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993.

Howard, Don. Whence and W(h)ither Technology Ethics. In Philosophy of Technology. Edited by Shannon Vallor. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020. DOI:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190851187.013.6

McKenny, Gerald. Biotechnology, Human Nature, and Christian Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Wallach, Wendell, and Shannon Vallor. Moral Machines: From Value Alignment to Embodied Virtue. In Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. Edited by S. Matthew Liao. 383-412. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Week 4

Essential Reading

Kitchen, Rob. The Data Revolution: Big data, open data, data infrastructures and their consequences. London: Sage publications, 2014. Especially chapter 1 (1-26).

O'Neil, Cathy. Weapons of Math Destruction: How big data increases inequality and threatens democracy. London: Allen Lane, 2016. This book may easily (and valuably) be read in its entirety, but for a summary, read the conclusion (199-218).

Recommended Reading

Borocas, S. and Nissenbaum, H. Big Data's end run around anonymity and consent, in Lane, J., Stodden, S., Bender, S. and Nissenbaum, H. (eds.), Privacy, Big Data and the Common Good. 44-75. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Diamante, Oscar R. The Hermeneutics of Information in the Context of Information Technology, Kritike vol. 8 (2014): 168-189.

Fuller, M. 2017. Big Data, Ethics and Religion: New dilemmas from a new science, Religions, Vol. 8. Available online at 7.x.21).

Stoddart, Eric. The Common Gaze: Surveillance and the Common Good. London: SCM Press, 2021. Especially chapter 5 (141-195).

Week 5

Essential Reading

Dyer, John. The Habits and Hermeneutics of Digital Bible Readers: Comparing Print and Screen Engagement, Comprehension, and Behavior.Journal of Religion, Media and Digital Culture8, no. 2 (2019): 181-205.

Horsfield, Peter and Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu. What is it about the Book? Semantic and Material Dimensions in the Mediation of the Word of God., Studies in World Christianity 17, no. 2 (August 2011): 175-93.

Recommended Reading

Ford, David G., Joshua L. Mann and Peter M. Phillips. Bible-centric digital millennials. In The Bible and Digital Millennials. 68-86. Abingdon: Routledge, 2019.

Hutchings, Tim. E-Reading and the Christian Bible. Studies in Religion 44, no. 4 (October 2015): 423-40.

Siker, Jeffrey S. Trajectories of Bible Technology. In Liquid Scripture: The Bible in a Digital World. 13-34. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2017.

Week 6

Essential Reading

Lyon, David. Surveillance and the Eye of God. Studies in Christian Ethics 27, no. 1 (2014): 21-32.

Stoddart, Eric. The Common Gaze: Surveillance and the Common Good. 3-41. London: SCM, 2021.

Recommended Reading

Brock, Brian. Seeing through the Data Shadow: Communing with the Saints in a Surveillance Society. Surveillance & Society 16, no. 4 (2018): 533-545.

Chow, Alexander. Public Faith, Shame and China's Social Credit System. In Missio Dei in a Digital Age. Edited by Jonas Kurlberg and Peter M. Phillips. 236-56. London: SCM Press, 2020.

Lewis, Bex. Social Media, Peer Surveillance, Spiritual Formation, and Mission: Practising Christian Faith in a Surveilled Public Space.Surveillance & Society 16, no. 4 (2018): 517-532.

Lyon, David. The Culture of Surveillance: Watching as a Way of Life. Cambridge: Polity, 2018.

Stoddart, Eric. Theological Perspectives on a Surveillance Society: Watching and Being Watched. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011.

Week 7

Essential Reading

Russell, S. and Norvig, P. Artificial Intelligence: A modern approach. Chapter 1. Harlow: Pearson, 2016.

Turing, A. M. Computing Machinery and Intelligence, in Hofstadter, D. R. and Dennett, D. C. (eds.) The Mind's I. 53-67. London: Penguin, 1982 [1950].

Recommended Reading

Herzfeld, N. 2002. In Our Image: Artificial Intelligence and the human spirit. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, especially chapter 3 (33-52).

Herzfeld, N. 2012. In Whose Image? Artificial Intelligence and the Imago Dei, in Stump, J. B. and Padgett, A. (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity, 500-509.

Puddefoot, J. 1996. God and the Mind Machine: Computers, artificial intelligence and the human soul. London: SPCK, especially chapter 5 (95-123).

Searle, J. 1991. Minds, Brains and Science. London: Penguin, especially chapter 2 (28-41).

Week 8

Essential Reading

Zahl, Simeon. Engineering Desire: Biotechnological Enhancement as Theological Problem. Studies in Christian Ethics 32, no. 2 (2019): 216-228.

Harris, John. Enhancements Are a Moral Obligation. In Human Enhancement. Edited by Julian Savulescu and Nick Bostrom. 131-154. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Recommended Reading

Hefner, Philip. The Animal that Aspires to be an Angel: The Challenge of Transhumanism. Dialog: A Journal of Theology 48, no. 2 (2009): 164-173.

Peters, Ted. Transhumanism and the Posthuman Future: Will Technological Progress Get Us There? In H±: Transhumanism and Its Critics. Edited by Gregory R. Hansell and William Grassie. 14-175. Philadelphia: Metanexus, 2010.

Savulescu, Julian, and Nick Bostrom, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava. Engaging Transhumanism. In H±: Transhumanism and Its Critics. Edited by Gregory R. Hansell and William Grassie. 19-52. Philadelphia: Metanexus, 2010.

Waters, Brent. Whose Salvation? Which Eschatology?. In Transhumanism and Transcendence: Christian Hope in an Age of Technological Enhancement. Edited by Ron Cole-Turner. 163-176. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2011.

Week 9

Essential Reading

Berger, Teresa. Virtual bodies, digital presence, and online participation. In @Worship: Liturgical Practices in Digital Worlds. 16-32. London and New York: Routledge, 2018.

Brazal, Agnes M. and Randy Odchigue. Cyberchurch and Filipin@ Migrants in the Middle East. In Church in an Age of Global Migration: A Moving Body. Edited by Susanna Snyder, Joshua Ralston, and Agnes M. Brazal. 187-99. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

Recommended Reading

Cheong, Pauline Hope. Church Digital Applications and the Communicative Meso-Micro Interplay: Building Religious Authority and Community through Everyday Organizing. In Mediatized Religion in Asia: Studies on Digital Media and Religion. Edited by Kerstin Radde-Antweiler and Xenia Zeiler. 105-18. New York: Routledge, 2019.

Chow, Alexander and Jonas Kurlberg. Two or Three Gathered Online: Asian and European Responses to COVID-19 and the Digital Church. Studies in World Christianity 26, no. 3 (2020): 298-318.

Hutchings, Tim. Being Church Online: Networks and Existential Terrains. In Creating Church Online: Ritual, Community and New Media. 220-41. New York: Routledge, 2017.

McIntosh, Esther. Belonging without believing: Church as community in an age of digital media. International Journal of Public Theology 9, no. 2 (2015): 131-155.

Week 10

Essential Reading

Peters, Ted. Anticipating Omega: Science, Faith, and Our Ultimate Future. 11-27. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006.

Vallor, Shannon. Technology and the Virtues: A Philosophical Guide to a Future Worth Wanting. 17-57. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Recommended Reading

Burdett, Michael. Eschatology and the Technological Future. New York: Routledge, 2015.

Graham, Elaine. In Whose Image? Representations of Technology and the Ends of Humanity. In Future Perfect?: God, Medicine and Human Identity. Edited by Celia E. Deane-Drummond and Peter Manley Scott. 56-69. London: T&T Clark, 2010.

Kurzweil, Ray. The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. London: Viking, 2005.

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills 1. Present arguments for their own views while acknowledging and representing fairly the views of others.

2. Demonstrate intellectual flexibility through the practice of a variety of complementary methods of study, including philosophical, dogmatic, ethical, and systematic methods.

3. Demonstrate awareness and critical assessment of theological contributions to building technomoral futures.

4. Communicate information, ideas, arguments, principles and theories, and develop an argument by a variety of means, for example, by appropriate oral and visual means.

5. Show independence in thought, and critical self-awareness about students¿ own outlook, commitments and prejudices.
Keywordstheology of technology; ethics of technology; philosophy of technology; Christianity and technology
Course organiserDr Ximian Xu
Course secretaryMiss Rachel Dutton
Tel: (0131 6)50 7227
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