John Dyer | From the Garden to the City
4:03PM Sep 17, 2021
Jonathan J. Armstrong
Welcome to In Unitatem Fidei, we are thrilled today to be speaking with john Dyer, Dean of enrollment services in distance education and assistant professor of theological studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and also author of the text that we'll be discussing today, from the garden to the city, the redeeming and corrupting power of technology, originally published in 2011, from Kriegel publications, and soon to be re released in a revised edition. JOHN, thank you so much for joining us today.
And this is awesome.
And the first question that I should ask is your title there dean of enrollment services and distance education? Are you the czar of distance education at Dallas, most schools have a single point person is that you are Dallas?
Yeah, I mean, you know, like most schools is a big team of people that are some of them are on the pedagogy. And some of them are on the more technical end. But I get to oversee a lot of those things and try to connect with our students and find them good options for, you know, a mixture of classes that are fully asynchronous classes that have kind of a hybrid, maybe at one weekend component, some that take place over video conferencing, like we're doing now. So we kind of a range of of offerings, I get to work with faculty and students on all those things.
It's really cool. And what an exciting time to be involved in distance education, when did you join Dallas in their technical work,
really back in 2002. So in those days, I started out as when that when it was still called a webmaster. So I was that guy for a little while. And I had been a freelance developer for a while, and moved to help ETS with that. And it just kind of moved along and gotten to build some projects from scratch, and then eventually moved them on to more kind of supported platforms and got to see it from both
ends. So this is really cool to be able to speak with you, john, because the journey you've experienced won't happen again, you figured out how to take Dallas Theological Seminary online, which is not going to happen again. So we are really excited to learn from some of your experiences here. Yeah, now COVID is throwing a wrench in all of this for everybody. This we're recording here at the beginning of 2021, just coming through the first year of teaching through this COVID crisis. So what are some of the things that you're learning right now in the moment about how technology can facilitate education right now?
Yeah, I mean, if I was thinking about churches, you know, there were some that didn't have anything online had never streamed, never done anything, some that maybe just had a stream, they turned on, it was ready, but it wasn't robust. And, and some that were really well prepared. Well, among the faculty of 6080 people, we had faculty that were in all those positions, so each of them were kind of moving along at different paces, somewhere ready to go, they had their own setups, their own mics, you know, their own ways of doing things, and really thought it through others had just done it because they, you know, as part of their job, and then some hadn't done it at all. And so, you know, we were working with different faculty on different levels. And then also students to some, you know, really love online, and some really don't. And so we were just trying to meet each of those needs and walk alongside and kind of come, some of them required a lot of one on one, and some of them, really, were ready to go. And so along this time, you know, it's always that question of, you have to learn the technology first, just know how to do it. But then you really have to think not letting the technology drive what you're going to do, but really trying to let your core objectives and what you're trying to accomplish do that. But you have to have that range. First, you got to have the toolbox before you can build something. So really trying to educate our faculty and our students about what was possible so that then they could start thinking through, what do I really want to accomplish here.
And this COVID crisis is changing a lot of our perspectives is involved everybody in the conversation, suddenly the entire school is involved in what used to be a conversation just for specialists in distance education. And there's a whole range of opinions. Some are saying this is the end of classical education. Some are saying this is changing, existentially what education is, and we're never going back. Some are saying no, is opening up a beautiful new horizon, and we're going to be able to multiply the efforts into whole new territories. What's your basic posture about what's happening today?
Yeah, I think there's multifaceted changes. I mean, these these changes have been happening for a long time that once once technology makes something you know, possible, then it starts to change those things. So whenever we are basic ideas that whenever we put some content, some activities on something, and we change mediums from in person to one form of technology, or another one, it's going to change it in some way. And sometimes it takes a little while to see what that is, you kind of have to experience it first to do that. So I see this as an as not a massive change, but kind of an acceleration of some of the things that were already going on, and trying to figure out what things are best as kind of on demand content, and what things are best in person. And then when we do in person time, how do we how do we really maximize that time. So just as a simple example, we have students that are, you know, 100% in the classroom all the time and those that are 100% online, and then those that kind of do some hybrid classes and what we found is those online students when they do even just one weekend in person, their graduations rates go up by 20%. So even if it's just a real stat point of view, we know that that's an important thing. So whether we even understand why we know we want to encourage that and incentivize that and try to find ways to get people in person.
It's really cool. Thank you for sharing that. All right, so we're thrilled to dive into this book from the garden to the city. And the first question that I should ask maybe just as a good starting point is on page 15 of this text, you, you introduce the whole conversation by telling a story about when you were a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, one of your students, excuse me, one of your professors, making the provocative comment, quote, one of the most dangerous things you can believe in this world is that technology is neutral. Now you that that's a powerful statement, because we as readers assume that that's the case, you go on to say that your initial reaction was one of suspicion about that Professor statement, but then you've come to understand that the issues really are very complex. How would you respond to that statement today? Is technology neutral?
Yeah, we know when I asked an audience, and I just say, how many of you guys would say technology is good, bad or neutral? Usually about 5%? will say, Oh, I think it's awesome. It's so good. There's always a few that will say, yeah, I think it's just bad. You know, on the whole, it's more bad than good. But you know, 90%, will say it's neutral. And that was sort of the position that I took where I thought, you know, here's my faith over here, I believe in Jesus and the Triune God, and I want to live for Him. And then here's this cool technology. And I like that if I can find that those two work together, if I can take the message of Jesus and put it through the conduit of technology, that's awesome. But I had never really thought about what happens when you when you take a message or an idea or something like that, and you put it through a different conduit, what what happens to it. And so this statement really started to make me go Okay, I know that that this, this mouse here may not actually be sort of have a moral value to it. So in some sense, there may be some way of speaking about it in a neutral way. But when I when I change mediums, when I send something via text or via email, or via phone call, or via video chat, each of those things affects what I even if I say the exact same words. And so what I would do is, is when I'm in front of an audience, I go, they all the 90% raise their hand, I say my goal today is to convince you that technology is never any circumstance neutral, there always has some formative and powerful shaping influence. And we want to become the kinds of people that are that are aware of those things and attuned to them, and then can maybe even use them to our advantage in some cases.
Alright, so let's get into the mechanics of the book, you use as a basic structure for the book, the four parts of salvation history is told from a reformed perspective. And those four parts of salvation history are traditionally creation, the fall, redemption and restoration. And you use that as a basic frame of reference, showing that that can overlay atop how it is that we analyze and use and deploy technology. How is it that the story that we read about in Genesis one, how is it that that refines our understanding of what technology is and can do?
Yeah, I mean, I think that, again, 10 years ago, when I was writing this, most of the things were either how to use technology, or why it's bad to use technology, those are pretty much the two things that were out there except for some scholarly work. So what I really wanted to do that the core message is to say that I think technology is an is a good theologically, it's part of what it means to be human. It's part of what God has given us as our activity in the world. So I start from Genesis one and I see that God is introduced in the very first verb we see about him that God is a creative God. And then God creates all these different creatures that do things and he creates us to be his image bearers, and those that would have dominion over creation. And then in Genesis two, of course, we learn that part of that is to is to cultivate and to care for the earth. And that's going to involve making and using things. So I just I want people to to look at what we do is part of what it means to be human, not as an accident, not as a something that we do as a secondary as a post fall thing. But it's something that is core to what it means to be human and to do what what it means to be both burying the image of God and our creativity, and also fulfilling our commands to have dominion and also care for the earth.
And so toward as you're working through the book, and working through these chapters, you line these four steps and salvation history again, creation, fall, redemption, restoration, you align them with these four components, reflection, reflecting on our technology and our use of technology, rebellion, understanding our own alienation from God in our approach to culture, redemption and restoration aligning with God's salvation in Jesus Christ and then his eventual plan to restore the entire world. And you take these four elements and put them in a technology tetrad. It shows up on page one At. And you note that these four elements can be evaluated by the grid of unintentional and intentional aspects and negative and positive aspects. I know this a little technical, but can you just briefly explain how those things fit together for you?
Yeah. So when I, when I think about our evaluation of technology, this idea that it's usually neutral, we're usually thinking about the intentional use of technology intentionally good uses, and intentionally bad uses. So I might give an example of something like a shovel. And I would say, an intentionally good use is building a church and intentionally bad uses x murdering somebody. Right? So those that's an intentional layer. And that's, that's good. We want to think about that as people who want to honor God and be holy. But on this unintentional layer, we might think of things like, whether I'm using it for good or for bad when I use a shovel, it does change my hands, right? They get blisters and calluses, maybe we consider that to be a kind of unintentionally negative thing. But maybe my kind of knowledge of the soil changes or my, my muscles develop in some way, maybe I think of that as an unintentionally positive thing. So if I'm, if I'm kind of dividing in those four areas, I can, I can run that same grid through a variety of technologies. Like the example in the book of a projector in church, you know that there's unintentionally or sorry, there's the intentional good things of showing the Bible, the intentionally bad things of R rated movies or 1980s, PG movies, which are also our right, there's those those things that we can intentionally show. But then there's that unintentional thing of, you know, people not bringing printed Bibles to church, right? Or not knowing how to look things up at the same time. But there's the unintentionally positive thing of, you know, in a congregation, everybody has their own version of the Bible, everybody has their own personalized, individualized version of the Bible. And when we're all looking on a screen, we're all seeing the same thing at the same time. So if we can if we can get to use that grid to be able to evaluate things, and we can map it to these layers of the biblical story that's a little hard to picture. But each of those four aspects kind of connects to those same things.
So you're also a churchman? John, I know you're involved in a church congregation down in Dallas, and you've watched that community, you've lived with them. So there are tons of unintended consequences that take place with technology, like when you insert a screen at the front of your church, like you just mentioned, and we start displaying the text there, we can all read it together as a community, that's great. But we might forget how to look up in our Bibles where Joshua is, these unintended consequences are everywhere. How do you find a wise threshold for experimentation and community life?
Yeah, well, I appreciate you using the word experimentation, just because I think a lot of what we would call technological knowledge is tacit knowledge, or it's something that has to be experienced. So like, the example I often give is the sound of a tuba. We all know what it sounds like. But it's hard to describe that without hearing it for yourself. So there's some technology like like VR, for example, that you really have to feel to know what it's like, and you know a lot about VR technology. But you really do need to experience it. But I think that what often happens is that we just adopt it, and we just keep using it, we never really take that step to go back and to reflect on it. And then in a congregational setting, once you've done something, it's really hard to pull it back. But I think openly acknowledging that we're experiencing something that we're trying something out, planning ahead for when you're going to make that step of evaluation. And it's something like our pandemic, you know, we all thought maybe it was gonna be shorter. And we thought this was this was temporary. But as it's gone on, I think we've had to have multiple steps of evaluation. I think what most of us are doing right now is really trying to think through, what is it going to look like in the future? And what can we pull back. And that's, that's going to be the real challenge for the next six months.
So john, if you would be patient with me, I'm gonna read a chunk from your book. So I was fascinated by this text, you wrote it in 2011. Technologically, that's a long time ago. And at the end of the text, you sent out five recommendations, which I thought were amazingly poignant. Still, today, you give us five recommendations for how to use technology just for orientation. I'll enumerate them, you speak of valuation, taking a technology and specifically evaluating it from a biblical worldview. You speak and experimentation, opening up a space where you can live with the reality of it and begin to figure out what it might do for you as a community. You speak of limitation, and that is sort of this pruning process of reducing it to its core value and not letting it grow like a weed and the rest of your life, togetherness, the experience of integrating that into a community life, not just as individuals with technology, and then cultivation making it as fruitful as possible. So if you'll be patient with me, I'm gonna read a chunk This is on page 177 to 178 of the book, you speak about limitation. And so in 2011, there were about 2.1 billion internet users today, there's nearly 3 billion more there's almost 5 billion internet users today. And between those critical years of 2011 and 2021. We've also had the broad acceptance of mobile technology, which means not only do we have 3 billion more internet users about, but we also have everybody using the internet constantly wherever they are. So internet saturation has grown in just amazingly, in those years, making your point about limitation even more important. Here's what you you right back in 2011. Once we understand the patterns of usage of a technology, the next step is to see what happens when we put boundaries on. If we become convinced that spending too much time on social media sites invites narcissism, and the reading online limits deep thinking than a discipline set of limits is necessary. It is here that the desires of the flesh often emerge most strongly. A person who checks his or her mobile, mobile phone regularly throughout the day may find it extremely difficult to curtail this pattern. Yes, my goodness. Because of this difficulty incorporating a quote technology fast into one's diet can be particularly helpful. It is, of course, somewhat misleading to call it a fast, since we're calling since we're still using 20th century tools like lights, air conditioning, and vehicles. But choosing to abstain for several days from the tools that impact us most powerfully, can help weaken their control. In my profession, I found it difficult to disconnect for several days at a time. So instead, I try to make disconnection a regular part of everyday life. In the morning, when I wake up, I avoid checking email right away in the evening, when I come home, I don't use the computer until the kids are in bed. My goal is not simply to limit my technology usage, but to open up space to live the kind of life that Christ modeled for us. When I feel the urge to go outside of these boundaries, I have to ask myself, if I'm doing so out of my Christian values and identity, or if I'm being pulled into the value system of technology. If there was a one point agenda for what Christian discipleship looks like, in 2021, I'm sure it's limiting technology. And talk to us a little bit about your current practice of limiting technology, please.
Yeah, I think one of the things that probably hasn't aged as well, or something that's newer in the last 10 years, would be the idea that here I presented as the device is the primary temptation or my own sort of flesh, what I've kind of left out there, what I think we're more aware of now is kind of the algorithmic authority of the people on the other end, that it's not just about, say that I just really love my shovel. And I just want to keep shoveling. But it's it there's a little guy, there's like hundreds of people with PhDs inside the shovel constantly trying to get me to shovel more, you know, and that they make billions of dollars, if I'll just make one more scoop, you know. And so I think being being aware of that, I think we're all a little bit more aware of it. And yet, even if we watch a documentary of a TED talk on that, it's still we still find ourselves drawn to it. And that constant questioning of what exactly is it that I'm drawn to? Am I am I lonely? Am I fulfilling a need? Is there something in me that needs to be sort of pumped up in some way by by getting a few little bits of dopamine by like, or something like that constantly, you know, evaluating those things, and evaluating, you know, where our new sources are coming from? I think that's another big question that's come up. The other part for me in my own life is that when I when I wrote that my children were babies, you know, and now they're at that age where they need to be using devices. So what I'm giving them is a framework where it's not so much just about screen time, and absolute number sense. But we're also talking about what kind of screen time that they're doing. And so we've talked a lot about it, whether they're being creative versus consumptive as one one set, then again, if this is something that they're doing as an individual or something they're doing together and some communal way with somebody, and when they are consuming something is this something that is somehow enriching, helping you do something versus, and it's purely entertaining. And so there's going to be times where, as an individual, you're going to consume something that's entertaining. But hopefully, you know, if some of our consumption can be done together, even it's like a family movie night, or if, if my son or my daughter is using their device to create something, I'm gonna I'm gonna want them to do a lot more time on that if they're making a movie or drawing something or writing something that's, that's, I think, a healthy use of screen time. But if it's this sort of self self consumption, that's something that we want to really, really limit. And so as a modern worker, that becomes really challenging, because those lines are often blurred, you know, you may find yourself in an hour corresponding with someone who's in your family, buying something on Amazon and seated for your, for your family, doing your taxes, consuming some type of church content, and it also finding that little urge to post something that at least gets 10 or 20 likes, you know, so that that constant move throughout the day. I think that's really where the limitation comes in. And so in addition to just the limitations, I think there's also the desire to say, Do I have intentional focal practices to use the language of Albert Boardman. So limitation is helpful. But also having practices built into you whether that's, you know, something as simple as Bible reading and prayer, just some some small ritual that you do before, like Andy crouch would recommend that you need to, you need to wake up before your phone does and you need to go to bed after your phone does. So that that that one gets put somewhere else. As long as you have some of those practices in there that can be helpful. I know during the pandemic, a lot of these things have changed for me. And even in the last week here in Texas, we had a big power outage. And that also changed in light and some of these things. So I continue to find it a challenge personally in my own life, and also as my kids develop to be training and discipling them as their father, and then also discipling people in our church.
incredibly valuable. Thanks so much for sharing those reflections. Alright, so let's pivot here for a moment, or we're going to turn to look for the toward the future. And what's next, there's always a next chapter in this progressing history of technology. So, um, when are you going to write your next book? And what would it be about?
Yeah, well, I'm actually gonna do a small update to this book over the over this next year. So we'll, we'll cover a couple things that you've mentioned, this the proliferation of mobile devices, and how that's, that's really increased that everyone has one now. And as opposed to 10 years ago, that was still a little bit rare. I think some of the things that we talked about, about sort of the algorithmic authority and some of the the pushing toward tighter and tighter news cycles that get people into sometimes some pretty dangerous areas. I think also something like transhumanism AI make make little appearances. But I think those are at least the AI part is more of a common part of our everyday life, and not so much sci fi. So there's a couple of those those areas. And I think also things like our, you know, online church, and ecclesiology is something that really is maybe a footnote in the book, and it needs to be fleshed out a little bit. So we don't want to radically change it, but just give it a few updates. I also did my doctoral work on digital Bible reading, and what happens when people read their Bibles in their phones, and particularly the role of the developer, if it was a printing press person who invented verse numbers that now shape everything about what we do. And our own life verses were created by a person who used to work on printing presses. What is it, the developers are doing now to shape our understanding of the Bible, and our interaction with that? So those are some of the topics I have to work on next couple of years, and also hope to take a digital project and turn it into print as well. So that'll be a fun project. Hopefully, we'll see in the next year or two.
Wow, that sounds amazing. So when will this new edition of from the garden? Will it retain its title from the garden to the sea?
When will that appear? Hopefully, we'll finish that. And maybe by the end of the year, that guy could come out on an updated version or possibly early next year.
See cool, from Kriegel from the garden to the city? That's right. Yeah, awesome. No, that's great. All right, let's get real imaginative just for a moment. So if you are going to write another technology book in 2031, what what are the the points way on the horizon that you think might affect the church in the future? You could be real speculative, but what are the technologies that are just on the horizon that we might be talking about as impactful in our society? 10 years from now?
Yeah, I mean, that's a good question. I mean, there's, there's some, there's some really great books like Calvin Kelly's at the inevitable where he tracks you know, 12 different directions of things that he sees, as potential technologies, as in some of them. Like, for example, one of them, he calls screening, you know, recognizing that we're at all these different layers of screens all the time. And you know, so right now, we're often using a phone while we're watching TV or using our computer. And then we do we talk a lot about I think the one that that seems like it's on the horizon often is things like some type of augmented reality type thing that would be a little bit more permanent display. Something like Google Cloud, Google Glass, that actually works seems like a pretty big deal. And I think that that, that that privatization of the screen is moved from, you know, the the big computer in the family office to our pocket, and now that moves to our AI. That's a pretty significant shift, I think. I also think that some of the autonomous technology of if autonomous cars ever work, I think that really change you know, where we're workplaces are, where churches are what what is meant by community. And we've already seen a shift in the last sort of 50 years from, you know, mixed places where you might be able to walk to work to increasing where suburbs are separate from, you know, food and restaurants, and that that can really damage human community, just in the physical structure of where our buildings are. And I think that that is one of the ways in which we've eroded sense of community and at least in most us suburbs, so that continues to people wanting to live further and reach out. That could be a really, really challenging way of understanding what it means to be a sort of a parish or community. Those are some of the technologies that I think are worth us considering. Certainly the advent of, you know, AI and thinking about what does it mean for robot personhood and those things are are fun to speak about, but I think really reflecting back on what does it mean to be human? And when I have all this power? What is it ultimately that I need to do in the world? And what kind of life is a life of flourishing? And what really isn't? And I think even in our present world, we have more and more and more things that I think over the last maybe century were promised as labor saving, that we would then live lives of leisure. I think the question first interior is why when we get these things like like vacuum cleaners and dishwashers, why do we not find ourselves with more leisure? And then when we do have leisure? Why do we tend to fill it with things that don't seem to ultimately be fulfilling? What is that drive in us, and continuing to push on that and develop people that have the kind of grit to live a life that matters to them that ultimately brings them the kind of fulfillment that goes beyond temporary happiness?
So what will these changes mean for Christian theological education? What does theological education look like in 10 years? In
your view? Yeah, I mean, one of the real advantages that that we've seen is that there's still a role for people to move to a graduate school and spend some time, if that's if that's the right stage of their life, sometimes that's a 22 year old reset college students, sometimes that's a 50 year old, who's changing careers and has the means to move. But there's a lot of men and women all around the US and around the world, they're already heavily invested in the community, and to ask them to say you need to abandon that community, move to a total new one, do that for three years, or four years or five years, and then move to another one. Sometimes that's not the most helpful thing. And so the availability of the technology of the airplane, and the technology of streaming and video and all those things, really allows us to say, let's come in and bring you some theological education that then you can contextualize in your area. So sometimes I find that in the in a classroom, in Dallas, you might have kind of a almost a more theoretical discussion, that's really fun. But if I have a distance student in an online class, they're ready to go, you know, when we're talking about soteriology, they want to talk about that person's marriage, they if we're talking about humanity, they want to talk about that that person struggling with something in their congregation. And can they join the parking team? I mean, they really want to see how does the rubber or how does the rubber meet the road. And so I really appreciate that theological education means that the seminary can serve the church like what it's always supposed to do, but can actually do that, not just serve the church in the abstract sense, but really go right down into the church and do that, at the same time that Professor student relationship isn't as strong anymore. And that's hard for us as faculty members, we, we want to have that relationship with students. And we have to recognize sometimes they're having that relationship with their pasture or with their people and less with us, that's hard to give up. But sometimes I think it can be really meaningful to.
Alright, john, I can't resist asking you this question. We're still in this imaginative space of what does the future look like? What does that mean for education? So have you seen what next mind is doing or some of these brain to computer interfaces, Facebook has acquired a brain to computer interface company is trying to incorporate this technology into its VR, and their basic prototypes now in the market that work. And what it is, is, it's a device that goes in the back of your head, this isn't science fiction, it's actually something you can purchase for about $400 that reads your visual cortex, it's based on the same sort of technology that MRI scanning has been used in hospitals. And you can send that information into a digital interface, and it will allow you through thought processes through the active activating your visual cortex to interact with computer technology. Do you think that's gonna change human communication? Will that change the way we practice education in any way? What's your view?
Yeah, so I think this brings up a big question about a lot of these technologies that there's there's sort of a maybe a rough difference between things that would be restorative versus things that would be enhancing, right? So when we put on glasses, we're already kind of becoming cyborgs. But in some ways, that's, that's restoring something, right? That's different than say, putting in a whole new AI that now can see 1000 miles or something like that, or can see infrared. So I think with these with these questions of saying are, are we restoring something to someone that may have been lost? Are we getting a little foretaste will happen when Christ returns? And makes all things right? Are we trying to overcome that? And where is that role? And when is that healthy? When is it not healthy? And the other evaluative tool would be just that sense of, you know, when scripture uses that term, the flesh is not there, our bodies are bad, I think it's saying is this orientation of ourselves to kind of bend inward toward ourselves, and to not have an outward sense of toward other people or toward God? I think we want to be careful looking at technology and saying is this is this non neutral? effective is technology to really bend me back in on myself even more like we talked about the privatization of screens, and how do I open it up in a way That helps me connect with my fellow humans and God. So I think that those are the kinds of questions we'll be needing to ask when we do that. And then also saying, When Scripture tells us that we want to be, you know, renewing our minds and developing our minds, we know that say things like memorization is really, really important. If we are to reflect on and meditate on scripture, we need to memorize it. Well, I think the more technology technologically increased the Bible's gotten, the less we tend to memorize, right, because we have access to Scripture, and we have access to more scripture than we've ever had. And yet, I think we probably know less of it now than at any other time in human history. And so I think these are the kinds of things we want to be thinking about is not so much how do I use this, but what kind of person do I want to become? What kind of community do I want to foster, and that should shape the way that we in what kinds of technology we embrace.
So that's an amazing point you're making the it's a restatement of one of the core principles of your text here that the way that we use tools shapes us not just our job, not just the products that we produce with the tools, but our use of the shovel, reshapes our muscles and our calluses on our hands, etc, not just the holes in the ground. So what does that mean here for our understanding of the church, we've been sort of peering into the future. How does how does this new technological horizon that we're moving into how does that reshape our understanding of what the church is?
And that's a great question, I think, in the previous era of you know, when microphone technology, for example, came online, and when when automobiles became popular, I think that those are the two things you have to have to create the mega church, right? In order to have a church of a couple 1000 people, you need to have cars, you need to have audio amplification to make that work. Over the last century, we've seen that that model of those two technologies, creating the megachurch, then means that within that church, the whole sense of community and the ways that things are done, really changed. So for example, we invented the idea of a youth group, they said, Well, we should put all the kids together and all the older people together all the middle aged people together, and all the people who like golf together. And so we begin to get these groups that that don't necessarily follow some of what Paul is saying that older men, older men should be with younger men, and some of that we divide up by age groups. So that we always want to be reflective of that kind of change. I think in the in the modern world, what we're seeing is because we can do online, because we can meet the needs of truck drivers and people in the military and people who work in hospitals, and we can meet those who are infirmed. But that that is going to spill over into people that don't need that technology that just sort of prefer pajamas to, to going in person. And so I think that that that preference part is something that we're going to need to kind of consider and say, Okay, what parts of church need to be in person? What don't. And I think, to some degree, even even with Paul, when he's using that term church, sometimes he's referring to a local body. And sometimes he's referring to the church universal, you know, we talked about the local church, the universal church. Well, the thing that ties together local churches into the universal church, in some ways has been technology, right? It's Paul using paper and ink to tie together the church. So I think it's going to be a really powerful thing to see how much more unified the universal church can be with technology. And yet at that local church level, we still need to have that local church to exist, and to have people who are bound together not by interests, right. But by their kind of shared local space and that community to which their God has placed them. And I think that, that that shared vision, where it's not just about what I like, but it's about where I happen to be, is still going to be the thing that we need to be holding on to really strongly.
So that's excellent, if we can head straight there. And this will be our concluding question for this interview. So what as we move into the future is our concepts and relationships to churches change. What does church unity look like for you? One of the things that we've been asking on this program is asking everybody to envision what church unity might look like we are hopeful and in want to touch and feel a we're hopeful that the church might be able to come to greater mutual understanding these historic Christian traditions can understand one another and relate to one another better than we have in the last hundreds of years since the Reformation. What would a united or maybe even reunited church look like for you?
That's a great, a great question. And I love that you kind of you know, frame it in terms of starting with some some orthodox ideas of Nicene calcitonin saying let's at least start there and make sure we've got a few things that we can all agree on. But that we kind of have that that center bounded set of what are those things and then some outer areas that were able to be flexible
i think that you know, good crisis can bring us together and a lot of ways and I've seen it several levels I know here in the Dallas area there's several churches that are kind of like minded that you know got together fairly regularly it kind of the senior pastor or maybe executive pastor level button that's really increased in the last year. They've all been getting together and checking notes and saying, well, what's working for you and and how did you do and if you went this way, and what what happened and they've all been able to learn from each other and I think there's a real attitude of humility to just say, we don't have it all figured out. And I think that's where we start to get, I think, somewhat somewhat lost is when we feel like our model is the only way. And I think with with a pandemic, nobody knows, everybody knows that they don't have it figured out and that that gave us a kind of humility. On the education front, I've really been able to enjoy my brothers and sisters as fellow seminaries. We've been getting together for the last several years, kind of on the online Ed side, and also on the enrollment side of things. And I just really love those brothers and sisters, there has been some programs like Movement Day, for example, that we have some seminary partnerships with. What's been so fun about that is that is that the the forced pandemic made that made that move online and made the connections even richer and deeper. So I've really enjoyed that part that's probably been one of the one of the shining moments of this last year is to be able to be able to use the technology connect in ways that we wouldn't, wouldn't have forced us to do in the past. And so I'm really excited about that part of the unity of the church.
And our privilege today to be speaking with john Dyer, Dean of enrollment services and distance education at Dallas Theological Seminary, also authored the text that we've been discussing from the garden to the city book for the revised version from Kriegel publications. JOHN, thank you so much for joining us today.