Digital Liturgies: Rediscovering Christian Wisdom in an Online Age – Samuel D. James

Digital Liturgies: Rediscovering Christian Wisdom in an Online Age by Samuel James
Published by Crossway on September 5, 2023
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Theology, Technology
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How the Habitat of Internet Technology Undermines Christian Wisdom

With advancements in internet technology, people can get instant answers to just about any of their questions, connect long distance with family and friends, and stay informed with events around the world in real time.

In Digital Liturgies, tech-realist Samuel D. James examines the connection between patterns in technology and human desires. Everyone longs for a glimpse of heaven; James argues they are just looking for it in the wrong place―the internet.

This accessible book exposes 5 “digital liturgies” that prohibit people from contemplating big truths, accepting the uncomfortable, and acknowledging God as their Creator. It then calls readers to live faithfully before Christ, finding wisdom through Scripture and rest in God’s perfect design.

A Biblical View of the Internet and Technology: Readers explore the connection between human desire, the internet, and wisdom through a Christian lens
Great for College Students, Parents, and Pastors: This book encourages readers to live faithfully for Christ
Offers a Tech-Realist Perspective: Samuel D. James highlights the inherent dangers of digital technologies, offering wisdom for navigating our internet-saturated world

Ten years ago, I read my first book about the negative impacts of digital technology, and I never looked back. I have read so many books about tech, from short self-help titles to long academic treatises, and the topic still fascinates me. In this new book, Samuel D. James addresses the ways that digital technology shapes our souls, creating behavioral and mental habits that are distinctly Internet-shaped. James describes himself as a “tech realist,” saying that because we can’t possibly turn back the clock, we need to learn how to live discerning, wise lives in our online age. He engages with what the Bible teaches about the nature of wisdom, and then explores how we can apply embodied wisdom to the disembodied digital sphere.

Throughout Digital Liturgies: Rediscovering Christian Wisdom in an Online Age, James addresses how digital ecosystems fuel harmful habits of the heart such as mindless consumption, the “my story, my truth” mindset, and outrage and public shaming. He encourages people to recognize how the Internet fuels people’s natural self-focus, algorithmically catering to people’s whims and making it natural for them to put themselves at the center of the universe. James writes about the importance of finding yourself in God’s story rather than tethering yourself to performative self-curation and the opinions of others, and he addresses a variety of different heart issues and social ills.

Not a Revolutionary Thesis

James quotes from landmark texts like Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman and The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, but he doesn’t engage with recent Christian books about digital technology.  James repeatedly claims that Christians tend to miss the bigger picture, focusing on the appropriateness of what they’re consuming online without recognizing how digital technologies affect them. That can be true, but the more that James emphasized this, the more I noticed that he wasn’t giving credit to the many Christian writers who have been addressing this issue for years. Just off the top of my head, I would recommend Restless Devices by Felicia Wu Song, Analog Church and Analog Christian by Jay Y. Kim, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke, and The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer. And I could go on!

Also, even though James’s critique might be true of the average churchgoer, it has become much less true over the past several years. Ten years ago, and even five years ago, people would still try to badger me into getting a smartphone. They’d try to convince me that I was missing out, and they would repeat the well-worn line, “The technology is neutral! It’s just about how you use it!” Many people would also get defensive, acting as if my choice was an indictment on them, and they would argue for why it was better to have a smartphone.

No one does that anymore. They’ll tell me why they can’t live without their smartphone, but they sound resigned about it. I still have my rehearsed spiel ready to go, but no one really needs an explanation of why I prefer life with a flip phone. Everyone understands. It has been years since anyone has told me that technology is neutral, and instead, I can anticipate hearing something like, “Wow! I wish I wasn’t always connected.”

Other Concerns

When I read the part of the book about porn, I wished that James had acknowledged what a huge problem this is for both men and women. He highlights that porn distorts women’s views of their bodies and expectations for how men should treat them in relationships, but he writes with a default focus on male consumers of pornographic content. Social science from the past decade doesn’t support that outdated assumption, and it surprised and disappointed me that James didn’t cast a broader focus here.

Also, even though that chapter is about consumption, James only writes about porn and general online content, and he says nothing about material consumerism. This seemed like a huge missed opportunity to me, especially since ad revenue is what fuels social media sites. The Internet is inextricably tied up with consumerism and modern shopping rituals, and it surprised me that James never mentioned this.

I also felt that the book lacked sufficient practicality overall. James shares clear, helpful teaching for how we should think about our online age, but he doesn’t back this up with much life advice. He shares some ideas towards the end, but this feels like an afterthought, and his “tech realist” standpoint ends up becoming so accommodating to technology that he makes it sound like there’s no way to make major changes. It is possible!


Digital Liturgies can help people think through the impact that technology is having on them, giving them context and terminology for complex dynamics that they see in society and in their own hearts. Samuel D. James covers a lot of significant topics here, and he provides helpful context from landmark studies about the ways that the Internet changes people’s brains and habits. There’s a lot of value here, but I felt that James overstated his premise by not digging into previous Christian works on the subject and by making it sound like people are less aware of technology’s harms than they are. I also wish that he had shared more practical insights for how people can rid themselves of unhealthy habits, instead of simply becoming more self-aware and discerning about them.