Promise Keepers has a Web site, but so does Penthouse. A New Jersey pastor evangelizes a young man in Finland by E-mail exchanges, but one of the 39 Heaven's Gate suicides turns out to be a Cincinnati postal worker recruited online. The Internet is cause for both joy and concern. How should Christians view the Internet—as today's Roman roads that promise immense potential for spreading the gospel? Or as a Vanity Fair that must be bypassed?

Douglas Groothuis, assistant professor of religion and ethics at Denver Seminary, offers compelling answers and cautions in his new book, The Soul in Cyberspace (Baker, 1997). He talked with Mark A. Kellner, editor of PC Portables magazine.

In your book, you warn about the danger of Internet involvement, yet you have a Web site for your work. Are you a compromised Luddite?
I set up two extremes in the book. One extreme is a digitopian—a Bill Gates who believes that machines will only enhance the economy and society. The other is the Luddite who wants to destroy machines. While machines can dehumanize us and destabilize good patterns of life, to say the answer is to destroy the technology is wrong.

At the same time, technologies are not neutral. Machines are created by humans who bear the image of God but who also live "east of Eden." As "deposed royalty" (as Pascal put it), our technologies will bear the marks of both our greatness and our sinfulness. Christians should determine how the Internet shapes the messages it conveys, where it serves us well, where it doesn't, and how to tell the difference. We must always ask if the medium is appropriate for our Christian message. How much truth can be communicated in a chat room?

How does the Internet dehumanize us? Through lack of ...

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