A Christian Response:  From Imago Dei to Virtual Imago Hominis

A Christian Response:  From Imago Dei to Virtual Imago Hominis

What to Know – What is METAVERSE?

In its current meaning, metaverse generally refers to the concept of a highly immersive virtual world where people gather to socialize, play, and work. Awareness of this term surged on October 29, 2021, when Facebook rebranded itself “Meta” and released a video in which CEO Mark Zuckerberg says, “I believe the metaverse is the next chapter for the internet.”

The term METAVERSE came from a 1992 novel called Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson and referred to a 3D virtual world inhabited by avatars of real people

https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/meaning-of-metaverse

What to Know – What is Facebook AVATAR?

Social media giant Facebook has introduced Avatars that lets users create a cartoon-look-like version of themselves. Using FB avatar can help you create a digital character that is a virtual lookalike of yourself. It is a playful and fun way for users to create a cartoon avatar of themselves. Similar to Apple’s Memoji and Snapchat’s Bitmoji, this new feature allows you to engage and react more authentically with your friends and family across the app.

The term AVATAR originally indicates the incarnation of a Hindu deity (such as Vishnu) and refers to an incarnation in human form

https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/meaning-of-metaverse

A Christian Response:  From Imago Dei to Virtual Imago Hominis

By Rev. Richard Baird – Church and Culture at dia-LOGOS

There’s been a lot of talk and hype around Mark Zuckerberg’s latest endeavour of creating a “metaverse” through which he wants to bring what was originally science-fiction into the world of reality, or should I rather say create a virtual reality world.

The idea is that you would ultimately be able to live in this virtual world through your ‘avatar’, without leaving your house.  You could go to virtual work, buy virtual consumables to decorate your virtual lifestyle, and interact in real-time with other avatars in this world.  As one commentator put it, if the current internet age is about information, this next stage is about experience.

We still have to see how this properly plays out, so at this stage, the best advice I would give to Christians who are wanting to know how to respond to this is simply “approach with caution.”

At this stage (and this is subject to revision), I would want to explore the following concerns in the light of the Gospel.

Firstly, to what extent is the avatar meant to represent identity? 

Up until this stage, we all have profile pics which range from simple photos to cartoon characters or anything else that we want to use as a fun representation of us (for example my personal WhatsApp one is a coffee mug with the words ‘sola caffeum’).  Since the avatar moves into a three-dimensional representation of us, it is by definition a projected version of how we want to be seen as opposed to what we truly are.  We move from recognising ourselves as being made in the image of God, to projecting an image made in ours. 

Secondly, at the risk of stating the obvious, a virtual world is not the real world.  It’s fully understandable that such a world would want to be created, because in such a world we can escape the harsh realities of the real world, but then we lose out on so much.  Jesus entered the real world, experienced real pain, and promised us a real hope: nothing virtual about it.

Can Christians engage in this Meta with a clear conscience?

As with any other technological advancement, the technologies themselves are largely amoral, and the problem lies in how it is used.

You can already attend a virtual church (and just that term is another debate in itself), and make no mistake the metaverse will in all probability be in due course the new cultural waters we swim in.  So in one sense, there is yet another mission opportunity because you’re going to meet other avatars, but avatars cannot be born again.  Attached to the avatar is a person who can hear a gospel message through this medium, but in my view, the challenge is going to be getting past the avatar to the person, because it is the person who must be reached and live out discipleship not in a virtual world but the real world. 

As Christians technology needs to be our servant and not our master.  I like this conclusion by John Stonestreet:  “Christians need to stay consciously embodied. That doesn’t mean we eschew every new technology. The key is to use technology in service to our flourishing as embodied souls, and to make sure we don’t let that technology redefine what it means to flourish.”

 

 

 

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