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Byers, Andrew. TheoMedia: The Media of God and the Digital Age.

Byers, Andrew. TheoMedia: The Media of God and the Digital Age. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2013. Pp. xii, 240. ISBN 978-1-61097-988-7 (paper) $28.00.

TheoMedia attempts a theology for communication (or at least for contemporary communication) through a biblical engagement. In his concluding chapter, Byers describes the task and approach:
   The stated purpose of this book is to provide a
   rough theological framework for appropriating
   new media by carefully reading the ancient
   media of our holy texts. Scripture has been identified
   as a sufficient source for the church in the
   digital age, and we have worked through the biblical
   story of redemption. What the previous
   three sections have offered is a reading, a theological
   reading of scripture's portrayal of media.
   (p. 220, italics in original)

The book, then, looks back in order to look forward, applying a biblical hermeneutic to the digital world.

To accomplish this, Byers mixes his systematic, chapter-by-chapter development of the theme with nine "TheoMedia Notes." These latter "are like blog posts that ... complement the discussions in the larger chapters, usually addressing the practical side of the concepts" in each chapter (p. 16). The book, then, deals in interpretation, but interpretation of the kind that applies a biblical knowledge to a new situation. To set the stage, Byers offers two claims:
   First, if God himself creates and employs media,
   then there must be a theological logic that can
   guide how we produce and use media and communication
   technology today. Here is the second
   claim: Christians are called to media saturation,
   but he primary media that are to shape, form,
   and saturate our lives are the media of God--TheoMedia,
   the communicative and revelatory
   means God employs to share himself and to
   influence humankind as his image bearers. (p.
   18, italics in original)

The overall process of the book depends on the ideas that God does indeed communicate and that God has used (or rejected) media in the past. Our understanding of media in the present must begin in those places. Early chapters rehearse some of the religious problems with contemporary media and how various Christian writers have responded or addressed these issues.

The argument proper begins in Part 2, "The Sights and Sounds of Israel's God." Creation involves natural communication--and these are TheoMedia. God's instructions to Moses on the construction of the Tabernacle lead to divine media. God uses dreams and visions and appearances throughout the Old Testament. God communicates both immediately and through media, something that provides a baseline for our understanding of communication. Part 3 turns to verbal communication, "The Speech and Texts of Israel's God." Here Byers argues that God has chosen to favor words over images..

Part 4 turns to the New Testament and develops a "media Christology," one that moves from the Incarnate Word into the Church. Though sensory experience matters, word and spirit receive priority. Blessed, Jesus teaches, are those who have not seen and yet believe. While God can address the full human sensorium, the Scriptures clearly show a preference for hearing.

The book, then, moves throughout the Old and New Testament, asking how God has communicated, what the believers recall of those methods, and what the Bible canonizes.

Byers proposes a creative and challenging hermeneutic for Christian communication. At the same time, he lapses into some inconsistency, typically but not always applying a rather literal interpretation of the biblical texts, even though many of them may use more analogous language than he credits. Some of this may result from the theological differences regarding Biblical interpretation among the Christian churches, but it leads to a narrowing of the scope of the work. However, the proposal of a hermeneutic as the basis of a theology of communication offers an important tool for those interested in communication in and for the church, and for those interested in a means to offer a cultural critique in a rapidly changing communication context. Biblical media are, after all, still media and can teach us important lessons.

Each chapter features footnotes; the book has a brief bibliography but no index.

--Paul A. Soukup, S.J.

Santa Clara University
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Author:Soukup, Paul A.
Publication:Communication Research Trends
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 1, 2014
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