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Book review: iJesus : The culture of God in the digital world by Nadim Nassar

by
15 September 2023

This priest’s reflections needed a good editor, Andrew Graystone finds

THE Revd Nadim Nassar may be unique as a Syrian priest working in the Church of England. He has used this perspective to enhance understanding between the West and the Near East, not least through the Awareness Foundation, a small humanitarian charity that he founded.

His second book, iJesus: The culture of God in the digital world, is a series of homespun theological reflections on contemporary culture and digital technology. Like an elderly uncle at a family gathering, Nassar, the reader feels, has a wealth of stories to tell and wisdom to share, but they are hard to extract from his stream of opinions and anxieties about the modern world.

He speaks in generalities about digital culture, but doesn’t seem to have much knowledge or understanding of it. There is a prevailing sense of angst about the impact of technology, which is easily diverted into other anxieties about the environment or international relations, or his experience of racism in the Church of England.

The answer to all of these perils is what Nassar calls the Culture of God. He uses this phrase repeatedly, sometimes several times in a paragraph, but without ever defining it sufficiently to be helpful. He seems to be reaching for some form of social Trinitarianism: the sense that the internal dynamics of the Trinity are a pattern for human ethics. But it is a slippery phrase, and theologically questionable. Without clearer exposition, it doesn’t offer much as a map for navigating the complexities of the digital era.

Nassar is most interesting when he speaks about his own life journey: from Syria to Kensington; from an upbringing without electricity and clean water to modernity. His attitude to digital culture is like one who is looking anxiously over a horizon that he has yet to cross. That doesn’t equip him to give much practical help or wisdom to those who are more at home than he is in the digital world.

This is a personal and polemical book: the reflections of a priest who has travelled widely and felt deeply. Such a book needs a strong editorial hand, and Nassar has been let down in that respect. There are some obvious issues: the title on the cover is not the same as the one on the title page. But, more than that, he needed someone to guide him into plain speaking, so that we could learn from his cross-cultural experience.
 

Andrew Graystone is a theologian and writer. He is the author of Too Much Information? Essential questions for digital Christians (Canterbury Press, 2019).

 

iJesus : The culture of God in the digital world
Nadim Nassar
Sacristy Press £12.99
978-1-78959-255-9
Church Times Bookshop £11.69

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