The Digital Public Square

by Jason Thacker
B&H Academic, 2023

Each day we are confronted with the realities of living in a digital society that challenge some of our most basic understandings of truth, the nature of faith, and even the idea of a public square with a robust discourse over issues that matter. From the challenges of conspiracy theories and claims of Big Tech censorship to the growing dangers of hate speech and increased tribalism online, the new digital public square is becoming increasingly tense and at times it feels irreparably broken. Faced with deep polarization across society that is only exacerbated by the ubiquitous nature of digital connectivity, it is difficult at times for Christians to know how to navigate these challenges with truth and grace.

But these challenges often reveal deeper tension over the nature of ethics and the role of religion in our society, especially in our online discourse. Some claim religion has no role to play in public matters at all, while others understand the public nature of faith and religion. The Digital Public Square brings together top Christian leaders and thinkers to help you navigate these pressing challenges with robust public theology grounded in God’s unchanging word and the hope of the gospel message.

With issues ranging from conspiracy theories, sexual ethics, religious freedom, privacy, hate speech, and more, The Digital Public Square is designed to equip theologians, ethicists, pastors, and lay leaders cast a distinctly Christian vision for digital engagement and promote the common good throughout our society.

Table of Contents:

Part 1: Foundations

1. Simply a Tool? Toward a Christian Philosophy of Technology and Vision for Navigating the Digital Public Square
Jason Thacker

2. Once More, with Tweeting? Bracketing a Public Square from the Perils of Notoriety
Bryan Baise

3. The Wild West of Tech Policy: A Convergence of Optimism and Pessimism in the United States
Nathan Leamer

4. The Global Digital Marketplace: Engaging International Technology Policy from a Christian Perspective
Patricia Shaw

5. Can the Government Save Us from Ourselves? The Legal Complexities of Free Speech and Content Moderation
David French

Part 2: Issues

6. Free to Believe? The Case for Religious Freedom and Free Expression in the Digital Age
Joshua B. Wester

7. Defining the Limits of Hate Speech and Violence: Dignity, Truth, and Speech in the Digital Public Square
Brooke Medina

8. Content Moderation and Suppressing Speech: Are There Limits on Talking about Sexuality and Gender Online?
Jeremy D. Tedesco and Christiana Kiefer

9. Should We Ban Pornography Online? Navigating the Complexities of Objectionable Content in a Digital Age
Bonnie Kristian

10. Dangers in the Digital Public Square: Navigating Conspiracy Theories and Misinformation in a Post-Truth Age
Jason Thacker

11. Centralizing Power and the Heavy Hand of the Regime: The International Challenges of Technology and Human Rights
Olivia Enos

Part 3: The Church

12. Following @Jesus: Christian Discipleship in the Twenty-First Century
Jacob Shatzer

13. The World Is Watching: Proclaiming Truth and Maintaining Our Witness in the Digital Age
Keith Plummer

This book provides readers with tangible ways to navigate the dilemmas of our technological age in a manner worthy of the gospel. The authors provide scripturally sound approaches to the complex and novel challenges of a digitally connected society. It is a valuable navigational tool for any Christian desiring to engage meaningfully with the unique difficulties ubiquitous in an online world.
- Katie Frugé, director of the Center for Cultural Engagement and Christian Life Commission at Baptist General Convention of Texas
This weighty collection covers vast swaths of surprising ethical boundaries, from the personal tweeting of a Christian intellectual to the local and global digital behaviors mitigating human rights. Each essay simultaneously taught and challenged me in surprising ways.
- Dru Johnson, associate professor of biblical and theological studies at The King’s College in New York City and author of Biblical Philosophy: A Hebraic Approach to the Old and New Testaments
As Christians engage (and are engaged by) the principalities and powers of the digital public square, they desperately need a critical and constructive public theology to guide that engagement. Readers will be greatly rewarded by this insightful and urgently needed volume.
- Matthew Kaemingk, assistant professor of faith and public life and director of the Mouw Institute of Faith and Public Life, Fuller Theological Seminary
This book offers the kind of careful, technically informed, and theologically grounded thinking that is so deeply needed in these conversations. Each contributor helps readers to understand these complex issues and their implications, while the book as a whole serves as a model for how Christians are to engage opaque but consequential matters. I highly recommend this text for anyone seeking to faithfully apply the principles of Scripture in the new digital public square.
- Klon Kitchen, senior fellow in national security and defense technology, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and robotics at the American Enterprise Institute, and author of The Current at the Dispatch
Almost every question I get from Christians today is, in some way or the other, about technology. This book offers counsel and insight on practical matters of digitized life, from connectivity exhaustion to conspiracy theories to government spying and beyond.
- Russell Moore, editor-in-chief at Christianity Today
We live in an age of digital disruption. Town squares—where people once could go debate and persuade neighbors—have given way to rage tweets and social media trolls. But The Digital Public Square offers an important look into pressing questions at the intersections of tech and some of the most important parts of life—and how people of faith (and everyone else) should seek to engage this new digital landscape with truth and grace in a way that. protects our inalienable rights and promotes human flourishing.
- Ben Sasse, United States senator from Nebraska, president-elect of the University of Florida, and author of Them: Why We Hate Each Other—and How to Heal