Digital Theology in Asian Context: A Case Study in the Philippines
Rev. John Paul ARCENO
Digital Theologian and Missionary
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
A recent report from Asia Evangelical Alliance Newsletter November 2021 shows how digital technology impacts ministerial practice, faith, and spiritual growth in today’s culture. Likewise, through the efforts spearheaded by Singapore and Philippines Christian digital leaders, Indigitous—a digital ministry arm of Cru—was established just about 2014.
Nevertheless, digital theology in practice inevitably intersects with practical theology, dogmatics, science, philosophy, sociology, and ethics. Hence, the approach of this paper is integrative and contextual. Consequently, this paper encapsulates the fields of dogmatics, practical theology, ethics, missions, and evangelism. By doing so, the research offers a glimpse of the Asian digital theological perspective, more specifically from the cultural context of the Philippines.
There is growing scholarship in Digital Theology, religion, media culture, and digital society, and several sociological studies about utilizing digital technologies for ecclesiastical ministry, missions, and evangelism. Likewise, this growth is also seen in the Asian context—or at least, non-Western, on how these practices influence theology. In October 2022, at URPP Digital Religion(s) Conference at Monte Verita, digital theologian Jonas Kurlberg—a Global Network for Digital Theology pioneers—recognized this fast-growing reputation in the practice and scholarship of Asian Christianity.
The ongoing digital ministry practices in the Asian context are significant research areas. Although, for a narrower study of experience and resources, the paper focuses on a case study in the Philippines. Hence, the methodology uses a Filipino creation narrative structure. The framework parallels the biblical metanarrative of creation, corruption or digital Fall, diaspora, redemption, and flourishing life. These sections integrate a case study based on empirical research of digital missions, social media evangelism, media practices, and technological challenges. In conclusion, the paper recommends how Asian perspectives, faith practices, and theology shape digital culture.
John Paul Arceno (ThM in Historical and Theological Studies, Louisville, KY, 2020) is a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology student focusing on digital theology, media culture, and philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX. JP completed his Master of Divinity at Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary, Baguio City, in 2017. He has published book chapters, “Is Virtual Baptism a ‘Real’ Baptism?” (2020) and “Utopian Virtual Reality in Ready Player One: Responding with Real Hope and the Christian Teleos” (2021) under Vernon Press, Delaware, and a peer-reviewed journal article on Baptist history in the Philippines.