Metaverse and method in theological reflection
The recent Facebook development brings to home the theology of Bernard Lonergan. Faced with all the troubles of the Fake News era and the backlash of its involvement in the pandemic management, the Facebook Inc. of Mark Zuckerberg changed its playbook. It evolved by bringing into a single platform (meta) all its numerous technological fields.
Likewise, when Bernard Lonergan understood the troubles involved in doing theology under the old playbook, he proposed to transcend the existing methods by ushering in a new playbook that considers every step in the human cognitive process. He offered to construct a system that brings together all the existing ways of approaching data and facts.
In this Facebook’s new playbook, all the existing technological advancements—texts, photos, and videos, are brought together to transport the users beyond—meta—(from) the 2D into the 3D technology. On this present playbook, users will no longer be limited in what they can experience as they will be able to, virtually, bring to life whatever their mind could conceive. However, this new development can only be possible if the company exploits the vast possibilities that internet algorithms can offer them.
It is also what Lonergan envisaged in his theological reflections. He imagined a system that, when organized, could transpose the theologian beyond the limit of what a single data or field of study can offer. He called this adventure the transcendental method. According to him, this method consists of meta-phases—a progressive development permuting and permitting each level to tap from the preceding stage, thus bringing more knowledge to the already known and existing fact or data. This method is transcendental because the product is beyond a given subject and embraces all fields of expertise and the human mind. There is virtually nothing beyond the human mind with the transcendental method, simply like in the metaverse.
Both Zuckerberg and Lonergan challenge theologians today. They understood that the human mind is endowed with a vast mine of knowledge which only needs to be refined through a proper method or playbook. They also challenge theologians to get out of their comfort zones and embrace this adventure, which, as Lonergan says it, transforms the subject (the theologian) and his world (method in theology p. 130), making them a witness to the truth (ibid. p. 133).
Finally, both ask those who are interested in theological reflection a few questions:
1. What are the old playbooks that prevent the convert (as Lonergan calls an engaged theologian) from going beyond (meta -transcend) all the a priori or stereotypes from our religious circle?
2. What are the available methods capable of bringing us in contact with the spiritual metaverses that prefigure our glorious beatific vision?
3. What are the algorithms capable of facilitating our engagement in the construction of a new paradise? For example, in metaverses, each player can build his or her world and territory; what world could our knowledge of God help us create?
4. In the transcendental method, Lonergan explains that theology does not limit itself with facts alone. It gathers data, interprets it, documents it and then creates a new narrative necessary to engage in praxis—affecting the future in a transformative way. What are those doctrines, dogmas and stereotypes we need to process and push aside or adapt to the present playbook, which is more significant than our old idea of Christianity?