Growing Down:
Theology and Human Nature in the Virtual Age

(Waco: Baylor University Press, 2017)

Table of contents



Growing Down is a book for every person living phone in hand.

The book explores the theological and psychological implications of humanity’s fascination with technology. Author Jaco Hamman examines how our virtual relationships with and through tablets and phones, consoles and screens, have become potentially addictive substitutes for real human relationships. At the base of the technological revolution, as Hamman shows, are abiding theological questions—questions about what it means to be and to become a person in a technological world.

Hamman argues that the appeal of today’s communications technologies, especially the need to be constantly connected and online, is deeply rooted in the most basic ways humans develop. Human relationship with technology mirrors the holding environment established between young children and their primary caregivers. The virtual world plays upon humanity’s deep yearning to reestablish that primary life-giving environment and to recall those first loving and caring relationships. By handling a phone and engaging online, humans revisit the exhilaration, fear, relief, and confidence of belonging, discovering, and gaining knowledge. Technology affords a space where the self can play, feel alive, and be real.

Growing Down draws together theology, anthropology, neuroscience, object relations theory (especially the work of D. W. Winnicott), and empirical research to identify necessary intelligences for human flourishing in an increasingly virtual world. Humans can flourish in the face of the continued onslaught of rapid technological advances—even if they must grow down to do so.  

As seen in the "Contents" below, the book argues for six new intelligences that should inform our human nature.


From the opening paragraphs of the book:   

Intuitively we know that something is not right, even if we do not know exactly what is wrong. Or we sense something is wrong, but we do not know why or how to initiate change: a two-year- old fusses to get her parents’ attention, and they hand her a tablet wrapped in a brightly colored protective case. On the digital tether their daughter’s discontent becomes focused attention as she disappears into her own world. Family friends are gathering to share a meal; the children arrive with phones in hand. Despite encouragement to enjoy each other’s company, they continue to be preoccupied with their phones, periodically sharing a screenshot with brief conversation and laughter. Another family is driving to their favorite restaurant. Except for the driver, everyone fingers a phone. The driver gets his fix at stop signs and red lights. No one says a word or notices the street vendor trying to establish eye contact. Upon arrival, they sit down with their phones at their sides. Any conversation remains brief, even staccato, with “Good,” “Yes,” and “No” forming complete sentences. Would-be lovers sit across from the family. The lovers are anxious about the intimacy that is being formed and find relief in fingering their social media apps; there is no conversation of substance. A student is lonely and bored; he swipes a dating app to find a hook-up. The chase seems to animate him. He has every expectation that he will find a partner this evening.

We know that the technologies we deem smart have changed our interactions with ourselves and with loved ones, friends, coworkers, and even strangers, possibly irreversibly so. Between familial, societal, and technological pressures, we grow up in ways that minimize our relationships and lives...  





1. Self Intelligence: Toward a Theology of Being an “I Am”

2. Relational Intelligence: Toward a Theology of “Being With”

3. Transitional Intelligence: Toward a Theology of Illusion

4. Reparative Intelligence: Toward a Theology of Care

5. Playground Intelligence: Toward a Theology of Play

6. Technological Intelligence: Toward a Theology of Discovery and Devices




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