Technology is everywhere .. and increasing. It’s how we communicate and shop for our weekly groceries, it’s the world the next generation are connected to with such a degree it’s started to be become “a right” to children, it’s moving at a rate that barely anyone can keep up with … so what about the church? To what degree should churches and Christians be engaging technology – and how?
There are generally two reactions to using technology in the church:
- Rejection – we don’t like the change it represents, so we reject it en masse as evil.
- Embrace – we adopt it wholeheartedly as an unambiguously positive force for good.
However, for the Christian neither of these two options are biblical. In Genesis 1:27 we read that:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
One of one the jobs that the first humans were given on earth was to master the world around us and bring our ingenuity to bear on the problems that we face – and as we do so we are actually reflecting something of the image of God. So our ability to create technology is a good and a positive thing that reflects something of the image of God. However, we also need to recognise that we don’t live in the Paradise garden called Eden, we live on the other side of Genesis 3: a world that largely rejects God’s good purpose for our lives. To this post-fall world God said in Genesis 3:17:
And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
So the result of the Fall is that things are now distorted and warped … or as the Bible puts it: “crooked”. There is stuff that just isn’t right, things are upside down. So the basic principle which we need to establish about technology is that technology by itself is what we might call “amoral” – that is, it is neither good nor evil. Like lots of things in this world it’s something with great power for good but which is also deeply affected by the fall. What’s important is how we use that technology – what we use it to do, and what we allow it to do to us.
It’s not whether technology is good or bad .. it’s how we use it that counts
There are many values and benefits of using technology – you are currently reading this through a web browser, connected to the most advanced network every to have existed and my hope is that this article is in some way an encouragement and blessing. Phone apps like PrayerMate help you in your prayer life, Facebook is great for connecting with people and encouraging struggling friends just to keep going, some of our Life Groups have embraced What’sApp as a way to keep in touch and keep the prayer requests flowing. Technology has enabled some wonderful things.
However, though w might argue that technology is inherently amoral, we should also assert the fact that technology – like everything else – seeks to dominate us and draw our hearts away from God. And actually, this goes with anything created – they all have the potential to become an idol in our lives – something that we put our trust in instead of God.
One of the most significant ways technology seeks to dominate us and draw our hearts away from God is by changing our thinking. Technology has the power to impact how we think about the world around us. Think about how John Logie Baird, a Scottish inventor, created the television, and how it has completely revolutionised how we engage with everything from politics to education. Just today, for example, you can watch one of the most important debates to ever take place in our UK Parliament, two quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup taking place in Japan, or s documentary exploring Florida’s wildlife. The point is that technology changes the way we think.
Here’s two examples of how technology changes the way we think in relation to the church:
1. Technology changes how we think about community
“In the old days”, your community was strictly defined by your locality i.e. where you lived. But now, community means anyone who has the same interest, regardless of locality. This is based entirely on our own preferences – as an individual. If I’m interested in fishing, I can find thousands of online “communities” that I can interact with.
2. Technology changes the way with think about truth
I had a colleague who once set up his own Wikipedia page. He turned himself into a wrestler. He used photoshop to make it look like he really was. The trouble was, he wasn’t. Nowadays Wikipedia certifies truth by consensus i.e. how many people agree. Giants like Google and Facebook filter online experience by showing information is that relevant to you. On Facebook, over time, you’ll see more information from friends you interact with most and less with friends you rarely engage with. We live in a world where truth is being defined by how relevant it is to you, and how many people agree. Of course, this does cause an issue for Christians, who view the Bible as the never-changing source of truth.
So how can we neither REJECT or EMBRACE? Well, of course, the answer is that we must REDEEM.
Some practical thoughts on using technology
Let me see if I can summarise with some routes forward for you to prayer into:
- Is your use of technology a distraction? It’s so easy to be dominated by buzzes, beeps and notifications. Try turning down the noise by turning off buzzes, beeps and notifications (except for phone calls) and only checking your phone twice a day?
- Does your spouse have full access to your social media accounts? iof not, why not?
- When was the last time you had someone round for tea/coffee just to catch up? Sure you could do that online, but when was the last time you did it eye to eye?
- What is the first thing we do on our phone in the morning? Do we check our email/social media before we checked in the Lord?