It has been one of those weeks where technology is kicking me in the proverbial butt.
Don’t get me wrong, I like technology…when it works, but this week our family’s computer had a hard-drive melt-down and we switched all our office work email/calendar/to-do programs. ARGH! It’s enough to make you throw your computer into the street, stamp on it and then douse it in gasoline before you light it up with a match!
So as I continue the conversation on technology, I want to acknowledge that technology IS a tool we use because we are created in God’s image. God doesn’t need tools, but Jesus used tools as a “techne” or builder. God doesn’t need tools, but He saved Noah through the technology of the ark.
“What do you mean?” you ask.
Yeah, God used technology. Because a good working definition of technology is “…anything that stretches, extends or amplifies some human capacity.1 In other words, a spoon is a form of technology. A pencil is a form or technology. Everything we create is a medium of some kind and allows us to stretch, expand and amplify our abilities as humans. Technology is part of our calling as people made in the image of God.
But there is a dark side.
The dark side is when we forget.
When we forget that technology is ONLY an extension of ourselves, technology takes power over us and controls us.
When we forget, we also use technology to amplify ourselves instead of God. Both are idolatry.
A great biblical example is the Tower of Babel. There are many interpretations of this story, but I’m going to point just one thing out. The people wanted to build a tower. They said,
“Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves…” -Genesis 11:4
I think it’s easy to see that they wanted to use technology (the tower) to amplify themselves instead of God. That’s my point. It’s that simple. The challenge is to remember that technology is a created thing, an extension of ourselves. When we do, it loses much of it’s power over us.
Recently, my daughter announced, “I’m going to call you the computer couple.”
“What do you mean?” I asked as both my wife and I looked up from our laptops.
“Well, you both are on your computers a lot so I’m going to call you the computer couple, she replied.
And I’m pretty sure we aren’t the only ones. It’s becoming harder and harder to avoid being tangled up in technology. Check out these three stats…
- Nearly six out of 10 practicing Christians (59%) say they search for spiritual content online.
- 7 out of 10 of Christian Millennials (age 18-25) are blending their faith and technology through the digital reading of Scripture….That’s 70%. Can you believe it! There are just as many YouVersion (the free Bible phone app) downloads as there are Instagram downloads!
- 38% of practicing Christian Millennials fact check sermons online.2
Here’s the other thing I mean when I say there is a dark side. Technology can give, but it can also take away. Author and pastor Shane Hipps writes, “Every technology, when pushed to it’s extreme will take something away from the user with unintended consequences.”3 For example, cars increase the speed of transportation, but also take away with traffic jams and death. The internet makes information accessible, but too much information is overwhelming and leads to confusion instead of clarity and wisdom. Sound systems help spread a instrument or person’s voice so others can hear, but too much volume is overwhelming to the point that you can’t hear anything except ringing. Millennials are the most connected generation but many times feel more stressed and alone. Technology can give, but it can also take away.
I think a good question to ask when evaluating technology is this: “Who or what is this platform designed to elevate?” The people building in Babel wanted to elevate themselves not God. And many technologies these days can do the same thing. Craig Detweiler, professor of communication at Pepperdine University, writes, “We’re asked and invited to increase our friends, increase our followers, to elevate ourselves through these new technologies.”4
So instead of throwing your computer out the window and lighting it on fire, here’s one more question to ask:
Has technology ever reversed itself on you and taken something away?
1. Hipps, Shane. Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith. Grand Rapids., MI: Zondervan, 2009.
2. Kinnaman, David. “How Technology is Changing Millennial Faith”, https://www.barna.org/barna-update/millennials/640-how-technology-is-changing-millennial-faith#.VQwlhpPF-IA, March 20, 2015.
4. Smith, Warren Cole. “Facebook, Twitter and the Tower of Babel”, http://www.worldmag.com/2015/02/facebook_twitter_and_the_tower_of_babel/page1, March 20, 2015.