As promised in yesterdays post, today I wanted to post some personal reflections on modern technology, and our relationship to it. Because of how long this post ended up, I will be splitting it into 2 parts. Part 2 can be read here.
From a technical perspective, I’ve been a ‘geek’ for many years. I had my first computer in the mid ’80s (a Commodore Vic 20, followed by the amazing Commodore 64, with tape drive!), and had broken and repaired computers before 1990 (at which I was still in high school). I have since worked in technology related roles for many companies, from helpdesk, desktop support, project management and team leadership from 1992. At home we still maintain a ‘technical’ house – laptops, desktops, iPhones, iPad, Kindles and consoles populate every corner of our house, and are all frequently used. We are truly a technologically blessed house.
From a biblical perspective, I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years now, and including 6 month stint at a Bible college in 1993, have always enjoyed studying deeper into theology, part of which is hopefully borne out in my life, and on this blog.
So the question arises, what effect does technology have on Theology, and Christianity?
Tim Challies in his book, The Next Story – Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion, raises some significant points that we need to consider.
The first is that in the current technology explosion- primarily that of on-demand technology and the internet, has changed the way the world works already. Even if I look at my own life, we rely on the internet for much of our communication. I email my wife daily through the day. I use email to communicate with much of my family and extended family.
Even more concerning though, is that the internet drives my work. I currently manage the technology for around 15 retail stores across the country. The only way these stores work together is that they are always connected – through the internet. If the internet were to go ‘down’ centrally, all stores but one would be crippled, as they no longer have the tools locally to function. 2 Weeks of no internet would almost certainly send the business on a rapid road to bankruptcy, and leave 200+ people unemployed.
I am not saying that the internet is about to fail – but my point is that it is an essential foundation to modern business and personal life. Just like cars, or telephones, or electricity, without the internet, life would immediately stop. It has become essential to a majority of people.
The question then arises, what does this mean for us as Christians?
Firstly, in that technology has become essential for life to continue as it is, I think there is no effect. As Christians the backdrop of life on this earth is not very important. We trust in God. We know God has His plans for this world, and we know God knew all about the internet before He created the first living thing. God knows what is going on, and if the internet does fail, he already knew it would and will use it for His glory, while still providing for us.
The real issue though, as discussed in Challies book, is our use of technology. There are some significant risks here.
The first obvious issue, which I mentioned in yesterday’s review, is idolatry. We can become enamoured with technology as a ‘thing’. We can always live and desire the latest, greatest thing. We can start to think that we cannot live without some of this technology in our lives. It can also be brand related – I know many ‘geeks’ who worship at the ‘temple of Apple’. Many people love Apple products, but some people have made them (and in some cases, the CEO Steve Jobs) an idol.
I came across this in my life just this week. My iPhone died. Long story which I will not go into the details of, but I wondered what will I do? Can I get it repaired? Do I go and get another one, or do I go and get an Android phone? I wasted at least an hour reading reviews of the latest and greatest Google Android phones, wondering if I could somehow swing it into the budget, because the iPhone was not working. Idolatry? No, but I am sure it certainly got close. Why do I love this device so much? Because it’s cool, I always have games, or Bible reading with me. I use it for hours each day to listen to teaching. Surely this is a good thing? Yes – but I don’t need an iPhone to do that. I have other devices, maybe not so new, maybe not so cool, maybe not even so simple to use in one device, which will meet all of those needs. I have a phone, I have an iPod, I can do this. So I went from ‘needing’ a new iPhone or replacement, to realizing it really isn’t necessary in my life, no matter what I might feel.
Technology also makes it easier to find more and more idols, and maintain our worship of them. Be it communication (Facebook for example), the need to be loved, sports worship or even celebrity gossip, technology allows us now to engage in any of these things more and more, and for them to become preeminent in our lives – in short, to become an idol.
Distraction is one of the greatest issues with technology. We can’t turn our phones off even in Church, or visiting a friend. If it beeps in the middle of a conversation we pull it out to see, without even thinking of the other person we are physically with (this has become almost normal behaviour). We can’t be without our phone beeping every time someone likes our status on Facebook. We need to know if someone emailed us – no matter what the time, no matter how mundane.
The other thing technology does is allows us to fill our lives. We can fill our lives with on demand television or movies – at the click of a button. Apple TV or netflix will deliver us something – now. Or maybe we can play a game on a console or the PC. More often than not, we can sit in front of our TV, stream a netflix movie while looking up something on our iPad and having our iPhone go off next to us every time we get a text or email. We are distracted. We have no room left for our own thought even – let alone room for the creator of the universe! We have no room for quiet contemplation and meditation. We start to believe all the ‘likes’ on Facebook, rather than take time to know ourselves and come before God in repentance.
Come back tomorrow for my thoughts on the next two points, reliance and Church!