Technology and the Christian Life


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This sponsored post was prepared by Dr. C.J. Williams, Professor, Old Testament Studies, Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary

To open the Bible is to step into a world in which shepherding, farming, swords, and plowshares were the stuff of everyday life.  The Gospel message is affixed to such images by way of parable and metaphor, but it is not fossilized in ancient culture.  If anything, the ancient imagery of the Bible serves as a reminder of how enduring God’s Word is.  I still look forward to the day when nations will beat their swords into plowshares, and I know this ancient promise remains, even if the ancient technology does not.

The exercise of dominion over the earth demands that we build, explore, create, and discover.  In a word, it demands technology.  Like most things, however, technology can be used for good or for evil, so we must always think carefully about the ends to which we apply it.  Ever since the Tower of Babel was built, technology has been both a source and expression of human pride.  On the other hand, Solomon’s Temple and Hezekiah’s Tunnel depended on the best technology of the day.  The same World Wide Web that opens up new vistas for the spread of the Gospel has also brought pornography into millions of homes.  Technology can be a dangerous force or a true blessing; the key (as with all things) is to bring it under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

In only twenty years or so, our everyday experience of technology has grown by leaps, so that computers, smart phones, social media, and email are standard parts of our daily routine.  Life is faster because of such things, but such speed has its downside.  For instance, we use many technologies in everyday life to save time, but we rarely ask ourselves – save time for what?  Is it so that we can redeem our time in some way for God’s glory (Eph. 5:15), or just waste it more creatively?  Still, I suspect that many of our time-saving technologies have only made us busier, sometimes to the detriment of our spiritual lives.  

It is not too much to say that social media have become a cultural distraction from real life, even an obsession.  It is rare to go anywhere and not see someone furiously talking with their thumbs, or “Facebooking” with any free moment.  Staying in touch is easier than ever, which is a blessing, but have social media made us more social, or less? Have they made our relationships any deeper or more meaningful?  Spending hours on social media is a sure sign that a useful tool has been turned into a distracting master.  In light of all this modern communication technology, Henry David Thoreau’s nineteenth century critique of the post office brings a smile to my face: “For my part, I could easily do without the post office.  I think that there are very few important communications made through it.  I never received more than one or two letters in my life that were worth the postage.”  One can’t help but wonder how many of the seven trillion text messages sent last year alone were “worth the postage”.  Proverbs has something to say about a “multitude of words”, and it’s not good (Prov. 10:19).

In any case, one of the greatest daily challenges a Christian faces in the modern world is to think clearly about his or her use of any technology.  Does it help you achieve good ends in your heavenly calling and service to Christ, or is it an avenue of distraction and temptation?  Would Jesus look on and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?

The word “technology” conjures images of what is complex and intricate; our lives reflect the same image in this technological era.  But the Bible, so steeped in the simplicity of another time, reminds us that living faith depends on something timeless and simple, namely, the grace of the living God.  And our fathers in the faith – shepherds, farmers and fishermen – remind us that a faithful life need not be a complicated one.  Along with them, we still rejoice in the promise, and look forward to the day, when we will beat our swords into plowshares.  Until then, it is good to embrace the Gospel message in all of its glorious simplicity, and live our lives accordingly.