Monday, March 10, 2008

A Christian World View and Technology - Part III

In parts I and II of this series of posts, I discussed technology from the aspect of whether or not it should be used at all, and then if the production of any particular technology should preclude its use. So far, I have determined that a Christian world view can allow the use of modern technology, if such technology is not produced or constructed in a way that is biblically disallowed (such as using abusive slave labor).

In this part, I hope to conclude my thoughts for now on the subject by looking at the actual use of technology. To me, this is both the clearest and also the most open aspect of a biblical, Christian world view of technology.

We have examples, both Old and New Testament, of use of technology contemporary with the user. Where such use is for a righteous purpose, it is endorsed. Where it is used for an unrighteous purpose, it is condemned. One such example is the construction of the Ark of the Covenant [Exodus 25:10-22] versus the golden calf at Mt. Sinai [Exodus 32:1-7].

Both items took approximately the same skill and technological knowledge to produce. Both used similar if not identical parts in their production, especially the gold. But the significant differences between them were not the type of technology used in their production, nor in their material composition, but the purposes for which they were made, and how they were used. The Ark was made specifically by the command of God for a holy purpose, whereas the golden calf was made to render sacrifice and worship to a false god.

While the Ark of the Covenant and the golden calf are obviously different in many ways, I compare them to point out that it was their purpose and use that was the primary distinguishing factors in being acceptable to God, not the materials or tools used in their construction.

So, then, what constitutes a righteous versus an unrighteous use of technology?

For the most part, the Christian disciple is given plenty of direction in this regard. Do not use technology to: show dishonor to God, worship a false God, steal, lie, murder, and so forth [Exodus 20:1-17, Matthew 5:17-31 in particular]. In other words, if you shouldn't do it with your lips or bare hands, don't do it using some tool of technology either. Lying through a phone is no better than lying directly into someone's ear, and posting it on a web page does not remove the sin from the lie, either.

Unfortunately, in the category of "Thou Shalt Not", one of the more frequently occurring issues on technology is not so much recognizing when its use is inappropriate, but rather contending with temptation in the ease of its use for inappropriate purposes. With the rise of modern technology, and especially computers, mobile phones, and the Internet, things can be done very quickly with almost no effort at all. It can now only take seconds to spread rumors and lies about a neighbor around the world, and assassinate someone's character in an online forum. The opportunity to lust after another is only a search engine away. You can squander your life's savings in a foolish fit of gambling and wanton spending without even leaving your living room.

With the increased efficiency of technology comes the ability to sin (or expose yourself to sin) in an instant. Add the ability to remain largely anonymous in the online world, and it becomes more incumbent upon the Christian to exercise true discipline when using modern technology. There is, then, an even greater responsibility to avoid the appearance of evil [I Thessalonians 5:22], and to not use modern technology for selfish and sinful reasons. It is helpful to recall that, even if no man finds you out, there are no secrets with the Lord [Luke 8:17].

But, in addition to the "Thou Shalt Not" aspect of the Christian world view of technology, I think there is the equally important and often overlooked aspect of "Thou Shalt." Christ told us that loving God and loving our neighbor is the sum and fulfilling of the law [Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:29-31, Romans 13:10]. Not only does the law (and love) include restrictions on what not to do to each other, but it also carries a responsibility that there are certain things we should do one for another. We should honor our parents, bear up one another's burdens, and treat one another with respect. The Christian view of technology should drive us to seek out the righteous and beneficial uses of technology, while avoiding the evil uses.

Do you have a friend or neighbor that is blind? If so, did you know that there are computer software programs for reading text out loud for the blind? (NVDA, AbilityHub) Did you also know that there is an online library of great literary works, free to use for everyone? (Project Gutenberg) Now, do you have some skill with setting up computers (or know someone who does)? If so, you could set up a computer for your blind friend/neighbor so that, perhaps for the first time in their life, they could have access to the Bible, not to mention great literary works such as Pilgrim's Progress, Moby Dick, Great Expectations, and Pride and Prejudice.

This is a relatively simple example, but how many similar examples can we put together, all showing how we can use modern technology in a godly way? Prosthetic limbs and cybernetics (as other examples) can give new mobility or improved quality of life, but your particular abilities may lend to less dramatic, but no less godly endeavors. Use a computer to organize the birth dates (or other special dates) of family, friends, and members of your local congregation. Then, use it to send cards or letters in a timely way. It can mean the world to a little elderly lady, forced to reside in a nursing home, to receive a meaningful note that reminds her that she is not forgotten. Such encouragement, as little as it may seem to us at times, is part of a pure religion before God [James 1:27].

And this, I believe, should be the ultimate goal in a Christian world view on technology. Not necessarily to only answer the question "What must I not do?", but to also fill our lives with the answer to the question "What can I now do."

"And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." - Colossians 3:22

- ckb

1 comment:

Becca said...

Well written and thought provoking.

Here's an example of Christian Technology helping the Body around the world today: -- the largest volunteer matching site for Christians online. Do you think you might be able to add us to the left side bar of this page? Thanks!!!