William M. Clements and Lee C. Harrison lived well into their 70’s and passed away during the 1960’s. Both were born in the South during the 1890’s and both were my grandfathers. Neither of them ever flew in an airplane, owned an automobile, drove a car or possessed a driver’s license. By occupation, one was a blacksmith and the other was a farmer and Baptist preacher. Great changes took place in their lifetimes, but for the most part, they were untouched by technology.
No doubt my grandfathers would be speechless if they saw a cell phone. They probably could not imagine a device that could be carried in their pockets that would allow them to communicate with people around the world. The cell phone enables people to speak, text, e-mail, take pictures, see images and share them with others. With a cell phone we can do our banking, pay our bills, do our shopping, find a restaurant, watch weather patterns, get highway directions, read the news, make videos and send them to others, listen to music, check our calendars, take notes, play games, watch TV, record our exercise activities and calories on our diet, read our Bible, set our alarm clock, monitor our security system, check gas prices, calculate our expenses and make a grocery list. And that is only a partial list.
The astronomical growth of Internet technology is mind-boggling. The international use of smart phones and smart pads is on a dramatic rise. During 2010, 73% of total mobile cellular subscriptions were from countries outside the United States, with China and India leading at 30%. Out of 7.7 billion people on earth, 5.1 billion of them own cell phones (67%). Only 4.2 billion people own toothbrushes! There are more mobile phones on earth than TV sets. Now there are 3.4 billion mobile web users worldwide. Of the 5.1 billion cell phones in the world, a little over 2.5 billion are smartphones with web-surfing capability. In America, 9 in 10 people have mobile phones and average over 4 hours per day using them. That is one/fourth of their average waking hours. And 60% of the web searches done are via mobile devices, not computers.
I read George Orwell’s classic book “1984” around 1964, and was awed and a little frightened by his glimpse of the future. However, we zoomed past many of Orwell’s predictions of “1984” long before the year 1984. And today, in one way or another, technology affects our lives from the time we wake up to the moment we go to sleep. As with any advancement, technology has upsides and downsides.
So, How can Christians benefit from technology without falling into the snares of it? How can we make it our servant and not let it become our master? Is God in favor of Christians using technology to further His kingdom? Here are a few ideas to consider.
First, Technology is simply the invention of useful things to solve problems or make life easier. Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the moveable-type printing press around 1450 impacted the world by making books available and affordable, thus enhancing literacy and increasing learning, worldwide. The printing press was technology. The first book Gutenberg printed was the Bible. Until the invention of printing, common people could not afford to own a copy of the Bible. Even Gutenberg’s Bible cost the equivalent of three years wages for a clerk. At 1,286 pages long and 14 pounds heavy, it was not a pocket edition. But this technology changed the world.
God chose to make Himself known to us through His Word. So, the Bible begins, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). He made the decision to communicate with us in ways anyone could understand. Thankfully, He did not use some mystical, elusive form of communication, but chose languages known to people, Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, primarily used to write the Bible. As of October, 2018 the full Bible has been translated into 683 languages, the New Testament into 2,217 languages, and portions of Scripture into 3,350 languages.
Though technology may be used for evil purposes, like the gas chambers during the Holocaust, it can be used for enormous good, like vaccines that stopped polio, medicines, antibiotics and surgical procedures that heal fatal diseases. Good technologies, like the desalination of water, save an estimated 1 million lives per year.
For the Christian, the principle that should guide his use of technology is given in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This means that our Creator wants us to use technology for our good and His glory.
For the church, we should use technology at its best to communicate God’s message about Christ to the world. Amazingly, technology enables us to instantly learn of prayer needs, and intercede to God for others in real time. My wife, Pat, communicates with and prays daily for missionaries and people worldwide, using Facebook. We should always be ready to leverage technological advances to reach people with the gospel and minister to those in need. This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23).
So, what does it all mean? Simply this: If we are to communicate God’s message to the world, as Christ commands, we must take advantage of technology. God has placed us here in this time to serve Him with this technology for His glory. As Prof Howard Hendricks used to say: “Use things and love people—Don’t love things and use people.” In all this, we must trust in Him…not in technology.