In one sense, discipleship in any age concerns certain common disciplines in order to become like Christ so that we no longer live to ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:14), but to Christ (Galatians 2:20). If we want to grow into Christ, we must discipline ourselves for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7). But the question remains: In light of our increasing, whirling (digital) technology what additional disciplines might we need to embrace to walk by faith amidst pings, apps, and notifications?
Too often, we know Christ should be our focus and that we become like what we worship (Psalm 115, 135), but still technology pushes back on us—retraining, rewiring, and reshaping us in the process. And this is not unintentional, apps are designed by programmers to encourage certain behaviors. We recognize that there are certain beneficial, helpful, and fitting uses of technology that help us in our spiritual walk and in spreading the Gospel. Yet, there are also ways in which our hearts and habits are being reshaped by the devices we hold. So how do we take the principles found in Scripture and apply them to an ever-changing digital age?
For five weeks our church, in Sunday School, has considered Discipleship in a Digital Age. We have given attention to biblical, theological, and practical truths to help us think about technology, but now we need to put truth into action. We need to think practically about the way smart phones and social media, apps and artificial intelligence impact us, and better how we can use them to the glory of God.
And so, this Sunday we will consider a couple of “case studies,” where we can think about how our technology impacts us and how we can best use technology. We will look at smart phones and Facebook to consider how we engage technology with discernment and discipline. If we do not consider such applications, we will not be able to spur one another on towards love and good deeds with our technology. By default we will only find ourselves following the patterns given to us by the inventers of the technology.
Four Questions to Ask About Any ‘Tool’
To help us think carefully about using technology, consider these four questions from From the Garden to the City by John Dyer (pp. 180–82). In evaluating our use of technology, he reminds us that every tool has intrinsic ways it shapes us the user. And in light of that, he asks four diagnostic questions about any given ‘tool’:
- Reflection: How does this tool reflect God? How does it help me serve God, or cultivate/keep the earth?
- Rebellion: What tendencies does this tool produce in me? How could I misuse this tool? What safeguards do I need to put in place?
- Redemption: What areas of the fall can this tool help me overcome? How can I use this to relieve misery? Proclaim true, goodness, and beauty?
- Restoration: In what ways am I trusting in this device that I should be trusting in God?
If you notice, these four questions loosely follow the four turning points in redemptive history:
- Creation – how creation was made to reflect God
- Fall – how creation rebelled against God
- Redemption – how God is saving creation, namely men and women made in his image
- Consummation – how God will one day restore all things
By answering these four questions, we can begin to consider how any tool is impacting us. By noticing the way any device or platform entices us to stray from God, or how any tool can be used to glorify God we are on our way to think more biblically about the world. And with renewed minds, we can begin to develop patterns and habits to help walk by faith; we can begin to push back and avoid the tendencies that lead us to walk by sight straying from God.
If you are in Northern Virginia, feel free to join us this Sunday to do a few case studies with these questions. Or, in your own context, put these questions to work the next time you sit down with friends or family for lunch. Put away the devices and ask around how they are impacting your life.
Indeed, consideration of our devices is a sobering subject, but by asking specific questions it gives us light to walk more carefully with them and glorify God by them.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds