Lesson 2: Technology as a Biblical Power

Technology as GodLast week, I described our life in a technological society that integrates tools and techniques in sophisticated all-pervasive systems. Although these systems have brought us tremendous benefits, they have also created an environment that pretty much demands compliance with their features. When making decisions in the past we had to consider the effect on other people and nature. Now we have to add technological systems.

The church’s response is all over the place. Many think learning to use powerful modern technology is the secret to Christianity’s success. I constantly hear some theologians claim the future belongs to some form of online electronic church community.

On the other hand, others see Christianity and modern technology as antagonists confronting each other at the deepest levels. Some go so far as claiming technology is a new religion, because people look to it rather than God to satisfy their needs.

Few ponder what kind of society we are building with modern technology. I for one have never heard a sermon tackling this issue. Fewer yet give any thought to how technique, the reductionist way of thinking promoted by modern technology, is affecting our culture and religion. Notice that I italicized the word to distinguish it from technique as an ordered standardized way of doing a project.

Last week, I described technique carrying the materialistic and mechanical laws appropriate for exploring the physical world into all other areas of life, including personal relationships, the arts, and religion. In effect, it breaks a problem into parts and deals only with those that most efficiently bring what it wants. Belief systems are irrelevant and even obstructive. There is no place for God or traditional concepts of good and evil. By default, economic values have come to trump all others.

You get a sense of how short sighted it is to ignore the effects of modern technology when the daily news leads you to think Christian denominations are divided primarily over the issue. Night after night, they speak of church bodies disagreeing on topics such as contraception, abortion, stem cell research, climate control, and gun control. Add to that polls that report the laity in all church groups use technology pretty much the same way regardless of their churches’ teachings. Obviously, the institutional churches are missing something.

I find it helpful to look at technology as a modern day form of the principalities, powers, and authorities Paul discusses in Colossians 1: 15-20, I Corinthians 15: 26-28, and Romans 8: 38, 39. He assumes these all have a proper and good purpose in the creation. Each plays an essential function. Each has a gift to contribute. However, this goodness depends on their remaining in a proper relationship with God and the other Powers. They reek havoc if they assume a role beyond their assigned functions. From this perspective, salvation involves giving Christ the supreme authority, seeking the Kingdom of God first, or recognizing Christ as the logos of the creation, so that everything else falls into its proper place. Modern technology could be considered a modern form of these Powers that abuse its authority and imposes false priorities when it establishes an environment that forces all to conform to its requirements.

When the Church looks at modern technology from this perspective, it perceives one of its callings is to use Christian values to critique its use. It readily appreciates ways that technology alleviates suffering and serves the common good of all God’s children. At the same time, it resists technology using its power to destroy people and the creation or to enable certain groups to take advantage of others. If Christianity is inherently about discerning and doing God’s will, it is going to be challenged by a technology whose purpose is to reshape everything in ways that human beings deem desirable.

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