Christians are required to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2Cor. 10:5). I recognize the primary context of these words was disciplinary action with some confessing Christians at 1st century Corinth. Still, the principle in the phrase, as well as the explicit words that precede it in 2Corinthians, has to do with waging spiritual warfare. Our spiritual warfare is not just about corporate church discipline; it relates to all life, including our use of technology. We need to learn to think rightly about our use of technology so that we would use it in obedience to Christ.
When we use technology we overcome time and space boundaries. Perhaps you never thought of it that way before. Perhaps that observation does not strike you as significant. It is profoundly important. Time and space, we might say, are the “first order” of creation. God created light on Day One of his creating and then separated the light from the darkness. God placed us humans in a time and space realm that he created. God is not bound by this created time and space realm, but we are, at least for now (!) and our being bound by it is not a bad thing. In fact, part of God’s declaration that all he created was very good was his placing spatial and temporal limits on the first man and woman. It is Greek philosophical thought that regards our space and time “boundedness” a problem.
Sin has affected all creation, not just humans. The account of Noah and his family and all creation in Genesis 6-9, and Paul’s specific statement in Romans 8:20-21 that all creation was subjected to the bondage of sin and longs for its freedom make clear that salvation is wedded to all creational realities. When we recognize that our very being was created by God to occupy a particular place at a particular time and God’s salvation of his covenant community from sin is organically joined to his rescue of all creation, we will not approach creational boundaries simplistically.
Overcoming space and time can be good, at times. Several years ago a young man I coached in cross country had his life saved because of cell-phones and the advanced technology present in an ambulance. I marvel at, and am thankful for, the wonderful technology that can make living in 21st century America such an enjoyable experience. I realize the irony of you reading this through technology. There are great benefits to technology, but many dangers lurk.
Many of us likely recognize the dangers present in using technology for obviously sinful behavior. The frightening ability to access pornography, the stealing of someone’s identity and life-savings, the eaves dropping on private and legally protected conversations, and the foolish wasting of time as result of being distracted by the Vanity Fair of the internet are just a few of the more obvious ways that technology is sinfully used. But perhaps the more subtle and no less powerful danger is in failing to recognize what takes place every time we engage in overcoming the boundaries of time and space.
Many of us have seen it take place in real life, and then in perhaps the height of irony, have witnessed it through the Internet: people in social situations, right next to others, and yet ignoring them while completely absorbed in their phone. They are physically present in one space at a given time, but their eyes, ears, and mind are elsewhere. When we pay attention to the truth that God governs his creation determining the allotted periods and boundaries of people’s lives (Acts 17:26), we learn that where our created body is in created physical time and space is a key ingredient in discerning God’s will for us, or what service he requires of us in his kingdom.
Our computerized technology can isolate us and “create” virtual communities. A vital ingredient in this isolation and these computerized communities is the individual’s choices. Now, truly, we all make many choices every day. My point is not that choices or the process of making choices is bad; this would be an absurd point. Instead, the issue is what this increase, we might even say overload, in choices and control can do to us as human beings created in God’s image to occupy a particular place at a particular time. Among other things, it can greatly contribute to us being filled with anxiety and anger.
Anxiety is enflamed within us when we are overwhelmed with more choices than we were actually meant to handle. The idol of human choice that pulsates in Western cultures in particular has nurtured the creation of a society that thinks it’s good to multiply choices and present these to people who must, by the very nature of the case, think through what choice to make. In turn, this is all related to an unrealistic and heightened sense of control, which is to say an overinflated view of one’s power. Some refer to it as omni-competence; we believe we are capable of much more than we truly are. Both our overinflated view of our power and the overwhelming number of choices can gravely distort our view of not only ourselves but all life.
Of course, to choose one thing is unavoidably not to choose something else. Oh, but that’s not always the case you say. There is an extent to which it is true that some of us no longer are forced to choose between two realities in a way that past generations did. As I have told my own children, when I was their age we had four choices regarding TV channels. That seems virtually pre-historic compared to what is present today. We had to switch channels (actually move our body!), if we wanted to see what was taking place with that other game we were interested in. In no longer having to choose one game or another we have replaced it with hundreds of other choices; channels galore (one hears echoes of Matt. 12:43-45). At least this exists for those who have a TV and subject themselves to this. Perhaps we need to do a better job of perceiving more of the choices we have.
In some instances it is true that what use to be an “either/or” scenario is now “both/and,” but in God’s creation that is not always the case; in numerous situations it will never be the case. I cannot, according to God’s word, be married to my current wife and, at the same time, be married to another woman. That’s adultery. This is a rather obvious example. Let’s deal with one that may not be so obvious.
A few years ago, while teaching at a Christian school, I routinely had to address with students, parents and colleagues the following basic truths: there are 24 hours in a day, they lived in a particular place, the school was in a particular place, and the place we all lived was greatly congested with traffic, it took large quantities of time to physically travel, the school had a limited number of students, it required a definite number of people and a definite amount of time for class requirements and extracurricular activities to be accomplished. As basic as these things were, numerous parents and students, and even sometimes teachers, coaches and administrators became angry when someone living in the truth of the aforementioned realities told them “no.” No, you can’t play on the baseball team, run track, do the spring drama production, be active in your youth group, take all advanced placement classes, and be the President of a Third World country!
Our technology driven world has nurtured within some of us the inability to recognize even the most basic realities that define and govern what we are as finite creatures created in God’s image. God created us as finite. We were not meant to try and get rid of our finitude. Ah, but we live in a culture that increasingly thinks there should be no borders of any kind in any way—physically/geographically, morally, socially, temporally, spatially etc., etc. But the more we try and overcome some boundaries the more we are living in a world of our own imagination, rebelling against the realities that God created us to flourish within and through which we experience our salvation, through which we learn what it means to love and serve God and our neighbor, to serve in the actual world created by God. Among other things, and I realize this is a more complex issue than one blog post can address, this means individual Christians, families, entire congregations, and denominations need to think long and soberly about what a Christian use of technology looks like. It means having our thinking conditioned by the biblical doctrine of creation. It emphatically does not mean simply immersing ourselves within our technologically saturated world; thinking that the mere presence of a particular technology means we must use it. Not all that is pleasant to the eye should be taken, and used for what we think is good for serving the purposes we want to achieve.