Thursday, April 30, 2015

This Technological World We Live In

Technology surrounds us every day, lets talk about that.   We will look at a few specific instances where we actually use technology. Then we will take a look at what it means to live as a Christian in this technological world. Technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry1. It comes from the Greek word τέχνηλογία which means systematic treatment2. Wolfram Alpha defines it as the discipline dealing with the art or science of applying scientific knowledge to practical problems2. That means that technology can easily incorporate everything from a ceiling fan to a mainframe computer.

 If we went back we could find very early examples of technology and how it has changed the world around us but we will only look at three. The first is glass which is used in everything from fiber optics to house windows. The base component in glass, silica, is also used to produce silicon circuit boards which are in every last iPhone and laptop in the world. Glass itself is used, with other additives, as the screens for these devices. The second product is milk. Milk is classified as a hydrocarbon which is an organic compound consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon3. Milk from a cow can be separated and refined into different products like butter, cream, and heavy whipping cream. Crude oil, another hydrocarbon, is separated and refined into things from asphalt to gasoline to plastic to polyester fabric. Some of those oil-based plastics are used in car interiors and other car parts along with the gasoline that is put in the car to make it go. The last product is metal. Metal has been mined and refined into everything from farm equipment like shovels and plows to laser guided missiles and aircraft carriers.

Christianity, over the last two thousand years, has had to adapt to different technologies. Algebra, clocks, chess, the printing press, electric light, automobile, telephone, radio, vaccination, computers, airplanes, anesthesia, refrigeration; have all been invented since Jesus ascended. Each of these new inventions brings with it new implications. Before clocks, people weren't on time but things still happened. Before radio ideas were spread. Before refrigeration there was no ice cream and people were okay with that. Before the printing press the Bible existed and Jesus was preached. Technology is not trying to replace life but improve on it. Do meaningless novels get published now? Yes, but there was a lot of meaningless publishing going on long before the printing press was invented, it just happened slower. Technology was employed and printing press was created through a long series of steps spanning two thousand years.

The three pieces of technology from earlier are the the building blocks of our current technological society. Copper, fiber optics, glass, hydrocarbons, silicone, and various metals make up all of the equipment that we use to connect with billions of people everyday. From the backbone servers of the Internet to the cellphones that we use to connect from almost anywhere, technology is built on top of these simple resources. Yes, they are refined. Some of them incredibly so, just take a look at what it takes to create fiber optic cables. These technologies were developed to make it easier to share information within the military and intelligence community in the USA starting in the 60's. Over the last fifty years the Internet has evolved to include hundreds of countries and billions of people. Carrying services from private pizza delivery to medical databases that enable doctors to provide faster diagnosis to patients, the Internet has grown to be an integral part of the lives of people living in developed countries for communication. How do we live with these technologies as Christians? Much of the early church lived under the rule of the Roman Empire. Rome was known for technological advancements not on their own, but by assimilating those they conquered. Rome was really good at conquering. One of the towns under Rome's influence was Ephesus. The Apostle Paul spent a lot of time at Ephesus. Ephesus was home to one of the seven wonders of the world, the Temple of Artemis. Being a wonder of the world it would have taken quite a lot of technological know-how to get that temple up and running. Technology and its effects were well known to those living in Ephesus.


In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul is reminding them of things that they should know already, but for some reason have stopped following. Paul is writing to remind his readers who they are in Christ and what that means for their walk of life. We are called to Walk Worthy of our Calling (4:1) and then part of that walking we are to Make the Most of Our Time (5:16). How are we supposed to make the most of our time? Let me ask this question, when was the last time you hand washed your clothes? Thank God for the invention of the washing machine and dryer, not just for the time saved but also the fact that clothes last longer and smell better than if you hand washed them. Next time you have the opportunity, ask a kid to make cookies from scratch and see how long it takes them. We as humans have to be taught certain things like how to be efficient with our time. Matt Perman addresses the Christian's view of efficiency in his book What's Best Next, "True productivity is not first about efficiency doing things right and doing them quickly but effectiveness doing the right things.4" So, with technology we have this tension where it takes care of those things that are more monotony like washing clothes to make way for more time to be effective. So, now that we have extra time since washing clothes, dishes, vacuuming (looking at you DJ Roomba) in our homes are now being automated, what then? Walk in good works! Paul clearly states
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Paul then spends nearly three chapters on how we walk worthy of this Christian calling. Paul says, "Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord." (5:8b) And then Paul tells the readers to:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)
Twice in a short amount of time Christians are called to "discern what is pleasing to the Lord" and "understand what the will of the Lord is." This language leaves the question open, not to interpreting what is 'good', but what the "good" we are supposed to be walking in from 2:10. Paul tells us what is good and what is not good detailed in 4:17-6:9. But those good works that have been designed for us that we are supposed to walk in is not clearly told to each person. Now if we are spending all of our time in the monotony of life how are we ever going to figure out what those "good works" are that we supposed to be walking in? If we are being inefficient, washing clothes by hand inefficiency, then how can we ever be effective? But if we make our lives more efficient we can take the time to learn what those things are that we are supposed to be doing. Enter technology. Someone who refused to wash clothes by hand any more and created a washing machine to help himself and others spend their lives doing something other than washing clothes. So if we have technology available to us that can make our lives more efficient and allow us to be more effective then we should likely adopt that technology into our lives. It is not the technology that changes our hearts. Mike Cosper addresses how technology brings out what is in our hearts:
Their response to any critique of technology seems to echo the words of Jesus in the New Testament; no “thing”—-no device, for instance—-defiles us, but what’s in our hearts defiles us ( Matt. 15:11, 18). So the iPhone isn’t the problem, it’s our hearts in relation to the iPhone. The internet isn’t the problem, it’s what we put onto the internet, or what we download from it. The thing, in itself, isn’t evil. It’s what we do with the thing. 5
Our technology makes it very efficient for us to walk. But we have a different kind walk, as Paul reminds the Ephesians how they once walked,
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
Walking like this is not walking Worthy of our Calling like Paul calls his readers to do. Not only can it make us efficient at walking in a way we shouldn't, it makes us ineffective in walking as Children of light. Paul does not give his readers the choice to walk in both worlds. He makes it very clear that these two walks of life are diametrically opposed.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Technology helps us be more efficient as we are called to do, Ephesians 5:15-16, thus allowing us to have more time to be effective. We can use technology to walk worthy and effective lives.   

References:
 1. Technology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved March 5, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology
2. Technology - Wolfram|Alpha. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=technology&a=*C.technology-_*Word-
3. Hydrocarbon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrocarbon
4. Cosper, Mike (2011-11-02) Is Technology Neutral? http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/is-technology-neutral
5. Perman, Matthew Aaron (2014-03-04). What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (p. 49). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
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Sean Rodgers is a IT Professional working for CREFORM Corporation who graduated from Bob Jones University with a Bachelors in Pastoral Studies and Art.  Sean lives in Downtown Greer, SC with his wife. They are members and shepherding group leaders at North Hills Community Church.  He cheers for the Cowboys and the Clippers.  He runs TechMonkie.com, a technology blog that helps its readers make the most of their technology.