The Herald Weekly Vol XVII : 27

The Christian and Modern Technology

Modern technology is proceeding at such a rapid pace that it is presenting society with more options than we can handle. Things which were never issues before simply because they were impossible have suddenly become issues today. One danger we face is that these increased options may cause us to trespass into forbidden territory – To break God’s commandments or to usurp prerogatives that belong to God alone.

All around us we hear of new developments in technology, e.g. block chain, Internet of things, Google glass and artificial intelligence. Some scientists even believe that we are close to discovering the secret of immortality, and those who have the means will be able to prolong their own life indefinitely. In November 2018 a Chinese scientist claimed to have used CRISPR gene-editing technology to create the world’s first genetically modified human babies – twin girls named Lulu and Nana – to confer genetic resistance against the HIV virus. Soon, parents-to-be may be able to design their own children, to choose the sex of the child that will be born to them, as well as all the physical features such as the colour of their children’s hair and eyes!

Christians should not accept the fruits of technology uncritically. We must keep a close watch on the ethical issues raised by these technological advances, and not just allow ourselves to be carried along by the tide of progress. Technology is a double-edged sword, which cuts both ways. It can accomplish much good, but in the wrong hands it can accomplish much evil. Nuclear technology can be used to generate enough electricity for whole cities and also to diagnose  and treat illnesses through medical radiology. But it can also be used to destroy whole cities and incapacitate people who are exposed to radioactivity.

Thus Christians cannot be indifferent to the changes that are now taking place in society through technology but should reject certain unacceptable technological developments. However, those who offer words of caution against certain trends in technology must be prepared to be accused of being like the church in 1632 which tried and sentenced Galileo the Italian astronomer to life imprisonment for teaching that the sun did not revolve around the earth. This and many other similar examples are used as excuses by the world at large today, to turn a deaf ear to the warnings given by God’s people.

On the other hand, we must not become so skeptical about modern technology as to regard it as a worldly and sinful thing that we cannot touch at all. That would make us technophobes like the Amish people in North America who sincerely believe that since the scriptures command separation from the world, followers of Christ must therefore not use electricity, and not have radios, televisions, personal computers, cars or any machines. They still use horses and oxen for farming and oil lamps for light at night. To them, technology is part of the ungodly system of the world which will come under God’s awful judgment.

Biblical Perspectives on Technology

Technology is the outcome of God’s mandate to man. There is nothing inherently evil in technology. It is the natural outcome of the mandate which God gave to man in Genesis 1:27,28. Man has developed science and technology in response to God’s commands to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion over creation. Science is man’s attempt to observe, understand, and explain the operation of the universe and its inhabitants. Technology is the practical application of the knowledge gained by science for mankind’s benefit, bringing portions of the universe under his control. We are stewards of all of God’s creation, and as such we are responsible to Him for both the preservation and the productive use of all the world’s resources to the benefit of man, and for the glory of God.

Technology is to be used for man’s benefit and for God’s glory. The first technological feat recorded in the Bible was the building of the Ark (Genesis 6:14-16). This benefited not only the human race but also all the air and land creatures that God had made. It also brought glory to God – manifesting His mercy and grace to sinful man.

The next technological feat recorded in the Bible however, was designed solely for man’s benefit and not for God’s glory. The Tower of Babel was build by men for the purpose of making a name for themselves (Genesis 11:3-5). It was an attempt at self-glory and perhaps even self-deification. Thus, it fully deserved the curse of God. The last book of the Bible tells us that this will happen again in the time of the Antichrist. And this world leader will probably use some aspects of modern technology for his own ends and not for God’s glory (Revelation 13:1-18).

But there is nothing wrong with a godly use of technology. In fact, some of the greatest advances of modern technology have been pioneered by godly men whose aim was both to benefit man and to glorify the Lord. Blaise Pascal, a Frenchman (1623-1662) who invented the first mechanical calculator, the syringe and the hydraulic press, and discovered many important principles of physics and mathematics, was a devout Christian who wrote this prayer: “Almighty God, who gave your servant Blaise Pascal a great Intellect, that he might explore the mysteries of your creation, and who kindled in his heart a love for you and a devotion to your service: Mercifully give us your servants, according to our various callings, gifts of excellence in body, mind, and will, and the grace to use them diligently and to your glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.”

Modern technology is good and useful when it glorifies the Lord. And this is especially so when it helps to promote the work of God’s kingdom on earth, e.g. in missions, biblical archaeology, and Bible study. The ease of travel and communications which we enjoy today have facilitated the sending and supporting of missionaries.

Perhaps the most important invention that has facilitated the Lord’s work on earth is the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450. One of the first books to be printed was the Bible. Everyone can now easily own a personal copy of God’s Holy Word and distribute copies of it to others. We can also have access to good Christian literature and articles through the printed page. And now technology has also made it possible to have all that without having to buy shelves of voluminous books – simply by having an electronic library and access to Christian websites.

Technology must never replace God as the object of our trust. Psalm 20:7 brings this out very well: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” Chariots were one of the proud accomplishments of ancient technology. As no weapon was regarded in ancient wars to be more formidable than a chariot, many kings and generals put their fullest trust in chariots to guarantee their victory.

But there were at least two instances when chariots proved to be useless. When Pharaoh tried to pursue Israel with 600 chariots, he was defeated by the descending waters of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:23-25). And when Sisera led his forces of 900 iron chariots against Israel in the Kishon valley, he was defeated by an untimely rain and flood. In both of these instances, Israel’s trust in the Lord proved to be the source of their victory over their superior technologically-equipped enemies.

Therefore, we must be careful not to have misplaced trust. Our trust should always be placed in God who will never fail us. Technology has been known to fail countless times because of human mistakes, and often with devastating effect. The Bhopal disaster of 1984 resulted in over 15,000 deaths from methyl isocyanate poisoning. The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 brought about a massive nuclear meltdown and hazardous exposure of thousands in Russia to radioactivity. The Fukushima disaster in 2011 resulted in over 1,300 deaths related to the nuclear power plant.

Modern man mistakenly thinks that he does not need God anymore because he has now achieved a relatively high measure of security in life through technology. The fact is that technology is not worthy of our trust because it is imperfect, and will always remain imperfect as long as man is imperfect. There are also definite limitations to what technology can do, and we must not be held spellbound by the illusion of omnipotence that it sometimes gives. God alone has unlimited power.

Thus, when we are faced with any problem in life, it is most important that we seek the Lord’s help first, above any available technological solutions, which are often very costly. It is true that the Lord may choose to use technology to deliver us, just as He used the Ark to deliver Noah. But without God, all the technology in the world cannot help us at all.

And let us be careful not to become addicted to technology, filling our lives with the latest gadgets and gizmos that open up new experiences and possibilities for us. One of the disadvantages of living in a high-tech age is to get so carried away with constant exploring of all the wonderful things one can do with the latest upgrades, apps and inventions on the market that we have no time left for the things of God.

It is ironical that despite all the wonderful time-saving devices of our present age that are supposed to free us for more important things in life, people are spending less and less time with their families and friends, and have no time for God. We are tempted to think: “Since I have already spent so much money on this gadget, I must get my money’s worth out of it by using it and exploiting it fully.” By doing this we unwittingly become slaves to technology.

One social critic observed that we are trapped in a “Technologically Intoxicated Zone.” He says that people today are “softened by the comforts technology brings to our lives, fascinated by its gadgetry, reliant on its constant companionship, addicted to its steady delivery of entertainment, and seduced by its promises.” (John Naisbitt, High Tech High Touch).

We should always remember that modern technology is a good servant, but a terrible master. Let us therefore make good use of technology as a tool for God’s glory, and not let it use us and distract us away from God. Take careful heed to Colossians 3:1,2 – “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

Rev Charles Seet
Life B-P Church Weekly, 9 June 2019

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