God’s gift of technology

By Gerry Straker, 06 Apr 2020

God’s gift of technology

Technology is everywhere; it is utterly inescapable. I am writing this on my desktop computer with a bluetooth keyboard on a desk I put together made by Ikea, under electric light, in a house with a roof, and I am suspended 2 and a half metres from the ground (also known as on the first floor). You are reading this and that means you have the internet (and probably electric light and all those other things too). You might have good and right concerns about technology, but you are, indisputably, a user.

But the Bible doesn’t talk about smartphones, spin driers or space travel. So what are we to make of technology? Theologian Cornelius Van Til wrote this: ‘The Bible is thought of as authoritative on everything of which it speaks. Moreover, it speaks of everything.’ Van Til meant the Bible speaks of everything by implication, and, therefore, has authority over everything. As we’ve said before at Church by the Bay, we must have the Word interpreting the world, rather than the world interpreting the Word. God has spoken to us, His Word is in our hands. It has 1250 pages, give or take, and yet it speaks of everything. So the Bible does, in fact, talk about smartphones, spin driers and space travel.

So much so, that we can say that the Bible is, from one angle, the story of technology for the glory of God!

Let’s see how that works…

1. Built-in potentiality

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…and it was very good (Genesis 1:1, 31 NIV 1984), but it wasn’t finished. Certainly creating from nothing was finished; God rested on the 7th day – ‘he rested from all the work of creating he had done.’ (Genesis 2:3 NIV 1984, my italics). But not all the forming, filling and lighting of creation is complete.

That’s because God invited man to work on Project Earth. Adam and Eve are to start in the garden, working it and caring for it (Genesis 2:15), but they are also commanded to ‘be fruitful, increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.’ (Genesis 1:28) – to form, fill and light the world, as creatures in his image bringing him glory. God invites people to work on Project Earth.

Adam was to turn the world into one huge Eden. The rivers flow out to the rest of the world and Eden was the spring of the world – the starting point. But Eden-ifying the world, didn’t just mean turning the world into a garden. There’s gold in the ground (2:11) and it’s in Havilah – and that’s outside the garden. The implication here is that Adam is to go and get that gold outside the garden and use it. All the gems and everything else he finds in the earth he is to use to work on Project Earth.

Later on, in Deuteronomy, the promised land is described as: ‘A land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.’ (Deuteronomy 8:9 NIV 1984). God gave people gold, aromatic resin, onyx and a whole host of raw materials for people to use to build. Project Earth is using the resources that God has built in, to become builders ourselves.

Unlike a lot of manmade technology which has planned obsolescence so it will degrade over time (just ask an iPhone user!), God’s creation has built in potentiality, exuberantly bursting with development potential: an earth untamed, untilled, and untapped.

Tony Reinke in his excellent book, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, defines technology as ‘the reordering of raw materials for human purposes,’ and that is what chefs, carpenters, chemists, musicians, novelists, and publishers are all doing: reordering raw materials for human purposes,[1] and this ought to be for the glory of God!

2. Cracked Screens

But, the created turned against the Creator, grasped at future gifts, and rejected the Giver. Sin means that people are no longer mirrors of God’s glory. Instead we are cracked screens, poor reflectors of God. Humanity has lost connection with our Server.

And that means the technologies that man discovers and finds are not used for God’s glory. Babel (Genesis 11), that mud tower, is the classic example of the city of man; a city where men are gods embarrassingly seeking their own glory, devoted to godless human progress.

The problem is not technology. It’s our very own operating system, or in the Bible’s terminology: our hearts. Even unbelievers know this: the problem with the internet, is not the internet, but people. Journalist John Naughton (not a Christian) makes this point in A Brief History of the Future where he says: . ‘Like all powerful technologies, it [the internet] has immense capacity for both good and evil.’[2] He says that because he knows what people are like. And so the problems that technology brings with it are not new problems. People have always liked to think they are gods, masters of their mini universe.

And it was an abuse of technology - ironically carpentry - which built the cross of our Lord Jesus. And yet ‘technology, even in the hands of the most evil intention of man, is never outside the overruling plan of God. Calvary was hacked.’[3] And it was through the cross that Jesus restored our connection.

3. Restored Connection

Christ Jesus brings Project Earth back on track. He brings us back to God, so that we who are being recreated in his image (Colossians 3:10) might bring him glory in our work (1 Corinthians 10:31), and in using technology today.

Technology is a gift from God to help us live in this fallen creation: think medicine, weedkiller and midwives. Just think for a moment about your Bible, the give or take 1250 pages, that speak of everything. What technologies brought that to your hands? We are to thank God and bring him glory as we use technology.

John Piper says this, in his introduction to Tony Reinke’s book: ‘Smartphones are dangerous, like marriage and music and fine cuisine – or anything else that can become an idol. They are also very useful, like guns and razor blades and medicinal cannabis – or lots of other things that can ruin your life.’[4]

A gift that can become an idol. A useful gift that can be worse than useless - it can destroy you. But technologies are gifts to be used! And the question for each of us is this: will we use technology to bring glory to God or to sin against him?

Here’s John Piper again: ‘If you rejoice in the hope of the glory of God because your sins are forgiven through Jesus, then your smartphone becomes a friendly pack mule on the way to heaven. Mules are not kept for their good looks. They just get the job done. The job is not to impress anybody. The job is to make much of Christ and love people. That is why we were created. So don’t waste your life grooming your mule. Make him bear the weight of a thousand works of love. Make him tread the heights with you in the mountains of worship.’[5]

In other words: make the most of the good a technology can bring. We have a commander; he is the giver of technologies, and so commandeer technology for his purposes.

4. Ultimate upgrade

When Jesus returns, we’re not going back to Eden, we’re going forward to Eden fulfilled. All along, God planned the technologically advanced golden garden city that he reveals to us in Revelation 21-22, and the blueprints were buried in Eden.[6] We live in the middle of the technological development between the garden and the garden-city when Jesus will complete Project Earth!

And so, technology points up; thank God for the gift. Technology points forward; to the ultimate upgrade of the people of God and the whole creation (Romans 8:19-23; Colossians 1:20).

Using Technology

And so, as a church experiencing lockdown, praise God for the internet! The internet that means we can sort-of-gather-together on a Sunday morning and a Wednesday evening! And we can be thinking: how best can we use the internet for flourishing as a Church? As a Christian? How can you use the gift he has given you for the glory of God and the good of his people?

Of course, we would rather meet face to face! Just like the writers of the New Testament: ‘But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you.’ (1 Thessalonians 2:17 NIV 1984. See also: 1 Thessalonians 3:6; Philippians 2:28; 2 John 2:12; 3 John 14). But while we can’t do that, we want to make the most of what we can do.

[1] Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2017), 31.
[2] John Naughton. A Brief History of the Future, (London: Phoenix, 2000), 45.
[3] Reinke, 12 Ways, 35.
[4] Reinke, 12 Ways, 11.
[5] Reinke, 12 Ways, 13.
[6] See Reinke, 29-30.

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