Articles

Our Technology Can Glorify God. Here’s How.

07/17/20

Andrew McDiarmid

No corner of our lives has gone untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has changed the way we live, work, and interact with each other. It has also changed the ways we use technology. We’ve streamed more entertainment, conducted more online meetings and lessons, ordered more stuff online, used food delivery apps more often, and absorbed more news and information from digital sources than ever before.

Our screen time has skyrocketed. Our reliance on technology companies, under increasing scrutiny over the last few years, is back with a vengeance. The pandemic has given many tech companies a golden opportunity to solve our daily “pain points” and get us hooked on their products and services.

But although the digital world has brought us virtually closer to each other and given us unparalleled access to data, many of us remain isolated. Even before lockdowns to combat the virus, loneliness was reaching epidemic levels. Suicide in the U.S. has risen by more than 30% in the last two decades. During the pandemic, higher suicide rates and spikes in calls to suicide hotlines have been reported, and the long-term effects of the health crisis on mental health will take years to fully realize.

We’re basking in the glow of our technology and, in many cases, unhappier than ever before. As Christians, we want to be a witness for Christ and use the gifts God has given us to live purposeful lives and build his kingdom. But when our use of technology becomes automatic and unthinking, our health and wellbeing – as well as our ability to be His hands and feet – are at risk.

Technology is actually all about us, but not in the way we might think. In recent decades, we’ve gotten pretty good at being what the tech industry calls the end user, the person for whom a piece of technology is designed to be used. But being a user is passive and suggests things being done to us rather than doing things ourselves.

A quick look at the history of the word technology shows us we can play a much more active role when it comes to our tech. The word technology is defined as the sum of the ways in which social groups provide themselves with the material objects of their civilization. Where do these “material objects” come from? Let’s take a closer look.


Technology is actually all about us, but not in the way we might think. In recent decades, we’ve gotten pretty good at being what the tech industry calls the end user, the person for whom a piece of technology is designed to be used. But being a user is passive and suggests things being done to us rather than doing things ourselves.


The prefix techno comes from the Greek tekhne – “art, skill, craft in work, or a system of making or doing.” The deeper root here is teks, which literally means “to weave” or “fabricate.” In older languages, the root forms words like axe or hatchet or action words like carve, join, build, or unite. The teks root is where we get words in English like textile, tectonic, text, tiller, and even toil.

The heart of the word technology is the art and skill used to make or build objects useful for human living. The good news is that this art and skill doesn’t just refer to the original maker of a piece of technology. It also applies to those who use that technology as a tool in their own lives. Our technology can glorify God by reflecting his design, his love, and his purposes through what we do with it. Here’s how.

Before we can properly evaluate our tech, the first step is gauging our relationship with God. As James 4:8 reminds us, as we draw near to God by purifying our hearts of sin, He will draw near to us. In order to know how to use our tech wisely for His purposes, we must know His will for our lives. In order to do that, we need to be in communion with Him.

If you’re not sure about God’s plan for your life yet, take some time to work on this step first. Build fellowship with Him through daily prayer and bible study. Serve and interact with a local body of believers. Be zealous for God. As you work on this step, your relationship with the tech in your life may start to come into sharper focus. Most importantly, you’ll orient yourself with the Will of God, and you’ll be ready to more effectively evaluate the technology you use.

Next, take stock of the tech you already have in your life. Even though technology technically includes everything from pencils to jumbo jets, the focus here is on personal electronic tech – the gadgets, screens, and services we incorporate into our daily lives. It’s time to think critically about these items.


The lure of these systems can be strong. Who wouldn’t want an assistant to help with the busyness of life? Who wouldn’t want a voice at the ready to give us whatever information we ask for? We deserve a little help, don’t we?


Here are just a few questions to ask yourself about each tech tool you have. Is using this tool a wise use of my time? Does it encourage me to think for myself? Does it enable me to use my God-given abilities and spiritual gifts? Does it help me accomplish what God wants me to do? Does using this tech compromise my witness to others by causing me to stumble or get distracted? Does it dull my intellect? Is it making me lazy or entitled? Let’s look at an example of how one such tech gadget could get us off track.

Chances are you’ve dabbled with a digital assistant lately. Amazon has flooded the market with hardware connected to their popular AI-powered assistant Alexa. Or maybe you’ve fallen for Siri, Cortana, Watson, Bixby, or one of dozens of others.

The lure of these systems can be strong. Who wouldn’t want an assistant to help with the busyness of life? Who wouldn’t want a voice at the ready to give us whatever information we ask for? We deserve a little help, don’t we?

The problem is boundaries. Knowing where to draw the line between things you think through yourself and thinking you delegate to a computer can be difficult, and the more we utilize the service, the more we depend on it.

Research shows that we can improve mental processes and guard against age-related brain disease by stimulating our brains regularly through a variety of activities. Farming out our mental chores and questions to artificial intelligence can dull our mental acuity over time. We also grow entitled to instant information and lazy about looking for it ourselves.

It’s also problematic to trust Big Tech with your personal information quests. They do not have your best interests at heart and have been known to misuse your privacy and personal data for financial gain. Doing God’s work in your life requires diligence, persistence, and discernment, qualities that could be negatively affected by excessive use of a digital assistant.

After evaluating your current tech, you’ll be ready to apply that same critical thinking to technology you come across in the future. Tomorrow’s tech will continue to blur the line between human and machine.

It will take a trained mind to carefully think through your tech options and decide what to use and what to skip. Train yourself to look past the flashy advertising. Resist the fear of missing out. By all means use tech to help you accomplish your goals but set boundaries between you and your tech and stay in charge.

Humans are gifted with the basic ingredients for technology – brains and muscles – and we are capable of crafting and harnessing amazing tools. But with freedom comes responsibility. The titans of Silicon Valley are still wrestling with the responsibility of their creations.

And so should we. We’re not all inventors or entrepreneurs, but all of us are children of God bearing not only his image but his ability to create. Carefully choose the right tech tools to help you utilize the gifts He has given you and bring glory to His name.

 

Andrew McDiarmid is a media specialist at the Discovery Institute. He is author of the blog Authentic: Thinking and Thriving in the Digital Age. His writing on technology has appeared in San Francisco Chronicle, The Seattle Times, The Herald (UK), and Technoskeptic Magazine, among others.

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