Voices

Me, myself, and iPhone

Technology can be an instrument for gratitude or for idolatry

Issue: "NextGen worship," July 26, 2008

Ten years ago a few visionaries were predicting the era of "ubiquitous" computing, when all kinds of appliances would contain computerized links to the rest of the world. Now it is upon us, in the form of cell phones.

A capable cell phone today has more computing power than the computer that took the Apollo astronauts to the moon. It gives instant access not only to your friends' voices but to all the information on the internet. Are you keeping up or falling behind in the race for the latest electronic fashions?

Science and technology get a lot of attention because of the new gadgets they spin out. I love science, because it displays God's wisdom (Proverbs 8:22-31). I love technology, because it shows what great gifts God has given to us, and what great human capacity God has given us to exercise dominion (Genesis 1:28-30). But I see hopes placed in science and technology that they cannot fulfill. Science, it is said, will solve the problems of world hunger. It will bring world peace. And more and better technology will solve the problems introduced by lesser technology.

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Well, sometimes; and in some ways. Maybe science will find an efficient way to harness nuclear fusion to produce clean power-or maybe not. But we can be awash in technology and still be hate-filled or lonely. You can have 200 friends on Facebook and have no one who really knows you, no one who loves you.

Sometimes science only increases the problem. If, instead of seeing the wisdom of God in it, you listen to the propaganda of scientism, it will solemnly assure you that you inhabit a faceless, lonely, materialistic universe that is heading only toward ultimate death. And the gadgets of technology become Band-Aids to cover spiritual wounds and empty hearts. One more electronic game or one more DVD movie or one more pop song holds back the slide into boredom and depression. We search for one entertainment after another to keep back the dread of facing the hollow inside.

God will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7). If you sow a "me"-centered life, you will reap a harvest of emptiness. If you hope in the human wisdom of science, it will fail. Knowledge it may offer, by the truckload. But when such knowledge is detached from the God who gave it, it cannot give you wisdom to know yourself or to know God. The technology in which you hoped will mock you and testify to your ingratitude to God.

We have lost our way. Christ answers, "I am the way" (John 14:6). The world is founded on Christ, by whom all things were created, in whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17). From Him we can have eternal life in fellowship with God: "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die" (John 11:25-26). His power, manifest in His resurrection, is the foundation for all science and technology. The Bible says that Christ "upholds the universe by the word of His power" (Hebrews 1:3). His upholding sustains the regularities on which science and technology constantly depend. His wisdom is behind the knowledge and beauty in science. What is most astounding is that you can know Him personally, and have your rebellion healed. And then you will know that He, the King of the universe, loves you and understands you. If you are grateful to Him, you will have science and technology in perspective.

-Vern S. Poythress is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, where he has taught for 30 years

Vern S. Poythress
Vern S. Poythress

Vern is professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

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