Friday, October 13, 2006

The Double-Edged Sword of Technology

This week on our pastors’ retreat we studied a portion of David Wells’ book Above All Earthly Powers. In the first chapter, he describes the two-edged sword of technology that has made possible incredible advances and opportunities, and how it has “now become a profoundly psychological reality.” I found his observations intriguing. It is not just a physical conquest of nature--technology crowds in on, shapes, and influences our mental and emotional state. He writes,

The benefits of technology all come packaged in values—values which are naturalistic and materialistic. These fill the air, quite literally, all the time. We find no solitude. We have no escape. The experience of this new culture is intense and intrusive in ways that older cultures never were.

He goes on to describe how technology tends to push us to only think about means, how to do things better and faster:

And everything in life is then evaluated by this same standard: what is done better and faster must be right. This leads, for example, to books on spirituality that read like the owner’s manual for operating a machine, replete with steps, easy-to-follow directions, and practical “how-to-do-it” formulae. In so reducing the greatness of God and of his truth to formulae and rational steps, this mindset makes of Christian faith a small, this-worldly, manageable formula for success which, in the end, comes to differ every little from all the of the other small, manageable formulae for success of the secular therapeutic kind which are also on the market.” (Pages 35- 36)

I’d never really contemplated how the advances of technology can shape my view of other parts of my life--particularly faith. But what Wells describes here is very true, and it might explain why the church today often chases down the latest spiritual fad with the same zeal that consumers run after the newest cell phone or iPod. We want “new” in every other part of life, so why not faith?

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