It’s kind of strange that the first book I chose for this was an audiobook, so I cannot give the exact same impressions I would offer had I actually read it. But it was free on ChristianAudio.com for the month of May, and I wanted more time to read the other book I’m currently tackling. One of the great aspects of my job is the mass amount of time I get to spend on the road. I can listen to podcasts, sermons, music, and even entire books in one sitting. A whole 9+ hours passed as I made my way through this revealing and challenging work by Tim Challies.
If you never read this book the whole way through, but were to simply read the introduction, you would not be able to look at the technology we often take for granted the same way again. In his book “The Next Story- Life and faith after the digital explosion”, Tim Challies (timchallies.com) gives us an insightful and well thought out look at how we handle this common grace in our lives. He breaks the first half of the book down to three subjects (Theology/Theory/Experience) and unpacks each very well with some overlap, while the second half is filled with an excellent history of technology, followed by some challenging applications for all of us.
The theology of technology is very basic, as the development of technology is rooted in our God given ability and command to create. “Technology is the creative activity of using tools to shape God’s creation for practical purposes. God made us creative beings in His image and assigned to us a task that would require us to plumb the depths of that creativity.”
Though this does not go without saying that we are a fallen race, “even though we are in a fallen state before God, our God given ability to create remains intact.” While technology is not in and of itself evil, the things we create to master the curse can very well master us, since our hearts are, as John Calvin once said, “an idol factory.” But it is not the technology itself that is inherently sinful or idolatrous, but the human application that has the ability for evil use.
So we should not look at technology as an evil that should be shunned, but we must avoid the pitfall of approaching technology without adhering to the command to love God with our minds.
In the realm of “theory” and “experience”, we come to the question of the “why” of technology. If we were honest, most of us could not imagine life without a cell phone or a personal computer. But have we ever really thought deeply about how the new technology of our culture is so quickly and unquestionably adapted to the everyday life of the average consumer, without thinking about it’s inherent ideals and future ramifications?
“The ideals behind technology are usually only apparent after much time has passed… For Christians, we know that God is in control, but we are not to be ignorant of the ideas behind technology that shape the world around us.”
Challies begs the question, “Are we merely tools of our tools?”
There are great benefits to our modern devices, but in order to be smart with them, we need to look at the medium of the message they preach and the potential cost we will inevitably pay for adapting our lives to what’s new. “Many of the gadgets are made to drown out the noise of other gadgets…But it’s more noise!”
The automobile gave us a great means of transportation by paying the cost of mass pollution in our cities and the smart phone has given us the ability to multitask in our communications, but has forced us to pay dearly with many of our families and relationships.
“The medium is the real message.” The ideology behind the glam of a book, movie, or song is it’s real intended message. “We must look beyond what is obvious by evaluating our own lives by attempting to anticipate the consequences of adapting to new technology.”
Again, while technology is not bad in it’s own right, it is how we use it in our lives that can make it bad. Challies gives heart breaking examples of people addicted to Facebook (one girl says she opens up Facebook as a first priority in the morning, like a machine), and frankly this hits home for me (I can find myself wasting time being “social” in the cyber world). “Escape from this trap is not simply breaking an addiction, but a rewiring of the brain”, since we are living in an age where “the print has become supplanted by the digital”, and the way many do life now flows from this.
The second half of this book dives into great detail concerning the history of technology (from the printing press all the way to the iPad) and our applications of technology in everyday life.
They say you can learn a lot about the future when you dive into the past, and with a detailed look of how technology has shaped the peoples and generations before us, it is very interesting to see where we go from here. We are now entering an age where the elderly, who have lived outside the digital world, are passing away, while the next generation is growing in a time where some children don’t even have to learn how to write their own name since the keyboard has the ability to trump the pencil.
From here Challies gives us great insight (coming from a man whose whole livelihood is built by use of a computer) as to how we can bring all of this to practice and avoid the pitfalls that can come through abuse and misuse of our gadgets. He makes it clear that he cannot assume the same applications for everyone, since everyone lives in different circumstances, so he tries to remain general with the wisdom he imparts, which pertains to the more relevant aspects of modern life.
Dealing with the issues of “information overload (guilty again) and what solutions technology seeks to solve, he concludes, “If we can find the original purpose for a technology, we will not be surprised when we learn how it will soon begin to change and shape us.” Information overload may solve some problems, but can create others in the process. Smart phones can connect us from longer distances and help us get more work done, but they can also add more work and kill our immediate relationships. The question that needs to be asked is, “what is this doing to my heart.”
“With all these opportunities, all the freedom, we are so much more susceptible to slavery.” With the vast amounts of media and social networks at our fingertips, we must ask questions like:
-Where are we accountable in cyberspace?
-Why are we so drawn to the media?
For some, “What we haven’t shared with the world is like it wasn’t experienced at all.” So “finding our identity in information or being known is ultimately to our own demise,” for when quantity overwhelms quality we end up flat without substance and living in a fantasy land with weak relationships and a dangerous inability to sustain them. Real community cannot exist in cyberspace (I’m looking at you “online churches”)
Another great point he makes is that “once you understand that more information does not necessarily lead to a better life, you will want to begin to reduce the sources of input in your life.”
We need to war against distractions “so that we can relearn how to think so we can live deeply.” We were created to work, create, and innovate, and when our social networks/media control us, that quickly becomes obsolete and difficult to reconstruct in our lives.
Toward the end he enters the application points of how our technologies shape our culture and how it recognizes truth. With the rise of Wikipedia (where everyone’s editing ability counts as authoritative) and google searches (where the consensus determines what is most relevant and true), there is mass confusion as to how people know what truth is. It is very comforting that truth itself is personified eternally by our very Creator Jesus the Messiah (Savior).
He concludes by encouraging us to be wise with what we post online or how we represent ourselves in the cyber world, since everything is recorded and nothing is permanently deleted. It really makes you think about the cyber trail that you leave behind.
Upon listening to this book, I agree that “we find a tension between how we use technology, how we know it operates, and how God expects us to use technology.” We are called to use our minds and this has challenged me to further use it in the realm of life that is too often taken for granted.