We are in the midst of a series called Connections & Affections, where we are spending some time examining how technology and relationships have collided, the problems we face in reconciling the two, and how we go make strides forward. Last week’s post introduced the problem: that we expect more from technology and less from each other. Siri has become a more trusted and faithful companion than a friend in small group or a co-worker. We would all agree that this is not right; something is broken here.
The Bible doesn’t contain a single instance of the words “technology,” “community,” or “relationship.” That would seem to make discerning a theological view of how these concepts intermingle challenging. Yet within the Scriptures, we have a whole host of Biblical principles which we can see apply directly to the conversation.
We were hard-wired with a need for community from creation. Most of us are familiar with the opening chapters of Genesis. God is a communal Trinity Himself. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are a unity of the Godhead, yet also exhibit relationship. As the Westminster Confession of Faith articulates, “The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.” This relational quality is the foundation on which God created man in His image (Gen. 1:26). Community itself was at the core of our creation. We see this further demonstrated when God saw the isolation of the first man, and said “Not good” (Gen. 2:18). After an exhaustive search of an adequate helper for Adam, God finally ushers Eve toward Adam, and he says, “At last!” (Gen. 2:22-23). The need for relationship, whether familial or marital or parental or friendly, is part of our very created nature.
Relationships have since been distorted severely by the Fall. When sin entered into the world, personal relationships were corrupted and distorted on a small scale and a large scale. We witness how sin seeps into family connections and distorts our personal relationships in Scripture, such as Cain and Abel (Gen. 4) Noah and Ham (Gen. 9), Jacob and Esau (Gen. 25) demonstrate. But this distortion affects our relationships on a global level as well. God flooded the earth because violence pitted man against one another (Gen. 6:11-13). Violence itself is an example of relationship gone wrong; for it takes two for violence to exist. The Tower of Babel (Gen. 11) is a prime example of the differentiation and scattering of humanity, creating real-life communication barriers of language and heritage and geography. The Fall touched every aspect of not only how we individually and globally relate to God, but how we relate to each other.
The advance of technology is an example of God’s common grace and yet is affected by the Fall. Some Christians view technology itself as a direct implication of the Fall. While it is certainly tainted by the effects of sin, technology itself is actually a good gift of common grace. We don’t see computers and video become popular in biblical times, but we do see technological advancement. The ability and intelligence that led to silversmiths and carpentry, for example, was a direct gift from God (Ex. 31:1-5).We see in the lives of men like Noah and Nehemiah that building, craftsmanship, and labor were intrinsically good things, though certainly susceptible to the stain of sin. A great example is Uzziah, a famous leader who developed engines (2 Chr. 26:15). The technology itself was a good thing, but it eventually in some ways fueled Uzziah’s pride and self-sovereignty, to his destruction ( 2 Chr. 26:16).
Not only is technological advancement “good,” but it can even be God-honoring when used rightly. When I read a verse like Matthew 24:14, that “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations,” I cannot help but see in that Jesus’s vision for a more technologically-advanced world; not only for the purpose of connecting people, but a way of building Christ’s church, and exalting Him among all nations. Yes, technology has the potential to ruin us, but it also has the potential to be a force for building God’s kingdom. I think about how the development of radio broadcasts brings preaching to the truck driver who misses Sunday services often. I think about cassette tapes being mailed across the world. I think about Secret Church’s ability to video stream sound biblical teaching globally. I think about podcasts that bring Christians up to speed quickly on cultural events. Blogs, tweets, daily Bible verse notifications, all working together to play a small part to proclaim the gospel throughout the world. Technology is not merely our worst enemy; it could be one of our greatest tools for spreading the gospel and glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
Technology was never meant to replace relationship. While technology is good, even God-honoring, it is still not a substitute for the hard-wired need for relationship we were created with. Any good gift can be distorted, and if technology minimizes or takes us away from relationship, we are on the wrong path. A great example is podcast preaching. Yes, I have the capability of accessing thousands of sermons at my fingertips from wherever I want whenever I want, but just because I can listen to Matt Chandler on Sunday mornings at 10AM in my bed doesn’t mean my local church responsibility is negligent. Podcast preaching should be an additive, not a replacement. Removing ourselves from the local church and from personal relationships on the basis of the features of technology is a misuse of God’s given gifts. Podcast preaching may bring us a good sermon, but doesn’t do a host of other things for our soul. Communion was never meant to be taken alone (Lk. 24:30; Rev. 19:17). Christian fellowship cannot exist in isolation (Acts 20:7). Christian perseverance is a communal endeavor (Heb. 10:24-25). In short, despite technology’s offerings, it must never supersede what community and relationships have to offer, and as long as it does, we will feel an emptiness.
Isolation is sinful. Scripture makes it clear that because of our need for community and our call to exist in and with the body of Christ, pursuing isolation is not only incorrect, but sinful. Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” God deems it unwise for a man to lean on himself and break away from community. “For the body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Cor. 12:14). In the last days of difficulty, the first thing Paul says is coming is that “people will be lovers of self” (2 Tim. 3:1-2), the antithesis of Jesus’s second greatest commandment (Lk. 10:27). It doesn’t matter how many Twitter followers or group messages we have going if we are not being intentional in relationship with God and others.