Just over ten years before this writing, the iPhone was announced to the world. No one knew at the time what such technology meant. It all seemed a little silly to me. I remember some of the reviews of the original iPhone. “It doesn’t show much promise.” “I don’t understand why tapping on a screen is enticing.” “I already have an iPod, why do I need music on my phone?” And now.
Our phones are changing everything about how the world works, how culture is created, how we function, and hauntingly, how we worship. Some of us are keenly aware of these changes, while others of us have been completely swept by the undercurrent of the digital age, “and if we don’t know how to swim, we shall be carried by it” (19). In 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, Tony Reinke masterfully helps us get out of the water, not because the water is bad (see pages 30-36), but because he doesn’t want us to drown or become lost at sea.
Reinke’s work is organized in chiastic structure (simply remarkable!) to present to the reader these twelve ways in which the smartphone has negatively shaped and is shaping who we are. Its cautions are warranted and grim, but this book is not only critical. As each chapter shows how these principles can undermine our spiritual health, each also works to commend a life discipline that needs to be preserved for our spiritual health. As an example, Reinke argues that “Our phones undermine key literary skills (Chapter 4) and, because of our lack of discipline, make it increasingly difficult for us to identify meaning (Chapter 9)” (189). The solution to these problems are that “We treasure the gift of literacy (Chapter 4) and prioritize God’s Word (Chapter 9)” (190). Compellingly, the middle chapters 6-7 “frame our identity and define our purpose of earth: love God (Chapter 6) and love your neighbor (Chapter 7)” (190).
So, how does texting and driving directly violate a fundamental command of God? How could technological advancement possibly make our world both more connected and more isolated at the same time? How does FOMO directly mirror the events of the Garden of Eden? All of these questions and more, Reinke answers with theological clarity, researched precision, and gracious caution.
If you want to know whether or not a book is good, ask yourself at the end of it if you walked away from it truly changed. Not changed in the sense of just learning some new facts, but did this book actually reorient your actions, change your thinking, and so forth? For me, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You hit me like a ton of bricks. Reinke’s haymakers scattered throughout the book were clear indications of the Holy Spirit using his words to communicate important truths for my desperately smartphoned heart.
I’ve walked away from this book dangerously aware of how powerful this rounded rectangle is. Reinke has labored hard to help me (and you) discover how this phone and other technology can become a tool for the glory of Christ. It won’t be easy. It may cause you to make some adjustments, some simple and some radical. But what does it profit a man to gain the whole of his smartphone and lose his soul?
This book is easily one of the best of this year. Everyone can benefit from its wisdom, and it is packaged in a manner that is simple to understand and apply to our lives. I’m grateful for Tony’s work on this project, and you won’t be sorry for picking up a copy for you, and some others for your friends.