To an older generation, technology is threatening. Age brings with it the selective memory which recalls how good things were in the past. All change is viewed with suspicion and its value minimized. When the automobile was first introduced, men predicted its demise and stated emphatically that it would never replace trains as a means of transportation. Thomas Watson the CEO of IBM said, in 1943, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
Technology itself is not evil; it is neutral. In reality, every “invention” is really only men discovering the principles which God placed in His creation. He intended men to use the intelligence and the creativity (part of our being in the likeness of God) to actually discover these principles and to use them in subduing the earth and as stewards of the creation. Johannes Keppler, the great scientist, described science as “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”
But human depravity will turn every good to ill, and every discovery to selfish ends. The ills of technology are many. It would be easy to rail against the wasted time of E-mail, the Internet, Facebook, and Twitter; but these are not the greatest issues which confront us in bearing testimony for God.
Of greater importance is that there is an entire generation raised on instant information and answers. The discipline to study the Word of God is not being developed. Answers and information in small bytes and short attention spans are fallouts of the technologic age as well. But perhaps one of the greatest ills is that we have moved from a text-based society to an image-based society. Many younger people no longer read books or text, but look at images, screens, and entertaining forms of “learning.” God has chosen to reveal His truth in words: “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14). “Not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth” (1 Cor 2:13). The gospel of God was not meant to be preached through drama, puppets, or movies. It is not an interactive format but a declarative and authoritative presentation.
The danger here is greater than we can calculate. Gospel preaching is now faced with the added barrier of not only the natural heart of man, the attraction of the world, and the opposition of Satan, but minds that have been trained to listen for three to five minutes and then move on to something else. We are preaching to a generation which is accustomed to being entertained and not preached at.
But hurdles continue even after Generation X is saved. The teaching of God’s Word is meant to be done with authority. Men marveled that the Lord Jesus taught as One having authority (Matt 7:29). Interactive Internet sites make everyone an instant expert and free to give an opinion on a subject, regardless of credentials or training. Authority no longer rests in the Word of God but in my subjective feeling about what I think it may mean or should mean.
The jury may be out on the impact of technology on relationships, but the needle seems to be moving more toward the negative than the positive pole. Superficial interaction is the norm. Face to face interaction is minimized. Even in the mundane round of life, we no longer interact with people paying bills, shopping, or investigating issues. We now do it through the Internet. You don’t give out tracts that way. But before we condemn all technology, remember that air-conditioners virtually neutralized the value of open-air gospel work in big cities; yet few of us want to return to those “good old days” prior to air-conditioners.
Anything good about technology? Absolutely. Communication is enhanced and has the potential to rapidly disseminate information to other believers either within a local assembly or to larger numbers. It can be an invaluable tool for making sure that everyone in the assembly (with access to the Internet) is kept informed and avoids an “inner circle” and “fringe” mentality.
Being able to rapidly and efficiently send words of encouragement to others in trial, keeping in touch with gospel contacts, encouraging younger believers – these and a myriad of other uses reflect the value of technology. Link with this the utility of web sites for believers and for assemblies to make themselves known in communities. Many neighbors will not venture into a hall to find out who we are, but may log on to a web site to investigate. Ministry is available for believers who are “shut-ins” and cannot get to meetings. Even assembly magazines can be viewed on-line and searched for relevant topics.
Technology is neutral. Yet it behooves us to be aware of the potential problems it has introduced and the corresponding value when used properly.