It’s no longer news that we live in a digital age – the Information era. Smartphone, tablet, browser, are some of our regular terminologies. In fact, we can hardly live five minutes without having to interact with some form of electronic or digital technology. And this digital space keeps evolving and expanding. From Cloud computing, we advanced to Big Data, and we now speak of “the Internet of Things” (IoT). Technology has transformed almost every aspect of our lives: how we read, educate ourselves, commute from one place to another, and even how we work. Every sphere of life and society feels the force of this mighty river.
All these innovations and developments in digital technology could not have come about without the efforts of a lot of creative minds: gifted people who are continually thinking of how to make an existing device or technology better. And a lot of Christians are likewise called by God to work in this exciting but challenging sphere of creation. So, it is right to ponder: How do I, as a believer, navigate it? How can I glorify God within the digital world?
I have a few suggestions.
Beware of Technicism
Over the past few years, many Christians have railed against the growth of modern technology. Many have taken a stance of condemnation and have perceived the growth in digital communication as a strategy that will unleash the Antichrist. Therefore, they argue, we should do away with modern technology. While this wholesale condemnation of the digital world is, I believe, both misguided and impractical, it raises a real concern which everyone who desires to glorify God should seriously consider.
In their amazing book Transforming Vision, Brian J. Walsh and J. Richard Middleton identify technicism as one of the ‘idols’ of the modern secular world. And by this term they mean the overwhelming trust in technology to solve all human problems. It is the confidence that technology will make us ‘omnipotent’ (all-powerful), which also involves the notion that technological development will somehow usher us into a secular paradise.
The root problem of humanity is her separation from God, which is called sin. It is foolish to think technology will give humanity a new nature or will answer all the needs and desires of the human person. Facebook will not meet all our social needs, and neither will smartphones solve our hunger for communication. We are vastly more complex than that. Technology is a good gift from God; it can never replace Him.
The dazzling tools and ‘solutions’ which the growth in technology has made possible makes us very prone to forget one vital aspect of reality: people. We can become so buried in computer applications, ‘social’ media, and video games, that we forget to pay attention to the person sitting (or standing) beside us. Facebook, Twitter, the iPad, and all other icons of the digital space are of no use without humans. They all exist for people.
God created the world, which includes the world of the microchip and data, and he placed humanity as his steward to nourish and oversee it. We must not become so absorbed in devices that we forget the people for whom they were made.
Strive for excellence
God values skill and he cherishes excellence. When God was to set up the tabernacle during the wilderness journey of the ancient Jews, he chose a gifted artist to design it.
Hear his words:
The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. (Exodus 31:1-5)
It is a mistake to think that shoddy work satisfies God. Will the one who designed and created such an amazing universe desire something less of his creatures? The words of the apostle Paul in Colossians 3:23 remind us that every work we perform is a service unto God, and therefore we should offer the best. The world of information technology is not an exception. Whether it is in app development, data management, or social media, God calls us to excellence. We have his example and his instruction to motivate us. In addition, we have been given his Spirit to guide and empower us. He can teach us how to glorify God in the digital world.