What are the “pros and cons” of technology for the church? Dr. John Fesko discusses how technology can both help and distract us in our walk with God. A lightly edited transcript is found below.
What are the pros and cons of technology for the church? I think technology is a fantastic God-given gift that he has blessed us with. There’s a sense in which we can say that all of the things that we make, the various technological advances that we have—whether it’s video cameras, whether it’s iPhones, whether it’s tablets, whether it’s computers, whatever the case may be—those are things that we create and, in a sense, analogously create as God has created. God created us and the world around us, and he gave us imaginations, he gave us intelligence. He gave us abilities to be able to create and in that way echo the brilliance, the imagination, and the creativity of our maker.
So I don’t want to denigrate the importance of the technological advances that we have. On that note, I think one of my most useful devices is my smartphone. It’s a moving classroom for me where I can pop a lecture in, and I can listen to it while I’m in the car. Or I can punch in an address, and it can get me safely to a location that I’ve never been to before. I have a copy of the Scriptures on there. I’m able to text my wife. There are so many benefits to my phone.
But on the other hand we should ask ourselves: What is it that this technology is doing to us? One of the things that C.S. Lewis said is that for every technological advancement that we make, we become stronger in certain areas, but in other areas we become weaker. So for example, it’s a blessing that I can carry a copy of the Scriptures on my phone in my back pocket. But on the other hand, am I tempted to not memorize God’s Word because I have it so conveniently and readily available? So much so that I cease to write the Word of God upon the walls of my heart? Because I think, “Well, I have it here in my hand. What need do I have to carry it in my heart?” In the end, we want to make sure that it’s us who uses the technology, rather than that the technology is using us.
Or for example we think, “Hey, I’ve got access to this screen, and I’m going to watch a movie, I’m going to text my friends, I’m going to surf the Internet, I’m going to email someone, and I’m also going to read God’s Word.” What does it say when we are reading God’s Word—which is ultimately a sacred book, something that is holy, something that is supposed to be set apart—and it is something that we read in the same place that we watch movies? Are they questionable movies? Are they edifying movies? It’s something where we text someone. Are we always texting someone something that is edifying? Maybe it is, but on the other hand as you pick up that phone and you go to read God’s Word, are you expecting a text to come through, and does that break your concentration? Are you thinking that maybe you need to get out on social media because you forgot to put something on your Facebook account? And those things end up distracting us from God’s Word.
Using Technology Wisely
So I don’t want to say that having God’s Word on your smartphone is a bad thing, but we should always use technology in a critical manner. In other words, try to determine: What are the benefits, what are the inherent weaknesses in the technology, and what steps can I take before I use this thoughtlessly? Because in the end, we want to make sure that it’s us who uses the technology, rather than that the technology is using us.