Series - Tech

Technology & Ministry: Benefits, Drawbacks, and Dangers

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In our previous installment, we saw that human culture and technology are a necessary part of the creation mandate and as such should not be viewed as necessary or intrinsic evils. Moreover, we argued that religion is part of human culture, and it will, therefore, employ some of the tools of culture. But before we suggest some ways in which we can use modern technologies to advance the Great Commission, I’d like briefly to highlight the tension that exists between the benefits, tradeoffs, and dangers of technology. We’ve noted that human technology brings with it certain benefits or, to use a biblical term, “blessings.” Nevertheless, over and against those benefits and blessings, we need to be aware of the resultant tradeoffs as well as the potential dangers that new technologies introduce.

Lessons from the Industrial Revolution

The industrial revolution brought with it many benefits. Various kinds of manufactured goods become more available and affordable. Many of the things produced by factories facilitated the services of other vocations and even occasioned the need for new vocations. As a result, many new jobs were created and people employed.

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A Biblical Theology of Human Culture & Technology, Part 2

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What biblical reality do we need to add to creation and the fall in order to cultivate a more balanced view of human culture? What part of the biblical picture do the “counter-cultural” only Christians often miss?

Culture, Technology, and Common Grace

The simple answer is “grace.” According to the Bible, God does not completely abandon mankind in his sinful state, but he shows kindness or grace. To be more specific, God bestows two kinds of grace: common grace and saving grace.

I think we’re all pretty familiar with God’s saving grace, which enables us to turn from our sin and trust in Jesus—the grace by which God endows us with every spiritual blessing in Christ and secures for us an eternal inheritance. But sometimes we lose sight of God’s common grace. What is “common grace” from a biblical point of view? Like the word “culture,” the phrase “common grace” doesn’t appear in the Bible. But the concept of common grace does. Common grace refers to God’s blessings on the human race that fall short of salvation from sin. Theologians usually classify these blessings as follows:6

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A Biblical Theology of Human Culture & Technology, Part 1

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Since culture and technology describe what humans made in God’s image do and make, it shouldn’t surprise us that the Bible has something to say about them. And I believe it would be useful for us to develop a biblical and theological framework for human culture and technology before we attempt to relate them to church ministry.1 As we look at the biblical data, what we discover is that the Bible portrays human culture and its corollary human technology as good, as bad, and as both good and bad.

Culture and technology as “good”

We’re first introduced to human culture and, by way of implication, to technology in the creation account of Genesis one. Here we learn not only the origin but also the nature of human culture and technology.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:26-28).

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The Cutting Edge: Technology & Church Ministry

All churches employ forms of modern technology to assist them in the tasks of outreach, discipleship, community, and worship. This raises the question as to whether the Bible provides the church with any guidelines or principles for choosing and using appropriate forms of technology in carrying out her Great Commission. I believe it does. One key text in this regard actually comes from the Old Testament. I’m thinking of Ecclesiastes 10:10, where we read, “Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed” (Eccl 10:10, NLT).1

Keep the Edge Sharp

An axe is a product of human technology, designed to assist man in subduing the earth. The implication of this text is that people should not only employ the right technology in carrying out their particular cultural task; people should also keep such technology well-honed and up-to-date in order to increase their productivity and likelihood of success. With a touch of humor, Douglas Wilson remarks,

We see in this proverb a little Solomonic understatement. That boy is trying to chop down a tree with a baseball bat. If a man stopped to sharpen the ax, he would get through the cord of wood a little faster. If he undertook a little maintenance, the car would run longer.2

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