|Craig Parshall, General Counsel|
June 29, 2011
When I read the comment in the October issue of Wired magazine last fall, I was so astonished that I had to read it again. It reaffirmed my suspicion that there is a quiet, almost invisible revolution going relatively unnoticed in our culture. It is in ideas and worldviews, and the effect new communications technology is having on the way an entire generation sees truth and reality.
In the Wired article, Kevin Kelly, a new-technology author and journalist, said he’s “come to see technology…as a different source for understanding where we are in the cosmos. I think technology is something that can give meaning to our lives, particularly in a secular world.”
For Kelly and many like him, technologies like the Internet, iPhone, and “cloud computing” have not merely created functional utility and convenience, but have also provided a reason to live, and a definition of “where we are in the cosmos.” This is a stunningly troublesome admission. If we are alone in the universe – no God, no ultimate truth – then how can flying faster through a meaningless universe or communicating instantaneously with others about things that don’t matter give any real meaning to our lives? When Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press (a historic innovation not unlike the Internet) and made the Gutenberg Bible available to the masses in 1455, it was the Scriptures – not the movable type, levers, or screws – that imparted truth and meaning to the world.
Kelly’s reference to “a secular world” is the giveaway. Absent the ultimate and objective truth that God exists and has communicated His Word to us, we are, sadly, left to worship innovation rather than the Master Innovator. There is a lesson in that as old as Genesis.
There also is a problem with the new-technologists’ novel view of “reality.” Said Kelly, “We should think of ideas as connections, in our brains and among people. Ideas aren’t self-contained things; they’re more like ecologies and networks. They travel in clusters.” Kelly and other tech-gurus are beginning to argue the case for viewing our minds, values, and ideas as purely digital impulses on a computer model or as postings on a social network. But this position introduces a problem many of us saw with the rise of video games and cyber communications: a subtle drift away from the real “stuff” of the world designed by a personal, Creator-God.
We live in a universe created by a sovereign Lord, where violation of His rules has genuine and serious consequences. When ideas are no longer anchored in the belief that objective truth exists, we have no reason to seek God’s truth or His reality because any transitory, subjective “truth” or “reality” will do – even one based on computer chips and wireless networks. Take the recent film The Social Network. In attempting to spotlight those individuals most responsible for developing Facebook and the concept of “friending” people worldwide via a cyber network, the film actually highlighted technology innovators who were socially dysfunctional and morally empty.
The point here is not to flee technology, denounce it, or fear it, but rather to use it as a tool the way the Gutenberg printing press was used. We also must recognize that the next generation – weaned on Twitter, texting, and the Internet – will be running the engines of our Republic one day. The Church has a great educational and evangelistic task ahead if we are to ensure that America will be guided by eternal, rather than ephemeral, values.
John Witherspoon was an American Founding Father, Christian pastor, and educator who spiritually mentored three Supreme Court Justices, a President, and 77 members of America’s early Congress. “If the Scripture is true,” said Witherspoon, “the discoveries of reason cannot be contrary to it; and therefore, it has nothing to fear from that quarter.”
An updated version would be, “If Scripture is true, the innovations of new technology can never replace it; and we have nothing to fear from it.”
This article was originally published in the January/February 2011 issue of Israel My Glory magazine. Copyright 2011 by The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.