Six Core Convictions on Media and Technology

Occasionally I get asked to outline the basics of my understanding of technology and media and the Christian life — all topics of great interest to me. There’s much more to develop, and many questions remain for me that I have not figured out. But as best as I can put it right now, in a simplified form, put together this morning in a few free minutes, these are the six convictions for me when it comes to media, technology, and the Christian life.

(1) God is the Innovator, the fountain of every innovation and innovator. Steve Jobs was a sub-creator, and any digital device he envisioned manifests God’s glory in new ways to us all. Technology opens new avenue to see God’s brilliance as technology and media serve as a key source in this world to feed our awe and wonder.

(2) Most of our key innovators are non-Christians. The history of innovation in Scripture manifests a rebellious self-sufficiency from Babel to Babel-on. It will be through rebellious Cain’s linage God will introduce the world to metallurgy and music making (Gen. 4:21–22), innovations to later make Noah’s ark (metal tools) and temple worship (instruments). Innovation introduced to creation via fallen man produces technologies God’s people adopt and adapt in serving God and neighbors, vocationally and spiritually.

(3) Every human invention is made possible by existing natural resources and natural laws. Pre-ordained potentiality is the cause of every human innovation. One hundred lighting bolts hitting earth every second for millennia is the first cause of the digital age. Even our most advanced technologies (medicine, atomic energy) are in some way extracted from creation, the manifestation of potentialities God built inside creation.

(4) Having been the product of natural laws and natural resources, technology remains under the curse, expires, breaks, and fades away. But while operational, our best technologies steward creation, cultivate the earth, preserve nature, foster human community, augment (but not replace) human labor and fruitfulness, and fix broken biological processes.

(5) Scripture warns us explicitly against corrosive media (eye lust); and warns us equally in overindulging of non-sinful media (what the Psalmist calls “worthless things”). Even non-sinful media must be resisted through temperance and temporary fasts to give space for the soul to flourish in joy as it lives to God and neighbor.

(6) In a world of technological marvels and captivating media, Christians are left to discern beyond the potential and possible, to embrace the rare tech and media that can edify, a feedback loop of innovation and adoption (or temperance) that cannot be settled simply, cannot often get legislated, and will become increasingly personal and complexified in the near future.

What have I missed?

Jonathan Edwards on Twitter’s Purpose

Here’s a glimpse into Jonathan Edwards’s expectation for technological advance. Technology will offer us more contemplative margin in our lives. It will also empower communion among the global church as one large fellowship.

This is from miscellany 262, published in Edwards’s works, 13:369:

‘Tis probable that this world shall be more like heaven in the millennium [JE was postmil] in this respect, that contemplative and spiritual employments, and those things that more directly concern the mind and religion, will be more the saints’ ordinary business than now.

There will be so many contrivances and inventions to facilitate and expedite their necessary secular business, that they shall have more time for more noble exercises, and that they will have better contrivances for assisting one another through the whole earth, by a more expedite and easy and safe communication between distant regions than now.

The invention of the mariner’s compass is one thing by God discovered to the world for that end; and how exceedingly has that one thing enlarged and facilitated communication! And who can tell but that God will yet make it more perfect; so that there need not be such a tedious voyage in order to hear from the other hemisphere, and so the countries about the poles need no longer to lie hid to us, but the whole earth may be as one community, one body in Christ.

I love the idea of technology as things “by God discovered to the world.”

So what would Edwards say about Twitter? What would Edwards say about our technology and how it disburdens us for a life more consistent with the “undistracted life” of 1 Corinthians 7? How is his vision for global fellowship beginning to get realized through digital media? And what would Edwards say about the invasiveness and permutation of entertainment into every spare moment of our lives, which then squanders all the margin made techno-possible in the first place?

Do I Need My iPhone?


Smartphones and data plans are expensive, so do I really need them? Or can I get by without?

Since learning that I’ve paddled my way out into an oceanic book project about the smartphone, several people have asked me variations of these questions over the last few months.

Truth be told, I’m not yet working on implications, but I have started a list of questions to ask.

So do I really need a smartphone?

  1. What does my smartphone cost me per year in the price of the device, insurance protection, covers and cases, and of course the monthly service? Is it worth it?
  2. Do I need mobile web access to fulfill my calling in vocation or ministry? Do I need mobile web access to legitimately serve others?
  3. Do you travel a lot? I think people who do travel extensively will ever need a smartphone for work and for navigating. Are there other ways to navigate?
  4. If you use your smartphone to hold your shopping e-coupons, how much money would you save without a smartphone data plan?
  5. Can my web access wait? Is my need for smartphone functionality replaceable with structured time at a laptop or desktop computer?
  6. Can I get along with a dumbphone with calling and texting features?
  7. Can I get along with wifi and an iPod or tablet? What would I lose?
  8. Can I just as easily listen to audio and podcasts in other ways? Through an iPod for example.
  9. Am I simply addicted to my phone? If so, can the problem be solved with moderation, or do I need to just cut it off?
  10. Do I want my kids to see me gazing at a handheld screen so much as they grow up?

If you answer yes, and the smartphone is a necessity in your life, then think about certain ways that you limit your time. Have you considered:

  1. Turning off all non-essential push notifications.
  2. Getting accountability from others.
  3. Telling your kids and spouse and friends to watch how your phone prohibits life and interactions.
  4. Asking for feedback based on what they see you posting online.
  5. And consider deleting your most time wasting apps (social media, games, etc).

But the surface has only been scratched. We all use our phones in different ways and I presume there are many more questions to be asked. Here’s where I need your help (and everyone asking these questions needs your help).

Tell us in the comments:

(A) What questions you would add to this list about whether or not to ditch the smartphone?

(B) What other scenarios in life would make a smartphone and data plan essential?

(C) For those who do legitimately need a smartphone, what other safeguards would you suggest or have found to be helpful?

Thanks for your input!