Whether it’s a new app that’s taking the country by storm, a new must-have iPhone upgrade, or a new way to use virtual reality, technology is advancing at lightning speed.
As the use of digital devices increases, some Southern Baptist leaders are urging Christians to study the ways technology may shape them.
Jason ThackerThe Ethics of Technology Research Director and Research Chair at the Ethics and Religious Freedom Commission (ERLC) told Baptist Press that he believes technology is no longer just a tool we use, but is changing the way we see the world.
“Technology complexity, utility, growth and development often occurs on an exponential scale,” Thacker said. “That’s the nature of technology, and what we’re experiencing right now will only continue to increase in a sense. Technology isn’t going anywhere.
“If technology continues to advance, things will become faster, more complex and more connected. Digital devices are not just tools we use, they are tools that fundamentally change us.
“It’s shaping how we understand the nature of reality and truth, and how we connect in our relationships. In a way, technology is constraining us. I think people are starting to wake up and see that there’s something wrong with this.”
While working with the ERLC, Thacker led a research project for an entity called Digital Public Square. The project is focused on providing Southern Baptist churches with resources related to navigating a changing technological environment.
Particular attention is paid to issues related to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
He explained that the research is important to the Ministry of Health because technology affects all areas of life.
“Technology is not a separate set of issues that Christians have to solve or think about. It’s an element of all other issues related to the Christian life and Christian ethics,” Thacker said.
“Issues like marriage, sexuality, human dignity or justice are all affected by technology because we live in a digital society.”
In his book, “Following Jesus in the Digital Age,” published this year, Thacker encourages Christians to use technology in a more sacred way.
One of the main pieces of advice he shared was for Christians to take the time to decide how they would use technology in their lives and take steps to be a light in the digital space.
“The core of technology is to make things faster, but what we’re seeing in the wisdom literature is that we’re being asked to slow down,” Thacker said. “Wisdom doesn’t happen overnight. There are no apps. There are no switches.
“It’s important for Christians to think wisely and think deeply, and that will come from slowing down and asking big questions, how will that shape me, and how can I act wisely and seek to better follow Jesus .
“Christians need to understand culture for what it is, not what we want it to be. The digital society presents many unique challenges, but also many unique opportunities, and I believe that God calls us to step into these things and become The voice of hope, peace, and gospel transformation in our community.”
A Southern Baptist who tried to apply this wisdom in his own life was Jeff MingyRegional Strategist for SBC Southeastern Virginia.
What started as a doctoral research thesis for a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary turned into an introspection on the way he uses technology in his own life.
The main principle Mingee discovered is to apply the Bible to one’s use of technology, no matter how fast it evolves.
“It’s certainly dangerous for Christians to adopt technological advancements in a secular way with little or no consideration of whether it will glorify God,” Mingy said.
“We can’t predict how technological progress will affect us — how will the iPhone affect my life? I don’t know, and there’s no way to know. It’s a challenge for technological progress, and we can’t wait until we know if we’re going to adopt the outcome of it. …we either use it or not and navigate as we go.
“Christians need to apply 1 Corinthians 10:31 to our digital habits, whether we embrace technological advancements or avoid them.”
Mingee has compiled some of his thoughts and research related to technology use into a book titled “Digital Domination: Five Questions Christians Should Ask to Control Their Digital Devices.”
This book contains questions for Christians to examine the role of technology in their lives and to determine whether they are controlling technology or whether technology is controlling them.
“I’ve provided too much joy in life to waste my life staring at a rectangle that fits in my hand,” Mingji said. “You’re missing out on too much joy because you’re abusing your device.
“I think our digital devices can bring God-honoring joy to our lives, so I want to find ways to manage and use technology.”
(Editor’s note – Timothy Cox is a contributor to Baptist Press.)