Whether it’s a new app that wakes up the nation, a brand 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 examine ways technology can shape them.
Jason ThackerDirector of Research and Chair of Research and Technology Ethics for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), told the Baptist Press that he believes that technology is no longer just a tool that we use, but something that changes how we see the world.
“The complexity, usefulness, growth and development of technology often happens on an exponential scale,” Thacker said. “This is the nature of technology and what we are experiencing now will only continue to increase in some sense. Technology is not going anywhere.
“As technology advances, things become faster, more complex and more connected. Digital devices are not just a tool that we use, but it is a tool that radically changes us.
“It shapes how we understand the nature of reality and truth, as well as how we connect in relationships. In a way, technology disciplines us. I think people are starting to wake up and see that something is not is correct.
In his work with the ERLC, Thacker leads a research project for the entity called Digital Public Square. The project focuses on providing resources for Southern Baptist churches related to navigating the ever-changing technological landscape.
Specifically focused on issues related to free speech and religious freedom.
He explained that this research is important for the ministry because technology affects every area of life.
“Technology is not a separate set of issues that Christians need to address or think about. It is an element of all other issues related to the Christian life and Christian ethics,” said Thacker.
“Issues such as marriage, sexuality, human dignity or justice, they are all affected by technology because we live in a digital society.”
In his book “Following Jesus in a Digital Age,” released this year, Thacker encourages Christians to use technology in a more holy way.
One of the main pieces he shares is that Christians take their time to decide how to use technology in their lives, and take steps to be a light in the digital space.
“At the heart of technology is to do things faster, but what we’re seeing in the wisdom literature is that we’re being told to slow down,” Thacker said. “Wisdom is not gained overnight. There is no app for that. There is no on and off switch.
“It is important for Christians to think and think deeply, and that will come from extension and asking some of these big questions about how this is shaping me and how I can then walk with wisdom and seek to follow Jesus better.
“Christians must engage the culture as it is, not as we want it to be. A digital society comes with many unique challenges, but also many unique opportunities, and I believe that God is calling us to enter into these things and a voice of hope , peace and of gospel transformation to be in our communities.
One Southern Baptist who tries to apply this kind of wisdom in his own life is Jeff MingeeRegional Strategist for the Southeast Region of the SBC of Virginia.
What began as a doctoral research paper while a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary became a self-examination of how he uses technology in his own life.
The main principle that Mingee discovered is to apply the script to the use of technology, no matter how fast it advances.
“There is definitely a danger for Christians to adopt technological advances in a worldly way with little or no thought of giving that glory to God,” Mingee said.
“We can’t predict the effect of technological advances on us – what will be the shaping influence of the iPhone in my life? I have no idea and no way of knowing. That’s a challenge with technological advances is we can’t wait until we knowing the outcome whether we adopt it or not We either use it or not and navigate as we go.
“The need is for Christians to apply 1 Corinthians 10:31 to our digital habits, whether we adopt technological advances or abstain from them.”
Mingee used some of his thoughts and research related to technology in a book titled “Digital Dominion: Five Questions Christians Should Ask to Take Control of Their Digital Devices.”
The book includes questions for Christians to examine the role of technology in their lives and determine whether they control technology or are controlled by it.
“I have too much joy offered to me in life to waste my life looking at a rectangle that fits in my hand,” Mingee said. “There’s too much joy to miss out on because you misused your device.
“I think our digital devices can foster God-honoring joy in our lives, so I want to find ways to manage and use technology well.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Timothy Cockes is a Baptist Press staff writer.)