These words on a recent Time Magazine cover are intended to unnerve us with the ominous future of a computer invasion. Technology is getting strapped around us and stuck on us, moving into our watches and our glasses. Technology is “attempting to colonize our bodies.”
Journalists Lev Grossman and Matt Vella explain in the article. “We’re used to technology being safely Other, but the Apple Watch wants to snuggle up and become part of your Self. The reality of living with an iPhone, or any smart, connected device, is that it makes reality feel just that little bit less real. One gets over-connected, to the point where the thoughts and opinions of distant anonymous strangers start to feel more urgent than those of your loved ones who are in the same room as you. One forgets how to be alone and undistracted.”
To never be alone and undistracted is especially alarming in light of the parable of the four soils. Jesus warned us of the spiritual hazards of distraction. Whether our concerns are in the next room or in the Syrian desert, life gets quickly crowded by cares, anxieties, desires, and distractions. The ephemeral chokes out the infinite (Mark [4:18]–19).
But your wrist doesn’t need to be cuffed to an Apple Watch to feel distractions colonizing your life. The average iPhone pings and push notifies our attention with every care of the world in real time. The latest news and chatter can rob our focus, knock our lives off center, and mute God in our lives.
To help find healthy balance with technology, I recently sat down with two seasoned fathers in the faith: David Wells and Arthur Hunt. Wells is the author of the new book God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-Love of God Reorients Our World (2014). Hunt is the author of the new book Surviving Technopolis: Essays on Finding Balance in Our New Man-Made Environments(2013).
Both men appreciate the benefits of digital communications technology. And both of their books attempt to help Christians think critically about the place of technology and distractions in our lives. I asked these men about the iPhone — the problems it introduces into our lives, the toll on the Christian soul it potentially causes, and the solutions for wise balance it forces us to envision.
Final Descent Into Technopolis
We begin at 40,000 feet. Man has a long history with technology, reaching back to simple things like shovels and spears. Historically, technology helps our lives achieve convenience and efficiency. But over time, technology moved outside the boundaries of problem solving.
“We have reached a period in which all forms of cultural life have surrendered to the sovereignty of Technology,” warns Arthur Hunt. “We are now under a Technopoly, which says absolutely nothing is going to stand in our way of technological progress. We put so much cultural stock in sort of headlong rush into the future without any cleartelos [goal]. The only real telos is it has got to be bigger, it has got to be faster, and it has got to be newer. Somebody might ask: Well, what is wrong with this? Well, it advances the notion that our purpose in life is to be a satisfied consumer of material goods. So the next big thing is not the coming of God’s kingdom, but the coming of the curved TV screen.”
In fact Christians do have a clear telos, says David Wells. “Our objective in life is to become God-centered in our thoughts, God-fearing in our hearts and God-honoring in all that we do. This is a society of distraction. If we allow it to overwhelm us and press us into its mold, will take time away from those things that are central: our focus upon the reality and the presence and the glory and the goodness and the greatness of God. So in that sense it becomes a real competitor.”
The aim of technology and the aim of the Christian life can easily run counter.
Written by Tony Reinke
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