with Cameron Hayner
Not a day goes by that we don’t use some form of technology. Technology’s influence on our lives stretches back thousands of years to the use of shovels and spears. Whether it’s as simple as a chair or as complex as the systems proposed with brain-computer interfaces, technology is all around. In the last decade or two, we have seen exponential growth in technological innovation. This has led to many asking fundamental questions about how we use technology and what kind of influence it has on our lives. Does the Bible really address these questions?
While a quick search in a concordance doesn’t yield words like ‘technology,’ ‘artificial intelligence,’ or ‘smartphones,’ Scripture does speak to how we are to live in this world in light of the message of salvation found in Christ Jesus. Technology has always posed difficult ethical and moral issues that are not directly addressed by Scripture. And as much as we want it to, the Bible does not explicitly address how to use or when to avoid certain pieces of technology. However, it does address the moral behavior of Christians in everyday life. The biblical approach to technology is not one of complete withdrawal nor unquestionable embrace.
Technology as a tool
In the opening chapters of Genesis, we read about how God created the entire world and called it good. On the sixth day, he created man and then pronounced creation “very good.” When God created humanity in his image, he established that work is good. In Genesis 2:15, he placed Adam in the garden “to work and keep it.” He gave Adam and Eve the ability to create and cultivate, differentiating them from the rest of creation.
While the fall altered the entire world and man’s relationship to God, it did not change the necessity for us to create in order to fulfill our responsibilities. Early technology was used to assist in this and was most likely in the form of tools used to cultivate the ground. Before the fall, these tools were used solely for our good and the glory of the Creator. Now, however, we often use the skills God has given us to do things that he despises.
Understanding technology as a tool helps us see the good and bad that can come from technology, as well as shows us the influence these tools have over our lives. In Exodus 31:1-11, for example, God described the wisdom and understanding he had given to skilled Israelite workers in order to construct the tent of meeting so that his people could come into his presence. Unfortunately, just a chapter later, we see what happens when these skills were applied for evil. The golden calf was built for the Israelites’ worship, revealing their hidden idolatries and lack of faith in God. The skills were the same, but the product was different.
Is technology morally neutral?
As technology grows increasingly more complex and powerful each day, it is natural to ask about the moral nature of it. We see technology used in horrific dehumanizing ways like the facial recognition AI systems being used to track and detain the Uyghur Muslims in China. We also see the power and influence that our smartphones have on our speech and how they have changed how we interact with one another each day. Are certain pieces of technology evil?
While technology does influence and change us over time, technology is a tool that God has given us to be used in ways that honor him and help us love our neighbor (Matt. 22:37-39). It’s true that certain pieces of technology are created for evil and can have an outsized influence on our lives. So is technology morally neutral? Yes and no. Technology is morally neutral in the sense that it will never have moral agency like that of a human being created in God’s image. We are moral agents and are accountable for our sins (Rom. 3:23), unlike our tools.
But that doesn’t mean that all technology should be adopted and used. Some forms of technology are indeed evil, because they can only be used for morally reprehensible purposes. Sex robots are one example. While these tools are morally neutral in the sense that they do not possess moral agency, they do have moral value, and we will be judged on how we wield them.
Technology does not dismiss God’s sovereign rule
In Proverbs 16:4, the message is simple: God is sovereign; we are not. Everything is prepared for his purposes. He in works providentially in a world that will eventually be glorified in the new earth. Even the wicked acts of men and women are under the sovereign rule of God, who does not fear or do evil, but defeated it by sending his own Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross and rise again. Because of this resurrection, we should not fear what is to come (2 Tim. 1:7). We know that God holds all things together.
Every one of us has benefitted from some sort of technology, and that should be no surprise. God has intended for technology to be in our world and gave us the ability to create tools that enable us to live out the greatest commandments (Matt. 22:34–40). The Bible never makes blanket statements on whether specific technologies are inherently good or bad, but it does hold Christians to a biblically-grounded morality and engagement with the world around us. We must think wisely about how we use these innovative tools. Ultimately, we will be accountable for how we all of what God has given us. Technology is a gift from him, brought about by his skilled image-bearers, and should be used to know him better, build up our neighbor, and glorify him above all.
Originally posted on ERLC.com