Technology’s Temptation: Double and Dangerous
I’m a geek and I love gadgets and gizmos. I work in the online world. Cutting edge technologies form the tools of my trade. Frequently I’m required to know what’s the current “latest and greatest” and what may be the impact of next week’s. With that in mind, I’ve had to spend time reflecting on whether technology was serving as a way for me to glorify God, or whether it had actually become my god.
Tim Challies works through this issue in his book The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion. And he makes a very important distinction. Compared with other idols, technology has a greater idolatrous potential. Not only can it become an idol in and of itself, it can also serve as an enabler of other idols. It may be a subtle distinction, but it means technology is doubly potent for the idol factory that is our heart.
Technology as an Idol
Tim Challies demonstrates how technology—not just iPhones but all technological advances—can push their way in to replace God:
“[Technology] certainly delivers on its promise, allowing us to live longer and cleaner and healthier and more comfortable lives. But because it is so effective in meeting our needs, it can easily begin to replace the one true God. We begin to think that it is the doctor or surgeon who heals us rather than the God who gives men wisdom to understand the inner workings of the human body. We begin to think that it is the mobile phone company that provides us with the blessing of communication rather than God’s grace enabling families to stay in touch over long distances. We easily assume that technology has the power to grant us the benefits we desire, and we forget the Author of technology and the true purpose of our technologies—bringing glory to him. Technology becomes an idol when we start to believe that humanity’s hope, humanity’s future, will be found in more and better technology. It becomes an idol when we place greater hope in technology than in God and when we measure human progress, not by the state of our hearts, but by new innovations in technology…We can make an idol of technology as we flip through the weekly advertisements, looking for something, anything, that will make our lives just a little bit better and fill the void in our hearts. ” — Tim Challies
Technology as an Enabler of Idols
Technology’s temptation doesn’t end there. Technology’s temptation is double as it can be further perverted to enable other idols to flourish in our hearts. Challies continues:
“Technology becomes a tool of our existing idols. The man who makes sex into an idol, who is consumed by lust and who has no greater loyalty than following his sexual impulses, will use technology to enable and enhance his idolatry. His computer can certainly be used for many good and godly purposes, but instead it becomes a tool in the service of the idol that controls him, furthering his bondage, increasing the power of that idol through the viewing of pornography or the pursuit of illicit relationships. His cell phone, useful for communicating with loved ones, now becomes another conduit for a furtive glimpse at the pornography that fuels his lustful desire. His television, a possible means of education and relaxation, now becomes just another platform for perversion to enter his eyes and his soul. It is no coincidence that the explosive availability of pornography has happened alongside—and, more accurately, through—the digital explosion. The woman who makes an idol of the love of money can now use her computer and her connection to the Internet to engage in online gambling, winning hundreds but losing thousands. She will use it to spend the money she makes and to fritter away the money she can’t afford to be without…Yes, technology can be an idol in our hearts, one of the ways we replace God. But far more commonly, digital technology is a means to further the power of other idols.” — Tim Challies
Our Response to Technology’s Temptation
After reading all of this, you may be feeling the pull to simply run away and avoid technology all together. Despite that not actually being a realistic option, Tim Challies argues convincingly in The Next Story that it’s also not the most biblical response. Instead, we’re “to carefully evaluate it, redeem it, and ensure that we are using it with the right motives and for the right goals.” It’s also important to remember that it’s not enough to remove an idol. We must replace it with affection for the One True and Living God.
As you join me in repenting of the idolatry in your life, rejoice and hope in God and the gospel. Finding complete satisfaction in Jesus will leave no room for technology’s temptation to bloom.