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« What Makes Us Happy? | Home | Technology and Theology: Positive Examples »

Technology and Theology: Your Ideas

By Mark D. Roberts | Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I have been asked to write an article on technology and theology for Outcomes, a magazine for leaders published by the Christian Leadership Alliance.

The timing of this request seems to be providential. The cover of this week’s Time Magazine features an iPhone that features a tweet (a Twitter entry). That tweet proclaims: “I’ve written this week’s TIME cover story about how Twitter is changing the way we live–and showing us the future of innovation. Buy a copy!”

The iPhone is making its own news today, not only as a platform for Twitter. Apple announced the released of the iPhone 3GS for 3GSpeed. Now the wildly popular iPhone will process information even more rapidly, as well as offering improved photography and video capabilities.

And so it goes, day after day after day. Like it or not, technology is changing the way we live.

So how should we think about this from a theological perspective? Is technological development good, evil, or a mix of the two? How can we know?

A few weeks ago Time included a story on the use of Twitter in church.  Increasing numbers of churches are encouraging worshipers to twitter during church. Congregational tweets are projected on a screen during the service. How should we evaluate this from a biblical perspective?

(A note on Twitter vocabulary.”Twitter” is the name of the whole deal.  You’ll often see the participle “Twittering,” which implies that “to Twitter” [or lower case, “twitter”] is the verb that describes one who uses Twitter to post information online. A “tweet” is a Twitter post. You’ll also see the verb “to tweet” as in “to put up a Twitter post.” Right now there seems to be a battle between the verbs “to twitter” and “to tweet” for the best verb to use for Twittering. One of Twitter’s founders said that “to twitter” was better because it was clearer in meaning.)

In the days to come, I’ll share with you some of my thoughts about technology and theology. I will not put up my article for Outcomes, since that needs to be a previously unpublished piece. But I will let you in on some of my musings.

At this point, however, I’m interested in your musings. How should we think theologically about technology? Given that the Bible doesn’t have much to say about Twitter, or the Internet, or computers, or transistors, or electricity, or, well, you get the point, what biblical themes might be relevant to our use of technology?

As always, I’m encouraging you to contribute your thoughts by way of adding comments to my blog. If you prefer, you can email me. Let me know what you think about technology and theology.

Topics: Technology |

10 Responses to “Technology and Theology: Your Ideas”

  1. Thomas Buck Says:
    June 9th, 2009 at 2:16 am

    What’s a tweet? Seriously.



  2. Evan Says:
    June 9th, 2009 at 5:49 am

    The mind boggles at encouraging thumb activity during a church service.

    I waggled my thumbs and said, “I am texting ‘Good Morning’ to you” to a teenager who was thumbing away during the congregational greeting time. We may not use ‘a holy kiss’ any longer, but at least we still speak to each other.

    I have also known folks who would have LOVED to have their comments projected on a screen during the service, ESPECIALLY during the sermon. Pastors have enough trouble dealing with difficult folks without the added excitement of snarky remarks as they preach– so I guess the remarks are moderated? Another fertile ground for complaint.

    The focus in church should be on the Lord. All electronic implements should be put away. If folks texting in a movie theater is forbidden due to the distraction, how much more so when the message being communicated is NOT from Will Ferrell? :)

  3. Mark D. Roberts Says:
    June 9th, 2009 at 7:15 am

    Thomas: I added a paragraph on Twitter language above, thanks to your question. Here it is: A note on Twitter vocabulary.”Twitter” is the name of the whole deal. You’ll often see the participle “Twittering,” which implies that “to Twitter” [or lower case, “twitter”] is the verb that describes one who uses Twitter to post information online. A “tweet” is a Twitter post. You’ll also see the verb “to tweet” as in “to put up a Twitter post.” Right now there seems to be a battle between the verbs “to twitter” and “to tweet” for the best verb to use for Twittering. One of Twitter’s founders said that “to twitter” was better because it was clearer in meaning.

  4. Bill Goff Says:
    June 9th, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Oh, the wonders of modern information technology! Just think what Jesus could have done with Power Point or what Paul could have accomplished with e-mail.
    There is a wonderful couplet in Russian that is a bit hard to translate. It relies on the following phrases: “goose pen” means “quill” and “eternal pen” means “fountain pen”. It also helps to know that Alexander Pushkin is the greatest of all Russian poets, revered and memorized by all Russians.
    Here is my translation:
    “Pushkin wrote with a goose pen eternal ideas.
    We write with an eternal pen goosie ideas.”
    The Russian sounds like this:
    “Pushkin pesal gusieniem perom vechnie mieslie.
    Ah mie pishem vechniem perom gusinie mieslie.”
    I am not a Luddite. I use all the electronic communication devices that I can get my hands on, though I haven’t twittered yet. But I continue to believe that the best computer at our disposal is the one between our ears.

  5. ChrisB Says:
    June 9th, 2009 at 8:51 am

    The question of technology is just another form of the question of progress. Is progress, or technology, morally neutral? If no, what makes it immoral?

    If yes, can this morally neutral thing still have moral consequenes?

    Will this encourage good behavior (eg, charity, concern for my neighbor, seeking God) or bad behavior (eg, sloth, hedonism, theft, lust)? In the case of personal technology, is this designed to fulfill a real need or simply fuel consumerism?

    How will employing this new technology impact people (eg, losing jobs, lowering costs of essential items, creating support industries)?

    How do we weigh negative vs positive impacts?

  6. J. Falconer Says:
    June 9th, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Rev. M. Roberts & all, I’ts amazing with the modern technology. Atmiddle age I’m almost envious of all the past few generations-whizzes with all the gadgetry I don’t know if it’s lack of confidence, the budget, or the speed of modern life but I think I’m all left thumbs & no green thumbs in the garden .Ha! Thanks for sharing Nathan’s prowess with the more popular culture & computerized products & services. My group in public high school were kicked out all 4 years of school if we brought a calculator in class or on campus–only calculus classes were afforded the luxury of the calculator-no laptops, cell phones, backpacks, headsets, mp3’s & i pods. I wonder if the younger sets would be bored at school then!
    Thanks for the websites & readers support & feedback. j

  7. Thomas Buck Says:
    June 9th, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Re: #3

    Thanks, Doc!

    Kinda hard to imagine in our church. Except for the occasional random toddler or baby, you could hear a pin drop in our church when the sermon is being given.

    A couple of years ago one of our ministers was speaking and asked a rhetorical question. Some toddler in the back yells out, “Nooooooooo!”

    I love church!

    Thanks again for the info.


  8. Rick Says:
    June 11th, 2009 at 6:13 am

    Interesting that I had a talk with my adult son about the use of his cell phone last night. I notice that he has very little “quiet time” to think about how his life is going. Instead, it is all taken up by texting or talking on the cell phone. I challenged him to turn off the phone and let me have it for the rest of the night. The look of horror and anger on his face said a lot. After we talked more, he agreed and handed it to me.
    As someone who has worked in the computer industry since 1979, I have witnessed some amazingly rapid changes. I do not think technology in and of itself is bad. However, like most things, technology can certainly be abused to the point it becomes sinful.

  9. Jeremy Berg Says:
    June 12th, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Brian McCracken wrote an article for Relevant Magazine entitled “The Problem of Pride in the Age of Twitter” where he focuses on the slope toward growing narcissism/pride stemming from twitter:

    “We’ve become addicted to a strange sort of connectivity – a connectivity that maintains a comfortable balance between distance and proximity, anonymity and overexposure. We’ve become addicted to hyper-controlled, self-appointed ‘just how I like it’ communication. In this McDonald’s-meets-Macintosh world, we’re endowed with the ability to be even more self-obsessed than ever before. . . . Our lives have suddenly become much more dramatic, worthy of being ‘performed’ on a stage visible to millions.”

    I’m looking forward to your thoughts. Peace.

  10. Every Square Inch Says:
    June 14th, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Mark - thanks for your writeup. Wish I saw it earlier but as someone who loves both technology and theology, I find this stimulating. I think technology is a tool - it can be used for good or evil. Even when used with good intentions, the introduction of technology into our world can have unintended results - byproducts of our use of technology - some of these can be less than desirable.

    One example of how technology is used for the good of our mission is an initiative I launched over18 months ago. It’s called Gospel Translations Project. Our mission is to make gospel centered materials available for free in as many languages as possible, leveraging a network of volunteer translators. If you’re interested, please check it out at There’s a video that explains our vision and methods.

    Grace to you



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