Yes, the robots are coming.
They’re coming to push us.
They’re coming to challenge us.
And they’re coming to take many of our jobs.
Technology of all sorts are at this very moment in the process of radically transforming our culture and civilization.
So what are we to do?
What are we to think?
What are Christians to say in response to these threats?
Here’s one suggestion:
Thank God that the robots are coming.
Thank God that technology is pushing and challenging us.
And thank God that even now profound tech-fueled changes to culture and civilization are unfolding all around us, no matter mow much we may wish to pretend that it isn’t real, that it’s no big deal, or that it doesn’t really matter ’cause Christians will be raptured outta here anyway just before the battalions of cybernetic Arnold Schwarzenegger clones inevitably arrive to pillage, destroy, and enslave those who are “Left Behind“.
Culture-wrecking eschatology aside, there’s a whole lot to be thankful for here (including another opportunity to mock and dismiss bad eschatology).
The tools and technologies that God has given us are on the verge of propelling civilization forward at a rate and in a manner previously reserved for sci-fi novels and Star Wars flicks, but it’s not just robots that we’re talking about here. It’s 3D printers and what comes after 3D printers. It’s flying cars and what comes after flying cars. It’s the radical decentralization of media, industry, agriculture, art, information and production…all through God’s provision of technology.
Last week in Preparing For Terminator, Part 1: Identifying Our God-Given Talents In An Age Of Radical Change, we covered this glorious emerging reality in some detail. [It is strongly encouraged that you read Part 1 (by clicking here) before continuing on here if you haven’t already.]
In this installment the hope is to (as mentioned last week): “Explore some core attributes unique to image-bearers of God and how we can practically polish them up and cultivate their fruit in a manner that will not only have us not fearing technology and the future, but will instead inspire us to be thankful and excited for the amazing, incredible adventure that God has charted for His people at this remarkable point in His creation of History.”
That sign-off from last week gave away the key component that we’ll be building on this time around, that being our status as image-bearers of God.
Consider the following oft-repeated, well-known, yet incredibly underappreciated foundational statements made in Scripture:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
~ Genesis 1:27
…then the Lord God formed the man of just from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
~ Genesis 2:7
In these two passages we are given, among a great many other truly awesome bits of information, two fundamental (and awe-inspiring) facts:
- Man was made in God’s image. This is, as Scripture goes on to make plain, a unique attribute of man in God’s creation. The profundity of this attribute of man is quite literally impossible to overstate, as it is directly linked to God Himself.
- Man was brought to life through God’s provision of “the breath of life”.
These are what’s known in deep theological terms as “Biggies”.
As such, we’ll be coming back to them again and again as we attempt to better understand humanity’s proper relationship with technology.
Before moving further, let’s add the following bit of clarification where man’s basic purpose and mission are concerned:
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
~ Genesis 1:28
This “dominion” idea is also a Biggie. The exploration, management, and cultivation of God’s creation has always been what man was made for. Where Adam failed miserably in that mission, Christ succeeded and is in the process of enabling His Bride to succeed with Him, all by His grace, all for His glory, and both at a level and on a scale that Adam could have scarcely have imagined, much less accomplished.
Obviously, there are many ways in which these fundamental truths apply to all of humanity. Whether any particular individual has been supernaturally regenerated and raised to true life by the grace of God or whether they’re still in rebellion against the Him, they are all His image-bearers, and that status as image-bearer brings with it much in the way of unique beauty, significance, and responsibility. That said, our purpose here is not to focus on the universal human application of certain principles as much as it is to focus on how Christians – the supernaturally saved and equipped subset of humanity chosen and equipped by God to advance His Kingdom on His earth in accordance with His Gospel-fueled Great Commission – are to understand their God-given nature and purpose as it relates to technology.
While an examination of universal human application where the image-bearer concept is concerned is no doubt a subject of great intrigue and value (and one we hoipe to dive deeper into in subsequent posts), the purpose here and now is to focus on Christians – God’s chosen and supernaturally saved people. To that end, let’s add to our list of attributes the following awe-simspiringly supercool gems:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you…”
~ Jesus (in John 14:15-17)
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
~ John 14:26
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
~ Acts 2:38
God lives within us.
Let it sink in.
The Holy Spirit really, truly, and actually lives within each and every one of those who have been supernaturally saved by the grace of God.
This is not metaphor.
This is not fantasy.
This is reality.
God actually lives within His physical people on His physical earth, calling and equipping them by His grace to be His faithful image-bearers on His earth so that His will might be done on earth as it is in heaven and that His Great Commission mandate to make disciples of all the nations will be accomplished.
Even pre-fall Adam and Eve sis not have this; they did not have God literally living within them.
This is, in modern American-speak, “yuge”.
This is also a core, fixed, and infinitely encouraging distinction between each and every Christian and any tool that any man may ever make – including the most man-like of machines.
The basic distinction of being an image-bearer of God uniquely raised to life by God applies to all people, and, as we’ve mentioned, carries with it many fundamentally profound and unbridgeable gaps between all of mankind and any machine or technological creation that ever comes to exist, but for Christians with the literal Spirit of God literally living within them, there is infinitely more to appreciate and enjoy.
In light of this reality – the fact of God literally living within and guiding His people – we should have no trouble seeing and understanding the significant limitations that will always exist where non-humans are concerned in God’s physical cosmos. While the secular materialist believes that everything that comprises man can be somehow physically represented or quantified, and therefore potentially replicated or preserved (and even improved upon), this simply is not the case.
The breath of life cannot be replicated.
The Spirit of God cannot be replicated.
It cannot be stored.
It cannot be quantified.
Much better put, He cannot be stored and He cannot be quantified.
He is God.
And He is within His people.
Now get this:
He has also commanded and equipped His people with certain attributes of His nature as His image-bearers so that they are naturally inclined and able to explore, manage, and cultivate His creation.
This gets back to that dominion thing, which is, as we have already covered, A Biggie.
We are here to make tools.
We are here to use tools.
We are here to explore, adventure, manage, and cultivate, all by God’s grace, all for His glory, and all to our eternally increasing joy and benefit.
So robots are good.
The more work we can train them to do, the better.
The more time they spend mining, washing, dusting, lifting, moving, and any number of other dangerous and/or basic essential activities, the more time that we will have to…
Farm out our responsibilities and slack off?
If that was your first thought in that thread, shame on you.
Repent because one of the important and purposeful challenges that our God-given ability to create and use increasingly complex tools to accomplish increasingly amazing things is that of our being forced to use more and more free time wisely.
The fact that we may soon not have to do nearly as much washing, drying, folding, mowing, painting, lifting, vacuuming, and weed eating is not a bad thing. It’s a good one.
We only make it bad if and when we take what we’ve been given (free time) and use it poorly.
So the goal of time-liberating technology is not to shift 100% of our “working time” into the leisure category.
The goal (and great God-given beauty) of tech-enabled time liberation is for Spirit-filled image-bearers of God to have more time to be the creative, thoughtful, ever-adventuring, ever-cultivating, Kingdom-advancing agents of Christ-centered dominion that He’s made them to be.
But the prevailing “Christian” view in America and the West these days doesn’t tend to see these things this way. Instead of hope, excitement, opportunity and thankfulness over technological advance, the typical American Christian worldview is instead dominated by a schizophrenic sort of combination of apathy, fear, laziness and dread, with a heaping helping of, “Who cares anyway, aren’t we all just gonna be raptured outta here anyway?”
This prevailing pessimistic counterfeit gospel and worldview has led us to where we are today, with pagans and non-believers of all stripes being used by God to spearhead and develop most of the greatest technological changes and tool creation that His people will ultimately use (and are using now) to advance His Kingdom.
In other words, even while we are unfaithful in our pursuit of His Great Commission, He remains true to the cause and will use every tool at His disposal in order to perfectly bring about His plans on His schedule. And yes, in case you’re wondering, this means that Apple, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Amazon.com and every other tech-advancing corporation is, ultimately, His property to use as He sees fit…and that’s exactly what He’s doing, so no worries.
Now back to us: His people both now and in the future.
What do we do with this scenario?
How should we approach technology in light of God’s perfect Word and Gospel-fueled Great Commission?
There’s far to much of an answer there to cover here, of course, but here are a few basic intro points and ideas:
- As unique image-bearers of God with His Spirit literally living within us, we are to guide the cultivation and use of tools in a manner consistent with His Nature as revealed in His Word. This means that we have to be a people of prayer and of reading. We are to be an articulate people capable of contemplating any and all subjects more and more accurately as we grow by grace in true knowledge and then articulating the truths that we learn as we grow, cultivate, adventure and explore His nature throughout His creation.While our articulation of what we learn will often be in a non-linguistic form (we may create a new tool or work of art as an expression of our increased understanding of Him), we must all aspire to know His Nature as revealed in His Word.This means we have to be readers of the Word.Our being readers of the Word then allows us to be students of the Word.Our being students of the Word then allows us to be disciples of the Word.
Our being disciples of the Word then allows us to be disciple-makers in accordance with the Gospel-fueled Great Commission.
So this reading/writing/articulating thing is another Biggie. It’s central to our mission, purpose, and even our identity as image-bearers of God
As such, we have to cultivate our unique ability to know the mind of God as revealed in His Word through His Spirit within us.
Before we can “take every technological thought (and thereby every technological pursuit) captive to Christ” in accordance with His Word (see: 2 Corinthians 10:5), we have to know what His Word is in ever-increasing detail. The more truly and accurately we know His Word in detail, the more truly, accurately, and productively we will cultivate and manage His creation.
So Step One here is definitely Know The Word.
And remember: This is something that no machine can do. No matter how complex, how humanlike or how measurably, materialistically “brilliant” any machine might ever be, it cannot even begin to do what we’ve been made, commanded, and equipped to do by God in leading and managing the exploration, understanding, and cultivation of His creation.
- If Step One is Know The Word, then step two is Apply the Word.We must strive to learn more and more about God’s Nature by diving deeper and deeper into His Word, using what we learn one day to propel us forward into the adventure that faces us on the following day. If we really, truly believe that His Word is sufficient for every good work that can be done in His creation (2 Timothy 3:16-17), then we will live like it, and when we live like it we will find this simple yet infinitely deep truth to be confirmed again and again as we advance through the stages, eras, epochs, and ages to come.The Spirit of God will always be faithful.
He will always guide His people to tackle any task that He’s purposefully placed before them, including the introduction of radical new technologies and the changes they bring along with them.
As God’s people, we are to test all things, including the creation, production, and use of new technologies.
We as Christians should be modeling for to a watching world an approach to technology that is always seeking to know and serve God through the constant reformation and improvement of all things, including tools and technologies.
When a new technology comes along and it inspires fear in many because of its revolutionary nature, Christians should be the first to inspire calm, gratitude, and even excitement at the new leap that God has provided so long as the technology in question is used within Christ-honoring, Scripture-defined parameters.
We as Christians should be the first to enthusiastically celebrate when the liberation of time is allowed through tech advances so that we can then spend more of our time even more productively contemplating, exploring, and cultivating God’s creation. We should be models of vibrance and joy as we go about the business of this exploration and cultivation.
By asking basic biblical questions during both the contemplation and development of new tech, as well as the use and purpose of existing tech, we serve our Lord and one another well.
When a new life-extending technology emerges, we should be the first to contemplate simple but important questions inm light of the Word of God, rather than ignoring or fumbling them in light of the lazy, shallow, fearful and apathy-enabling attitudes that dominate modern American “Left Behind” Christianity.
If an organ or a joint can be replaced reliably in a manner that allows a person to have a better physical life for a longer period of time, is that a good thing, a bad thing, or no big thing at all?
Biblically, it’s a good thing.
It’s man serving man through technology.
It’s loving one another in a very practical way.
Yet many Christians act either as though the many life-extending gifts given by God over recent centuries are either no big deal or perhaps even bad in some fundamental sense.
How pathetic is that?
Now consider the next steps that are coming: Far more radical life-extending and life-improving techs are right around the proverbial corner.
In and of themselves, are these technologies not a blessing?
Are they not gifts?
Are they not good things made possible by God’s grace?
Is the fact that some (many, actually) will abuse these gifts and blessings in any way a sign that the advances themselves are evil?
Of course not.
Sin is evil.
Sin is corruption – the corruption and self-centered, Christ-dismissing use of anything in His creation (be it a physical tool or an immaterial tool like math, law, or economics).
We as Christians cannot allow the abuse of blessings to paint the blessings themselves as something other than blessinghs.
We are the ones who should know this better than anyone.
We are the ones who’ve been called and equipped to take every technological thought, pursuit and action completely captive to Christ, so when we deal with tech-related questions or concepts, we must be the ones modeling the use of Scripture as the lens by which we test, understand, pursue, and celebrate God’s gift of technology as unfurled throughout His creation over time by His Spirit-filled people.
With knowing and applying the Word in place as steps one and two, I would like to offer one suggestion as a way that most, if not all, of God’s people can and will be equipped and able to use the tools of technology in a powerfully Kingdom-building manner. This suggestion is directly related to the idea of articulation addressed earlier.
The basic idea is this: Every Christian, as they are able, should strive to articulate and share their unique, individual understanding of God’s creation with others.
And remember this (I mean really remember it!): This mission of effectively articulating in some recorded and sharable form one’s understanding of particular subjects is in no way contingent upon their being a great communicator.
You don’t need to be a great writer or speaker.
You don’t even need to be a good writer or speaker.
You don’t even need to be a mediocre writer or speaker.
All you need is a God-given passion.
A God-given interest.
Do you have one of those?
Do you really like something?
Do you like hunting?
Politics, economics or law?
Lighting, coloring or comic books?
Well, if so, congratulations!
You have the first and most important piece to use in accordance with steps one and two mentioned above.
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I say all of that to say this: If you as a Spirit-filled, Kingdom-building New Creature in Christ have a healthy passion for a good thing that God has provided and you are learning more and more about what that thing is in light of Scripture where the rubber meets the road here in the real world, then you have something very important and valuable to share.
It doesn’t matter how simple or limited your understanding at the moment.
It doesn’t matter how weak your communication skills are…for now. (The more you communicate, the better you will become at communicating.)
You have enough to work with.
You have a great launch pad and it’s time to launch.
So start recording.
Or speak into a mic or a camera or an iPhone.
Start articulating thoughts.
Start contemplating new thoughts in light of those first thoughts.
Share the process with others, be they your family, close friends, or the whole world through a blog.
Explore your passions in light of Scripture, testing always by that light and reforming as you go, while sharing with others and encouraging them to do the same.
With the Internet, PCs, smartphones, and all manner of cutting edge tech at our fingertips, the potential to connect with, encourage, and inspire one another as believers has never been greater. Same goes for our opportunity to impact a watching world by modeling the Gospel-fueled Great Commission in all of its victorious, tech-celebrating, tech-using, tech-advancing glory.
God has given each of us healthy passions.
God has given each of us specific talents.
God has given us tools…as well as the passion and talent to make better tools…and better ones after that…and so on…and on…throughout eternity, all by His grace, all for His glory, and all to our ever-increasing benefit and joy.
[Note: While I’d hoped to have this Part 2 installment up on Monday, the past week at work has been the busiest I’ve experienced in years (I’ve barely seen my wonderful wife and adorable little kiddos this week), so I’ve been unable to get around to it ’til now. Thank you for your patience, grace and interest in these things!]
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