Technology and Our Relationship with God

Here’s a topic to consider–our relationship with technology and God. But first, let’s take a look at “the good, the bad, and the ugly” sides of technology (at least briefly for the purposes of this post). In an article titled, Technology: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” published on March 10, 2017, by Elyse Freeman, Content Specialist at PennaPowers.com, she states:

There are pros and cons to everything in life, but one of the most talked about is technology. Most likely because technology is constantly evolving, and in doing so it consumes us more and more. Every new advancement intrigues us just a little bit more, which can be seen as good or bad depending on the way you look at it.

No matter what your feelings are regarding technology, it’s easy to agree that it would be hard to live without if it suddenly disappeared. We rely on technology so much now-a-days for communication, work, education, dating, staying in touch, shopping and much more. So what does that say about us? It isn’t completely a bad thing, but it isn’t necessarily a good thing either. So here’s the good, bad and the ugly of technology and what it says about us.

Good:

Without a doubt, technology is definitely good for us in numerous ways. The use of computers and smartphones allows us to communicate with anyone, anywhere in the world, in seconds. Not to mention the fact that we don’t have to use paper maps anymore. You can type an address right into your phone and directions of how to get there immediately pop up right at your fingertips. If you don’t have time to run to the bank or the post office to pay a bill, no problem. Online banking allows you to pay bills, transfer money and even deposit checks now. Technology even provides education for people with the ability to complete college via online courses. The ability to find out family history and research ancestors is also a great resource technology allows us to use.

Using technology to teach others and spread positivity through acts such as, blogging, sharing quotes, motivational videos and more is also a great way to use technology. Pinterest and Facebook both provide inspiring and educational videos and photos for a number of things. A couple of the most popular and favorite ones are cooking and exercising videos and photos. However, you can find just about anything from home improvement projects, DIY projects, event planning, ‘how to’, fashion and much more online.

Bad:

According to CNN, Americans devote 10 hours a day to screen time. The more that technology evolves, the more addicted and reliant we become. While technology can be healthy and useful, we need to remember to use it in moderation. When is becomes valued as a necessity is when it becomes a problem. In today’s world, we hate to be bored. However, if you have a phone or a computer, you don’t have to worry about that, and that’s the problem. Any time we feel bored, what’s the first thing we do? Pull out our phone or computer and find something online to pass time. Instead of sitting in silence with our own thoughts or talking to someone next to us, we find more comfort in our devices. The things that draw us to our screen are anything from games, to social media, apps and even emails. There is always something new to see or learn online, whether that be a photo, video, article or something else, we don’t have to worry about missing out with our constant access to technology.

Ugly:

Although there are multiple ways that technology is good for us, there is also an ugly side to it. The truth is that not everyone who uses technology, uses it for the rights reasons. For example, instead of using the internet to learn, people use it to view or research inappropriate content. The fact that you can find anything on the internet, can be a good and a bad thing. When it comes to the bad things, people need to remember that just because it is available doesn’t mean you need to look at it or read about it. In addition to viewing inappropriate content, technology can also be used to threaten or bully others. With everyone using social media, it makes it almost impossible not to find someone online and reach out to them. While this can be a great way to stay in touch, not everyone uses it for that reason, causing the Internet to be a scary place for those who have been victims of bullying.

Technology has played a big role in our lives, and as it continues to evolve, it will only become more popular. So, it is your responsibility to stay up-to-date with technology and use it only for good. Technology is not the problem, how we use it is. The way we choose to use it and how often determines if it’s good or bad, and helpful or harmful. (Quote source here.)

Now that we’ve taken a brief look at the good/bad/ugly sides of technology, Dr. David Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and pastor of Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church, and author, has written a series of articles on the subject of technology and our relationship with God. The following it taken from a summary on the series of articles published in 2018 (with links to each article included below) by Dr. Murray in an article titled, appropriately, Technology and Our Relationship with God.” In this article Dr. Murray states the following:

How do we thrive in Digital Babylon? That’s a question I’ve been asking for a long time and which I’ve begun to answer over a number of posts (click on each title to go to that post):

In that last post I proposed that the ultimate answer to digital technology is digital theology. I argued that:

If we want a deep, lasting, and spiritual solution, we need to learn and teach deep, lasting, and spiritual truths. Digital theology is the answer to digital technology; the oldest truths are the best rebuttal to the newest challenges. More Trinity is more effective than more technology.

However, we need more than more theology. We can have all the theology in the world without a relationship with God. The end is not deeper theology but a deeper relationship with God. The deeper and healthier our relationship with God, the more that satisfying friendship and communion will replace technology in our lives and also regulate it so that our use of it is more balanced and beneficial.

I’ve written elsewhere about 18 Obstacles to Personal Devotions in a Digital Ageand also given 20 Tips for Personal Devotions in a Digital Age. But if you want just five tips that will give you the greatest return on investment it would be these:

1. Meet with God first and alone. Turn off your phone and avoid the computer before personal devotions. It’s absolutely vital that you meet with God before anyone else in the day. Keep your mind free of digital distractions.

2. Use a physical Bible. See Should I use a Phone for Personal Devotions for my argument against using digital devices for personal devotions. I would apply the same logic to using a paper Bible in Church too.

3. Use free moments to pray. Instead of reaching for your phone when at a traffic stop, in the bathroom, or in line, why not use these brief moments to pray.

4. Take a weekly digital Sabbath. Sunday is the ideal day to come apart from all the din and drama of the Internet and social media and set your mind and heart on things above. It will surprise you how little you miss, how little you are missed, and how much you will gain.

5. Memorize Scripture. Think how much Scripture you could memorize in a year if you even just halved the number of times you checked your email and social media.

Whatever ways help to deepen your relationship with God will also help to wean you off technology and help you use it in ways that glorify him.

Here’s a solemn message (YouTube video) that gets to the heart of this. (Quote source here.)

Since we are still in the first month of the new year, now is perhaps a good time to consider changing a few of our online habits, and even if you’re reading this at some other time during the year, any time is a good time to reconsider our propensity to be “joined at the hip” to our technology that, quite possibly, is interfering with our own personal relationship with God.

For those who might have struggles trying to disconnect more often from technology in their relationship with God, the following article from 2011 (a bit dated now but with some very good insights) might help. It is titled, Praying to God? There’s an App For That,” by Ashleigh Rainko, giving us a Millennial’s perspective at TNGG (The Next Great Generation):

Wait, you mean I have to physically attend Mass on Sunday?

We’re all looking for ways to cut on time, and lucky for us, the technological revolution is still going strong; more devices, mobile applications, e-books and the like are available to us in an expedient and ever-improving way that has simply never existed, especially in the Church.

From apps like iPieta to iRosary, conveniences such as these help us, a tech-savvy and efficiency-seeking generation, to remain faithful. Priests see congregates bring their iPhones into the confessional, for goodness sake–and not to check email!

Father Kevin Schroeder, 29-year-old associate pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Cottleville, Missouri, explains, “It’s not like, oh, this [phone] is here to amuse me, or I’m bored. It’s actually becoming a tool for people to pray.”

Jack McCarthy, a 23-year-old business consultant, remarks, “I tend to check verses, prayers and readings more often than I otherwise would [without an app].”

In order for apps and such progressive technology to truly affect one’s faithful lifestyle, a symbiotic relationship must exist between the Church, the individual and technology. If the congregates are embracing this resource to have a closer and more active relationship with God, isn’t it the Church’s responsibility to encourage it and make it a part of the practice?

“I have a paper version [of the Bible], but never read it,” says McCarthy. “I almost always use my phone – even in church, which has a partnership with the YouVersion app. The verses from the sermon automatically load when you type in a code, as well as summaries, discussion questions, and more.”

Yes, apps and such technology have the potential of keeping us faithful–and saving a few trees in the process–but more so, possibly enable us to re-connect with our faith.  With 26 percent of Millennials reporting to be unaffiliated with a religion, what if these apps affected that number?

Louise Lloyd Owen, a 23-year-old PR professional, responds, “I’ve downloaded [religious apps] to look at them but never officially used [them].”

Similarly, Alison Denton, a 24-year-old magazine sales planner replies, “Nope, I haven’t used a religious app, but I have used the dream interpreter app on my iPad…that counts, right?!”

Perhaps these apps, albeit progressive, are missing that luster, but could in time be appealing and inspiring enough to be an avenue to a religious tradition.

What’s surprising, however, is our use (or lack thereof) of Bible apps.

From a quick poll, I found that most of my religious friends–apart from McCarthy–prefer reading the Bible in its paper edition, though hanging their heads and admittedly labeling themselves “old school.”

While the Bible app is certainly convenient, portable and useful, most report they prefer to use it only when in small group sessions or in a pinch; like most of us, reading a news article on our phones is fine, but the larger screen–be it an iPad or laptop–is much more conducive and easier to read.

And that’s not to mention the fact that it’s extremely hard to focus when you’re reading a serious text on a handheld device.

“It’s very cool to be able to access a Bible via the internet on your phone, but I would get way too distracted,” said Audrey Oh, a 24-year-old law professional. “Reading my Bible is a way to disconnect from the daily buzz, focus on God and grow spiritually; it would be difficult to achieve that as I see my phone blow up from texts, tweets, emails, et cetera.”

Beyond the (non)-usability perspective, one must factor in the deep-rooted spiritual connection with the text itself.

“The Bible is also a sacred text,” Oh continues. “There’s something special and authentic about holding it in your hands.”

Apps and e-Bibles allow us greater access to our faith in a portable fashion; however, the trouble is that people often think that these tools replace religion, rites, sacraments and attending Mass or church services at all.

But that’s likely consequential of our Millennial ideals: redefinition, instantaneous, complete transparency, innovation, technology.

How will this affect the future? Time will certainly tell, but it would have been pretty interesting to have seen and tracked the Reformation via Twitter, Facebook and apps. Just imagine what is possible for the next revolution in the Church with this endless supply of technological support and communication. (Quote source here.)

As we all know, it’s easy in our fast paced techie world to push God off into a corner whether intentionally or unintentionally. There are just way too many things distracting us today that divert our attention, so it takes a concerted effort to pause and reflect (it helps to turn off the smartphone while doing this or at least put it in airplane mode for a while). However, it is well worth the time. Some excellent suggestions on how to take a break from technology can be found in this June 2017 article titled, Want to Take a Break from Technology? Here Are Easy Ways to Unplug and Why It Is Necessary,” by Benjamin Renfo at JustPorter.org. Click here to go to that article.

I’ll end this blog post with the greatest invitation that Jesus gave to us found in Matthew 11:28-30 that requires no app or technology (but can be read on both): Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. . . .

For my yoke is easy . . .

And my burden . . .

Is light . . . .

YouTube Video: “God of Wonders” by Third Day:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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