Monday, May 30, 2011

The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion

The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion

Talk about a book that needed to be written and even more so to be read. The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion is that book. Tim Challies covers the issues and questions we have been asking ourselves and many more that we haven't even considered. This book explores the effects that technology has had on our lives and our culture. Times are changing, fast.

First, let me start by saying that no review can do this book justice. You must read it for yourself. Our lives are increasingly being ran by and for technology. These issues will only become greater as we progress in this digital age. With that being said, I'll hit on a few of the issues and observations this book presents.

Technology or Idolatry?
We serve a God of creation. He creates and has created everything. We too are creative, as we have been made in his image. He has shared with us this attribute of creativity as a way of relating to him. And since the fall and subsequent curse, technology has been vital in surviving in this world now corrupted with sin.

Take farming for example. We have used our creative powers to overcome the difficulties of farming ground that now bears thorns and weeds, as opposed to only the food we require. Technology has allowed us to till and plant the ground, and to harvest the produce. Technology can be very good.

But, technology is also under the curse. That which can be used for good can also be used for evil. When the farmer trusts his plow and his combine more than he trusts in God for his harvest, then he is guilty of idolatry. When we depend on the results of our creativity rather than the Creator, we have misplaced our worship. Technology isn't evil, yet its use, or rather abuse, can be.

So Many Words
Never before has man been able to communicate as easily or as quickly as he can today. Instantly we can share with friends through emails, phone calls, text messages, and even video conferences, on the other side of the world. Our words can be heard or read everywhere, by anyone, but what are we saying?

Words are very important to us as Christians. God has chosen to reveal himself through his word, and our words reveal who, and whose, we are. Technology allows us to do wonderful things like sharing the gospel, and offering encouragement, yet it also presents the danger of using our words to sin. With the ability to say so much, will we always be careful to watch what we say?

Between you and me
Let me state the obvious, technology has changed how we talk with one another. At first we would talk face to face. Next, we would pick up the phone and talk to one another. Now we spend most of our time typing and reading each other. With each step, there is more and more distance being put between us. We now handle most of our interactions without actually interacting with one another. We went from face to face, to voice to voice, and now to screen to screen. Our communication has become more efficient and yet more impersonal all at the same time. This distance, these devices between us, effect our relationships. How do we show the love of Christ, in a world where we don't personally get to know each other?

Hold on. I need to take this call.
Distractions are everywhere. Beeps, buzzes, and rings are constantly demanding our attention. We are seldom alone with our thoughts. How do we get anything done? The truth is that all to often we don't. How often have you sat down to work, and have found yourself surfing Facebook or browsing twitter?

Research is beginning to show that even when we aren't distracted by outside sources, we are losing the ability to concentrate on one task and think deeply. We actually begin to crave the distraction. Life doesn't seem normal if we aren't actively engaged with three things at once. The problem is that we fail to accomplish any of those three things well. We are left with a lot of unfinished business.

What effect does this have on our spiritual lives? Can we stop and make time for prayer? When do we sit and meditate on scripture? Our thoughts are so over run, we leave no room for God. Distraction is more than a just a distraction, it is deadly.

Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom
Our lives are inundated with information. Answers to all of our questions are simply a Google search away. We have access to more than we could ever hope to handle. How does this information glut effect us? With all of this cold, hard data, we manage to convert very little of it into internalized, experiential knowledge. We become trivia experts with little ability to pull this data together (knowledge) to make good decisions (wisdom). Having the all facts doesn't necessarily lead to making the right decisions.

Who to believe?
The internet has changed our views on authority and who holds it. In times past, when we needed the truth on a particular subject, we consulted the experts. These chosen few were selected because of their outstanding credentials in the their respective fields of study. With the advent of Google and Wikipedia, truth now lies in the consensus of the majority. Anyone can be expert if everyone else agrees. The most popular answers are the first we find.

This is troubling for the Christian. We know that there is only one Authority, who speaks through his word, and has never been the most popular. If we succumb to this line of thinking it would be disastrous to our lives and churches.  The positions of right and wrong would be subjected to the on going tallying of votes. God's truth would no longer be a standard, but an ever changing poll of popular opinion.

The World is Watching
Every move we make in this digital world is being recorded. Our Facebook updates, credit card purchases, Google searches, everything is viewable by someone. On the surface, we as Christians should have no problem with this. We know God sees everything, that we can hide nothing, but unfortunately we often don't live this way.  We must be aware of our visibility. Now more than ever we must develop and conduct ourselves with character and integrity. Would you be comfortable allowing your spouse to see everything you do online? How about your pastor? If you find either prospect frightening, you may want to consider making some changes.

This ability to see and be seen has raised other issues as well. We have become a society of peeping Toms. Gaining sick pleasure at watching the embarrassment and failure of others. (Think American Idol.) We also use the internet to feed our pride by drawing attention to ourselves and our successes, not to mention our ability to craft pithy, sarcastic statements. (Twitter and Facebook) Our dignity and humility are causalities in this ever present world.

To Sum it Up
Tim Challies' The Next Story, is one of the most important books you need to read, right now. If these issues seem great to us now, just think what they will mean to our children, who have no comprehension of a world void of computers and Facebook. They will grow up in this age of all things digital. Teaching them to use technology, safely and godly, is just one of the many responsibilities we have as parents.

I'd like to thank Zondervan for sending me this free copy for review.

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