Technology

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Apparently you can now attend ‘live’ concerts of stars from the past who appear by means of technology, which creates a life like hologram of the person performing from film footage. It’s as if it really is a live concert. This technology is now being used by some churches in America to spread the word rapidly. Some broadcast hologram images of pastors that float suspended in the air behind the pulpit giving the impression that he really is physically present. Listen to this report of a church in Texas. The Sunday morning service was humming along with hymns and prayers when the lights in the sanctuary suddenly dimmed. The church’s senior pastor then emerged from the darkness with a microphone in hand. “Please be seated,” the pastor said as he grabbed the Bible. He delivered his sermon, but he couldn’t hear or see his congregation respond. He wasn’t physically there. The pastor, whose congregation has about 20,000 members spread across five churches, said his image is so lifelike that some visitors forget he’s not there. “It’s so real that people have come up after the service to talk to me.” Another pastor from a church in South Carolina, which broadcasts Sunday sermons to 13 multi site locations, said “It’s a revolution…It’s a very different way to spread the gospel. And the technology allows churches to reach more people without constructing new buildings.” So what do you think Jonathan over at Holy Trinity Gateshead?

[BY VIDEO LINK] Well Jonathan, another pastor, Thomas Long, argues that it may not be a better way. He says, “Preachers who don’t think they need to be physically present in their church should ask how they would feel if they were forced to preach to images of their congregation every Sunday morning. There’s something about embodiment — that the person who delivers the sermon is actually there — that’s important. It’s important in the same way that someone physically visits someone in a hospital or buries a loved one — they don’t fax it in.” Long says the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ interaction with people show him constantly touching and being physically present with people. “We don’t think God sent a message to us; God sent a person, his only Son, and the word became flesh.”

Thank you Jonathan…..

(No problem).

Who said you can’t be in two places at once! Well I don’t completely agree with Jonathan and Thomas Long but we’ll come back to that debate about multi site churches and video technology later, but now it really is me in the flesh and in this new series on issues facing Christians today our first current concern in a highly technological yet glitch filled and unhelpful banking world is Technology. What does the Bible say about technology and its use?

The Amish refuse to use most modern technology as they believe it destroys family life. A few years ago 1400 members of the Plymouth Brethren wrote to the National Curriculum Council asking that their children be removed from lessons involving computers, accusing that technology of being 'the hand tool of the devil'. But while both groups have a point as technology can be created and used for evil purposes rather than for the glory of God, those views according to the Bible are overly negative regarding technology as a whole. However, it’s not a Christian option to accept technology uncritically. Technology isn’t neutral. Biblically it seems clear that technology should be done for the purposes of creation care and human benefit and within the limits of the demands for justice and love and so for God’s glory, which brings me to my first heading

1. The use of technology in fulfilling the divine mandate

Technology, whether as objects, processes or specialized knowledge, can be viewed from a biblical perspective as a human response to the divine mandate to responsibly open up the potential of creation. Genesis 1:26-28

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. ”

So the use of technology to fulfil this mandate from God should be seen positively. But it’s a calling to be pursued whilst reflecting God’s character. He sustains the creation out of love in faithfulness and justice. And we should care for God’s creation, including the use of technology, in the same way. Even after the covenant is broken Tubal Cain, as a sort of early technologist, continues this caring task. Genesis 4:22

(Lamech’s wife) Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron.

Technology not fulfilling these criteria of creation care and human benefit within the limits of biblical justice and love should be the object of prophetic critique and positive alternative proposals. That brings us to my 2nd heading

2. The misuse of technology and technological pride

Of course the Fall has a major impact. The rupture of relationships consequent on sin’s entry into the created environment affects technology, no less than other areas. Not only are tools used destructively as weapons, but an element of transferred trust from God to man and created things is also present, later to be denounced by prophetic woes on those who rely on their chariots and spears. Look at Isaiah 31:1 and 3:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots
and in the great strength of their horsemen,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
or seek help from the LORD…
But the Egyptians are men and not God;
their horses are flesh and not spirit…

The account of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9 represents a particularly low point in technological history, where the whole project is both breathtaking in conception and idolatrous in intention. Technological pride is very evident in v4:

They said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

Notice let us build ourselves a city…so that we may make a name for ourselves – and it resulted (v8) in judgment and the loss of community. How true that can be today.

Now there are technological interventions for which we can thank God. There are advances in medical and agricultural technical skills which Christians should be pioneering ethically to save lives for the glory of God. And some areas of technological progress are life enhancing. But what is troubling is technological pride. To think of ourselves primarily as constructionists, as technical interveners, can lead us to believe that what we can do (rather than what we may do) is the touchstone of what we will do. If we see the world outside of ourselves simply as something we make, it then becomes subject to our will and at our disposal. This tragically happens with work on human embryos and can happen in work on fertilization techniques. How important it is to see children as ‘begotten’ rather than as ‘made’ by our human will and so at our human disposal.

Apparently Google’s mission statement is “Don’t be evil” and its founders say they want to make the world a better place. Facebook’s billionaire boss claims he is dedicated to “openness, connecting and sharing”. Before his death last year Steve Jobs, of Apple fame, said: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter. Saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters.” Yet it’s emerged that Google programmed its streetview vehicles to gather private data, including email, web searches and photographs, from unsecured home wi-fi networks. Apple too faces criticism over its plans for an answer to Street View: an even more intrusive 3-D service using military-grade aerial camera satellites capable of revealing objects as small as 4in across. And there’s also concern over treatment of its workforce in China. You see if technological pride takes over personal and social values can be forgotten. Genesis 1 reminds us that the technologist is God’s servant, responsibly harnessing the resources of the world for mankind’s good and God’s glory. Genesis 11 on the other hand reminds us that when technology ceases to be our servant, it very quickly becomes our master and human communities and values are all too often the casualties. So thirdly,

3. The use of technology in everyday life for the glory of God

But misdirected and idolatrous technology is not the whole story. Redemption or being freed from slavery and from slavery of sin through Christ’s death in the OT and NT has implications for doing technology. The OT law, given to indicate how we should live as God’s people in everyday life, recalls God’s people to a concern with the proper purposes and limits of technology. E.g. building design had to incorporate safety features. Yes Health and Safety has its roots in Scripture. Look at Deuteronomy 22:8 :

When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.

And the NT, argues that the activities of everyday life, including technological ones, be done wholeheartedly, as to the Lord (Col 3:23-24):

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, … It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

But the NT also echoes earlier promises of a future state where technology is transformed from the destructive to the socially useful. Swords to ploughshares and spears to pruning hooks (Micah 4:3) may be seen as a technological goal. Now frustratingly in a fallen world even good technology doesn’t always work perfectly and we certainly all need an e mail free day and my fourth and final point illustrates this well. It’s not on your service sheet outline because although I sent it to the office along with the first 3 points it didn’t appear at their end for some strange reason. Anyway it’s on the screen,

4. The use of technology in spreading the gospel & in building up the church

Have a look at 2 Thessalonians 3:1

Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured, just as it was with you.

Notice that Paul says pray that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured. We are to first depend on God in taking the glorious message of the gospel to others and for it to be received. Apart from Christ we can do what says Jesus in John 15? Nothing. Absolutely nothing, never mind how much technology you might have at your disposal, never mind the quality and quantity of web sites; facebook pages; apps; Christianity Explored DVDs, cameras and screens.

Prayer is vital. It is God’s work. The Holy Spirit blows where he wills, convicts people of their sin and brings people to new birth through faith in Jesus, in his work on the cross and resurrection from the dead. With very little technology all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord in Acts 19. However God does use means including technology to spread his Word rapidly throughout the world. The Apostle Paul used ships on some of his missionary journeys to get to places to preach the good news. Nowadays we can get to almost anywhere in the world within a few hours with the gospel by plane. There really is no human excuse for not taking the gospel to a nation or people group today even when that country is supposedly closed to the gospel.

For many years the gospel has been beamed into countries which are hostile to the gospel by means of radio and TV. Apparently today there are 1 million people from such countries who meet in online Home Groups with others from around the world. And those groups are often looking for online leaders. So if you’re interested do get in touch.

We’re not to be idle or busybodies, as Paul warns strongly in 2 Thessalonians 3, frittering away time on idle chat on facebook, twitter or mobiles but working for the Lord both in the workplace and in the church, communicating purposefully on facebook etc as Jesus’ return draws nearer. Look at v11-13

We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right [including right use of the internet, for example, and not therefore internet pornography, which is so destructive. In that regard look at what Paul says in v3: the Lord is faithful, he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.]

God’s Word, the Bible, started to spread rapidly in book form in the 15th century when Johann Gutenberg saw the potential of the then latest technology- the printing press – for the mass printing of the Bible. He said:

Religious truth is captive in a small number of little manuscripts which guard the common treasures, instead of expanding them. Let us break the seal which binds these holy things; let us give wings to truth that it may fly with the Word, no longer prepared at vast expense, but multitudes everlastingly by a machine which never wearues to every soul which enters life

Here at JPC, under David’s leadership, the church has attempted to make the most of the opportunity of the latest technology (Col 4:5), starting with:

•An effective PA system so that people can hear what’s being said and sung. In the 1970s John Stott preached at JPC but the PA system broke down. Only half the congregation could hear him. Good technology is important.
• Tapes of the sermons were also introduced followed by TV monitors in the galleries and side aisles so that people could see better (the first monitors came from The Tube music TV show from the 1980s - £5 for the lot) and then video tapes (remember those!), CDs/DVDs of sermons and services.
• Typically David was first to the web address www.church.org.uk Because of that name we’ve even had hits from the Vatican! Last year our website had 222,961 hits, which is on average 665 per day.
• 2011 – 48,216 downloads of mp3 sermons which are also available on iTunes
• Other JPC websites have also been created. The Carols by Candlelight site gets by far the biggest use as people access it to invite folks to Carols. Though inviting people personally is still very popular especially with students.
• www.clayton.tv which helps to get God’s Word out across the world, including China, had 46,956 hits in 2011 – 129 per day. The site also has potential for training Christians here and across the world.
• We now have a JPC facebook page to let people know what’s happening but as yet no twitter feed except for clayton.tv and no ‘app’ for smartphones but you can watch clayton.tv even on an iphone or an ipad by going to the web site and clicking ‘download’ under the programme title you want to watch followed by ‘download video mp4’.

I say all this not out of any technological pride, indeed we’re behind in so many areas technologically, but to remind you of what’s available and of the opportunities and to ask you to please pray for continued right development of the JPC website and other technology under God for the cause of the gospel and biblical truth for the glory of his Name. What about the debate I started with today? Well in multi site churches the sermon may be beamed in live from the mother church or shown a week later on DVD on the big screen but they do realise that what they call a real live campus pastor is also needed for leadership and pastoral care as well as a live music group. Learning from a screen has been in use for many years on TV but Christ still wants to use us – we are his body whom he has commissioned to go and make disciples of all nations, to be fishers of men (Luke 5) depending on his power and word and using created means such as technology wisely for his purposes. Indeed Luke 5:1-11 reminds us that when we’re using technology we still need to depend on Christ. So whether you’re using technology in your daily work or for gospel work remember Colossians 3:17

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

And let’s also remember that our, and others, greatest need is not technology but Christ himself. So let’s be praying for the technological influencers today to come to Christ – Zuckerberg of facebook fame, Page and Brin, Google’s founders. As someone said:

If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Saviour.

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