Whether it’s a new nationally-based app, a new must-have iPhone upgrade or a new way to use virtual reality, technology is advancing at lightning speed.
As the use of digital devices increases, some Southern Baptist Christian leaders are encouraging them to examine the ways in which technology can be adapted.
Jason Thackerdirector of research and research chair on technology ethics for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said Baptista Press believes technology is no longer just a tool we use, but something that changes how we look at the world.
“Technology’s complexity, utility, growth and development often occur in an exponential fashion,” Thacker said. “That’s the nature of technology and what we’re experiencing right now, we’re just going to continue to grow in some way. Technology isn’t going anywhere.
“As technology keeps advancing, these will become faster, more complex and more connected. Digital devices are not only a tool that we use, but a tool that fundamentally changes us.
“It shapes how we understand the nature of reality and truth, as well as how we connect in relationships. In a way, technology teaches us. I think people are starting to wake up and see something not right about this.
In his work with the ERLC, Thacker conducts research for an entity called the Digital Public Square. The project aims to provide resources for Southern Baptist churches to navigate the ever-changing technological landscape.
In particular, the focus was given to issues related to free speech and religious freedom.
He explained that this research is important to the service, because technology touches every aspect of life.
“Technology is not a separate issue that Christians should address or think about. It is an element of all other issues related to the Christian life and Christian ethics,” said Thacker.
“Issues such as marriage, sexuality, human dignity or justice are all affected by technology because we live in a digital society.”
In his book “Following Jesus in the Digital Age” released this year, Thacker encourages Christians to make technology more holy.
One of his main pieces of advice he shares with Christians is to take the time to decide how to use technology in life and strive to be a light in the digital space.
“At the heart of the technology is making it faster, but what we see in all the letters of wisdom is that we’re slower,” Thacker said. “Wisdom can’t stay overnight. There’s no way to dress it up. There’s no on-off switch.
“It is important for Christians to think wisely and think deeply, and it is going to be slow and ask some of these big questions about how this shapes me and how then I walk with wisdom and trying to follow Jesus better.
“Christians need to practice culture as it is, not as we want it to be.” The digital society comes with many unique challenges, but also a lot of unique opportunities, and I believe that God is calling us to step into these and be the voice of hope, peace and evangelical change in our communities.”
One Southern Baptist seeks to apply this wisdom in his own life Jeff Mingeeregional strategist for the Southeast SBC Virginia region.
What began as a doctoral research paper while a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary became a self-exploration of the way he used technology in his life.
The main principle of Mingee’s discovery of Scripture is the use of technology, however rapidly it advances.
“Certainly there is a danger for Christians that technological advances in worldly things take place with little or no thought of this glory that God wants,” Mingee said.
“We cannot predict the effect of technological progress on us – what influence will the iPhone shape in my life?” I have no idea, no way of knowing. We cannot wait for this challenge with technological advances until we know the outcome of whether or not they are going to go our way. Either the macro or not, and we go to the trigger.
Christians need to apply to our behavior, 1 Corinthians 10:31, whether we use technology or abstain from them.
Mingee compiled some of his thoughts and research related to the use of technology in a book titled “Digital Mastery: Five Questions Christians Ask to Consider Controlling Their Digital Devices.”
The book contains questions for Christians to examine the role of technology in their lives and decide whether they want to control technology or control it.
“He gave me too much joy in life to waste my life looking at the rectangle that fits in my hand,” Mingee said. “There is too much joy because the abuse was missing from yours.
“I think that digital devices can foster joy in our lives to honor God, so I want to find ways to steward and use technology well.”
(NOTE – Timothy Cockes is a Baptist Press staff writer.)