by JUSTIN D. BARNARD
Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship
May 7, 2013 - Theological glosses are woefully inadequate justifications for Evangelicalism’s on-going technophilia. Nonetheless, they don’t seem to be going out of fashion. Consider, for example, this quotation from Shane Hipps, author of Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith: “Christianity is fundamentally a communication event. It is God revealing God’s self to the world. And God uses a large variety of media to accomplish that revelation.” Appearing as it does as an epigraph to the introductory chapter of a recent book, the comment serves to bolster the 21st century understanding of the Great (techno)-Commission: “Go ye therefore into all the world and leverage technology, tweeting in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to like all things whatsoever I have commanded you to post: and, LOL, I am with you virtually, even unto the singularity.”
The trouble with this gloss (in addition to its avoidance of revealed language in the interest of gender sensitivity) is that what it gets right, it gets right by being totally wrong. The Gospel is fundamentally a proclamation of the reality of what God has done in Christ Jesus. Even more, this proclamation is ultimately rooted in the nature of One whose very essence is Word, the Divine Logos – who speaks reality into being. But these theological truths do not make Christianity a “communication event.” To put it this way reduces the Ineffable Word to a dyadic exchange between user and recipient.
It is the digital revolution itself that has contributed to the perception that all forms of communication are mere information transmission. Successful communication merely involves the transfer of digitally encoded content from one source (originating) to another (receiving). And as Hipps’s observation correctly presumes, there are, in fact, a “large variety of media” that can “accomplish” this limited task.
But the task of God’s Gospel is not merely the disclosure of Divine content via an array of technological assists at His disposal. (Thus, we do not justify our use of the same with facile appeals to the idea that God does this too.) Rather, the Word revealed in Jesus Christ is nothing less than the power by which God will ultimately re-create the heavens and the earth. The “speech” of God is not a “communication event.” It is that in which all things live and move and have their being.
The judicious use of technology in the digital age may, in fact, be a necessity of contemporary life. But Evangelicals do disservice to the Gospel when God becomes an instrument of ratification for our otherwise unreflectively adopted technological habits. The Sword of the Spirit must cut up the living sacrifice, lest the Word be emptied of its power.