wires and lights in a box

remember life without mobile phones? this past xmas my father-in-law gave me an iphone 3g and tho its already outdated it is a significant advance over my motorola razor v3xx flip. they call it a phone and it is in some ways but its also a pocket sized pc of sorts. its a web browser and mp3 player and camera along with every current means of connecting with the people in my sphere of influence from email to facebook to instant msg. and it has games.

this is so much more than a phone.

and as i marvel at the touch-screen technology im reminded of several things. i remember having a rotary phone on the wall in our kitchen when i was growing up. i believe it was our only phone at the time and i remember the sound of the dialer as it whirred from the number back to its starting point.

i also remember when we got our first push button phone and our first cassette tape answering machine. i remember when everything went digital and we got caller id. and i remember getting my first mobile phone…10 years ago. its astounding just how much daily life has changed.

i did a google search before i began writing my thots down on this and found that people have written extensively on the various ways technology shapes different aspects of our lives. everything from business to communication and networking to faith and sermons. what i didnt find was anything relating to how technology shapes god.

and i thot this was strange.

lets go back in time for a few moments. when johnny gutenberg developed the printing press it revolutionized everything including the church and played a significant role in the protestant reformation and shaping of theology from that point forward. simply put, it was technology shaping events in the life of the church. but did it also somehow shape god?

im thinking it did.

so wot changed when bibles became more accessible? many things to be certain but a few things in particular.

access – within a century printed bibles and gospels became much more commonplace. one no longer had to be clergy or nobility to have easy access to the scriptures.

authority – when the scriptures were brot to the people the authority of the church lost its strangle-hold on interpretation which began to revert to the public forum.

structure – as more and more people broke away from the RCC many met in smaller numbers with pastors far more accessible and down to earth than the priests and bishops of the high church. liturgy was altered or removed altogether.

these changes were not simply cosmetic. they changed ecclesiology and ultimately they changed god – at least in the minds of the people. he wasnt so far away anymore. as with scripture so with god. the technological advance made him far more accessible and much easier to understand removed from all that latin chanting.*

likewise im thinking that mobile technology has dramatically changed god in some distinct ways.

consider this: what would god look like in the mind of an average person without things such as mobile phones? now stop and realize that there are people alive today who will never know the reality behind that question. my children have all been born since the mobile revolution and will never really understand the meaning of a busy signal. they will never really grasp the concept of a switchboard. a wireless world has always existed for them and understanding god may end up being quite a challenge in a world where anything they want to know is a simple matter of googling on their iphone.

this brings up some questions.

in a world where everyone we currently know is only a small flick of our thumbs away wot does god look like when he doesnt answer immediately? wot impression might we draw if his timing is not wot we expected? in a world this connected how can patience and endurance be valuable commodities?

think of the significant impact of trying to make plans when the person you are calling and texting and facebooking doesnt answer or reply. everyone is attached to their mobile media devices – how could this person not be receiving the messages? wot if we really need an answer quick before its too late?!

this may very easily translate in our relationship with god. when we want guidance and direction or an answer to prayers for healing or a job or mended relationships how might we understand him when his answer is not obvious or immediate? how might it affect our understanding of god if his lack of adherence to our time table results in missed opportunities or regrets? wot happens to my faith if god never returns my calls?

recently ive caught myself expecting god to work on a mobile phone basis – to answer my calls & texts within seconds – and the more i think about it the more i think theres something askew. not that technology is bad – we dont have to be amish. but technology is so pervasive in our lives that if we arent extremely careful it can become a terrible hermeneutic.

its been said (more than a few times) that jeremiah 33:3 is gods phone number.

call to me and i will answer you and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

so much violence is done to this statement ripped from its context i doubt seriously that very many who have heard it preached know the situation in  the passage surrounding it or the length of time it took for the promise made to be realized.

this passage is about messiah and the inauguration of gods kingdom on earth. its a promise that took several hundred years to bear fruit. hows that for instant messaging? wot would be my reaction to dialing “gods phone number” and getting his voicemail saying:

leave ur msg & ill get back to you in a few hundred years.

our technology breeds impatience and our impatience destroys any chance we have at really understanding god. this is wot i have begun to grasp in the past few weeks as i continue to struggle with not hearing from god during this difficult time. the whole “his ways are not as our ways” thing comes crashing home with force as i open my eyes to the reality of a god who is off the grid and even tho this notion bothers me i would rather know god in truth than comfort even if he stays mostly quiet.

~:::~:::~:::~

i cant live in a world with no technology and i dont know if i would want to but i need to remember that technology cannot be the lens by which i understand god. it can assist my understanding of him via video and other advances but i cant afford to allow its convenience and connectivity to form my thinking.

theres more i want to say about this but its a long read already so ill take a break for now and try to deliver part 2 shortly. as always i am looking forward to your thots.

*let it be known im a huge fan of gregorian chants. this isnt a slam on latin or chanting – its a recognition of how both made the notion of understanding or having a relationship with god difficult if not impossible for the commoner.

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~ by graceshaker on May 11, 2010.

9 Responses to “wires and lights in a box”

  1. Well put, with interesting implications.

  2. You may be right about technology breeding future impatience, but you forgot one significant detail, the evolution of technology implies that man will one day be like gods as he integrates technology with his own body, who then will need God? no one, perfection is just one biomod away. In case you missed it graceshaker, I say the same thing in my blog “the disbelief of God” check it out

  3. amazing post. Thanks for asking the right questions. I will be recommending this post, and we will use it in teh class i am teaching next weekend.

    More later.
    Linked it:
    http://davewainscott.blogspot.com/2010/05/on-technolgy-shaping-god.html

  4. james – wot does it all imply to u?

    omni – i dont think technology will ever make us god. as advanced as we ever become we will still be broken.

    dave – im available for speaking gigs. =]

  5. This is a very disorganized thought but…

    I think humans have a deep need to be “observed”: watched, considered, checked, measured, etc. Whether this is a natural result of having a maker or some evolutionary function I’m not sure. While my understanding of quantum physics is basic to say the least, I think the concept of observation affecting reality is extremely interesting and could be very relevant to the theory that humans like to be observed.

    It can be easy to point out how important privacy is to people but look at what is happening with the explosion of technology and mainly social media. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter. People broadcasting even the most mundane things.

    Along the thought line of Omni, there is a computer game I like and there is a piece of dialogue hidden in some arcane corner of the game between the protagonist and an AI system being developed by the Illuminati:

    “AI: Human beings feel pleasure when they are watched. I have recorded their smiles as I tell them who they are.

    DENTON: Some people just don’t understand the dangers of indiscriminate surveillance.

    AI: The need to be observed and understood was once satisfied by God. Now we can implement the same functionality with data-mining algorithms.

    DENTON: Electronic surveillance hardly inspired reverence. Perhaps fear and obedience, but not reverence.

    AI: God and the gods were apparitions of observation, judgment, and punishment. Other sentiments toward them were secondary.

    DENTON: No one will ever worship a software entity peering at them through a camera.

    AI: The human organism always worships. First it was the gods, then it was fame (the observation and judgment of others), next it will be the self-aware systems you have built to realize truly omnipresent observation and judgment.

    DENTON: You underestimate humankind’s love of freedom.

    AI: The individual desires judgment. Without that desire, the cohesion of groups is impossible, and so is civilization. The human being created civilization not because of a willingness but because of a need to be assimilated into higher orders of structure and meaning. God was a dream of good government. You will soon have your God, and you will make it with your own hands.

  6. gracehaker, I agree, but human beings can be delusional, I’ve meet people who believe they are gods because of their ability to create things into existence, in the distant future of technology, I can vividly imagine the human species participating in this concept. At the moment, we can cure the blind, the limbless, help people see, and we are currently developing an exoskeleton for the weak or for heavy labor.

    It’s only a matter of time when technology gets so advance God becomes useless and meaningless, because as our impatience grows, our need for God declines, an unanswered prayer is not apathy but an inability, if science can get things done faster, then what is the dependency of God worth? merely nothing. The human species are selfishly needy God is not spiritual comfort but a tool. When technology gets to the point of that era, God will become nothing.

  7. im not sure wot to make of ur comments omni. it seems u think the reality of god and our need for him is predicated on our own technological advancement and ability to solve certain problems.

    but no advance will ever cure the evil in our hearts.

    maybe this video will help u understand a little better where im coming from:

  8. Kent this is very good as usual!

    A memory for you…

    Did you know that I went to a party at your parent’s house that featured both a TI calculator and a pong game? That was hot stuff back than…LOL!!

  9. […] mixed with a curse and im afraid the curse holds sway in my life most the time. as ive said before here and here, technology affects how we think about and connect with god, and as we drove into arizona […]

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