wires and lights in a box (part 2)
in the previous post i wrote about the way technology has changed over the years. i noted how it has affected our understanding of god and how it can be a subtle but powerful influence in how we form our understanding of his actions. then i asked some questions.
now i want to ask some more.
technology has a subtle yet pervasive influence in our lives. from simple alarm clocks to digital picture frames technology has quietly become part of the backdrop of our homes. where there once were record players with scratchy ambiance and grainy tube televisions with channel knobs and rabbit ears that required an extra bit of foil we now have crystal clear 1080p high definition picture and sound with satellite hdtvs and ipods. the heightened level of technological integration in our daily routines belies the subtlety with which it affects our perceptions about life and the world around us.
and recognizing this is vital.
not long ago discovery channel aired a phenomenal show called life. it revolutionized the way we look at the world around us. we were able to see things about nature we had never seen before. from the tiniest insects to the largest animals.
and again i am drawn back to my childhood when i marveled at mutual of omahas wild kingdom with marlin perkins every week. but the difference is just incomparable. its clear that what we were able to see and how we saw it then began shaping our palates for what we are able to see and how we are able to see it now but its still akin to the difference between looking into space and actually going there in rockets – which is a whole nother example of technology changing how we understand things.
there was a time when mankind basically believed god lived up in the sky. some unfortunately still do. but when yuri gagarin breached earths atmosphere for the first time in 1961 soviet premiere nikita kruschev declared:
gagarin flew into space but didnt see any god there.
and well he wouldnt being far more likely to see the sun the moon and the earth and maybe the distant glow of nearby planets and stars. at the time most people in the civilized world prolly didnt think god was floating around just beyond our atmosphere but the advent of space travel still had a dramatic effect on our understanding of the universe and our place in it. and so began another in a long series of dramatic shifts in how mankind understood the creator.
since that time we have advanced our ability to see into the far reaches of space with tools such as the hubble space telescope which has given us some of the most startling and amazing views ever seen. the helix nebula has even been called gods eye…in which case he needs some visine.
but as we see further into space we are finding more space and no god. or to state it another way – the more we look the more stuff we find but the less we believe in a creator.
and so in a universe where everything from water-walking lizards to deep space nebula are within our purview what can we make of a god who continues to dodge detection by our technological advances? how might we begin to understand a god we cant seem to find with all of our amazingly advanced tools? what should we make of a god who seems to remain arcane – if not purposely out of reach? arent deism agnosticism or atheism reasonable conclusions in such times?
being raised an evangelical i learned that god reveals himself in 3 ways:
sripture – men inspired by god wrote down his words and the events encompassing them. this includes what we know of jesus and his claim to be the son of god and perfect revelation of the father as well as the promise of the holy spirit who would offer further revelation. (john 14:9, colossians 1:15, john 14:26).
theophany – from adam and eve in the garden to saint john on the isle of patmos and beyond – audibly and visibly god interacts in a special way with his creation…on occasion (genesis 3:8-9, revelation 1:10-19).
in light of this it seems like understanding god would be a simple matter of reading in the great outdoors while waiting for a sign from the clouds. but even if god reveals himself this way (and my experience* says that he has) does that equate understanding? if anything i have generally been more confused as a result. its like watching an episode of lost. i still dont understand how being thrown into a glowing hole in the ground makes a man into a puff of black smoke that can read minds and seeing it happen didnt explain anything.
so even tho god reveals himself how do we begin to understand him? how might his clandestine ways be interpreted as anything other than ambivalence? how might we relate to and trust a god who hides and what sort of guidance can we expect from him?
these are questions i have been wrestling with for years now. ive been told to swallow my questions – to just have faith & trust the bible** – and that everything will work out. ive even been called a heretic and accused of fostering rebellion. my questions have cost me pastoral roles at churches and continue to make it hard for me to fit into most of them.
its as if my questions equate a lack of faith or rebellion against god. but they dont. not for me at least. despite gods aloof manner i have not turned away from him. i have not given up and gone about my life. like jacob wrestling with god (genesis 32:22-29) i have held on for the blessing and been injured as a result. and like jacob i have refused to let go.
jacobs story continues as his name is changed and he receives the blessing as genesis 35:10-12 relates:
And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.”
the name israel means “wrestles with god” and the blessing he receives is so massive and far reaching that it still has an impact on the world 3500 or so years later so i find it hard to think of myself as a heretic or rebel. and as i wrestle ive been keen on using technology in every imaginable way to assist my grasp on god. from rob bells brilliant nooma series to videos by nt wright to the use of projection screen tvs alongside ipods and christmas lights in worship.
there was even a period of time when i owned an internet discussion forum that was home to over 70 people from all over the world who read and interacted with each other on a regular basis on topics such as faith politics and entertainment. and then of course theres the blog. interacting with people of different faiths (or lack thereof) via these mediums has truly been a valuable tool in exposing me to a much wider range of belief (or lack thereof) and has helped me develop a deeper insight into the nature of gods image bearers – which has helped me in some ways begin to comprehend just who this god is and what he is like.
but im only a child in this adventure.
and so it is that like any child i ask all kinds of questions. some wise and many foolish but all for the sake of knowing my creator and savior. and this is where technology has been so useful so long as i perceive it for what it is. if we regard the tool we may use it well but if we fail to recognize the tool it is merely part of the landscape.
may we always be aware.
*it was on an overnight hike of the south rim of the chisos mountains in 1994 that i met god. its a nifty story…
**i do trust the bible to be what it is – the writings of men inspired by god thru their experiences with him and his creation. i dont trust the bible to answer every possible question bc it never attempts to do so.