Technology and the Soul of Man
Technology and the Soul of Man
We live in a blizzard of new technology today. We even wonder how we could live without it. I can remember the surprise snowstorm which hit the South in March of 1993 when the power was out in some places here for a week. It was interesting to see how much things were affected here back then. Now, such an outage would be absolutely disruptive.
To give an example of this, I can remember going to a large Christian youth event and seeing the young people gathered around in a large room texting and staring at their phones. No one was looking at one another. This room had large couches on it, and there was a teenage boy on one end of the sofa texting a teenage girl. I could see a sense of excitement on the young man as though he had some affection for the girl he was texting. As it turned out, the young lady he was texting was sitting at the other end of the couch! My have times changed! Wonderful, this new technology!
Now technology can be used to good purposes. Martin Luther was a master of the new technology of his day, the printing press. This mastery of the press led to a much needed reformation of the church and a reordering of society. In the same way, the Internet provides an opportunity to broadcast the gospel to the world. In fact, this is why I publish my sermons on-line. But we must also be critical of technology as well. This is especially true in a world that is becoming increasingly godless. What affect does technology have on the soul of man. Let us take a look.
The first place to evaluate technology is to see what the Bible says about it. At the very beginning we see that God created the world by speaking rather than making it with His hands. I know there is metaphor being used here, but the Bible clearly wants us to observe the distinction between how God creates and how we create. In addition, God created all from nothing, whereas we have to create using raw materials of God’s creation,
In the passage we read from this morning, we are introduced to man’s introduction of technology. In says Enoch made the first city, Jubal made the first musical instrument, and that Tubal-Cain was the master of crafting in bronze and iron. It is very important to notice here that all of these mentioned people were of the line of Cain and not Seth. Whereas the seed of Seth was preserved through the flood, all of Cain’s descendants perished. So very early in the Bible, technology made by the hands of man is seen in a negative light. They are associated with ultimate destruction rather than the means of making a better world.
The downward spiral of Cain’s line was remarkable, I was started by a cursed murderer, Cain and spiraled downward. Even as technology advanced, the soul of man declined. We read of Lamech’s miserable poem glorying in his killing a man. Later the Bible mentions the sons of god sleeping with the daughters of men. We don’t know exactly what that means, but whatever it was, it was in a context of something that was displeasing to God. Finally, the last straw was that the world was filled with violence. Technology did not make for a better world. This is because the hearts of men were corrupt and evil. Technology could only amplify the power to do evil. The result was the utter annihilation of the effort. The flood came, and only Noah and his family found grace in the sight of the Lord.
When on continues through the story of the Scripture, this tension between God and technology and the artifices of men continues to play out. We see what happened with Nimrod and the Tower of Babel. God with a lesser judgment than the Flood confused the tongues of men to prevent them from co-operating on a project which would have been disastrous to the souls of men.
Abraham was called out of the technologically advanced city of Ur to being a shepherd on the fringe of the Canaanite land. And when God fulfilled His promise to Abraham in giving possession of Canaan land to His descendants, he warned the people of Israel not to take up their ways. They had used technology to make gods to worship with their hands. They had erected altars upon which innocent children were burned alive. They had horse-powered chariots of iron. They had advanced technology and lived in walled cities. Yet, God has Israel shout a few words and the walls of Jericho fall down. The city is destroyed with its wealth except for Rahab whose faith in the God of Israel saved her and her family.
I could quote example after example from the Old Testament to show that this is a consistent theme. Israel was not to trust in the technology and artifices of men but rather in the protection of the Lord their God. The Bible also sadly records that Israel did not accept this commanded advice with the result that the northern tribes were dispersed and the southern tribes taken into Babylonian captivity.
In the New Testament times, we are introduced to Rome and her technology as well. We think of their use of the Roman arch and their invention of concrete. They city of Rome had an advanced sewer system which reduced disease and allowed for a large number of people to actually live in a city. They created elaborate roads and aqueducts. They created large ships to carry Egyptian grain throughout the empire. They equipped their legions with the latest technology and turned them into a feared fighting force which grew and protected the empire. They made great buildings. What a marvel of technology!
Yet, the use of technology corrupted the soul of man. Even the Emperor Augustus who was no Christian saw the negative effects of technology. He saw the once virile men of Rome becoming soft and effeminate. Even his daughter became such a scandal through her adulterous affairs that Augustus disowned her and instead adopted Tiberius, no great moral character either, as his son.
The Roman baths became the hotbed of all kinds of immoral behavior. Technological advancement caused greater and greater inequality in the distribution of wealth. Technology made Rome great but in the end could not save her. Technology advanced the sinful rottenness of mankind.
A Christian theologian named St. Augustine was alive to see the end. He lived to see the sack of Rome by barbarians and died just as the Vandals were advancing near his home of Hippo on the African coast. He wrote a book in response to some who accused the Christians and their abandonment of the dieties which allegedly protected Rome. They accused the Christians of bringing softness into the Empire. Augustine refutes this in his City of God and traces the real reason for the destruction of Rome. He tried to console his fellow Christians there who escaped death and total plunder by taking refuge in the churches in Rome. The semi-Christian and superstitious barbarians would not sack a church. He said that there were two cities, one made by God, perfect, and eternal. The other was the city of man which was temporal and fleeting. The city of man has many names whether it be Rome or Babylon, but nevertheless it is the same city destined for eternal destruction.
I suppose by now you are getting a little weary of the history lesson. What does all this mean now? Well, OK, permit me to tell you. I do agree that modern technology has produced remarkable change. I have already stated that much of this is truly progress. We think of the modern miracle of penicillin and other antibiotic which have prolonged many lives. We think of all the diagnostic test equipment we have. Re marvel that now we can communicate with other all over the globe instantly. I will affirm that like ancient Rome, technology has made life easier and safer for a lot of people.
But if technology is so wonderful, why then is the world’s doomsday clock set at 3 minutes to midnight? Is technology as wonderful as it seems. Why are so many leaving the grid as they say and disconnecting from the technological world to a more primitive and what they feel is a more authentic way of life. Rome had this movement too as thousands left to be hermits in the desert or monks and nuns in the monasteries. Today’s monasticism tends to be more secular without a sustaining faith in God to give them comfort. In their silence of their cells, they wait for the strike of midnight.
Today we can extend life. We are playing with the DNA code. Soon they say they will solve the DNA replication friction which causes aging. We might be biologically capable of being the new Methuselah’s. What a joy to think of hearing a 1000 years’ worth of the nightly news and wrangling over elections, to deal with terrorism and all the gloomy news. Heaven it will not be. It would become so terrible that more violence and suicide would occur. Technology can not fill the God sized hole in the human soul.
Imagine a world of self-driving cars. How wonderful until a terrorist hacks the programming and causes the cars to crash into each other. A world full of drones delivering ISIS bombs conveniently to your doorstep. Imagine a world where robots do all the work. Is that utopia, a world full of unemployed people amusing themselves with virtual reality as the real world becomes increasingly barren?
What the world really needs is not more human technology. It needs the life of God in the soul of man, as Henry Scougal said over 200 years ago. Pascal says that it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and not the sterile and impersonal gods of the philosophers that is needed to fill this void. And he was one of the world of his day’s greatest scientists and mathematicians.
It was said by the Puritans that idle hands were the devil’s workshop. I am not sure this is right. Rather I think that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. And this is what technology is doing to us. The hands are busily engaged with touchscreens as we use our devices. But technology has caused an emptying of our mind which the devil can use and does use. The mind needs to be filled with good thoughts. It needs to reflect upon the goodness of God our Creator and Jesus our Redeemer. We need to be constantly in prayer and proclamation to a dying world of the good news of the Gospel.
I am not optimistic about the future of this City of Man. The Bible tells me not to place any hope in man and his technology. I don’t know it is 3 minutes to midnight, three seconds to midnight, or three centuries to midnight. The Lord does not tell us. He tells us to watch and be ready for that day though. But I am sure that the City of God and His kingdom shall come and be fully realized in God’s time. So let this comfort you in the days of your pilgrimage here.
In the meanwhile, Jesus did not pray in John 17 that the Father take His disciples out of the world, but rather to keep them in this world. This present age is evil, but the Christian is not to seek refuge in the desert but be a bold witness to the truth of Jesus Christ, to be in this world but not of it. And I have confidence in the prayer of Jesus made in our behalf as it is the same Jesus who sits at God’s right hand and makes intercession for us today. So I will use technology or not use it as God can use technology as a means to His end, but not necessarily. What is important is to use it as God’s tool and not to be sucked into its trap. May God now keep us as He has already promised in Scripture. Amen.