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The Christian and Modern Technology (1)

K Cooper, Bromborough


Older believers remember a time when communication, other than through personal contact, was by letter or telephone. Distance made things more difficult, so, for example, when a person went overseas for missionary work, contact was extremely limited. Such arrangements are unimaginable today. Modern means of communication have transformed life, especially for young people. It is often said "The world has become a smaller place." Radio, television, mobile phones and computer technology have developed at an incredible pace over the last two decades. Technology now dominates working life, recreational activity and personal relationships.

The internet has become an essential part of the world's communications infrastructure. Sadly, while the internet is not evil in itself, it is often used for evil purposes and, in many ways, has become a tool for satanic activity. It is, of course, not alone in this regard. It is difficult to contest the argument that God can use some of these modern technologies for good, because there is nothing intrinsically wrong with such facilities. Correctly used they can make modern life much easier, and help in some aspects of the Lord's work. But they can also bring difficulties and personal dilemmas for God's people, and problems arising from the use, and misuse, of technology are proving to be more significant than first imagined.

Good Manners

There can be little doubt that the use of technology sometimes leads to a diminution in good manners. The number of people who seem to be incapable of entering into the normal activities of daily life without having a mobile phone to their ear, or being engaged in texting, is disconcerting. In working life, individuals sit in meetings and at corporate events, more engaged with their computers and phones than with the people around them. On public transport, non-users of mobile phones have to endure other people's conversations, often about total irrelevancies, and usually conducted at high volume. Regrettably, many Christians have adopted such antisocial habits. Social occasions, and even assembly meetings, are not exempt from disturbance by mobile phones. Often, as soon as a meeting has ended, some saints reach for their mobile phones and proceed to text furiously. Does this suggest that the ministry given, or the preaching of the Gospel, was of little consequence to them, and that disconnection from the world outside is something that cannot be endured for longer than an hour? This is not the practice of young believers alone, for many older saints have also become enslaved by their mobile phones. One wonders how we ever managed to cope with life without these gadgets! Times of fellowship in the home are now frequently interrupted by the noise of a phone, and it is rude for a guest to sit texting rather than engaging with fellow believers. We do not need Scripture to tell us that such behaviour betrays a lack of good manners.

Technology in Meetings

The use of electronic gadgets in meetings is a cause for concern. Technology may be helpful to assist those with a disability such as hearing impairment, but the increasing reference in meetings to Bibles in electronic format on iPads and mobile phones is surely unnecessary. The use of a hard-copy Bible is a positive act of testimony. Carrying a Bible distinguishes us from the world, whereas carrying a mobile phone or computer does not. Some of us dread the day when a hard-copy Bible will not be the desired possession of every believer.

The use of electronic facilities by brethren when conducting meetings, or contributing in a Bible Reading, seems to be contrary to the spirit of our gatherings, and whilst it would be unfair to criticise their use for note-taking, they are not absolutely essential. The surreptitious use of technology to record ministry without the permission of the speaker is a further example of bad manners. Using technical gadgets in meetings can also be a distraction, and a cause of offence to some, and it is doubtful that they have any edifying value. For those who see no problem with these devices in meetings, it would be profitable to take account of another person's conscience on such matters (1 Cor 8.9).

Christians and the Internet

In addition to its use in employment and recreational activities, there are perhaps five main areas in which modern electronic technology is used by believers today. These are:

1. To support the study of Scripture.
2. To record and distribute oral ministry.
3. To create local assembly websites.
4. In the propagation of the Gospel.
5. On a personal basis through social networks.

In most of these activities the technology, if used judiciously and safely, can have great value. However, a number of words of caution are suggested for serious consideration.

As far as the study of Scripture is concerned, the internet provides much helpful material. However, it also carries an abundance of false teaching, blasphemous publications and anti-Christian propaganda. Bible students need to be very cautious about any material where the author is unknown, or has not been personally recommended by respected fellow believers. Because something has the word 'Christian' attached to it does not automatically mean it is appropriate to use. For example, the content of many books in so-called Christian bookshops or distribution centres is not helpful to serious Bible students.

As far as recorded ministry is concerned, there is a wealth of good teaching available from assembly-based teachers. This can be very beneficial to listen to when travelling, or as a basis for study. However, it is not always helpful. Sometimes ministry is given to meet specific local needs and, in many cases, the rules of etiquette have been ignored, because the explicit permission of the ministering brother to record and distribute his ministry has neither been sought nor given.

As far as assembly websites are concerned, these can be very valuable information points, evangelistic tools, and sources of good teaching. However, the aim should not be to have the most expansive website to promote a name. At times the content is injudicious, unnecessary for the world outside, and would be better restricted by password control. It must be appreciated that these websites do not belong to any one person in the assembly, and they must represent fairly the views and intentions of the whole assembly. Editorial policy is critical. No one individual should be allowed to decide arbitrarily upon the content of an assembly website. Assembly elders should closely control the content of assembly websites as part of their wider responsibilities to guard the flock. The value, security and integrity of many such websites could be called into question.

There is no doubt that the Gospel can be spread via the internet, but it must be recognised that this is no substitute for local preaching and personal evangelism.

The next article will specifically address the use of internet-based social networks by Christians.

(To be continued …)


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