Your Cell Phone and the Christian Life, Part 2
Written by Pastor Jim Law
This is the second post considering the impact of the cell phone on the Christian life. Tony Reinke’s insightful book, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, has stirred my thoughts on how the advent of the cell phone has changed life as we know it, and much of the change is not good to nurturing a heart of worship.
This past week, I came across an article by Ben Renner entitled, “3 In 5 Millennials Say Life Is More Stressful Now Than Ever Before.” Renner presented research that many of the stressors are directly related to cell phones, “from slow WiFi, to broken phone screens, to zero ‘likes’ on social media.” Other included loss of phone, dying battery, and forgetting phone charger. Renner noted that researchers have discovered that these fixations brought substantial disruption to sleep patterns.
I think it is important to note that millennials are not the only segment of our culture who have increased stress because of cell phones. The pervasive and invasive thrust of these devices has changed life for everyone of us who uses them (and even for the few who don’t). But, as we mentioned in the last post, the benefit of Reinke’s work is that it is not a pharisaical treatment of technology, but a genuine challenge for healthy engagement with technology.
In this post, I would like to offer a couple more “take-aways” from Reinke’s book to build on the three offered last time.
#4. Reinke presents a very helpful “theology of technology” which serves the Christian well regardless of what technological developments occur in our lifetime. Affirming the omniscience of God, Reinke writes, “Our digital age is no cosmic accident.” He then proceeds to give a timeline of technology beginning with Creation in which God creates “Adam out of mud and Eve out of a rib. Yahweh bent down and exhaled breath into their lungs, and they awoke in a strange world of oceans and sunshine and mountains and fruit and unnamed animals, untilled soil, and untapped materials such as diamonds, gold, silver, and iron.”
Technology understood through a biblical worldview sees the Garden of Eden as the beginning of technological advancement leading ultimately to the city of God. (Revelation 21) Reinke writes, “We find ourselves in the middle of this garden-to-city unfolding of history, and God is governing the entire process.” He is doing so through natural laws and through his image bearers who were created to create as their Creator has done.
In a well-reasoned appeal, Reinke pointed to key realities of technology. He mentioned nine, but I would like to highlight several that were especially meaningful to me:
*Technology modifies creation.We grow food strategically. From hoes and sickles and horse-drawn plows to tractors, irrigation systems and now GPS-guided equipment. Reinke is correct in saying, “Technology is used to subdue creation for human good but also to increase efficiency.”
*Technology pushes back the results of the fall. With the fall and the effects of sin came “a breakdown in man’s relationships with everyone and everything. That breakdown still affects us today—weeds in the crops, pain in the delivery room, and embarrassment in nakedness.”To each of these concerns and millions of others comes the help of technology which brings forth products like Roundup weed killer, epidural anesthetic for labor pains, and clothing to cover our bodies.
*Technology helps to edify souls. Innovations also serve worshipers as well as entrepreneurs. When we consider the musical instruments that have been developed over the centuries along with the advance of written communication that brought to us the Bible, Reinke is certainly correct when he wrote, “Every time we open our Bibles, our souls are being fed through centuries of technological advancement. From trumpets and temples to gold-edged Bibles, God intended technology to plan an essential role for us to know and worship him.”
*God governs every human technology. From the “sky-scraper of pride”known as the Tower of Babel, where God confused the tongues and separated the languages because of the manifest pride of its builders. Reinke’s comments are helpful, “To build a godless skyscraper, using God’s resources put in the ground and God’s inventiveness put in his image bearers, was the height of human arrogance and the total distortion of human purposes.”(p. 34)
I agree with Reinke’s assessment that the Roman cross was the greatest demonstration of the God’s sovereignty over technology. This device of torture would serve as ground zero for God’s redemptive plan, for it was there that God’s son died a once-for-all death, the just dying for the unjust, in order that we might be brought to God.
#5- Reinke illustrates how “we fear missing out” (FOMO), and this fear is heightened exponentially through non-stop, cell phone connectivity. We all have a sense of missing important opportunities in life: “a potential spouse, a perfect job offer, missing golden stock tip, or missing a party with our friends—missing out leaves a sting of regret we all hate.” This natural tendency of wanting to make the most of every opportunity can fuel insatiable desires to remain tethered to the worldwide web through the portability of our cell phones.
“FOMO,”writes Reinke,“can be diagnosed through more basic symptoms of ‘disconnection anxiety,’ also known as ‘no-mobile phone phobia’—nomophobia—the fret when we find ourselves prevented from accessing the digital worlds. This strain of FOMO is highly contagious and progresses rapidly.” This is detrimental to our lives as we cascade from one endless news cycle or headline to the next. The take-away for the believer is to learn healthy boundaries for online participation and to put FOMO in its proper place. For me, it was once again a call to examine my heart and to pursue what is excellent unto the Lord. (Philippians 1:9-11)
Reinke made a strong connection to the Gospel when he made reference to the fear of eternally missing out. He pointed the reader to Luke 16:19-31 which is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. In this jolting story, “Jesus makes the moral of the story obvious. Where God’s Word is opened, read and embraced by the hearer, there is no eternal fear—only the promise of eternal restoration for everything missed out on in this life…if you are in Christ, the sting of missing out is eternally removed. FOMO-plagued sinners embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, and he promises us no eternal loss.”
Don’t live your life in bondage to your cell phone because of the fear of missing out, rather nurture a heart of worship and stay connected where it matters most, to the One before whom we live and move and have our being. “Permit not your minds to be easily distracted,” wrote Charles Spurgeon 150 years ago, “or you will often have your devotion destroyed.”
I’ll be back in a couple weeks with some final thoughts.