Whether it’s a new app that’s taking the country by storm, a new must-have iPhone upgrade or a new way to use virtual reality, technology moves at lightning speed.
As the use of digital devices increases, some Southern Baptist leaders are urging Christians to examine the ways technology may shape them.
Jason SackDirector of Research and Chair of Technology Ethics Research at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), told Baptist Press that he believes technology is no longer just a tool we use, but is changing the way we see the world.
“The complexity, usefulness, growth and development of technology often increases exponentially,” Thacker said. “It’s the nature of technology, and what we’re experiencing now will only continue to increase in a sense. Technology is everywhere.
“If technology continues to advance, things will become faster, more complex and more connected. Digital devices are not just tools we use, but tools that fundamentally change us.
“It’s shaping how we understand the nature of reality and truth, and how we relate in relationships. In a way, technology is training us. I think people are starting to wake up and see that something is wrong.”
In collaboration with the ERLC, Thacker leads a research project for an entity called the Digital Commons Square. The program focuses on providing Southern Baptist churches with resources related to navigating the changing technological environment.
Particular attention is given to issues related to freedom of expression and freedom of religion.
He explained that the research is important to the ministry because technology affects every aspect of life.
“Technology is not a separate set of issues that Christians have to address or think about. It is an element of all other issues related to Christian life and Christian ethics,” Thacker said.
“Issues such as marriage, sexuality, human dignity or justice are all affected by technology because we live in a digital society.”
In his book “Following Jesus in the Digital Age,” published this year, Thaker encourages Christians to use technology in a holier way.
One of the main recommendations he shared was for Christians to take the time to decide how to use technology in their lives and take steps to be a shining light in the digital space.
“Technology at its core is about making things faster, but what we see in the wisdom literature is that we’re being asked to slow down,” Thacker said. “Wisdom is not acquired overnight. There are no apps. There are no switches.
“It’s important for a Christian to think wisely and think deeply, and that will come from slowing down and asking some big questions, how has that shaped me, and then how do I walk with wisdom and seek better Follow Jesus.
“Christians need to understand culture for what it is, not what we want it to be. The digital society presents many unique challenges, but also many unique opportunities, and I believe God is calling us to step into these things, And to be a voice for hope, peace and evangelical transformation in our community.”
One Southern Baptist seeking to apply this wisdom in his own life is Jeff MinjiRegional Strategist for the Southeast Region of SBC in Virginia.
What started as a doctoral research dissertation as a Southeast Baptist seminary student turned into a self-examination of the ways he uses technology in his own life.
The main principle Mingee found was to apply the Bible to one’s use of technology, no matter how fast it advances.
“It’s definitely a danger for Christians to adopt technological advances in a worldly way with little or no thought to God’s will to be glorified,” Mingji said.
“We can’t predict how technological advancement will affect us—how will the iPhone affect my life? I don’t know, and there’s no way of knowing. It’s a challenge of technological advancement, and we can’t wait until we know if we’re going to adopt it.” The results of .We either use it or don’t use it and navigate it as we go.
“Christians need to apply 1 Corinthians 10:31 to our digital habits, whether we adopt technological advancements or avoid them.”
Mingji has compiled some of his thoughts and research related to technology use into a book titled “Digital Domination: Five Questions Christians Should Ask When Taking Control of Their Digital Devices.”
This book contains questions for Christians to examine the role of technology in their lives and determine whether they are controlling the technology or controlling them.
“My life has given me so much joy that I can’t waste my life staring at a rectangle that fits in my hand,” Mingee said. “You’re missing out on so much joy because you’re abusing your device.
“I think our digital devices can inspire godly joy in our lives, so I want to find ways to better manage and use technology.”
(Editor’s Note – Timothy Cockes is a staff writer for Baptist Press.)