D. A. Carson on Technology Culture

Themelios - Volume 33, Issue 3In the latest issue of the online journal Themelios, D. A. Carson’s editorial is largely concerned with technology. Here’s a choice quote:

Scarcely less important than speed of access is the Internet’s sheer intoxicating addictiveness–or, more broadly, we might be better to think of the intoxicating addictiveness of the entire digital world. Many are those who are never quiet, alone, and reflective, who never read material that demands reflection and imagination. The iPods provide the music, the phones constant access to friends, phones and computers tie us to news, video, YouTube, Facebook, and on and on. This is not to demonize tools that are so very useful. Rather, it is to point out the obvious: information does not necessarily spell knowledge, and knowledge does not necessarily spell wisdom, and the incessant demand for unending sensory input from the digital world (says he, as he writes this on a computer for an electronic theological journal) does not guarantee we make good choices. We have the potential to become world citizens, informed about every corner of the globe, but in many western countries the standards of geographical and cross-cultural awareness have seriously declined. We have access to spectacularly useful information, but most of us diddle around on ephemeral blogs and listen to music as enduring as a snowball in a blast furnace. Sometimes we just become burned out by the endless waves of bad news, and decide the best course is to turn the iPod volume up a bit. (emphasis mine)

The entire article is largely a reflection on his book Christ and Culture Revisited more than a piece on pure technology, but it is very good. Here is the conclusion:

I shall not here review the Christian resources God has kindly lavished on us to enable us not to conform to the pattern of this world. If we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, then we must be reading the Scriptures perennially, seeking to think God’s thoughts after him, focusing on the gospel of God and pondering its implications in every domain of life. We need to hear competing voices of information from the world around us, use our time in the digital world wisely, and learn to shut that world down when it becomes more important to get up in the morning and answer emails than it does to get up and read the Bible and pray. We may also learn much from church history, where we observe fellow believers in other times and cultures learning the shape of faithfulness. We begin to detect how easily the “world” may squeeze us into its mold. We soon learn that adequate response is more than mere mental resolve, mere disciplined observance of the principle “garbage in, garbage out” (after all, we are what we think), though it is not less than that. The gospel is the power of God issuing in salvation. Empowered by the Holy Spirit and living in the shadow of the cross and resurrection, we find ourselves wanting to be conformed to the Lord Jesus, wanting to be as holy and as wise as pardoned sinners can be this side of the consummation. (emphasis mine)

HT: Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds.

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John Dyer

In my day job, I work at Dallas Theological Seminary, and at night I write Bible software for countries whose leaders could be called "overlords." This one time, I wrote a book about technology and Christian faith. You can find out more about what I'm up to at http://j.hn/.

2 thoughts on “D. A. Carson on Technology Culture”

  1. Why does someone like Carson feel the need to write on Technology and culture? I think guys like this just have an insatiable need to write on whatever is going through their mind. His concerns seem to be valid concerns, but how do we really know if they are? I’m a little trouble buy the statement, “But in many western countries the standards of geographical and cross-cultural awareness have seriously declined.” How did him come to know this, where is the research? What are and were the “standards.” Please, just give me something I can use.

  2. I think Carson captures some things rather nicely in that quote. Thanks for sharing this John. I personally believe that even though he may be overstating his case about the decline in cross-cultural awareness among westerners, I think he makes a point. There is so much information out there it is easy to feel overwhelmed (even though subconsiously sometimes) and naturally move to something that soothes or calms the never. And this is where “entertainment” aspect of the digital world has a tendency to take over.

    What typically happens is that we end up imersing ourselves in an endless mind-numbing array of so called entertainment. Hence the addiction many of us have to sensory input even though we may not realize it.

    Again, good stuff Dickey!

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