How is technology affecting believers in Jesus Christ?
Do you control your phone–or does your phone control you? The smartphone has taken the world by storm, and Christians living in this world are partakers in this phenomenon. The smartphone combined several technologies into the most powerful handheld tool of social connection ever invented. Within a few years of its unveiling, it has become fully integrated into our lives–for good and for bad.
I recently led a group through the book, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke. Tony is a journalist and staff writer for Desiring God Ministries and hosts the Ask Pastor John podcast. He writes this book in an objective way–appreciating all the benefits of smartphone technology, but also thinking through concerns that believers in Christ should have.
He begins by reminding us that technology is morally neutral and has been in this world since creation. God has given mankind the ability to solve problems and develop solutions as He sovereignly guides history. Man has developed tools to work the ground and grow food, to fight the effects of the curse with medical treatments, to communicate with people in amazing ways, and many other positive things. Technology is rapidly changing and there are great benefits, but the question is this: How are our smartphones changing us, and should we be concerned?
Reinke covers twelve corresponding ways in which our smartphones are changing us and undermining our spiritual health:
Our phones amplify our addiction to distraction and thereby cause us to lose our perspective on time.
Our phones push us to evade the limits of living in physical bodies, and thereby cause us to treat one another harshly.
Our phones feed our craving for immediate approval, which leads to FOMO (fear of missing out).
Our phones are fostering the loss of our literacy, and thus, we are losing meaning in life.
We feed on the produced and get comfortable in secret vices.
Our phones overtake and distort our identity and tempt us toward unhealthy isolation and loneliness.
He doesn’t just give warnings, but also commends life disciplines to preserve our spiritual health in the smartphone age. These disciplines include: minimizing distractions to hear from God, embracing our flesh and blood embodiment and treating one another with grace, aiming at God’s approval rather than man’s, treasuring Christ to be molded into His image, and seeking to serve the needs of our neighbors.
He goes into great depth using insights from numerous thinkers, published studies, his own research, and God’s Word. But ultimately, he encourages the reader to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit in regard to the use of smartphones. Some can balance smartphone use and not fall into the traps explained in the book, but others might need to limit their use or maybe not use a smartphone at all. For everyone, the challenge is to extend grace to one another.
This is a necessary book for our generation, one that should be read by every Christian smartphone owner. I highly recommend it!