Theology Thursday: Tech vs the Kingdom

bible and i pad sitting on a table By Brett A. Berger Posted on March 22, 2018  in  [ Theology & Ministry ]

It is possible that some will read the following as anti-science or anti-technology and that I am advocating for a fideist rejection of the world. I am not. I am writing a reflection on the foundation for hope.

I believe it is safe to assume that most people look out at the world around us and think, “You know, there is a lot that is not as it ought to be.” Whether that be our political situation, matters of health and disease, our food chain, poverty, racial strife, sexual mores, mental health, gun violence or any number of the points of pain we experience in this world, the present problems of the world drive us to look into the future for a better day and a better world.

However, the solutions we seek will be directly related to our understanding of the problem. How we diagnose the problem will set the course for the solutions we seek.

The Gospel of the Kingdom of God promises the present world order of sin, suffering and death would give way to God’s kingdom of justice, life and peace. Human sinfulness is the diagnosis. God’s justice and salvation is the solution and our repentance is the proper path. Remember Jesus’s preaching was summarized by “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17).

Without giving a drawn out, detailed history of ideas that brings us to this place, it is interesting to see how our contemporary culture has embraced a Gospel of Tech. As naturalism has increasingly shaped our culture, technology has increasingly become our hope. As our problems have been diagnosed in natural terms, we have sought natural solutions and technology is the offered path. The Gospel of Tech promises that we will inevitably usher in the better world through better systems, technology and scientific innovations.

As you watch television commercials for our tech and manufacturing giants, notice the promises. As we get a smarter grid, smarter cars, more advanced AI and more powerful tools, we will build the better world for which we hope. Through our technology, we will overcome sin, suffering and death. Essentially, it is the kingdom of God without the God. Humanity will achieve the conquering of suffering and death through science and technology.

The challenge this Gospel faces is that technology is merely the expansion and enhancement of the human senses, capacities and will. Beginning with the first stone-age tools right up to today’s advanced robotics, technology simply expands the human capacity. Computers are merely the enhancement of the human brain. Telescopes and microscopes are the expansion of the human eyes. Our sensors are the enhancement of our senses of hearing, touch and sight. Social media amplifies the human voice.

What does not change is the human heart. This is the problem. Technology is driven by the human will. It assumes the goodness of the human heart. The internet, which promised a superhighway of knowledge, has largely been used to propagate bias and disseminate pornography. Social media, which promised greater connectedness, has expanded our ability to bully and with greater use has resulted in a greater sense of disconnectedness and poorer mental health. Technology that promised to take down tyranny and promote democratic values has expanded surveillance, aided the slave trade and enabled countries and corporations to meddle with elections and manipulate the masses.

I promised this would not be anti-science. Science and technology are good and are a natural manifestation of the cultural mandate of Genesis: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28). Science and technology, however, cannot be the foundation of hope!

The Gospel of Tech promises sin, suffering and death will be overcome with the expansion of human autonomy through the advancement of technology. The Gospel of the Kingdom insists the sin, suffering and death experienced in the world originate in the human heart, our need is forgiveness and restoration and our call is to repentance. The prayer of the kingdom is that God’s will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Science and technology will find its good and proper place in its service and not as its hope.

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Brett A. Berger, ThM

Brett was born and raised in Arizona. He completed an MDiv from Phoenix Seminary and a ThM from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. His academic interests include biblical theology and ethics.
Learn more about Brett A. Berger, ThM

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