‘Dominion’ over technology use a must, leaders say • Biblical Recorder

Technology advances at lightning speed, whether it’s a new app that’s taken the country by storm, a brand new must-have iPhone upgrade, or a new way to use virtual reality.

As the use of digital devices increases, some Southern Baptist leaders are urging Christians to examine how technology is shaping them.

Jason Thackerdirector of research and head 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 something that changes the way we see the world.

“The complexity, usability, growth and development of technology often happens at an exponential rate,” Thacker said. “That’s the nature of technology, and what we’re experiencing now is, in a sense, only going to increase. Technology isn’t going anywhere.

“As technology continues to advance, things will become faster, more complex and more connected. Digital devices are not just a tool that we use, but a tool that radically changes us.

“It shapes how we understand the nature of reality and truth, as well as how we connect in relationships. In a way, technology disciplines us. I think people are starting to wake up and see that there is something wrong with this.”

In his work with ERLC, Thacker leads a research project for an entity called Digital Public Square. The project focuses on providing resources for Southern Baptist churches related to navigating the ever-changing technological environment.

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Special emphasis is placed on issues related to freedom of speech and religious freedom.

He explained that this research is important for the ministry, as technology affects all areas of life.

“Technology is not a separate set of issues for Christians to deal with or think about. It is part of all the other issues related to the Christian life and Christian ethics,” Thacker said.

“Technology affects issues such as marriage, sexuality, human dignity or justice, as we live in a digital society.”

In his book “Following Jesus in a Digital Age,” published this year, Thacker encourages Christians to use technology in a more sanctifying way.

One of the main pieces of advice he shares is for Christians to take time when deciding how to use technology in their lives and take steps to be a light in the digital space.

“The point of technology is to speed things up, but what we’re seeing in the wiser literature is that we’re being called to slow down,” Thacker said. “Wisdom is not acquired overnight. There is no app for this. There is no on and off switch.

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“It’s important for Christians to think wisely and deeply, and that will come from slowing down and asking some of these big questions about how this is shaping me and how I can then walk with wisdom and strive to better follow Jesus.

“Christians must deal with culture as it is, not as we wish it to be. The digital society brings many unique challenges, but also many unique opportunities, and I believe that God is calling us to step into these things and become a voice of hope, peace and evangelical transformation in our communities.”

One Southern Baptist who wants to apply this kind of wisdom to his life is Jeff MingeeRegional Strategist for SBC Virginia Southeast Region.

What began as a doctoral research paper while a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary became a self-examination of how he used technology in his life.

The main principle that Mingee discovered is to use the Bible when using technology, no matter how fast it advances.

“There is certainly a danger that Christians would embrace technological advancement in a worldly way with little or no thought of glorifying God,” Mingee said.

“We cannot predict the impact of technological advances on us – what will be the design impact of the iPhone in my life? I have no idea and I have no way of knowing. This is a challenge with technological advancement as we can’t wait to know the result whether we accept it or not. We use it or not and navigate on the fly.

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“Christians must apply 1 Corinthians 10:31 to our digital habits, whether we embrace or abstain from technological advances.”

Mingee compiled some of his thoughts and research regarding the use of technology in a book titled “Digital Dominance: Five Questions Christians Should Ask to Take Control of Their Digital Devices.”

The book contains questions for Christians to examine the role of technology in their lives and determine whether they control technology or it controls them.

“I’m offered too much joy in life to waste my life staring at a rectangle that fits in my hand,” Mingee said. “There is too much joy that could be missed by misusing your device.

“I think our digital devices can spark joy in our lives to honor God, so I want to find ways to manage and use technology well.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Timothy Cockes is a Baptist Press staff writer.)


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