God is a highly competent technician. He created wing structures, eyes, chemical factories like the liver, lightning bolts and even nuclear furnaces called stars –long before man was there to advise Him. He even created and designed the human brain – a self-replicating, fuzzy logic, multi-media, self-programming, organic computer. If we are to be in the image of God then we will share His excellence in design, invention and implementation. The notion that technology is alien to spirituality is false. Technology is the expression of spirituality. Technology and spirituality are integrated with each other, technology is our means of expression of the image of God within us.
Ezekiel 1:19-21,25-28 BBE (19) And when the living beings went on, the wheels went by their side; and when the living beings were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. (20) Wherever the spirit was to go they went; and the wheels were lifted up by their side: for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels. (21) When these went on, the others went; and when these came to rest, the others came to rest; and when these were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up by their side: for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels…… And there was a voice from the expanse which was over their heads, in their standing still, and they let down their wings. (26) And from above the expanse that was over their heads was a likeness like a sapphire stone, the likeness of a throne. And on the likeness of the throne was a likeness looking like a man on it from above. (27) And I saw Him looking like the color of polished bronze, looking like fire all around within it. From the likeness of His loins even upward, and from the likeness of His loins even downward, I saw Him, looking like fire, and it had brightness all around. (28) As the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain looks, so the brightness all around looked. This was how the likeness of the glory of Jehovah looked. And I saw. And I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking.
In Ezekiel’s vision the throne of God is being carried by four living beings on a chariot of fire with four immense wheels. These wheels are directed by the spirit of the living beings “for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels”. This living being-wheels-throne-expanse of crystal arrangement was full of energy and fire. It was a high-powered, mobile, spiritual-technological complex that carried the very Presence and authority of God. Thus God was not separated from technology – but rather was enthroned upon it. And the technology was not separate from the spiritual world – but indwelt by it.
This integration of spiritual indwelling and technical excellence is evident in the first passage in Scripture that tells us about being filled with the Holy Spirit. As Bezalel is filled with God’s Spirit the result is technical excellence and fine craftsmanship.
Exodus 31:1-5 ASV And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, (2) See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: (3) and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, (4) to devise skilful works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, (5) and in cutting of stones for setting, and in carving of wood, to work in all manner of workmanship.
The Spirit is often associated with fire - the main symbol of technology and power and His indwelling teaches us and give us wisdom in all things including technology. (1 Corinthians 2:9-16, 1 John 2:20,22) Indeed the prophet Isaiah tells us to pay close attention to God’s wisdom and teachings which even include practical details of farming life:
Isaiah 28:23-29 MKJV Give ear and hear my voice; listen, and hear my speech. (24) Does the plowman plow all day to sow? Does he open and break the clods of his ground? (25) When he has made the face of it level, does he not cast out the dill and scatter the cummin, and throw in the choice wheat and the chosen barley and the spelt in its border? (26) For his God instructs him to do right; his God teaches him. (27) For the dill is not threshed with a threshing instrument, nor is a cart wheel turned on cummin; but the dill is beaten out with a staff and the cummin with a rod. (28) Bread grain is crushed, but not always does one thresh it with threshing. And he drives the wheel of his cart; and his horses do not beat it small. (29) This also comes out from Jehovah of Hosts, who is wonderful in wisdom, making sound wisdom great.
The point of Isaiah’s statement is that God’s wisdom is not just some esoteric morality or irrelevant philosophy but covers all of life including farming and the technology needed for earning of our daily bread. God’s wisdom penetrates into all the details of everyday life – including showing the farmer the best way to thresh cummin.
Jesus – who is always our model, was a carpenter – a user of tools and technology (Mark 6:3). He was not an ascetic philosopher who just read books and taught. He was not ‘so spiritual’ that He floated around unable to fix a light bulb or wash dishes. The image of God in Christ, the perfect image was of a practical tool-using man. For Jesus, who is the very image of God, there was no split between spirituality and technology. Peter, James and John were fishermen, Paul was a tent-maker, they were all people who used technology. The Christian model does not involve a retreat from technology. Christianity sees practicality as a positive human attribute. Technical excellence is desirable and is part of the wisdom God imparts and part of being fully in the image of God.
But technology is not ultimate - Jesus left His workshop and Peter left his nets – to preach the gospel. Technology is a means not an end -and there are times when we have a good practical reason to leave the toolshed and go preach a sermon. The aim of the Christian life is the development of the human character in love, not the development of technology. Yet technology helps us express our love. If you love a sick person you want the best possible diagnosis and treatment. This may involve the development of X-Ray machines, MRI, better scalpels, or better disinfectants – all because we want to love, heal and help sick people. The technology takes the loving impulse and turns it into a practical reality. All the loving impulses in the world cannot make up for an inaccurate diagnosis, a blunt scalpel or an unhygienic ward. If love is to achieve its aims it needs to use technology to do so.
Thus technology is a means, not an end, technology is the means by which we express our love and incarnate it in the world of tangible things.
Thus we are socio-technical beings. That is we are social beings who express themselves through technology. This is no accident of culture or a sudden invention of the last few years. For, as we saw in Ezekiel, God Himself is a socio-technical being, a loving Trinity enthroned on an awesome chariot of fire.
The construction of the Temple gives us some idea of what Spirit-indwelt technology can look like. The Temple was the construction of human craftsmen inspired by God working to a construction plan given to David by the Holy Spirit (1 Chronicles 28:11-19). Here technology is clearly in the service of God for the glory of God and its result ends up being personally indwelt by God.
Many bible commentators have noticed that humanity starts in a Garden but ends up in a city – the city of God. Living in a city involves roads and buildings and communications. The city, the place of technology, is our final home because there we will use the technical skills given to us by God and be inventive, artistic and creative. We don’t go back to a garden, we have outgrown Eden, we have now mastered fire and steel and music and art and we are socio-technical beings who will dwell in a socio-technical city indwelt by God. (Revelation chapters 21,22)
In the Ezekiel passage above it says "for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels". This says two things - firstly that technology can be indwelt by God, or by other spiritual beings, and secondly that our "spirit" our culture can be expressed in our artifacts and technology.
God can "dwell" in a Temple. And our cultural spirit has its temples - shopping malls, B2 bombers, racing cars and skyscrapers. These technological constructions express the spirit of the nation or culture. From the Gogodala canoe race with its chanting and spells to the elegance of the Concorde we feel our technology captures our spirit and expresses it.
So what has happened to the spirit of a nation that builds too many malls or suddenly wants to build nuclear bombs? Or when a nation builds great skyscrapers and commercial buildings while its poor go without housing? Greed and violence have entered in and compassion has left. But the changes can be positive! In London after the great revivals pubs closed down, the slums were made attractive, and technical colleges and schools went up. When a revival affects construction work - then it has truly taken hold! And what does it say when we see a nation taking environmentalism to heart and building recycling plants and creating natural parks, museums and works of art? Our technology expresses both the best and the worst of our spirit.
Biblically there is one artifact of the spirit that keeps recurring - the ark!
Noah saved the world by building an ark. Technological skill in the construction of large vessels was needed and God gave a design to Noah which apparently is along the same proportions of the oil tankers of today (the ark would have carried around 50,000 tons).
Genesis 6:12-19 MKJV And God looked upon the earth. And, behold, it was corrupted! For all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth. (13) And God said to Noah, The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them. And, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. (14) Make an ark of cyprus timbers. You shall make rooms in the ark. And you shall pitch it inside and outside with pitch. (15) And this is the way you shall make it. The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it shall be fifty cubits and its height thirty cubits. (16) You shall make a window in the ark, and you shall finish it above to a cubit. And you shall set the door of the ark in the side of it. You shall make it with lower, second and third stories. (17) And behold! I, even I, am bringing a flood of waters upon the earth in order to destroy all flesh (in which is the breath of life) from under the heavens. Everything which is in the earth shall die. (18) But I will establish My covenant with you. And you shall come into the ark, you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you. (19) And you shall bring into the ark two of every kind, of every living thing of all flesh, to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female.
The “constructed ark” and salvation theme returns later in the ark that saved Moses: Exodus 2:3 MKJV But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of papyrus for him, and daubed it with bitumen and with pitch, and put the child in it. And she laid it in the reeds by the river's edge.
The ark is also the theme of the ornate “ark of the covenant” which was the centerpiece of the tabernacle. Exodus 25:10-13 MKJV And they shall make an ark of acacia-wood. Two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide and a cubit and a half high. (11) And you shall overlay it with pure gold. You shall overlay it inside and out, and shall make on it a crown of gold all around. (12) And you shall cast four rings of gold for it, and shall put it on its four feet. And two rings shall be in the one side of it, and two rings in the other side of it. (13) And you shall make staves of acacia-wood, and overlay them with gold.
This ark of the covenant was Spirit-indwelt power technology where God and man met. Exodus 25:22 MKJV And I will meet with you there, and I will talk with you from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubs on the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give you in commandment to the sons of Israel.
But the ark was also holy, powerful and dangerous: 2 Samuel 6:6-7 MKJV And when they came to Nachon's threshing-floor, Uzzah reached out to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen upset it. (7) And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Uzzah. And God struck him there for the error. And he died there by the ark of God.
Spirit-indwelt high-power technology is not to be taken lightly. The technology that saves can be the technology that kills. Yet technology is part of the salvation story, either in its perfection in the Ark of The Covenant or in its death and twisting in the Cross.
The cross is the simplest possible construction – two straight sticks nailed together. The cross is inelegant, rough, crude, the very opposite of the artistry of the Ark of the Covenant. Its not efficient like a guillotine or merciful like a lethal injection. The cross is technology brutalized, technology used for cruelty, technology subverted and made primitive, ugly and dead. From the cruel whip of thongs the soldiers used, to the rod Jesus was beaten with to the crown of thorns -we see the technology of torture, brutality and cruelty. Technology in the hands of sadists in the service of Satan. Inventing instruments of torture and cruelty is the work of sick minds and it is the death of technology. God does not sit on His throne thinking about how best to torment people. In fact such cruelties do not enter His mind at all. Jeremiah 7:31 ASV And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded not, neither came it into my mind.
Technology employed for the purpose of cruelty is technology in the service of the Devil, not of God. Napalm, torture chambers, sweat-shops, inhuman working conditions, Satanic ritual abuse, death camps, the gas chambers in Auschwitz, and the Nazi experimentation on people are all demonic uses of technology. They are dark, evil, the perversion of human inventiveness and a twisting of the image of God.
Technology is also distorted from its God-given purpose when it is used for idolatry. Leviticus 26:1 ASV Ye shall make you no idols, neither shall ye rear you up a graven image, or a pillar, neither shall ye place any figured stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am Jehovah your God.
An idol is spirit-indwelt power technology of the wrong kind! Its technology indwelt by demons. 1 Corinthians 10:19-21 ASV (19) What say I then? that a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? (20) But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have communion with demons. (21) Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons: ye cannot partake of the table of the Lord, and of the table of demons.
However powerful idolatry may be it is far less powerful than God as is illustrated by the clash between the Philistine idol Dagon and YHWH.: 1 Samuel 5:1-4 ASV Now the Philistines had taken the ark of God, and they brought it from Eben-ezer unto Ashdod. (2) And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. (3) And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of Jehovah. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again. (4) And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of Jehovah; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands lay cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him.
When technology becomes clearly idolatrous God will humble it and cause it to fall down before Him. Then if it does not get the message it will be amputated!
Technology should not be not allowed to drive us relentlessly. There must be some sacred space in our culture. Days off, holy days, green belts, places of rest and recreation. There must be some areas beyond the intrusiveness of "work", the Market, and high speed 24/7 "always on" technological madness.
In the Bible both people and the land were to have Sabbaths. The people, once very seven days, the land once every seven years. During the Sabbath people were not to work or use technology - it was "tools down" time. During the Sabbath on the land it was not to feel then plow but rather it was to be left fallow.
Exodus 20:10-11 ASV but the seventh day is a sabbath unto Jehovah thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: (11) for in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore Jehovah blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Leviticus 25:3-5 ASV Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruits thereof; (4) but in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath unto Jehovah: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. (5) That which groweth of itself of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, and the grapes of thy undressed vine thou shalt not gather: it shall be a year of solemn rest for the land.
Six days we can use our technology - then we need to give ourselves and our environment a break. Even God rested from His creative labors on the seventh day. Part of being a socio-technical being is knowing when to let go of the need to work and to simply rest and enjoy relationships. We need to create Sabbath spaces when we, our culture and our technology "slow down" and our full humanity can be refreshed.
Music is the use of technology to produce harmony – whether it is a harp, a pipe organ or a computer that produces the sound. Skill with the instrument is an essential part of musical ability and of contributing to worship: 2 Chronicles 34:12 Darby (12) And the men did the work faithfully. And over them were appointed Jahath and Obadiah, Levites, of the children of Merari, and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the children of the Kohathites, for the oversight; and all these Levites were skilled in instruments of music.
The Psalms list large numbers of musical instruments used in worship such as harps, lyres, viols, drums, trumpets and cymbals (Psalm 150) and King David is credited with being an inventor of musical instruments. (Amos 6:5)
In worship the technology is secondary and the worship of the Lord is primary. Technology takes its place as a servant of the glory of God. In worship music the technology brings people together as one and unites them in thought and spirit. The musical instrument well played, in humble service to God is a key element in experiencing the presence of God. In worship we are socio-technical beings giving glory to God both in our social relationships and with our musical instruments. Similarly we are to integrate our modern worship technology - our sound systems, PowerPoint presentations, and lighting – into a seamless harmonious whole that gives glory to God and does not draw attention to the technology per se.
There has always been an adopting of technology by those interested in evangelism. The technology can be as simple as the printing of tracts and bibles or using a megaphone, as expensive as radio and TV evangelism or as far-reaching as satellite broadcasts and cybermissions. The power is in the gospel, in the proclaimed word of God, not in the technology (Romans 1:16). However the technology allows the proclamation to reach more and more people and for it to be translated into languages and formats they understand – such as Braille. By teaching on the Internet I reach 4000 students a month- far more than I would teach in most bible colleges. Not only that but the web site is “teaching” them when I am asleep, traveling or even on holiday! Technology even enables me to teach people in over 25 countries simultaneously! Technology does not increase the truth of what I say or its power to save (which is Christ’s alone) but it does make it cheaper and more accessible to those who seek it. It only costs me about $5 per year per full-time student at the AIBI! (www.aibi.ph).
Paul varied his missionary approach so that he might “by all means save some”: 1 Corinthians 9:22 MKJV (22) To the weak I became as the weak, so that I might gain the weak. I am made all things to all men, so that I might by all means save some. Thus the means adopted are to be tailored to those needing salvation – Braille bibles for the blind, hand-cranked tape players for remote rural villages, Internet chat rooms for the wired post-modern generation. The technology is only glorious if it is appropriate for getting those particular people saved and discipled.
We are socio-technical beings made in the image of God who are to use technology to love one another and carry out the Great Commission with wisdom and effectiveness. Technology can be Spirit-indwelt and powerful and an intrinsic part of the glory of God – such as the ark of the covenant or the wheels of Ezekiel. Technology is a means not an end and is not to be subverted into idolatry or used in inhuman and cruel ways. Nether is technology to be used to relentlessly drive us but rather is to be restrained by "Sabbath spaces' of rest that we create in the culture. Technology is to be harnessed for serving one another, for worship and as part of the expression of the spiritual wisdom of God as it is incarnate in the physical world. Spirit-filled Christians will be “skilled craftsmen” and technologically competent as well as of good Christian character. This wisdom will cause them to be able to dwell in the city of God, the perfect God-indwelt socio-technical community.
by John Edmiston (copyright John Edmiston 2003)