Let There Be Tech and Let It Be Good
Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill.
In the beginning, God created. Every morning he makes something new, and every evening he sees that it is good. When he creates people in his own image, God looks at the whole of creation and declares all of it to be “very good.”
When I was a kid, I thought of God as a large old man with a long white beard. (I’m pretty sure I got this from reading The Far Side comics.) Whatever we might imagine about God’s appearance, being made in God’s image does not mean we look like God looks. It means that we do what God does.
God our maker has created us to be makers as well, and he has given us the will to choose what we will create. So we may make things that honor God, or we might reject God for things that honor ourselves.
Paul explains exactly this point to the Athenians on Mars Hill. Just as Aaron in Exodus made the golden calf while Moses was on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 32:1-4), the Athenians were making idols, creating gods small enough to understand and even carry around.
Icons, Not Idols
It feels like an overstatement to say my smart phone is an idol. Certainly, I could treat it like one if I’m not being mindful, but worshipping an accidental idol with my distracted mind is no less dangerous than deliberately rejecting God.
Why? An idol holds our imagination captive. In contrast, an icon directs our imagination toward God. An idol limits our understanding of God, but an icon is open to the mystery of God. In fact, in the New Testament Greek, eikon is the word used to describe our own moral and spiritual likeness to God. God didn’t create us to be idols that look like him, but icons that reflect his essence.
In the same way, we are called to make, not idols, but icons. Jesus himself modeled this professionally. Not only was he love incarnate, he honored the spirit of God by creating useful things. He was a tekton. Traditionally, this word is translated as carpenter, though Homer and other Greek authors known to first century readers use the word to refer to a wide variety of other professions too—from blacksmiths and stone masons to house-builders and ship-builders. All of these skilled professions created something useful for the world around them, relying on their specialized skills, their techne, with wood, metal, stone, or whatever materials they used.
Not Consumers Only
Techne is one of the roots of our word “technology,” but the first century understanding of technology differs significantly from our own. Too often, we think of tech from the perspective of consumers rather than creators. Today’s technophile wants to buy the latest smart phone and the newest gaming system. The grassroots maker movement is probably closer to the creative techne that Paul and the Athenians would have understood.
As people made in the image of God, let us dedicate ourselves to the specialized skills that allow us to create wonderful new technologies that serve kids like Dario. Let us learn code. Let us study science. Let us explore robotics and medicine and media. Let us use our smart phones and computers to engage the world rather than hide from it.
And when we look back on what we will have made, let us see that our technological creations honor God.
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What is your relationship with technology? Do you consider yourself an early adopter, a luddite, or something in between? Do you feel like technology helps you or controls you? How can you use technology in ways that honor God and love your neighbor?
PRAYER: Dear God, I confess that I chase technology more like a consumer than a creator. Help me see every new tool as a possible way to bring you more glory and love my neighbor more fully. Amen.
READ THE SCRIPTURE IN CONTEXT:
So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.
“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.
“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone.
“God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”