Jan 31, 2011

My (Late) Grandmother on Technology

I was thinking about a post by John Dyer referring to our perceptions of technology. Older technology, such as indoor plumbing and air conditioning, are just assumed in life - we don't really think of them much as "technology" but just stuff that is part of life.

This reminded me of an assignment I had in sixth grade. I had to interview an older person about their perspective on living now vs. when they grew up. I interviewed my Grandmother Lyle. One thing really stuck out to me: I asked her if she preferred living now or back when she was growing up. She answered now, partly because there are so many more labor saving devices, specifically mentioning washing machines. She thought it is much easier to live now as there is much less manual labor for the regular person.

This and the God's Technology video I recently reviewed reminds me to be thankful to God for technology. He gave us brains and raw materials to make all the technology we have today that really does save time, labor, and frustration.

Jan 28, 2011

God the Designer

As an engineer, I revel in reading Psalm 104.

God designed the earth, set it all in place, and made the habitats for the various creatures. And this wasn't haphazard, but done "in wisdom" (v. 24).

The psalm is also bookended by praise to God for His creation. Indeed, the psalmist declares he will sing to the Lord (v. 33) even as God Himself rejoices over His works (v. 31).

Some takeaways:
  • Biology, ecology, forestry, geology, etc. are good things that point to our God's work
  • Go outside and share this joy in God's works
  • God designed in wisdom - so must I
  • God rejoices in His creation - can I do the same with mine?
What else strikes you in this psalm relevant to technology, design, or other topics?

Jan 26, 2011

Technology Replaces Talking

Interesting article from USA Today about technology and whether it connects or disconnects us.

On a related note, I'll share an anecdote from this past March, originally posted on the family blog.

Our family went out to a local restaurant, and I keep reflecting on an incident there. We were in a row of booth/tables and soon after we sat down, a young couple (probably undergrads) were seated next to us. At least I assume they were a couple as they came in together. They said less than 10 words to each other the whole time we were there.

Why? The guy spent almost the entire time texting on his phone. He started soon after he sat down, paused to order, and started up again. At first, I thought it odd but assumed he was finishing up some text conversation. Our family continued our conversation and fun. The place had a bunch of "stuff" hanging from the ceiling so that was a distraction for the kids for a while. Later, during a lull in the kids activities, I noticed that the guy was texting (still?). I hadn't heard a word from their direction in a while - so even if there was a time when he was not texting, he wasn't exactly making conversation.

Now, I have no idea what the girl is like, but she seemed to be putting up with this with great patience. If this is habitual behavior, I think she should dump him for treating her rudely.

Should we be so attached to being connected anytime, anywhere, that we ignore the person in front of us?

Jan 21, 2011

Implications of the Internet for Theological Debate & Shepherding

Another chapter in the ongoing controversy of the Federal Vision theology in the PCA. The theological issues are beyond the scope of this blog (and I don't have a dog in that race anyway) but the presbytery report discussed in this article is interesting for the technological implications for the Church (big "C").  Item 15 of the presbytery's preliminary report reads:
MOP instructs its Administrative Committee to draft an overture for the Presbytery to send to the General Assembly or seek some other way to initiate a denomination wide conversation regarding public disputation on the Internet. Such a conversation should also include a) questions regarding the relevance and application of Matthew 18 and other Scripture that might help foster and promote Christ-honoring discourse throughout the PCA; b) a discussion of possible revisions to the BCO that could be brought by presbyteries to the General Assembly (e.g., make more explicit the process for injurious reports derived from Internet sources); and c) a basic set of standards outlining the duties presbyters owe each other as brothers in the faith and fellow servants of the church in the midst of theological disputation.
A little background knowledge. My denomination (the PCA) is presbyterian. We work through various "church courts" starting with a local session, the regional presbytery, and the General Assembly (other terms and levels are used in other presbyterian bodies). Formal rulings on a theological debate occur in these courts, which are made up of the ordained elders of the church - all of which are considered equal. The highest office in the PCA is the moderator of the General Assembly - he serves for one year and just runs the meeting.  If an elder is thought to be in error on some doctrine, a court can examine him - and either side can appeal to a higher court if they disagree with the ruling. The issue of Matthew 18 is brought up as the church courts are part of the process described there for correcting erring brothers and sisters.

We as a denomination (and I imagine others) are now struggling with what happens when someone puts out something through this very easy to use broadcast channel known as the Internet.  Apparently, there is the claim that one group of elders is putting out a bad or possibly false view of another elder on the internet rather than going through a church court. There is in fact a fine line here - Galatians 2 shows us how one apostle rebuked another publicly, and so we presbyterians take that to mean that elders should (at least at some point as a correction process proceeds) have a public rebuke.

Now, I think the Internet can be a very useful tool for theological debate, given some guidelines (basically treating a debater the same as you would in person). However, in the case of shepherding/correcting, I think it is telling that both passages above sound like you're talking to someone in person. Paul opposed Peter "to his face" in front of others. Jesus tells us to "go to" your brother that sinned. Maybe Skype counts, but these sound like "in person" events. Thus, it seems to me that technology mediated communication is not the way God intends this correction to take place.

Do you think dispute and/or correction can take place via the Internet?

Jan 19, 2011

Dishonest Weights and Measures

In Proverbs, there are four verses that condemn dishonest weights and measures: 11:1, 16:11, 20:10, 23. This is certainly a working out of the commandment to not bear false witness; it also falls under covetousness - the underlying heart condition that leads one to gain more profit from another. To be clear, I don't think these refer to a broken gauge (an accident), nor to the deli counter ringing up 1.07 pounds of sliced salami as just one pound (generosity), but one that is wrong in the owner's favor by design. Let's look in more detail at how honest and dishonest weights and measures are described.

Jan 17, 2011

Definition from Responsible Technology

In a recent post, I started working through a definition of technology. I dug out the book that has been most significant to my thinking about technology and found a definition there. See what you think:
Technology is a distinct human cultural activity in which human beings exercise freedom and responsibility in response to God by forming and transforming the natural creation, with the aid of tools and procedures, for practical ends and purposes.
-Monsma, Stephen V. (ed.) Responsible Technology, 1986, p. 19
Keep in mind that this is a "normative" definition - what technology ought to be.

My main complaint is the part about "forming and transforming the natural creation." This phrase sounds like it was made by a mechanical or civil engineer, referring to buildings, structures, and machines, not thinking of the myriad digital creations we have today. We can take a very wide view of "natural creation" (and I do) to include electromagnetic waves, bits in a computer, maybe even logic structures and that would make the definition still fit. Still, I'd like to find a better phrase to capture this idea.  Perhaps replace it with "...harnessing and directing the materials and forces of the natural creation..."

I considered trying to include something about design and/or creativity, but I think other parts of the definition cover this.

So, I'm left with:
Technology is a distinct human cultural activity in which human beings exercise freedom and responsibility in response to God by harnessing and directing the materials and forces of the natural creation, with the aid of tools and procedures, for practical ends and purposes.

What do you think? What improvements should we make to this?

Jan 14, 2011

Review: God's Technology video

My wife was given the opportunity to download a free copy of God's Technology, a video about training our children to rightly use digital technology. It is produced by HeadHeartHand and features David Murray, a professor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. Here is a review.

Dr. Murray presents some guiding principles in how Christians should think about digital technology and some practical steps to guide children to learn how to use them.

Some things I particularly appreciated:
  • He points to God as the ultimate source of digital technology and social media, and that He is to be thanked for them. 
  • Training our children in how to use digital technology doesn't just focus on behavior, but on the heart. He encouraged interaction with our children about their online habits, both good and bad. 
  • Digital monitoring tools are good supplements, but do not replace in person supervision, interacting, and good modeling.
As for the production, it is clean and professional. The visuals support the talk well without being distracting. My one complaint is putting in the animated clip about social networks in the middle of this video. I'm not sure it is necessary, and going between different production styles is jarring.

Overall though, I recommend the video for the practical advice that can be used with any age child on godly use of digital technology.

Jan 12, 2011

The Apostle John on Social Media

I recently read through the epistles of John and two passages struck me as relating to technology.  Particularly, John tells us that communication technology has its place, but must not replace in person contact.
Here's 2 John 12:
Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

3 John 13-14 is almost identical.

Let's walk through this.

Jan 10, 2011

Doug Wilson on Technology & Eschatology

Doug Wilson has a thought provoking piece on technology. Conclusion/main point:
The constant and ever present temptation in the Church is the gnostic temptation of locating sin in the stuff, sin in the matter, sin in the wealth, sin in the technology . . . instead of locating it where it belongs, in the heart of man.
 Go read the whole thing.

Jan 7, 2011

Define Technology

Definitions lead to a shared sense of what two or more people are talking about, so I'm going to start by trying to define "technology."

Jan 6, 2011

Swiss Cheese Failure: The BP Oil Spill

According to a BBC news article, a new report blames "bad management" for the BP oil spill disaster of last year. However, if you read on the article notes many sources of failure.  You can think of this through the "swiss cheese" model of failure.

Jan 5, 2011


Greetings and welcome to A Theology of Technology. The purpose of this blog is to think through and flesh out a Christian theology of technology. What does the Bible tell us about how we should think about and interact with technology? What guidance does someone who creates technology have from the Bible? We'll look at these questions and much more.

Exploring this topic in a blog interests me for a few reasons. First, I'm an engineer.  I create and use technology all the time, and so want to think about and interact with technology in a more Biblical way.  Second, I work in a college of education where we emphasize training teachers to train K-12 students how to use technology.  I'm curious about the importance of teaching ourselves to use current technology in ethical ways. Third, our culture is steeped in a massive amount of technology.  Humans have always worked with technology, but it seems to have increased as our science and civilization have grown.  Finally, a great deal of technology is invisible.  How often do you think about the implications of listening to the radio while driving or working?  The radio is a relatively new technology in history - how has that changed interaction between people and is that good or bad?  Whenever we get to questions of good/bad we are in moral territory, and so turn to our theology.

So please join me on this adventure.