Does the Bible have anything to say about modern technology? According to author John Dyer, in his new book From the Garden to the City, more than you can imagine! As Christians, we must evaluate every aspect of our lives in light of God’s Word, the Bible. We often think about this with regard to pressing moral questions such as abortion, homosexuality, etc. But what about technology – things like cell phones, the internet, Facebook and Twitter? There is no question that our lives today are at least technologically-impacted, if not technologically-driven. Should we, then, not consider how technology impacts the way we live, and do so from a particularly Christian perspective? That evaluation is precisely what Dyer has given us. His work, however, is not just a biblical evaluation of technology itself, but also an evaluation of both what technology can do for us, and what it can do to us.
This critique of technology is a definite need in our day where the obvious achievements that can be had through one’s use of technology can blind a person to the potential side-effects that come with its use. Dyer says, “Today’s technology has the power to ‘heal the sick and make the blind see,’ and yet it also has the power to overwhelm us and distract us from what is truly important. When technology has distracted us to the point that we no longer examine it, it gains the greatest opportunity to enslave us.” (28) In such a state of distraction, many a Christian unwittingly wastes hours of life a week (or a day) due to ‘enslavement’ to cell phones, email, text messaging, Facebook, and Twitter, all the while thinking the technology is serving them. (Though Dyer does not ask the question, I will: “How does the amount of time you spend ‘enslaved’ to Facebook, text messaging and email compare with the amount of time you spend in concentrated, devotional reading of God’s Word and in un-distracted prayer to the Father?” Asked another way: “Which would leave you more distraught – if you were forced to give up your cell phone and computer for a week, or your Bible and prayer time for a week?” Just asking.)
What gives this book its draw and its impact is the author’s solid grasp of both biblical theology (ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary) and technological expertise (web-developer who has built tools for Apple, Microsoft, Harley Davidson, and the Department of Defense). Dyer then takes it to an even higher level as he assimilates his knowledge of both theology and technology into a book that is as readable and practical as it is biblical.
To say that Dyer’s approach is “biblical” is really an understatement. That term is often used to describe a book where an author, in somewhat willy-nilly fashion, includes a few Bible verses that seem to support his conclusion. In this book, Dyer takes a decidedly biblical and gospel-centered approach, considering technology within the broad framework of God’s plan of redemption – from Creation to Fall to Redemption to Restoration. (Dyer uses the terms “Reflection,” “Rebellion,” “Redemption,” and “Restoration.”) Dyer’s evaluation of the practical implications of technology is equally in-depth, considering ways technology affects the way we read the Scripture, communicate with others, experience community, and even view ourselves.
Because of our technologically-saturated world, everyone would benefit from reading this book. This book is a particularly important tool for all Christians. It will help the Christian businessman or businesswoman understand the implications of choosing certain methods of communication with co-workers and clients. It will help Christian parents educate their children regarding the benefits and dangers of all forms of technology, and how to be biblically discerning when using them. It will help pastors and church leaders not only be better prepared to speak about technological issues with church members, but also to determine what kinds of technology should, or should not, be used in their corporate worship gatherings.
Dyer never states nor insinuates that the best option is for Christians to avoid technology like the plague, and to encourage others to do the same. Rather, he ends the book by saying, “It is my hope that the biblical and philosophical tools presented in this book will help us become better stewards of the technological tools God has entrusted to us, as we seek to live lives that honor him and the work of his Son. And on our journey from the Garden to the City, I pray that we never confuse the city for the Savior.” (179)
Get this book. Read it. After you stop justifying the way you currently use/misuse technology, read it again. Then ask God to help you walk in greater obedience and discernment as you seek to use the tools of technology as yet another way to bring glory to His great name.
(I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.)