tree2“Everyday computers are making people easier and easier to use.”

I saw the following headline on the cover of a magazine. I was far away and in a hurry so I didn’t get a chance to check out the article. But the line struck a chord. This chord was reinforced when I heard Dr. David Lyons speak on ‘God and Cyberspace’ at a GCF talk a few nights ago.

Among other things, he alluded to the fact that Christians have either demonised the new communications technology, or embraced it uncritically. But few have taken the time and trouble to try and understand the technology and how it functions. And how it may affect the user.

As the above line so wittily reminds us, the interface between humankind and technology is not one way. We may think we are in control as we seek to use it, but in using it we are changed as well. What then are some principles to bear in mind as we continue our journey in cyberspace?

1. We must continue to see the Scriptures as foundational for life.
After all it is only the Bible that is ‘inspired by God and…useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…'(2Tim. 3:16 NRSV). More than ever, we need to keep the Scriptures before us as a yardstick for what is right and good in life and that includes cyberspace. Christians are either apologetic for using the Scriptures, thinking it out of date in the techno world we live in, or, they do not do the hard work of trying to integrate the bible with the concerns of daily life.

2. The Scriptures teach us that humankind is ‘body-spirit-in community’.
One of the things that must be borne in mind is the nature of humanity. What does it mean to be human? John Stott reminds us that humanity, as God created them, is body-soul-in a community. I prefer the term ‘body-spirit-in community’. To be healthy, we need to be whole. And whole human beings have at least three dimensions- bodies, spirits and communal relationships with other human beings.

3. The Internet tends to remove the body out of the picture.
I have heard more than one Christian leader praise God for the Internet because it has reduced the need for face to face meetings. This has resulted in massive savings of money and time especially where international meetings are concerned. Of course, Christian organisations who depend more and more on virtual meetings in cyberspace are doing what the corporate world is already doing. But clearly, such ‘cyber-meetings’ are meetings that take place between two dimensional people. They are ‘sub-human’ meetings.

4. We need eyeball to eyeball contact for true community.
In his excellent book, The De-Voicing of Society, John L. Locke argues cogently that ‘eyeball to eyeball’ meetings are essential to true communication and true community. He writes:

Without intimate conversation, we can’t really know others well enough to trust them or work with them harmoniously. We also lose track of our own selves-our sense of humour, our own particular way of looking at things.

Locke’s findings are consistent with Scripture and should come as no surprise to Christians.

5. Therefore we need to be discerning in our use of the Internet.
Christians should not be nervous about new technologies. Indeed we should be on the lookout as to how we can use any tool for the purposes of God.

But we must be always aware that technology is not neutral. We must examine every technology carefully from the perspective of Scripture. We cannot neglect the hard work of trying to understand the nature of any technology, how it actually functions, and how it may affect us.

I have found email excellent for maintaining relationships but not good for starting relationships. And not every meeting has to be an eyeball to eyeball meeting just as long as we remember that cyber meetings cannot replace personal ‘bodily’ meetings.

I am grateful that this eCOMMENT can go out to the GCF community and many of my friends via email. But I think I need to meet up with some of you for lunch this week!