Monday 20 February 2023

The Only Thing That Breaks Our Necks Is Progress When It Speeds.

One of the qualities of technology that needs to be held in tension by the church is that it progresses. That progress is a feature and not a bug. Everything from internet servers to bricks progresses at scale and humans are the only moral part of that equation. 

Way back in the shadow of Babel's tower, bricks which could have been used to build houses for families were being used to build a path to heaven. One that didn't involve the Messiah that needed to be born someplace other than a tower. This might be the first time the scripture records our technological pride in action. And most people will skip over the fact that God didn't confuse the languages of man when they made bricks, He did it because of what they used them for. There isn't a philosophical difference between what a brick does for humanity and what a computer does for humanity. There are technical differences that even the most Luddite of us all can parse, but the reason you make bricks and the reason you make laptops is the same. Progress.

Stones are harder than bricks. But aren't generally in perfect numbers and shapes where we want to build houses. So, when the technology of bricks is discovered and invented, the need for rocks to build houses takes a back seat. Still an option, but not the one we like to use. Once you have bricks to build a house and the time and work of gathering rocks gets absorbed in the making of bricks, the house gets built and you end up with more time on the back end of the effort. That's progress, and that progress is attached to every bit of tech our little hands can carry. 

The pen let us write about swords. The typewriter made writing uniform and neat. The computer did it in a long-lasting way. And the laptop let us do it from anywhere we had laps. Technology progresses. I could write a dictionary on how this lens captures everything from yoga pants to chatbots, but we're here to talk about church.

Think of the mega-church. A dark room and more tech between the congregation and pastor than height between the ground and a tower to heaven. Yet Jesus is worshiped there in the same spirit of truth and numbers more than two that he was when the early church met in houses, with a lot less bible I might add. But the mega-church, even smaller medium-sized versions of that peculiarity, are trapped by the progress that empowers them. And the church service isn't the only place this shows up. Anyone can see how tech has taken the reins of the church service and galloped it until the horse was too dead to run a click track to. How many songs could you do as effectively with the house lights up and the smoke machine off? that was a low blow to my worship team buddies, but tech is in the sermon too. Progressing the pastorate towards the same kind of beat down the horse got.

Can your pastor write a sermon without Logos? Google, Docent, and now our newest preaching team member ChatGPT? We didn't notice that one sneak up like we did with the smoke machine because, unlike the aesthetic technologies, the convenient ones are a bit more slithery.

It's technological convenience that gets a pastor from studying his bible and drafting his teaching from that studying, to using tech to help him prepare sermons that he didn't study the text for. From preaching on a passage of scripture to preaching with passages of scripture. This marginal difference is where companies like Docent make their bacon. It's a kind of pragmatic and technological eisegesis. The kind our math teachers warned us about. We, and it is a "we" because I did it too, called them liars for saying "we wouldn't have a calculator where ever we went." But had they the foresight and prophetic gift to add a "want" to that chastisement, we may have remained colouring in the lines.

As more and more tech and apps and progress enter our lives under the guise of help, we really need to start looking for the snakes in these trees. Because there isn't a neutrality in play here. It's the handiwork of sinners who think their sin won't affect their brick-making and that bricks can't cause stumbling in our faith, so long as we don't waste their use and just build something with them. 

And that's the desire, isn't it? That will to "not waste" this opportunity and resource. Because it surely will not be the death of us. 

I heard this line before. Read it in a book. You should too.

But God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 

Genesis 3:3-5 English Standard Version

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