Did technology progress throughout the scriptures? Or did we just find varied ways to do what God did first?
I get a common response to most of my tweets when I challenge the blanket use of tech for church purposes. That response tries to get me back on my theological heels by asking a practical question. If I am against technology (x) then I likely am ignorantly, also, against technology (y), and thus a hypocrite by implication. This happens when I ask questions about the online church. Immediately the user on the other end says must then be against the Bible itself. Because the Bible is a form of technology. It was simply the technology of the day back when it was written. I'm the one looking for specks in the iPhone useage, likely because of a lack of depth in experience in the field.
I'd like to offer a thought-provoking idea, or three, to those who can't see why online church and the Bible might be different kinds and modes of things. So...
What format of technology does God use like us? And the inverse. What forms of technology do we use like God?
When given the licence to use anything that works, or worse, seems to work. We can find ourselves in places that are painted with a Christian whitewash but are actually places filled with death to actual Christianity. Technology isn't neutral. As I've argued before. It's made by very not neutral people in relationship to the ultimate good person. So as we try to use it in feigned neutrality. We can gloss over the fact that much of what we enjoy as technological advancement isn't actually progress it's just speed. Yes, a word carved into stone is clear, but it can't be shared like a TikTok. So, therefore, we should share the gospel through TikTok's
A letter written by hand and printed by the press and lasered by Xerox, are all text, but that same letter displayed on a screen is no longer just text the way a word written in the sand in front of an adulterous might be. One is pure communication, and the other is almost a conversation, with math alongside it as well.
Like this next sentence.
01100100 01101001 01100100 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01110101 01101110 01100100 01100101 01110010 01110011 01110100 01100001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00111111 00100000 01001001 00100000 01110000 01110010 01101111 01101101 01101001 01110011 01100101 00100000 01001001 00100111 01101101 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110100 00100000 01101101 01100001 01101011 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01100110 01110101 01101110 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00101110 00100000 01100010 01110101 01110100 00100000 01001001 00100000 01100001 01101101 00100000 01110011 01101000 01101111 01110111 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01101000 01101111 01110111 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01101011 01101001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01110100 01100101 01111000 01110100 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100100 01101001 01100110 01100110 01100101 01110010 01100101 01101110 01110100 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100001 01101110 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01101011 01101001 01101110 01100100 00101110 00100000
Now, is that how God used text. No. While we might not speak the Hebrew that was used. God still wrote the original 10 commandments in Hebrew for Hebrews. He communicates with the people he wants to communicate with and then they preserve that communication, often by recording what he said, which would by necessity need to be translated for us. But is never translated for the audience it first was given to. because that's where editable meanings tend to come from.
God participates in the communication he has with his people, with the medium his people receive. He doesn't give us information by means we don't understand. His instructions on marriage, murder, and the worship of Marduk are all the same kind of communication, even when captured by the technology of the day. Direct. The speed at which a technology can do the same kind of communication is not factored into his communication. He had every ability to give his word in every language at Sinai, seeing as his plan was to have the whole world reconciled to him. But he didn't.
"It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed."
Exodus 31:17-18 King James Version
"At that time the Lord said unto me, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood. And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark."
Deuteronomy 10:1-2 King James Version
Why make an idol when you followed your God by cloud and fire to the base of a mountain to receive your way of life? Because you wanted to speed up the entrance into that life, on your terms. We get to speed again being the actual thing doing the heavy lifting. The speed of casting a molten idol filled the market's need for things to worship. It's not like there weren't idols carved of stone like the tablets were carved out of also. Idolatry fits into any medium available to it. Even ones we think are Christian because we use them for Christian things. But that is exactly what the Israelites tried to do. They tried to have an idol for the god leading them into the promised land. The problem was they had a God who was leading them to the promised land but that leading required that they participate in the same mediums of communication that he was. That they abstain from things, That they partake in things that others abstain from. And most of all that they set themselves apart.
This is just the tower of Bable with more steps. Instead of fire-baked bricks being the way they would get to heaven, they got a fire-birthed cow. And you don't get to heaven by your means. you get to heaven by God's means, which include the peculiar but steadfastly and historically resilient hand-written accounts of the gospel.
"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;"
1 Peter 2:9 King James Version
Sorry, I forgot where the Old Testament version of this idea is, perhaps I should Google it. Moving on.
This is where the online church and online church tools deviate from orthodoxy. They claim a technological progress from the scriptures that was never there. They heard a catchy show number from Andrew Lloyd Webber talking about a lack of mass communication in Jesus' day and age, and thought, "Jeepers, why wouldn't Jesus have a Twitter account or an Instagram profile. Perhaps We should start one on his behalf. He really did pick the worse time to start off this whole proclamation of the gospel thing." Or maybe, just maybe, he did it in a way that can't be separated from who God is and also resists the marrying and muddying of the gold that all idols have. Because if ever there was a thing not to google, it's people who think they're Jesus online. I can promise you they are not the worse thing you'll find online though.
How many pornographic performances happen during your worship set?
How many share your stage when you say your online presence is the new front door of your church? Every girl on Instagram showing more skin than sense is right next to your church's 30-second butchered sermon clip for the exact same engagement reasons. With nothing but an algorithm separating the two. And that's because they know people can in fact worship online but that worship uses online as an object of worship, Because the internet is a thing, not a place.
Maybe, this is why the gospel, the greatest story ever told and the greatest single positive communication for mankind, has yet to go viral online. At least in any meaningful way. With leagues of supposed technological advancement and reach, the molten calf of online ministry is still feeble. It's just better at editing its photos so it looks successful. Like most people on Instagram. It has a really good TweetDeck on repeat and knows all the right angles and filters for its shine. But that still leaves us with the question. Why hasn't the gospel gone so viral that the same amount of people that know the Babyshark song, or who Joe Rogan is, or any other viral sensation, know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour?
Maybe the medium is the message, like McLuhan said all along. And the medium of the internet might just be idolatry. You can use Idols to do ministry, But you generally have to use them the way Gideon did (Judges 6:25-32).
One final thought provoker before I let you go.
When does God stop writing in the Bible?
"And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works."
Revelation 20:11-12 King James Version
Writing is something God does, and he does that writing on a medium. Not in a way that can show what writing looks like but is actually zeros and ones. He writes words and gives them to us. even so much as to make the word flesh. There is a book waiting for you are the feet of Jesus and a white throne of judgement. He writes words and gives them meaning. And because he does that in Heaven, a place with no time to progress and no technology to get outdated, perhaps we should hold our technology at arms-length for more than just selfies. And truly assess if what we're doing is what God wants, or what we want God to want.
There is no technological progress in the scriptures, and I would argue, God's plan for humanity. You've just been convinced of that by the use of technologies that require progress to exist. Could you even use an iPhone 3 to do ministry now? Could a streamed service for prayer and healing work in 360p? I can see that this is pagan magic just by turning down the resolution on my smartphone. I don't even need writing on my wall, who goes on Myspace anymore anyway. With that bit of late 2000s nostalgia, I'll leave you with this.
God's words, even his written ones, are eternal.
"The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever."
Isaiah 40:8 King James Version