The (spiritual) danger of technology

from Paul Gould

imagesIn our increasingly technologically driven world, it is easy to settle for the image of something instead of the thing itself. Instead of meeting face-to-face with friends, we interact over Facebook.[1] Instead of going hunting, or fishing, or dancing, or playing baseball or basketball or ping pong, we stand in front of a TV with a remote control and live a virtual life, mediated through high-definition (“real life”) monitors.

We’ve settled for the image instead of the thing itself. This is dangerous. We are not created to live on pixels and inhabit a perpetual virtual reality.  The danger is that images can’t sustain us. They are shadows. They are pale ghosts of the real thing. They are the chaff when only the kernel will do.

As we become increasingly more dependent on a kind of mediated life-support system (the Internet, video games, mobile apps, video streaming, etc.) we become torpid, sluggish, apathetic. We cease living a dramatic life. We cease living our own story; rather, we live through another (or the collective “other” of the nameless internet).

When it comes to God the danger of settling for the image instead of the thing itself is even more obvious. So is the remedy.

When we settle for our image of God, these images become the object of our worship. Eventually these images morph—becoming more like us and less like God. Thankfully, God doesn’t settle. As C. S. Lewis puts it, “[God] is the great iconoclast . . . [my false idea of God] has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast.”[2]

Iconoclast (def.) – a destroyer of images.

Lewis argues that God is bigger than we think. He is also better than we think. He is the great iconoclast. Lewis goes further, not just God, but “all of reality is iconoclastic.”[3] The real thing—the ant, the beloved, and the summit peak incessantly triumph over its image. Perhaps this is what Plato was after—intuited inchoately—as he argued that  reality is divided into the lesser beings and the greater beings beginning at the bottom with shadow and at the top with the Forms (or The Form of the Good).

In your busyness, do you feel like something is missing? Do you feel lonely, even as you have lots of Facebook friends? Seek the thing itself instead of the image. We were made to love, in proper order, all that God has made. Finally, allow God to shatter “time after time” your idea of Him as well—there are depths to be plumbed. God is that one novelty in which you will never grow weary (even as your phone battery runs out).

Watch the following powerful video “Look Up”–and then turn off your computer and go live!


[1] Begin small rant: And often, when we do meet, we sit and stare at our smart phones instead of having a genuine conversation, looking others in the eye, being fully-present, etc. End small rant. Also, see the video at the end of this post.

[2] C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (San Francisco: HaperOne, 1994 edition), 66.

[3] Ibid.

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