As I write this, three speakers behind my laptop are pumping Bach’s “Toccata in C Minor,” a lamp casts light across my tattered copy of Jacques Ellul’s The Technological Society that I purchased years ago from an online business that shipped it to me from across the country within two days of my purchase.
Sitting on the desk, about 6 inches from my right hand is a tiny glowing screen. My mother, who lives six hours away, just sent me a picture of my brother and I from the early nineties that she is about to post on an online social network where I can follow the Dalai Lama and the Pope, hearing them as they speak across oceans and in bedrooms at the Vatican. I can remember the first time I was aware that my eyes hurt from staring at a glowing screen. Like a digital age Icarus, I had drawn too close to a light that was intended for good, but through overexposure had produced ill.
We are citizens in a digital age. You now live in a world where most carry a microphone in their pocket, with greater access to the “news of the now” than ever before, and the ability to speak their mind immediately. Jacques Ellul, in his excellent book the Technological Society, argues that one of the projects of the modern period in history has been to achieve “a totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency in every field of human activity.” He calls this project technique(s). Ellul points out that those who buy into this idea have attempted to reduce the substance of humanity to a means to accomplishing desired ends through finely honed practices and methods.
Ellul argues this dilemma, that of humans being functionally streamlined machines, is aided by “machines.” For Ellul, machines “represent the ideal toward which our techniques strive.” The machine is pure modernity. It possesses no worth apart from its use. Ellul believes that it is the modern myth and the modern poison that everything that it is both a great potential and a great pleasure in mankind being reduced to its function. Technology aids this endeavor.
So, what? Why does the voice of this French Catholic philosopher matter? Simply put, Ellul is attempting to chart a course for the flourishing of the human person in an age that has presented countless roadblocks to this pursuit. We want to join him.
We are beginning a series that asks the question: What does it look like for men of God to be wise, redemptive, and innocent in their use of various aspects of technology, social media, and digital devices?
This series will include posts from men who have chosen to avoid some modes of digital communication (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and some who have embraced these new ways of creating and sharing content. It will include articles discussing the shrewd use of smartphones, how we can use digital tools to shepherd and lead those under our care, and how the digital age can create unhealthy levels of distraction.
We hope you will join us as we explore and think through the implications of when biblical manhood and technology intersect.
Kyle Worley is Connections Minister at the Village Church in Dallas, TX. He is the author of Pitfalls: Along the Path to Young and Reformed and blogs regularly at The Strife. He holds a double B.A. in Biblical Studies and Philosophy from Dallas Baptist University and an M.A. in Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is pursuing a M.A. in Religion at Redeemer Seminary. You can find Kyle on Twitter @kyleworley.