Writings by Cole Huffman

Jesus Tech

If Jesus walked our world today, would He use technology? Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Crowdsourcing? Many assume Jesus would want His message broadcast to the widest possible audience. Haven’t we read the Great Commission? So why wouldn’t He simulcast His Sermon on the Mount? Why wouldn’t He gain exponential followers through tweeting and posting? How many likes would His arm around a seeing Bartimaeus garner on Instagram?  

The Lord can do anything He wants with anything He chooses. Thank God for how technology helps Bible translation work around the world, for instance, and many other glorifying uses of it. But when it’s asserted that of course Jesus would use technology like any other message-driver, I pause, for two reasons: one has to do with crowds and the other with incarnation.

Jesus wasn’t a fan of crowds as crowds. His compassion for people in the crowds was warm, but crowds cool to confrontation awful quick. Worse, crowds turn into mobs, like the one apostles had to contend with in Acts 19. People absorb into crowds and do things they wouldn’t do if not for being in the crowd. “Crowds lie,” as Eugene Peterson puts it, because “in crowds truth is flattened to fit a slogan.” Same holds sometimes for churches doing high-tech forms of mass communication.

There’s also the whole point of the incarnation to consider when we’re helping Jesus pick out His iPhone 7 and 3-D projector. Google says roughly 108 billion people have populated the earth, including the 7 billion of us living now. (About 7% of all who’ve ever lived are alive now; the dead outnumber the living 14 to 1.) Was it strategic of God to reveal Himself in flesh when He did, in such a non-tech age? As Joel Mayward wrote in a piece for Christianity Today: “Why didn’t [God] wait until television, when he could have done a two-hour evening special on how much he cares for us and desires relationship with us? Certainly he knew the Internet was coming—he could have created a Facebook account and given us constant updates on his love for us through his statuses, sharing special nuggets of inspirational verses and catchphrases through his Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr accounts.”

Those who are sure Jesus would tech gladly do not say the Word wouldn’t have become flesh and dwelt among us. Their point is in service to message distribution and the pragmatics of movement building, that no one lights a lamp and hides it under a basket, as Jesus said. Tech is a tool, and I don’t believe Jesus would have been a Luddite.

Still, the incarnation was about personal touch. Nearness. The digitalness of actual fingers and toes. It was about unmediated access to God in flesh. We have lulled ourselves to now expect mediated interactions through screens. The tail is wagging the dog. Consider Sherry Turkle’s observation, in Reclaiming Conversation, that people raised on technology believe if they want to get friendship right, “you have to get right with your phone.”

There is one God and one mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5-6). Getting right with God is still through Jesus. He came to His own in a low-tech era and His own did not receive Him. The human heart hasn’t changed. A high-tech era is even more diversionary, inspiring greater autonomy. I’m for gospel-centered uses of technology and wide gospel dissemination via simulcasting and such, but touting that Jesus would of course be with our with-it-ness, an innovating savior, seems a bit (at times) like trying to improve on God.

I find it helpful rounding each new year to remind myself that God doesn’t need me for anything. He doesn’t need me to defend His honor. I have ambition and energy and gifts and calling and passion and pulpit, but He doesn’t need me to reach His world. I am not now and never will be indispensible to His purposes. We are unworthy servants (Luke 17:10).

I think it healthy to put the same check on our assumptions about all the kingdom of technology can do for the kingdom of God. It helps in the ways it does, but isn’t messianic. At the end He still comes on a horse—a horse—in the sky.
Posted by Cole Huffman at 11:35 AM
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