Josh McDowell says the internet is destroying the faith of young adults, but Kevin Kelly, of Wired magazine, sees things from the other angle: that human flourishing is connected to development in the technium.
What say you? Do you see a problem with either information or access? What kind of “problem” do you see on the Internet? What are some suggestions for sanctifying technology? Do you think technological developments make the hand of God visible?
“What has changed everything?” asked [McDowell] the apologist from Campus Crusade for Christ International as he spoke on “Unshakable Truth, Relevant Faith” at the Billy Graham Center in Asheville, N.C., Friday evening. His answer was, the Internet.
“The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have… whether you like it or not,” said McDowell, who is author of two books on Christian apologetics, More than a Carpenter and New Evidence that Demands Verdict.
Too much information, and too much access to our youth he says are problems.
“Now here is the problem,” said McDowell, “going all the way back, when Al Gore invented the Internet [he said jokingly], I made the statement off and on for 10-11 years that the abundance of knowledge, the abundance of information, will not lead to certainty; it will lead to pervasive skepticism. And, folks, that’s exactly what has happened. It’s like this. How do you really know, there is so much out there… This abundance [of information] has led to skepticism. And then the Internet has leveled the playing field [giving equal access to skeptics].”
McDowell, who lives in southern California with his wife Dottie and four children, said atheists, agnostics and skeptics didn’t have access to kids earlier. “If they wrote books, not many people read it. If they gave a talk, not many people went. They would normally get to kids maybe in the last couple of years of the university.” But that has changed now.
So what to do?
McDowell proposed three ways to deal with the problem. “First, we have to model the truth. If you don’t model what you teach your kids, forget it. If they don’t see it, they won’t believe it… Second, we have to build relationships.” Just as truth without relationship leads to rejection, rules without relationship lead to rebellion, he said. “Kids don’t respond to rules. They respond to rules in the context of a loving, intimate relationship.” And third, he said, we have to use knowledge. “You better arm yourselves to answer your children’s and grandchildren’s questions…no matter what the question is…without being judgmental.” Kids’ greatest defense, he said, was the knowledge of truth.
But in CT, Kevin Kelly moves in the other direction, seeing the hand of God in the development of “technium.”
Amid the din of warnings about modern technology’s impact on the soul, Kevin Kelly sounds like the happy evangelist from Geekdom. “[W]e can see more of God in a cell phone than in a tree frog,” the Wired magazine cofounder claims in his most recent book, What Technology Wants. A provocative title, to be sure, introducing a more provocative thesis: All human artifacts, from words to wheels to Wikipedia, together act like a living, breathing organism that reflects something of the Divine. “Technology has its roots in God’s work through the universe,” Kelly told CT associate editor Katelyn Beaty as she sat down with the San Francisco native at this year’s Q conference, where Kelly was speaking. He believes that as participants in the technium—Kelly’s word for this tech-ecosystem—”when we try to increase the options in the world, we are part of something godly.”
In the same way we would say the beauty of nature reflects God, the technium reflects something of God’s character. Not that the technium is without blemish, because anything we invent can be weaponized and made evil. But overall the technium has a positive force, a positive charge of good. And that good is primarily measured in terms of the possibilities and choices it presents us with. That’s the metric I use to measure goodness.
For instance, love is good. I define love as not just an emotion but an action that helps others achieve some possibility. By love we give people opportunities to express their unique set of God-given gifts. In a certain sense, if you had to objectively measure the love in someone’s heart, what would that look like? I think it would look like increasing choices and possibilities for others….
The fallibility of the human condition means that we tend to destroy as much as we create every year. We cannot even begin to be mostly good. But the good news is that by God’s grace we can, and should, improve our lives a little tiny bit over time. That incremental crawl in the direction of good is all we can expect theologically, and it’s the reason almost no one gives up the advancements of today. In what way would Christ’s redemption be at work if we moved a little bit toward evil every year?