November 19, 2013
The Internet is an incredible example of technological innovation. The resources at our fingertips are countless. The way social media mimics real life keeps us “refreshing” our updates and “connecting” with people. Our behavior often mimics our technology—quickly downloading information and outputting data. Our digital interactions make communication almost too easy with all of the posting, commenting, linking, liking, sharing, etc. As people made in the image of God, we can forget that our hearts and minds are much more, well, human. How does our use of the Internet affect our Christian growth? Are their inherent dangers? I’d like to suggest three ways the Internet can stunt our growth as Christians.
1. The Internet can short-circuit your Christian development. Online resources can give the impression that difficult questions have simplistic answers. Christian development does not occur via mouse click. We are meant to wrestle through issues in the Bible. Sometimes, though, the only struggle today is how long it takes us to find thoughts from our favorite online pastor or blogger. No real need to think, wait, fast, struggle, ponder, trust or meditate. Just a steady diet of regurgitation. Alan Jacobs alerts us to this when he remarks that the internet is “the friend of information and the enemy of thought.”
2. The internet can demonstrate your idolatry. Have you ever met someone whose personality changed depending on who they spent time with? This can happen among well-meaning Christians impressed by an influential speaker or writer. The internet allows us access to endless hours of podcasts and blog posts. If we’re not carefully, we begin to mimic the vocabulary, tone and style of someone else as if they are our own. G.K. Beale says, “We resemble what we revere.” It’s almost as if we want to be perceived in the same way we perceive those who have tremendous influence over us. It may be the case of misplaced worship when we become image-bearers of those with whom we spend the most time.
3. Social media can short-circuit your friend’s Christian development. It’s amazing how fast social media allows us to share and respond to others, especially if there is an opportunity to offer advice, answers, counsel or issue a challenge. But simple answers often numb our hearts. Our tone, concern and thoughtfulness often touch hearts deeper than words typed out. The Internet may not be the best place to post deeply personal questions and thoughts, but it certainly isn’t the best place to offer care and concern. Pixels on your computer are a poor transmitter of grace. Sometimes it’s best to get offline and talk in person. I sometimes fear our desire to look smart eclipses our desire to actually demonstrate care.
The Internet is not bad. It is a gift. However you use it, I pray that you would find yourself more satisfied with God, not less; more excited to spend time in prayer, not less; more influenced in our study of Scripture, not less; more physical time spent with people, not less. After all, our goal is to be conformed more to his image. May all of our online activity (reading, posting, sharing, listening, commenting, liking, following, quoting etc.) be a means for making much of our Lord. For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36).
Josh and his wife, Tara, are from Washington State. Josh is pursuing an MAR and MATH while Tara works as a hairdresser in Manchester-by-the-Sea. Together, they are most captivated by the story in which God has placed them in this fascinatingly bizarre world that spins across this universe. In the midst of it all, they are stabilized by what Sally Lloyd-Jones describes as “God’s 'Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love' in Jesus" (Jesus Storybook Bible).
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