NASHVILLE (BP) – Whether it’s a new app sweeping the nation, a brand new must-have iPhone upgrade, or a new way of using virtual reality, technology is advancing at lightning speed.
As the use of digital devices increases, some Southern Baptist Christian leaders are urging to examine how technology might shape them.
Jason Thacker, research director and chair of technology ethics at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), told Baptist Press he believes technology is no longer just a tool we use, but something that is changing the way we see the world .
“The complexity, utility, growth and evolution of technology often happens at an exponential rate,” Thacker said. “It’s the nature of technology, and what we’re seeing now will, in a sense, continue to increase. Technology is going nowhere.
“As technology advances, things are getting faster, more complex and more connected. Digital devices are not just a tool that we use, but a tool that radically changes us.
“It shapes how we understand the nature of reality and truth and how we connect in relationships. In a way, technology trains us. I think people are starting to wake up and see that there’s something wrong with that.”
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In his work with the ERLC, Thacker directs a research project for the entity called the Digital Public Square. The project focuses on providing resources for Southern Baptist Churches related to navigating the ever-changing technological landscape.
Particular attention is paid to issues related to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
He explained that this research is important to the ministry because technology impacts every area of life.
“Technology is not a separate set of issues for Christians to address or think about. It’s an element of all other issues related to the Christian life and ethics,” Thacker said.
“Issues like marriage, sexuality, human dignity or justice are all affected by technology because we live in a digital society.”
In his book, Following Jesus in a Digital Age, out this year, Thacker encourages Christians to use technology in a more sanctifying way.
One of the key pieces of advice he gives is that Christians should take the time to decide how to use technology in their lives and take steps to be a light in the digital space.
“The heart of technology is making things faster, but what we see in the wisdom literature is that we are called to slow down,” Thacker said. “Wisdom is not gained overnight. There is no app for that. There is no on and off switch.
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“It’s important for Christians to think wisely and think deeply, and that comes from slowing down and asking some of these big questions, how that shapes me and then how I walk with wisdom and strive to better follow Jesus.
“Christians need to deal with culture as it is, not as we want it to be. A digital society brings with it many unique challenges, but also many unique opportunities, and I believe that God is calling us to address these issues and be a voice of hope, peace and gospel transformation in our communities.”
One Southern Baptist who is trying to apply this type of wisdom in his own life is Jeff Mingee, regional strategist for the southeast region of the Virginia SBC.
What started out as a PhD as a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary became a self-inquiry into how he used technology in his own life.