The Invisible Revolution

When I read the comment in Wired magazine last fall, I was so astonished I had to read it again. It reaffirmed my suspicion that there is a quiet, almost invisible, revolution going relatively unnoticed in our culture. It is in ideas and worldviews and the effect new communications technology is having on the way an entire generation sees truth and reality.

The Wired article “Kevin Kelly and Steven Johnson on Where Ideas Come From” contained an interview with Kevin Kelly, a new-technology author and journalist. Kelly said he’s “come to see technology…as a different source for understanding where we are in the cosmos. I think technology is something that can give meaning to our lives, particularly in a secular world.”

For Kelly and many like him, technologies like the Internet, iPhone, and “cloud computing” have not merely created functional utility and convenience but have provided a reason to live, a definition of “where we are in the cosmos.” This is a stunningly troublesome admission. If we are alone in the universe—no God, no ultimate truth—then how can flying faster through a meaningless universe or communicating instantaneously with others about things that don’t matter give any real meaning to our lives?

When Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press—a historic innovation not unlike the Internet—and then printed the first Gutenberg Bible in 1455, it wasn’t the movable type, levers, or screws that imparted truth or meaning to the world; rather, it was the Scriptures, which Gutenberg’s invention made available to the masses.

Kelly’s reference to “a secular world” is the giveaway. Absent the ultimate and objective truth that God exists and has communicated His Word to us, we sadly are left to worship innovation rather than the Master Innovator. And there is a lesson in that as old as Genesis.

There also is a problem with the new-technologists’ novel view of “reality.” Said Kelly: “We should think of ideas as connections, in our brains and among people. Ideas aren’t self-contained things; they’re more like ecologies and networks. They travel in clusters.”

Kelly and other tech-gurus (I read them constantly) are beginning to argue the case for viewing our minds, values, and ideas as purely digital impulses on a computer model or as postings on a social network. But this position introduces a problem many of us saw with the rise of video games and cyber communications: a subtle drift away from the real “stuff” of the world designed by a personal, Creator-God.

We live in a universe created by a sovereign Lord, where violation of His rules has genuine and serious consequences. When ideas are no longer anchored in the belief objective truth exists, we have no reason to seek God’s truth or His reality. Any transitory, subjective “truth” or “reality” will do—even one based on computer chips and wireless networks.

The recent movie Social Network, which depicts the creation of Facebook, is a good example. The people most responsible for developing the idea of “friending” one another through a worldwide cyber network are ultimately shown to be socially dysfunctional and morally empty.

The point here is not to flee technology, denounce it, or fear it but, rather, to use it as a tool the way the Gutenberg printing press was used. We also must recognize that the next generation—one that has been weaned on Twitter, texting, and the Internet—will be running the engines of our Republic one day. As a result, the church has a great educational and evangelistic task ahead if we are to ensure that America will be guided by eternal, rather than ephemeral, values.

A good starting point would be a history lesson on great American, evangelical Founding Fathers, like John Witherspoon. Here was a Christian pastor and educator who spiritually mentored three Supreme Court justices, a president, and 77 members of America’s early Congress. Witherspoon once noted, “If the Scripture is true, the discoveries of reason cannot be contrary to it; and therefore, it has nothing to fear from that quarter.” An updated version would be, “If Scripture is true, the innovations of new technology can never replace it; and we have nothing to fear from it.”

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