Tim Challies‘ new book, The Next Story was released publicly this week. Tim is no longer just a web designer in a small office in Canada. He is a relevant young Christian leader who is impacting thousands of people with technology and theology through the web and printed page. His new book is not only relevant but necessary as we consider the impact of technology on our home, our faith family, and our work environment. Tim looks at the historical impact of technology from the perspective of a Christian who has serious questions that must be answered about technology. I highly recommend the book!
I downloaded it through iBooks, and as expected, it has proven to be a great read. Tim mixes great illustrations in a smooth story telling format that delivers his point with clarity and power. I found myself sitting in Starbucks reading his book on my iPad 2 while having my favorite coffee last night, and I came under conviction about the way I use technology. My wife and I often joke about my love affair with gadgets. I own an iPhone 4, and purposefully exercised restraint when the iPad was released in order to get it when the second generation came out (and I did). I love technology and the advancement of gadgets. I naturally connect with Tim, because we have similar backgrounds. Prior to my calling to ministry, I was a web developer. I became a Christian while listening to a sermon on the Internet behind my desk at work in Atlanta. After leaving my job for Seminary, I founded a business building websites in order to feed my family. Needless to say, I love technology. However, as you will see in Tim’s book, he loves technology too, but forces the question – do you own your technology or does your technology own you?
Today, we will look at Part 1 of Tim’s book and Wednesday Part 2 will be posted here on the blog. Part 1 includes the following:
- Chapter 1 – Discerning Technology
- Chapter 2 – Understanding Technology
- Chapter 3 – Digital History
- Aside – Talk to Your Tech
Chapter 1 – Discerning Technology
In the first chapter, Tim discusses the need to be have a discerning eye upon technology. In order to make his point crystal clear, he goes back to the creation and points out how man is different than spiders and birds who act strictly by instinct. Humans have been given an ability to create – which is part of the Imago Dei “image of God” that we bear in us as His divine work of creation. Tim points out that like all other inventions of man, technology is a good thing, but it must remain under our dominion.In order to make his point about the discernment that is needed in the area of technology, Tim points out that technology like anything else in this world has a tendency to do the very thing it was intended to prevent – waste your time. In fact, he points out that technology can actually pull you away from your family – and most importantly – away from God. Tim quotes John Calvin who once said, “The human heart is an idol factory” (29).
Notable quotes from Chapter 1:
“We must also understand that technology is like everything else in this sinful world: it is subject to the curse. The things we create can-and-will-try to become idols in our hearts” (23).
“Our idols like to hide from us, staying at a place in our hearts where we barley notice their existence” (28).
“We become tools of our tools; rather than owning our gadgets we become owned by them” (30).
“Idols hide from us to avoid direct confrontation. And one of the ways they hide is by convincing us that they are actually good things in our lives” (30).
“Yes, technology can be an idol in our hearts, one of the ways we replace God. But far more commonly, digital technology is a means to further the power of other idols” (34).
Chapter 2 – Understanding Technology
Chapter 2 begins with the reality that technology is interwoven into our lives. Tim points out that “unless you are planning on running away to a deserted island to live as a hermit, you will likely spend a good portion of your life int he presence of digital devices” (36). In order to help us understand the development of technology, Tim does a great job of looking back at the historical advancements of technology that brought both good and bad with it. For instance, he points back to how machines eventually replaced men in the mills – causing them to lose jobs. While production may have increased, real people lost jobs. Therefore, technology has always been viewed from both the good and bad that it brings upon advancement.
Tim does a great job of pointing out the need to understand technology’s message. In other words, he makes a great point that many overlook – especially in the church. Technology itself carries a type of message. When we consider the use of technology in the church, this is a big deal. We must be extremely careful to avoid any skewing of the message that we are trying to communicate – especially the very Word of God. So, as Tim develops this thought, he makes you throw a caution flag to an overuse (or abuse) of technology in the church – especially without harnessing it for redemptive purposes. In a day where projectors and large screens are common in the church building and many pastors are using movie clips in their sermons while preaching, this word of caution is much needed. As we read these words, we must understand that Tim is an experienced professional in the technology industry. He isn’t writing from a secluded Amish farm with an anti-technology mindset. This truth makes his cautionary words more serious!
Notable quotes from chapter 2:
“Today, Luddite is a disparaging term used to refer to a person who is opposed to or cautiously critical of technology. But it’s important to remember that the original Luddites were not, in fact, opposed to technology per se. It was not the machines themselves that the Luddites feared and reacted against. Rather, they understood that technology is meant to serve humans, not the other way around” (37-38).
“You may remember the anticipation and excitement surrounding the introduction of the Segway personal transporter vehicle. It was hailed as a device from the future, a vehicle that would change the world…The device was evolutionary rather than revolutionary and, to this point in time, almost entirely inconsequential (unless you happen to be a mall cop)” (39).
“The forces of nuclear fission can power our homes through nuclear power plants; yet they threaten to destroy our homes through nuclear bombs. In other instances, the same use of a given technology carries with it both risk and opportunity” (39).
“The Internet promised families access to a world of knowledge and unparalleled communication opportunities, but this same technology has led to new forms of addiction, the exponential growth of available pornography, and a new form of violence known as cyberbullying. The risks were far more difficult to see” (41).
“Pornography was once a secret vice but has now become a public passion and is nearly omnipresent on the Internet” (52).
Chapter 3 – Digital History
Tim provides a history of the digital revolution and advancement of technology. In order to do so, he begins with the story of one of America’s best-loved daughters, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Tim points out that Laura died at ninety, in 1957. He writes, “Laura the pioneer girl died at the age of ninety in 1957, the same year that Russia launched a satellite (and a dog) into space. She died only four years before humans orbited the moon and only twelve years before Neil Armstrong set foot on it” (55).
As I read this chapter, I chuckled because my wife and I have opposing views of technology. I have a love for it and think the more the merrier, but my wife would be content living back in the cabin with Laura (although I have tried to convince her otherwise).Tim points out that Laura’s life spanned from the horse and carriage to the space age of rockets and moon exploration. However, he then goes on to make a stunning point! Tim claims that those born the year that Laura died (1957) and live the same length of years (90) will see far more advancement than Laura witnessed in her life.
Notable quotes from chapter 3:
“In his account of the Lewis and Clark expedition, historian Stephen Ambrose notes, “A critical fact in the world of 1801 was that nothing moved faster than the speed of a horse” (56).
“In January 1815, during the last battle of the War of 1812, hundreds of men were killed and over two thousand wounded or taken prisoner, even though the war had officially ended almost two weeks prior. It would take until February for news to reach the troops that a treaty had been signed on December 24. All those lives had been lost in van, fighting a war that had ceased” (57).
“In 1946, only 1/2 of 1 percent of American households had even a single screen in their home. But by 1999, a mere fifty-three years later, a prominent researcher was able to declare that ‘watching TV is the dominant leisure activity of Americans, consuming 40 percent of the person’s free time as a primary activity” (62).
“Images communicate in a way that is very different than words. The initial impact of an image is not so much a thought as it is a feeling” (63).
“Older generations are now digital immigrants, having been forced to transition from the old world into the new” (66).
“The Internet dwarfs even the printing press in its impact on human culture, in its rate of adoption, in its immediate impact” (73).
Aside – Talk to Your Tech
Tim completes Part 1 of his book with some great concluding remarks about technology. In just a short and brief manner, he concludes with four solid questions to ask your new gadget before bringing it into your life:
- Why Were You Created?
- What Is the Problem Which You Are the Solution, and Whose Problem Is It?
- What New Problems Will You Bring?
- What Are You Doing to My Heart?
As Tim looks at these four questions briefly, he provides balance and clarity. Rather than rallying the troops against technology, he is quick to point out the benefits of advancement. However, he also provides great words of caution that are provoked by solid questions when considering a new device / gadget / or gizmo.In a a much needed way, Tim concludes with his final question that is centered on the heart. He turns back to the issue of idolatry and encourages us to ask this question when considering a new device, “Am I running out to by a device so I can be the first one in my office, school, or church to own the device” (78)?
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This concludes the first part of the review of The Next Story by Tim Challies. Check back on Wednesday April 13th for the second part of the review and my concluding remarks about the book.
Pastor Josh Buice
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Where to buy The Next Story: