5 warnings about Christians’ thoughtless use of technology

March 24, 2017

Rod Dreher notes in his book, The Benedict Option, that “parents who would never leave their kids unattended in a room full of pornographic DVDs think nothing of handing them a smartphone.”

Why is this true? Why would parents who carefully monitor what their children watch on tv or what movies they go see fail so spectacularly when it comes to the technology their children use?

In an interview on the Art of Manliness podcast, author Nicholas Carr taps into why this kind of disconnect can exist and from that interview I think there are at least five warnings for Christians’ thoughtless use of technology.

1. Silicon Valley is not your friend

The companies that make up Silicon Valley (Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are not neutral, and neither are the tools they create. Carr mentions in the interview that there is an ideology that drives everything Silicon Valley does.

I have written previously on the phenomenon that when we use a tool, not only are we shaping the world around us, but our tools are shaping us. The value systems embedded into our digital tools shape how we think and act, which even has a physiological effect on how our brains work (see Carr’s book The Shallows).

Christians must actively interrogate the technologies they use  and determine whether the value system the tools encourage align with the Bible’s value system.

2. A frictionless existence is not worth living

In a striking part of the interview, Carr mentions the oft-stated goal of software developers to create “frictionless experiences.” Carr goes on to say that friction is what helps us grow as humans. Friction makes flourishing possible. Proverbs 27:17 states that “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” The wisdom of the Bible is telling us that a frictionless existence is a static existence, and thus an inferior existence. If we never rub against others, we will never change. We will always be the same.

As we use tools that are very efficient and have experiences that are frictionless, this will undoubtedly seep into our relationships. When we reside under a layer of pixels, maintaining an image, change is not required of us. But when we live in close proximity to one another, we can see the areas that we each need to change. The friction of life shows us where we are dull, and others help sharpen us in those areas.  

We often have an illusion of connection via social media, but for most, no one really knows us. This has huge implications for Christian community. Christians who unthinkingly use digital technology will struggle to create and maintain deep forms of Christian community.

3. Information gathering is not an end in itself

When talking about his book, The Shallows, Carr points out that the Internet is a great place to gather information. However, the ethos of the Internet is that of information gathering as and end in itself. Reflection on the information gathered so that we can turn that into personal knowledge, and even wisdom, is not encouraged or rewarded by the Internet. I think this has huge implications for preachers.

Preachers must realize that most people coming on Sunday morning are being trained to be information gathers only. And those preachers that present the Bible as words about God are nurturing a people to be hearers of the Word only. The Internet Age demands preaching that presents the Bible not as words about God, but rather as words from God.

This is the only kind of preaching that will break through the information gathering ethos of the Internet because it demands a response. If the Bible is just words about God, I don’t need to respond. But all that changes if the Bible is actually words from God.  

4. Techno-Gnosticism is the religion of Silicon Valley

Carr describes Silicon Valley as embodying an anti-materialist ethos. They want to digitize as much of our existence as possible . So they see the physical body as insufficient and a hinderance.

Recently Elon Musk (CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors) has stated that he believes humans need to become cyborgs in order to stay relevant (he fears AI and robots will make humans useless). There is a group at Google working on the Singularity—which is a fancy way of saying they want to upload human consciousness to a computer. This is nothing more than techno-gnosticism that seeks salvation from the physical world in the ethereal world of the digital.

Christians must realize that salvation is what’s being offered up in lot of the technologies we use. Otherwise, we may unknowingly take them up on the offer.

5. Technology can devalue human life

Carr wisely points out that certain tools can often rob us of our humanity. By outsourcing tasks to a machine, it is possible that in the name of efficiency and convenience, we will trade away core aspects of our humanity. The danger here is that when we constantly use tools that train us to value efficiency and convenience above core aspects of our humanity, we begin to blur the definition of humanity itself. And if the definition of humanity is blurred, it is suddenly possible to mold the definition of human to exclude certain groups.

Abortion is a perfect example. While certain medical technologies have made it abundantly clear that we are killing children, the ethos of many of our tools have enabled us to justify it by redefining humanity. This is exactly what many do when they say the baby isn’t human until born or that it’s just a bunch of cells at the beginning. Those arguments are absurd, but an ethos of technology that says efficiency and convenience are most important makes those absurdities tolerable to those that espouse them.


Carr ends the interview by saying that for most, a wholesale rejection of the Internet is not possible, and that’s not something he advocates. Rather, he advocates that we vigorously examine the tools we choose to use and be aware of the ideologies embedded in those tools. This is sound advice. But Christians must go one step further. We must do all things to the glory of God—including our use of technology.

This article originally appeared here.

Justin Camblin

Justin Camblin is a pastoral assistant and staff nerd at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24