Book Review

Bearing good fruit in the digital age

A review of Jay Kim's Analog Christian

September 1, 2022

Life in the digital age for those who enjoy its fruit is easier in some ways, and more convenient than it’s ever been. Nearly everything we can imagine—information, goods and services, and social connection—can be delivered to us almost instantly with the click of a button. But the digital age, and the ease and convenience that it affords us, are shaping us into spiritually barren people who are more inclined toward “discontentment, fragility, and foolishness.” It is conforming us into its own digital image. 

How are we to resist being conformed to the image of another? In his book, Analog Christian: Cultivating Contentment, Resilience, and Wisdom in the Digital Age, Jay Kim seeks to address this very question. Kim serves as the lead pastor at WestGate Church in Silicon Valley, and he’s the author of Analog Church, a book that “explore[s] the ways the digital age and its values affect the life of the church.” That Kim and his church are situated in Silicon Valley, the capital city of the digital age, makes him a respected voice uniquely capable of providing aid for Christians seeking to live faithfully in the digital age.

For those who “care about our spiritual lives and [our] walk with Jesus,” Analog Christian is “a resource and guide to help us become aware of changes we need to make.” Moreover, it is one that helps us become aware of the changes the digital age is enacting upon us and an instruction manual for how we can resist those changes. In this book, Kim offers readers a glimpse into what it might look like for the people of God to be dosed with the Spirit’s “very specific antidotes we most desperately need for the undoing we’re experiencing in the digital age.”

Cultivating good fruit

The act of gardening may not be the imagery you expect to encounter when opening a book about life in our digital society, but Analog Christian is, at its root, precisely a book about gardening; about cultivating the soil of our spiritual lives so that we can bear the fruit that is now native to us who are indwelled by the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23). It is this fruit in all its variety that the Spirit seeks to produce in us, yet it is this fruit that the digital age is actively choking out of us. 

In the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul uses the analogy of fruit-bearing to describe what a life lived “by” and “in step with the Spirit” looks like (v. 25), undoubtedly mimicking the language that Jesus himself uses in John 15 to describe what happens when we abide in him. For “where the Spirit is,” wrote Willian Tyndale, “there it is always summer,” for there “there are always good fruits, that is to say, good works.” But, if we are honest, our spiritual lives often feel more like a barren wasteland than they do the “always summer” reality that Tyndale describes. So in this cultural moment, when we are so enamored by the digital ecosystem we inhabit, Kim calls his readers to pick up our gardening tools and go to work cultivating the ground where the Spirit has made his home—the human heart.

Like gardening, the work required to cultivate our hearts is a slow process. “It will not happen overnight,” Kim reminds us. It involves softening the ground, weeding away what doesn’t belong, and enduring the conditions of life that we encounter over days, weeks, and years. And it requires a prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit, who will take our efforts and, by his grace, produce the fruit in us that the Scriptures say is his. Only then will we bear fruit. Only then can we “thrive” in the digital age, “like trees planted by streams of water” (Psa. 1:3).

What we are up against

“The fruit of the Spirit does not require neat, clean environments to grow,” Kim says. “It is in fact dirt, the humble and messy stuff of life, where fruit comes alive.” And while our digital age promises to create neat and clean environments, building neat and clean facades out of our Instagram feeds and Facebook pages, what’s being swept under the rug or simply ignored at our own peril is that the bulk of today’s technologies are producing a society devoid of virtue and individual lives devoid of flourishing. Our digital masters are dehumanizing us, forming us into digital shells of ourselves. But it’s precisely here, Kim argues, in the “messy stuff of life,” where the Spirit can do his work of fruit-bearing and reform us into the image of the icon of humanity, Jesus Christ. 

But the pathway to Christlikeness is not a byway around the slow, hard difficulties and inconveniences of life, which the digital age promises to remove. And it’s certainly not to forsake the journey altogether and take up residence in the digital ether where the process of fruit-bearing is traded away for the “easy everywhere” that Andy Crouch describes in his book, The Tech-Wise Family. No, Christlikeness is a hard-won, Spirit-wrought process of walking with God into “the humble and messy stuff of life,” getting dirt under our fingernails and, by his grace, bearing the fruit of love in a culture of despair, the fruit of patience in an environment conditioned for impatience, and the fruit of gentleness in an age of outrage.

At a time when we are “immersed in unreality,” Kim is arguing for—pleading for—Christians to “go analog,” to pursue “the true spiritual life not [by] escap[ing] from reality but [by] an absolute commitment to it.” As Dan Kimball writes in the foreword to the book, Analog Christian “is not an anti-technology rant or anti-digital world rant.” It is “a thoughtful, biblical look at how technology forms us spiritually—both the good and the bad.” So, you will not find an explicit admonition to run for the nondigital hills. What you will find, again, is “a resource and guide to help [you] become aware of changes [you] may need to make.” Analog Christian is a counterargument against the subliminal polemic of our day that is pulling us deeper into the digital facade and its attending barrenness.

Do you find yourself increasingly inclined toward discontentment, fragility, or even foolishness? Has the digital age produced in you poisonous “fruits” like despair, contempt, hostility, or reckless indulgence? These are not signs of life; they are signs that this digital age is enacting its will upon us, deforming us into the bits and bytes of its own digital image. Begin again the “lifelong journey of watering” and “tilling the soil” of your heart, keeping in step with the Spirit, and abiding in Christ the vine, apart from whom we can bear none of the Spirit’s fruit. Let Jay Kim in Analog Christian be a shepherding voice that leads you back to the Chief Shepherd of your soul. 

Photo Attribution:


Jordan Wootten

Jordan Wootten serves as a News and Culture Channel Editor at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and a writer/editor at RightNow Media. He's a board member at The LoveX2 Project, an organization seeking to make the world a better place for moms and babies. Jordan is a graduate of … Read More

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