Smart faith in a digital age
Published: 23 January 2020 (GMT+10)
Slightly revised from its first publication in Prayer News, CMI-UK/Europe, April 2019.
A connected world
Have you ever experienced panic or anxiety when you realise you do not know where you left your phone? How about when you arrive at a new destination only to discover there is no Wi-Fi coverage? If you can relate to this, then you may have just experienced a case of nomophobia, the technical term for describing the fear or anxiety arising from being without a mobile device; an abbreviation of “no-mobile-phone-phobia”. You may think I am joking, but this is a reality of the modern world. This was listed as the ‘Word of the Year’ by the Cambridge dictionary in 2018.1 It illustrates just how deeply modern technology, particularly the smartphone, is embedded in our lives, not just those who are born connected, part of the iGeneration.
The smartphone burst onto the scene in 2007 and our world has never been the same. It has impacted almost every area of our lives, from how we learn, to how we communicate and form relationships. Technology is not bad in and of itself; on the contrary, it has been used to do many wonderful things. In fact, man’s mastery and use of technology is a good example of the dominion mandate in Genesis 1:28. However, technology, and smartphones in particular, pose several challenges that we all need to face, especially as they relate to the spiritual life of the Christian.
Many of us may be unaware of just how influential this technology can be. The average person spends at least three hours a day absorbing information from their screens. This is a serious matter, considering that the content will generally be from an anti-creation evolutionary worldview.
Let me provide you with some statistics in case you are tempted to dismiss the impact this can have. These days it is imperative to have an online presence, whether you are an individual, a famous personality, a museum, an NGO, a business or anything else. The anti-theists, such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, amass over 4 million followers on one social media platform alone. Or look at anti-creationist Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”, who said that, “Creationism … is an embarrassment and a shame, a religious superstition that does real harm to children.”2 He has a ready audience of 5.95 million people on Twitter. The popular astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who famously said that “God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance,”3 can boast over 13.5 million followers. When you consider that many of their followers will repost what these people say, the actual reach of these statements increases exponentially.
This is only the tip of the iceberg but should illustrate that it is an area of influence that Christians write off at their peril. No longer is it confined to the millennials and ‘Gen Z’s’. Those between 55 and 75, dubbed ‘silver swipers’ or ‘silver surfers’, are a rapidly growing market for smartphones.4 The challenge for us as Christians is, not only to be wise in our own use of technology, but also to be good and effective stewards of the resources we have in order to proclaim the message of biblical creation and the Gospel.
In this digital age, one of the quickest, cheapest and most effective ways to reach people is through social media. In order to make sure that we fulfil our mandate to “always be ready to give an answer” (1 Peter 3:15) and to “destroy arguments … raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5) we must see to it that the millions of people who form their opinions with information from the digital world have at least some exposure to content that will affirm and uphold a biblical worldview. In many ways, reaching a culture that inhabits the digital world, by providing biblical creation resources through this world, is a front-line battleground for passing on the knowledge of God to the next generation. We take the message to where the people who need it are found.
On a more personal level, in order to mature, we must delight in the Word of God and meditate on it (Psalm 119:97). This means we need to accept the authority of the Bible from the very first verse. The spiritual life is about growing in a deepening relationship with Jesus. Relationships take time and discipline, there is no ‘quick install’ option. A life that is constantly interrupted by digital distraction will make this very difficult. Ask yourself, do you ever check your phone whilst reading the Bible? When you pray is your phone next to you?
Another serious concern is the content that we choose to view on our smartphones and tablets. For many the presence of a phone means that temptation of every sort is only ever one or two clicks away. Surveys show that the average user checks his/her device within minutes of waking up and right before they go to sleep. This is a far cry from the Psalmist who says, “O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch” (Psalm 5:3). And “ I remember you upon my bed and meditate on you in the watches of the night” (Psalm 63:6). Statistics show that the average smartphone user checks it over 47 times a day, and 85% will check it even when in a conversation with someone else.5 The Bible reminds us to “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
What is the answer for those of us who already have developed bad habits due to this technology, or who want to use technology to honour God? We must break the bad habits (with God’s help6) and form new habits that are more beneficial to our spiritual lives. Yes, phones and technology can be a spiritual hindrance, but they don’t need to be. Learning self-control is a part of spiritual maturity, The Bible says the Holy Spirit gives us the power of “self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV) and also lists “self-control” as a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
Part of the solution is to redeem the time. The technological revolution is here to stay and things such as smartphones are a regular part of life. This being the case, make sure you use the resources available wisely. Instead of aimlessly swiping through social media feeds, consider spending more time on this very website (of Creation Ministries International) giving you access to over 11,000 articles of Creation-affirming biblical content (as well as a huge number of articles in 45 languages other than English). Get up-to-date biblical interpretations of science in the news and information on the latest discoveries related to biblical Creation. Follow CMI on all our social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), watch us on YouTube, and importantly, assist us in this mission by sharing the content with as many people as you can.
Finally, I would suggest that however you use your phone, ensure that it is never a substitute for real fellowship. Make sure you are part of a local Church where you can grow and encourage one another in your spiritual walk with the Lord (Hebrews 10:24).
References and notes
- Petter, O., ‘Nomophobia’ Crowned Word of the 2018, But What Does it Mean?Independent, 31 December, 2018; accessed 11 November 2019. Return to text.
- Stone, M., Bill Nye on religious Superstition: Fear of death makes people ‘nutty’. Patheos, 4 December 2014. Return to text.
- Tyson, N. D., The Moon, the tides and why Neil DeGrasse Tyson is Colbert’s God, thesciencenetwork.org/programs/the-science-studio/neil-degrasse-tyson-2, 20 January 2011; accessed 11 November 2019. Return to text.
- Kelion, L., Smartphone sales boom with over-55s, bbc.co.uk/news, 20 September 2017; accessed 11 November 2019. Return to text.
- Smartphone Addiction Facts and Phone Usage Statistics: The Definitive Guide 2019, bankmycell.com/blog/smartphone-addiction; accessed 11 November 2019. Return to text.
- And take practical steps too; e.g. not keeping your smartphone by the bed! Return to text.