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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8am Service, 2000-01-02

Text: Genesis 1:26-28

This is the first message in the series of messages at the 8 am service for the first quarter of this year, on the theme, 'Facing Today's Issues', and our topic is 'Is Modern Technology a Threat to Christianity?' This is an apt topic for our first Sunday in the new millennium which has been hailed as the beginning of a new era.

There is no doubt that modern technology is an issue that you and I will have to face in this new era. The world is changing at a rapid pace. All around us we hear of new developments in technology: Microelectronics, cybernetics and artificial intelligence - perhaps very soon computers will not need people to programme them, since they will be able to programme themselves and correct their own errors! Communications has reached such a high level through the use of the internet and email that E-commerce is fast becoming the defined standard for all commerce and business. People are already anticipating the day when the world will become one big market and all the world's trading houses and exchanges will be consolidated into two or three (Europe, America and Asia) in which large volumes of trade will take place at a dizzying rate!

Another realm where modern technology is rapidly growing is biotechnology - the application of technology to medical science. You have probably heard of the use of laser technology in surgery, the gamma knife, which can destroy lesions in the brain as small as the size of a pea, and can do it without affecting the surrounding healthy tissues. Medical technology has made such progress. The genetic DNA code is now being decoded. Some scientists even believe that we are close to discovering the secret of immortality - and those who have the means will be able to prolong their own life indefinitely. Soon, parents-to-be may be able to design their own children - to choose the sex of the child that will be born to them, as well as all the physical features such as the colour of their children's hair and eyes!

Babies may soon be born with built-in immunity to all kinds of diseases, and hence will not need to go through the tedious and painful immunization process we all had to go through! It is claimed that diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and even cancer will be eliminated. Out of all this, a perfect race of people who are strong, healthy and intelligent can be genetically constructed by combining the best features of every race.

Lately we have been hearing of things like: Genetic screening, Genetic therapy, Eugenics, Genetic engineering, Nuclear transplantation, Egg fusion, Cloning of organs and human beings, Prenatal diagnosis, and in-utero fetal surgery. Just a few weeks ago it was announced that man now even has the technology to create life! The implications of this will be given in greater detail by Elder Lim Teck Chye next month when he speaks in the 8 am service 'What if Scientists Create Life?' Therefore the first principle we need to know is:

I. We Should Be Cautious Not to Accept Every Option That Modern Technology Makes Available To Us.

The fact is: Modern Technology is proceeding at such a rapid rate that it is presenting society with more options than we can handle. Things which were never issues before simply because they were impossible, have suddenly become issues today. And one danger we face is that these increased options we have may cause us to trespass into forbidden territory -To break God's commandments or to usurp prerogatives that belong to God alone.

Hence, Christians must not accept the fruits of technology uncritically. We must keep a close watch on the ethical issues raised by these technological advances, and not allow ourselves to be carried away by the tide of progress. For example, we must reject any new technique of child-bearing that does not involve the union of cells from a living man and a living woman who are married to each other. This includes in-vitro fertilisation that uses an unknown donor's cells. This must be considered to be immoral, violating the seventh commandment. 

We must also oppose any technique of cloning a human being from one other human being. This bypasses God's sacred institution of marriage and family life and thus it diminishes the fifth commandment. We must also oppose any efforts of technology to breed a superior race of perfect people. 

The world has seen the horrible implications of this during the Second World War in Hitler's attempt to breed a pure race to rule the world. This clearly violates the biblical principle that all human beings are equal in God's sight.

Let us remember that Technology is a double-edged sword, which cuts both ways. It can accomplish much that is good, but in the wrong hands, it can accomplish much evil! For example, we all know that nuclear technology can be used to generate enough electricity for whole cities, and also to diagnose and treat illnesses through medical radiology. But it can also be used to destroy whole cities and incapacitate people who are exposed to radioactivity. 

One danger associated with new options made available by modern technology is that in a humanistic and utilitarian framework, children will be treated as commodities that differ in value and dignity according to some measure of perfection. One scientist who is a Christian wrote, 'Like any technology, it can bear both good and bad fruits. Christians must seek to bring a careful critique to this growing area of science' 'We cannot expect people who do not accept the notion of human sinfulness to protect society from disaster. Christians must participate in the policy-making process. If Christians are not involved, then disaster is imminent'. We must seek His wisdom as we travel down the dangerous path of the genetic age.' (J. Kerby Anderson, Genetic Engineering, 1982)

Thus, Christians must not be indifferent to the changes that are taking place in society through technology, but should speak out against certain unacceptable technological developments. But when we take such a stand, we must also be prepared to face strong reactions from the world. We may be ridiculed and labeled as Obscurantists, Spoilsports, and Killjoys and be reviled for trying to stop man's progress toward higher levels of perfection. Christians have often been accused of opposing science and hindering technology throughout history by superstitious ignorance.

When we utter words of caution against certain trends in technology, we must be prepared to be accused of being like the church in 1632 when Galileo the Italian astronomer was put on trial and sentenced to life imprisonment for teaching that the sun did not revolve around the earth.

This and many other similar examples are used as excuses by the world at large today, to turn a deaf ear to the warnings given by God'�s people.

II. We Should Not Be Totally Opposed to Modern Technology.

On the other hand, we must not become so skeptical about modern technology as to regard it as a worldly and sinful thing that we cannot touch at all. That would be going to the other extreme. There are some today who have a phobia for technology. They see it as a threat and an enemy to the church. In the eastern part of the U.S. there are a group of Christians who are like that -the Amish people.

They believe that since the scriptures command separation from the world, followers of Christ must therefore not use electricity, and not have radios, televisions, computers, cars or any machines. They still use horses and oxen for farming and oil lamps for light at night. They are opposed to technology, which to them, is part of the ungodly system of the world which will come under God's awful judgment.

Now there are others who may not go to the same extreme extent as the Amish people, but who claim that we must have absolutely nothing to do with computers, ATM machines, and cashless electronic payments, because these are all of the Antichrist! I have read one book that claims that the antichrist will be a computer! They may issue warnings against every new invention and innovation of modern technology because they see it as an idol or a modern Tower of Babel. Let us be careful not swing to this extreme. Having seen the two extremes to avoid, let us now look at modern technology the way we should see it - from a biblical perspective.

III. We Should View Modern Technology From a Biblical Perspective.

What does the Bible have to say about technology? Firstly,

A. Technology is The Outcome of God's Mandate to Man.

We must understand that there is nothing inherently evil in the nature of technology. It is the natural outcome of the mandate which God gave to man in Genesis 1:27,28 'So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.'

And thus man has developed science and technology in response to God's commands to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion over creation. Science is man's attempt to observe, understand, and explain the operation of the universe and its inhabitants. Technology is the practical application of the knowledge gained by science for mankind's benefit, bringing portions of the universe under his control. We are stewards of all of God's creation, and as such we are responsible to Him for both the preservation and the productive use of all the world's resources to the benefit of man, and for the glory of God. This brings us to the second perspective of Technology from the Bible:

B. Technology Is To Be Used For Man's Benefit And For God's Glory

The first technological feat recorded in the Bible is the building of the ark, a huge wooden structure that God commanded Noah to build. This ark benefited not only the human race but also all the species of air and land creatures that God had made. It also brought glory to God - manifesting His mercy and grace to sinful man. The next technological feat recorded in the Bible however, was designed only for man's benefit, and not for God's glory. The tower of Babel was built by men for the purpose of making a name for themselves. It was an attempt at self-glory and perhaps even self-deification. Thus, it fully deserved the curse of God. The last book of the Bible tells us that there will be another instance of this in the time of the Antichrist. And I believe that the Antichrist will use some aspects of technology for his own ends and not for God's glory (Rev 13:1-18). And therefore when he is finally revealed, Christians must be careful not to participate in his ungodly use of technology.

But there is nothing wrong with a godly use of technology. Do you know that some of the greatest advances of modern technology have been pioneered by godly men whose aim was both to benefit man and to glorify the Lord? Let us look at a few of them: The first is Blaise Pascal a Frenchman (1623-1662), who invented the first mechanical calculator, the syringe and the hydraulic press, and discovered many important principles of physics (e.g. Pascal's principle) and mathematics (still used by statisticians and insurance people today). He was a devout Christian who wrote this prayer: 'Almighty God, who gave your servant Blaise Pascal a great Intellect, that he might explore the mysteries of your creation, and who kindled in his heart a love for you and a devotion to your service: Mercifully give us your servants, according to our various callings, gifts of excellence in body, mind, and will, and the grace to use them diligently and to your glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.'

Another godly pioneer of technology was Samuel Morse, an American, born in 1791, the son of a pastor. He invented the first long-distance communications system using electricity - known as the telegraph. It is interesting to note that in his first telegraphic message that Morse sent from Washington to Baltimore on 24th May 1844, he spelled out only four words: �What God hath wrought� He did this in order to acknowledge before the whole world that this great step, which would revolutionise world communications, was a work of God because God constituted all matter in the form of electrons, but He left the likes of a Samuel Morse to figure out how to use those electrons to send messages.

The third godly pioneer of technology we want to consider is Michael Faraday, an Englishman, (1791-1867) who was described as a 'deeply Christian man.' Faraday was a chemist, physicist and one of the greatest scientists. He was the one who developed the science of electricity, and became known as the 'Father of Electronics'. He made a famous statement that 'The book of nature which we have to read, is written by the finger of God.' Dr Bence Jones in his biography of Faraday, wrote: 'His standard of duty was supernatural. It was formed entirely on what he held to be the revelation of the will of God in the written word, and throughout all his life his faith led him to act up to the the very letter of it.' 

A fourth well-known Christian pioneer of modern technology is Benjamin Franklin, an American (1706-1790). He was a scientist, inventor, and statesman. And his inventions include: bifocal lenses, the metal cooking stove, the urinary catheter, the lightning conductor, and the odometer. Listen to what Franklin wrote in his autobiography: 'And now I speak of thanking God, I desire with all humility to acknowledge that I owe the mentioned happiness of my past life to His kind providence, which lead me to the means I used and gave them success.' 

The lives of these pioneers show us that modern technology is good and useful when it glorifies the Lord. And this is especially so when their inventions help to promote God's work on earth, in things like missions, biblical archaelogy, and Bible study. The ease of travel and communications which we enjoy today have facilitated the sending and supporting of missionaries. 

Just look at the many mission trips that have been made by Lifers over the past year to far off countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, Brunei, Thailand and Myanmar. These are made in nice comfort in a matter of hours. In the days of the apostle Paul, such trips would have taken days or weeks and were fraught with all kinds of dangers. Internet communication has made it possible to keep in constant touch with all our missionaries. Through their email accounts, we get not only reports and prayer requests (That are used to keep the church updated in the weekly Thanksgiving and Prayer Bulletin) but also pictures of the Lord's work.

Perhaps the most important invention that has facilited the Lord's work one arth is the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450. One of the first books to be printed on his printing press was the Bible. The invention of printing has been one of the greatest blessings to the Lord's work. Every one of us can now easily own a personal copy of God's Holy Word and distribute copies of it to others. We can also have access to good Christian literature and articles through the printed page. 

And now technology has also made it possible to have all that without having to buy shelves and shelves of voluminous books - simply by having an electronic library, and access to Christian websites. Our own church and Bible college website has plenty of useful information and resources. A person who is now a member of Life Church happened to find our church website one day, and as he read the articles posted there, he decided to visit our church. And when he came, he immediately felt that this was the church that the Lord was leading him to. He began to correspond with me by email, to clarify many questions he had on the Bible, and two months ago, he was received into church membership and is now actively involved in the Evangelistic Band Fellowship. 

And thus we have seen two perspectives from the Bible about technology: Firstly, It is the outcome of God's mandate to man to subdue the earth. Secondly, it should be used both of man's benefit and for God's glory. Now we come to a third and important perspective we must have about modern technology:

C. Technology Must Never Replace God As The Object of Our Trust 

Psalm 20:7 brings this out very well: 'Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.' 

Chariots were one of the proud accomplishments of ancient technology and were used both in transport and warfare. No weapon was regarded in ancient wars to be more formidable than the chariot. And thus many kings and generals put their full trust in chariots to guarantee their victory. But the Bible shows us at least two instances when chariots proved to be useless. 

When the King of Egypt tried to pursue Israel with 600 chariots, he was defeated by the descending waters of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:23-25). And when Sisera led his forces of 900 iron chariots against Israel in the Kishon valley, he was defeated by an untimely rain and flood. In both of these instances, Israel's trust in the Lord proved to be the source of their victory over their superior technologically-equipped enemies. 

Therefore we must be careful not to have a misplaced trust. Our trust always be placed in God, who will never fail us. Technology has been known to fail countless times, because of human mistakes. The greatest demonstration of this is the millennium bug. This was due to the short-sightedness of a past generation of computer programmers who used only two digits to represent the data for the year. And while our present generation may accuse them of making such a silly mistake, the fact is, that we too are probably making mistakes in present technology that may have grave consequences on future generations! 

Modern man mistakenly thinks that he does not need God anymore because he has now achieved a relatively high measure of security in life through technology. It has become like a god to him! The fact is that technology is not worthy of our trust because it is imperfect, and it will always remain imperfect, as long as man is imperfect. There are also definite limitations to what technology can accomplish, and we must not be held spellbound by the illusion of omnipotence that it sometimes has. For only God has unlimited power! 

Thus, when we are faced with any problem in life, it is most important that we seek the Lord's help first, above whatever available technological solutions which are often costly. It is true that the Lord may choose to use technology to deliver us, just as He used the ark to deliver Noah, but without God, all the technology in the world cannot help us at all.

And let us be careful not to become addicted to technology, filling our lives with all the latest gadgets and devices that open up new experiences and possibilities for us. One of the disadvantages of living in a high-tech society is to get so carried away with constant exploring of all the wonderful things one can do with the latest upgrades and inventions on the market, that we have no time left for the the things of God. While every additional piece of technological equipment is supposed to enable us to do more things, and to have more time, very often we may find ourselves spending too much time: in trying to learn how to use all the fascinating and sophisticated capabilities of each equipment, in maintaining them in good working condition, and in looking for the latest upgrades or enhancements for them! 

It is ironical that with all the wonderful time-saving devices of our present age that are supposed to free us for more important things, people are spending less and less time with their families and friends, and have no time for God! Instead, young people are spending most of their time surfing the internet and creating their own webpages. And older people are spending more time listening to digital recordings and watching video CDs on their flat-screen TV. The temptation is for us to think: 'Since I have already spent so much money on this thing, I really must get my money's worth out of it by using it and exploiting it fully.' And then we make ourselves slaves to technology! 

One social critic observed that we are trapped in a 'Technologically Intoxicated Zone.' He says that people today are 'softened by the comforts technology brings to our lives, fascinated by its gadgetry, reliant on its constant companionship, addicted to its steady delivery of entertainment, and seduced by its promises.' (John Naisbitt, High Tech High Touch).

What then should we do? We should always remember that modern technology is a good servant, but a terrible master. Therefore, we should make good use of technology as a tool for God's glory, and we should not let it use us and distract us away from God. Obey the Word of God, which is given in Colossians 3:1,2 'If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.' May the Lord help us to do His will.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11