I’m amazed and enthralled by modern technological advances. I used to read Popular Mechanics with audible sounds of astonishment. The first time I played around on my Ipod 4th Gen my wife rolled her eyes because I was practically prancing around the room in awe. However, I’m also in full agreement (as I noted here before) with Quentin Schultze’s counsel to take a wise perspective on technology: use it with moderation and be skeptical of its claims. Here’s a paragraph from Habits of the High Tech Heart that I like.
“Faddish technological endeavors nearly always interfere with genuine progress. When we define progress in purely technological terms, we compel ourselves to use the latest technology even when it might not be wise or appropriate. For instance, many college teachers feel compelled to use online student discussion software to transform their teaching notes into classroom presentations in darkened classrooms, to require students to visit a class Web site every day, or even to encourage students to take lecture and discussion notes on computers rather than in paper notebooks.”
It is amazing how much has already changed since Schultz wrote this in 2002. It is no longer simply college teachers using Powerpoint and websites; it is elementary school teachers using Ipods, earbuds, and texting, among other things. I just read a piece in the paper how some 2nd grade class is doing math lessons on the Ipod because (they argued) kids learn more from it than from a monotone teacher lecturing on numbers. They learn more quickly with games: if you kill 4 aliens in level one and 5 aliens in level two, how many aliens did you kill in all? Schultze continues this thought.
“Similarly, churches install video projectors in order to get the ‘full benefit’ of computer-presentation technology, sometimes resulting in entertainment-style worship services laced with slick slide shows, video clips, multimedia bulletin announcements, and dynamic sermon outlines. These kind of technological practices often distract a congregation from the spoken message, fragment the liturgical flow, and destroy the solemnity of worship – all in the name of progress. Our knowledge of the existence of technology, coupled with our desire to be progressive and effective, compels us to use it. When the promises of technique seduce us, however, responsibility usually eludes us” (p. 97).
Well said. Just like there are limits to science, so there are limits to technology. Is it possible that some technology, when it comes to learning, is more harmful than helpful? Is teaching a 10-year-old how to divide using hours of video games beneficial in the long run? Will he cultivate the virtue of careful listening (along with other virtues) using earbuds and a video game?
Even more seriously, what happens when you mix trivial entertainment with the deepest realities of life? What are the long-term effects of discussing Scripture (serious, deep, and spiritual things) using movie clips (entertaining, trivial, superficial things) to make it more meaningful on Sunday morning? Will we harm Christian spirituality by making church entertaining? What about kids who grow up with movie-laced “sermons?” How will it affect their Christian life in the long run?
I’d argue – based on the Regulative Principle of Worship (Westminster Confession of Faith 21.1 and Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 96) – that we should not use movies and such in worship. But based on Schultze’s helpful notes, I’d also argue against movies and such in worship from a practical point of view: this type of technology is more harmful than helpful when it comes to Christian worship and spirituality.