Technology and religion seem almost to exist in separate planes of existence. Fact and faith. Science and superstition. They’re not wholly incompatible, mind you—just difficult to reconcile sometimes.
But if we were to turn to the Bible for guidance about the place that technology should occupy in a God-fearing civilization, what would we find?
The answer is: not a lot. Prophetic though it may be, the Bible remains relatively silent on the subject of mankind’s technological progress. That is, if you’re looking for a strictly literal commentary.
In a more metaphorical sense, we can look to the book of Genesis, and to the story of the tower of Babel, for a potentially revealing look at how God feels about the advancement of mankind.
The Tower of Babel
I’m sure you know the story: in the beginning, the whole of mankind spoke just one language and worked together to solve problems—or, in this case, try to overcome their “lowly” place on earth.
They built the tower of Babel—an effort to reach the very heights of heaven. A monument to hubris and overreach. And in answer, God scattered the builders and confused their language, effectively putting an end to their little building project. His reasoning went something like this:
Behold, the people are one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. (Genesis 11:6)
Our religious leaders tell us frequently that the language of the Bible is steeped in metaphor and allegory; we’re meant to take its teachings as symbolic, rather than literal. Given that, what is the story of Babel really about, if we’re allowed to insert our own modern-day interpretation?
We could say that the tower is a metaphor for technology, or we could get even more specific and see it as a comment on any number of ways that we collectively play god. Abortion? Accelerated climate change? Genetic engineering? Fill in the blank.
Mankind was blessed with a vast imagination and almost endless ambition. But what happens when we run to the end of our leash?
Daniel Talks Tech
Another verse, this time from the book of Daniel, has frequently been cited as an indication that the advancement of technology would accelerate very rapidly as the End Times approach:
But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase. (Daniel 12:4)
There’s a reason the Bible didn’t go into detail about science and technology, and it’s a simple one: to do so would have been anachronistic. The men who wrote the Bible didn’t foresee that one day we’d be building machines to visit distant regions of space, extract valuable commodities from the ground, or even to perfect the art of oral hygiene. What they wrote of the future they wrote with the imperfect knowledge of fallible human beings. Even with God’s help, they remained in the dark about the particulars of the future.
What we can surmise is that the god of the Bible looks down on “false masters.” As with any Bible verse, we can apply that broad categorization to any number of present-day trends:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. (2 Peter 2:1)
False teachers are those who practice religion in the daylight and perversion behind closed doors. They are those who would use their platform as leaders and intellectuals to spread lies and misinformation. And, if you want to circle back to the question of technology, these “false masters” could be anything we allow to stand-in as the object of our worship. Stock market trading? Smartphones? Fossil fuels? The list goes on.
What Are We Building Today?
So we can see that the Bible is not without references to human technological development; we just have to do a little bit of digging, and perhaps use our imaginations, to get to the heart of the matter.
And are we going to become even more scattered as a species for having made the attempt?
Nobody can say for sure. In this and in many other things, the Bible proves to be an enigmatic road map. And perhaps that’s the way it’s meant to be.
[Image via Half Life Wiki]