Thinking Carefully (and Theologically) about Our Smartphones

The apologetics community could serve the church well not only by doing good work in the philosophy of religion and helping Christians defend the faith, but by helping believers think carefully about all spheres of life. There’s plenty of good work being done on arguments for God’s existence, the historical evidence for the resurrection, etc., etc. (and it needs to continue!), but the church needs more help thinking theologically about current trends, social issues, and a host of other topics. Indeed, for many people these issues are perceived to be more relevant, affecting so much of their daily lives. It’s where they live (or at least, think they live). One topic in particular that must be addressed more often is technology, especially for an emerging generation of digital natives.

Some of the best thinking that I’ve seen on this is an interview with Christian thinker Alastair Roberts entitled “Smartphones and How They Change Us.” It’s a substantial article (about 9,000 words), but I encourage you to take the time to read and reflect on it. It’s some of the most penetrating analysis I’ve read on this particular topic. Let me highlight some of the important questions Roberts asks us to reflect on:

  • Is social media (and technology) making it difficult for me to give the activities and persons in my life the full and undivided attention and self-presence that they require and deserve?
     
  • Is my use of technology and social media squeezing out my inner life, encroaching upon time that would otherwise be given to private contemplation and reflection? Do I use it as a way to distract myself from unsettling truths and realities that can slowly come into focus in moments of silence and solitude?
     
  • Is my use of technology and social media mediating my relationship with and understanding of myself in unhealthy ways?
     
  • Is my use of technology consuming time that I used to or could potentially devote to worthier activities? Do I use my smartphone to ‘kill time’ that I could otherwise fill with prayer, reading, writing, edifying conversation, face-to-face interactions, etc.?

These questions (he includes other important questions, as well) and his reflections help surface the ways in which technology is shaping us and our kids deeply, often unbeknownst to us. Again, I urge you to make time to read this interview. Technology is an area where the church has much more intellectual work to do, for our own sake and for the sake of our kids. 

Brett Kunkle (@brettkunkle) is the founder and president of MAVEN, a movement to equip the next generation to know truth, pursue goodness, and create beauty. He has more than 25 years of experience working with youth and parents. Brett has a master’s degree in philosophy of religion and ethics from Talbot School of Theology and co-authored the book A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World.

Brett Kunkle

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