Readers Choice Nominees 2022

A Review of ‘God, Technology, and the Christian Life’ by Tony Reinke

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You cannot avoid technology. You might struggle with the latest upgrade on your phone. You might grumble when the app doesn’t work. But you cannot avoid technology. And perhaps, for the Christian, you shouldn’t. Technology, and its constant progression which ensures your newest phone is already behind the curve, may indeed be a gift for which you should thank God. That’s what “tech optimist” Tony Reinke contends in his book, God, Technology, and the Christian Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 2022). In this book, Reinke peels back the layers of technology and points to the nature and character of God. Every page raises questions regarding technology and confronts those questions with answers derived from biblical passages.

Each paragraph takes the reader deeper into the argument for an optimistic and God-centered view of technology.

Reinke’s book fits into a larger framework he hopes to lead readers along as they interact with technology. In a Facebook post, Reinke explained that he wrote 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You and Competing Spectacles to address internal tech problems like those revealed in the documentary The Social Dilemma. Reinke writes, “Tech biases push and pull on native, sinful inclinations. I must confront on the inside.” Moving from trouble to thankfulness, God, Technology, and the Christian Life presents a case for what Reinke calls, “Tech Gratitude (Worship).” Reinke explains, “Sin patterns dealt with, now with eyes to see the generosity and brilliance of the Creator in the possibilities we are given.” Reinke teases yet another book with the comment, “Tech Stewardship (Love). Aware of the biases in tech, aware of the sin inclinations in me, beholding God’s generosity in his gifts, tech now conforms to my calling and informs how I parent tech stewardship.” Tech problems. Tech Gratitude. Tech stewardship.

Reinke organizes the book under six questions. These questions clue the reader in like signs at the top of a ski lift. Beginners be warned, we’re leaving the bunny slopes. For example, Chapter Four addresses the question, “What Can Technology Never Accomplish?” This question addresses both the limitations of tech and the heart issues of humanity. The human heart has longings which tech cannot satisfy. Each chapter presents a question and gives an answer. Reinke’s book, however, is not a simple catechism with one-liner questions and answers. This book is more akin to sitting through the discussions which produced the Westminster Confession (the longer one!). Reinke explains, “This book is a roundtable with nine historic voices, framed by nine key texts of Scripture, as I seek to unseat twelve common myths about technology” (25). Those voices include John Calvin, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, Jacques Ellul, Wendell Berry, Kevin Kelly, Elon Musk, and Yuval Noah Harari. The scriptures include Genesis 4:1-26; 6:11-22; 11:1-9; 1 Samuel 17:1-58; Job 28:1-28; Psalm 20:1-9; Isaiah 28:23-29; 54:16-17; and Revelation 18:1-24. The twelve common myths Reinke seeks (and succeeds) to unseat are:

  1. Human innovation is an inorganic imposition forced onto the created order.
  2. Humans set the technological limits and possibilities over creation.
  3. Human innovation is autonomous, unlimited, and unchecked.
  4. God is unrelated to the improvements of human innovation.
  5. Non-Christian inventors cannot fulfill the will of God.
  6. God will send the most beneficial innovations through Christians.
  7. Humans can unleash techno-powers beyond the control of God.
  8. Innovations are good as long as they are pragmatically useful.
  9. God governs only virtuous technologies.
  10. God didn’t have the iPhone in mind when he created the world.
  11. Our discovery of atomic power was a mistake that God never intended.
  12. Christian flourishing hinges on my adoption or rejection of the technium.

In Chapter One, Reinke tackles the fundamental question, “What is Technology?” He roots his chapter in the agricultural work and innovation of his grandfather and compares that to his own technological world including laptops and robot vacuums. Reinke reveals a history of tech and turns our attention to the story of David and Goliath which he summarizes as “two technologists who clashed” (17). We’ve come a long way from the technology of Goliath’s sword or David’s slingshot. But we remain confronted with critical questions such as, “Can we find a place where God-centered trust and technique-wielding skill complement one another?” (29). Reinke sets out to explain his biblical theology of technology (30).

In Chapter Two, Reinke asks “What is God’s relationship to human technology?” He sets the stage: “How you answer this question will reframe your own relationship with technology” (33). Reinke then points us to tar. Specifically the tar, or pitch, used to build Noah’s Ark in Genesis 6. This tar appears again in the building of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. He takes us from the Tower of Babel to facial recognition used by Delta airlines in 2019. He reveals God as the ultimate Creator—yes even of tech—as explained in Isaiah 54:16-17. Both the smith and the ravager are created and governed by God. They are created creators. Reinke then draws out nine takeaways as we think critically about God’s relationship to technology. And each takeaway has implications for tech users.

In Chapter Three, Reinke asks “Where do our Technologies Come From?” He introduces his argument with the illustration, “technology is like playing in a sandbox that someone else made” (75). Reinke then draws our attention to some of God’s incommunicable attributes – those he does not share with creation. This self-existent, self-sufficient God is the source of technology. He walks us through Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel and on through the beginning of human genealogies; Reinke is pointing to our “technological forefathers” (88). He explains the origin of innovation from Isaiah 28:23-29. Reinke even applies this principle to the medical researchers who sought to combat Covid-19 with new technologically advanced vaccines.

In Chapter Four, Reinke tackles the question, “What Can Technology Never Accomplish?” Like the Psalmist, Reinke intends to remind us that only the Creator can do what all of creation cannot. He turns first to Psalm 20 which reminds us of God’s immanence and transcendence. Sung by those going into battle, facing technological enemies, Psalm 20 reminds us that above every technological advancement, God saves. And, as Reinke shows us, it is to our folly that we trust in technology for what only God can do. Throughout the chapter, Reinke contrasts the gospel of Jesus Christ with the gospel of technology; warning us of one and welcoming us to another. Reinke summarizes, “If God is the center of your life, technology is a great gift. If technology is your savior, you’re lost” (179).

In chapter five, Reinke asks, “When Do Our Technologies End?” Here he points us to Babylon the Great, exposed in Revelation 18. Where previous chapters were divided into smaller sections, this chapter is one single—but powerful— explanation of Revelation 18. From this, Reinke draws five takeaways for the reader.

Finally, in chapter six, Reinke asks “How Should We Use Technology Today?” He “turns to the complex ethical dilemmas of living out our Christian lives from inside the tech age” (223). Reinke begins with a call to wisdom; a call drawn chiefly from Job 28:1-28. Reinke summarizes, “My earlier book on smartphone overuse served as a warning but also as an optimistic vision for the long-term value of digital media. The emphasis was intentional, and it’s not only about smartphones. In my broadest understanding, all our technological advances include three stages: (1) discovery, (2) production, and (3) adoption of those new powers into our lives to amplify our native dexterity. Such a definition of tech is relatively common. Missing is the fourth stage that must be added: (4) adapting these new powers to human flourishing” (236). True to form, Reinke offers fourteen ethical convictions regarding a Christian approach to technology. Finally, Reinke calls us to walk through this tech age by faith. He writes,

  • I’m advocating for the faith to ride it out, to ride without fear, to ride like people who trust in the God who reigns over all things and loves us to the point of shedding the blood of his own Son for us to prove that he will give us everything we need in the tech age. It’s going to be a wild ride. It won’t always be comfortable. We will overreach. We will attempt too much. We will make mistakes and maim ourselves along the way. We will always be in need of correction. But by faith we can rest assured that the technium will never escape God’s nine limiters. So I’m optimistic—not optimistic in man, but optimistic in the God who governs every nut, bold, chain, and seat belt in this wild technological carnival ride” (296).

Reader, Reinke invites you to walk through your tech-saturated life by faith.

Reinke’s book is packed with insight. Each paragraph takes the reader deeper into the argument for an optimistic and God-centered view of technology. It is here that some readers will grow weary. Not in the God-centeredness but in the depth. Fourteen takeaways is a lot to mentally process at the end of a chapter. And some of those takeaways have sub points with their own lists. The journey is worth it. And Reinke guides the reader as well as any guide could do. But reader, be gladly warned, this book will cause you to think deeply. This book will not merely teach you how to walk. It will expose you to unseen realities like gravity which demand that you walk.

Reinke gives exactly what he promised. This book is indeed an organized presentation of the collective input of those nine voices introduced in the beginning. Reinke compellingly explains the selected passages and helps the reader worship the God of the Bible as he does so. This is no mere practical approach to Scripture; this is a call to worship. Reinke writes as a fellow pilgrim and an admitted tech-optimist. I believe that you will be convinced to join him both in his look at technology and, far more importantly, in his joyful gaze upon God.

  • Readers Choice Nominees 2022
  • review
  • technology
Jeff Mingee

Jeff Mingee is the pastor of Catalyst Church in Newport News, VA. He serves as a Church Planting Strategist with the SBC of Virginia, overseeing church planting throughout the southeast region. Jeff received his M.Div from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing his D.Min. He is the author of 'Called to Cooperate: A Biblical Survey and Application of Teamwork' as well as other books. Jeff and his wife, Lauren, are the glad parents of Aiden and Carter.

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