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Handheld affections

(Tim Challies (Handout))

Anthony Marsland/Cultural/Getty Images


Handheld affections

Christian blogger/pastor warns of iPhone idolatry

Evangelical blogger Tim Challies' new book, The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion, tells how technology is changing what we believe and how we treat each other, and advises Christians to use it wisely.

Challies, a Toronto-based web designer and cultural commentator who maintains one of the most visited Christian blogs on the internet, admits he's a gadget lover. But he's come to realize the pursuit of the latest tech may represent misplaced affections-and can result in shallow relationships. As a new pastor he's trying to prioritize face-to-face communication over Facebook. Challies spoke to WORLD about technological good and evil.

Can technology become an idol? The allure of technology is always that it makes your life better and easier and more comfortable. You embrace technologies that make you feel happy and fulfilled. We look at idols as bad things, but generally what happens is you take a good thing and make it an ultimate thing, and that's what idolatry is. This iPhone-it gives me such joy, it makes my heart long for it. And yet it can very easily take the place of God in my life.

Technological media (cell phones, email, texting) can keep relationships connected from anywhere, but what's the drawback? They allow us to communicate immediately outside of our physical presence. For young people it's more and more natural to have very little face-to-face contact: It's now even expected that before you call me you'll text me to ask if it's OK that you call, because jumping into my life with your voice is almost too intimate.

I think there's a sense in which that becomes a dehumanizing thing. There's no young man out there who says to his girlfriend, "I just can't wait to write you a letter." Instead you write a letter saying, "I can't wait to be with you." That's one of the great things that the Lord holds out in heaven: You will see Me face to face. There won't be this mediation between us anymore.

How should Christians deal with the daily torrent of news and information? The first thing to do is weigh it. If you can't do anything about it, then do you really need to know it? Along the way news really does become entertainment for many of us. We want tons of news, we want quick news, but we don't really want to ponder it and to take all that knowledge and put it through a biblical lens so it becomes wisdom.

Locked in a cell

The Pew Research Center confirms American young adults are becoming ever more dependent upon cell phones for communication, entertainment, and internet access. In a new survey, 64 percent of 18- to 29-year-old mobile owners said they used their devices to retrieve information they needed immediately, and 42 percent felt inconvenienced within the past month because their phone wasn't handy. Seven out of 10 use mobiles for fun or to escape boredom (compared to 42 percent of all adult cell owners), and 30 percent have pretended to use their phone to avoid interacting with people around them-perhaps by faking a call.