Friday, August 8, 2008

Theology and Technology

By Rahmadi Trimananda


Once upon a time, men and women lived in a so called traditional way. There was no electricity, no lamps, and even no machines. Was there anything wrong? No, there was not. It was just a period of time, when everyone could live peacefully and happily without having to think about the contacts they might have in their hand-phones, the appointments they made by using their PDAs. They even did not think about buying fuels for their cars as it is in the mind of today’s modern people who are troubled by the steep rising of the world’s fuel price. The world was so peaceful and calm at that time.

Suddenly, the industrial revolution came into human’s civilization at the end of 18th century and early 19th century. It caused major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation, which then give great impact on social, economics, and cultural conditions in Britain [1]. Machines, as the embryo of automatic devices, were rising at that time, giving so much new flavors to human’s life. The train and steam boat were invented in the mean time, as the trend went further until the late 19th century.

The freedom of thinking, which has appeared 2 centuries before, was one of the causes for this rapid changing. Human had put God aside from the center of life since the Renaissance movement rose in Europe. What happened? God, through the Christendom, was “reigning” over the land before the free thinking period came. People were not brave enough to say what they thought about everything they had and experienced in life, and even about the religion itself. However, the enlightenment had changed everything once and forever. Since then, men thought that they got a new source of energy to explore the legacy of this world. Wow, isn’t it too fast to conclude? The church, accused as the cause of the imprisonment of human’s thought, was finally left by the followers. Together, those people tried to discover their own ways of life. I cannot even believe that such thing could have happened in the history of the civilization.

Industrial revolution, French revolution, and American revolution are probably the most important events that contribute to the modern technology and the modern way of life. Within one hundred years, the industrial revolution had been able to bring the world society to enter the new chapter, so called the modern era. New things were invented and people thought that they solved the major problems, but they actually did not. In fact, the two worst wars were happening at the modern period of the early 20th century. As God had been put aside, science (human’s thought) and technology emerged as the new religion.

The philosophy of technology and theology

Now we get into the real complication, because technology actually creates more problems rather than solves the initial problems. In the mean time, theology has been being left behind. Is there any way out of here? It is an irony, because the effort to summon a better condition for life has been showing its inherent flaws. At the same time, again, it has already been too far for the thoughts to get back to God.

Since the invention of the computer in the middle of 20th century, humans have started thinking once again, that they got a super antidote for all problems in life. Within only 30 to 40 years, computers could develop so rapidly that they penetrated almost every aspect of human’s life. It has been developing even outrageously within the past 20 years, dating back to 1990s. Nowadays, technology is very identical to a computer based system. One may not admit so, but it is irrefutable that we have computers in almost every single entity that we see and have today. It is amazing, isn’t it?

In the middle of this great advancement, it is a big irony that men deny their religious nature. As we have agreed before, people tried to change God with science and technology. This has made human’s life become emptier. Slow but sure, life loses its meaning. The advances we saw and still see in science and technology cannot bring the real meaning back. So, what should we then do? How should we then consider the positions of God and technology in the modern life? It is of course not without any reasons that God allowed the modern era came to our lives.

The jazz corner

I was once in a festival in my neighborhood and I saw a guitar superhero, namely I Wayan Balawan. This guy could really shred the guitar’s neck until the last piece. There are only two words suitable for this guy: remarkably unbelievable. He is an Indonesian guitarist and for me he is a pure Indonesian-ist. He plays western Jazz music, but he does not make his music like the western people make it. He chose his own style of playing and he uses Jazz music as his media to bring his ideas and to express it everywhere.

One of his outstanding compositions is called Country Beleganjur. From its name, of course, we can guess that the music would sound somewhat western, as it bears “country” for its first name. The basic structure is country music. However, he reorganizes everything to make it become a Jazz-Country style. Even more, he goes further and puts his own ideas there. He puts the Balinese percussion and musical instrument on top of this Jazz-Country music. It is simply intended to introduce the Balinese local music to the Jazz and western music fans, especially for those coming from Europe. He plays the composition very gracefully and charmingly. Every single eye would stare at his fast-dancing fingers while he was playing. He does not reduce the measure of the Jazziness, yet he is able to put the deepest essence of the traditional Balinese content in it.

Unlike other good guitarists, Balawan plays a completely different set of ideas and standard although all of them play the same instrument, electric guitar. Most of the electric guitarists play pure western flavored compositions, while Balawan could create a good mixture to deliver the traditionalism on top of modernism.

Up to here, it might be clearer that I want to compare this example to the Christian life. Moving back to our discussion about technology and theology, we can see that the positions of these two entities are like the music that Balawan has created. Theology is the foundation of technology, and yet it is the content of the deliverance of technology. Technology is a tool to reveal God’s glory even more and to reveal technology, to get acquainted to God’s will, we should put theology as the basic foundation of belief. But, what does the bible say about this? Let’s continue the discussion further. Hold on.

Theology and Technology

What now? The bible in one of its parts about knowledge, Psalm 1:7, says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. It completely goes side by side with what we have discussed about before. Technology is the tool, not the content. Theology is the foundation, the content, and it is also the sword that should be used to justify technology. In Genesis 1 and 2, God gave the order to human to preserve this world. Technology is the most relevant mean to be used, in order to preserve this world in today’s modern life. However, the task is not up to preserving this world, because technology itself has been contaminated by the nature of sin. Its position is now should be brought back into God’s divine plan.

The question to think about is how we apply this positioning in the real world, in everyday’s life, in our daily activities, whether we are special agents of technology or not. I myself am a still-in-process engineer. I know what engineering is, but I have to struggle more to find the meaning and the position of my specific field of engineering in God’s eternal plan. One thing that I know, theology should be the foundation of all. My engineering knowledge should be established on top of it and should be redeemed according to God’s word, and should be used for preserving this world. As my field is computer engineering, for instance, I have to find a way to make the computers in such a way that they can be used to glorify God. It indeed does not give the influence deliberately like a sermon from the pulpit. A good computer installation can make the computer network in a Christian foundation work well, and thus it will result in a strong computer and database management system that may help the social workers organizing their activities better. At the end, it will affect thousands of people and even more. It is exactly as what Martin Luther have said about calling. No matter what kind of job we are responsible for, we have to do it as good as we can, because we serve God in everything we have and we do. Even more, we should think further to use technology as a mean to spread the gospel to as many people as possible. Therefore, we can end this discussion in the following sentence: we should struggle to redeem the technology according to God’s word, we develop technology in order to fulfill God’s command to preserve this world, and we use technology in such a way as a vehicle to introduce God to many people. Is this enough? It might never be enough. Now, it is your turn to also think about it. Do you dare to take this challenge?


No comments: