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A Discerning Christian’s Guide to Apple Watch

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On Monday Apple unveiled more details of the latest evolutionary leap in digital technology: Apple Watch. It’s arguably the most advanced offering in a new category of computing called “wearables”—technology that’s interwoven into the everyday life. Think the calculator watch, but Star Trektified!

What’s a discerning Christian to make of this latest entrant into the digital landscape?

Tim Challies offers us insight. His book The Next Story offers Christians a thoughtful, biblical engagement with important questions about faith and life in the digital revolution.

“Over the past three decades,” Challies writes, “digital technologies have powerfully changed our lives. They are woven into the very way we understand and relate to the world around us.” (10) Apple Watch is proof positive we have entered a whole new relationship with technology, which requires discernment.

Challies helps us by outlining three areas of consideration when it comes to technology: it’s mandate; morality; and connection to our heart.

How does Apple’s newest gadget look when considered through these three lenses?

Better and (potentially) worse than you may think.

The Mandate of Technology

“Just as God created, we create.” (22) As image bearers of God we have the ability to create; we also have the desire to create thanks to the so-called “creation mandate.”

“God’s basic instructions to mankind is to develop the resources of the natural world and use God-given abilities to bring him glory.” (23) This mandate calls us to have dominion over the world in a variety of ways, all of which relies upon the practical result of our creative abilities: technology.

Challies defines technology as “the creative activity of using tools to shape God’s creation for practical purposes.” In fact, he insists obedience to God’s mandate requires we create technology, which means there’s something inherently good about it. (23)

The imago Dei requires we create technologies, and so does the fall: “In such a world—a world cursed by sin—technology becomes increasingly important.” (24) A sinless world didn’t require medicine, farming tools, weapons, and the other technologies we rely upon post-fall.

Now, consider the Apple Watch: With this 38mm device you can check your heart rate and check email; order flowers and hail a cab—even advance medical research by participating in a study! At a certain level, the Apple Watch is good, because it helps us fulfill our creation mandate. But is it all that simple?

The Morality of Technology

At another level the Apple Watch could be bad. What about morality—the morality of technology generally and Apple Watch specifically?

Challies reminds us that “technology is like everything else in this sinful world: it is subject to the curse.” (24) To consider it in a distinctively Christian way, he offers three ideas:

  1. Technology is a good, God-given gift...
  2. Like everything else in creation, technology is subject to the curse...
  3. It is the human application of technology that helps us determine if it is being used to honor God or further human sin (25)

Examined through this prism, we understand Apple Watch to be a good, God-given gift that's subject to the curse, that can be used to honor God or further human sin.

This last point is an important one. As Challies argues, technology itself isn’t good or bad, it depends on how we use it. (25)

Christians have the freedom and responsibility to develop new technologies that further God’s purpose—even creative ones like Apple Watch. Yet we must also consider them with discernment: “There is an inherent good in creating technology. And yet there is inherent evil in abusing it or assigning it to a godlike prominence in our lives.” (25)

The Heart and Technology

And here is where Apple Watch or any other technology is potentially dangerous:

we are prone to assign to it something of a godlike status. We easily rely on technology to give our lives meaning, and we trust technology to provide an ultimate answer to the frustration of life in a fallen world. (26)

All technologies are just one step removed from becoming idolatrous. They can become our idols, because they can become our savior. (31) More commonly, “Technology becomes a tool of our existing idols;” (31) it enables idolatry. From sex to money, status to fulfillment, “Technology…is a gift that gets perverted and used to satisfy our selfish and evil desires.” (37)

9780310515050That’s as true of Apple Watch as anything else—perhaps more so. Given its $350 starting price tag, with editions reaching $12,000; the gateway it provides to images and anonymous relationships; and Apple-brand cachét, Apple Watch has the potential to capture the human heart in destructive ways.

 

Challies reminds us “We cannot run away from digital technology.” (13) But we can discern how to live virtuously while immersed in this strange new digital reality. Buy and engage his book yourself to help you and the people under your care live with technology in a way that’s biblically consistent and theologically rooted.

Even with Apple Watch.

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