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Friday, 21 September 2012

Problems with Facebook

New Technology is Good
A theology of creation (which we evangelicals don't do well) demands that we view most new technological developments as, in themselves, good. They are a reflection  of the creativity of God (because we are made in his image) and a sign of his goodness (because they do us good).

Radio, TV, Internet, Twitter, iPads and Facebook, are all good.

Of course, in a fallen world, good gifts are twisted to evil ends, but we should not call the good gifts evil themselves for that reason.

Facebook is Good
So facebook is good. Think of all the good that can be done through it. You can keep in contact with friends, let people know what's going on in your life, and for a believer, glorify God through righteous and loving posts.

But in recent weeks I have been pondering two problems with this technology....

The Problem of Omniscience
You and I were never meant to know everything about everyone. This is true even of our closest friends. God alone knows all things, for a very good reason. None of us could handle omniscience. I am not thinking quantity of data, I am thinking sin. The famous American preacher AW Tozer once said about the celebrity culture taking hold in our churches, that if we knew all the thoughts of the man or woman we most admire, we would not even cross the street to greet them! He wasn't arguing for or defending unrighteousness, he was doing a realism check, doing a Paul who said that in him no good thing dwelt. Only God in his infinite mercy and patience can handle every piece of knowledge about his beloved children.

But today people are so unbelievably free about what they write on facebook, their thoughts, their movements, their arguments and so on, that we know people much better than before. (Or do we?, I hear you ask. Because it is quite possible to deceive others and put on a show.)

Add to that question, the fact that knowledge brings responsibility. What if you discover that someone is up to no good? Perhaps facebook opens up our lives to one another. Perhaps it forces admonition upon us in a new way.

In short, the first problem of facebook is, What do I do with this new glut of information about A, B or C?

The Problem of one-dimensional relationships
There is something about flesh and blood which no written text or photo can convey.  We say things with our bodies which we don't express in words. Embodied creations as we are, fullness of communication can't take place without face to face conversations. I can hide pain or embarrassment from you if I communicate merely by text, for example.

If the full revelation of God came through the incarnate flesh and blood Jesus Christ, God is telling us something about how to communicate. True, he has spoken in a book - so words are important - but he has most fully spoken to us in the 3-D flesh and blood person of his Son.

And so we must insist that the only way to fully communicate with another human being is through face to face conversations.

If, therefore, facebook is the only way we communicate to someone, it is wholly inadequate. If it is an additional way, a supplementary way, then it can help.

The fear is that some people might resort, in the comfort of their rooms, to communicate wholly through facebook, which means they will never really know or be known.

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