Do you recall the tower of Babel?

Of course you do.  It’s become a cultural touchstone, but not one that I think is clearly understood.

Because we’re rebuilding it, only this time we are not using bricks and mortar, but silicon chips and genetic engineering. 

Hang with me.

We live in a technological age, and have embraced technological advance with abandon, creating what Neil Postman termed a “technopoly” where technology of every kind is cheerfully granted sovereignty.  Or, as Jacques Ellul has written, at least the process of technique designed to serve our ends. 

Ironically, within the word “technology” itself lies the new philosophical mooring that marks our intent. 

The word is built from such Greek words as “technites” (craftsman) and “techne” (art, skill, trade), which speak to the idea of either the person who shapes or molds something, or to the task of shaping and molding itself. 

But it is the Greek word “logos,” to which “technites” is joined, that makes our term “technology” so provocative. 

“Logos” is a reference within Greek thought to divine reason, or the organizing principle of the world.  In John’s gospel “logos” was used to communicate to those familiar with the Greek worldview the idea of the divinity of Jesus. 

Moderns have put together two words that the ancients would not have dared to combine, for the joining of the words intimates that mere humans can shape the very order of the world. 

So while technology itself may be neutral in its enterprise, there can be no doubt that within the word itself are the seeds for the presumption that would seek to cast God from His throne and assert humanity in His place as the conduit of divine power. 

And we have wasted little time.

I remember an article reflecting on how on July 25, 2003, the first test-tube baby turned twenty-five.  Robert Edwards, who along with his partner, Patrick Steptoe, pioneered the procedure, graced the occasion with a rare but candid interview with The Times of London. 

“It was a fantastic achievement but it was about more than infertility,” said Edwards, then seventy-seven and emeritus professor of human reproduction at Cambridge University.  “I wanted to find out exactly who was in charge, whether it was God Himself or whether it was scientists in the laboratory.”

Smiling triumphantly at the reporter, he said,...

“It was us.”

James Emery White

 

Sources

Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology.

Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society, translated from the French by John Wilkinson.

On the meaning of the words “techne” and “technites”, see the article on “Carpenter, Builder, Workman, Craftsman, Trade” by J.I. Packer in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 1, Colin Brown, editor.

Anjana Ahuja, “God Is Not In Charge, We Are,” T2-The Times, 24 July 2003, p. 6.

For more, see James Emery White, Serious Times (InterVarsity Press).

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones, is now available for pre-order.  To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit www.churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world.  Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.