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Thoughts On Miller’s Sabbatical

You should read Paul Miller’s article, “I’m Still Here: Back online after a year without the internet.” I have a couple of thoughts and I’m interested in yours.

  1. The internet doesn’t corrupt, but it creates a space for the expression of existing corruption.  This shouldn’t surprise any Christian (see Mk 7:14-23), but it’s helpful to remember that the internet does not defile.  Our response to the internet defiles.
  2. The internet distracts us from who we are.  Miller had the idea that without the internet, he would be a better person–that the internet was “corrupting his soul.”  But, all it did was allow for existing corruption to play out in a different environment.  The web plays a growing role in blinding people to the evil in their hearts, and it anesthetizes them by convincing them that their behavior is shaped by the internet (“If only I could disconnect, I would be a better person!”).  However, while the expression of their desires might take different shapes in different environments, their desires come from within, not from without.
  3. The internet reveals who we are.  Ironic, I know, given no. 2.  While I believe the internet distracts us from who we are, I think it also reveals our great evil.  Daily we are confronted with the reality of great human evil–child abuse, sexual assault, murder, racially-motivated hatred, disgusting practices and desires, and on and on.
  4. Christians need to let the gospel shape our response to the internet, and let the internet serve our proclamation of the gospel.  We must constantly, daily, return our minds to the gospel reality–we are great sinners in need of a great savior–and the internet did not make us this way.  At the same time, the internet is another irrefutable piece of evidence against those who say that humans are basically good.  Who can surf for a day without agreeing that humanity is broken and wicked?
  5. We can use the internet to sustain Christian community. As missionaries and members of the body of Christ, we find e-mail, Skype, and social media to all be significant aids to maintaining healthy relationships with a worldwide community of fellow believers and family members.
  6. We can use the internet to avoid true community.  At the same time, the internet gives us an extra mask.  We can hide behind our e-mails and status updates, feigning vulnerability and hiding from one another.  Face-to-face, hand-in-hand discipleship requires time and presence.
  7. We can let the internet can distract from more substantial work–work which requires extended thought and extended time for creative output.  Perhaps this alone is sufficient cause to disconnect for extended periods of time.
  8. Christians need to personally evaluate how to apply the Sabbath principle to our connectivity.  Shutting off our phones, email, social media, Netflix, television, etc., at set weekly times would likely be a valuable and edifying practice.  Maybe you all do this, but I don’t and I should.  (On this, maybe read “What Happens When You Really Disconnect” by Tony Schwartz.)

I’ll stop there, but I’m very interested in your thoughts.

Internetfully yours,
Dan J.

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  1. Adam Swift

    This is wise insight. The Internet is not inherently evil or corrupt, but our response to it and the way that we utilize it can be. This helps remind us that if we simply “unplug” it does not guarantee that we will be all the better for it. Other distractions creep in; our sins get transferred to other places by different means. There is ONE thing alone that can change our focus and subdue our sins – God alone.

    I think this is also helpful in showing those who think that all electronic media and technology is evil that it truly is not. In fact, it is an opportunity to express the truth of the Gospel in a manner that the culture is familiar with! But, of course, wisdom is required when we engage in something like the Internet.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Dan

    @Adam: Agreed! It’s easy to be fearful of technological advances, when we should be more concerned about our use of/response to those advances.

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