15 Of My Favorite Quotes From “The Next Story: Faith, Friends, Family, And The Digital World” by Tim Challies

Sunday, May 22 I am going to be taking a break from the book of Acts and preaching a sermon entitled “Christianity in a Social Media World.” One of the resources I have been reading to get ready for the sermon is “The Next Story: Faith, Friends, Family and the Digital World by Tim Challies. I would strongly recommend this book, especially for parents who are wondering what kind of impact social media and technology is making in our every day lives.

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  • The digital revolution is global, reaching to the farthest corners of the earth. It effects the way we see, what we hear, how we interact with the world around us, and how we communicate with others. Swimming in this digital sea, we are caught up in a torrent of media, striving to stay afloat and make some headway against the rush of sounds, images, and words that seem intent on drowning us out. Some, like Rip Van Winkle, are just now waking up to this reality. They rub their eyes and wonder what has happened. How has the world changed so quickly and so thoroughly? Others have been born into it-they are digital natives who have never known a world apart from digital technology. p. 12
  • Technology is the creative activity of using tools to shape God’s creation for practical purposes. p.23
  • So while it is true that we please and honor God when we create and develop new technologies, we must also understand that technology is like everything else in this sinful world: it is subject to the curse. The things we create can-and will-try to become idols in our hearts. p. 24
  • We should neither try to demolish technology nor run away from it. We can restrain it and must redeem it. p. 25
  • Meanwhile, the digital explosion has even changed the way the adult brain functions. It has placed many of us into what has been described as a state of continuous partial attention, a state in which we devote partial attention to many tasks simultaneously, most of them having to do with communication. While we sit at our desks working on a report, we are also monitoring our mobile phones and our instant messaging accounts, giving partial attention to a host of different media. As we do so, we keep our brains in a constant state of heightened stress, damaging our ability to extended periods of thoughtful reflection and contemplation. After some time, our brains begin to crave this constant communication, finding peace in little else. p. 45
  • Ongoing exposure to pornography creates a “neurological superhighway” that traps men in a prison of their own lust. Escape from this trap is more than simply a matter of breaking an addiction; it involves rewiring the brain. p. 45
  • The television image is extraordinarily stimulating to the brain, and not in a healthy, ‘this discussion about politics is so stimulating’ way-more like the sugar-is-stimulating-to-the-body way. The televised brain candy we consume doesn’t develop-or even require-any mental capacity. Learning through images and visual media is directly opposed to learning by reading, which requires a more sustained focus and actually generates new skills and capacities in the brain. p. 54
  • How can we tell if something has become an idol in our lives? One possible sign of idolatry is when we devote an inordinate amount of time and attention to something, when we feel less than complete without it. p. 74
  • Our lives have become saturated with sounds and images flashing in front of our eyes, blaring into our ears. Sociologist and author Todd Gitlin states rightly “Life experience has become an experience in the presence of media.” At work we spend forty hours staring at computer screens. At home we watch television or visit our favorite websites. Between work and home we check our route on the GPS and dash off a few text messages. Even at church we watch pastors on screens before returning home to watch sermons on the internet. Life is mediated by the screen. p. 89

(We think so little about this next quote yet it is so incredibly important…)

  • While it may be that we have always identified is some sense with communities that were outside of the contexts of home, work, or school or church, what has changed today is that for many of us, our primary context, our primary identity, is now found elsewhere, in a context unhinged from geography, from the one who’s or what’s closest to us. Many of us are more concerned about who we are in a mediated context than who we are before those who live in the same neighborhood or who attend the same church. Our mediated communities, the ones that exist only in the form of communication-these are the ones we love the most and the ones which we feel the most. p. 105

(We are spending so much time in the artificial cyber world that we have not taken the time to get to know the people in the real world all around us!)

  • The cell phone, a device meant to enhance my communication with others, can increase my ability to communicate with those far from me, often at the cost of communication with my own wife and children-those closest to me. p. 116
  • During a time of singing at a recent conference, I spotted a woman raising one hand in worship while sending a text message with the other one. p. 121
  • The speed of digital life, the understanding that e-mails grow stale if they are not responded to immediately, the knowledge that a text message that is a few hours old is already ancient, increases the pace of our lives. Eventually we begin to try to make everything faster. We try to speed up our families, our worship, our eating. We begin to race through life, unwilling or perhaps unable to slow down, to pause, and to reflect. And yet when we turn to the Bible, when we turn to the source of divine wisdom, we see very little about a life dominated by more, dominated by speed. On the contrary, we look to our heroes-we look to the Savior-and we see a life that is contemplative, a life that takes time to ponder the deep things. p. 122

(Too often in the church we try to speed up the process of discipleship with terrible results.)

  • Meanwhile, if we surround ourselves by too many stimuli, we force our brains into a state of continuous partial attention, a state in which we keep tabs on everything without giving focused attention to anything. When in this state of continuous partial attention, “people may place their brains in a heightened state of stress. They no longer have time to reflect, contemplate, or make thoughtful decisions. Instead, they exist in a sense of constant crisis-on alert for a new contact or a bit of exciting news or information at any moment. Once people get used to this state, they tend to thrive on the perpetual connectivity. It feeds their egos and sense of self-worth, and it becomes irresistible. p. 125
  • Google’s profit is not tied to the quality of information its users consume, but the velocity of it. Author Nicholas Carr observes, “The last thing the company wants is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. Google is, quite literally, in the business of distraction.” p. 128

(Chapters 6 and 10 give some very practical tips/ideas on how to protect your family and deal with technology overload in a Biblical manner.)

 

 

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