We live in what is commonly referred to as the Information Age. Since the 1970s, the use of computers and readily available digital data have transformed the way we think and function. I recently did a Google search on the word politics. I got over one million search results! If you want to know anything about everything, it’s out there in cyberspace just waiting for a simple keystroke.
But is there a downside to being so data-rich?
Before I go any further, let me clearly say, I am not promoting ignorance in this post. As a pastor, author, blogger, husband, father, and occasional fix-it man, I’m grateful for search engines that can take me to the information I need. Knowledge is good. Learning is great. Information is valuable. I’m not advocating a return to the dark ages or any outdated view of technology. I like my Mac, thank you very much.
That being said, here’s my concern: I wonder if some have made an idol out of knowledge. Is it possible that the abundance of information has made them arrogant? More to the point, have we made our ability to find and disseminate knowledge more important than other things that truly do matter more?
Five ponderings about the proliferation of information:
1. When people put knowledge above wisdom and experience, they’re being arrogant.
Again, I want to grow in knowledge, but knowledge without wisdom can lead to trouble. In fact, knowledge without good judgment and wise insight doesn’t necessarily bring about anything good in our lives. For example, almost everyone knows that smoking is hazardous to our health (we don’t lack knowledge or information on this issue), but a whole bunch of people will choose to start smoking today. People know that seatbelts save lives and that texting while driving is dangerous, but they act unwisely nonetheless.
Knowledge alone doesn’t always make a big difference. We need to understand how to apply that knowledge (that’s wisdom) and why it matters (that comes from experience).
2. When talking trumps listening, people are being egotistical.
Part of the problem with everybody thinking they know more than the other guy is that we stop listening to each other. We have formed strong opinions based on the massive amount of data we’ve digested on any particular subject. And because we know what we know, we really don’t care about what others know. We’re the experts now in everything from theology to medicine because we’ve read it on the internet or heard it on our favorite talk show.
Never mind that the information might not be accurate or true – it’s what we know, and that is enough for us!
Last night I was watching a television news talk show. I couldn’t believe how rude the people were. They weren’t listening. In fact, they constantly just talked over each other trying to zing the other guy with the eloquence of their words and superiority of their intellect.
I think James was on to something when he said, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19 NIV).
3. When people are more concerned about being right than relational, they’re being proud.
It’s never wrong to be right and never wrong to do the right thing, but we can be wrong in our rightness! In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees were right about almost everything. They had superior knowledge about the Law and righteousness. They had extensive knowledge about all their religious rules and traditions. The problem was, they royally missed it because they made being right more important than being relational with God and with others.
Of course, we must value theology and right doctrine. Being right does matter, but not at the cost of being unrelational with God or people. When it’s all said and done, God is not going to care about how much we knew (or thought we knew), but about how much we loved.
4. When knowledge becomes a god, God and his Word seem irrelevant, and that’s tragic.
For many, the Bible has become viewed as an irrelevant and unnecessary book filled with myths and misinformation. The smarter we humans think we are, the dumber we think God and his Word are.
The truth is, there is no other religious book that matches the wisdom, accuracy, knowledge, or credibility of the Bible. I know the debate rages in our culture. However, having been a student of the Word for over 35 years, I also know how amazing it is.
Tragically, too many have made a god out of their limited knowledge, while rejecting God and his limitless Word. As Solomon put it in Proverbs 18:2, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions” (NIV).
5. When the digital becomes dominant, people become independent rather than interdependent, and that’s unwise.
One of my biggest beefs with the age of arrogance is how it isolates us from others. The attitude is, “I’ve got what I need, so I don’t need you!” I find it ironic that something like the internet has shrunk our world while simultaneously promoting isolated independence in our culture.
We live in our little bubble, glued to our TV or computer screens, pretending to be friends because Facebook says it’s so, and we’ve lost true connection with real people in the process. Our conversations are limited to 140 characters on Twitter. We text because we really don’t want to talk. It’s easier, faster, and more convenient to connect in cyberspace than in person.
Ask just about anyone on the street: “Do you think personal independence is good or bad?” You’ll probably get a that’s-a-really-stupid-question look as they say, without hesitation, “Of course, independence is good!”
But here’s the thing: we are made out of community (God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to live in community with others. We are designed to interact and connect with real people in real and meaningful ways. We are supposed to live our lives interdependent, in community and in relationship with real, breathing people.
Someone told me recently that the wave of the future (in their opinion) is media-church. They felt people wouldn’t need to attend or serve at a church to engage in the church of the future. If they want to worship, they’ll just put on iTunes. If they want to learn, they’ll just listen to their favorite podcast. If they want to interact, they’ll just join a religious chat room.
I challenged them with this question: “Is it better to have a leg, hand, or foot available just when needed or for the body to be functionally and consistently connected to all its parts all the time?” Keep in mind, when a part of our body is broken or missing, we call that body handicapped.
Yes, it’s hard to live in true community. Yes, it costs us to live and function as the Body of Christ. Yes, it’s not always fun or entertaining to be in genuine relationships. But the more isolated we become, the less like God we become. That’s why we need each other and not just more information about each other. We were meant to live connected with flesh and blood and in interdependency.
So go encourage people to grow in their knowledge and experience the wonders of the digital age. But as you lead, caution them to guard their hearts and minds against an “age of arrogance” attitude that might cost them what truly matters most.
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty . . . Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:21-23, 27 NIV).