Being the youngest of three children yields great advantages. My tired parents relented frequently, and gave me what I wanted. But when those parents left, one of the children was put in charge. And it wasn’t me.
This meant my older sister was given authority over me and my brother. For the evening, she was the boss. She functioned in the place of my parents. Until they returned, I was supposed to listen to her as if she were Mom or Dad. Sometimes, that worked out fine; sometimes, not so much.
When God formed the masterpiece of his creation, he did something similar to my parents. The first chapter of the Bible records God’s painstaking detail paid to every detail of his majestic creation. At the culmination of that project, God created a caretaker—a steward, a manager, someone to be in charge over his creation in his stead. The Bible describes the role as “image-bearer”.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth‘” Genesis 1:26
These image bearers are put in charge of God’s creation in the same way my sister was in charge of my brother and me for the evening. The ones in charge are supposed to faithfully represent the wishes of the actual authority. Had my sister used the opportunity to insist that we clean her room and fold her laundry, my parents would have been angry with her when they returned. Her job was to represent my parents authority as if she were them.
Our role, as God’s image bearers, is much the same. We are to have dominion over his creation in the same manner that God exercises his authority. We are to faithfully carry out his plans and purposes rather than our own. In short, we are to be “as God” to his creation.
We are not to be God. But we are to represent him. We are not to implement our own agenda. But we have great freedom in our choices to fulfill his will. Looking up from the perspective of creation, it is as if we stand in the place of God. Our vocation as image-bearers is to be “as God” to his creation.
Lately, we’ve been becoming better gods.
In his book, From The Garden To the City, John Dyer references three distinct eras of technological growth over the past several centuries.
From around 1650 until 1850, technology focused on machines. Agriculture increased through inventions like the combine harvester. Textiles proliferated through the rising popularity of automated weaving equipment. Steam engines replaced animal labor. Machines enhanced manual effort. Innovations made humankind more powerful than ever before.
From 1850 until 1950, technology focused on communication and travel. The telegraph and telephone made long-distance conversation possible. Trains, planes, and automobiles made travel over long distances faster and more efficient than ever before. People could be in places previously inaccessible: either virtually or through travel. Innovations made humankind more present than ever before.
From 1950 on, technology addressed information. The computer allowed the instantaneous storage, processing and retrieval of information. As processing power has progressed, trends like big data and artificial intelligence arose. Answers to any question are literally at our fingertips. Innovations have made humankind more knowledgeable than ever before.
The Christian God is normally described with three primary attributes. He is all-powerful, or omnipotent. He is all-present, or omnipresent. And he is all-knowing, or omniscient.
Over the last four hundred years, technology has advanced humankind in each of these areas. We are more powerful. We are more present. We are more knowledgeable. We are becoming more like God in every way possible.
[bctt tweet=”Over the last four hundred years, technology has made us more like God in every way. ” username=”theology_tech”]
This isn’t a bad thing. We are called to stand in god’s place toward his creation. We are told to further his plans and purposes. We are given the responsibility of being “as god” toward the world around us.
If technology has increased our power, presence, and knowledge, then it has enhanced our capability to “have dominion” over the areas that God has put under our charge. Technology amplifies our ability as image-bearers.
We are becoming better gods. We are better able to represent God and serve his purposes in the world.
But what happens when we try to replace God? What happens when we use our extended capabilities for our purposes? We are more and more like God. But what happens when we think we have become God?
We are becoming better gods. But how are we doing at being human?
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Father to five; husband to one; helping Christians engage thoughtfully as they follow Jesus Christ.
Pastor at Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, CA since 2007. Graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Industrial Engineering and worked for Oracle Corporation as a Senior Product Manager designing software solutions.