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Technological Hubris

Wisdom in connecting morality with technology

Proverbs 21:30-31

30 There is no wisdom or understanding
Or counsel against the Lord.

31  The horse is prepared for the day of battle,
But deliverance is of the Lord.


Ten years ago I was invited by a group of friends to partake in a weekend camping trip on Cumberland Island, Georgia. This 17-mile long barrier island is a place of wild beauty and storied history. Native American settlements, Spanish missions, English farmers, and finally Civil War plantations brought to the island a tide of humanity. Finally, Cumberland was purchased by “Robber Baron” Thomas Carnegie, who built a Gilded Age mansion for an island getaway. Only then did the island begin to return to its wild state. 

In 1955, the National Park Service named Cumberland Island as one of the most significant natural areas in the United States. Today, as a National Seashore, it boasts miles of unspoiled beaches, marshland and deep, nearly trackless woods.

My friends and I arrived, like all visitors to Cumberland do: by boat. The only vehicles on the island belong to the Park Service and the few private property owners. We unloaded, sporting backpacks with overnight gear: tents, water and three days of provision for the weekend adventure. Our goal was a campsite ten miles up the island and we were burning daylight. We checked our gear, dared each other to be last, and took off in high spirits.

Several hours later, we arrived at Brickhill Bluff, a forest clearing on the edge of s tidal creek. Through the umbrella-like boughs of massive live oak trees, a radiant sunset set the marsh ablaze and shimmered on the water. Tired, happy, and hungry, we cooked dinner, pitched our camp and went to sleep.

Long after midnight, we awoke to a crashing and stomping in the middle of our camp. Cook pots and camp chairs were kicked over and loud splashing told of large animals swimming in the tidal creek. Snorts and whinnies revealed our night visitors to be horses! We were thrilled and a little terrified at the same time. 

Wild horses have roamed Cumberland Island for hundreds of years, and today it is home to a herd of approximately 150-200 horses. Some have thought them to be descendants of the chargers of Spanish conquistadores, but it has been determined that they are initially the descendants of the stock from English colonists who used the island as pastureland. Over the years, this rugged breed has changed as landowners introduced new bloodlines. 

And now these critters were flattening our camp. Morning revealed that we had sustained little real damage other than jangled nerves and a fun story to tell. As we hiked around the island and along the beach that day, we encountered groups of these wild horses grazing in the dunes and running along the beach. It was an unforgettable sight. 

The wild horses of Cumberland are a reminder of how quickly civilization can be changed when new technology is introduced. Men on horseback have conquered kingdoms and whole continents, from ancient Mesopotamia to the American west. Solomon evokes this as he comes to the conclusion of Proverbs chapter 21:

30 There is no wisdom or understanding
Or counsel against the Lord.

31  The horse is prepared for the day of battle,
But deliverance is of the Lord.–Proverbs 21:30-31

For more than 3,000 years, horse-mounted warriors or horse-drawn chariots were the ultimate weapon. In battles and raids from Asia to Europe to the Americas, the use of horses in war has changed the balance of power in warfare and civilizations. [For and excellent example of this in cinema, check out this clip of the British cavalry charge at Omdurman (1898) as depicted in the 1970 movie, “Young Winston”]

When people riding horses clashed with those on foot, horses provided a huge advantage. When both sides were equipped with horses, battles turned on the strength and strategy of their mounted horsemen, or cavalry. It was not until the early 1900’s and the great battles of World War One, that horse-mounted troops and tactics became obsolete by machine guns, tanks, airplanes, and other modern weapons.

Solomon knows how quickly you and I will place our trust in technology as we live our lives. We are drawn to “labor saving devices” that can easily turn us lazy. Instead of reading books for facts, we “Google” information for easy answers. Instead of making conversation with others, we stare at smartphones for entertainment, news, and gossip. One phenomena that we often engage in is called “doom scrolling.” We are drawn to bad news like a moth to a porch light, and our phones and computers are a constant source of endorphin-rich negativity for the brain. As a result, anxiety goes up, and sometimes our faith in God goes down.

Do you often find yourself “doom scrolling?” Are there days when you wish you lived on a remote island like Cumberland with nothing but sandy beaches and wild horses for company? I know what you are thinking, because I sometimes think it too: “If only!” 

Technology can benefit you in many ways, but you are all too aware of its harms.  It can be a way for you to cut corners when it comes to planning and creativity, such as choosing A.I. technology to produce “art” rather than cultivate and invest in an artistic gift that God has given you. 

God is not against technology, only its negative effects and our desire to make it an idol in our hearts. 

Many believe today believe that technology will solve all of our problems. In the case of COVID-19, people concerned with conflicting facts and dangers were told to “believe the science.” People facing government, media and social pressure, including many Christians, were urged mockingly to “believe in science,” as if this was a new form of faith.

The idolatry of technology is far from a new faith. Here, in verse 30 and 31, Solomon is highlighting how many’s faith in technology is foolish, when it is at the expense of or not submissive to his faith in the Almighty ruler of creation.

“There is no wisdom or understanding or counsel,” he says, that God does not already know. Everything stops at I AM’s divine nature. This is a cautionary word to kings and kingdoms alike, not to put all of their faith in earthly inventions, no matter how terrible or wonderful they may be. Only with God’s moral wisdom, Solomon is saying, can technology be fully used and employed.

“Without wisdom," Tim Keller explains, “the cost/benefit analysis of technology becomes about profit and efficiency.” In other words, without morality, without considering God’s plan and purpose for it and the people that use it, technology becomes just another soulless instrument of a sin-deadened world. Suffering will be the result, instead of utopian happiness and prosperity, or lasting victory in war.

This is because science and technology can tell you what to do and how to do it, but it cannot answer if you “should” do it. I am reminded of Dr. Ian Malcom in the 1990 novel (and blockbuster movie) Jurassic Park. When introduced to a theme park made of genetically-produced dinosaurs, he decried the arrogance of those behind it who had not considered its moral impact.  [Check out the clip HERE]

This is a reflection of the novel’s author Michael Crichton, who prolifically critiqued what he called the "technological hubris" of modern technology and the headlong crash into genetics, A.I., nanotechnology, and other fields with little care or thought to how such advancements were to be used or if we should use them:

Morality must keep up with technology because if a person is faced with the choice of being moral and dead or immoral and alive, they'll choose life every time.–Michael Crichton

In other words, people know that technology can make things easy and they demand easy things. When it makes evil things easy, they will then demand that too. When abortion becomes easy, it becomes commonplace and then it becomes "a right." 

Solomon knows this and warns his young pupils in verse 31 when he says, “The horse is prepared for the day of battle.” An ancient king prided himself in the number of war horses and chariots he could muster into the field. Great battles, such as the Battle of Kadesh in 1274 BC, brought thousands of cavalrymen and charioteers to clash, and it made a king place his confidence in military might. 

God is saying that such confidence is misplaced when it does not take Him into consideration, for He works all things to His will. As Paul tells you in First Corinthians:

19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”–I Corinthians 3:19-20

God warns Israel through the prophet Malachi, and in the words of the Psalmist:

7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.–Psalm 20:7

And later in another psalm He tells them of the ultimate futility of technology on its own:

17 A horse is a vain hope for safety;
Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.–Psalm 33:17

Oddly enough, Solomon himself had fallen guilty to the sin of misplaced trust in military technology when he multiplied his horses and cavalry, against the God’s instructions. The prophet Isaiah likely remembers this as he later warns the Judean kings:

1 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
And rely on horses,
Who trust in chariots because they are many,
And in horsemen because they are very strong,
But who do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
Nor seek the Lord!–Isaiah 31:1

What place does technology claim in your life? I am not talking about simply lamenting a smartphone addiction or the tendency to “Google” instead of think. What place of prominence do the advancements of this world take over your faith in Christ? 

Do you confess Jesus as Lord and yet remain troubled or even terrified of man’s inventions? Do you pray for deliverance and guidance, but inwardly take confidence in the strength of western military might and technological superiority?

You must never forget that Christ is King, not just of some dusty Holy Land scene from Sunday school or church, but King of Kings and Lord of Lords for all eternity. Even as He walked the earth, Jesus knew His mission and the hearts of all men. As people crowded in to make him some earthly emperor, a Nazarene Napoleon, He anticipated them:

23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.–John 2:24

Jesus knows the hearts of all men, all kings, all presidents, dictators and generals. Most importantly, He knows you, and you know Him:

14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.–John 10:14

You live in an age when science and technology have entered the pantheon of the gods. Men place their misguided trust in guided missiles and trust funds, but your only security lies in trusting the One who is guiding you home to your Heavenly Father. Embrace technology and seek victory in war, but never lose sight of your Savior who is calling you to His side, to trust in Him who has already won the battle.   



The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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