Mimicking God Is Beautiful and Dangerous

I was sitting on my couch at home with my earbuds in place watching a YouTube video of Dr. Nord. I had missed Corban’s first chapel of the semester and wanted to hear the message from our new President. Dr. Nord said, “My aim for the next ten minutes or so is to encourage serious…”[1] and then the video cut to a display of Dr. Nord’s words. I paused the video and read the words: “Encourage serious, faithful, humble…” I realized right then that I needed a reminder of Dr. Nord’s words lest I forget them too easily. I imagined a beautiful poster that I could mount on the wall above my desk.

I imagined.

God’s creative acts in Genesis one follow a pattern: “‘Let there be…’ and there was….” My imagination is the closest thing I have to “let there be.” With my imagination I can see a new kitchen for my wife, the finish line of a marathon, or a beautiful poster. Of course I can only see these things. They do not actually come into being just because I imagined them. The big difference between my imagination and God’s creative act is the outcome: “And there was…” My imagination is not followed by the immediate creation of the thing imagined. For that I need to take physical action.  God creates from nothing with a thought.[2] I re-form something with my physical actions. Re-form is an awkward way of saying that my creative act is not equivalent to God’s creative act. God truly creates. I mimic God by forming one thing from another thing. Mimicking God in this way is a necessary component of fulfilling our mandate to rule over the earth (Genesis 1:28).

When I arrived in my office the morning after watching Dr. Nord’s video I was still imagining a beautiful poster.  So I turned on my computer and opened an application. I selected a template and started playing with fonts as well as the sizes and spacing of letters. After several test prints I landed on the final form of my poster. I got some help printing my poster in color on heavy paper as well as in finding a frame. Finally, I hung my poster on the wall above my desk. It was good. I had mimicked God, and it was beautiful.

The technology I used to make my poster included a computer and two printers. This technology extended my physical actions and amplified my re-forming power. We often think of computers when using the word technology. Yet, technology includes more than computers.

One humorous definition divides technology into three categories: the normal stuff that was around before you were born; the really cool stuff that was invented before you turned thirty; and the end of the world stuff that came along after you turned thirty.[3] There is some truth in this humor. We can imagine the response of grandma in her carriage as a youngster drives his new automobile willy-nilly over the countryside. The automobile seemed like the end of the world for grandma. Of course not all technology is rejected by older generations. I doubt the graphite pencil caused much consternation for grandmas. Yet, there was undoubtedly a grandma who grew up without pencils with a granddaughter who enjoyed the convenience of the new pencil technology.

We can apply this deconstruction process to help us recognize all of the technology we use. You may not know when the shovel was invented, but it is fairly easy to imagine someone building the first shovel by attaching a stick to the scapula from an animal carcass. Voila! The new shovel technology was introduced. Buttons, wheels, eye glasses, maps, bags, hair brushes, paper, the list goes on and on. All of these items are technologies that have been introduced within human history. And, all of these technologies extend our physical actions and amplify our re-forming power.

So, my imagination plus my physical actions mimic God’s creative acts. This mimicking is necessary in order to fulfill our mandate to rule over the earth. And, technology helps us in this endeavor by extending our physical actions and amplifying our re-forming power. A fascinating example of this is the construction of the Tabernacle in Exodus 25 through 40. This example is fascinating because God directly participated in technology by specifying both the materials and the design as well as equipping the craftsmen. The materials included items that could be mined, such as gold and sapphire, as well as items that had to be manufactured, such as bronze and purple cloth. God showed Moses the design of the tabernacle (Genesis 25:40; Hebrews 8:5) and instructed him to use skilled craftsmen. God identified two specific craftsmen whom he had especially gifted, Bezalel and Oholiab, and then declared that he had given skill to all the craftsmen (Exodus 31:2, 6). God essentially said, “Use these materials to make this item in this way and employ these craftsmen to do it. I have prepared these craftsmen to do this work.” That is a lot of direct involvement in technology.

The Bible describes a number of other events where God was involved in technology. Old Testament examples include: the first clothing of Adam and Eve; the boat built by Noah; the bronze serpent in Numbers 21; The law requiring railing around the roof of a house (Deuteronomy 22:8); and the temple built by Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:19).

In the New Testament Jesus was directly involved with technology. The Greek word tέktwn (tektón) is used to describe the occupation of both Joseph (Matthew 13:55) and Jesus (Mark 6:3). A tέktwn was a craftsman who used wood. The skill or artisanship possessed by a craftsman was described by the Greek word tέχνη (tekhné). Paul’s tέχνη was tent making (Acts 18:3). Jesus’s tέχνη was tέktwn: Jesus’ skill was carpentry. Our word technology was formed from the word tέχνη and the suffix for the study of. Thus, the etymology of technology is more about the acquisition of a skill rather than the artifacts created. We retain some of this meaning in our use of the word technology. However, we more often use technology to refer to the things made: the artifacts of our labor.

Jesus was directly involved with technology. He was trained to use technology (e.g. perhaps hammers, augers, scribers, etc.) and to make technology (e.g. perhaps furniture, carts, framing, etc.). The technology that Jesus used extended his physical actions and amplified his re-forming power. Jesus was capable of creating an oxbow from nothing, but we have no evidence that he did this type of creating. Instead, the indication from Mark 6:3 is that Jesus was a typical tέktwn. Perhaps we should consider it surprising that his skill and status did not render his wooden creations highly collectable.

A curious example of Jesus and technology is the story of Peter catching a fish to pay a tax (Matthew 17:24-27). Jesus’ instructions were specific. He told Peter to throw in a fish hook, take the first fish, and pull a one shekel coin out of the mouth of the fish in order to pay the tax. Strange. Why use a fish hook in this miracle? Why not have Peter go look for a fish that had beached itself? Why use technology to facilitate the miracle? We have what appears to be a counter example in John 21:9. This verse describes Jesus on the shoreline cooking fish and bread over a fire. This story gives the impression that Jesus provided the fish and bread without using technology.

We know that Jesus had sufficient reasons for using or not using technology. We can even speculate on those reasons with some freedom. However, the point of these examples is to illustrate the positive role of technology in the Bible. God was involved with technology. He used it to fulfill his purpose in a number of situations. In these situations God provided the instructions and allowed technology to extend the physical actions and amplify the re-forming power of humans. In this, these people were mimicking God’s creative acts. This mimicking was commanded by God and facilitated by technology. And, it was deeply beautiful as a reflection of God.

However, not all mimicking of God’s creative acts in the Bible were directly commanded by God. The basket that held Moses, Joseph’s coat, David’s sling, the clay jar continually replenished with oil (1 Kings 17:14), the alabaster vial that held the perfume used to anoint Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:37-38), the garments made by Dorcas (Acts 9:39), and the myriad of common artifacts such as plows, garments, carts, baskets, homes, pottery, and blankets that appear throughout the Bible are all examples of human creativity that mimicked God’s creative acts. Someone, perhaps David himself, imagined his sling and then took physical action to re-form leather into a sling. This leather had already been re-formed from animal skin. Both of these re-formings required a knife, which itself was a re-formed object. All of this re-forming required technology and produced technology that extended the physical actions and amplified the re-forming power of the people involved. It mimicked God’s creative acts. It helped in fulfilling the mandate to rule over the earth. And, it was deeply beautiful as a reflection of God.

Mimicking God is beautiful.

And, dangerous.

Up to this point I have discussed only the beauty of mimicking God’s creative acts and the role of technology in those efforts. My intent is to have you think more deeply about the positive role of technology in the Bible, the positive role of technology in extending our physical actions and amplifying our re-forming power, as well as the positive role of technology in helping us fulfil our mandate to rule over the earth. However, I do not want us to miss the danger.

The obvious examples in the Bible of the dangers of mimicking God include the city and tower of Babel (Genesis 11) as well as the many instances of idols. A more intriguing example is the temple. David desired to build the temple, but God said no (2 Samuel 7). This came as a great blow to David, yet his prayer is a moving account of his submission to God. We know the temple and its artifacts as technology were not evil. After all, God had Solomon build them. The danger was in the possibility of disobeying God in regard to leadership and timing. David could have proceeded to build the temple and in so doing his mimicking of God’s creative acts would have violated God. This violation would not have been because the technology looked or functioned differently than God intended. The potential violation and danger were not in the end result but in the process of getting to the end result. God had sanctioned the end result (1 Chronicles 28:19), and he had sanctioned a process for achieving that result. Of course this is not always the case. The many examples of idols in the Bible illustrate the dangers of the end result: the dangers of technology that violates God.

Mimicking God is beautiful and dangerous. The danger is real. But, so is the beauty. Mimicking God is dangerous if it violates God. Yet, mimicking God is deeply beautiful as a reflection of God. My imagination plus my physical actions mimic God’s creative acts. This mimicking is necessary in order to fulfill our mandate to rule over the earth. Technology helps us in this endeavor by extending our physical actions and amplifying our re-forming power. Technology extends and amplifies the beauty and the danger.[4]

I am including my beautiful poster for your enjoyment and edification.

Poster

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Sheldon Nord, “Corban University Chapel – August 28, 2013.” YouTube video. Location 09:26. Accessed September 12, 2013. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-WXlwJja88.

[2] Strong’s H559 is translated as thought 17 times in the NASB. I am not proposing that thought would be a better translation of H559 in Genesis one. I am offering a comparison between what God did and what we can do.

[3] Douglas Adams, “How to Stop Worrying and Love the Internet,” The Sunday Times, August 29, 1999. Accessed September 12, 2013. http://www.douglasadams.com/dna/19990901-00-a.html.

[4] I highly recommend John Dyer, From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology (Kregel, 2011) for those interested in further pursuing the study of technology from a biblical perspective.

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One Response to Mimicking God Is Beautiful and Dangerous

  1. Craig Pruitt says:

    Nice post. God’s timing, and his methods may not seen so obvious at the time. This goes well with some of the “things” I deal with daily. Thank you for thoughts.

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