When you have a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. In like manner, when you have a wrench everything looks like a bolt. Any given tool empowers us and tempts us. It makes easier the task for which the tool was designed, while tempting us to think that every problem will be solved by it, every question answered by it.
The computer is quite adept at, well, computing. The advent of the internet, while broadening radically how we use our computers, hasn’t changed its capacity for computing. Indeed some of the niftiest tricks our computers/web surfboards can do is compute our own surfing style, and the surfing habits of others. I suspect that blogs would never have taken off were it not for sundry attached diagnostic tools. Facebook, likewise, is powered more by the like button, and the size of our friends list than what it actually communicates. What fun is sharing our thoughts with the world unless we can know how many hits, how many “likes” we have had, or where we rank in the polls down at Wordpress? Are we prompted to get busy and save the world from errant teacher X through our Discernment Ministry blog when we see people are checking in from Montana, Monterey and Mozambique? Soon enough our message is being driven by the numbers, just like the message of that slick, worldly preacher we’re faithfully seeking to take down.
One need not, however, have the Grinch-sized heart of the attack blogger to fall into this fallacy. We are all tempted to measure our success by tangible numbers, both individually and corporately. Just today I read a headline that noted that Bible apps, in all their iterations, are now being downloaded more frequently than Angry Birds. I’m sure that’s a good thing. I’m just not sure how good a thing that is. It may well be that the best thing about it is that people are finally getting tired of Angry Birds. That the Bible has topped it, however, means about as much as the certain truth more homes have Bibles in them than Cabbage Patch dolls. It does tell us something about our spiritual state. But I’m not sure it’s good news.
First, the giddy celebration that “we” beat Angry Birds betrays a profoundly unhealthy and a-historical understanding of the church. We’re not in a race with any software, any technology, or any fad. To even acknowledge such a “competition” is to lose. We celebrate the faith once delivered. Jesus isn’t the newest kid on the block, here to topple Justin Bieber from his throne. He is the Ancient of Days.
Second, the progress of the kingdom, the progress of the sanctification of the church, of the nation, of my family or myself, cannot be measured electronically. Bible downloads isn’t a measure. Bible reading isn’t even a measure. The fruit of the Spirit, that’s the measure. Becoming more like Jesus, that’s the measure. Dying to self, that’s the measure. So far the geniuses down at Google have not come up with a string of algorithms to measure any of those.
Our desire is not that the Bible should topple Angry Birds. Our goal is not that our favorite rock star preacher would trend on twitter. Our hope is the sure and certain truth that our Lord is bringing all things under subjection, is conquering all His enemies, including all the folly that remains within His own. We don’t need diagnostics to know how the story ends- Jesus wins.