Pipe Down: On John Piper and Apple Computer

Darrell L. Bock's picture

I love John Piper, but he did something yesterday on Twitter that I have not been able to stop reflecting about in terms of how we engage. I decided to say something and speak my mind. Piper tweeted the following after the product announcements this week from Apple and the hype it generated:
 
"All new Apple computers are grass, and their retina displays the flower of grass. The grass withers. The flower falls. But..."
 
To be frank, I was annoyed. I understand why he tweeted this. Piper and others are often warning us about being careful about technology and its use. Apple's following and our culture's approach to technology is often religious in its affections. This deserves reflection, comment, even rebuke at times. My concern is that doing so in 140 words or less is not the best way to make the point. It risks a lack of balance that may do more harm than good.
 
What is more, there is something potentially hypocritical about complaining about Apple as a paragon of what technology represents and using Twitter to do it. As much as words are needed to say use technology with care and do not overvalue this aspect of life, it does not serve people well to do so in such a cute way. This is especially the case when this kind of technology makes possible all kinds of connecting that is not otherwise possible. 
 
So I wondered, why not go in another direction with this and praise God that people have been made in God's image and have been given gifts of immense creativity, some of which we see so effectively displayed in the kinds of products Apple and other technological engineers produce for people to make life more efficient? Christians are often seen as kind of naysayers who see little positive in things around them that many others do appreciate-- things that ar worth appreciating even if we can abuse them as well (that is our fault, not the products). I often thank God that computers exist so I can write far more efficiently about God and the world than I ever could before (and I lived in a pre-computer world so I know the difference). I wrote my dissertation on a Selectric typewriter (young folks, ask your parents what that was). What I can do now is light years better to get  things like the Word out.
 
So I say, yes the Word of God remains, unlike much else in the world, but part of what the Word tells us is that stewardship that serves people and enhances their lives is worth appreciating. So I celebrate the labor of those who work so hard to make things we all use that allow us to communicate with each other, that permits us to see each other from a distance, to connect with each other, to talk with each other, to educate to the corners of the globe, to blog about things with each other, and to engage with each other in ways people could have only dreamt about years ago. When people do their work well and innovate in ways that benefits us, let's be among the first to say, well done and thank you. Let's use what they provide us responsibly, but let's also celebrate the creativity God gave to all of us to help us live together. Let's remember that ministries that have thrived recently have done so in part because of the reach technology gives us. We can thank God for that opportunity. Let's engage with balance and see where we can be both appreciative and discerning. Maybe we should pipe down a notch or two. Perhaps we should recall that even our ability to blog and have a public audience as wide as the world is rooted in what technology makes far more possible.
 

Comments

Great post!

W. Hall Harris III's picture

I could not agree more with this post! Well said, Darrell! The rate of technological change is accelerating ever more rapidly. We cannot turn back the clock even if we wanted too. Our only choice is to opt in and try to shape the forces of change for good, or to opt out and replace our cars with horses and carriages (I for one would not want to do that, since I live in Texas and like air conditioning too much).

I am absolutely convinced that the Apostle Paul, if he were alive today, would be on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, the Internet and everything else, trying to get the message of the gospel out by any and every means...and trying as hard as he could to engage his culture and society (after all, he certainly made good use of Roman roads and sea transportation).

And by the way, I wrote the first draft of my dissertation on an Olivetti manual typewriter!

Some folk seem to knock Pastor Piper unreasonably and all-too-eagerly. 
This is a sensible, kind, helpful post. 

I think this blogpost is a joke. Dr. Bock, you're too important and influential of a scholar and writer to frivolously write about a non-issue such as this. If Piper is in sin, rebuke him. Don't however rebuke someone for telling others in one of the most materialistic society on the planet to be cautious about things. Controversy for the sake of controversy is childish. 

Did you hear about Dr. Wallce's new manuscript discovery. It looked like it was just a fragment but scholars are coming to consensus that it is the entire text of the earliest known tweet . . . it said "all parchment are grass and vellum, the flower of grass, but . . . "
Breaking news . . . scholars believe a reply tweet has also been discovered . . . it said, "wait, you tweep, it is papyri that is grass!"

Gary Hinchman's picture

All thngs are ours to enjoy as led by the Spirit.  Becoming a Luddite about technology is theologically shallow if Paul's words are correct.
 

1Co 3:21  So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 

1Co 3:22  whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 

1Co 3:23  and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God. 

"Let no one boast in men" [Whether Piper, Bock, Steve jobs or Bill Gates]

"All things belong to you" [that would include all technological development through the ages as well as other things]

"whether Paul, Apollos, or Cephas" [All demogoguery in Christ is base because all Christian leadership is ours to enjoy, learn from, and discern wisely by the indwelling Holy Spirit. down through the ages.]

"the world" [We are not to love the things of the world with idolotry, but we can use them to wat ever advantage brings glory to God]

"things present or things to come" [ancient and contemporary things are ours in Christ to take advantage of as the Spirit leads]

"All things belong to you"
"You belong to Christ"
"Christ belongs to God" [ The things of this world are ours and we are protected from their downside by Christ and Christ is protected by The Father. Nothing that comes into the world is without value if God can be glorified by it and through it is some way.]

ALL THINGS ARE YOURS!  Prideful nonChristian exaltations and prideful Christian diminuitions of things in the world escape the fact that in Christ we are free to be led by the indwelling Spirit into the positive and negative value of "all things" with a wisdom that comes from God the Father through Christ through us for the encouragement of each other in Him.

Gary Hinchman's picture

All thngs are ours to enjoy as led by the Spirit. Becoming a Luddite about technology is theologically shallow if Paul's words are correct. 1Co 3:21 So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 1Co 3:22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 1Co 3:23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God. "Let no one boast in men" [Whether Piper, Bock, Steve jobs or Bill Gates] "All things belong to you" [that would include all technological development through the ages as well as other things] "whether Paul, Apollos, or Cephas" [All demogoguery in Christ is base because all Christian leadership is ours to enjoy, learn from, and discern wisely by the indwelling Holy Spirit. down through the ages.] "the world" [We are not to love the things of the world with idolotry, but we can use them to wat ever advantage brings glory to God] "things present or things to come" [ancient and contemporary things are ours in Christ to take advantage of as the Spirit leads] "All things belong to you" "You belong to Christ" "Christ belongs to God" [ The things of this world are ours and we are protected from their downside by Christ and Christ is protected by The Father. Nothing that comes into the world is without value if God can be glorified by it and through it is some way.] ALL THINGS ARE YOURS! Prideful nonChristian exaltations and prideful Christian diminuitions of things in the world escape the fact that in Christ we are free to be led by the indwelling Spirit into the positive and negative value of "all things" with a wisdom that comes from God the Father through Christ through us for the encouragement of each other in Him.

I am not a Piper fan.  At all.  In fact, I've been known to have pretty emotional reactions to a lot of what he says, especially when it comes to gender.  
But, I have to say, this tweet of his about Apple? Not one of those things.  Actually, I think it is kind of silly to get on him about it.  I'm typing this on a Mac Pro, and we are almost entirely an Apple family (only my son is the black-sheep, being all "Microsoft and Android").  But, the "bigger, better, brighter" necessity of the consumer market is a pretty dark wood to navigate through, and I would say for many, actually pretty dangerous.  I think that I and my own family should be a lot more critical of Apple's buisness and marketing practices than I am/we are.
I accept the reminder that I don't have to dump my perfectly good, functioning iphone 3, (which, by the way, still has more gagets than I have figured out what to do with yet), and swap it for the latest, gratest model, because that one too, will be "outdated" within a matter of months!  I'm grateful for the reminder... even if it comes from one of my least favorite religious people. 

Sandra Glahn's picture

I agree w/ this post. Why make enemies of Apple when we don't need to? So Christians can be associated with yet another thing we're against?

Although I'm a fan of much of JP's work, I've  been bothered lately about a number of tweets he has sent. In fact, in seeking to give him the benefit of the doubt, I've wondered if he has a ghost tweeter who still needs to figure out that "do good" trumps "be clever." 

I'm pretty sure Piper has embraced the use of technology in ministry. How did we get from a pastoral warning about idolotry to ludditism?
Is there any other evidence that he is anti-apple or technology? This tweet is not it.

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Not sure you can claim the tweet is not evidence of some complaint against Apple/technology, even if it is really a complaint about how we may react to them. If you read the blog carefully you will see that a description of Piper's motivation to warn about technology and overevaluating it was noted in my response. I actually agree with this point and the concern it reflects. My point was an additional one that I also regard as important in our social media engagement age.

A tweet is not the best place to make such a warning in such a manner and to leave it to 140 words or less to be understood. To say this without some balance allows it to be misread and misunderstood, making Christians seem like people who whine about everything, even some things that make life function more efficiently. The very fact we are debating what its intent is makes my point. As for Piper embracing the use of technology in ministry, that also was a part of my point. He has done so and effectively. This makes the complaint in such a short form risk seeming hypocritical. The blog was a plea for balance and a reminder that certain forms of communication are so brief they are too easily misread and thus are less than the best ways to make a point.

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