Semper Reformanda & Technology

Are you familiar with the latin phrase Semper Reformanda? It originated in the seventeenth-century. A man named Jodocus Van Lodenstein, a key figure in the Dutch Second Reformation, coined the phrase in a devotional that he penned in 1674. The phrase simply means “Reformed and always reforming.”

Rightly understood Semper Reformanda encourages churches and individual Christians to always pursue spiritual growth and reform. Christians should never be stagnant or satisfied with their spiritual progress. Like Paul, we must “forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead.” We must “press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). Christ Church, we want to be “Reformed, and always Reforming.” In other words, let us hold fast to our Biblical and Reformed confession (Heb. 10:23) and be continuously reformed by it. With God’s Word and Spirit uniting us to Christ by faith, let us always be reforming and renewing in the Lord. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. But saving grace never leaves us alone–– it changes us. It changes every part of us.

In order to be “reformed and always reforming” we must think carefully about how the truth of God’s Word applies to every facet of our busy lives. Moreover, it is important that we think critically about the world around us, bringing the truth of Scripture to bear upon our ever-changing culture. Here are a few thoughts on technology as it relates to the cultivation of a Christian mind and a godly life.

Technology & the Christian Mind

God’s Word commands us to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2a). Our minds are renewed by the Holy Spirit through the assimilation, meditation, and application of God’s truth. We need to read it, hear it, sing it, meditate upon it, memorize it, live it, and share it. We cannot get distracted from the Scriptures. Ubiquitous technology, however, can easily become a hindrance to fostering a Christian mind. Smart phones, tablets, laptops, emails, texts, blogs, Netflix, and cable television stir up a tornado of distraction in our lives. In fact, research shows that we are losing our ability to concentrate.

In his book, The Shallows:What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, Nicholas Carr explains that the internet is a medium that is quickly rewiring our brains. The cognitive overstimulation, constant interruptions, endless options, and infinite links of the Net profoundly fragment our attention spans. Due to the neuroplasticity of our brains, scientists have proven that old mental circuits and neural pathways may shrink while others are created.

"One thing is very clear: if, knowing what we know today about the brain’s plasticity, you were to set out to invent a medium that would rewire our mental circuits as quickly and thoroughly as possible, you would probably end up designing something that looks and works a lot like the internet. It’s not just that we tend to use the Net regularly, even obsessively. It’s that the Net delivers precisely the kind of sensory and cognitive stimuli–– repetitive, intensive, interactive, addictive–– that have been shown to result in strong and rapid alterations in brain circuits and functions. With the exception of alphabets and number systems, the Net may be the single most powerful mind-altering technology that has ever come into general use" (Carr, 116).

Add to this a constant stream of emails, texts, calls, calendar reminders, Facebook alerts, and tweets and you are swimming daily in a sea of never-ending distractions. It’s no wonder that scientists are coming out with research data stating that we are losing our longterm attention spans. Let’s be honest, the more we are beholden to the internet, smart phones, etc., the more difficult it has become to concentrate. Reading is harder. Listening is harder. Thinking is harder. We are becoming “chronic scatterbrains” who find it almost impossible to focus (Carr, 7).

This growing inattention and distractedness cannot be good for cultivating a focused Christian mind, solid prayer life, and strong walk with God. In addition, the Net is filled with myriad temptations. So what are we to do? We cannot simply get rid of it. Whether we like it or not, technology has become an inescapable necessity to our everyday lives.

The answer is to exercise moderation, foster accountability, and identify ways to limit unnecessary distractions. For instance, if you find yourself addicted to Facebook (you know who you are!), checking your feed fifty plus times per day, then deactivate your account and take a three to six month hiatus. If you find yourself wasting precious hours mindlessly surfing the Net, playing video games, or watching Netflix, then significantly reduce your time on these activities. Turn off the nonessential notifications on your phone, computer, and tablet. Limit television time and take up new endeavors like Bible reading, prayer, family devotions, Christ-centered fellowship, scripture memorization, regular exercise, long walks, Lord’s Day observance–– attending both morning and evening worship, and reading quality books. Ask a friend to keep you accountable concerning time on your devices. Sell the Xbox and buy all the books on the CCP book challenge list!

Our heavenly Father exhorts his children to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). The Lord Jesus Christ himself took time to pray in a desolate place–– away from the crowds, noise, and busyness (Mk. 1:35). Beloved members of Christ Church, if we are going to be Reformed and always reforming according to Scripture, we need to think critically about the rapidly changing technology in our culture and how it effects our lives as followers of Christ. We need to stop and think about how our devices and flat screens can foster anxiety, consumerism, distractedness, and worldliness in our hearts if we are not careful. We can own technology, but we never want it to own us. We can be masters over technology, using it for good purposes. However, we never want our phones, computers, tablets, televisions, and the latest gadget to be masters over us. What changes need to be made in your life?

Pastor Jon