How important is it for the believer to cultivate his or her mind through regular, prayerful study of God’s word? Well, this is what the apostle Paul taught the Church way back when:
Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God — what is good and well-pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2). …For we have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16).
Surely now more than ever, the apostle’s exhortation must be heeded by professing Christians. It is the only way to ward off the deterioration of thought that comes from repeated exposure to the buffeting of the Enemy and the toxic indoctrination of the controlling world mechanisms. The current dark forces against us appear more energized in this age of digital dementia where minds are becoming conformable to machines. We must be both mentally and spiritually equipped to defend against these mechanized attempts to subvert the mind of Christ. Paganism, once thought antiquated and impotent in civilized society, has arisen again, now perfectly joined with the world’s postmodern sensibilities, digital imagery and technological advancements. From that breeding ground we now see new counterfeit belief systems like scientism and transhumanism making inroads into the visible Church with the intent to promote man’s high-tech wonders and marginalize God’s holy word.
THE FADING INFLUENCE OF THE BIBLE
Sadly, in recent years the machinations of these new world forces have had a negative impact on the cultural influence of the Bible. As Michael Horton rightly surmised a decade ago:
“As it was in the days of the judges, the kings, and the prophets, so it is in our day: there is a famine in the land for God’s Word… (W)e find ourselves immersed in a visual culture where words in general are both unimportant and viewed with a growing cynicism.” (Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible).
More than twenty years ago, my wife and I witnessed firsthand the creeping apathy toward the Bible and the spiritual fallout that comes from starving the mind of that nourishment. We were temporarily tasked with overseeing the teen youth group for our growing seeker-sensitive congregation while the overseers searched for someone to hire as a permanent youth minister.
During that time we soon realized that the teens under our charge were very resistant to any formal study of Scripture. For example, when we discussed the possibility of setting aside time for Bible study and memorization, they balked. The reason? According to their more prominent members, they had already learned the “theological stuff” and felt they completely understood what the Bible taught. Instead, they wanted to focus more on fun activities like field trip fellowships, sports activities and Christian music concerts.
It was a rocky start for me and my wife, and it didn’t get much better from there. After a few months of pushing a more biblically-focused agenda and receiving the frequent push-back from these high-schoolers, we finally found our blessed escape when a youth minister was officially hired. We thought this would be the end of our problems, but sadly such was not the case. The seeds of spiritual truancy were already planted within the group and it soon produced its awful fruit.
The new, twenty-something youth minister was married with a small child, but was very inexperienced as both a group leader and as a Christian. Even worse, it turned out he was profoundly immature and harbored the same sentiments as his young charges when it came to Bible study vs. teen fun time. His main focus was on Christian rock music and fellowship, and that was pretty much it. He had no problem giving the kids exactly what they wanted.
To make a long story short, the youth group’s waywardness came to a head months later when they attended an edgy Christian music festival in another state. While there for the weekend, a scandal erupted when our youth minister was caught romantically pursuing a teen girl from another church group that was attending the event. After the overseers were notified a few days later and an investigation proved the allegation true, the youth minister was relieved of his duties. For a time afterwards, the teen ministry was in shambles.
It was a disappointing and sordid situation that could have been easily avoided. The signs of utter indifference toward Scripture by the teens and their pliable leadership should have warned us, but we as a congregation were too busy trying to grab and entice our youth’s attention with the things of the world instead of the things of Christ as revealed in Scripture. This prevailing philosophy of church growth marketing over biblical focus soon drove us out of this church body altogether.
The point I am trying to make with this story is to convince the Church that we will never have any hope of real widespread “revival” or passionate, life-changing discipleship if we allow those within our ranks to relegate God’s word to the back burner of Christian life. Too many professing Christians are equating truth with their emotions and feelings instead of the precise confines of Scripture. This pursuit for experience over doctrine will never turn out well because the focus is on the sights and sounds of the world and not on the patient, methodical process of hiding the very words of Christ in our hearts for the renewing of our minds and the guidance of our footsteps as eager followers of Jesus.
This drift away from the written word of God, however, seems to be a more noticeable sign of the times. The world today has created an atmosphere, especially among the younger generation, that is inducing a cognitive disconnect from life’s reality and hard truth, like that found in Scripture. A growing number of people have become so distracted by screens and gadgets that their brains are suffering mental imbalances from the lack of critical thinking. Recent studies on the impact of digital technology, in fact, seem to show that more and more users are exhibiting an inability to concentrate, short attention spans, loss of memory function and emotional disturbances, like mood swings and depression. One study by Microsoft in 2013 found that the average human attention span has dramatically decreased to 8 seconds long, which is one second less than that of a common goldfish!
THE RISE OF DIGITAL DEMENTIA
Back in 2012, German neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer coined the term, “Digital Dementia” to describe how overuse of digital technology is resulting in the breakdown of cognitive abilities, especially among the younger generation who are most exposed to smartphones, game devices and digital screens. Apparently, this subsequent rise in mental deterioration and short term memory dysfunction is similar to that of head trauma or psychiatric illness. Yet, according to experts, this is what happens when we passively absorb entertainment on a glowing screen instead of actively engaging our cognitive skills through thoughtful exercise with weighted words, challenging numbers and creative meditation.
According to Patricia Greenfield, UCLA distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center, Los Angeles:
“…(M)ost visual media are real-time media that do not allow time for reflection, analysis or imagination — those do not get developed by real-time media such as television or video games. Technology is not a panacea in education, because of the skills that are being lost… Studies show that reading develops imagination, induction, reflection and critical thinking, as well as vocabulary” (UCLA Newsroom).
Not only are our children losing critical thinking skills through internet-driven, visual education, but we as a society are becoming increasingly mindless in our everyday life and therefore susceptible to corrupting influences. Writer and social commentator Yosel Del Valle Pulgarin makes this very wise, but devastating pronouncement about the consequences of our rising devotion to smart tech gadgets:
“If we care more about the digital world than the real one, our reality can be easily replaced by an idea that would not necessarily be the truth just only what we want to see. We are digging our own tombs and allowing controlling mechanisms” (28 Years Ago, Our Enslavement Was Predicted – And We’re Still Not Listening).
Whether or not this writer understands the spiritual implications of his assessment is hard to judge. However, there is no question his words should be a sober warning to the visible Church who often engages more with the world’s creativity and technology than with God’s inspired word. Are we, too, opening ourselves up to the influences of technological marvels that cultivate a zombie-like preoccupation with sensory experience instead of engagement with Scripture? Have we succumbed to the allure of “apps” that instantaneously gratify our desire to worship at the feet of Instagram celebrities, listen to that new seductive earworm on Spotify or binge-watch Netflix propaganda narratives at the touch of a button? Are we trading in a lifelong interaction with God’s written Truth for the quick, transitory high of techno spirituality?
THE ANTIDOTE FOR THE CONTROLLING MECHANISMS
Against the current backdrop of technological overload and oppression, the Bible diagnoses the problem and prescribes the perfect antidote. In Deuteronomy 11:18, the Lord God relays His sacred pattern for the essential and preeminent use of His words to combat this superficial age of digital dementia:
“Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.”
Of course, this was historically addressed to the Israelites, but how much more profound is this Old Testament directive in the light of the fuller revelation of Jesus Christ and the New Testament. And in this instance, how grandly poetic it is as translated in the King James English: “As frontlets between your eyes!”
Indeed, God’s word is to be fixed “between your eyes,” which is a rich but figurative injunction by God that His words should be “distinctly in view” and carefully attended to by His people at all times (Easton’s Bible Dictionary). The fact that Jesus later criticized the Pharisees for their extreme literal use of frontlets, or phylacteries, only reinforces the deeper, spiritual importance of putting God’s word in your mind and not as a prideful outward display of your “righteousness” to be seen by men (Matthew 23:5).
The quiet, dedicated practice of absorbing God’s word into your heart and mind has an incalculable benefit that is constantly confirmed by the believer’s experience. For a student of the Bible, it is an amazing phenomenon when we find ourselves tempted by the flesh and immediately it comes to our minds that “man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Did not Jesus Himself show us the example in defeating Satan’s temptations by the use of Scripture? Such is the proven blessing of hiding His word in your heart for timely use in moments of fear, doubt or struggle. This is what it means to have the mind of Christ.
The mindful Christian in full armor will always wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. By God’s grace, we immediately discover that the Bible proves the Bible and the godly wisdom contained therein. Can we ignore the divine imperative sprinkled throughout Scripture to study and meditate on God’s word daily? And why would we dismiss this command? Just look at these extraordinary examples of delight found in this godly practice:
Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts (Jeremiah 15:16).
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee (Psalm 119:11).
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord (Colossians 3:16).
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (II Timothy 3:16-17).
What a joyous endeavor it truly is and profitable beyond proportion to enrich our minds with such truth! As Matthew Henry instructs in his commentary on Deuteronomy 11:18-25:
“Let our hearts be filled with the word of God. There will not be good practices in the life, unless there be good thoughts, good affections, and good principles in the heart… Let our eyes be fixed upon the word of God, having constant regard to it as the guide of our way, as the rule of our work… (And) let our tongues be employed about the word of God. Nor will any thing do more to cause prosperity, and keeping up religion in a nation, than the good education of children.”
THE CHILD MADE WISE BY THE WISDOM OF GOD
That last remark from Matthew Henry is perhaps the kicker: “the good education of children.” This is of deep concern considering the fact that two-year-olds are trading in their pacifiers for computer tablets in this age of transhuman proclivity. The world’s glowing technology has spoiled our youth and yet we, their forebearers, have allowed this godless entity to become their favorite babysitter. With the touch of a digital button, today’s children can instantly conjure up their treasured idols and playthings to amuse and entertain themselves.
In the digital realm, fantasy and deep magic are readily created and proliferated as a virtual reality, and the child can now be immersed in its seductive spiritual deception without once engaging his or her mind. In short, this mindless process has become an addiction of sorts. They are simply getting off on the dopamine rush that floods the reward circuitry of their brains while the controlling mechanisms of the world stimulate fledgling imaginations void of God’s truth or direction.
The God of the Bible, it seems, is no longer in play in this technological matrix. He is outdated, outmoded, and an obsolete program no longer supported by the latest hardware. We have forgotten the transcendent Designer-Creator who knitted our intricate minds out of nothing. And where has it left us? As Peter Marshall soberly pronounced, “Let us not fool ourselves — without Christianity, without Christian education, without the principles of Christ inculcated into young life, we are simply rearing pagans.”
Ah, yes. Isn’t it interesting that in an age of advanced technology and so-called evolved, enlightened consciousness that mankind, for all our progress, has reverted back to an hackneyed form of primitive idolatry? It can be truly said of the masses “professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22). As R.A. Torrey sees it:
“Men can have truth or lies, whichever they prefer. If they will to do God’s will, He will give them truth and the Spirit will guide them ultimately into all truth. But if men will not have truth Satan will lead them step by step into all manner of delusion and falsehood.”
Upon this point, R. Bruce Bickel makes the further observation, “All human efforts to get to know God by man-created means lead invariably to false religions or mysticisms. Consequently, the primary question governing our relationship with God is the question of submission — either to His revelation or to our imagination” (Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible).
OUR TASK AT HAND: GETTING BACK TO THE BIBLE
Thankfully, we believers know that Jesus safely holds His people in the palms of His hands and the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church, and yet we still are charged with a sacred duty to bring His Truth to the lost. Outside of proclaiming the Gospel and making disciples for Christ’s glory, our most pressing task today is at hand: We must continue to deflect and destroy the subtle but deadly influence of these digital delusions and submit completely to the guiding revelation of the Bible. Man’s corrupting technology and imagination must be toppled from its lofty height and God’s word must once more take its rightful place in our minds as “frontlets between our eyes.” And we must quickly do so before we lose a whole generation to the controlling mechanisms of this dark ignorant world.
Then, and only then, will we fully see the power of God transform us into a Spirit-driven force to be reckoned with for the glory of Christ and Him alone. To quote the encouraging words of R. Bruce Bickel: “A conscience that is bound by the Word of God is a force that no nation, system, or age can withstand.” To this, I say amen!