For the last few weeks we have been in the season for bloggers to reflect on their favorite books of 2022. I had my own somewhat aggressive reading plan for this past year, and although I failed to make it through the total number of books I had hoped, I came very close. I decided to change things up just a little and instead of writing an article with my top 10 favorite books for 2022, I will mention only two books – one that had a strong impact and one that failed to meet expectations.
Tony Reinke’s “God, Technology, and the Christian Life” was an insightful journey describing the providence of God and the advancement of technology. Reinke structures his book through a series of six questions: 1) What is technology? 2) What is God’s relationship to technology? 3) Where do our technologies come from? 4) What can technology never accomplish? 5) When do our technologies end? 6) How should we use technology today?
Unsurprisingly, Reinke provides intelligent exegesis (some of which the reader will almost certainly have never considered) through a variety of biblical texts, but also incorporates important voices from church history. Fundamental to Reinke’s discussion is his observation that technology advances faster than the ethics necessary to keep it in check. However, God’s providence – beginning with the confusion of languages at Babel – has created a global subversion that creates a healthy system of checks and balances to push back against universal tech adoption. Reinke says, “[God] coded internal tensions and disharmony into the drama of humanity, tensions that will help check and limit the adoption of technologies in a fallen world” (p. 42).
Most students with formal training in the Bible will be familiar with the arguments of primary and secondary causes that help describe God’s sovereignty over all things while preserving human freedom and responsibility. It was fascinating to read how those theological concepts were implemented in regard to the creation, advancement, and utilization of technology around the world. Unlike many of his peers, Reinke does not have an inherently negative view of technology or its future use. God is the one who raises up and brings down the people who continue to make evident the positive and negative use of innovation. In this way, “no destruction will befall our world except those that God governs for his ultimate purposes. In other words: fear God, not the technicians” (p. 63).
From a pastoral perspective, I recommend Reinke’s book for evangelical Christians who have a tendency to see every new innovative discovery as yet another fingerprint of Satan’s ongoing attack against humanity and creation. His balanced and biblical approach will help those who are fearful of the world’s seemingly out-of-control trajectory, and might be especially helpful for parents whose primary job description has become one of prohibiting every possible means of technology all in the name of fighting against the forces of evil. Some of Reinke’s arguments, especially in the earlier portions of the book, intrigued me but did not necessarily convince me. But as a whole, his approach is trustworthy and helpful. You might consider adding it to your 2023 reading list.
Those Pesky Expectations
Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri was one of the most universally acclaimed titles I had seen in a long time. Every sphere of my online world – conservative evangelicals, progressive Christians, journalists who lean both to the left and the right, and even friends and acquaintances – were all hyping Nayeri’s book as a modern masterpiece; an actual “must read” for 2022. I do not remember seeing a single negative or even neutral response to the book. Everything was glowing.
That is always a dangerous way to open up a book.
The book is very, very good. I read it over a period of 3 days while on vacation in Daytona Beach, FL. Everything Sad Is Untrue is a somewhat fictionalized biographical account of a young Iranian refugee. As he effectively shares stories of bullying, refugee camps, poems, classmates, and family, he occasionally reveals the source of his ongoing hope and optimism – a growing faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And his subtle return to this theme throughout the book is always written with artistic beauty. Such as, “You either get the truth or you get good news – you don’t often get both.”
There isn’t really anything negative to say, except that I closed the book – happy that I had read it – but far from drawing the conclusion that I just experienced a modern masterpiece. One of the elements that was praised by fans of the book was Daniel’s effortless ability to blend fiction with historical fact. And to be certain, there were times when this literary technique did contribute positively to the story. But I found it to be somewhat annoying at times as well, unsure of what I was to think of the particular tale he was telling at the moment, since many of the true stories were, in fact, sensational.
At the end of the day, I have nothing against Nayeri’s book. He is a talented writer and his story is incredible. I would even recommend it. But it didn’t quite capture for me what it apparently did for so many others.
Here’s to another year of reading in 2023! Soli Deo Gloria!