Living Antithetically in a Technological Age
Rev. Daniel Kleyn
The subject before us is both an important and timely one. One reason for this is because the word “antithesis” itself has in many ways fallen into disuse. As a result, there is a measure of ignorance today concerning what exactly the antithesis is. It is good, therefore, that we take the time to look at and set forth the meaning of this term.
It is also an important and timely subject because the truth of the antithesis is very practical. That is expressed in the subtitle for this pamphlet, “Godly Living in Ungodly Times.” The antithesis, you see, has to do with how we live, and more specifically, with how we do so in relation to the world in which God has placed us. We realize that the world we live in is not a godly world. Society is not Christian. Rather, we live in very ungodly times. And that in itself makes this subject very timely and crucially important to every one of us.
However, what especially makes it important and timely is the fact that things are not improving in this world, but rapidly getting worse. As the end of time approaches, wickedness abounds, temptations get stronger, and Satan puts greater pressure upon the people of God to conform to the world. And as regards the specific subject we are now considering, namely, technology, the attacks of Satan in our day come especially against our children and young people. That makes the subject all the more urgent and all the more important, for the children and youth of the people of God are, the Lord willing, the future leaders in the church of Christ in this world.
We need, therefore, to be reminded of this important truth, and to be instructed concerning our calling as God’s people in the midst of an evil world.
My subject is, “Living Antithetically in a Technological Age.” Before specifically looking at this, however, we need first of all to consider what the antithesis itself is.
The Idea of the Antithesis
As already stated, the word “antithesis” is not one that all are familiar with. Perhaps some have not heard it before. As far as the English word itself is concerned it is made up of two words, “anti” and “thesis.” The word anti means “against.” The word “thesis” is often used in reference to a position paper that a student must write. In that paper, the student presents a certain position or viewpoint on a subject. Thus the word “antithesis” literally means to be against a certain position or a certain viewpoint.
What helps further in understanding this term is to realize that it comes from a Greek word that means literally, “to set or to place against.” And thus the antithesis can be defined, as far as the word itself is concerned, as something that is the direct opposite of something else, a person or a thing that stands in contrast, or in opposition to something else.
The Scriptures themselves, however, are most helpful in explaining what exactly is meant by this term. And in seeking to know what the Scriptures teach concerning it, we must look first of all at the passage in God’s Word where the whole idea and thought of the antithesis is first mentioned. That passage is Genesis 3:15. In that verse, God is speaking to the devil after man has fallen into sin. God says to the devil, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
That verse is the antithesis in a nutshell. That verse gives us the definition of the antithesis. God says to the devil, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed.” Enmity between the seed of Satan and the seed of Christ. Enmity between the children of the devil and the children of God, between the ungodly and the righteous, between the church and the world. That is the antithesis.
There are a few important points that must be noted from Genesis 3:15. First of all, as we have already said, enmity is at the heart of it. Enmity, as you know, is hatred, war, hostility, conflict. And God says, “That is what exists between Satan and Christ, and that is what exists between their seeds.” Not friendship, not fellowship, not love (under any circumstances), but enmity. There are these two seeds in the world: the seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent. And because of the antithesis that God puts in place, these two seeds do not get on together, and may not get on together. They are radically different – radically different spiritually. There must, therefore, be separation between them.
Notice, secondly, that this enmity is put in place by God. God says, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed.” It is not you and I that create this enmity. It is not you and I who decide that we must be the enemies of the devil and the wicked world. It is not you and I that decide that there should be separation between the godly and the ungodly. God puts it there. It is God Who puts in place enmity, hatred, opposition, and warfare between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.
God does that in three very significant ways. First of all, God does that in the decree of predestination in eternity, in the decree of election and reprobation. God determined in eternity, before He even created man, and before man fell into sin, and before God spoke these words to the devil, that the human race would be made up of two completely different people, the elect and the reprobate. That is where the antithesis originates – in God’s decree of predestination.
In the second place, God puts the enmity between the two seeds in place and makes it a reality through the work of Christ on the cross. On the cross, the Lord Jesus Christ died, shed His blood, and laid down His life to redeem. But He did not redeem everyone. His sacrifice on the cross was not universal. But Christ died on the cross for His sheep, for His people. And that, you realize, was a death of Christ and a work of Christ in order to redeem the people of God from him who was their natural father, the devil. And by being redeemed from the devil they now belong to Christ, and to God. The fact that Christ died only for some makes the antithesis a reality. If the Lord Jesus Christ had died to save all men, then the antithesis would not exist.
In the third place, God sees to it that this enmity exists through the work of the Holy Spirit. This is accomplished through the Spirit’s work of regenerating those for whom Christ died. This work radically changes us, making us very different from the ungodly. And thus it is a work that results in enmity and conflict existing between us and the ungodly. Thus the Spirit’s work of regeneration is a means by which God sees to it that the antithesis exists in the world.
The Spiritual Character of the Antithesis
When we speak of the antithesis, it is very important that we understand that this separation between the godly and the ungodly is a spiritual separation. It is true that sometimes, out of necessity, it takes physical form. But essentially the separation between the church and the world is spiritual.
The antithesis does not mean world flight. It is not the people of God turning their backs on the world, organizing themselves into separate communities, and isolating themselves from the ungodly. That was what the Anabaptists taught and practised at the time of the Reformation in the 15th and 16thcenturies. And it is really what the Anabaptists still practice today, as seen for example in the Amish, who refuse to use technology, electricity, automobiles, and so on.
The reason some advocate such physical separation is because as they look at the world and the things that it does and produces, they notice much evil. They, therefore, reject all that is in the world, saying (wrongly) that evil is in the things themselves. We know from the Word of God, however, that that is not the case. I Timothy 4:4-5 tells us, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” It is not the things themselves that are evil.
Something very important is forgotten by those who think that the calling of Christians is to isolate themselves physically from the world. What I refer to is the fact that even the child of God has the world within his own heart. Every person in the world, even the regenerated believer, takes the world with him wherever he goes, within his own heart, and in his sinful flesh. It is impossible, therefore, for anyone to isolate himself from the world and all its sin.
Clearly, therefore, the antithesis is to be understood as being spiritual enmity, and therefore spiritual separation from the world. We could put it this way: not world flight, but world fight. That is the antithesis.
The Scriptures speak of that not only in Genesis 3:15 but throughout. The antithesis is expressed, for example, in II Corinthians 6:14 & 17: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? … Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.” And in Revelation 18:4 we are commanded, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
When by the grace of God we obey His Word and are spiritually separate, then we and our children are spiritually safe. The Scriptures tell us that “Israel then shall dwell in safety alone” (Deuteronomy 33:28).
The Calling With Regard To Technology
As is clear from what has been said thus far, and as is especially clear from the Scriptures just quoted, the antithesis is not just an idea or theory, but it is also a calling. And that calling is the command that comes to the people of God to live antithetically, to live a life of spiritual separation from the world. That is really the whole of the Christian life. It is a life of spiritual separation and spiritual contrast. It is a life in which we may not be friends with the world. It is a life of being pilgrims and strangers on this earth.
We may not be those whose lives are characterized by synthesis with the world. Such synthesis is very popular today. There is the push for cooperation between the church and the world. It is said that the church and the world should join forces in order to accomplish common goals. But such synthesis amounts to trying to unite light and darkness, truth and the lie, Christ and the devil. Not synthesis, but the antithesis. That is our calling.
Those who are the friends of God may not be friends with those who are the enemies of God. We are commanded (I John 2:15), “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” And what are those things that are in the world that we may not love? They are (I John 2:16) “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Love not the world, and love not these things of the world. That is our calling as the people of God in this evil world. And that is also our calling specifically with regard to the world’s technology.
I am sure we are all well aware of the fact that we live in a technologically advanced age. Technology is all around us. Technology is very much a part of our everyday life, through such things as televisions, radios, sound systems, computers, cell phones, ipods, MP3 players, PDAs, digital cameras, CD players, DVD players, video games, and much, much more. Technology is used today for every possible purpose and in every possible area of life – for communications, for education, for farming, for surveillance, for tracking down criminals, in tools, in appliances, in the entertainment field, in predicting the weather, in fighting wars, in discovering and curing sickness and disease, etcetera. And none of this stands still, for all the technology that is available to us keeps advancing and that quite often at an astounding and mind-boggling pace.
The child of God is called to live antithetically in relation to all this. What does that mean? What does that involve?
Obviously one aspect of our calling is this: we may not view technology as or make technology a god. I trust you understand that there is nothing wrong with technology itself. Technology has many positive uses. Consider how it can be used, especially the internet, for the spread of the gospel, for missions and evangelism. It is a useful means to get the Word of God to places where otherwise we could not get it. Because of it people all over the world have the ability to discover the truth that has been entrusted to us and that we hold to and believe. Think too of what technology is able to accomplish in wars, and in the field of education, and in the medical world. Astounding things!
The temptation we face because of all this is to replace God with technology. As we consider technology and all the things it can accomplish and provide, we think to ourselves, perhaps unwittingly, that technology has attributes that God has: it is all-powerful; it enables us to be all-knowing; it is able to perform miracles.
Ungodly men and women worship technology and the men who produce it. They praise these. They look to them for the answers. They trust in them for cures. The child of God, however, must trust in and worship God alone. We may not, as the world does, make technology a god.
Another aspect of living antithetically with regard to technology is that we keep ourselves separate, not from technology itself, but from its misuse, from its abuse. The world itself abuses technology, using it for humanistic goals, using it to try to rid the world of the effects of the curse, and using it to commit and to promote sin, cursing, violence, sex, homosexuality, drug use, drunkenness, and so on. And even in the medical field, the world abuses technology, as for example in its attempts to clone human beings. The devil is behind it. And the devil and the world are using technology to tempt the people of God to commit sin. Satan has all of this technology at his disposal, and he is focused upon using it against the people of God and against thechurch of Christ. He uses whatever technology he can to get us and our children to sin and to go astray. We need to be aware of this very real danger.
As already stated, there is nothing wrong with technology itself. But it used to be the case that the world was more “out there.” In the past, God’s people could be more isolated from ungodliness, and less exposed to the world. It used to be easier for parents to guard and shelter their children from the filth and garbage and uncleanness of the ungodly world. However, that has now changed. Technology has changed it. Technology now enables the world to have much easier access into our lives and homes. Technology enables the world to appear in our living rooms, in our dens, in our offices, in our bedrooms. We can tune in to the world in our cars. We can carry around access to the world in our pockets. We are now living in a time when every possible evil can be placed before our very eyes, within the confines of our homes, cars, etcetera. It is all available at the press of a button, or at the click of a computer mouse.
Let us not be blind to all this and kid ourselves concerning the dangers. We and our children live in evil times. We face great pressure. It is therefore urgent that we take seriously our antithetical calling to oppose this ungodliness that would creep into our homes and lives through the means of technology.
The Dangers of the Internet
That leads me to speak for a little while about what I consider to be a very serious danger in and threat to the lives of the people of God. What I have in mind is the internet. Computer and communication technology enables the internet to be with us wherever we go. It is possible to have free and open access to it from desktops, as well as wirelessly through laptops and even cell phones. This is a grave danger, not because of the internet itself, but because of how the internet can be and is used by the world and by the devil. It is a grave danger because of the wickedness on the internet, which wickedness can then easily enter our homes and lives.
What makes it a grave danger is that it is very easy to use as a means to commit grievous sins. In the confines and privacy of your home you are able to gamble, you are able to listen to the world’s songs, you are able to participate in ungodly humour, you are able to desecrate the Sabbath day. Through the use of the internet, emailing, and blogs, you are able to slander others, to pass on filth to your friends, and to establish friendships and unequal yokes with ungodly people. And (perhaps worst of all) one is able, through the internet, to view pornography. A link that you receive in an email can get it in front of you. An unwanted pop-up puts it before your eyes. Or else your own active searching for it exposes you to this great evil. And one who heads down this path becomes addicted and gets caught up in the terrible cycle of fulfilling the lusts of the flesh and the lusts of the eyes. In the course of time, he or she also becomes desensitized to the sin and thus looks for something more explicit, something more filthy, something more vile.
These are sins that bring grievous consequences. They can have a permanent effect on a single person who has participated in them. And with regard to the married, they are sins that pull threads out of the fabric of marriage. Damage is caused that can only be repaired by the almighty grace of God.
What makes all of this so dangerous is not only its availability but also the fact that it is so easy to commit these sins and to get away with them. You can do it all in private. You do not have to go out of your home looking for these sins and for places to commit these sins. In fact, you don’t even need a computer anymore. Now one is able to access all this trash with a cell phone. It is all very convenient, very easy, and very private. No one needs to know or find out – not parents, or siblings, or a fellow church member, or even a spouse. Yet a person pursues all this to the ruin of his or her life, and his or her soul.
The main reason why the filth that is on the internet is so dangerous to the people of God is because there is a strong point of contact between us and what the world presents – our sinful flesh. We still have a sinful nature. Because of it, we are attracted to all the sin that the world offers on the internet. It is pleasing and pleasurable to our flesh. We are strongly tempted to take a look or to listen to it for a moment. And gradually one can be sucked in. It begins with a quick look. It is justified with the excuse that something just “popped up” on the screen. Gradually, a small step at a time, the antithesis that ought to characterize the life of the believer is broken down. There is not enmity and fighting and separation, but instead love and friendship and fellowship in relation to the world. One loves the world and the things of the world. One is captivated by the things that appeal to the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. Indeed the internet has the potential of snaring and leading one into great sin.
The Calling to Fight
In light of all this, the calling of the Christian is, in one word, to fight!
The fight is first of all against your own sinful flesh. It is true that we must not be ignorant of the world itself, and of how evil it is. We need to be aware of the dangers of technology. We must fight all this. But especially we must not be ignorant of ourselves. Do not be ignorant of the fact that you are attracted to what the world offers. Do not deny that you are tempted by it. Admit that there are specific sins you are attracted to. Be aware of them, and fight!
The Word of God gives good instruction concerning this fight and does so specifically with regard to the wickedness that can be viewed through today’s technology. I have in mind two passages.
First of all, there are the striking words of Job – striking because of how directly they apply to us today. Job stated (Job 31:1): “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” You and I do well to say and do the same. Make a covenant with your eyes to behold no evil thing!
The other passage is Psalm 101:3. We ought to make the same resolve the psalmist did: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.”
Another necessary part of this spiritual fight is that it must be done for the sake of our children. A parent fights for his or her children by realizing, and not being ignorant of or turning a blind eye to, the dangers that exist. Parents fight for their children by taking oversight and control of what their children do, whether they are young children or teenagers. They talk with their children often about what they do online, what they do with their cell phones, and what they do with their friends. Out of loving concern for them, they seek to discover whether their children are forgetting the antithesis and establishing instead an unbiblical relationship with the world.
From a very practical point of view, that means supervising your children’s use of the computer. It means you need to have your computer in a visible place in the home. And it means that if you have a wireless network and laptop computers, you need to give special attention to these things.
There is also the need for parents to use monitoring and protection software. Regardless of what anyone else might say, you have a right as a parent to monitor your children. You have a right to know everything that they do, and to let them know that you may at any time check what they are doing on the internet, and what sites they are visiting. And this is not only a right but also a responsibility. Because you are parents you have the calling to protect your children from the filth of the world, from exposure to evil, as well as from predators who are on the internet. If you love your children, and that means having a love for their souls and a concern for their salvation, you will put much effort into monitoring and protecting them.
I certainly do not know what goes on in your home and in your life. I have no idea how you might be using the technology which God enables us to have. I have no clue as to what you watch, what you search for, and what you see. But remember this, God knows it all. And one day you will have to give an account to Him.
I trust that you will use wisdom to apply what has been said to all of the other areas of life in which technology is abused. May we all seek Christ for forgiveness for the sins that we commit with technology, and for grace to fight against the sins and dangers that technology poses.
In fulfilling your calling not to love the world, remember the positive – to love the Lord your God. Love Him Who is your faithful Friend. Instead of loving the things of the world, love the things of God. Instead of occupying your time with pursuing the things here below, use your time to seek the things that are above.
Remember that we have an incentive. That incentive is given us also in Genesis 3:15, in these words: “It (i.e., the enmity between the two seeds) shall bruise thy (Satan’s) head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” God tells us there of victory, the victory of Christ and of the cross of Christ. At the cross, Christ overcame and crushed the devil and all his hosts. And the victory of Christ is our victory. Because of Him, we never lose. Because of Him, we will never go lost, no matter how fierce the enemy. “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). May God grant that to us all.
Article by Rev. Daniel Kleyn
Protestant Reformed Church
(Jimmy Hamilton aka The Street Preacher.