God cares about our thoughts as much as he cares about our actions. The most important commandment, according to Jesus, is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind (Mark 12:30). In Philippians we are told what should occupy our thoughts: “… whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (4:8). The man who is blessed spends his days and nights meditating on God’s law (Psalm 1:2).
For a Christian, this is a call to be a faithful steward of one’s mind. What begins in the mind enters the heart; it then flows out in the life of the believer in decisions, actions, and habits. Thus, faithful living starts with faithful thinking. One theologian said, “The battle for the Christian life is the battle for the Christian mind.”
But loving God with our minds may be more challenging than ever because we live in the digital age. A two-edged sword, internet-based technology has blessed us in many ways but it also poses serious threats. Most dangerous may be much of the content it features, such as pornography and graphic violence. But our overuse of digital devices has many other deleterious consequences: anxiety, addiction, narcissism, loneliness, envy, a lack of empathy, and so on.
A more subtle – and often overlooked – danger, however, has been the way digital technology affects our thinking. The more we consume the steady-stream of images and snippets of information on our screens, the less capable we become of the sort of sustained, focused concentration that careful reading and thinking requires. That is, the very sort of reading and thinking we must devote to the Scriptures. Our glowing rectangles not only provide constant distractions from picking up our Bible and reading, but once we do set out to read it, we can’t keep our attention on the words on the page. After reading a few lines, our minds wander and we reach for the phone to see what’s new on Instagram.
So the challenge for Christians is to discipline the mind to engage in the kind of focused, sustained thought necessary for reading and meditating on God’s Word. Thankfully there are some great resources to help us do just that. Here are three books that I’ve found especially encouraging and useful in the battle for the Christian mind.
Written from a Christian perspective, this is a thorough and biblically-informed overview of the ways our digital technology can change us for the worse. Reinke distills his wide-ranging research into clear, succinct descriptions of the dangers of technology for Christians. This book will encourage you to take a deliberate, thoughtful approach to the use of your phone.
If you’re a parent, this is the book for you. Crouch (also a Christian author) wonderfully describes the noble purposes of a family and then shows how the overuse of screens and digital technology in our homes works to undermine those purposes. He offers much practical guidance for becoming a “tech-wise family.” His prescriptions may seem unrealistic, or even radical, but only because our homes have become so saturated with tech that it’s hard to imagine curtailing its presence. I found this book immensely helpful in setting tech rules for our own family. So although this is not my kids’ favorite book, I hope one day they’ll appreciate the reasons why I’ve tried to put some of what it says into practice.
While written from a secular point-of-view, Newport’s call to digital minimalism will resonate with the Christian who’s concerned about technology’s influence on our thinking (and living). He proposes the most radical of all cures for our device addiction: a full-out “digital detox” followed by a very deliberate choice and use of only that technology that will enhance our lives in meaningful ways.
If we are to “think God’s thoughts after him,” we’ll need a mind capable of sustained attention to the Word of God and the truth it reveals. To achieve that, we’ll need to make a decided effort to keep our minds from becoming only passive receptacles of digital content. All the fleeting images, sounds, and words that fill our screens will pass away. But the Word of God abides forever. By God’s grace, make your mind one capable of being filled with the eternal, life-giving Word of Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria!