Technology and the Purpose of Family

The Tech-Wise FamilyWhat is the purpose of the family? Why did God structure our lives to involve these people, so close to us, for so many years?

In his latest book, The Tech-Wise Family, Andy Crouch answers this question with two words.

Family helps form us into persons who have acquired wisdom and courage. (53)

Wisdom and Courage

As so many have observed, the “information age” has not made us wiser people. Access to facts is not the same thing as wisdom.

Knowledge, these days, is very easy to come by—almost too easy, given the flood of search results for almost any word or phrase you can imagine. But you can’t search for wisdom—at least, not online. And it’s as rare and precious as ever—maybe, given how complex our lives have become, rarer and more precious than before. (56)

Crouch argues that wisdom is essential, but by itself it doesn’t have an impact. Wisdom makes a difference when it brings about action.

If all we needed were wisdom, that would be challenge enough. But it’s not all we need. Because we need not just to understand our place in the world and the faithful way to proceed—we also need the conviction and character to act. And that is what courage is about. (56)

How do we become people of wisdom and courage?

The only way to do it is with other people. We need people who know us and the complexities and difficulties of our lives really well—so well that we can’t hide the complexity and difficulty from them. And we need people who love us—who are unreservedly and unconditionally committed to us, our flourishing, and our growth no matter what we do, and who are so committed to us that they won’t let us stay the way we are. (58)

The Place of Technology

Crouch discusses technology in the context of the family. In particular, he writes about the relationship between technology and the reason family exists.

For technology, with all its gifts, poses one of the greatest threats ever conceived by human society to the formation of wise, courageous persons that real family and real community are all about. (62)

Crouch views the goal of technology as “easy everywhere,” and since this ethos often stands in opposition to growth in wisdom and courage, we need help.

What it all adds up to is a set of nudges, disciplines, and choices that can keep technology in its proper place—leaving room for the hard and beautiful work of becoming wise and courageous people together. (18)

Crouch is not against technology. He is simply passionate enough about the development of healthy, wise families that he doesn’t want anything (including technology) to stand in the way. So technology needs to be in “its proper place,” which Crouch summarizes in the preface in six ways.

Technology is in its proper place when…

  • it helps us bond with the real people we have been given to love;
  • it starts great conversations;
  • it helps us take care of the fragile bodies we inhabit;
  • it helps us acquire skill and mastery of domains that are the glory of human culture;
  • it helps us cultivate awe for the created world we are a part of and responsible for stewarding; and
  • we use it with intention and care. (20–21)

Recommendation

Though Andy Crouch begins The Tech-Wise Family with vision and principles, the book is stuffed with practical suggestions. He writes about the guidelines his family has tried to follow with regard to technology, and at the end of each chapter (in a “Crouch Family Reality Check”) he reveals how successful they were.

At its core, this is not a book about technology. This is a book about family, and a fine one at that. Crouch will provoke you, surprise you, and make you laugh. He models a way to approach technology neither as a gushing fanboy nor a fussy grump. His winsome vision of the family is primary, and technology must take a supporting role.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit, and I think many parents will benefit from reading it.

Thanks to Baker Books for providing me with a review copy of this book.


Disclosure: the links to Amazon.com in this blog post are affiliate links, meaning that I get a small percentage of any purchase you make on Amazon if you make that purchase after clicking through this link.

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The Gallery (First Quarter, 2017)

art gallery

Over the past year I’ve felt like a pedestrian beside a busy interstate. Cars whiz past incessantly. I can’t think with all the noise.

It’s the internet, guys. I don’t use it so good. I’ve sought out what’s new-new-new, and it’s left me malnourished and unsatisfied.

In an effort to slow down, think, and let the best of the internet sharpen and edify me, I’m starting an infrequent (but regular!) blog series. I’m calling it The Gallery because that’s the image that best fits my idea.

I’m trying to find a happy middle between a daily roundup and The Best of The Year. I want to call attention to some of the best articles, videos (not this time), and podcasts I’ve noticed that might still have relevance. For now, I’ve settled on posting this roundup once a quarter.

These are the best things I’ve run across in the first three months of 2017. They deserve multiple readings or listens. Their quality demands thoughtful consideration (or reconsideration).

This isn’t the best of the internet, because I have no desire to cast my net as wide as possible. This is the best of what I encountered, taking all my preferences and oddities into account. Enjoy.

Articles

  1. Mathematics for Human Flourishing, by Francis Su (personal blog) — As the outgoing president of the Mathematical Association of America, Francis Su gave a plenary talk at the big, national math conference in January. Francis Su is a Christian and you can hear it in the way he talks about mathematics and opportunity. This is one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard, and it’s the only one at a math conference I’ve ever seen get a standing ovation. I was in the room and I could tell something special was happening. At this link you’ll have the chance to read, listen to, or watch the speech. (For the math-squeamish, don’t worry—there’s no math in the talk at all!)
  2. “But I didn’t mean to be racist”, by Jemar Tisby (Fathom Magazine) — I’ve been thinking a lot about race and the church over the past 6–12 months. Jemar Tisby has been a consistently helpful voice. In this article he writes about the difference between intent and impact, and he calls white evangelicals to empathy. This is worth reading prayerfully.
  3. The Mad Truth of La La Land, by Jennifer Trafton (The Rabbit Room) — La La Land was the best movie I saw this quarter, and it’s made me think a lot. This article helped me process the movie, the characters, and the ending. And Jennifer Trafton showed me what the movie teaches about love. Top notch.
  4. Confessing the Sin of Platforming, by J.A. Medders (personal blog) — What an honest, revealing, God-glorifying personal essay this is! J.A. Medders writes about rejection and his desire to be known. I suspect everyone who writes online struggles with this. (I do.) I needed to read this.

Podcasts

  1. Cultivated (Harbor Media) — Mike Cosper hosts a great interview podcast with Christians about faith and work. Cosper asks his guests about their sense of calling and listeners are treated to some great stories. This podcast launched in the fall of 2016, but there were some great episodes released in January and February.
  2. Pass the Mic (Reformed African American Network) — The tagline for this podcast is “Dynamic Voices for a Diverse Church.” Tyler Burns and Jemar Tisby host this podcast which aims to “address the core concerns of African Americans biblically.” I have learned so much from this podcast. The hosts and guests have helped me to grow a bit in understanding what minority citizens experience in the United States and in the church. I love that the hosts, even while acknowledging the difficulty and frustration that goes with racial reconciliation, proclaim the power of the gospel in every episode. All the episodes are tremendous, but I especially enjoyed the interview with Andy Crouch.

Photo Credit: Ryan McGuire (2014), public domain