Lessons From the Old Testament: Arts and Technology

Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron.  (Genesis 4:19-22)

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”  (Genesis 11:3-4)

Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.  (Exodus 31:1-5)

The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron. (Judges 1:19)

Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.  (Proverbs 14:4)

From the beginning of civilization there has been a division among those who who focus on the arts and those who focus on technology.   This is not to say that the two are opposed.  It is more a matter of gifting and because we have trouble giving value to more than one thing at a time and because we tend to value our own gifting over others, we sometimes find ourselves at odds in this area.

But the Bible values both.  Art speaks to our souls in a way that calls forth our deepest emotions and challenges us to be our most God-like selves.  Art draws our attention away from ourselves and is our attempt to put into words or pictures our sense of wonder at the glory of God’s creation.  Art connects us to the earth, to each other, and to God with a sense of appreciation.

Technology does much the same thing but with a different emphasis.  Technology is our attempt to shape our world with the creative energy of God in order to draw from it our most practical necessities.  Technology is what makes us more productive at growing food, finding shelter, providing clothing, and, of necessity, in a fallen world, protecting ourselves.

Sometimes the two are at odds with each other because of the time required to survive.  In survival mode we may prioritize art beneath technology.  But normally we find a way to do both.  We marry technology and arts together often.  A car does not have to be beautiful, but we prefer it that way because of being image bearers of the Creator who is both artistic and technological.

Sin has made it likely that we will use art and technology for wrong purposes.  When we use art to express a message of hopelessness, that may be a legitimate expression of what we are feeling, but it is not true to the reality of the gospel.  When we use technology in a way that hurts others or hurts the earth, we are not being responsible with our God-given abilities.

God is not against technology.  He is against technology that is used to accomplish selfish and human-centered needs in a way that contradicts where the real sovereignty of the world lies.   God is not against arts.  He is against arts used to lead people away from truth.  The Old Testament recognizes several examples of the proper use of arts and technology and the improper uses.  Everything, according to the Old Testament, must be seen as a good gift from God and used in accord with His desires.  This is because He loves us and loves His world and knows what is best for both.  Arts and technology are ultimately, in God’s hands, a form of worship and a form of serving others.


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