What If Luther Had Picked Up His Phone?

What if Reformation hero Martin Luther had picked up his phone? On one hand it’s a ridiculous thought. But consider: how would today’s digital age have shaped the life and legacy of someone like Luther?

Would Luther have found soul-strengthening camaraderie listening to podcasts, or would he have been enraged by unorthodox voices? Would the gospel have advanced through his social media, or would Luther’s tweets—as his pen often did—get him in trouble? Would the internet have opened helpful theological resources for Luther, or would its glut have distracted him from the focused intellectual intensity his theological work required?

Asking these questions is more than an amusing hypothetical. It’s an opportunity to consider how our minds are shaped by our technological environment today—and what that might mean for potential ministry effectiveness.

Luther’s Deep Thinking

Luther’s theological insights, which fueled the Reformation, were not the result of light thinking about Paul’s words in Scripture. They were the result of hard mental work.

Would the internet have opened helpful theological resources for Luther or would its glut have distracted him from the focused intellectual intensity his theological work required?

Paul’s words in Romans 1:17 nearly undid Luther:

I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.

At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words. . . . There I began to understand the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. 

While Luther’s legacy is chiefly about what he discovered, modern Christians could benefit from considering how he discovered it. Phrases like “I beat importunately upon Paul at that place” and “meditating day and night” describe a man who spent hours hunched over his Bible, painstakingly poring over Paul’s words.

We can imagine the furrow on Luther’s brow as he turned Paul’s phrases over and over in his mind. We can see Luther pacing in his room, lost in thought. We can hear his whispered breath as he recites Paul’s words to himself in hopes of finally understanding them. And we praise God for the insights that resulted from this deep mental work.

Deep Thinking and Discovery

Christians are meant to think deeply. The psalmist regularly recalled his practice of meditating on God’s truth (Ps. 119:15, 48, 78). Paul commanded Timothy, “Think over what I say” (2 Tim. 2:7). Even Peter described Paul’s words as “hard to understand” (2 Pet. 3:16). 

Deep thinking precedes rich theological discovery. Shallow thinking produces shallow theology. 

Deep thinking precedes rich theological discovery. Shallow thinking produces shallow theology.

As John Piper has said, “Raking is easy, but all you get is leaves. Digging is hard, but you might find diamonds.” Theological diamonds that result in heartfelt praise are forged in the fires of thoughtfulness.

Luther discovered truth only after serious thought. We cannot expect to discover it while mindlessly scrolling though memes. What if Luther had decided he needed a mental break from deep thinking and, instead of continuing to meditate on the Word, opened a social-media account and began to scroll? Without Luther’s deep thinking, the Reformation may not have happened. 

Deep Thinking and Distraction

Our digital age challenges deep thinking like Luther’s. The new field of captology explores how our computers are rewiring our brains. The results are frightening. In The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr summarizes:

What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

Don’t downplay the role of devices in dumbing down your thinking. Digital distractions aren’t the only factors eroding skills like critical thinking and deep reading, but they play a big role. And the stakes are high. Is it possible for focused thinkers like Luther to emerge in this world of frazzled, sloppy, shallow thinking?

Christian, Wrestle With Your Bible

If you have traded in serious thinking about God for mindless scrolling, here are three practices that might help you recover a Luther-like deep wrestling with Scripture in our digitally distracted age.

1. Buy a Bible.

Bypass the ease of Bible apps and embrace the inconvenience of meeting with God through his Word in a book. Trade your phone’s backlit screen—and its myriad instant distractions and notifications—for pages where your eyes can focus. Consider a Reader’s Bible

2. Put boundaries on your devices.

Find times and places to say no to your phone—so that you can have times and spaces to read and think. Perhaps the first hour of your day can be a phone-free zone. Cal Newport suggests a “phone foyer method” to create a boundary for your device. A vibrant thought life requires space and time unmediated by smartphones.

3. Give God’s Word primacy.

Start your day with God. Give him primacy and priority. Come to the treasure trove of Scripture by meditating on it before your attention is taken wherever your smartphone wants it to go. Don’t give the fresh firstfruits of your attention to your digital device; give it to God’s Word. Your device can have the leftovers. 

We Need Deep Thinkers

God used Luther’s deep thinking to catalyze the Reformation. What might he do through your deep thinking? While there is no doubt the world needs more reformations, there are too few deep thinkers. Your church needs you to put away your device long enough to think deeply about Christ, the gospel, and how it applies to all of life.

Luther’s careful meditation on Scripture produced, by the mercy of God, theological insights that God used to bless the church. He may do the same with you. On the other side of your focused mental work, the Lord may have riches and resources to distribute—through you—to a spiritually and intellectually malnourished world. 

What If Luther Had Picked Up His Phone?

Napsat komentář

Vaše emailová adresa nebude zveřejněna. Vyžadované informace jsou označeny *