Trust, but verify…

Among many things that seem to have been inverted in my half-century of living, the adage ‘trust, but verify’ that has served to temper extremes for generations has been flipped. With the advent of instantaneous access to what is purported to be the majority of the world’s accumulated knowledge (the internet), information is taken for granted in it’s most distilled, easily accessible form. The problem with that convenient access is that the most vital nuance that defines actual learning and intellectual development – reflective discernment – is lost in the rush to the bottom line.
There is perhaps no field of study more adversely affected by this than the quest to know ‘God’. The culture of ‘verify, then trust’ has made itself vulnerable to the moralized warning of a child’s story without even questioning the identity or motivation of their particular Pied Piper verifier. The sad fact is that more people trust an internet search than their local pastor or even their bible to clarify specifics of the faith. What does it say about us when we trust an unaccountable electronic algorithm to answer fundamental questions of eternal import without so much as a single nod to the method or motive of delivery, or to the source?

Technology is a wonderful gift if used appropriately as a tool rather than depended on as a crutch. As a means to interact and communicate with people that a generation ago were barely more than legend, there hasn’t been so important an advance since the Romans paved the roads of antiquity. As a means to know God there hasn’t been so distracting a force since Nimrod’s tower. Knowing ‘about’ Him has taken the place of knowing Him, and many in the world away from God have been hardened to the gospel by their familiarity with it’s robotically summarized details.

Much as the computer and internet have dispassionately conspired to produce a generation of electronic geniuses that can’t make change at the register, they have also been used to oversimplify to the point of heresy the truths of God’s plan. Why linger prayerfully over a passage of scripture and wait for the Spirit to lead into the truth of a particular spiritual question when a convenient few clicks on the keyboard (remember those, tablet jockeys?) brings a sterile, distilled and summarized list of options without delay – from which the answer closest to one’s preconceived notion can be selected as validation. In such an environment, even the Cliff-notes seem deeper than necessary.

The proverbial genie is out of the bottle on universal availability of information – that’s fulfillment of prophecy (Daniel 12:4). What is vital in the face of this nullifying influence is for the Church, filled with the Holy Spirit, to lean into the command to make disciples, not just skilled religious cyber-librarians. Deep still calls unto deep, and no algorithm can ever answer that!

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