Some Thoughts on Facebook from R. C. Sproul, Jr.

The way R. C. walks through the 10 commandments in relation to one of our cultural icons is a great example of meditating on God’s law and applying it to every area of life. Imitate him insofar as he imitates Christ.

“I sometimes wonder if the devil doesn’t take great pleasure in irony, in watching us turn ourselves inside out while missing the point. While I am on Facebook, and therefore at least hold to a tentative conviction that such is allowable for Christians, there are any number of reasons to raise concerns over it. Privacy and the lack thereof, however, would likely be the last one I would raise.  With Facebook’s very public and controversial announcement of its change in policy with respect to privacy, that, however, is what has many Christians concerned. How, I wonder, can a person take a technology that exists to say to the watching world, “Here I am. Come see about me” complain that the world is coming to see about them?  Anyone who wishes more privacy can find such easily enough. Don’t use Facebook. If you already do, stop.  We are in a moral uproar for all the wrong reasons.  We are aghast at the owners of Facebook for daring to change their policy (which, remember, the original policy held out as at their discretion) rather than being appalled at ourselves for implicitly breaking the 8th Commandment.  We think because we are a user of Facebook that such makes us an owner of Facebook, and so demand this and demand that from the real owners.

“That said, here are some very real concerns I have about Facebook. First, has it become a god to us? When God commands that we have no other god’s before Him He doesn’t mean ranked higher than Him, but rather He means in His presence. If Facebook is too needful for you, you may need to stop. Second, has it become a graven image? Have you confused its reality with real reality? Do you really think you have 200 friends? Third, have you taken the Lord’s name in vain? That is, have you, in weaker moments, put a bad face publicly on your Christian witness? Are you laughing at your old sins with that old buddy from college or high school?

“Fourth, is Facebook giving me the peace of the Lord, or agitating me? (And please note the very real difference between that peace that passes understanding and that “peace” we receive when we feed a habit, when we get a fix.) Am I jumpy when I don’t get to log on? Am I more keyed up after I’ve logged off? Fifth, am I honoring those in authority over me? Wives, are you failing to honor your husbands because you’re too busy reading about your friends? Children, are you failing to honor your parents because you’re too busy sending flair?

“Sixth, is this technology honoring to life? The cyberworld is a barren wasteland, not because it is filled with pornography and gambling, but because it isn’t real, because it is Gnostic. Seventh, are you loving your spouse on Facebook? Is the rush of nostalgia from finding long lost friends encouraging you to be dissatisfied? Are you secretly looking for that old girlfriend? Are you already caught up in adultery simply by wishing you could be sixteen again? Or do you not know that Facebook can all too easily devolve into relational pornography? The allure of porn is that you think you can have the joys of the sexual union without having to have a real relationship with a real person. The allure of Facebook is much the same. Eighth, are you stealing from your employer by not giving a full days work because you are moonlighting at Farmville, or as a Mafia Don? Or, simply because you are spending your hours at work at play?

“Ninth, are you lying? That is, is the you you present on Facebook the real you? This technology has an insidious capacity to both hide reality and fool us into thinking we are both showing and seeing it. Why are our updates all about our victories- I just made cookies for the family; My son just hit the game winning home run; rather than our failures- I just shouted at my little girl; I left my computer on the airplane and it’s gone? Keep a particularly close eye on this one. And tenth, is Facebook encouraging contentment or resentment? Are you coveting your neighbor’s friend count? Are you jealous of how many “likes” there are for his posts compared to yours? And are you content with the real life you are shutting out while hunched over your keyboard?

“Please don’t misunderstand this little thought experiment. I suspect we could walk through the Ten Commandments in light of our church, and find many of the same temptations. That doesn’t mean you should stay away from church. It does mean we ought to be deliberate enough to know what we are doing, and why we are doing it. And deliberate begins by affirming that our own hearts are not just desperately wicked, but deceitful as well.  We don’t need to protect our privacy. We need instead to expose our sins to the light, the light of Scripture that we might repent and believe, that His face might shine upon us.”

SDG,
Ezra

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by sean on June 15, 2010 at 8:43 am

    as a very light user of facebook, I’m perplexed at all the negative press technology gets in the christian community. I probably agree with most of the potential downfalls of it. I think RC has some really keen insights on facebook for an older guy and don’t disagree with anything he said after a quick reading of it. (I’d bet he got some of his younger interns to come up with some of those points though…)

    I’d like someone to point out how technology could be used for good in our daily walk with God and not demonized like it’s the 2nd coming of hitler. Technology is in our lives whether we like it or not, and instead of making it a cute bullet point to sermons as to what is wrong with the world, we should try to embrace the good in it and teach/learn what that may be.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Brink on June 16, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Insightful article. As he pointed out, any good thing could be analyzed in this way and, because of our sinful hearts, we would find sin in our handling of it. I consider myself a “light user of facebook” as well, but I was convicted by what I read. Our hearts surely are deceitfully wicked, but thanks be to God for our Savior!

    Reply

  3. Posted by calebcangelosi on June 20, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    I think the reason technology gets the negative press it does from some quarters of the Christian community is that pastors (myself included) are reacting to what we perceive as thoughtless engagement with mediums of communication. Rather than asking “How ought I to be using this tool that is neutral in and of itself?” we just assume that it can only be used for good, that it will only have good effects. I, for one, would urge caution and reflection.

    John Piper has some good reflection on how to use Twitter at http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TasteAndSee/ByDate/2009/3951_Why_and_How_I_Am_Tweeting/

    Why and How I Am Tweeting

    By John Piper June 3, 2009

    I see two kinds of response to social Internet media like blogging, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and others.

    One says: These media tend to shorten attention spans, weaken discursive reasoning, lure people away from Scripture and prayer, disembody relationships, feed the fires of narcissism, cater to the craving for attention, fill the world with drivel, shrink the soul’s capacity for greatness, and make us second-handers who comment on life when we ought to be living it. So boycott them and write books (not blogs) about the problem.

    The other response says: Yes, there is truth in all of that, but instead of boycotting, try to fill these media with as much provocative, reasonable, Bible-saturated, prayerful, relational, Christ-exalting, truth-driven, serious, creative pointers to true greatness as you can.

    Together with the team at Desiring God, I lean toward response #2. “Lean” is different from “leap.” We are aware that the medium tends to shape the message. This has been true, more or less, with every new medium that has come along—speech, drawing, handwriting, print, books, magazines, newspapers, tracts, 16mm home movies, flannel-graph, Cinerama, movies, Gospel Blimps, TV, radio, cassette tapes, 8-Tracks, blackboards, whiteboards, overhead projection, PowerPoint, skits, drama, banners, CDs, MP3s, sky-writing, video, texting, blogging, tweeting, Mina-Bird-training, etc.

    Dangers, dangers everywhere. Yes. But it seems to us that aggressive efforts to saturate a media with the supremacy of God, the truth of Scripture, the glory of Christ, the joy of the gospel, the insanity of sin, and the radical nature of Christian living is a good choice for some Christians. Not all. Everyone should abstain from some of these media. For example, we don’t have a television.

    That’s my general disposition toward media.

    Now what about Twitter? I find Twitter to be a kind of taunt: “Okay, truth-lover, see what you can do with 140 characters! You say your mission is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things! Well, this is one of those ‘all things.’ Can you magnify Christ with this thimble-full of letters?”

    To which I respond:

    The sovereign Lord of the earth and sky
    Puts camels through a needle’s eye.
    And if his wisdom see it mete,
    He will put worlds inside a tweet.

    So I am not inclined to tweet that at 10AM the cat pulled the curtains down. But it might remind me that the Lion of Judah will roll up the heavens like a garment, and blow out the sun like a candle, because he just turned the light on. That tweet might distract someone from pornography and make them look up.

    I’ve been tweeting anonymously for a month mainly to test its spiritual and family effects on me. In spite of all the dangers, it seems like a risk worth taking. “All things were created through Christ and for Christ” (Colossians 1:16). The world does not know it, but that is why Twitter exists and that’s why I Tweet.

    By his grace and for his glory,

    Pastor John

    But don’t forget, Piper also has gone on a technology sabbatical – I wonder how he would write this article today?

    Caleb

    Reply

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