Tools from God

Friday, September 07, 2012

By Steven H. VanderLeest

Now the earth was corrupt in Godís sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, ďI am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark…Ē
Genesis 6:11-14 (NIV)

After the original creation story, we know of only a few instances where God directly created an object for human use.  God made the garments of skin for Adam and Eve, providing a more durable covering than the fig leaves they first used to cover their embarrassment.  God made the original stone tablets and wrote the ten commandments on them himself.  We also know of a few instances where God provides blueprints for humans to build something, such as the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, and Noahís ark.  These artifacts were made from natural resources and had a primarily utilitarian purpose (i.e., they were intended to serve as a means to some further end).  Clothing, a long-lasting writing medium (though not so enduring when dashed to the ground), a pack-n-go shelter, a mobile keepsake cabinet, and a zoological cruise ship are all examples of technology.  These examples raise a couple questions in my mind.

Why so few examples?  It might be that God provided intends for us to follow his example rather than always making tools for us.  Beyond these few samples, God has delegated building and construction primarily to his stewards:  you and me.  What can we learn from our Creator mentor about our assigned task?  Letís look at the purpose of each technology that God made himself.  The clothing for Adam and Eve addressed their sin-induced embarrassment.  The Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant provided a focal point for worship and reminders of Godís presence.  The other ark, made by Noah, provided a shelter against the ravages of a global flood.  Each technological artifact is a tool, an instrument.  Each is primarily a utilitarian means to a purposeful end.  In the same way, the technology we develop should serve:  our tools should serve God and serve our neighbor.  The design of our technology ought to recognize our human limitations and address the effects of sin. 

Why such concrete examples?  God used physical, corporeal, embodied solutions—things made of animal skin, stone, and wood.  Why not more directly and miraculously fix the problem?  My suspicion is that God wanted to provide a physical reminder of his care and keeping.  God, as a spirit, is difficult for us to grasp (in the intellectual sense).  The solutions he provided were physical tools that one could grasp in a physical sense.  The tool that provided a physical help then also became the crutch his people could use to grasp his eternal presence and benevolence.  In the same way, our best technological products provide an immediate help to those in need but also serve to point to our Creator and Savior.  The fruits of the spirit and Christian virtues thus become active and real.  Our technology is not only an instrument for immediate relief, but also a conduit for kindness, goodness, justice, mercy, and love.

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(c) 2013, Steven H. VanderLeest