I was recently invited to the ATX Hackerspace in Austin, TX for an event, and I happened to be in town for it. If you consider “geek” a term of endearment, head to your local hackerspace or makerspace posthaste! You will feel warm and fuzzy inside.
While I was touring the space and meeting the locals, I found myself in a wonderful discussion on the theology of invention with a fellow Christian geek and maker. He raised the question, “Is invention idolatry?”
What Is Idolatry?
Here are two Biblical texts that give you the highlights of idolatry.
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” – Exodus 20:2-3 (NIV)
“But you did not listen to me,” declares the Lord, “and you have aroused my anger with what your hands have made, and you have brought harm to yourselves. Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words…” – Jeremiah 25:7-8 (NIV)
To give you the quick summary, these verses suggest that we can anger God when we take matters into our own hands. We can cross the line when we believe our own solutions and our own inventions are better than God’s Creation. We can get into hot water when we take the place of the Creator.
That’s a bit scary for me, because I know that when trouble comes I often look for a way I can solve it and only later ask for God’s guidance. That sounds eerily similar to trusting “what your hands have made” rather than “listening to [God’s] words.”
What Is Invention?
But this fellow maker also raised an interesting point about the nature of invention. The word “invent” comes from a Latin root that actually means “to discover.” When we talk about inventing, we usually mean creating something from scratch. But so many of our “creations” are actually discovering what God has already done.
Did we create calculus, or did we discover an aspect of mathematics created by God? Did we create the Bessemer process for making steel, or did we discover a characteristic of iron that God baked into Creation already? Are we “creators” or “discoverers?”
Partnering With God (Not Replacing God)
We landed our discussion by considering that we are discovering the echoes of what God has already done. When we see ourselves partnering with God rather than replacing God with the works of our hands, we are probably in good standing with the Creator.
Similarly, when trouble comes and I want to manufacture a way through or around it, I can switch my mindset and try to discover the echoes of God’s already-laid plan.
What echoes of God’s plans are reverberating in your soul right now? Whatever you’re hearing, if it’s from God it’s better than the works of your hands.
- When have you “trusted the works of your hands” rather than “listened to [God’s] words?”
- When have you trusted God’s words despite the temptation to act on your own?
- What is echoing in your soul right now?