technology: a cancer in the universe?

Written by Ryan Tate

Ryan is a writer, blogger, engineer, father and husband from Cuyahoga Falls Ohio. He blogs at The Compelling Parade.

June 2, 2011

“I agree Technology is per se, neutral: but a race devoted to the increase of its own power by technology with complete indifference to ethics does seem to me a cancer in the Universe. Certainly if he goes on his present course much further man can not be trusted with knowledge.”

– C. S. Lewis, responding to a letter from Arthur C. Clarke on the advancements of technology.1

Did C.S. Lewis call the quest for the power of technology a “cancer in the universe”?

Obviously, Lewis never owned an iPad. He never had the luxury to “Google” himself either, the very act I performed to find this “cancerous” quote. Perhaps he would be disappointed knowing I wrote this blog post on my laptop while watching an episode of Modern Family on my 42-inch HDTV with my BlackBerry buzzing next to me, my wife sending a text message to her friend, and my three and half year old daughter playing Angry Birds on our iPod touch.

In our defense, I think our three and a half year old daughter is really smart for her age – or maybe she simply has become a product of the digital age, another victim of the “cancer of the universe”?

We live in the digital age where there is great tension in Christian families over the use, and overuse, of technology in the home. Last month, the Barna Group released The Family & Technology Report: How technology is helping families – and where they need help. The Barna Group is excellent at it’s research and in this report they landed on these 5 points:

  • Parents are just as dependent on technology as are teens and tweens.
  • Most family members, even parents, feel that technology has been a positive influence on their families.
  • Very few adults or youth take substantial breaks from technology.
  • Families experience conflict about technology, but not in predictable ways.
  • Few families have experienced—or expect—churches to address technology.

It’s no secret the power of technology has saturated our families, lifestyles, and attitudes. David Kinnaman, president of  Barna Group, summarized his thoughts on the recent report by saying, “Technology is shaping family interactions in unprecedented ways, but we seem to lack a strategic commitment to the stewardship of technology.”

So it all boils down to “stewardship”. Stewardship is the careful and responsible management of that which is entrusted to us. Technology is a gift, yes, but most of us couldn’t function throughout our daily activities without established help from our beloved gadgets. We are completely dependent upon them. Even though C.S. Lewis didn’t experience the technologies we do today, he knew all too well about the power of dependence. He wisely stated, “Each new power won by man is a power over man as well.” 2 The very powers we’ve created, our technologies, have now taken power over us. Begin to look at it this way and you can’t help but identify some of these technologies as idols. The good things have become ultimate things, things we say we cannot live without. As parents we have a responsibility to respond to the things that compete with God for our worship – in our own lives and especially in the lives of our children.

I don’t think technology is a cancer, but it certainly can infect an entire family if we don’t take preventative measures (you could say that about most things). It starts with moms and dads. If technology has become an idol for the parents, it won’t be long before the kids follow suit. A Christian family is in bad shape when the things of the world seem stunning and attractive while the truths of Scripture remain abstract and unable to guide everyday activities.

The only reason my daughter knows how to play Angry Birds is because she’s watched me do it over and over again. My biggest hope is that she knows how to get on her knees and pray because she’s watched me do it over and over again.

Do you have rules about technology in your home?

What are your thoughts and experiences of the use, or overuse, of technology within the family?


1Quoted in Ryder W. Miller, ed., From Narnia to a Space Odyssey: The War of Ideas between Arthur C. Clarke and C. S. Lewis (New York: iBooks, 2003), p. 40.
2 Lewis, C.S., The Abolition of Man (New York: Collier Books, 1955), p. 70.


  1. Mark Lafler

    Great Post. 

    The ethics of technology needs to be discussed more and more.  The church seems to accept technology without giving much time to its impact on families, community, and the world.  Ethics usually lags behind progress, but technology is so fast that ethics really lags behind.

    I was told that theologian J. I. Packer suggested, “Technology is a great servant, but make a horrible master.”  This seems so true.  I use it as a self reminder when I become “dependent” on technology.

    I appreciated your hope about your modelling of prayer instead of playing Angry Birds.  So true…  My hope as well!

    • Ryan Tate

      Thanks Mark! I love the J.I. Packer quote.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

technology: a cancer in the universe?

by Ryan Tate time to read: 4 min