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The app that failed democracy: Technology and the providence of God

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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As I write this column, we are still awaiting results from the Iowa caucuses. The blame for the delay is being fixed on a mobile app that was supposed to streamline the process.

The app was built by a Washington, DC-based company connected to a nonprofit digital strategy firm that assists progressive causes. Precinct chairs were supposed to transmit caucus results through the app and by a backup telephone system.

However, some chairs had trouble downloading or logging into the app. Caucus workers who tried to call in results Monday night said they were stuck on hold, some for over an hour.

The state Democratic Party said their paper records would allow them to conduct a full recount if needed. They could be called upon to do that now, given the technical difficulties with reporting the results.

We will presumably know the results of the Iowa caucuses later today. But this will not be the last time that technology will fail to deliver on its promises. Autonomous vehicles endanger passengers and pedestrians. Mobile devices have made pornography more pervasive than ever. Criminals use the “dark web” to hide from authorities.

The failure of the app in Iowa should not, however, provoke a response greater than the problem.

Technology and the providence of God

Engaging more people in our political process through technology and other means is essential to our political process. Autonomous vehicles can enable drivers to become passengers who use their transit time more effectively. Mobile devices can communicate biblical truth that combats pornography and other pervasive temptations. Authorities can use technological means to catch technological criminals.

Paul used the Roman highway system, the internet of his day, to take the gospel across the Empire. He used epistles delivered by couriers, the email of his day, to write half of the New Testament. I’m convinced that if he were alive today, he would be using every technological means at his disposal to share the good news of God’s love.

Like Paul, every Christian needs an Acts 1:8 strategy, a personalized plan for taking Christ to our local community (our Jerusalem), our larger area (our Judea and Samaria), and the larger world.

The fact that you’re reading these words means that you are conversant with contemporary technology.

What is your digital Acts 1:8 strategy today?

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