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12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You Paperback – April 30, 2017
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“Are Christians using technology to transform the world or is technology transforming Christians in unhealthy ways? Especially since the era of Franklin and Jefferson, when inventing things and technological ways of organizing things became a way of life, Christians have needed to be alert to such questions. Tony Reinke’s reflections on the smartphone offer helpful advice as to how people today need to be vigilant regarding the impact of their favorite new technologies.”
―George M. Marsden, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History Emeritus, University of Notre Dame; author, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship
“12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You is an incredibly convicting and profoundly insightful read. Smartphones have become a part of our lives, but Tony explores the devastation to the human mind and soul due to devotion to technology. He calls us to examine not merely the use of our smartphones but the motives that inspire it. This is a necessary book for our generation, to remind us that our phone habits will either amplify or get in the way of our most important longing of all: the soul-satisfying glory of our Savior.”
―Jackie Hill Perry, poet; writer; hip-hop artist
“In contrast to the television that dominates the modern living room, the smartphone is typically far less conspicuous in its presence. Perhaps on account of this subtle unobtrusiveness, surprisingly few have devoted sustained reflection to the effect this now ubiquitous technology is having on our lives. In this book, Tony Reinke plucks these devices from the penumbra of our critical awareness and subjects them to the searching light of Christian wisdom. The result is an often sobering assessment of the effect they are having on our lives, accompanied by much prudent and practical counsel for mastering them. This is a timely and thoughtful treatment of a profoundly important issue, a book that should be prescribed to every Christian smartphone owner for the sake of our spiritual health.”
―Alastair J. Roberts, theologian; blogger
“Tony Reinke’s 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You is one of the most important little books a twenty-first-century Christian could read. Highly recommended.”
―Bruce Riley Ashford, Provost and Associate Professor of Theology and Culture, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
“For many, the phone is an object of increasing anxiety, exhaustion, and dependency. The wise Tony Reinke leads us practically to find freedom from the phone without requiring us to huddle away in a monastery somewhere in the middle of Montana. If you want to know how to steward your technology and your life for Christ and his kingdom, read this.”
―Russell D. Moore, President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
“If you feel uneasy about your constant relationship with your phone (and even if you don’t, but wonder if you should), you will find Tony Reinke to be a reliable guide for how we should assess the impact of our phones on ourselves and our relationships. A marvelous book that tackles a massive subject in clear and compelling language!”
―Trevin Wax, Bible and Reference Publisher, LifeWay Christian Resources; author, This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel
“Two things strike me about this book. First, Reinke writes with great humility, including himself in the narrative to help us see him not only as a teacher but also as a fellow struggler. Second, this is not a guilt-ridden slog through what not to do. Tony keeps pulling us up into the glories of Christ and even helps us to dream of new ways to glorify God through our digital technologies. Helpful, hopeful, humbling, and inspiring, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You is a book for this age and wisdom for generations to follow.”
―Trillia Newbell, author, God’s Very Good Idea; Enjoy; and Fear and Faith
“Image is everything, and for a woman who has built her identity on the sands of how she’s embraced online, the eventual letdown will come like a crash. But there’s a better way forward, a way to use our phones in selfless service, to glorify God in our connectivity, and to image Christ by our phone behaviors. For this, we must evaluate our glowing screens and train our discernment to see the difference between the sight-driven habits of our age and the Scripture-lit pathway of faith. Every chapter of this book is like the right kind of push notification in our lives. Stop, read, process, and apply with care.”
―Gloria Furman, author, Missional Motherhood and Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full
“As a teenager and a smartphone user, I needed this book. Tony Reinke is compelling and convicting, yet continually meets us with grace. My generation needs this book, because we need to get technology right. If we don’t, the cost is great. 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You should be a must-read for every smartphone user, especially for us younger ones.”
―Jaquelle Crowe, Lead Writer and Editor in Chief, TheRebelution.com; contributor, The Gospel Coalition; author, This Changes Everything
“It took more than a generation for the quaint ‘horseless carriage,’ with all its magic and horror, to become the ordinary, unexamined ‘car.’ But the device we once called a ‘smartphone’ has reached its status as ‘phone’―a common, everyday inevitability―with such breathtaking speed that it has left us little time for reflection on the true power it has in our lives. Tony offers us a distinctly Christian take on the little wonders in our pockets, seeing their goodness, beauty, and power, but also applying godly wisdom and well-researched cautions to help readers use their phones without being used by their phones.”
―John Dyer, author, From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology
“Experience practical theology at its finest as Tony applies a thorough understanding of the Scriptures to a thorough understanding of our culture, resulting in a beautifully written and balanced guide to the dangers and opportunities in the palms of our hands. Yes, our phones have changed us for the worse, but this book will change us and our phone use for the better.”
―David Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
“The more widespread and influential something is, the more Christians should think carefully about it. In this wisdom-filled book, Tony Reinke helps us do just that with the smartphone. Without descending into technophobia or paranoia, he shows the various ways in which phones are changing our lives, highlighting both the problems with this and the solutions to it. A timely and thoughtful book.”
―Andrew Wilson, Pastor, Kings Church London; author, The Life We Never Expected and Unbreakable
“Rarely is a book as practically impactful as it is theologically rich. In an age in which daily we are drawn into a digital vortex, Tony Reinke warns of the implications and challenges us to examine whether our phones have displaced our spiritual priorities in Christ. With unflinching honesty, Reinke shares his own technological struggles, and in so doing, moves us to a posture of reflection, prayer, and even repentance. Thoroughly engaging and immediately applicable, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You is a must-read for our time.”
―Kim Cash Tate, author, Cling: Choosing a Lifestyle of Intimacy with God
About the Author
Tony Reinke is the communications director for desiringGod.org. He is the author of Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books; Newton on the Christian Life; and 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You.
John Piper (DTheol, University of Munich) is the founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He served for thirty-three years as the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is the author of more than fifty books, including Desiring God; Don’t Waste Your Life; This Momentary Marriage; A Peculiar Glory; and Reading the Bible Supernaturally.
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But why must we check them so often? Is it because smartphones are such great tools for human flourishing or because they are evil taskmasters that make us less human with each use?
This is the dilemma with which Tony Reinke opens his book, and if you’re like most people, the dilemma isn’t theoretical. Your phone is changing you. It’s certainly changing me. How could it be otherwise when we apparently check our smartphones every 4.3 minutes of our waking lives (p. 16)?
Reinke is the author of several books, as well as the host of the popular Ask Pastor John podcast and a senior staff writer for Desiring God. He’s well suited to write this book for at least two reasons. First, Reinke feels the tension between the blessings and curses of technology more acutely than most. As a professional producer of online content, he must navigate reaching readers without succumbing to the click-bait, Buzzfeed-type posts that dominate web culture (to which, by the way, DG doesn’t capitulate).
Second, Reinke is the perfect person to shine the glare from our screens back into our eyes, not only because he is a competent researcher and a nimble wordsmith, but because he is also a God-centered theologian. And this trait is necessary because, as he points out, “conversations about our smartphones often do not raise new questions; they return us to perennial questions every generation has been forced to ask” (p. 24). And it’s this point about how new technology always brings us back to the perennial questions—questions about what it means to be creature not Creator; about beauty vs. efficiency; about loving God and neighbor—which makes this book so insightful.
Consider for just a moment our longing for approval (covered especially in chapters 3 and 6). Each generation must wrestle with this. The lore of Narcissus in Greek mythology, who fell in love with his own reflection, certainly predates the 2004 birth of Facebook. Today, perhaps, there are just more metrics to measure our beauty (likes, retweets, followers, pins, subscribers, and so on). And if you let it, your smartphone will send you push notifications for each of these so that when you wake up in the morning, you can glance at your phone to find out how many others love your face too. “When we talk about ‘smartphone addiction,’” writes Reinke, “often what we are talking about is the addiction of looking at ourselves” (p. 110).
If there were something to critique about the book, maybe it would be the structure. The title and layout of the book (12 Ways . . .) could make the book seem like one giant list-article, or listicle as they’re called. Listicles tend to be the lowest common denominator of online content. I say this, by the way, as the author of several listicles. But this criticism, in my opinion, doesn’t hold. The depth of Reinke’s insights and his biblical fidelity resist formulaic chapters.
One final comment. I found the book disturbing. But not because the problems created by smartphones are merely “out there” in culture or even in the church. Rather, I’m disturbed because the problems are “in here.” Despite all the blessings of smartphones (connection to others, wealth of information, and Bible apps galore), I still see the negative impact in my heart and habits. Too often my children compete with a screen for their dad’s attention. Being confronted with this change was disturbing . . . but it’s the good kind of confrontation, the kind that when paired with repentance of sin and faith in the gospel, leads to the good kind of change.
“The digital age can bewitch and capture our hearts in unhealthy ways. Our advances in technology have a way of rendering God more and more irrelevant to our world and in our lives—the very definition of worldliness. And if our digital technology becomes our god—our wand of power—it will inevitably shape us into technicians who gain mastery over a dead world of conveniences. Aimlessly flicking through feeds and images for hours, we feel that we are in control of our devices, when we are really puppets being controlled by a lucrative industry” (Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, Crossway, 2017, pp. 192-193).
“My phone is a window into the worthless and the worthy, the artificial and the authentic. Some days I feel as if my phone is a digital vampire, sucking away my time and my life” (p. 15).
Tony Reinke says in his book, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You: “It is difficult to serve God with our heart, soul, strength, and mind when we are diverted and distracted and multitasking everything. Historian Bruce Hindmarsh adds, ‘Our spiritual condition today is one of spiritual ADD’… Our battle against the encumbering distractions of this world especially the unnecessary distractions of our phones—is a heart war we can wage only if our affections are locked firmly on the glory of Christ” (Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, Crossway, 2017, pp. 47, 50). This sums up the core issue in his book, as he details the advantages and the idolatrous perils of smartphones’ reach and overreach. His diagnostic questions provide a basis of making that distinction: “Do my smartphone habits expose an underlying addiction to untimely amusements? Do my smartphone habits reveal a compulsive desire to be seen and affirmed?...Do my smartphone habits preoccupy me with the pursuit of worldly success?...Do my smartphone habits build up Christians in my local church?...Do my smartphone habits disengage me from the needs of the neighbors God has placed right in front of me?” (p. 52). This is a vital book for everyone who wants to balance relevance in the world with God-first priorities. 5 stars
M.L. Codman-Wilson, Ph.D., 6/8/2017
“Like Narcissus staring down into the water, enchanted with himself, we bend over our phones and what most quickly captures our attention is our own reflection: our replicated images, our tabulations of approval, and our accumulated ‘likes.’ Social media has become the new PR firm of the brand Self. And we check our feeds compulsively and find it nearly impossible to turn away from looking at— and loving— our ‘second self’” (Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, Crossway, 2017, p. 109).
“I surveyed 8,000 Christians about social media routines and more than half of the respondents (54 percent) admitted to checking their smartphones within minutes of waking. When asked whether they were more likely to check email or social media before or after spiritual disciplines on a typical morning, 73% said before. This reality is especially concerning if the morning is when we prepare our hearts spiritually for the day…Our phones are addictive and like addicts, we seek hits immediately in the morning, and yes there is an app for that…Behavioral scientists and psychologists offer statistical proof in study after study: the more addicted you are to your phone, the more prone you are to anxiety and depression and the less able you are to focus at work and sleep at night” (pp. 42-43).
“Free porn access on a smartphone represents a spiritual epidemic of unprecedented gravity in the history of the church, costing a whole generation of young Christians their joy in Christ and corroding young souls by the acid of unchecked lust…Technology makes us think we can indulge in anonymous vices, even conceptually, without any future consequences. Anonymity is where sin flourishes and anonymity is the most pervasive lie of the digital age. The clicks of our finger tips reveal the dark motives of our heart, and every sin—every double tap and every click—will be accounted for” (pp. 133-135).
My SmartPhone is my shepherd;
I still want more.
I stare at it in green pastures,
I text instead of looking at the still waters.
It drains my soul;
It leads me in the paths of unrighteousness
for the apps sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of No Likes,
I will not fear;
For my SmartPhone is with me;
Snapchat and Instagram, they comfort me.
My SmartPhone prepares a fake world for me in the presence of reality;
It anoints my head with secular humanism;
My discontent runs over.
Surely laziness and comparison shall follow me all the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the Cyberworld
looking down at my Smartphone