Reformation, Renaissance, Revolution.
Powerful “R” words that are associated with major change and reshaping of life as we know it. “Reshaping” – another “R” word. Do you realize we are living in one of those times in history? Let’s take a very short trip back to remind ourselves:
- 20 years ago (1993) the Internet and email were in their commercial infancy. Very few people outside of the military and university research faculties were emailing. Major communication tools were telephone and fax.
- 15 years ago (1998) Google was launched. Now it is a verb. “Just Google it”. Websites exploded after Google took hold.
- 10 years ago (2003) there was no Youtube. Bandwidth on the Internet had not grown enough to make sharing of videos common. Now many people catch their news and sports highlights over the Internet and never turn on their TV.
- 5 years ago (2008) Facebook became a public phenomenon. Smartphones (e.g. Blackberry, iPhone and Android) were in their infancy. Now we have “friends” all over the world and stay in touch with them through Facebook, chat, email, pictures and video on our smartphones.
- 3 years ago (2010) for most people Twitter was something that happened to your heart when you saw your first love. By the end of that year, it was everywhere.
We are in the middle of a “reformation” of society, whether we realize it or not.
After some reflection, it seems like we may have seen this before. In fact, we have. Some examples to ponder:
- The invention of the printing press revolutionized the world by making it possible for anyone to acquire knowledge and be educated.
- When combined with the printing press, the translation of the Bible into common languages enabled the Christian Reformation and the accessibility of God beyond the clergy and institutional church.
- The automobile and the airplane dramatically compressed distances and freed the masses to travel and move about in ways never imagined by their ancestors.
If we are careful in our reflection of all of these innovations, we will notice a common theme; each one empowered individuals and increased their freedom and dominion over their environment or circumstances. Where many of the earlier innovations created physical freedom and dominion over the physical environment, the more recent technological ones have created an increase in access to information and with it the freedom to assimilate it and form conclusions on what is true and what is not.
This has profound implications on hierarchy and power structures everywhere in society. The old saying “Knowledge is power” was never more true than today and with the widespread availability of information the potential for an exponential increase in knowledge and the associated power is dramatic. We are now well into a worldwide assault on institutionalism in every aspect of society. Whether it is government, financial, education, health or religion, institutions of all kinds are under intense pressure due to the information explosion. Some examples include online education, electronic banking and stock trading, online medical diagnosis and natural foods/supplement information and internet based religious texts (did you know the entire Bible is now online?). There are more examples in every aspect of society.
At this point you are probably asking – So what? What are the implications of this 21st century “Reformation”. The simple answer is this: We are witnessing the decline of institutionalization and the empowerment of the individual. As happened in the past, institutions will fight this reformation with everything they have because it threatens their power base. Many of the “reformers” of the past paid for their innovations with their lives because of this (William Tyndale was martyred for his translation of the Bible into English). Governments, religious structures and educational institutions are all threatened by empowered individuals armed with information. No longer can someone say “It is true because I said so.” or “I am in authority here and what I say goes.” when the receiver of that statement can simply Google what was said or do the appropriate online research to validate the statement. True authority is therefore based on relationship and trust supported by the knowledge of the truth, not on institutional hierarchy. Since institutions no longer control access to the truth, their authority is under threat. The impact of the 21st century reformation is that the time cycle for this validation process (knowledge to relationship to trust) has been significantly reduced due to the explosion in access to information.
The implication is that the battle of our generation is over truth and the ultimate question is “What is truth?” At Back to Eden Group we believe passionately that before we can answer this ultimate question, we must first accept the responsibility that it is us who must answer it. It is important to realize that just because there is an explosion in access to information doesn’t mean truth is easy to discern. No institution or other person can answer the question for us. While this has always been true in history, it has never been more apparent now. In the past we could say that it was too difficult to know the truth since the information was controlled by others. That excuse is no longer valid. We must first accept the personal responsibility to answer the question, recognize that institutions and power structures will fight us every step of the way and then step into the dominion and authority that comes with being a carrier of the Truth.
This is the ultimate expression of being made in the image of the Creator, who is full of grace and truth. We can walk in “Relationship, stewardship and dominion” when we know the truth, for it is the truth that sets us free. For some of us, it has and will cost us our lives.
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