Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2017, 224 pp. $11.51
12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You is the title of Tony Reinke’s latest book. Anyone who owns a smartphone understands the power and productivity of such a device. But along with these gains come several shortcomings that Reinke addresses in his book.
After initially reviewing the table of contents, I automatically assumed that Reinke would encourage users to ditch their smartphones. The author writes, “Our joy in God is at stake. In our vanity, we feed on digital junk food, and our palates are reprogrammed and our affections atrophy.” But Reinke is merely alerting his readers to the implicit dangers of smartphones. Like anything else, a smartphone may be used for the glory of God or may be used for evil purposes.
Much of the book is devoted to surfacing idols of the heart and making necessary adjustments. For instance, the author challenges his readers to carefully evaluate every tweet and post online:
- Will this ultimately glorify God?
- Will this stir or muffle healthy affections for Christ?
- Will this merely document that I know something that others don’t?
- Will this misrepresent me or is it authentic?
- Will this potentially breed jealousy in others?
- Will this fortify unity or stir up unnecessary division?
- Will this build up or tear down?
- Will this heap guilt or relieve it?
- Will this fuel lust for sin or warn against it?
- Will this overpromise and instill false hopes in others?
The heart must be ruthlessly and relentlessly evaluated or the smartphone may render a given user a fool. Unfortunately, this clever device has made idolatrous inroads into the hearts of many people and the result is nothing less than tragic: “Submission to a created thing, such as a smartphone, is idolatry when that created tool or device determines the ends of our lives.”
Reinke encourages careful contemplation as well as disciplined restraint:
“So as Christians, we push back our phones in the morning – in order to protect our solitude so that we can know God and so that we can reflect him as his children. And we push back our phones during the day – in order to build authentic eye-to-eye trust with the people in our lives and in order to be sharpened by hard relationships …”
In the final analysis, Reinke neither condemns or condones smartphone use: “It is just as idolatrous to blaspheme a phone as it is to worship a phone,” writes the author. “The solution is for us to wisely enjoy the smartphone – imaginatively, transcendentally, as something that should deepen wonder.”
At the end of the day, we face a two-fold challenge in the digital world. Reinke asks readers to consider:
- On the external front: Are we safeguarding ourselves and practicing smartphone self-denial?
- On the internal front: Are we simultaneously seeking to satisfy our hearts with divine glory that is, for now, largely invisible?
I was personally moved and challenged by Reinke’s book and commend it to others to read and absorb.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.