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War Between Words and Images

Updated: Feb 26

We are all aware of the breakneck speed with which technology is growing and specifically visual forms of technology, i.e., internet, social media, games, etc. And we are all aware of the negative impact that these visual forms of technology have on our children’s (as well as adult’s) learning. With the ease of access, and the sheer variety of things to feast with our eyes, we become easily addicted to watching things. I want to take a moment to reflect on a foundational problem that lies beneath this generational problem and offer a few suggestions for our children (as well as for parents).

The underlying problem is that we are depending more on visual images rather thanwords to learn. There is nothing wrong with good visual aids to help our children tolearn. However, it becomes a problem when our primary mode of learning becomesvisual rather than word-based. This principle is in the background to the SecondCommandment, which forbids us from making graven images to represent God.Why is that so bad? Because God created us to first and foremost to understand andobey him through his Word, and this is done first and foremost by listening to his voice, and only secondarily by seeing God in visual form. The distinguishing mark of all the pagan nations around the world is that they are more image-centered than word- centered. When Israelites were leaving Egypt, God warned them through Moses that if they make carved images, they will perish and they will not live in the land they were promised. Centuries later, this became true. Israelites were carried off into exile, because they abandoned the “commandments of the Lord their God and made for themselves metal images. . .” (2 Kings 17:16).

You may wonder why the Second Commandment has anything to do with learning or education. Isn’t Second Commandment about worshipping God. Yes, it is aboutworshipping God, but God expects us to worship God with the way we live our lives,and not just during times of worship. Thus, it is not surprising that, in the context ofeducation, we find that it is words (language), rather than images, that form the coreof our children’s education. This is why the bedrock of classical education is thetrivium--a language arts education. It is words that best inform our eternal hope, andit is words that makes worldview possible.

So, how can we help our students to live a more word-centered life rather than image-centered life? 1) Have honest conversations with your children about what being onthe screen too much does to our life and our relationship with God, 2) Plan toexperience together a period of screen-fasting and replacing it with reading goodbooks. 3) Children need guidance in reading, especially because ultimately all goodreading leads us to see God’s truth, goodness, and beauty. The best way to guide

them is to read it together and discuss. I am beginning to hear stories of successthrough this intentional word-centered life. May the Lord give you grace and hungerto try this!

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