The First Technology Upgrade

By Mark D. Roberts

July 25, 2015

And the LORD God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.”

Genesis 3:21

Adam & Eve, illuminated manuscript circa 950, Escorial Beatus
Before we leave Genesis 3:21, I want to share with you some fascinating insights into the significance of this verse. They come from John Dyer, author of one of the very best books on Christian faith and technology, From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology. Dyer entitles the section of his book that focuses on Genesis 3:21 “The First Technology Upgrade.” What does he mean by this?

First, we must understand that Dyer does not use “technology” in the narrow sense of our common language. Technology, for Dyer and other scholars who study it, is more than devices powered by microchips. In Chapter 4 of From the Garden to the City, Dyer discusses four different layers of technology, summing up with a surprisingly simple definition: technology is “the human activity of using tools to transform God’s creation for practical purposes.” Thus, the first appearance of technology in the biblical story comes in Genesis 3:7, when the man and woman “sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.” They used a rudimentary tool, some kind of needle, I suppose, to make something new from created elements. Dyer comments, “Together, they transformed a bit of God’s creation—fig leaves—into something with a practical purpose. In other words, they started doing technology according to the way we’ve defined it.”

Looking at Genesis 3:21 from this perspective, Dyer makes several striking comments, beginning with: “Before the angels with flaming swords arrive, God takes a look at Adam and Eve’s garments, and instead of condemning the misuse of their creative powers and their attempt to solve their problems without him, God responds by doing something amazingly gracious—he gives out the world’s first free technology upgrade. He replaces their rough, uncomfortable, and relatively small fig leaves with brand-new state-of-the-art animal skins.”

Reflecting further on this “upgrade,” Dyer adds, “So God accomplished three things with the clothing he made. First, he affirmed that even after the fall humanity is called to use its creativity to continue cultivating his creation. . . . Second, God made it known that from time to time he will participate with humanity in doing technology. . . . Finally, God was saying that while technology can temporarily ease some of our pain, we must not be so foolish as to make it our ultimate source of hope.”

I realize that it may be hard to appreciate Dyer’s insights when taken out of the context of his book. Thus, I would heartily recommend that you read From the Garden to the City. But, in the meanwhile, I would encourage you to reflect on Genesis 3:21 in light of what Dyer has written. I’m always grateful when a serious scholar who has carefully studied the Scripture helps me to see it from a fresh perspective. Even if you don’t agree with Dyer’s observations, I expect they’ll help you to think about Genesis 3:21 in a new way.

P.S. – I’m pleased to announce that John Dyer will be a main speaker at a conference that the De Pree Center is helping to sponsor along with The Fuller Institute for Theology and Northwest Culture and other organizations. rewiring://faith+technology will convene in Bellevue, Washington on Saturday, November 7, 2015. This event features many outstanding resource people, in addition to Dyer. I am honored to be one of the presenters and look forward to learning more about the interface of faith and technology from the conference. Also, I’d enjoy meeting Life for Leaders readers who participate. Perhaps I’ll see you there in November.


How do you respond to Dyer’s insights into Genesis 3:21 and its significance?

How do you think about the relationship between God and technology?


Gracious God, thanks for John Dyer’s insights into your Word, for the creativity with which he examines the biblical story. I am struck, Lord, by your response to the “technology” of the first humans, by your decision to offer a “free upgrade.” Once more, your grace astounds me. Thank you!

I’m also impressed by your engagement with human beings in the nitty-gritty work of life. Thank you, Lord, for your presence, your concern, and your willingness to collaborate with us. Thank you for the gifts of technology, even and especially those we take for granted. Help us to be wise stewards of these gifts. Amen.

Photo credit: Adam & Eve, illuminated manuscript circa 950, Escorial Beatus B Escorial 18 by Real Biblioteca de San Lorenzo. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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