Assessing your Artificial Spirituality

by Dean O'Keefe
26th April 2021

I recently read Faith in Exile from the Barna Group.[1] The premise of this book describes the current situation of the church living in exile. While this is not a new synopsis (1 Pet. 1:1), they do offer a contemporary context for this exile; the Digital Babylon. We now exist in a world within a world. A world that actually doesn’t exist at all; it’s artificial. We often refer to it as a virtual world. But if you are not in this world (socials), you don’t exist. If your achievements are not shared to the virtual world, they never happened!

This Digital Babylon has become a major way for connection around the world. While there are so many benefits of this global connection, socials also provide connection to our local communities. Again there are some great benefits. I get shared photos from my son’s soccer team. My wife shares with our family the dance competitions of my daughters. Reminders for church events can be shared among us to our friends. Socials are our way to connect. Connection through Digital Babylon.

You may be thinking, what does the title “Assessing you’re Artificial Spirituality?” have to do with Digital Babylon?

A popular term today is spirituality. This word has come to mean so many things in Digital Babylon. A general understanding of “spirituality is the eternal human yearning to be connected with something larger than one’s own ego.”[2] Simply, spirituality has the notion of connectedness. How connected are you? Who are you connected to? Australia’s First People talk a lot about being connected to the earth, as do other people groups around the world. As a Christian, I have no problem with this definition of spirituality. For me, spirituality is about my connection with God. Gordon Fee writes, “One is spiritual to the degree that one lives in and walks by the Spirit; in Scripture the word [spiritual] has no other meaning, and no other measurement.”[3]

As the Image of God, among the magnificence of this term is the simple identity that we are spiritual people, created in God’s image. After all, God is Spirit (John 4:24). We were created for connection, not only with God, but with each other. This is emphasized from the creation story to Revelation. We are connected beings.

On 28th of June 2017, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted,

“As of this morning, the Facebook community is now officially 2 billion people!
We're making progress connecting the world, and now let's bring the world closer together.
It's an honor to be on this journey with you.”[4]

Facebook is connecting people. Socials are filling a need we are created for: connection. The problem with connection through socials, is that it isn’t working. While more people are connected through socials, loneliness is increasing. Society segregation is rising. This segregation is no longer based on race (although this still exists), it is about beliefs, politics, opinions, and branding (I watched The Social Dilemma). People are created for connection but turn to socials as their connection in this Digital Babylon.

Connection in Digital Babylon has become an artificial spirituality (A.S.). Our desire to connect, that is to be spiritual, is being offered through socials. However, we were not created for Digital Babylon, we were created for Analog Church.[5] “Reality is real.”[6] Fee rightly argues, one is authentically spiritual only when connected to the Holy Spirit.

So, how is your A.S.? Here’s the test. On your phone, find out how much time you spend on your phone apps (some phones now have a Digital Wellbeing setting). Then compare that to how much time you spend with God and real people. I am not saying get out of Digital Babylon, after all, the Israelite exiles were encouraged to remain in exile and be a blessing to others (Jer. 29:4-7). The Digital Babylon needs the Analog Church, but don’t belong to Digital Babylon, be in Christ Jesus.

Don’t be artificially spiritual, be authentically spiritual.



[1] David Kinnaman & Mark Matlock, Faith in Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2019.

[2] Parker J. Palmer, “When Philosophy Is Put into Practice,” in Parker J. Palmer & Author Zajonic (eds), The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to Renewal. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010, 48.

[3] Gordon D. Fee, Listening to the Spirit in the Text. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000, 5.

[4], accessed 05/10/2017.

[5] Taken this heading from Jay Y. Kim, Analog Church: We Need Real People, Place, and Things in the Digital Age. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2020.

[6] James Dovovan Halliday in Ernst Cline, Ready Player One. London, UK: Arrow Books, 2011, 2018, 354.