In the mid-1980s, a new phrase began to peek around the corner of media and technology. Although it was nowhere close to the quality that we are seeing today, some goggles and gloves” allowed people to experience something called virtual reality.”

Around the same time, science-fiction novels were predicting how this kind of social tech might turn out (such as Neuromancer, a book that was the basis for a game I played as a child).

But the 80s were far from the beginning of the fundamentals of virtual reality. Even more rudimentary technology was introduced years before that, including the ”experience machine” in the 70s.

You could argue that the invention of personal computers, home television sets, motion pictures, or even printed photographs have elements that can put you in another, more virtual” world.

Now, in the year 2022, we still do not really have flying cars or actual hoverboards (not quite the future that Doc and Marty seemed to promise us in the Back to the Future” film series), but we do have a few more advancements in the area of virtual or augmented reality that can be accessed with mobile phones, game systems, glasses, and other headsets.

It has progressed so far in the last several years that a new word has been coined and promoted: metaverse.

As one writer describes it, the metaverse is a brave new world of digital existence [where] humans can be freed from bodies, specific locations, and other physical limitations.”

And if it becomes what Facebooks founder, Mark Zuckerburg, envisions it to be, it will be a totally simulated world where people can basically live their lives with digital workplaces, vacations, gyms, churches, and all the rest — all while wearing digital clothes and (in the real world) never getting out of bed!

The way I see it, the metaverse is the next step in the evolution of social media. We have brought the screen closer to our eyes, fastened the controller to our hands, and immersed ourselves in the virtual experience just a little more.

Every step forward” in technology that inventions like this allow us to take, while not inherently evil, presents new ethical and moral questions that we must answer as a society as a whole and especially as Christians striving to live holy lives in the midst of a lost world.

So, what moral issues do the metaverse and virtual reality present, and how should Christians respond to this advancement in social media? Let me offer four ideas to consider.

1. It Can Offer Easier Avenues for Hidden Sin

While the same sins have been around since the dawn of humanity, our access to those sins and the opportunities for those sins have increased, especially in ways that can be hidden from others.

The principle behind technology is that it makes tasks more convenient. But the same vehicle that can drive us to work faster can also run someone over. The same microphone that can be used to preach the gospel to a crowd can be used to spread lies and propaganda to control.

The invention of the photograph introduced a more realistic version of pornography that the invention of video or motion picture enhanced.

Similarly, early gaming systems gave people a new avenue to waste time when they were home that pocket-sized devices such as smartphones would later expand.

Now, virtual reality, while not inherently evil, allows someone to potentially commit any manner of sin and unrighteousness that they can conceive in a way that seems more realistic than ever before.

And all these sins can be kept totally private without anyone knowing what is happening in our virtual or digital world.

Christians cannot remove themselves from this world or totally insulate themselves from external temptation (nor would Jesus want us to according to his prayer in John 17), but we must set ourselves apart and be sanctified in truth” (John 17:17), and we must flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22, ESV).

2. It Can Separate Us from Actual Reality

Inhibitions and internal guidelines that normally keep us from doing certain things are not present when we put ourselves into a virtual world (like video games, social media, or the meta verse) that has much broader boundaries and fewer consequences (such as the inability to die).

Where we are just a customized avatar” with a different look and name, we can become anonymous to the people that actually know us in the real world, causing issues in our own psyche (which is already happening in our current situation of fake or anonymous accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, etc.).

It is very common to see someone act entirely differently behind a screen than they would in real life. That is why churches feel like they have to produce guidelines for how their staff should behave online.

In a virtual world, we have the potential to do anything that we can imagine (good or bad) with little to no accountability. That type of freedom” from rules and reality would not produce anything good or righteous in humanity — that much has been proven time and time again. As Lord Acton from the 19th century is credited as saying, Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Lets remember that the principles of Jesus are still the same regardless of technological advancements.

Lust is still lust, no matter how it is packaged, hatred is still hatred in our hearts even if our enemies are virtual, envy or jealousy are still destructive even if our neighbors’ possessions are merely pixels and code, and pride is still an abomination to God even if it is behind a screen (or goggles).

No matter what medium we are using to work, play, and live our lives, we are still called to be holy people.

3. It Can Begin to Replace Real Friendships

One of the most important attributes of the gathered” or communal church congregation is its physical togetherness. Churches regularly come together for services, events, Bible studies, meals, and fun and entertainment.

The fellowship that takes place when believers come together where they can shake hands, hug, high-five, and grab each others’ shoulders in prayer can never be replaced by a virtual version of the same activities because even though your sight can be tricked, the rest of your senses will be well aware that no one is there.

As one writer explains, some people think that the virtual church” will become popular in the coming days — maybe even more popular that physically gathering.

But, as he continues, the faith of our fathers is not simply attending [an online] performance… [a church that] only connects online is a mere chat room. A disembodied online existence makes it too easy to hide… The Christian life cannot be fully lived online. God has called us to this time and this place, to times and crises that are uncomfortable, and to people whose issues and ailments are unpleasant. The world in which God is making all things new is filled with real people and real problems, and these wont be mended in the illusive world of an online existence.”

Physical togetherness is not just important for Christians in church gatherings, though; it is important for everyone in all places. God made us as communal people.

We are at a time in our current culture where people are more isolated and lonely than ever before, although we are ironically more connected.”

This is due to many factors, such as the development of digital platforms (from the old chat rooms and instant messenger to more modern social media and virtual reality) that keep people with their own devices instead of with other humans, the centrality of the television in a home (instead of people facing each other in a typical living room, they are facing a TV).

The invention of the automatic garage door that closes behind us as we all drive into our secluded suburban fortresses (instead of sitting on the porch or seeing your neighbors out in their yard) increased fears of germs (even before the coronavirus scare of 2020), and the performance mentality that many people feel in their interactions with others.

So, considering all these conditions of our culture, we need more human, physical interaction and the ministry of one another’s presence, not less.

While the author of Hebrews could not have foreseen virtual reality specifically in humanitys future, he nevertheless wrote that believers should “…consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24–25, ESV).

4. It Can Lead to a Lazy and Unhealthy Lifestyle

Again, this is not new. The temptation to do, move, and work less has always been around. But the more screens we use, the more we sit to watch something, the more we work from our couch or beds, and therefore the less interaction that we have with others outside of our homes, the greater the temptation to lead a sedentary life with little to no exercise and insufficient rest.

In another article, one writer explains that spending time in the virtual world potentially encourages us… to forget our bodies.”

But we must remember that our bodies are much more than mere tools that… get in the way of our experience of the world.” God gave us our bodies as instruments to worship him, do good, serve others, and yes — enjoy life.

Why Does This Matter?

So, before we totally embrace or shun this new technology, we must first be people of great discernment because fads and advancements like this introduce us to new or easier ways to sin, isolate, and be lazy.

Like it or not, the metaverse will likely not just be the hot tech of the present, it very well may be the common tech of the future. So, lets think through our response to it now and prepare ourselves to deal with it in a biblical and healthy way.

For further reading:

How Can We Read the Bible as Culture Changes?

How Should Christians Respond When the Culture Pendulum Swings?

Why Does Sin Desire to Have Us?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Thinkhubstudio


Robert Hampshire is a pastor, teacher, writer, and leader. He has been married to Rebecca since 2008 and has three children, Brooklyn, Bryson, and Abram. Robert attended North Greenville University in South Carolina for his undergraduate and Liberty University in Virginia for his Masters. He has served in a variety of roles as a worship pastor, youth pastor, family pastor, church planter, and now Pastor of Worship and Discipleship at Cheraw First Baptist Church in South Carolina. He furthers his ministry through his blog site, Faithful Thinking. His life goal is to serve God and His Church by reaching the lost with the gospel, making devoted disciples, equipping and empowering others to go further in their faith and calling, and leading a culture of multiplication for the glory of God. Find out more about him here.




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