In Acts 19, we are confronted with a Pauline encounter with the idolatrous culture of his times. As a preface, Paul had addressed idolatry throughout Asia, and was becoming quite known for his preaching and persuading. By Acts 19:17, 'the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified', [vs18] 'many believed and confessed', and then in vs 19, many who had used curious arts burned their books, and in replace, the word of God prevailed. That concise rendering illustrates some important points that summarizes my message: Truth is known through the Lord Jesus; once Truth is known, all other truth claims should be known to be false thus cast aside.
It is in the next verses that we find commerce-oriented Ephesians antagonistic to Paul’s preaching on Truth and the contradictions within an imagistic culture:
This portion in Acts is a record of a cultural exchange of Truth for image worship, and can be regarded as a Pauline approach to the critique of the system of technology, that is to say that the system of technology is comprised of: the creators of content, the communication media, the control of audience participation, and the commerce of consumption.
The Creators of Content are the technologists who use technology to create their meaning.
They are the craftsmen themselves for we find in Acts 19:24 the greek term ‘technites’, being translated into english as craftsmen, and stemming from techne. Techne as a term is often translated as a craft, trade, or occupation, and which is also the root of our English words technology, technique, and technical. A technites therefore would be ‘one who creates using their craft, trade, or occupation’. Thus, the creators are technites who use techne to create their meaning.
The Communication Media are the books, objects, images, and architecture dedicated to the worship of the representation of Diana. In the context of Acts 19, it is media that is constructed with a false representation of reality, portraying false ideals, and contingent on the obscuring or masking of truth.
The Control of Audience Participation occurs through Demetrius’ acknowledgement of his concern that his craft is in danger, which pointedly implies that his priority is financial gain rather than spiritual gain. In turn, this implies that the craftsmen are intentionally withholding spiritual truth from their customers in order to perpetuate their business practice. This commercial practice became large enough to maintain false worship for all of Asia [‘whom all Asia and the world worshipped’, Acts 19:27]
The Commerce of Consumption – this is the commercial practice throughout at least Ephesus if not all Asia, with a symbiotic relationship between Consumer and Producer. While my model of Control of Audience Participation sounds as though the audience is released from accusation, the consumer is still responsible and need not act as a consumer, and as Scripture recorded, many had turned from idolatry to true worship such that the ‘Lord Jesus’ name was magnified’, and that many believed and confessed. Yet, prior to this conversion, many had Truth masked under the visual media that surrounded their lives.
The audience is ultimately to blame for their devotion to Diana – their sin is inexcusable and their false belief should not be blamed solely upon the craftsmen nor the objects and images; while the craftsmen sure have sinned, the inanimate objects did not. Yet, it is also human nature to anthropomorphize inanimate forms into something seemingly real, and progress that notion into a false reality that can satisfy human desire, which is what we find the Ephesians did with their Diana imagery. To counter this sentiment, I quote Blaise Pascal, the 17th c. French mathematician and philosopher: "There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus."
Pascal is also known for his critique of culture, his concern for a culture given to frivolity and inner desire. He wrote, "People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive."