Excarnation, known as defleshing, commonly referred to the ancient practice of removing the flesh and bones of a dead person, leaving only the skeleton.  In medieval Europe, this practice was carried out on deceased kings and military commanders, so their bones could be transported hygienically from distant lands to their home, where they could be buried and revered.  “Practising excarnation on the dead gives meaning; practicing excarnation among the living is destructive, violent, death bringing.” [1]

There is no doubt that contemporary society has defleshed the human experience using digital technology, particularly through social media.  It is part of the air we breathe and is woven into the fabric of everyday life.  It is the ‘campfire’ around which we tell our stories and has become a lens through which we see the big picture of life.

A student, in my office for continually misusing his phone, was highly distressed when I took it from him and said that his parents could collect it from the office.  Underlying his distress was his desperation to stay connected online with his friends and he was willing to sacrifice his learning to keep checking in with them.  This was “the fear of missing out”.  He reflected what is true of many in our culture, that the device has become an idol that leads to dependency.

Erwin Lutzer (2013) warns:

“We are raising a generation of young people obsessed with
mobile devices and enamoured by triviality.  Many teenagers
send more than a hundred texts a day and carefully craft an
exaggerated image of themselves on Facebook.  From there
they often go to dark places online that feed their basest
desires, leading them to forsake healthy peer and family
relationships.”  [2]

In Babel they used a new technology (Genesis 11: 3) to build a tower to create a name for themselves by concentrating their power, rather than to obey the creation mandate to fill the earth.  In this case, technology became a means for people to act independently from God and seek to be masters of their own destiny.  It is easy for our students (just like us!) to become self-focused and self-promoting through online platforms designed this way.  Students are often trying to construct their own virtual

identity in cyberspace and this means they can increasingly live a disembodied existence.  They are defining themselves by comparing themselves to others.  The change in the way people communicate is having a significant impact on relationships.  The normal boundaries of face-to-face communication can be easily violated and the power of evil and brokenness intensified.  Many of our young people are subject to a virtual world culture where you can be cancelled or de-friended by the press of a button.

It is vitally important that students are trained to live faithfully in a technology-saturated world.  Schools run cyber-safety courses for students and parents.  But just having information and skills about how to be safe online does not address the heart issue.  Students who have suffered online bullying often refuse to tell anyone because they cannot bear not to be connected through their devices.

Learning needs to encourage students to be shaped by a vision of the Kingdom of God.  God designed people to live in community and so teachers need to focus continually on building their classes as places where grace, truth, forgiveness and generous self-giving love are demonstrated.  In this context, students can be encouraged in their learning to accept and appreciate their unique identity as image-bearers of God as a gift.  Rather than having the terrible responsibility to construct their own identity online, Christ frees them to explore the purpose which He has called them.

Several years ago, when I took a team of students to Uganda to work in three schools in very poor areas of Kampala, they were not allowed to take their own mobiles.  Each one could ring home on the school phone every three days.  The students who were actively engaged in serving the children and demonstrating God’s love to them, commented later that they did not miss their phones at all.  They were living out what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus in the real world.

Teachers also have the responsibility to plan curriculum that supports a deep examination of the big ideas within a framework of the Biblical story.

For example, students can critique the following statements:

  • Friendship on social media has been reduced to data connection.
  • Human wellbeing has been withered to individual satisfaction.
  • What do friendship and human wellbeing look like when shaped by the Kingdom of God?

Teachers can assist students to re-imagine a world where digital technology is used wisely to bless others.  This means developing through learning an appreciation of the role it can play in humans exercising dominion over creation, so that people can experience the goodness of God and flourish.  There is a need to provide opportunities for students to use digital technology to express their creativity in the service of others.  Teachers and students are to be God’s people, living under the rule of King Jesus, in the place where we are planted and being agents of His new creation. Let us help our students to live God-glorifying lives in their bodies.

“ I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)



Grace and Peace
TEC Team




[1] Michael Frost, Incarnate: The Body of Christ in an Age of Disengagement, (USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 2014), 11.

[2]  Erwin Lutzer, Beware it could be destroying your Soul, 

 https://www.moodymedia.org/articles/beware-it-could-be-destroying-your-soul/ , 2013