Tag Archives: technology

Reality, Utopia, and Christ

Well, in my last post I mentioned an email that a friend of mine sent out to several people mentioning an article he came across on the movie “Avatar” actually resulting in depression for several viewers.  He asked some good questions: What strikes your mind as you read it? What does it say to you about Christianity (the religion) as we know it, the current level of Kingdom influence in our world, and about what we should be doing?

Well, I have given everyone who comes by to visit my site a few days to respond, and since neither of you did, I’ll go ahead and post my own response to these questions my friend asked…

I have not seen the movie, but I think it is a sad indictment that culturally we have moved so far away from the REALITY of God’s Word that a movie about a virtual world and the possibilities within *that* place, stir us to greater heights and depths of emotion than what is taking place not just here in the *real* world, but also in the heavenly realm which is our real home.  We were not made to be permanent residents of this world, but rather we are warned not to fall in love with this world, not to be dragged away by passions that can only be satisfied by it, and to live here as aliens… as *sojourners*.  This brings us into a conflict that affects all of us–believers and unbelievers alike.  We cannot find our satisfaction here.

I think it is important, though, to remember who we ARE as a result of the Fall.  In the book of Romans, Paul lays it out pretty clearly and we can see this image of man reflected back through everything we see on television and in the movies.  Collectively speaking, this is who we are:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:18-32)

It is little wonder that someone who is confronting this *reality* (whether it is a result of seeing a movie, reading their Bible, or dealing with the recognition of their own depravity) would become depressed.  It is depressing news.  Any time we begin to really see the impact of man’s fallen nature and the effects of our sin on God’s creation (whether it is our own personal corruption or the collective corruption of mankind), it is overwhelmingly depressing.

For the believer, though, we have a blessed hope.  We are the “called-out” ones.  But paradoxically, we are not called *out* of this world when we hear His voice.  We are called *into* it.  We are given a savage mission: to live IN this world as aliens and strangers, to *suffer*, and to work as unto the Lord.  And He has given us a task: to glorify Him, to be a witness for Him to the ends of the earth.  He has promised us joy in this, but He has also promised us suffering on His behalf.  We will toil, we will suffer, but we will not lose heart.  We have a blessed hope, a Rock, a Refuge, and an eternal home.

For the one without hope in Christ and who wants even a temporary escape, nothing provides like technology.  In fact, I think it is this desire to “escape reality” that has driven most of the major advances in technology over the last hundred or so years, and truth be told it isn’t just unbelievers who are guilty of falling victim to it.  It throws an appealing lure, and it is natural for us to take the bait.

“Real life” is hard.  It demands sacrifice and serving others.  “Real life” does not always work out the way we would like it to.  We are not in control of it.  It includes wayward children, strained marriages, death and disease, addictions and abuse.  It places demands on us we do not always want to meet, requires more from us than we often want to give, and also tends to grant us far less than we would like to have.  It can be painful, difficult, and full of trial.  No wonder, people want to check out and look for some way—ANY way—of escape.  If you look with eyes that can see, most of the way people use technology in their daily life is “escape”… a way of staying distracted (i.e. “entertained”) so that they can forget about “real life” for a while.

Some find their escape in sports, others in movies… or some other visual form of entertainment (TV, game systems, computer games, pornography, etc.). For some, it is cell phones, texting, Facebook, shopping, collecting, or whatever else brings some pleasure for a time.  But it is always and only for a time.  That’s because for the believer and unbeliever alike, there is no real and lasting satisfaction to be had in this world.  The grass withers, and the flower falls… moth and rust destroy… thieves break in and steal.  We were not created to be satisfied in a fallen world tainted by the corruption of sin and death.  For the one who has no real, eternal hope in Christ, they find their “best life now”–finding some small joy in trinkets and distractions, though only for a little while.  BUT GOD

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Don’t run past that last sentence too quickly.  We are HIS workmanship, created in Christ Jesus (we are a NEW creation in Him) for good works.  We are not saved by good works, but for them.  Now, if this is true, then as I said earlier we are not saved OUT of this world, but INTO it.  We are called to be salt and light, and instruments for His glory.  We are not our own, but have been bought with a price and are to glorify God in our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20).

And we can find our encouragement and our greatest example in Christ, who did not look for any way of escape, and who would not be distracted from His eternal purpose, but for the JOY set before Him endured the suffering…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

BE OF GOOD COURAGE! Listen one more time to the words of the Apostle Paul.  Do not be depressed or discouraged—be it by a movie or by a man.  The Apostle who suffered countless beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonment, and death itself for His love of Christ could experience all those things with JOY because His eyes were right.  He wrote to encourage the church in Corinth:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:1-10)

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J.I. Packer – Technology, Reading, and Biblical Ignorance

I picked this up from a site called The Scholar’s Corner.  I italicized some of Mr. Packer’s comments below :

An Interview With J.I. Packer

Last November the executive officers of SC had the distinguished opportunity for a private interview with the well known lecturer and author, Dr. J.I. Packer. Rev Packer was born in Gloucestershire, England in 1926, educated at Oxford University (degrees in classics and theology; D.Phil. 1954) and ordained in the Church of England. He has held numerous teaching positions and has preached and lectured widely in Great Britain, America and Canada. He is well known by his writings, among which are: Knowing God, 1973; God’s Words, 1982; Hot Tub Religion, 1987; and Rediscovering Holiness, 1992. He is a Senior Editor and Visiting Scholar of Christianity Today and is currently working on a number of books.

SC: As you can see, Dr. Packer, we are concerned about the crisis of Biblical illiteracy in the Church and society today. How would you estimate, or evaluate this condition? Do you see a problem?

Packer: I certainly think there is a problem. In our churches there is little emphasis on the importance of getting to know your Bible. Whatever else people do in between church services, they don’t “soak” themselves in the Bible in order to get to know it well. I think it gets worse year by year; that is people are reading the Bible less and less as each year passes.

SC:. Where would you put the blame for this problem? Is it in the ministry, the seminaries, the congregation?

Packer: I hesitate to allocate the blame specifically on one group alone. But I would start by saying Christian parents simply haven’t stressed to their children the importance of the Bible being their favorite book. That’s where it starts.

Then, in the churches I’d blame pastors who are not stressing the fact that if you are to be a Christian, you should, as I like to say, have the Bible ‘running out of your ears’. Most people only read a certain number of verses for some devotional thoughts, not to know what the book is actually saying.

And then I’d blame modern culture which aggressively distracts the people from becoming really literate in anything, not just the Bible. It is partly due to modern life being filled with so many things, you know, but also the attitude that you can get by in this world with only a smattering of knowledge about anything. As Christians, we are to be different than the world around us. In particular, we are to attain a fuller knowledge of the Word of God, whereas the world around us hasn’t got a fuller knowledge of anything.

SC: It is not difficult for us to diagnose the real problem of Biblical illiteracy in our modern culture. Do you have any recommendations as prescriptions for a cure?

Packer: The idea of a fuller knowledge simply doesn’t register in the minds of a majority of believers. Comprehensive Bible study is difficult to start today. It draws a negative reaction. Yet, it is so very important that all of the books of Scripture, particularly all of the books of New Testament, are meant to be read as units.

The epistles of Paul, for instance, are actual letters written personally to fellow believers about genuine concerns of welfare and spiritual growth. Letters (consider your letters to your friends) are not written simply for someone to pick out single sentences. They are written to be read as units. So let’s see what it is like to read a New Testament letter as a unit.

While I was a student I heard it said that repeated reading of the same scripture is a wonderful way to grasp the real meaning of its content. So, one Sunday, I read Hebrews ten times. Well, Hebrews remains one of the richest books of Scripture to me. The insight that I caught of the sense of the whole truth of the glory of the priesthood of Christ became wonderfully vivid. That wasn’t simply the result of a discipline; that was the Holy Spirit blessing the Word.

Now if I was a pastor, perhaps I would offer my people an experiment. We would spend the first week with a covenant that we would, all of us, read the book ten times. Then come together and ask them to tell what the repeated reading has done for them. I believe a strong interest in all the scriptures would arise out of the impact of such a reading.

SC: We are working hard to present Biblical studies using the latest high-tech tools for Distance Learning. Do you consider the “Information Superhighway” a valuable method of increasing Biblical literacy?

Packer: Well it could be, if people are motivated to use it. The basic problem is motivating people that don’t read much to read more, and motivating people that don’t read at all to start reading. See, I’m a historical theologian. I know very well that in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries there were more people who wanted to learn to read than there were people to teach them. Neither do you have a problem with wanting to read in primitive tribal situations; they beg visiting moderns to teach them to read.

You have enormous problems nowadays with illiteracy in the modern world because so much is done for us by our technology. People find that life is easier, that they can get along without the “sweat” of reading, and so they choose instead to watch the television, read the cartoons. You don’t have to read, except to fill out a form.

The first thing you must do is convince people that it is a wonderful thing to read. Competing with the MTV generation is difficult, if not impossible. Somehow you must make people aware of the benefit of reading, the excitement of reading, the fun of reading — strike whatever note is going to motivate them. Start there.

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Television, Texting, Attention, and Apprehension

From Television to Texting:
The impact and effect on our attention and apprehension

Today’s reflection is based on an interesting article by Gary Small on how television, texting, Instant Messaging and other “burst” forms of communication are affecting our ability to think, form, and process information.  Modern technology may make communication methods exponentially faster, but they do not necessarily make it more efficient.

In previous generations, information exchange was a relatively slow process; almost all exchange that was not part of a direct verbal conversation involved reading, reflecting, and writing as a response to input and information.  Do not run past that.  Reading, reflection, and writing.  It was not a rapid response, and the results of this process went far beyond the superficial level of communication that we see today with our popular media.

Now, it would seem that common sense would allow one to reach the conclusion that constantly being bombarded with too much trivial information makes it difficult to process that which is useful and meaningful.  However, common sense is rather on the decline since it does require a menial bit of processing time to reflect and respond appropriately.  And with all the trivial information contending for our over-saturated attention, who has time for common sense any more?  Much less the deep things of God?

Is it any wonder that a society so impacted by the morass of amusement and the superficiality of thought that all of our technological innovation seems to produce has little regard for God, turning instead to idols or to atheism?  There are many Proverbs and Psalms (and much exhortation in the book of Ecclesiastes) that encourage one to make the effort to get wisdom, and how precious it is.   But it takes effort to get wisdom.  It requires much from us.  Folly requires so very little, though, and comes so easily. . .

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. (Psalms 14:1)

The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly. (Proverbs 15:14)

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18:2)

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. (Proverbs 28:26)

Here is Dr. Small’s article:

Is Texting Making Us Stupid?

By Gary Small, M.D.
Created Aug 19 2009 – 7:26pm

Are you a master Twitterer? Do your friends or kids punch their PDAs while eating and driving? I could swear my teenager was texting in her sleep.

A new study suggests that constant texters may be sacrificing accuracy for expediency. One of the convenient features of our handhelds – the program that figures out the word we want to use before we finish typing it – maybe be part of the problem. And, the new research suggests that frequent texting may even rewire the brains of young people.

Dr. Michael Abramson and associates, an epidemiologist at Monash Universtiy in Melbourne, Australia studied over 300children aged 11 to 14 and found that kids who used mobile phones performed faster on a battery of cognitive tests but they also made significantly more errors. The bottom line is that frequent use of the devices makes kids fast and sloppy.

This is likely a problem for middle-aged and older digital immigrants as well. Todays’ rapid pace of information constantly assaulting our brains challenges our ability to pay full attention to any one thing. Our laptops, fax machines and instant messages pressure us into quick responses that lead us to sacrifice detail and accuracy. Radio and television announcers speak in time-compressed sentences leaving us with mere ideas of what they have said. Many people are replacing depth and subtlety in their thinking with quick mental facts that only skim the surface. The mental clutter, noise and frequent interruptions that assail most of us further fuel this frenetic cognitive style.

Though we think we can get more done when we divide our attention and multitask, we are not necessarily being more efficient. Studies show that when our brains switch back and forth from one task to another, our neural circuits take a small break in between – a time-consuming process that reduces efficiency. It’s not unlike closing down one computer program and booting up another – it takes a few moments. With each attention shift, the brain’s frontal lobe executive centers must activate different neural circuits.

Dr. Gloria Mark and associates at the University of California, Irvine, studied the work habits of high-tech office employees and found that each worker spent an average of only 11 minutes per project. Every time a worker was distracted from a task, it took them 25 minutes to return to it. Such distractions and interruptions not only plague our work environments, but they also intrude upon our leisure and family time. The bottom line is that despite people’s perception that they are doing more and at a faster pace when they multitask, the brain seems to work better when implementing a single sustained task, one at a time.

Some particular combinations of tasks, however, do appear to improve mental efficiency. This included performing a task while also listening to music. Neuroscientists have found that some surgeons perform stressful non-surgical laboratory tasks more quickly and with increased accuracy when listening to their preferred musical selections. Music appears to enhance the efficiency of those who work with their hands. Music and manual tasks activate completely different parts of the brain; thus, effective multitasking sometimes appears to involve disparate brain regions. However, if you are working while listening to music you do not like, it may be distracting and decrease the efficiency of your multitasking.

Multitasking has become a necessary skill of modern life, but we need to acknowledge the challenges and adapt accordingly. Several strategies can help, such as striving to stay on one task longer, and avoiding task switching whenever possible. We can also learn and build multitasking skills with practice.

Dr. Gary Small is co-author with Gigi Vorgan of “iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind,” and author of “The Memory Bible.” For more information, visit DrGarySmall.com

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