Google or God? Who are we turning to for guidance?
This article is being shared, with permission, from Clarion, "a biweekly magazine aimed at servicing families and congregations in the federation of Canadian Reformed Churches." You can find an archive of 50 years of past issues, as well as information on how to subscribe, by clicking here.
Google it! How often don’t we use that phrase when discussing a matter? Within moments of saying it, someone will have done exactly that and tell you what they found. There is an amazing amount of information accessible at our fingertips, or, if desired, by means of voice activated searches. With our hand-held devices always connected to the Internet, it only takes moments to produce results.
Truly, we depend on our devices. They are ready to serve us at our beck and call. At the same time, we also seem ready to serve them at their beck and call. Many react instantly when they hear their phone ring or ding to indicate an incoming call or message.
The ubiquity of our devices and their dominance in our lives is evident even when you watch people in a restaurant. In many cases, rather than looking at and talking with their fellow diners, attention is on the phone. A father with children hitting the teenage years recently related how he now understood the concern of parents with teenagers about the obsession with and the attachment to their devices. He thought it was fitting to call this a pandemic, as people are always googling, always watching YouTube videos, always paying attention to everyone’s posting on social media and sharing links to videos and blogs.
While it is concerning that such an inordinate amount of time is spent on electronic devices, the specific concern I wish to address is the way so many turn to Google for direction and guidance on the issues of the day and the issues of life.
As was mentioned, in many discussions someone will say, “Google it.” Usually, you don’t have to say it, for someone has already done it. From Facebook and other social media posts, it is obvious that some spend a great deal of time researching on the internet. Google is the lamp that lights up their path, and they readily share the latest wisdom and insight they have found on their favourite websites or blogs. Others are encouraged to follow the links to read what is found there, watch the latest video, or listen to the latest podcast.
All this searching for answers with Google, however, seems to come at the expense of searching for answers with God.
Not web but Word
Of course, it is not possible to simply type in some words in some search engine and get an answer from God. There is, however, a way to get answers from God by searching his Word. In Psalm 119:9, it is said that a youth can keep his way pure by guarding it according to God’s Word. Later in that same Psalm, it is confessed that God’s word is a lamp for our feet (v. 105). God’s Word, after all, is the essential tool of the Holy Spirit to work and strengthen faith (cf. Romans 10:14–17; 1 Peter 1:23–25; see also LD 25:65, CD I 3; III/IV 6, 17; V 14). Paul writes to Timothy that,
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).
This emphasis on the Word of God was necessary in Paul’s days. There may not have been social media to distract, confuse, and mislead people, but there were other “media” tugging on their hearts. In his first letter to Timothy, he instructed Timothy to warn people
“ to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. . . . Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” (1 Tim 3:4-7).
Just after his words about Scripture being God-breathed in his second letter to Timothy, Paul mentions how there are many competing for the attention of God’s children, eager to scratch itching ears, to tell them what they want to hear (cf. 2 Tim 4:3-4). As God’s children, we should be searching the Scriptures to deal with the issues before us day by day, rather than sites on the web. We need to go to the Bible, not blogs.
Search Scripture carefully
Searching Scripture is not simply a matter of typing in some words in your Bible app, or, if you are old school, using a concordance. To be sure, you can find words fast enough, but words are used in different contexts.
One needs to run a mental scan on what Scripture teaches, keeping in mind where information is found within the unfolding of the history of salvation. You may even have to go to a commentary which goes into considerable detail, or a book that elaborates on an issue at some length.
Wikipedia can be great for an introduction to a topic, but it is not in-depth scholarship. Tweets may sound clever and profound, but they are not the fruit of in-depth reflection on an issue. A person who lives by tweets is in danger of looking like a bird brain when discussing a topic. Speaking of tweets, the Lord addressed that problem through the prophet Isaiah. During the reign of king Ahaz, when people were not listening to God’s Word but following false prophets and teachers who scratched their itching ears, Isaiah prophesied:
“And when they say to you, ‘Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,’ should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony!” (Isa 8:19–20.)
To apply this to the topic at hand, there is so much nonsense on the web, so much chirping and muttering. We should go to the testimony of God instead.
Searching the Word, turning to God, not Google, is also being true to our spiritual roots in the Reformation. One of the sola statements associated with the Reformation was sola Scriptura – only Scripture. God’s people are people of the Book. When we speak about an issue, we should be able to say, “This is what Scripture says,” and then refer to a relevant passage. If we feel the urge to speak out about a matter, our point should give evidence of having searched God’s Word rather than the Web.
Earlier in this article, mention was made of the way one father referred to the obsession with electronic devices as a pandemic that had hit his family too. Even the slightest exposure to social media makes clear it is not just a problem for teenagers. These devices are a reality of life. The challenge is to let them be our servants rather than us being their slaves. How do we bring that about? I offer a few suggestions.
- It should be recognized how easily devices that can be helpful in running our lives begin to run our lives. Our goods become our gods and enslave us. In this case, it will be evident in how quickly we turn to our devices for answers. We can gauge their hold on our lives by asking ourselves how much time in the day is spent looking down at our devices. How quickly do we ask Google rather than God? Keep in mind that we are speaking here especially for guidance on the issues of the day and of life. Take the time to let one’s fingers run through the pages of Scripture rather than scrolling through web pages. Run to the Bible rather than blogs. Let thinking be governed by our confessions rather than subtly reinforced by computer algorithms that are designed to scratch itching ears.
- When there is some time to fill, rather than seek amusement by watching videos, scrolling randomly, or catching up on what’s posted on the various apps, open a Bible app and read Scripture. This suggestion may be radical, seeing we read Scripture at set times in our schedule. But God’s children are to be people of the Word.
- Consider going on a fast from your device in terms of seeking your guidance, responding only to actual calls or texts. This would automatically result in a fast on forwarding links to Google-sourced “wisdom.” Fill the available time by reflecting on what God’s Word says about the issues.
Not Google but God
Finally, seeing that this article may not reach the eyes of all who might really benefit from it, share this article, and let it be a conversation starter with your family and friends. Then challenge each other to work on ways that a servant in your life does not become your master. When it comes to guidance for our lives and the issues of the day, it should not be wisdom from the Web through Google, but wisdom from the Word of God.
Rev. Eric Kampen is pastor for the Orangeville Canadian Reformed Church and is coeditor at Clarion magazine.
Documentary, Internet, Sexuality
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The smartphone stack
You're out with some friends having a nice dinner. But one has been talking on his phone for the last ten minutes, and a second is managing to fork food into her mouth while still using both hands to type text messages. And the fourth member of your party is preoccupied with tracking down some YouTube video he just has to show everyone. So you're out with your friends for dinner but it seems an awful lot like eating alone. We've all experienced something similar... and put our friends through something similar. So how can we return a little decorum to our dinners-out? One suggestion making the rounds is something called "The Phone Stack." After everyone orders their meals all smartphones are placed in the center of the table, one on top of another, face down. Though the course of the meal it's simply a given that one of these, or all, are going to buzz, bing, or sing, but here's the kicker: no one is allowed to grab their phone until dinner and dessert is done. If someone feels they just have to pick up their phone, that's okay, but then they also have to pick up the check for the night! Can there be exceptions made? Maybe someone is a doctor on call, or a volunteer member of the local fire department, and just needs to check their messages. Yup, allowances for that kind of thing can be made. But for the rest of the group this is a fun way of ensuring we all connect with one another, rather than with our devices. And for those dining-in nights, a variation can be done involving who is going to do the dishes!...
Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Internet
The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place
by Andy Crouch 2017/ 220 pages Did you just binge multiple seasons of that show everyone is talking about over the weekend? Do you feel guilty for doing it? Do often lay on the couch and scroll Instagram and TikTok from the time you get home until you crawl into bed? Does your family see the back of your phone more than your face? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to read The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch. Crouch’s approach to technology is “almost almost Amish.” He does appreciate the many ways that technology has improved all aspects of our lives, but is wary of the “easy-everywhere” lifestyle that technology offers, especially within our homes. Technology may give us unlimited access to information, but it does not make us wise. It gives us a platform to speak, but it does not give us the conviction and character to act. Wisdom and courage can only be nurtured and grown with the help of our family, and of course the Church. Worship is the most important thing we can do, as Deuteronomy 6 reminds us, that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our might. True worship with our brother and sisters in Christ calls us out of an “easy-everything” world back to “the burden of bearing the image of God” which brings us ultimate joy. Technology can derail this by addicting us to instant gratification. Crouch challenges readers to 10 commitments to detox from this “easy-everywhere” lifestyle, a detox my family and I have just begun.I would encourage anyone struggling with putting technology in its proper place to read this book. While not everyone lives in a single-family household, we are all part of the family of God, making these 10 commitments relevant to all. You can read an excerpt of the first 30 pages here and listen to a 6 minute interview with the author below. ...
20 Scriptures to guide our online speech
May God give us the humility to recognize how our online speech may be out of step with his calling on our lives ***** Scripture has a lot to say about how we wield our speech, and those passages are all the more important now that technological advances have greatly multiplied our ways and means of speech. So no, there is no proverb specifically about how to tweet, and we aren’t usually dictating our Facebook posts with our voice, but what we post on these social media platforms does fall under the umbrella of Scripture’s guidance on speech as much as words we literally utter with our mouths. Below are 20 passages of Scripture to guide our online speech. Let’s consider them as we engage with other image-bearers online: Is it true? The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy. - Proverbs 12:22 Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. - Psalm 34:13 Do you need to say it? Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. - Ephesians 4:29 Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin. - Proverbs 13:3 Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues. - Proverbs 10:19 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. - Matthew 12:36 Is it helpful? Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. - Colossians 4:5-6 Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. - Proverbs 16:24 Is it quarrelsome? Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. - 1 Peter 3:9 It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel. - Proverbs 20:3 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. - James 1:19 With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors, but through knowledge the righteous escape. - Proverbs 11:9 The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating. - Proverbs 18:6 Blessings crown the head of the righteous, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked. - Proverbs 10:6 What does it say about your heart? A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. - Luke 6:45 Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips. - Ecclesiastes 10:12 The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. - Proverbs 15:4 Does it praise God? Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. - James 3:10 My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long. - Psalm 71:8 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. - Psalm 19:14 Conclusion May God bless you today. And may he graciously give us the humility to hold our digital tongues unless we intend to build up others or point others to his goodness. A version of this article appeared in Chris Martin’s "Terms of Service" newsletter, which looks at the social internet from a Christian perspective – you can sign up for it at www.TermsOfService.social. Get his new book of the same name at many online retailers. His article is reprinted here with permission....
Parents, you are your child's best protection from online horrors
“You cannot raise your children as your parents raised you, because your parents raised you for a world that no longer exists.” – Author unknown ••••• I was born in 1988, and my generation straddled a lot of things. As kids we listened to cassette tapes and videos were on VHS – a video camera was roughly the size of an over-the-shoulder Hollywood contraption. The pace of technological change was so swift everything seemed to go defunct in just a few years, from the Walkman to the Discman to the iPod in a blink, while Blockbuster went big and bust in just a few years, with corner stores and gas stations investing in videos and then DVDs just in time to see their investments become obsolete as the digital world swallowed everything. And at the backs of many of the scuzzier corner stores were little rooms usually covered by ratty curtains where furtive people would duck to pick their pornos, from big-bellied greasy truckers who didn’t care who saw them to sneakier folks with a worried eye out for parents, spouses or neighbors. An aura of shame and moral grossness hung about the whole thing, and those heading back there seemed to know it. But besides that, everything seemed largely contained, and it was. Our parents could let us head outdoors without worrying too much. Some kids got their hands on porn magazines and hid them; many got caught; but the digital deluge had not yet begun, and it was easier to assume that children could roam free without risking their innocence. Then, in 2006, came the iPhone. Everything changed. Instant access to the pits of hell Suddenly, pornography became next to impossible to contain. A generation of Christian kids grew up looking at porn on devices that their parents had not had as children, and had not considered a source of risk. Parents didn’t know their kids’ phones or iPads or most any other device could connect to some shop’s free Wi-Fi, allowing them to scour the Internet’s filthy caverns. Curiosity, temptation, mistake – it didn’t (and doesn’t) take much to get hooked, and pornography swept the culture and the churches like a tsunami. In 2016, on the sites owned by a single porn company, the number of hours of pornography watched, once tallied up, amounted 524,641 years – or roughly twelve porn videos for every man, woman, and child on planet earth. I’ve been speaking on pornography in Reformed communities and elsewhere for over ten years, and I can confirm – and I’m sure you’ll agree – that the consequences have been catastrophic. Our children now grow up entirely surrounded by devices that act as portals to the demonic. I could tell scores of stories about children from Reformed homes who got addicted to porn simply by clicking a pop-up that flashed across the screen while playing an innocent game. This isn't how we grew up The digitization of our society has resulted in a world actively hostile to the innocence of children, and there is no simple solution – no book, filter, conference, or course that will protect them. As Dawn Hawkins of the National Center on Combatting Sexual Exploitation has said, we can no longer trust that our children will not see pornography – even with our best efforts. We must prepare their minds for when, inevitably in this culture, they do see it. That means that only cultivating powerful personal relationships with our kids will do. The uncomfortable truth is that parenting in the digital age is different than parenting in previous generations. The fundamentals remain the same, as do our vows at baptism. But never in recorded human history have children had such widespread access to the most depraved sexual fantasies the human imagination can produce – never. I often hear people dismiss or downplay the dangers of the digital age by noting that there is nothing new under the sun. This is true insofar as sexual sin has been existed since the Fall. But it is not true that any previous generation has been so thoroughly poisoned and so many lives destroyed, with the average age a child is first exposed to hardcore porn dropping year over year (it now sits around age 8 or 9). It is true that porn has always existed, but the things kids are exposed to now are nothing like the crass etchings on the walls of Pompeii, and it is a false comfort to suggest that they are. Children today have access to things their parents couldn’t purchase and their grandparents couldn’t imagine. Our children do. Not so long ago, parents could send their kids outdoors to play without worrying about what devices the neighborhood kids might have and what they might show their friends at the park (I’ve heard plenty of stories of kids getting exposed to porn the first time this way). Although the culture has long since stopped inculcating Christian values – when my mom went to public school, they still opened the day with the Lord’s Prayer – it was not yet hostile, and it was not yet permeated with pornography the way it is now. With comparatively little effort, the innocence of children could be protected. Today’s mainstream entertainment is packed with blasphemy and filth. Children’s entertainment features LGBT content as a matter of course. Within the span of a single lifetime, TV shows have gone from Leave it to Beaver to having a post-sex change transgender beaver on Blue’s Clues with chest scars from her double-mastectomy – and this is a show for children. The world our parents raised us in is dead and gone. It is important to recognize this. Let me put it as bluntly as I can. The forces of evil have broken loose, and they are no longer contained to video rental stores, or corner store magazine racks, or even computer screens. It is in your house, on all of your devices, including the one you carry everywhere in your pocket. The Devil is up close and personal now, so close you can feel his breath. He wants to destroy our marriages, our families, and our communities – and his digital dragnets are doing a horrifyingly magnificent job. Who will be there for your child? There is no easy fix to this problem. Parents in the digital age must face the fact that the only way to protect our children is for us to spend an enormous amount of time with them. Not just quality time – quantity time. Parents must ensure that their influence counterbalances the many influences that will be fighting for their children’s time. The gravitational pull of parent-child relationship must be stronger than the gravitational pull of Pornhub, secular entertainment, and the temptations clamoring for their attention. In the digital age – also sometimes referred to as the information age – we have a choice: the Internet-driven culture will shape our children, or we will. As prevention fails, parents' presence is crucial Over the past ten years speaking on pornography and related cultural issues in Reformed communities, I have seen porn use among the young go from a problem to the norm. The same is true for sexting. The views of many of our children on LGBT issues are also shifting radically as they are exposed to LGBT social media and YouTube influencers with millions of young fans. As the Internet opens up countless new worlds for the young, old certainties that were once taken for granted are up for grabs, and our children will be exposed to every imaginable poison. It will not be enough to merely attempt prevention (and if we do, it is likely to fail.) We will have to commit ourselves to being present in a way that few other generations needed to. This will mean prioritizing family interests over business interests. It may mean making less money in order to spend more time with the kids. It will certainly mean carving out large amounts of time when you are simply available to talk to your kids about all of these issues, and to begin these conversations. Be assured, the culture is starting these conversations with missionary zeal, and they are winning converts. In response, we will need to equip ourselves to talk to our children about all of these issues – and form relationships with them that will give us the space to have these conversations. In many, if not most cases, it will be a difficult task. We will shape our children, or the culture will. Jonathon Van Maren blogs at TheBridgehead.ca....
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You believe you are the center of the universe
David Foster Wallace was an American thinker and writer, best known for his novel Infinite Jest. He passed away in 2008, which is a loss to all of us because we could desperately benefit from his thinking right now. In 2005, just a few years before his death, he gave a commencement speech at Kenyon College that has become known as the “This Is Water” speech. It was turned into a very short book which you can buy here if you’re so inclined (I bought a used copy for, like, $3). Much of Wallace’s speech is focused on how the liberal arts are designed to teach us how to think differently and maybe get a bit outside of ourselves so that we may have a bit more critical awareness of ourselves, to realize, “a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded.” He goes into one such example here (bolding mine, italics his): Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness, because it’s so socially repulsive, but it’s pretty much the same for all of us, deep down. It is our default setting, hardwired into our boards at birth. Think about it: There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of you, or behind you, to the left or right of you, on your TV, or your monitor, or whatever. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real. You get the idea. First, the comment about our self-centeredness being our “default setting” struck me as soon as I read it because when I talk to the students in our youth ministry about original sin, I use the “default setting” language and they get it. But isn’t this posture true of all of us, not just Wallace? It’s really just natural to see yourself as the center of the universe, even apart from the sinfulness of it, because you see the entire experience of life from your perspective. As close as you are to your spouse or your children or your church family, it is impossible for you to literally experience life as they do. No amount of time or investment of social energy can lead us to truly live life in through the eyes of others. How easy is it, then, for everyone in our lives to become characters in a movie all about us? Our spouse is the love interest of the main character. Our boss is the curmudgeonly-but-lovable villain who means well but is too old-fashioned for his own good. Our kids are the comic relief and the way we learn about our own selfishness. Everyone else is just extras on our movie set. Wallace is right: our default setting is to see the entire world in relation to ourselves. We never think about the fact that we are actually a supporting actor in someone else’s movie. The connection to social media and the broader age of the social internet ought to be clear, right? Social media perpetuates the idea that we are the main character in our own story. It allows us to take our personal movie to market and share it with the world. It’s no fun being the star of your own movie if no one else can experience it. But now, with the innovation of social media, we can take our performance on the road and show everyone that we are the stars of our own lives. The Christian implications of this phenomenon are many. Perhaps we are best off seeing ourselves as supporting actors or even extras in God’s story at which Jesus Christ is the star. God is the star of the human experience. If you’ve ever wondered about or maybe been skeptical about social media perpetuating self-centeredness, this should ease your skepticism and confirm your wonderings. The idea that social media is a neutral tool equally possible to be used for good or bad is genuinely foolish. I used to believe this, so I’m not being critical of anyone in particular here. I am a convert from this wrong-headed idea. As you tap and swipe and scroll, consider how your favorite social media platforms may be training you to see yourself as the center of your universe, and perhaps as the center of others’ universes. How does this change how you view other people? Perhaps it makes you see them as less important and their needs as unfortunate consequences of not being the main character of the story. The pings and red dots and notifications and hearts and thumbs-ups on all of our manicured content feigning authenticity reinforces the reality that “there is no experience that you were not at the absolute center of.” This originally appeared in Chris Martin’s “terms of service” Feb. 26, 2021 blog/newsletter and is reprinted with permission. “Terms of service” looks at the social internet from a Christian perspective and comes in both a free and paid subscription, either of which you can sign up for at www.termsofservice.social....
Do we "like" sin?
Welcome to the Information Age. With apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, we now have a window into the lives of our friends, family, acquaintances and even complete strangers. Business owners can now Google prospective employees, parents can check Instagram to vet new friends of their children, and a woman can search Facebook about a potential boyfriend. We can track down long lost friends from high school and keep in touch with family around the world. The benefits are evident in our churches too, in how we can share information about prayer requests, children’s illnesses, bus routes being late, weather conditions, and new study groups. Via these social media forums, users are connected together in an online virtual world where our interests and ideas can be shared at the speed of light to our online peers. We can share articles that we deem interesting or important, and we can take political stands on issues. With a click of the button, we can friend and follow almost anyone we want. We like or dislike our way through thousands of gigabytes of information, telling everyone our favorite TV shows, games, authors, preachers, speakers and much more. But how does our online presence reflect our allegiance? Do our likes match up with God’s own? Many brothers and sisters seem to disconnect the online version of themselves from the real (or maybe their social media presence is their true self?). Christians will watch horrific godless shows and discuss them and like them on Facebook. Some may share photos of themselves in provocative poses with minimal clothing, or share pictures of drunken partying. We’ll fight with others online, speaking wrathfully, and assume the worst of whomever we’re arguing with. Disputes with our consistory, or our spouse, will be aired publicly and captured for all eternity. We’ll speak derisively about our employers, or our minister, family members, or friends. Online Christians will use filthy language, or casually take God’s name in vain in ways that they would not in the offline world. The Bible calls this disconnect an unstable “double-mindedness” (James 1:8, 22-25) – we are trying to be two people, each serving a different master (Matthew 6:24). Not only are we responsible for how we present ourselves online, we’re responsible for what we like and follow. When we see pictures of brothers and sisters sinning and like them, when we click thumbs up to a godless show, or blasphemous musician do we understand what we are telling everyone? Though it may take little thought – just a quick click of the mouse and a friendly like or thumbs up – what we are saying is I agree, I like this, I love this, this is good. Though it seems harmless, this is encouragement. When I sin and someone says good job,they are enabling me. That is not love. That is sinful. It is wicked. We should not condone sin whether online or off. In fact, we should love one another enough to be willing to privately approach and hold our brothers and sisters accountable. Maybe we think this a task better suited to elders. But not all consistory members are on these online forums. They don’t always know what is happening on Facebook or Instagram. And it is not their job to follow every one of us everywhere we go. As brothers and sisters in the Lord, we need to hold each other accountable out of love for each other (Eccl. 4:9-12). And we need to do so out of love for our Lord – the world will get their ideas of Who He is based in large part on how we, his ambassadors, act. Finally, whether we sin in daily life or online, God sees. In a world of both hate and tolerance, filth and fanaticism, we need to be careful not only in how we behave online, but also in what we like, share and post and therefore condone, as well....
Charles Spurgeon with some advice for the Internet age
Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) died a century before Mankind mastered the ability to pass along unverified news stories and unfounded rumors at the speed of light. But while the medium is new, the sin of gossip isn’t, and Spurgeon’s warning remains as relevant as ever. **** What a pity that there’s no tax on words: what an income the government would get from it. And if lies paid double, we could pay off the National Debt! But, alas, talking pays no tax. Silence is golden Now if men only said what was true, what a peaceable world it would be. But we pass on hearsay. And hearsay is half lies – consider how a tale never loses in the retelling of it. As a snowball grows by rolling, so does the story. So those who talk much, lie much. While silence rarely causes mischief; too much talking can be a plague to the parish. Since silence is wisdom, it’s clear, then, that wise men and wise women are scarce. As they say, still waters are the deepest, but the shallowest brooks babble the most. An open mouth shows an empty head. It’s like a treasure chest – if it had gold or silver in it, it wouldn’t always be standing wide open. Talking comes naturally for us, but it takes a good deal of training to learn to be quiet; yet regard for truth should put a bit into every honest man's mouth and a bridle on every good woman's tongue. Be free of slander If we must talk, at least let us be free from slander. Spreading slander may be fun for some, but it is death to those they abuse. We can commit murder with the tongue as well as with the hand. The worst evil you can do a man is to injure his character. As the Quaker said to his dog, "I'll not beat thee, nor abuse thee, but I'll give thee an ill name." The world, for the most part, believes that where there is smoke there is fire, and what everybody says must be true. Let us be careful, then, that we do not hurt our neighbor in so tender a spot as to besmirch his character, for it is hard to get dirt off, once it is thrown. When a man finds himself put in people's bad books, he might never be able to get out of them. So, again, if we want to be sure not to speak wrongly, it might be just as well to speak as little as possible; for if all men's sins were divided into two bundles, half of them would be sins of the tongue. "And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body" (James 3:2). The solution So, gossips, give up the shameful trade of tale-spreading; don't be the devil's bellows, giving more air to the fire of strife. If you are going to talk, at least season your tongues with the salt of grace – praise God more, and blame neighbors less. Any goose can cackle, any fly can find a sore place, and any empty barrel can make a big noise. But the flies will not go down your throat if you keep your mouth shut, and no evil talk will come out either. So think much, but speak little; be quick at work and slow at talk; and, above all, ask the great Lord to set a watch over your lips. This is an abridged, modernized, version of Chapter 6, "On Gossips" from Charles Spurgeon’s “The Ploughman Talks.”...
Internet, Media bias
Wikipedia: reader beware
I recently assigned a group of Grade 7-10 church history students a research project. I observed them as they began their work on their personal computers and for many their first stop was Wikipedia. On an average day, I would probably check something on Wikipedia myself at least two or three times. But who can guarantee that all the information on Wikipedia is accurate and unbiased? As it turns out, bias is also a problem on this website. And that’s particularly evident in the realm of controversial subjects like creationism and Intelligent Design (ID). A recent example involved Dr. Günter Bechly, a paleontologist and entomologist affiliated with the Discovery Institute, an organization promoting ID. He is notable for his groundbreaking research on fossil insects. Wikipedia used to include an article about Dr. Bechly. However, it was deleted after prejudiced pro-Darwin editors decided he was not notable enough to be included anymore. Wikipedia is unreliable in terms of what it withholds from the public eye. It’s also unreliable in terms of how it presents the material that it does include on ID. For example, the main article on ID (as of Nov. 13) asserts in the opening paragraph that ID is a “pseudoscience” and “a religious argument for the existence of God.” So Wikipedia prejudicially discounts any scientific basis for ID. Though pro-ID contributors have tried to edit the article (as anyone can normally do), the volunteer Wiki editors always switch it back or lock the article down. Wikipedia can be helpful for checking basic facts like dates. But once one gets into areas of controversy or opinion, its usefulness and objectivity begin to diminish. The problem is that human beings edit it. And human beings all have that heart condition: notoriously prone to deceive and be deceived. While editors of the print encyclopedias of the past were not immune to this condition, because there was a monetary incentive involved there were more checks and balances. Today, more than ever, we have to do our own checking. Apply the wisdom of Proverbs 18:17, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Just because you read it on Wikipedia doesn’t make it true! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqiXgtDdEwM Dr. Bredenhof is the pastor of the Free Reformed Church in Launceston, Tasmania, and he blogs at Yinkahdinay....
Facebook…to God’s glory
Recently a colleague commented on the fear that some have about social media, and their resulting reluctance to open Facebook accounts. She said it re...
Adult non-fiction, Internet, Parenting
13 quick thoughts on "Screen-Smart Parenting"
Parenting is _________. You fill in the blank. It is so many things. It is an adventure with no shortage of ups and downs. I am sure we have f...