20160408

How Technology Can Erode Community :: Weekend Reading List

The average person checks their phone 85 times a day. That’s 26% more often than the average amount of notifications (63.5) people receive daily. This type of perpetual connection has rewired conversation. “We are together, but each of us is in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and tiny touch screens,” remarks Sherry Turkle.

In The Flight From Conversation, Turkle acknowledges, “We are tempted to think that our little ‘sips’ of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation.“ Turkle, a researcher at M.I.T., continues:

Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.

Personal screens rewrite the world—holding users, in a glowing spotlight, as both the most powerful and important subject. C.S. Lewis, though he could not have specifically addressed smartphones or social networking, foreshadows some of what’s happening today when he writes, “Man surrenders object after object, and finally himself, to Nature in return for power,” in The Abolition of Man.

Lewis speaks of modern technology as an extension of science, and science as an extension of magic, or man’s way of gaining independence from God. He explains:

There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the wisdom of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique.

Though technology will serve in ever-increasing roles in daily faith, we cannot look to it as a replacement of the flesh, tears, laughter, sacrifice, forgiveness, and beauty of the face-to-face community of the Church. This may be more difficult than we imagine, Turkle concludes:

We expect more from technology and less from one another and seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship. Always-on/always-on-you devices provide three powerful fantasies: that we will always be heard; that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; and that we never have to be alone.

Weekend Reading List

Today’s Reading
Proverbs 26 (Listen – 2:37)
1 Thessalonians 5 (Listen – 2:37)

This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 27 (Listen – 2:43) 2 Thessalonians 1 (Listen – 1:52)
Proverbs 28 (Listen – 3:07) 2 Thessalonians 2 (Listen – 2:32)

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20160407

Augustine’s Redemption from Sexual Sin :: Throwback Thursday

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God — 1 Thessalonians 4.3–5

By Augustine of Hippo (354-430 C.E.)

What delighted me more, except to love and be loved? But, the moderate relation of mind to mind was not maintained according to the bright bond of friendship. Rather, the mists of slimy lust of the flesh and of the bubbling froth of puberty rose like hot breath clouding and darkening my heart. It is thus not possible to distinguish the serenity of love from the dark mist of lust.

[Lord,] I moved farther from you and you permitted it. Through my sexual sins, I was scattered and poured out, and my happiness was dissipated; and you kept silent. O how late came my joy! You were silent then, and I still wandered far from you, through more and more sterile seeds of sorrow; proud in my debasement; disturbed in my weariness.

Your hand can blunt the thorns which have no place in your paradise. For your omnipotence is never far from us, even when we are far removed from you. Or I might have listened more carefully to your voice thundering from the clouds; I might have more happily awaited your embraces.

But miserable person that I was, I boiled over and left you, following the violence of my flooding passions. I broke the bonds of your lawful restrictions yet did not escape your punishments. What mortal can?

You were ever present, mercifully angry and befouling all my illicit pleasures with most bitter aversions, so that I might seek to enjoy inoffensive pleasure. Where could I have found this? Certainly not in anything outside of you, O Lord, not outside of you. 

To whom am I telling these things? Not to you O my God; rather, I tell them before you to my own kind, to the human race, no matter how few men may chance upon these pages. For what reason? So that I, and whoever reads this, may realize out of what depths one must cry to you. What is closer to your ears than a heart that is penitent and a life founded on faith?

O God, you are the one, true, and good Lord of your field, which is my heart.

Today’s Reading
Proverbs 25 (Listen – 2:56)
1 Thessalonians 4 (Listen – 2:24)

 

 

20160406

The Music of Love

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all. — 1 Thessalonians 3.12

The truth of Christ is woven into the fabric of relationship. As Christians accept, encourage, edify, and sacrifice for one another the character of Christ is displayed for those inside and outside the Church.

Yet if we were to stop at inclusion of the insider, Christianity would be no different than any other religion or social club. Friendship reaches as far as there is common ground. Business partnerships extend as far as profits. Partisanship stretches as far as implications of ideas. Tolerance only embraces others who are tolerant (there is no cultural tolerance for intolerance).

Christ calls his followers further; “Love your enemies.” Though our sinful hearts want to exclude, Christ presents us with a paradox: if they are your friend, love them; if they are your enemy, love them. Dietrich Bonhoeffer—who ministered not only to his fellow prisoners, but to the Nazi guards who held them—writes:

Spiritual love does not desire but rather serves, it loves an enemy as a brother or sister. It originates neither in the brother or sister nor in the enemy, but in Christ and his word. Self-centered, emotional love can never comprehend spiritual love, for spiritual love is from above. It is something completely strange, new, and incomprehensible to all earthly love.

Love, in the Christian faith, is not based on the recipient’s worthiness nor the giver’s character. Instead Christians look to Christ’s love as example, justification, and strength. Christ becomes the common ground; regardless of whether or not he is mutually held—it is his image stamped onto the hearts of humankind. Christ becomes the greatest benefit; we no longer look to personal gain as the evaluative tool of a relationship.

“Truth and love are two of the most powerful things in the world,” R. Cudworth preached, “and when they both go together they cannot easily be withstood.” The puritan caught a glimpse of the beauty of Christ’s love and it’s potential to transform our world, concluding:

O divine love! The sweet harmony of souls! The source of true happiness! The pure quintessence of heaven! That which reconciles the jarring principles of the world and makes them chime together! That which melt’s men’s hearts into one another!

Let us express this sweet harmonious affection in these jarring times; that so, if it be possible, we may tune the world into better music.

 
Today’s Reading
Proverbs 24 (Listen – 3:47)
1 Thessalonians 3 (Listen – 1:44)

 

20160405

The Glory of God

Walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. — 1 Thessalonians 2.12

“There are sunrises and sunsets, Alpine glories and ocean marvels which, once seen, cling to our memories throughout life,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached. “Yet even when nature is at her best she cannot give us an idea of the supernatural glory which God has prepared for his people.”

Spurgeon’s expression of God’s glory, like the prophecy Paul quotes to the Corinthians, is future-focused. While we, as Christians, hold to the hope, we cannot miss God’s glory all around us at present. Scripture calls us to walk in glory now—to embrace the glory of God that is woven into the hearts of women and men.

“We are the special object of God’s interest and concern,” said Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Recalibrating our hearts to the present glory of God is the key to embracing the future glory, Lloyd-Jones explains in his sermon, Walk With Him in the Glory:

He knew us even before we were born, before he ever made man or created the world, he had these people whom he had chosen, and there he gave them to the Son. As we have seen, there was a great meeting of the Trinity in eternity, and the Father gave these people to the Son and he sent him on this great mission of preparing them for the eternal enjoyment of God. That is what Christianity means, just that.

All along you have been the special object of God’s interest and concern; he has loved you to the extent that he even sent his Son from heaven to earth for you, even to the death of the cross that you might be truly one of his people, that you might have a new nature, a new life, that you might be fitted for standing before him and enjoying him throughout eternity.

It is tempting to acquire present glory through circumstance, possessions, and good works—but all of these can fail us. Present glory is, for the Christian, rooted outside of the self. In failure we are not robbed of dignity; in success we are not wrapped in pride.

“The brightest glory that really can come to anyone is the glory of character,” Surgeon concludes. “Thus God’s glory among men is his goodness, his mercy, his justice, his truth.”

Today’s Reading
Proverbs 23 (Listen – 3:39)
1 Thessalonians 2 (Listen – 2:53)

20160404

The Loving Wrath of God

Serve the living and true God, and wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. — 1 Thessalonians 1.9-10

“It isn’t that God happens to have a petulant thing about petty rules,” remarks N.T. Wright. Bishop Wright rebukes modern arguments which caricature the wrath of God as fits of rage, or revenge upon the very people he created. Yet, Wright cautions, “to throw away the reality because you don’t like the caricature is like cutting out the patient’s heart to stop a nosebleed.”

Doctrines which reject wrath often underestimate the brutality of evil. “If God is love, he must utterly reject, and ultimately deal with, all that pollutes, distorts, and destroys his world and his image-bearing creatures,” says Wright, continuing:

It simply won’t do, when faced with radical evil, to say, ‘Oh well, don’t worry, I will love you and forgive you anyway.’ That is not forgiveness; it is belittling the evil that has been done. Genuine forgiveness must first ‘exclude’, argues [Miroslav] Volf, before it can ’embrace’; it must name and shame the evil, and find an appropriate way of dealing with it, before reconciliation can happen. Otherwise we are just papering over the cracks.

God is not, by unleashing his wrath on sin, contradicting his love for humankind, but fulfilling it. A father who does not respond when his children are harassed and abused by an outsider is not loving. Wright explains:

The biblical doctrine of God’s wrath is rooted in the doctrine of God as the good, wise and loving creator, who hates—yes, hates, and hates implacably—anything that spoils, defaces, distorts or damages his beautiful creation, and in particular anything that does that to his image-bearing creatures.

If God does not hate racial prejudice, he is neither good nor loving. If God is not wrathful at child abuse, he is neither good nor loving. If God is not utterly determined to root out from his creation, in an act of proper wrath and judgment, the arrogance that allows people to exploit, bomb, bully, and enslave one another, he is neither loving, nor good, nor wise.

Scripture presents, Wright concludes, a “deep-rooted theology of the love of the triune God: not ‘God was so angry with the world that he gave us his son’ but ‘God so loved the world that he gave us his son’.”

 

Today’s Reading
Proverbs 22 (Listen – 2:59)
1 Thessalonians 1 (Listen – 1:27)

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Photo credit: Christiaan Triebert