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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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    • How to Form a Christian Mind in a Digital World

      Many have rightly warned that evangelicals are losing “a Christian mind” by neglecting the Bible and indiscriminately consuming secular materials informed by non-Christian ideas. But what if it’s not just the content we consume but also the medium in which we read it that poses a danger to our minds? In Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World, Maryanne Wolf makes a compelling case that our use of digital devices is changing the way we read, which in turn is profoundly altering the way we think—a chilling prospect for Christians, who believe that through his written Word, God renews our minds, enabling us to think in sanctified ways. Digital Challenges Although Wolf—a Tufts University professor who has studied the neurological processes involved in the act of reading—has no such spiritual concerns, she believes the stakes in our transition from a print to a digital culture are incredibly high. Again and again she confronts her readers with sobering questions: “Will new readers develop the more time-demanding cognitive processes nurtured by print-based mediums as they absorb and acquire new cognitive capacities emphasized by digital media?” “Will our youth develop such a passive response to knowledge that eventually the store of what they know and their ability to connect it through analogy and inference will be depleted?” “Will the combination of reading on digital formats and daily immersion in a variety of digital experiences . . . impede the formation of the slower cognitive processes such as critical thinking, personal reflection, imagination, and empathy that are part of deep reading?” “Will the quality of our attention change as we read on mediums that advantage immediacy, dart-quick task switching, and continuous monitoring of distraction . . . ?” Wolf obviously sees a strong possibility that the answers to these questions might be yes. The reason? In her early research, she studied what happens within the brain when we read. Eventually she became concerned about “how the circuitry of the reading brain would be altered by the unique characteristics of the digital medium, particularly in the young.” Her conclusion is that since the advent of the digital age, “we have already begun to change how we read—with all of its many implications for how we think.” Reading Brain On the opening page of the book, Wolf declares provocatively that “human beings were never born to read,” by which she means that reading isn’t something our brains are hardwired to do, such as seeing or communicating. Rather, reading is “an unnatural cultural invention” that we must learn. This we’re able to do since our brain cells can make myriad connections, leading to the formation in each emerging reader of a “reading circuit” that links centers of the brain concerned with such crucial tasks as vision, language, cognition, motor functions, and affective functions. However, she warns that digital devices pose a threat to the development of this mental circuitry—not because digital reading is fundamentally different from print reading, but because the digital medium deluges us with information in byte-sized chunks, promoting information overload and distraction. As evidence, Wolf notes that students today are demonstrating “diminishing familiarity with conceptually demanding prose.” Wolf sees numerous dangers here: shrinking attention spans that preclude “deep reading” (her term for focused, thoughtful reading), which in turn leads to failure to gain the empathy for others that reading engenders and the kind of personal store of knowledge that enables inference, deduction, and analogical thinking. Christians might perceive an overarching danger: a reduction in our ability to grasp God’s truth through deep reading of his Word. Clearly God created us with the capacity to learn the complex process of reading so that we might benefit from his written revelation, the Bible. But the Word of God is a challenging book, a prime example of “conceptually demanding prose” that requires attentive, reflective reading. Are we willing to let our digital pottage make us poorer students of this treasure? Reader Recommendations What is to be done? Wolf’s recommendation isn’t simply that young readers be denied exposure to digital devices—indeed, she is surprisingly open to their use—but that such exposure be meted out in careful doses. She urges parents of children up to age 5 to read to them often, giving them little access to digital devices. “Human interaction and physical interaction with books and print are the best entry into the world of oral and written language and internalized knowledge, the building blocks of the later reading circuit,” she writes. As for children 5 to 10 years of age, Wolf wants them develop a “biliterate brain” by learning in both print and digital mediums. Physical books are her preferred tool for reading instruction, while digital devices might be used to teach coding, programming, and creative skills such as graphic arts and musical composition. In other words, she envisions a two-track learning approach, with the understanding that students can safely combine print and digital media only when their mental reading circuits are firmly established around fourth grade. Thereafter, the goal is to prevent those circuits from atrophying. Digital Wisdom Whether many schools would agree to adopt such an approach, there is wisdom here for Christian parents, who must always be their children’s prime educators. If you’re a parent, read the Bible to your children from an early age, along with age-appropriate Bible storybooks and well-written (and well-illustrated) children’s books. As they grow, introduce them to classic literary works. Let them hear both biblical truth and also beautiful language. Through the exhausting early years of child-rearing, fight the terrible temptation to let a smartphone or tablet serve as a babysitter, much as parents a generation ago had to resist the siren song of TV. Keep books in your home for this purpose, whether owned or borrowed from the local library. Don’t let down your guard as your children acquire the ability to read for themselves. Help them find books that appeal to their expanding interests. When the time is right, these might include eBooks, but as much as possible help them use digital devices as tools for specific purposes, not as toys for relieving boredom. Hopefully by these means, we can raise up children who will be able to read and appreciate challenging texts, especially the Scriptures, which unfold the gospel of salvation through Christ. Meanwhile, we adults will do well to guard our own minds from the degenerative effects of the digital world. If Wolf is right—and her research seems sound and well-attested—such digital discipline is crucial for Christians who want to grow in their knowledge of God and his truth. View the full article

      in Christian Current Events

    • Unspeakably Evil: Trump Feeds Kids

      Un. Be. Lievable. The post Unspeakably Evil: Trump Feeds Kids appeared first on The Babylon Bee. View the original full article

      in Christian Satire

    • Trump Miraculously Feeds Multitudes With Just 5 Quarter Pounders, 2 Filet-O-Fish Sandwiches

      WASHINGTON, D.C.—According to stunned witnesses at the White House yesterday, President Trump somehow managed to feed an entire multitude with just five Quarter Pounders and two Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, miraculously multiplying the food until there was enough to go around for the entire Clemson football team. The post Trump Miraculously Feeds Multitudes With Just 5 Quarter Pounders, 2 Filet-O-Fish Sandwiches appeared first on The Babylon Bee. View the original full article

      in Christian Satire

    • Evangelism Must Explain What’s Wrong with the World

      People around us today often scoff at the notion of sin. Our world has new names for what ails us: poor self-esteem, neurosis, addiction, anxiety, psychological wounding, and so forth. It isn’t that these issues aren’t a reality; it’s that such analysis doesn’t go deep enough to reveal the root cause. Yet for all the protest that sin is an old-fashioned, outdated concept, nearly everyone agrees that something has gone terribly wrong and must be made right. We see the wrong in world wars, racism, genocides, terrorism, human trafficking, exploitation of children—and in our own personal battles evidenced in broken relationships, anger, addictions, and on and on. What happened that caused our planet to go from paradise to our present brokenness? And how can this explanation be good news for our unbelieving neighbors? First Rebellion In Genesis 3, we discover that, though Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, they rejected God’s rule and chose to be self-ruled when they disobeyed God’s command not to eat the fruit of that tree. As a result, sin entered the human race: there’s now no area of human personhood not infected by sin—even though we still reflect, however dimly, the image of God in which each human being is made. But the perfection God had established was broken, and human beings have been in the grip of sin ever since, as Genesis 4–11 so chillingly describes. Sin is such an all-inclusive reality that Paul says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Like Adam and Eve, all humans have chosen self-rule instead of God-rule. That means that everything we see around us and in us that’s so tragically wrong—natural disasters, famine, genocides, and all forms of personal brokenness—can be traced back to the time when humans first rebelled against God. Into that garden came the evil Serpent, whom Revelation identifies as “that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan” (Rev. 20:2). The Bible reveals the reality of Satan and other supernatural beings who have rebelled against God and who do their best to tempt human beings to sin. Although the Bible reveals various forms of evil—such as corporate, systemic evil or Satan and his demons—the Bible is clear that at the heart of sin is personal rebellion against God. Wages of Sin Over dinner, a skeptic psychiatrist friend described the typical problems that drive people to seek her help. Then she said, “But you’re a Christian, so you think the problem is that we’re all sinners!” I asked what she thought the biblical understanding of sin was, and she answered, “Oh, something along the lines of drugs, sex, and rock ’n roll?” What my friend didn’t grasp is that from the biblical perspective, sin at its core isn’t just misdeeds. The Bible locates sin at the very center of human personality. Sin could be described as having a God-complex: we get ourselves and God mixed up! We live as if we’re in charge. Sin is actually twofold: it’s the deliberate refusal to trust and worship God as God, and it’s the prideful claim to insist on the right to run our lives. Sin is both unbelief and idolatry, as we try to create meaning and identity by depending on things other than God. Biblically speaking, sin is always against God. That’s why we can’t understand sin’s true meaning without understanding that sin, first and foremost, is rebellion against a righteous God. What was the final outcome of human disobedience to God? When Adam and Eve turned away from God in rebellion, God declared to them his righteous judgment, just as he had promised. Suffering and death fell on the human race. The consequence of Adam and Eve’s rebellion was disastrous: the human race became catastrophically separated from the eternal love of God. The perfect trust and warm, intimate friendship they had enjoyed with God and with each other were destroyed; they lived instead under his judgment of death. God’s presence was removed and human beings experienced a spiritual separation from God they had never known. The predicament of fallen humanity is so serious, so grave, and so desperately wrong from within and without, that it’s beyond human ability to fix. Think about it: Can fallen human beings change the intrinsic structure of our sinful nature and remake our natures from the inside? Can we defeat Satan? Do we have the power to conquer death? Clearly we do not! Who then has the power to deliver and rescue us? Who can take what is so terribly wrong and make it right? Obviously, only a power that is stronger than ourselves can help us overcome ourselves. Nothing short of divine intervention can rectify our situation. Hope for the Broken We glimpse this divine intervention even in the garden of Eden. Although God banished Adam and Eve from the garden, he didn’t stop loving them, as we see when he tenderly made them better clothes than what they’d made for themselves, to protect them once they were outside the garden. Most important, in Genesis 3:14–15, God declares war on the serpent (Satan) and says that the offspring of the woman will crush the serpent’s head. The whole rest of the Old Testament points toward the coming of that promised offspring who would finally defeat Satan: Jesus the Savior, born of a woman named Mary. God will not allow the Enemy’s plan to harm his plan. This is the first promise of the gospel. The Bible reveals that before the beginning of time and the human revolt, God had already decided on his plan of how to rescue the planet that had turned from him (Titus 1:2; Eph. 3:11). He would send a Redeemer, Christ Jesus the divine Son of God, who would endure suffering and death in order to bring sinners back to God. Even in human rebellion, we see the promise of God’s grace. The good news of the gospel is that sin and judgment weren’t the end of the story! Though God owed us nothing, in his mercy and grace he sent his divine Son from heaven on a rescue mission to redeem a people for himself and to restore everything under Christ—“to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Eph. 1:10). Jesus now commands all believers to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). When we see the beauty and glory of the gospel, the victory won by the Son of God on our behalf and in our place, and the cosmic significance of all that Christ has accomplished, how can we possibly remain silent and keep this glorious news to ourselves? View the full article

      in Christian Current Events

    • Passing Through the Wilderness of this World

      by John Newton Dear Sir,
      I make no doubt but you have at times had pleasing reflections upon that promise made to the Israelites, "Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands." Deuteronomy 8:2 They were then in the wilderness, surrounded with difficulties, which were greatly aggravated by their own distrust and perverseness. They had experienced a variety of bitter dispensations, the design of which they could not as yet understand. They frequently lost sight of God's gracious purposes in their favor, and were much discouraged by reason of the difficulty of the way. To compose and animate their minds, Moses here suggests to them, that there was a future happy time drawing near, when their journey and warfare would be finished; that they would soon be put in possession of the promised land, and have rest from all their fears and troubles; and then it would give them pleasure to look back upon what they now found so uneasy to bear: "Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands." View the full article

      in Soteriology and Reformation Theology

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