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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
Swedish Government Denies Man's Request to Put Jesus' Name on License Plate, Says it Could 'Cause Offense'A Swedish man was denied the ability to put Jesus’ name on his license plate because officials said it could “cause offense.” View the full article
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
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
Call on the name of the Lord When one "called on the name of the Lord" in the Old Testament it referred to praying to YHWH[*1] as "the everlasting God" (Genesis 21:33). There are several passages in the New Testament that demonstrate when one calls upon the name of the Lord it is done in reference to praying to the Lord Jesus as YHWH (the everlasting God). [*1] Genesis 4:26 Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord. (NASB) NIDNOTTE: The very first prayer is mentioned in Gen 4:26: "At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD." Before that time "men" (Adam, Eve, Cain) conversed directly with the Lord (3:8-19; 4:6-7, 9, 10-15). Now, bridging the developing gap, people began to communicate with God through prayer (4:1062, Prayer, P. A. Verhoef). For other examples that demonstrate calling on the name of the Lord (or similar expressions) refers to praying to the Lord see Psalm 86:6-12; 99:5-6; 116:4; Jeremiah 29:12; Lamentations 3:55-57; Zephaniah 3:9. Acts 2:21 (cf. Joel 2:32)
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (ESV)
These words taken from Joel 2:32 in application to YHWH are also applied by Peter to the Lord Jesus.[*1] This demonstrates that Jesus equally shares the appellation of YHWH with the Father.[*2]
1. Stephen Motyer: The New Testament use of this expression is remarkable for the way in which it is applied to Jesus. Joel 2:32 is quoted in both Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13, but in both places "the Lord" is then identified as Jesus (Acts 2:36; Romans 10:14). The dramatic conviction of the first (Jewish) Christians was that Israel's worship needed to be redirected: people could no longer be saved by calling on Yahweh/Jehovah, the Old Testament name of God, but only on that of Jesus: "there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). To "call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:2) therefore means worshiping him with divine honors (Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Call, Calling).
2. George Ladd: This outpouring of the Holy Spirit will bring about a great day of salvation, and whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Lord in Joel refers to God, but Peter and the early church applied this to the exalted Jesus (The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, page 1128). [*1] Notice as well that Peter's sermon concludes with him once again applying "Lord" in reference to Jesus (Acts 2:36). F. F. Bruce: But the practical application here, as in Rom. 10:13 (where the same text is quoted), is to Jesus (The Acts of the Apostles, co. 1990, page 122). [*2] The divine work of pouring out the Holy Spirit is shared by the Father (Acts 2:17; cf. Joel 2:28) and the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:33). Acts 7:59-60 (59) And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
(60) And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (ESV)
1. Frederick Danker: Just as Israel was to understand her role as one of obedience to the God who saved her, so the Christian is to see the moral and ethical implications of this recognition of Christ's claim to ownership expressed so often in such a phrase as "Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus." Out of such conviction the iron of steadfast confession was smelted. As the stones came flying at Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (Acts 7:59) (Creeds in the Bible, page 45, c. 1966).
2. David Peterson: But he pointedly 'calls upon' the Lord Jesus in prayer instead of the Father, trusting him for salvation through death and beyond. Thus, he articulates his belief in the divinity of Christ. Then 'he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." Jesus prayed to the Father that those crucified him might be forgiven (Lk. 23:34), and Stephen prays for the forgiveness of those stoning him, once again addressing Jesus as Lord (The Acts of the Apostles, Pillar New Testament Commentary, page 269).
3. William Mounce: Jesus is the addressee when epikaleō is used in the sense of praying (Acts 7:59) (Mounce's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Call, page 93).
4. J. Jeremias: Stephen prays: kurie Iesou dezai to pneuma mou (Ac.7:59) (TDNT 5:771, paradeisos).
5. W. E. Vine: Prayer is properly addressed to God the Father, Matt. 6:6; John 16:23; Eph. 1:17; 3:14, and the Son, Acts 7:59; 2 Cor. 12:8 (Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Prayer, page 872).
6. Marvin Vincent: An unquestionable prayer to Christ.
http://www.godrules.net/library/vincent/vincentact7.htm There are several important points concerning Stephen's prayer to the Lord Jesus in Acts 7:59-60:
1. The worship of the Father and the worship of the Lord Jesus is demonstrated by Luke in Christ's prayer to the Father (Luke 23:34, 46) and in Stephen's prayer to Christ (Acts 7:59-60). Some try to evade the fact that the Lord Jesus is being prayed to by pointing out that Stephen was experiencing a vision of the Lord Jesus so it really doesn't constitute a prayer. However, the vision took place in the city while the prayer took place after he was "cast out of the city" (Acts 7:58). Others have claimed that since Paul appealed (epikaloumai) to Caesar (Acts 25:11) it doesn't mean that when Stephen called (epikaloumenon) to the Lord Jesus prayer is involved. To this it is answered that in Acts 7:59 the Lord Jesus heard what Stephen said at that very moment. The same can not be said concerning Caesar's ability to hear what Paul spoke at that precise moment. One must consider how the Greek word is used in context. Indeed, concerning the Greek word deomai (Strong's #1189) we see that in Luke 9:40 a man "begged" (deomai) Christ's disciples. This doesn't mean he prayed to them even though deomai is used in Luke 10:2 concerning praying (deomai) to the Lord of the harvest. Notice as well that Paul's verbal appeal to Caesar pales in significance to what Stephen expressed. Stephen called out to the Lord Jesus to receive his spirit. This carries with it the idea that the Lord Jesus is God the Creator (see Ecclesiastes 12:7 below). In addition to this is the fact that the Lord Jesus, being the Heart-knower of all, fully knew what Stephen was going to say even before he spoke. This is a powerful proof of His Deity. Stephen prayed to the Lord Jesus, but Paul did not pray to Caesar. Still others maintain that Stephen prayed to the Lord Jesus in Acts 7:59 but that he prayed to the Father in Acts 7:60. This assertion is really absurd. While the rocks mercilessly pummeled Stephen there is no need for him to say the "Lord Jesus" when he already clearly did so in Acts 7:59. Acts 9:14
And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name. (ESV)
1. Allen P. Ross: In the NT the word is used is many of the same ways as in the OT, but most notable is the way that the name of Jesus is substituted for the name of God. Now one can call on (i.e., worship) the name of Jesus (Acts 9:14) (NIDOTTE 4:151, name - shem).
2. Barclay Newman and Eugene Nida: The phrase call on your name is equivalent to "worship you" (A Translator's Handbook on The Acts of the Apostles, Acts 9:14, page 191).[*1] 3. Daniel Whedon: A clear declaration that the very peculiarity of the Christian was praying to Jesus.
http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/acts-9.html#1 4. J. C. O'Neill: To call on the name of the Lord Jesus was to worship the God of Israel (The Use of KYRIOS in the Book of Acts, Scottish Journal of Theology, Volume 8, Issue 2, c. June, 1955, page 172). [*1] Calling upon the name of the Lord (Acts 9:14) also means to believe in the Lord (Acts 22:19). Acts 9:14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name. (ESV) Acts 22:19 And I said, Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. (ESV) If anyone claims to believe in Jesus but refuses to worship Jesus then they do not believe in the biblical Jesus (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:4). Indeed, just as believing in God with all of one's household implies the worship of God (Acts 16:34), so too does believing in the Lord Jesus with all of one's household imply the worship of the Lord Jesus (Acts 18:8).
All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, "Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?" (NASB - the underlined is mine) Galatians 1:23 but only, they kept hearing, "He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy." (NASB - the underlined is mine) Jude 1:3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. (NASB - the underlined is mine) 1. Praying to the Lord Jesus as YHWH (Acts 9:21)[*1] is equated with "the faith" (Galatians 1:23)[*2] that Christians must "contend earnestly for" (Jude 1:3). Those who refuse to pray to the Lord Jesus as YHWH do not belong to the Christian faith for their faith/gospel is accursed (Galatians 1:8-9).[*3] [*1] Those who have been sanctified by faith in Christ Jesus are the same ones who have called upon His name as YHWH in prayer. Acts 26:18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me. (NASB - the underlined is mine) 1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours. (NASB - the underlined is mine) [*2] The same Greek word (portheo) is employed for "destroyed" in Acts 9:21 and "destroy" in Galatians 1:23. [*3] Concerning "the faith" in Galatians 1:23 the BDAG (3rd Edition) reads: If the principal component of Christianity is faith, then p. can be understood as the Gospel in terms of the commitment it evokes (pistis, page 820). Acts 22:16-21 (The Lord of the temple) (16) Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’
(17) “It happened when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I fell into a trance,
(18) and I saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’
(19) And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in You.
(20) And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving, and watching out for the coats of those who were slaying him.’
(21) And He said to me, ‘Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” (NASB) Although occurring at different times both of Paul's prayers to the Lord Jesus are brought together by Luke in Acts 22:16-17. Paul calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus in prayer (Acts 22:16) and immediately afterwards he is praying in the temple (Acts 22:17).[*1] That the Lord Jesus responds (Acts 22:18) implies Paul was praying to Him on both occasions (Acts 22:16-17). [*1] David Peterson: Moreover, Paul's vision implies that the risen Jesus is Lord of the temple, who reveals his will and commissions his servant in that context for his mission to the nations. The parallel with Isaiah's call in Isaiah 6 becomes all the more stunning when it is realised that the risen Lord Jesus takes the roll of 'the Lord God Almighty' in directing Paul and warning him about the opposition he will receive (cf. the recollection of Is. 6:9-10 in Acts 28:24-28) (The Acts of the Apostles, Pillar New Testament Commentary, page 604-605). There are further similarities when we compare the missions given by the Lord to both Isaiah and to Paul while he was in the temple (the underlined below is mine). Isaiah 42:6-7 (6) I am the LORD, I have called You in righteousness,
I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You,
And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the nations, (7) To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the dungeon
And those who dwell in darkness from the prison. (NASB) Acts 26:17-18 (17) rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you,
(18) to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me. (NASB) Notice as well that the Lord will watch over Isaiah (Isaiah 42:6) and in like manner rescue Paul (Acts 26:17). The nations (Isaiah 42:6) to whom the light will be sent refers to the Gentiles (Acts 26:17). Before their conversion they were prisoners in the dungeon (Isaiah 42:7) which means they were under the dominion of Satan (Acts 26:18). That God called Isaiah to bring them out (Isaiah 42:7) parallels the message Paul would preach of being forgiven/set free from one's sins by faith in Christ (Acts 26:18).