Monday, October 18, 2004

Jamming Cell Phones in Church

This is a great little article about the growing use of cell phone blockers in various public places-most notably in a few churches. One of the priest’s comments is telling. He tells the journalist that people seem to no longer understand that Mass is about communication with God, not with your cell phone. True to our fiercely independent nature, the U.S. is apparently the only country where these blockers are illegal.

I think this raises another opportunity to think about the usage of media and technology in a church service. Specifically, what makes the use of one technology obtrusive and the use of another helpful? I think we typically accept some media as helpful without reflecting, and conversely, we take some forms of technology as distracting without reflecting. For instance, is there a way cell phones can be a benefit, and not a distraction? I don’t think so. Is there the chance that the media we typically use can be a distraction rather than a benefit? I think that possibility exists.

Have you ever found yourself toggling between a large-screen projection of a speaker and the speaker him or herself? I know the projection screens can help in large venues, but in a venue where you can see the person without aid, the screen can be an extreme distraction. Additionally, it adds to the level of separation between the speaker and the listener. Have you ever found yourself reading a power-point presentation instead of listening and reflecting on the worship song or sermon? I know power-point helps people learn words to songs they don’t know, but so does involvement and repetition. While media can be helpful in a handful of ways, it often serves to separate us from engagement with what is going on in the service.

This is not intended to be an invective against all media in worship services, but I do think we should be a little more reflective from time to time. Some churches are actually spending money to eliminate technology; maybe we should reflect on what is sometimes an unquestioning use of the latest and greatest gadget.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Oswald Chambers and Relevance

This statement by Oswald Chambers is striking.

The key to the missionary’s work is the authority of Jesus Christ, not the needs of the lost.

It puts our service to God in the right perspective, I believe. If we serve people, we are tempted to loose sight of the Sovereign and He Who is truly worthy of our time and worship. If we rightly and properly serve God at all times in all activities, we will find ourselves loving and serving His creation.

Perspective is everything when it comes to relevance.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Article on Conflicting Trends in Christian Thought

This is a good, and I think, largely true article outlining some of the fundamental differences in Christian thought today. What the author calls "ecstatic" could be largely replaced with "postmodern" in that they both have their philophical roots sunk in many of the same fields.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Thinking about Wales, II

A bit more philosophy-this is a supplement to the Wales thought experiment.

Consider in the context of Metaphysical Naturalism and the Argument from Design, Paley’s famous watch and watchmaker argument. The traditional argument states that if we found a watch assembled in all of its complexity on the beach, it would not only be natural for us to assume a mind behind the design, it would be appropriate. Additionally, let us add what I am calling the “time-telling” assumption. The watch is ticking off seconds, minutes, and hours accurately. It is my argument that we are not justified in believing that it is telling time accurately unless there is a non-natural, non-deceptive agent behind the design (and time-setting) of the watch.

The fact that the watch conveys knowledge of the time of day is significant. Working from a classical notion of knowledge as justified, true belief, the watch can only convey knowledge if it is assembled and calibrated by an intelligent, intentional mind. Removing the assumption of the time-telling characteristic of the watch, we are left with a traditional argument from design that relies on the probabilities of the complexity of the watch coming from chaos and depending only on natural processes. However, if we return the time-telling assumption to the argument, we not only retain the probabilistic aspects of the argument, we add an inference totally separate from mathematics and nature.

Here is the basic form of the argument I am working with. First, even if natural processes are able to assemble a watch that runs, and even if that watch happens to be in alignment with the sun, we have no good reason to justify the belief that the watch is a time-telling watch. This case is similar to the example of me saying, “I believe it is 60 degrees Fahrenheit in Bejing right now” and we then look up the temperature, and it just happens to be 60 degrees in Bejing. I believed it to be true and it happened to be true, but it was not justifiable and therefore was not knowledge. Without the proper justification for believing the watch is a time-telling watch, we do not have the knowledge that the watch is telling time.

What provides the proper justification is the intentional act of a non-deceptive mind; the justification can only be provided by a non-natural entity and a non-natural property. What happens within a closed, naturalistic system lacks intentionality and propositional properties that make rational inference work. Hence, if we do not have the propositional force of a statement like, “the watchmaker assembled the watch and tuned it to the proper time of day,” we are not able to make the rational inference, “this watch is a time-telling watch.” What we would be left with in this metaphysically closed naturalistic system is no rational justification either way. If we lack the force of propositional content to make arguments work, we would lack the rational inference required to justify either, 1) This watch is a time-telling watch, or, 2) This watch is not a time-telling watch.

To make what would probably be a long and complex argument short, I believe we can find from the time-telling assumption that knowledge itself is not possible if we live in a metaphysically naturalistic universe.

Postmodern Church/Christian Idolatry

When God gave the Ten Commandments, the second was about not making idols. When we get to places like 1 Thessalonians 1, Paul commends the believers for turning to God from idols. God made it clear in the OT, and the apostles upheld the teaching, that idolatry was wrong in all its forms. Have you ever asked the question, “Why didn’t God just say something like, ‘Don’t make idols of those false gods. Instead, make idols of Me, the true God.’”? In other words, why didn’t God tell His people in the middle of very idolatrous cultures to simply be Monotheistic Idolaters, or Christian Idolaters?

It is because there are parts of culture which cannot be redeemed. We cannot take some things from the surrounding culture, add the adjective “Christian,” and be OK. If the Thessalonians had become “Christian Idolaters,” they would have been more idolaters than Christians. The right way for them to be different from the surrounding culture was not to be idolaters in a Christian way, but to not be idolaters at all.

So what now? Obviously it is a difficult and complex task to look at our culture in that way, but it is a requirement. Pastors are fond of saying that Christianity is not easy-most of them have probably not meant that the faith is intellectually difficult. But it is.

As one offering on my part for what falls into the category of “unredeemable cultural bit,” I offer postmodernism. When one understands what postmodernism really means, I think they will come to the conclusion that postmodernism and the church are diametrically opposed on all important matters. (I have written quite a bit on this in this blog, and will unquestionably write more.) If a church or a person were to become “Postmodern Christians” they are either not actually postmodern, or they are not Christian at all. I know it is popular to be a “Postmodern Church,” but popularity has very little to do with truth or goodness.