Will Christianity become extinct?

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Doubts about the Gospel

Are we members of the incredible shrinking religion? If you were to listen to the news media and the pessimists, you would think so. The leftists in our country would love nothing more than to relegate Christianity to the dustbin of history and have everyone live in a more “enlightened” mode.

We are criticized for living by an antiquated book and an out-dated system of teaching. The more “enlightened” are more “liberal” and more “open-minded.” The two biggest challenges, I perceive, over the next few decades will be the church’s position on homosexuality and our position on a limited role for women in worship. Some churches are already relinquishing Christ’s teachings on the latter; it won’t be long before the former is also brushed over.

But, will Christianity become extinct? Not hardly. Christ’s teachings have been a major, driving force for good in the world for nearly 2,000 years. What has ever seriously challenged the pragmatism and spiritual richness of Christianity?

The Communists of a generation ago thought communism and marxism would replace Christianity. Yet, when the “wall” fell, there was a great “swooshing” sound as the Gospel re-entered those very nations. Why?

First, because man’s greatest problem is sin. So many deny it but that is the reality. Listen to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Paul’s culture was not so very different from our own.

Secondly, Christianity will also remain relevant because it is God’s religion. Christianity is Christ working in me. No other religion or philosophy can claim that. No other religion has the power of the Holy Spirit working through it. No other religion has written communication from God as its foundation. No other religion has a resurrected Savior as its power.

Our faith cannot rest in men. It must rest in the power of God, the same God who brought Israel out of Egypt on the wings of eagles. The same God who brought the walls of Jericho crumbling down. The same God who kept Daniel alive in the midst of lions.

To the Thessalonians, Paul wrote: “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (2 Thess. 1:11).

Don’t lose faith in the Gospel message. It still is the power of God to save (Romans 1:16).

–Paul Holland

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Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.

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The NT Use of the OT

You do not get very far into the New Testament before you are referred back to the Old Testament: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). Who is David? Who is Abraham? What is their relationship to Jesus Christ? The phrase “son of David” is found ten times in Matthew; six times in the rest of the New Testament. Obviously, the phrase is significant for Matthew’s purpose in writing his gospel. In contrast, the phrase “son of Abraham” is found only four times in the New Testament (once in Matthew, here) and one of those refers to Christians (Gal. 3:7).

Depending on the count, there might be anywhere from 300 to 400 quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament. We’re not exactly sure because sometimes we’re not always sure what translation the writer is quoting – the Hebrew, Greek, and what version. On top of that, there are somewhere between 600 and 1,600 (by some counts as many as 4,000) allusions to the Old Testament in the New. That makes the Old Testament extremely significant to the study and understanding of the New Testament.

Daniel Wallace, in his book Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, points out that the New Testament writers wrote in conversational Greek, in a “largely Semitic” style, with a vocabulary shared by ordinary documents of that time, although “heavily influenced at times by the LXX [Greek translation of the Old Testament, p.h.] and the Christian experience.” Relative to the Semitic (Jewish) style, Wallace observes “almost all of the writers of the NT books are Jews, their style of writing is shaped both by their religious heritage and by their linguistic background” (pg. 29).

It is too easy, as we Christians read and study the New Testament, to simply look over Old Testament quotations and allusions. We might acknowledge they are such but not go into any depth in studying why the author quoted or alluded to such a passage. For the serious Bible student, such is unacceptable.

To help remedy that tendency, G. K. Beale has written a helpful book, Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Some of the material is too in-depth for the average student, but for serious students, there is much to be gleaned.

Beale begins by addressing “Challenges to Interpreting the Use of the Old Testament in the New.” This chapter is largely directed to scholars. The interesting and helpful material begins in chapter two: “Seeing the Old Testament in the New: Definitions of Quotations and Allusions and Criteria for Discerning Them.” Then he gives an approach with nine steps to interpreting the use of the Old by the New:

1. Identify the Old Testament reference. Is it a quotation or an allusion?
2. Analyze the broad NT context of the reference. How is the author using it?
3. Analyze the Old Testament context. This might be the primary weakness in our studies.
4. Survey the use of the OT text in early and late Judaism. The typical Bible class teacher could not do much in this regard, but if a passage is found in early Israelite history (such as the Law of Moses), then see if it is found in later writings (such as the prophets). How is it then so used?
5. Compare the texts and take note of any differences. New Testament writers will often change some wording, even mixing quotations from the Old Testament. For example, when Peter, in Acts 2:17ff, quotes Joel 2:28, he begins the quotation actually with words from Isaiah 2:2! Personally, I am convinced that Peter (guided by the Holy Spirit) sees Pentecost as a fulfillment, both of Joel 2 and of Isaiah 2!
6. Analyze the NT author’s use of the OT. Here, Beale means, does the author use the Hebrew OT, the Greek translation, or something else?
7. Analyze the author’s use of the OT as it fits his context.
8. Analyze the author’s use of the OT relative to its theology.
9. Analyze the author’s use of the words and argumentation of the OT.

Obviously, some of these steps would be difficult for someone without the time or access to the sources Beale cites. But, in doing the steps that you are capable of doing, it will enrich your studies, strengthen your audience, and bolster your faith in the Scriptures. They are truly one book! (If this type of study does interest you, then obtain a copy of Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament coedited by Beale and D. A. Carson).

–Paul Holland

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What the World was like in First-Century Palestine

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Views on Scholarship

Life in Year One by Scott Korb Is an interesting book dealing with “What the World was like in First-Century Palestine” (its subtitle). There was not much in it that I had not already learned. Years ago, as a part of our “Hermeneutics” class at Faulkner, under Wendell Winkler, we were required to read and outline a book by brother Wayne Jackson: Background Bible Study.

Jackson’s book may not be written on the same level as Korb’s, but it is, nevertheless, just as helpful, if not more so. Korb writes for the modern person, making references to Madonna, for example. It is an inexpensive, paperback book.

I was not familiar with Korb but, according to his biography on the back cover, he received a graduate degree from Union Theological Seminary. I likely would not have bought the book myself (it was a gift). With some knowledge of church history, I know Union is a theologically liberal university – rejecting belief in the resurrection, for example, or the virgin birth.

As I read Korb’s book, I observed he quoted extensively from a J. D. Crossan. Few of you probably have heard of Crossan. Perhaps you have heard of the Jesus Seminar. It is a group of “scholars” who think they have come up with a method of deciding which statements of Jesus in the Gospels are actually authentic, which might be authentic, and which probably are not authentic. If that is Crossan’s view, you can guess what theological position Korb is coming from since the latter never refutes any position of the former.

To give you an idea of Korb’s views, he uses “biblical continuity problems” as a euphemism for “biblical contradictions.” He accepts that there are such. It does not take much “scholarship” to see that supplementary information is not contradictory information. To show that Korb does subscribe to (at least some of) Crossan’s views, he makes this statement: “whether you believe Jesus ever said these things about the Sabbath…” (pg. 81; fn 6). He does not suggest that he believes Jesus said those things.

He also mishandles the Scriptures in ways like the following… He says there is no archaeological evidence that there was a synagogue in Nazareth (pg. 156) in the first century. Luke explicitly says that Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth (4:16). As Korb has left it, the reader would draw the conclusion that Luke just made stuff up. There goes your trust in the Word of God. Relative to archaeology, the absence of evidence is not the same thing as the evidence of absence.

Which brings me to my point. I appreciate Christians who want to do further study into the archaeological, historical, cultural background of biblical passages. The danger is that we can be influenced in ways we do not suspect. There is an even greater danger in passing along such material to non-Christians or uninformed / weak Christians who do not know what is wheat and what is chaff. It is books and teachings like Korb’s and Crossan’s that have undermined the faith of this generation. No wonder 52% of Americans believe Jesus sinned just like everyone else! They’ve been putting garbage into their minds.

We in the New Testament church have lots of scholars who have written on practically everything you can imagine. Just because their books aren’t carried in your local Barnes and Noble does not mean that brethren in the church are ignorant, unformed themselves, or have nothing to contribute to scholarship. Just to give an example, brother Everett Ferguson’s book Backgrounds of Early Christianity is excellent (as is Jackson’s book).

Brethren in the Lord’schruch have excellent commentaries on most books of the Bible. Just because David Lipscomb did not write “scholarly” or interact with the “scholars” of his day does not mean he can’t contribute to your understanding of Scripture. Be careful that you don’t compare his weak comments to a Protestant’s strong comments and come away thinking that Lipscomb did not know what he was doing, writing a commentary. Every commentary has its weaknesses. I am thankful that contemporary brethren are (finally) putting together a commentary series on the whole Bible, Truth for Today. You may want to add those to your library.

It is disappointing to hear preachers say that there are no good scholars in the church. That statement is made in ignorance or through some type of snobbery or something else. But it is, to be sure, made in ignorance. There are many preachers who are scholarly, even if they do not have a graduate degree.

If you are wanting to do further research in some area, why not start with material written by your faithful brethren? Call a Christian book store (like Gospel Advocate or FHU’s bookstore; chulavistabooks.com or hesterpublications.com) and ask for recommendations. Ask your preacher. E-mail me.

There is plenty of good Protestant material that will help strengthen your faith and knowledge too. You just have to be more careful with their material.

Either way, continue studying and increasing in your own scholarship (2 Peter 3:18).

–Paul Holland

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Burning Hearts: Preaching to the Affections

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Preaching to the Affections

Following His resurrection, Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Early on, they did not realize they were speaking with Him since “their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him” (Luke 24:16). While on that trip, Jesus explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures, beginning with Moses (vs 27). Wouldn’t you have loved to been listening to Christ talk about Himself?

Eventually, their eyes were opened, they recognized Who He was and then He vanished from their sight. Then, they marveled, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” (vs 32).

What a wonderful thought! What a tremendous challenge for preachers and teachers of the word – to explain the Scriptures in such a way that the audience’s heart “burns within them.” How can we accomplish that?

Josh Moody and Robin Weekes set out to help us learn how in their book Burning Hearts: Preaching to the Affections. At first sight, you might think the book was about preaching in such a way that the audience leaves filled with “fluff” but no substance. You might picture a man preaching in loafers, blue jeans, and a button-up. But that’s not at all what they intend.

In fact, in their conclusion, they emphasize: “We should not lower our commitment to biblical scholarship, critical thinking, careful exegesis, one iota. …[W]e should direct that message, according to the authentic genuine message of the passage, towards the hearers so that they (and we) have our hearts warmed, changed and moved towards life, to the praise and glory of God” (pg. 136).

First, they define “affections.” “Preaching to the affections means preaching that targets the heart” (pg. 15), which they appropriately define (biblically) so as to include the emotions, thoughts, and will.

Next, they discuss preaching. They believe “the systematic, continuous exposition of the Scriptures is the most faithful way of preaching the Bible and ought, therefore, to be the staple diet of Christ’s church” (pg. 25). In other words, the main point of the sermon ought to be the main point of the selected passage.

Third, they talk about why we should preach to the affections. Then, they follow that with a discussion of how to preach to the affections: Find the affections in your selected text; Think of Christ through the text; Probe the heart from the text. (“We must remember that words, including sermons, do things to us – and not just on an emotional level. They educate, warn and encourage – not just make me feel happy or sad” pg. 57).

Preach the “pathos” of the passage – the emotions which the passage draws out, whether rejoicing, crying, or anger. Learn from those who preach to the affections.

At the end of the book, the authors give four sermons they have preached, with notes from each other in the text, interacting with the sermon to help the reader understand how to apply what they have presented.

If you get the opportunity, the book (it’s only 136 pages) could be beneficial in making you a better preacher or teacher. If we can get our audience’s “hearts to burn” within them, maybe their lives will be impacted for eternity.

–Paul Holland

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Once you graduate from high school, you will have been in school for 15,120 hours.

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In What Grade are You?

Once you graduate from high school, you will have been in school for 15,120 hours. That’s not including kindergarten or pre-school. 1,260 hours each year for twelve years.

If you become a Christian at 15 years old and only study the Bible one hour each week during worship (no Bible study at home), you will have to live to be 306 years old to get the same amount of “education” in the Bible as you get in school.

If you become a Christian at 15 years old and only study the Bible at church – let’s say you come to all four hours of worship & Bible study – you will have to live to be 88 years old to get the same amount of “education” in the Bible as you get in school (assuming you do not study at home).

Now do you wonder why you might not know as much about the Bible as you wish? Do you now understand why you cannot recall certain Bible verses from memory that you wish you could?

If you want to know God’s word better and more thoroughly, here’s the plan (grab your Bible and a notebook):

Step one: Learn the context of the passage. Read the whole book at one time.
Step two: Choose ten verses or so on which to focus.
Step three: Read that passage thoroughly, from different translations, even in different languages if you can.
Step four: Analyze the sentence structure and the flow of the passage. Diagram the sentences or thoughts.
Step five: Analyze the grammar. Observe the verbs. Are they stating something? Or commanding something? Are they in the past, present, or future?
Step six: Analyze significant words. Do they need more study? How are they used elsewhere in the letter/book?
Step seven: Research the historical & cultural background of any people, events, customs, etc. Online Bible encyclopedias would help.
Step eight: What are the broad theological themes presented?
Step nine: Consult commentaries from the church’s library on any questions.
Step ten: Ask yourself: What was the purpose of the paragraph for the first audience? Now, you know the purpose of the paragraph for you. Put it into practice.

Follow these ten steps throughout a whole book/letter and you’ll see your Bible knowledge grow exponentially.

–Paul Holland

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Sermons on pride

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Serve Like Jesus

Pride is the besetting sin of the human race. It is even a great scourge among God’s own children. On the road to Jerusalem (for Jesus to be crucified), the apostles were arguing over who would be the greatest (Mark 10:35-45). In that context, Jesus told them, “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

The apostles did not internalize that message. A day or so later, in the upper room, after “celebrating” the Lord’s Supper, “there arose a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest” (Luke 22:24). Were they listening? The problem was, they were human.

So, God-in-the-flesh got up from supper (John 13:1ff), laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. Washing the feet of others was so low a task that only Gentile servants would do such a thing. But God-in-the-flesh came to serve, as He had emphasized to these hard-headed disciples. So, He demonstrates for them what He means.

He pours water into the basin and begins washing. He comes to the impetuous Peter, who says, “Do you wash my feet?” Surely, not. Is Peter appearing to be more spiritual than God-in-the-flesh? Is he trying to “out-Christianize” Christ? Is he trying to be more spiritual than the Eternal Spirit? Pseudo-spirituality, pride masquerading as Christianity, is repulsive and obvious to everyone around.

Is Peter trying to protect Jesus’ image? Rabbis did not wash feet. Did Peter think it was beneath the dignity of Jesus to be washing feet? Maybe he would have washed them if he had thought he could get some praise or recognition for it. We know the apostles had a false idea of Who Jesus was. But we don’t create Jesus after our image (see 2 Cor. 11:4). We form our character after His image.

The reason Peter stopped Jesus was pride. He simply did not want Jesus doing this act on him. But, after Jesus’ chastisement, Peter repented and asked Jesus to wash his hands and his feet.

“If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (John 13:14-15).

The message Jesus is conveying is that we should serve one another, regardless who gets the credit. Even menial tasks, non-glorious tasks.

He is not teaching that foot-washing is a permanent ordinance in His church. There is no mention of foot-washing by the apostles or other first-century Christians in the New Testament except the widows in 1 Timothy 5:10. Early Christians did not understand this practice to be an aspect of Christian worship since it was not performed until about the 4th century. Additionally, the context of John 13 is service, not worship. All of service to God glorifies Him. All of worship glorifies Him. But service is not worship and worship is not service.

Serve, like Jesus served. “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (John 13:17).

–Paul Holland

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In my next life, I want to be a bear…

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IN MY NEXT LIFE

You may have seen this bit of humor making it’s way around the Internet:

In my next life, I want to be a bear…

If you’re a bear, you get to hibernate. You do nothing but sleep for six months. I could deal with that.

Before you hibernate, you’re supposed to eat yourself stupid. I could deal with that, too.

If you’re a bear, you birth your children while you’re sleeping (who are the size of walnuts) and wake to partially grown, cute cuddly cubs. I could deal with that in a big way.

If you’re a mama bear, everyone knows you mean business. You swat anyone who bothers your cubs. If your cubs get out of line, you swat them too. I could deal with that.

If you’re a bear, your mate EXPECTS you to wake up growling. He EXPECTS that you will have hairy legs and excess body fat.

Yup…gonna be a bear!

I admit it sounds tempting — especially the part about being able to eat and sleep (and growl!). But for those of us who are Christians, here’s something even BETTER than lies ahead. What could possibly be better than that?

How about a life where there’s no more pain and no more heartache? A family reunion where you’re surrounded by people who all have a heart for God. A place where you don’t have to live in fear and suspicion. A place where all your needs are met. An eternity in the arms of your heavenly Father.

“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev. 21:3-5a)

I don’t know about you, but in my next life, I don’t want to be a bear……I want to be with God!

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

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The Inspiration of the Bible – 2 Timothy 3:16

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2 Timothy 3:16-17:
In this classic text on the origin of Scripture, the apostle Paul writes: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Observe that the word “inspiration” means, as it is translated by the ESV, “breathed out by God.” It means to in spire or “breathe in” the message from God to man. Keep that definition in mind…

2 Peter 1:20-21:
In this second text, the apostle Peter writes, “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Observe here that men who spoke from God were “carried along” by the Holy Spirit. God is the ultimate cause and the Scriptures are the result, authoritative result.

INSPIRATION ILLUSTRATED IN THE OT:
Deuteronomy 18:18 – “I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” That is inspiration. And, observe, it is God’s words; not “God’s thoughts.”

Again, from the lips of King David: 2 Samuel 23:2 – “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; his word is on my tongue.” God’s word was on David’s tongue. That means that the Hebrew words that are found in the writings of David are the words that God chose from the vocabulary of David to present the message God wanted presented.

Sixty-four times the NT quotes the OT with the expression “it is written” (perfect tense).

INSPIRATION ILLUSTRATED IN THE NT:
In 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter places Paul’s writings into the same category of inspired writings as those of the Old Testament: “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”

In 1 Corinthians 2:13, Paul writes that the Spirit guided him to write down the Spirit’s [God’s] thoughts in human language, specifically human words: “we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.”

So, the words that Paul used were chosen from his vocabulary to present the message that God wanted presented. That means that if we want to know what Paul wrote, we’ve got to have a translation that accepts and follows this view of inspiration – word-translation or literal translation. That being true, we cannot make up definitions of biblical words! We’ve got to let the Bible define them and we’ve got to stick with that definition.

–Paul Holland

 

 

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The United Nations is not calling upon the Church for advice in the solution of its problems.

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Some Historical Perspective – Part 1

“The Christian Church today often has an inferiority complex. A few generations ago the pastor of a church was the most educated and respected leader in the community. There was a day when, because of this cultural situation, the Church exercised the predominant influence in the structure of Western community life. That day has long passed. We have often felt that the world has thrust the Church into a corner and passed us by. The Church does not count in the world at large. The United Nations is not calling upon the Church for advice in the solution of its problems. Our political leaders do not often depend upon leaders in the Church for their guidance. Science, industry, labour, education: these are the circles where wisdom and leadership are usually sought. The Church is brushed aside. Sometimes we get the feeling that we really do not count. We are on the margin of influence, we have been pushed over on to the periphery instead of standing squarely in the centre; and we pity ourselves and long for the world to pay attention to us. Thus we fall into a defensive attitude and attempt to justify our existence. Indeed, our main concern seems often to be that of self-preservation, and we assume a defeatist interpretation of our significance and of our role in the world!”

When was that paragraph written? In 1959. At the end of a decade which modern people tend to think was a great decade for being pro-family, pro-morals, pro-Christianity. It was written by Dr. George Ladd in his book The Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God.

Following the Supreme Court ruling on June 26th that legalized homosexual marriages, it is easy to believe that that date marks the beginning of the end of Christianity in America, the beginning of the end of the United States of America. Even self-professed Christians have begun playing taps, even suggesting this decision must mean that the world is going to end soon. How can God let this stuff go on any longer!!!

Let’s take a breath and get some historical perspective. Certainly, the United States of America has been (and still is in many ways) a wonderful contribution to the history of mankind. America has been wealthy and very productive, blessed by God, because her leaders largely blessed God, in giving Him credit for her successes.

But the United States is an aberration in the 8,000+ year history of mankind. The United States of America and its largely pro-Christian history is a historical fluke. The overall thrust of human history is antagonism and animosity of the world against believers in God. Think of the Philistines, Canaanites, Moabites, Midianites, Ammonites. God’s people have usually and historically been a persecuted minority.

Think of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. The church of Christ was established during the days of the Roman Empire when immorality was as widespread if not more than in the U. S. today. The church grew and thrived in an immoral environment. In fact, it was because the Empire was so immoral that Christianity attracted many people.

Following the Roman Empire, we have the Holy Roman Empire and Christianity was still the persecuted minority. The Ottoman Empire. Even during the Protestant Reformation movement, in each country which developed a state religion, New Testament Christianity was still the persecuted minority.

The rest and reprieve that Christianity has had in the United States of America for the past 239 years has been the exception, not the rule, in 8,000 years of human history.

Let us thank God for that; vote in ways that will return to that; but keep our hearts and eyes focused on Christ’s Nation (see 1 Peter 2:9). More perspective coming soon…

–Paul Holland

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Digital Natives

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“Digital natives” is a phrase I’ve just encountered. I find that the term has been around since 2003, and refers to anyone born after 1980. What makes this group of people different is that screens have always been a part of their lives (generally speaking). They’ve cut their teeth, so to speak, on information and entertainment conveyed by computer monitors, smart phones, and digital readers.

At first that might not sound too significant. My own generation was the first to grow up with telephones and televisions; was that so bad? Arguments pro and con could be suggested, but most of my generation feel we’ve developed in a normal manner.

An article recently published on Fastcodesign.com (“Everything Science Knows About Reading On Screens”) points to a potential problem of reading via digital media versus reading words printed on paper. Citing a 2005 study by San Jose State University researcher Ziming Liu, a warning is given that “this style of reading may come at a cost. … sustained attention seems to decline when people read onscreen rather than on paper, and that people also spend less time on in- depth reading.”

Another study noted this: “Nonlinear reading might especially hurt what researchers call “deep-reading” – our in-depth reading of text that requires intense focus to fully understand it …” We develop a tendency to skip through the reading, looking for key words instead of reading the material closely. In the process we lose much.

Reading is a key component of our faith. Paul declared, in Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” That was written when few could read; most gained information by hearing what others said. Implied in his statement is that reading is the gateway to the faith that will save us. We must work to gain the information God has revealed, or we can’t please Him (see Hebrews 11:6).

Those seeking to please God must also be aware of this admonition: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

To rightly divide the truth suggests there is a wrong way to divide it. Peter spoke of this possibility when noting the writings of his fellow-apostle Paul, “… in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). Some will be lost in spite of their reading habits, for they haven’t been careful in their reading.

Should we therefore ditch our digital reading devices? Not necessarily. But we do need to be as careful as we can to read God’s word deeply, devotedly.

Timothy D. Hall

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