Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

ImageExposure to chosen media streams can give us a false perception of being permanently in the present tense, depriving us of the sober sense of time passing and creating a feeling that our options are perpetually open, when in fact time is passing us by the minute.  There is a sense in which the very fact that physical activity requires us to consciously move our bodies through space and time creates a healthy awareness of the passing of time, while the physical inactivity of virtual life allows us to inhabit a place where the rules of time seem simply not to apply.  The effect of this is that we spend time without consciously reckoning with the cost and value of what is slipping through our fingers.  Thus, wasting time seems more effortless than ever.  Cultural engagement, civic participation, voter turnout, and other markers all show signs of decreasing interest.

– Read Mercer Schuchardt, “Social Media and the Loss of Embodied Communication,” in Liberal Arts for the Christian Life, edited by Jeffry C. David & Philip G. Ryken (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 243-244.

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Sit Loose to this World’s Joy

Posted: September 12, 2012 in prayer, technology, worship

John Piper reminds us to not be too enamored by the temporary joys of this world.

Al Mohler calls this a “tragic announcement“:

Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. announced Tuesday that it would no longer offer its venerable reference set in a printed edition. Western Civilization just took another hard blow to the chin.

Mohler bemoans the fact that the experience of reading a physical book will soon be relegated to the sidelines of twenty-first century life.

But reading a physical book, with words printed on paper, is a different experience than reading on a screen. The experience of reading Britannica with a barfing brother in the back of the car is about to go the way of the station wagon—into the mists of history.

Besides the fact that I think there is good reason to believe that the digital reading experience will continue to evolve into something more and more similar to the experience of reading a paper book, what exactly does this comment even mean?  What is so important/valuable about this undefined “experience” that should be preserved?  Mohler never gives any details (though he hints at something when he notes that the experience of reading paper books is devoid of “digital sound and fury,” whatever that means).  He continues,

I also believe that the experience of reading the Bible on an iPhone is radically different from the experience of reading the Bible in printed form, feeling the texture of the book as our eyes take in the inspired text.

Radically different?  Really?

Sometimes I wonder if similar laments were heard with the advent of the printing press.  How many wise and learned men bemoaned the fact that no longer would the Word of God be meticulously written by hand, instead printed en masse on Gutenburg’s new-fangled machine?  In the midst of their sad dirges, how many missed the incalculable advantages of the printing press, an advancement over the written word that would make possible the unprecedented dissemination of information and ideas?  More specifically, how many common men and women were finally able to gain direct access to the written Word of God, now drastically cheaper to produce and distribute?  How many similar advantages, exponentially amplified through the use of digital technology, are now being neglected for the sake of the mysteriously-important “experience” of reading a physical book?

For an interesting review of a few historical “crises” related to new information technologies, check out this article published at Slate.com.  For more of my thoughts on this interesting topic, see “5 Reasons E-Books Don’t Beat Paper Books (Yet).”

Check out Reformed Theological Seminary’s iPhone app for memorizing the Westminster Shorter Catechism in 90 days!  It’s simple to use and, best of all, free!

HT: Justin Taylor

Want to Learn a New Language?

Posted: December 16, 2011 in books, misc, technology

This is a truly amazing idea.  

Check out this video about the massive-scale online collaboration that we all (unknowingly) participate in and see how (in the near future) you may be able to learn a new language for free.

Google has just announced a partnership with The Israel Museum, Jerusalem to bring the Dead Sea Scrolls to the web, and thus to the fingertips of anyone who would like to take a look at these incredibly significant documents.  The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by a shepherd boy in 1947 and include some of the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence.

Now, anyone around the world can view, read and interact with five digitized Dead Sea Scrolls. The high resolution photographs, taken by Ardon Bar-Hama, are up to 1,200 megapixels, almost 200 times more than the average consumer camera, so viewers can see even the most minute details in the parchment. For example, zoom in on the Temple Scroll to get a feel for the animal skin it’s written on—only one-tenth of a millimeter thick…

The scroll text is also discoverable via web search. If you search for phrases from the scrolls, a link to that text within the scroll viewers on the Dead Sea Scrolls collections site may surface in your search results. For example, search for [Dead Sea Scrolls “In the day of thy planting thou didst make it to grow”], and you may see a link to Chapter 17:Verse 11 within the Great Isaiah Scroll.

The web-app that Google has created for viewing the scrolls is pretty sweet, offering an integrated English translation for those of us who don’t read ancient Hebrew or Greek.

RC Sproul Jr. has posted a short critique of the increasing prevalence of multi-site churches that stream one message to multiple venues:

Here’s a brief and partial list of the ways this is bad:

1. It cultivates and encourages the cult of personality…
2. It cultivates and encourages a form of preaching that is anything but pastoral…
3. It cultivates and encourages a broader failure to watch out for the souls entrusted to the shepherds (Hebrews 13:17)…
4. It cultivates and encourages a consumerist mentality among the sheep…
5. It cultivates and encourages a lack of dependence on the gospel itself. The power is in the Word, not the one delivering it. Our strategies are foolishly built around the messenger rather than the message.

While I think Sproul sets up a few straw men and unnecessary dichotomies, his comments highlight a more fundamental issue than simply the proper use of technology in the context of the corporate gathering.  I think the conversation needs to begin with the nature of the “church” and the role that preaching plays in pastoral (or better, elder) ministry.  If the sermon is viewed as the primary means through which the Word is administered and the congregation shepherded, it seems that a multi-site model would be more acceptable, with it’s emphasis on the preached Word.

That being said, one of the most vocal opponents of the multi-site model is also a strong advocate for the centrality of preaching: Mark Dever.  You can hear his arguments in this discussion with Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald.  The Resurgence has also posted a biblical defense of the multi-site model.