A month or so ago, I posted about an article written in the Atlantic, titled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” In the post (here), I raised the question of how the medium of Bible software effects our ability to interpret the text .

I just came across another article that’s somewhat related – this one in The Times Online – “Stoooopid …. why the Google generation isn’t as smart as it thinks,” by Bryan Appleyard. The article’s quite a jeremiad. The tagline states that “the digital age is destroying us by ruining our ability to concentrate.” The article does not simply rail against Google or the information age, but it challenges the “distractedness” that comes with being electronically “connected.” This distractedness goes beyond computers and reaches into how we handle our actual flesh-and-bone lives. One particular quote stood out to me. One of the interviewees of the article stated that he found himself “loving novelty” and yet “craving depth”. What a beautiful way of putting it, unfortunately it’s downright scary for me to hear my own soul in his words. The article reminds me of a passage from Luke:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

Just how much do I miss because of my self-imposed technological distractions?

Sean McDonough (my original thesis advisor) preached a related sermon in the seminary chapel on November 20, 2007, titled “Virtually Communicating” (mp3).

On a somewhat related note: L. Gregory Jones (Dean of Duke Divinity School) has put out a small article about his use of Facebook, titled “My Facebook Friends.” The article is rather balanced. While he notes the advantages of Facebook in keeping in touch with folks, he states that “Facebook friends and social networking are not adequate substitutes for authentic friendship.”

BTW: While I was reading article by Appelyard, I was distracted by my Facebook Firefox toolbar, where my current status had not been updated, so naturally I had to update it. At least I made it through the article without skimming!

a modular lego townhouse

Last week my wife was away visiting family. While she was gone, I spent a few evenings working on this Lego townhouse. The model was based on misc2006’s alternate model for set 4954. It is compatible with other modular Lego models (e.g. Cafe Corner, Market Street, and Green Grocer). I used mainly pieces from 4954, but I did supplement the model with pieces not found in that set.

The Charis in Charisma

So, I have not followed the whole Bentley revival in Florida. I have grown up in the Pentecostal church. I’m not ashamed of that, and I still attend a Pentecostal church where I serve as an elder. I pray regularly for people to be healed. I speak in tongues, and I have felt God’s power in inexplicable ways. I think that as the People of God – the firstfruits of the final new creation (Jas 1:18; Rev 14:4) – we should expect God to work in extraordinary ways in his church. As I grew up in the Pentecostal church, I observed things like the Toronto Vineyard revival and the Brownsville revival. I actually attended the Brownsville revival (at the tail end of its popularity), and I very much felt God’s presence meet me in a profound way. God works through concentrated outpourings of his Holy Spirit at different times in different locations.

I have observed a few things about the work of the Spirit in my own life. One of which has been that the move of God is not necessarily dependent upon the holiness, orthodoxy or the spiritual maturity of the person that is “leading” the revival. Often in Charistmatic/Pentecostal churches a kind of cult-of-personality will develop around someone whom God uses to minister to others – especially those who minister in public, overt, or extraordinary ways. The assumption is usually something like this. “Wow, I really need to go to X’s church or X’s revival because this person has a powerful ministry.” A group forms around this lightning rod of God’s power and a “revival” breaks out. Mr. or Mrs. X then starts publishing books and broadcasting television shows because obviously God is using X, therefore X has something important to say and teach. This does not always happen like this, but I’ve seen it dozens of times.

Anyway, a little Greek is helpful here. Charismatics put an emphasis on the Charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit. We expect God to grace us with a little bit of the “already” in the midst of our “not yet,” and he does. One thing to note is that the Charismatic gifts are just that – charisma – a word based on another Greek word, charis – the same word that is translated as “grace” throughout the New Testament. One Greek dictionary (BDAG) defines charisma as “that which is freely and graciously given, favor bestowed, gift”. Just as “grace”/charis is God’s favor poured out upon us in spite of our sin, immaturity or lack of qualification, the charismatic gifts are God’s favor poured out upon the church in spite of our sin, immaturity or lack of qualification. Charisma is no indicator of holiness, maturity, or orthodoxy. Am I saying that Bentley is not holy, mature or orthodox? No. I have not watched enough of the revival or listened to enough of his teaching to judge that fairly. I can say, that the fact that God is possibly working in Lakeland is not an indicator of Bentley’s maturity. To the skeptic I would also say that a lack of maturity or orthodoxy in a “revival” is not an indicator that God is not working there. God works in spite of us as often as he works through us. This is the case whether you’re a revival leader, a pastor or a scholar.

Bill the cat-RevivalistI made mention above to the revival leader as a “lightning rod”. I think that this is a good analogy. A lightning rod stands as a conductive contact point between positively charged clouds and the negatively charged ground. This imbalanced charge is remedied as the charge moves from cloud to land and meets with a charge moving from land to cloud. A lightning rod “draws” the charge. Is the power in the lightning rod? No. Is the charge coming from the lightning rod? No. The imbalanced charge builds up in the clouds and in the ground and the lightning rod is a point of contact. The revival leader is similar. Does he or she have any power? No, but often they stand as a point of contact between a charged audience and a powerful God. The audience is charged with the anticipation that God will work in powerful ways, and God is a benificent and gracious God who gives good gifts to his children. No one says “boy, that’s a powerful lightning rod!” No one says that it is by any extraordinary merit of a hunk of metal that lightning is generated. No, the electricity is part of a much bigger system.

Of course all analogies break down after a while, and I would not tease this out too far! This is God we’re talking about – he does not fit into analogies. One thing that could be teased out of the analogy is that revivals are by their nature “imbalanced” (a partial truth, when I think about it).