Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday School Lesson on Technology

These are my notes from a single-Sunday lesson I did this morning on the Christian view of technology. It's a one-off, but I could see expanding this some day into several weeks. Note that I'm drawing largely from the book Responsible Technology, which I've blogged about before.

1. Introduction
Why care?
  • Technology is pervasive in our lives – How many of you are wearing technology?
  • Consider the automobile – What things have entered society since the introduction of the automobile? (Manufacturing, laws, gasoline, repairs, highways, etc.)
  • This omnipresence is almost to the point of being unquestioned
  • Technology is part of subduing the earth (Genesis 1:28, 2:15)
  • We are to take every thought captive (II Corinthians 10:4-5)
  • We are to do all our work for God’s glory (Col 3:17)
  • Technology extend our actions and abilities, but they are still OUR actions and abilities, for which we are accountable (Ex. 20 – we are responsible if we steal, whether we do it at gunpoint or through a computer); that is, we can instill our values in technology
  • Technology is done in a cultural context, within a worldview, and that worldview will pervade the technology
2. Defining Technology
What is technology? How is the term used in our culture? How do you define it?

Definition from Responsible Technology book
A distinct human cultural activity in which human beings exercise freedom and responsibility in response to God by forming and transforming the natural creation, with the aid of tools and procedures, for practical ends and purposes.
This definition works before and after the Fall.

3. Good and Evil in Technology
Do you think technology can be good and/or evil in and of itself?

What technology would you consider good?
• Telephone/911
• Vaccines
• Water wells
• Fence around your roof (Deuteronomy 22:8)

What technology do you consider evil?
• Torture devices
• Auschwitz
• Biological weapons
• Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:3-4)

What has a mixture of good and evil?
• Internet

What sinful motivations can we have in designing and using technology?
• Personal comfort at exclusion of other things
• Greed
• Pride (tower of Babel)

4. Technology In the Church (if time)
What technology is prescribed for the church?
• Baking bread
• Making wine

Other technology may be beneficial as well (audio system, musical instruments, lighting), but some not so (virtual worship services).

5. How shall we then live?
Some of us design and work on technology, all of us use it.
For designers:
• What values guide you in technology?
• Do you work evil or good?
• How can you pursue righteousness, justice, and peace in your technology?

For all of us: How do you decide whether or not you will use a particular technology?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

On Denominations and Church Unity

With a possible PCA church plant here in north Jackson County, I've been pondering churches, particularly in our area. We drive about 40 minutes to Emmanuel Presbyterian Church (PCA) where we are members. I'm sure many think we're crazy - after all there are presbyterian churches in Cullowhee and Sylva. However, I believe your denominational affiliation matters. The denomination your church is a part of is either strongly reflected in the character of your church OR is a major influence on your church. I do not believe I can be a part of the PCUSA due to many issues there I will not go in to - and the two presbyterian churches here are of that denomination.

And yet, the lack of visible unity among believers troubles me. I counted this past week and there are 10 church buildings right on the road between our house and Emmanuel. Eleven if you count the school where one meets. Why should that be? Why should I drive past that many different churches (plus who knows how many more just off the road) to get to the one we pick.

The one situation that is most noticeable to me is within 5 minutes of our house. There are three church buildings, all within sight of each other in the area known as Speedwell (basically a crossroads, no town or businesses). Two are Baptist and one is Methodist. I have no idea how such a situation happens - in a very rural area there are three churches. They all look more than 20 years old at least. One calls itself a Missionary Baptist church - my humorous side conjectures that the other church sent this one out as a church plant - about 100 yards away.

But, does anyone think this is bad? Or a problem? That there are churches within sight of each other? We are to be One Body in Christ. We certainly don't look like it.

Thinking historically, the ability to pick and choose between churches (not just denominations but churches) is a very unusual situation in the 2000 year history of the new testament church. I don't just mean Catholic vs. Protestant, but choosing at all. If you live in an area, you would go to THE church there. Christians in Galatia didn't get to pick from Rev. Jones downtown or Rev. William out on the east side. They had ONE church. Certainly as numbers increase, planting another church to handle people in a separate area of a city is wise, but then that becomes your church. You wouldn't worship at one and take the kids to the youth group at the other.

I understand (in my limited way) how denominations came about. But our propensity in Protestantism to split and create a new denomination is not good. While the book of Acts and Paul's epistles lay down many truths about how the church should be governed, how to handle relationships between denominations is not covered. I think that's the case because it shouldn't really happen. What should happen when someone from the PCA that has a discipline case before his session tries to transfer membership to the church down the road that is not PCA?

Though this troubles me, I still drive my family 40 minutes every Sunday. Why? I do not believe I can join a denomination that does not have a commitment to Reformed Theology. I still believe the Westminster Confession is true, and that puts me at odds with the denominations that say many key doctrines in it are not true.

So I'm troubled at possibly being part of the problem.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Stephen Scrubbing

We've been working on getting Stephen to wash ("scrub") himself in the bathtub. He's at least willing now, so that's good. But, the past few times, he's tried to wash his bottom first. We'll stop him and remind him "face first, bottom last." He's getting there.

This reminds me of a similar situation when I must have been about his age. I don't know if my mom remembers this, but I believe I had some confusion along the same lines. The memory of the situation is a bit vague, but not of the punchline. I was in the tub and mom reminded me that we wash our bottom last. I asked why (of course), and she said it's because that's our dirtiest part. Being the logical child, I asked what happens if some other part of my body was dirtier. I clearly remember her response. She looked at me very seriously and said: "then you have a problem."

I vaguely remember that being enough for me at the time. I suppose it still is. But I have the feeling she was trying not to laugh at the time.

Possible Sylva Church Plant

This past Tuesday evening we went to a meeting for people that are interested in starting a PCA church plant in the Sylva, NC area. We knew nearly everyone there, so that was encouraging. The meeting itself was encouraging as well, but as I look back I noted a few things that make the road look very long and bumpy. This is likely very truthful, so that's a good thing.

Rev. Jonathan Inman came from our presbytery. He is gathering information about us to take back to presbytery and share who our group is. Someting I appreciate is that he's very up front. He started with why a group wanting to start a church would want to be in the PCA - and it wasn't a sales pitch. It was a discussion of submission to our church authorities. Perhaps an odd place to start, but one major distinctive of the PCA is the governing structure - and if you're not willing to submit to a group of elders, this is not the place for you. I think he's going to deal with issues head on, and that is a very, very good thing.

He asked us to describe our ideal church in full detail and e-mail that to him. To my fellow Christians: try it sometime, it will tell you a lot about yourself. My own list covered the trivial to rather controversial and was probably longer than it needed to be.

Maybe we'll have a big ruckus over worship style, maybe over nursery duty, maybe over roles of women. But, I'm guessing we'll have a few.

At any rate, the process is beginning - I'm looking forward (though with some trepidation) to see where God takes this. I just hope we learn to do that in love and charity.

Apparently the next step is for the appropriate committee in Western Carolina Presbytery to talk about us and plans for the future. One likely scenario is that the presbytery would appoint someone who's ordained to shepherd our group from...whatever we are now to being particularlized as a church (getting an operating session and a membership roll, more or less).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lydia Communicates

A few evenings ago, Lydia started using a bit more communication. She'll say "ma-ma," "da-da," and "see-see" which means passie. But, Kristy has also worked on hand signs with her. She's now regularly using "more" at dinner. She'll also use it when reading books - signing "more" when she wants you to read a book again (and again, and again...). She's also started using "please" more when she wants something, though I'm not sure if she thinks it is interchangeable with "more."

That evening, we had Blue Bell ice cream (Homemade Vanilla -mmmm) and she's picked up on when we have dessert. She made her "mmm! Mmmm!" noises and pointed to Kristy's ice cream. Kristy gave her a little taste - not surprisingly Lydia bounced a bit as she ate out of delight. After that bite, she pointed to the ice cream, then to her mouth, then made the "more" sign. Pretty good, huh?

She's also aware of what we're saying. Yesterday, she found a ketchup packet in the refrigerator and walked over to me and gave it to me. I then gave it back (that's how you play the game) and told her to give it to mommy. She hesitated, but then turned around and walked over to Kristy and gave it to her.

Also, there's a line in one of her books: "clap your hands." She now starts clapping her hands whenever we read that line.

It is so much fun to watch her (and Stephen) grow.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

On Covenants and Covenanters

I've been teaching on Covenant Theology in Sunday School these past three months or so. It's been very eye-opening to me to study this topic and I would encourage others in the same. The most helpful book has been the very readable The Christ of the Covenants.

In my research I've come across various websites for and against Covenant Theology. Sadly, many use terms like obvious, clearly, ignore, etc. implying the other side isn't doing its homework. It is in our nature to believe we are right about everything. For Calvinists like me, this includes that we're Totally Depraved, but I'm right about that part...

Anyway, the rancor in what is an intramural debate among believers concerns me. I would much rather see us exhibit the unity Christ prays for in John 17 and debate at least in love rather than accusation and attributing the worst possible motives you can.

These thoughts on research on the covenants leads me to the Covenanters. You can get lots more information on them from Wikipedia, but there are remnants of the movement today, and that is what I would comment on. There are apparently some groups (micro-denominations really, a topic for another post) that claim that since the USA and Canada were part of Great Britain at the time the Solemn League and Covenant was made, that it still applies to our soil. Essentially, we're living in a sinful country under covenant curse because we are not obedient to the covenant.

A few thoughts on this:
  • I hope no one is surprised that humans are unable to keep a covenant. Only God can do that, which is the point of Genesis 15.
  • In scripture, covenants with God are initiated by God OR were reaffirmations of a covenant God sovereignly made with man. I don't know that there is a category in Scripture for what the Covenanters made. (I'm ready to stand corrected on this one)
  • Christ's kingdom is not of this world - not that it is not active in this world, but it doesn't have geographic boundaries. I just don't see how that squares with saying a particular patch of soil is special and that people living on it must adhere to a covenant forever even if there are no longer any Christians there.
In short: I just don't get this position.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Questions for Stephen

As a father, I find myself asking unusual questions of my children. Here's one from two mornings ago:

"Stephen, why do you have toothpaste on your face?"

His answer took about 2 minutes. Note that I asked this at the breakfast table and he had not brushed his teeth yet that morning.

Others recently include:

"How did the sand get in your shorts?"

"What was in the macaroni?"

"Do you want the blue ice cream?"

and last but not least...

"Do we need more dinosaurs in the soup?"

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Stephen's Prayers

Here's a few phrases from Stephen's extemporaneous prayer this evening (with daddy commentary):

"We thank you for our love." (In the prayer we usually pray with him we say "we thank you for your love")

"Please give us holy." (I don't know if he gets what this means, but he's on the right track)

"Please don't let my toys be broken or scratched." (The scratched part almost made me laugh)

"Please let Lydia play with my toys the right way." (We talk about playing or doing things the "right way" as opposed to breaking them so I suppose that's where this comes from)

He was very proud of saying one with his "own words" - and so was I.