December 2005

29 Dec 2005

RC Sproul tells this story:

Several years ago I was invited to address the faculty of a prominent Midwestern college with a rich Christian and Reformed tradition… Before my lecture the dean showed me around the campus. When we entered the faculty office building, I noticed one office with these words stencilled on the door: Department of Religion. That evening as I spoke to the faculty, I [asked]… “Was that department always called the Department of Religion?” My inquiry was greeted by silence and blank stares… Finally an elder statesman of the faculty raised his hand and said, “No, it used to be called the Department of Theology. We changed it about 30 years ago.” “Why did you change it?” I asked. No one in the room had any idea, nor did they seem to care… I reminded the faculty that there is a profound difference between the study of theology and the study of religion. Historically the study of religion has been subsumed under the headings of anthropology, sociology, or even psychology… [T]he study of religion is chiefly the study of a certain kind of human behavior… The study of theology, on the other hand, is the study of God… The difference between religion and theology is ultimately the difference between God and man– hardly a small difference… The subject matter of theology propoer is God; the subject matter of religion is man.

To put it another way, religion looks at the beam, theology looks along the beam.

27 Dec 2005

This profound writing on worship by Pastor Jeffrey Meyers is one of the most thought-provoking I’ve read in some time. Among other things, it:

Recommends a specific order of worship following the OT steps of cleansing (confession of sin), consecration (hearing of the Word), and communion. The last half of the article recommends a specific liturgy similar to this one (note, btw, a similar pattern in the Lutheran service).

Even though this dimension of biblical worship has been almost totally neglected in our own tradition (the emphasis instead being on the ‘elements’ of worship), I believe that discovering the biblical order or sequence of man’s approach to God in the service may be the key to resurrecting a powerful Bible-based liturgy in our churches. [And speaking of liturgy…] It is no compliment to say that a church is a non-liturgical church. It is the same thing as saying it is a church that gives little thought to how it worships God.

Discusses worship as call and response. As with salvation, God acts and we respond.

We cannot approach God as disinterested, self-sufficient beings. We are created beings. Dependent creatures… Our receptive posture is as ineradicable as our nature as dependent creatures. We must be served by Him. Recognizing this is true spirituality… We come as those who receive first and then, second, only in reciprocal exchange do we give back what is appropriate as grateful praise and adoration…Much of what goes by contemporary worship has evacuated the Sunday service of God’s service to man! It’s all about what we do. The reduction of Christian worship to “praise” and “giving worth to God” by well-intentioned pastors desirous of purging the church of superficial worship forms will only continue to feed the very thing that they oppose…

Notes the importance of congregational participation.

The reformers to a man, especially Luther and Calvin, sought to correct the late medieval distortions of worship by restoring congregational participation… The principle manifestation… takes place…as the congregation prays, praises, and communes with God.The pastor does not worship for them as a proxy; the people worship as the pastor leads them…

Recommends weekly communion (it is, after all, a means of grace!).

The Reformers…all sought to reintroduce weekly Communion at every Lord’s Day service.

Defends composed prayers, noting also that hymns are “pre-composed prayers.”

When the Apostle John was privileged to observe heavenly worship…he saw an orderly, formal service performed by angels, living beings, and the twenty-four elders…They repeated various rituals and ritual responses (Rev 4:9-11). They alternated responses antiphonally. They sang hymns in unison. The fell down together… and they jointly receited prayers…that must have been pre-composed and memorized. How else would they have all prayed (or sun) simultaneously?… I believe, practically speaking, that it is easier to prayer sincerely when one actually takes up a written prayer on one’s lips, than when one merely listens to another person pray. Surely it is easier to daydream when one is listening- eyes closed- to another pray than when one concentrates on praying a printed prayer.

Defends practices like kneeling.

I always chuckle a little inside whenever I call the congregation to worship on Sunday morning using Psalm 95:6, “Oh, come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker.” And then, what do we do after I read those words? We stand up!

After initially reading this article, my wife and I attended a Christmas concert at a Greek Orthodox church. As we listened I paged through their liturgy book, noting with interest the similarities between its liturgy and those in “high” Reformational churches. There are serious differences between the Orthodox and Protestants (e.g. iconoclasm, sola Scriptura), but would one find more Biblical elements residing in the Eastern Orthodox liturgy than in the service at your average evangelical church? How many evangelical churches even have a weekly, corporate confession of sin? Or a regular Bible reading?

26 Dec 2005

Worship is nothing less than obedience to the command of God, “Delight yourself in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4)… The true diagnosis of weak worship is not that our people are coming to get and not to give… People ought to come starved for God. They ought to come saying, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God (Psalm 42:1). God is profoundly honored when people know that they will die of hunger and thirst unless they have God. And it is my job as a preacher to spread a banquet for them.

24 Dec 2005

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
as those of old have sung.

God rest ye merry this Christmas, content in His matchless love. Soli Deo Gloria!

23 Dec 2005

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

The late John Osteen was a popular word-faith pastor along the lines of Ken Copeland, Creflo Dollar, and Rod Parsley. His stagecraft was amusing. When a low camera off to the side of the stage would take over, Osteen would turn, walk over to it, and peer intently into the camera to make a point.

Today, his son Joel Osteen is pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, TX, and has far surpassed his father’s fame. His church draws 28,000+ weekly attendees, and it is not hard to guess why. Its service is slick and nearly devoid of content. Out are the old word-faith oddities focused on healing, in is the thin gruel of Oprah and Robert Schuller. “Be glad your spouse is the way they are… We’ve gotta put on love. Choose love over having our own way…” While this critique of Osteen’s latest book calls his message the “gospel of self-esteem,” there is an even better term for his deficient, “Ten Tips for a Better Marriage” style of preaching: Moralism.

There is another way. As the great Anglican, JC Ryle, once said:

The doctrine of Christ crucified is the foundation of a Church’s prosperity. No Church will ever be honoured in which Christ crucified is not continually lifted up. Nothing whatever can make up for the want of the cross… Dark hearts will not be enlightened, proud hearts will not be humbled, mourning hearts will not be comforted, fainting hearts will not be cheered.

P.S. You may have heard news reports about how Osteen’s wife, Victoria, apparently got them thrown off a plane earlier this week. Many will no doubt use it as another opportunity to harden their own hearts, as in “I may not be perfect, but at least I’m not a [fill in blank] like Victoria Osteen.” Unfortunately, God grades us based on His holiness and our own record, not on a curve compared to others. We all must flee to Christ’s perfect righteousness.

22 Dec 2005

Here is Michael Horton discussing the bad theology underlying the increasing informality of our worship services (emphasis is mine):

If you don’t believe that the most important thing that happens on Sunday morning is that GOD shows up and summons His people to His throne, and blesses them, and gives them His law, gives them His Gospel, [and] if you don’t believe that the most important thing that happens there is that through the office of the ministry, God is taking His people in hand in judgment and justification, then it really does become all about me and me connecting with the people, dressing down, and being one of the guys coming down out of the pulpit [and] walking around the crowd… My charisma rather than my office becomes what it is all about, and now I share my thoughts informally instead of declaring God’s word formally.

It’s one example of what you will learn by listening to the White Horse Inn archives. An outstanding resource.

21 Dec 2005

ACTS is an oft-suggested pattern for prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (requests). For years I found this pattern bothersome and peculiarly legalistic, as it seemed as if I often had to go through “preliminaries” to get to whatever was whipping me to prayer in the first place. The praise and thanksgiving could not flow naturally. Then it dawned that the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer, which is, in the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the “special rule of direction” for all prayer, start right after the opening address. Therefore, requests are an acceptable and perhaps even desirable starting point in prayer. Note how David gets right down to business in Psalm 51 (“Have mercy on me, O God”). Or witness Jesus Himself in John 17 (“Father, the hour has come; Glorify Your Son…”).

In his Shorter Catechism for Study Classes, GI Williamson makes some additional observations about the Lord’s Prayer:

As we consider this pattern of true prayer, what are some of the characteristics that we immediately notice? (1) One is the utter simplicity of this prayer. There is nothing here of high sounding words, or poetic phrases. There is no use of words that have an impressive sound. The author once knew a fine Christian who had a habit of using this phrase in almost every prayer, “according to Thy riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” It is a fine sounding phrase. But what does it mean? If we but listen to our own prayers as we speak them, we will notice this tendency to depart from direct and simple expressions. We will notice that we have a tendency to put a sort of “spiritual frosting” on the cake of prayer. This, we learn from this prayer our Lord taught His disciples, is quite unnecessary. It adds nothing. It only tends to falsify the true expression of the desires of the heart. (2) We also note how brief this prayer is. No petition has more than ten words… And yet how common it is… to talk about prayer as if it were the amount of prayer that matters, rather than the content. We forget that Christ Himself said that we are not heard because of how long we make our prayers (Matthew 6:7). The pattern prayer taught by our Lord is a sort of summary of what the whole Bible teaches… (3) And yet, how comprehensive this prayer is. Instead of covering a little with much speaking, it covers much with little speaking. This is how we ought also to pray. God calls us to intelligent interest in Himself and all His works. He calls us, in other words, to a prayer life that embraces the whole realm of existence in heaven and earth.

20 Dec 2005

I visited a Christian bookstore tonight to look for a portable ESV Bible – which they had not a one – and was rendered speechless by this.

19 Dec 2005

Again, From Knowing God:

We do not make friends with God; God makes friends with us…”Now that you know God-or rather are known by God” (Gal 4:9)… “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘I am pleased with you and I know you by name’ ” (Ex 33:17). “Before I formed you (Jeremiah) in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jer 1:5). “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me … and I lay down my life for the sheep… My sheep listen to my voice; I know them… They shall never perish” (Jn 10:14-15, 27-28)… What matters supremely, therefore, is not… the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it- the fact that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands [Is 49:16]. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me, I know Him because He first knew me, and continues to know me…This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort…in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me. There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that he sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow humans do not see (and am I glad!), and that he sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which, in all conscience, is enough). There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given His Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose. We cannot work these thoughts out here, but merely to mention them is enough to show how much it means to know not merely that we know God, but that He knows us.

18 Dec 2005

From Knowing God:

[W]e must not lose sight of the fact that knowing God is an emotional relationship, as well as an intellectual and volitional one, and could not indeed be a deep relation between persons were it not so. The believer is, and must be, emotionally involved in the victories and vicissitudes of God’s cause in the world… Believers rejoice when their God is honored and vindicated and feel the acutest distress when they see God flouted. When Barnabas came to Antioch “and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad” (Acts 11:23). By contrast, the psalmist wrote: “Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed” (Ps 119:136). Equally, Christians feel shame and grief when convicted of having failed their Lord (see, for instance, Ps 51 and Lk 22:61-62) and from time to time know transports of delight as God brings home to them in one way or another the glory of the everlasting love with which He has been loved (“transported with a joy too great for words” [1 Pet 1:8 NEB]). This is the emotional and experiential side of friendship with God. Ignorance of it argues that, however true a person’s thoughts of God may be, he does not yet know the God of whom he is thinking.

17 Dec 2005

Our father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name…

This is the familiar opening of the Lord’s prayer, from Matthew 6:9. And here is what the Westminster Shorter Catechism says about “Hallowed be Thy name:”

Q. 101. What do we pray for in the first petition?
A. In the first petition, which is, “Hallowed be thy name,” we pray, that God would enable us, and others, to glorify him in all that whereby he maketh himself known, and that he would dispose all things to his own glory.

How many of us pray this weekly and never notice that it is the first “petition” of the prayer? It is not a declaration (“Lord, You are holy”), but a request (“Lord, help us and others to realize how holy and worthy You are, to see things as they really are”). As it says in Psalm 67:2-3:

That your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

16 Dec 2005

Doug Wilson is busy pummelling “A Generous Orthodoxy” chapter-by-chapter with a rubber truncheon, and he is making brilliant observations in the process. To restate a few of them in Bunyan-speak: “I’m Mr. Worldly-wiseman, meet my brothers: Mr. Holier-than-thou, Mr. Garble, and Mr. Nuance-where-God-is-clear. Perhaps you’ve also met my 2nd cousin, Mr. Don’t-believe-in-organized-religion. ”

15 Dec 2005

Men: I have stated before that most of you should consider using filtering and/or accountability software. Better safe than sorry. However, I have seen few decent evaluations on the web, and some emails expressed interest in the topic, so this post is part of an ongoing evaluation.

After two weeks of evaluating candidates to replace Cybersitter on our machines, one thing is clear: Both candidates blow Cybersitter out of the water.

Candidate #1 is a combination of Integrity Online Shield filtering software and X3Watch accountability (aka. logging) software. These are installed on my desktop machine. Integrity Online Shield does a very good job of nailing bad sites, and it is outstanding at not mistaking legit sites for bad ones (aka. false positives). I have accessed hundreds of sites and it has registered one false positive so far, which was then easily added to its Acceptable Sites list. That is about as invisible as you can get! Integrity Online Shield lacks logging, which is why it recommends the complementary use of (free) X3Watch accountability software. X3Watch is installed and running, but I am not yet ready to comment on it. I expect it to be inferior to Covenant Eyes for the reasons mentioned on the Covenant Eyes site. Plus, note item 13 on that link, because this would really put a crimp in X3Watch’s usefulness (“Ground control to Integrity Online…”).

Candidate #2 is Covenant Eyes, which is only accountability software at this time (they are releasing filtering software early next year). It is installed on my laptop. Covenant Eyes generates nifty, accurate reports that are sorted for easy review by an accountability partner of your choosing (it should take this person no more than a few minutes every few weeks to scan the log). I’ve seen few false positives, despite accessing legitimate articles on topics that always confuse Cybersitter, and it does a great job of catching/logging the questionable and bad stuff. Although its FAQ indicates otherwise, Covenant Eyes does log nntp/newsgroups and file sharing (the latter, however, with just a single entry).

I recommend using a solution that offers both filtering software and accountability software. They really do complement one another. However, filtering software is the most important piece for machines used by children. Accountability software is especially useful for machines used by teens and adults, and it could be the only palatable option for singles who do not want password-protected filtering software on their machine. The thought of one’s wife, friend, or Aunt Gertrude reviewing usage logs should help most adults walk the line.

Both candidates above are installed and running without incident, so that is a wash. However, I am leaning toward the Covenant Eyes solution due to the excellent logging. Their upcoming filtering software tips the scales further. It will reportedly feature real-time content filtering, time controls, user-specific sensitivity controls, and content filtering/blocking for http, secure http, newsgroups, file sharing*, and FTP. (*File sharing is a gross violation of the 8th Commandment as used by most people… reason enough to avoid it).

I will have a final recommendation once the Covenant Eyes filtering software is released in January.

13 Dec 2005

C. Matthew McMahon from “A Puritan’s Mind” wrote this article to clarify the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. He writes against the “Solo Scriptura” views of some evangelicals who have thrown out the baby (the sub-Biblical authority of the communion of saints) with the bathwater (extra-Biblical authority).

11 Dec 2005

Martin Luther from the preface to his large catechism (my emphasis):

I must still read and study daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and am glad so to remain… Therefore I beg such lazy paunches or presumptuous saints to be persuaded and believe for God’s sake that they are verily (verily!) not so learned or such great doctors as they imagine; and never to presume that they have finished learning [the parts of the Catechism] …. For though they should know and understand it perfectly (which, however, is impossible in this life), yet there are manifold benefits and fruits still to be obtained, if it be daily read and practised in thought and speech.

This great saint admitted his need to regularly study the very catechism he had written! And yet how few Christians (this one included) know anything of them, much less find themselves able to quote them? I for one am resolving to spend more time, regular time, reading and rereading and these great writings (examples: Westminster Confession and Shorter / Larger Catechisms with Scripture proofs, Lutheran Book of Concord). For what are they but the wise summary of Scriptural truths that all Christians should know?

09 Dec 2005

A friend reading the recent article on fundamentalism quipped that it’s a case of only looking at the beam. He was referring to one of Lewis’s loveliest illustrations, from “Meditation in a Toolshed:”

I was standing today in the dark tool shed. The light was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dusts floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.

Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly, the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no tool shed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.

But this is only a very simple example of the difference between looking at and looking along. A young man meets a girl. The whole world looks different when he sees her. Her voice reminds him of something he has been trying to remember all his life, and ten minutes casual chat with her is more precious that all the favours that all other women in the world could grant. He is, as they say, “in love”. Now comes a scientist and describes this young man’s experience from the outside. For him it is all an affair of the young man’s genes and a recognized biological stimulus. That is the difference between looking along the sexual impulse and looking at it.

When you have got into the habit of making this distinction you will find examples of it all day long. The mathematician sits thinking, and to him it seems that he is contemplating timeless and spaceless truths about quantity. But the cerebral physiologist, if he could look inside the mathematicians head, would find nothing timeless and spaceless there – only tiny movements of grey matter…The girl cries over her broken doll and feels that she has lost a real friend; the psychologist says that her nascent maternal instinct has been temporarily lavished on a bit of shaped and coloured wax.

…The people who look at things have had it all their own way; the people who look along things have simply been brow-beaten. It has even come to be taken for granted that the external account of a thing somehow refutes or “debunks” the account given from inside. “All these moral ideals which look so transcendental and beautiful from inside,” says the wiseacre, “are really only a mass of biological instincts and inherited taboos.” And no one plays the game the other way round by replying, “If you will only step inside, the things that look to you like instincts and taboos will suddenly reveal their real and transcendental nature”… [O]ne must look along and at everything.

08 Dec 2005

The Narnia film’s director explains how he felt a strong need to alter a line from Lewis’s original:

[W]hen Father Christmas gives the weapons to all the kids, and he says to the girls: “I don’t intend for you to use them because battles are ugly when women fight.” …[T]hat might have been acceptable in the 1940s, but after doing two movies that were, I think, empowering to girls, with the ‘Shrek’ films, I didn’t want to then turn around and say: “Susan, you don’t get to use that bow, you have to rely on your brother.”

Progress strikes again, accompanied as usual by the lilting beauties of political-speak. To quote Joseph Sobran from many years ago:

The ultimate Progressive categories are not heaven and hell, or good and evil, or order and chaos, but Future and Past. Even the cusswords of the Progressive are chronological: archaic, outdated, Neanderthal, medieval.

07 Dec 2005

Yesterday’s reference to Pilgrim’s Progress reminded me of one of my favorite short stories, Hawthorne’s The Celestial Railroad. Check it out.

06 Dec 2005

[He is] a classic theological Ishmael, a wild man whose hand is against every man.”

That’s Phil Johnson aptly summarizing a certain fundamentalist who posts uneven and often absurd “exposes” of well-known Christians on his web site. To the world, a fundamentalist is usually someone who believes all of the Bible is true, including those parts about salvation through Christ alone. In other words, a Christian. In Reformed circles, though, the term fundamentalist has a different pejorative meaning, one borne of long history. While fundamentalists of this second stripe should be applauded for an insistence on the truth of unpopular doctrines, they tend to breed, in the words of this article, a philistine wearer of “X-ray heresy glasses,” the type of wooden literalist who sees in the Iliad nothing but “an incitement to sodomy and the worship of Zeus.”

C.S. Lewis is another target; witness the comments on this article as a typical example. You see, Hollywood is coming out with a Chronicles of Narnia movie. Strike one! Various ministries are promoting it with Hollywood. Strike Two! Narnia has a witch in it. Strike three, Lewis is unsound! (Pointy hat alert.) Sure, Lewis died in 1963, but his book is being made into a movie. That just shows what kind of book it is. It’s a rewrite of the Gospels, or something, but we have the real thing. We don’t need magic and a talking lion. Plus Lewis was a Catholic. Oh, he was an Anglican? Well, same thing.

Why bother looking at context or understanding the writer’s philosophy? Why bother investigating why so many Christians (Piper, Sproul, Packer, the White Horse Inn guys, etc) have admired Lewis’s writings? It’s solo Scriptura all the way for these fundamentalists. One wonders if Pilgrim’s Progress is outside the pale too.

This is not to defend the Narnia film; I know little about it. And churches should not be obtaining sermons from a movie company, as some are apparently doing. But why must this be used as ammo to slander Lewis? He’s been dead for 40+ years. He was not right all the time, and there have been reasoned critiques against an occasional writing, but on the whole he was quite sound, and often profoundly so. Who has not heard and benefitted from the Lord Liar Lunatic trilogy? Lewis was very active at Oxford defending the Christian faith against anti-supernaturalists, speaking the truth of Christianity in a hostile time. He was not a universalist or a liberal. In fact, he vigorously defended orthodoxy against such faddish heresies, at some cost in his professional life. By all accounts he was a devout believer, an excellent witness to friends, family, and the public. He remains a treasured writer for good reason.

Don’t violate your conscience. If you don’t want to see the movie or read Lewis’s books, then don’t do so. But consider understanding the subject matter a bit better before attempting to bind others.

03 Dec 2005

Do you want to be ordained without having having to believe much of anything? Do you want to dispense with seminary and take care of things in a few minutes? Well, then Universal Life Church is for you. After you get your certificate you can send away for some “priestwear” and off you go. You can even go on a TV talk show, looking serene and authoritative, wearing your clerical collar. It happened recently.

ULC’s motto: “Do only that which is right.” Says who, you may ask? Whence authority deriv’st? Never mind.

This denial of reality leads back again to Lewis, from Mere Christianity:

One reason why many people find Creative Evolution so attractive is that it gives one much of the emotional comfort of believing in God and none of the less pleasant consequences (like obeying Him). When you are feeling fit and the sun is shining and you do not want to believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, it is nice to be able to think of this great mysterious Force rolling on through the centuries and carrying you on its crest. If, on the other hand, you want to do something rather shabby, the Life-Force being only a blind force, with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you like the troublesome God we learned about when we were children. The Life-Force is a sort of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you. All the thrills of religion and none of the cost. Is the Life-Force the greatest achievement of wishful thinking the world has yet seen?

02 Dec 2005

It’s a mystery why Malcolm Muggeridge is not more popular among Christians. Many of his works are sadly out of print. He was a superb writer and a keen observer, a lifelong journalist and TV personality who held out little hope for either medium. And he’s often beer-through-the-nose funny. His otherworldly perspective, influenced greatly by Augustine, Pascal, Dostoevsky, and Blake, is evidenced here in this excerpt from But Not of Christ (circa 1980). It is something to consider as we see the slow removal of “Merry Christmas” and other vestiges of Christianity from secular life.

Christendom, like other civilizations before it, is subject to decay and must sometime decompose and disappear. The world’s way of responding to intimations of decay is to engage equally in idiot hopes and idiot despair. On the one hand some new policy or discovery is confidently expected to put everything to rights: a new fuel, a new drug, detente, world government. On the other, some disaster is as confidently expected to prove our undoing. Capitalism will break down. Fuel will run out… Overpopulation will suffocate us, or alternatively, a declining birth rate will put us more surely at the mercy of our enemies… In Christian terms, such hopes and fears are equally beside the point. As Christians we know that here we have no continuing city, that crowns roll in the dust and every earthly kingdom must sometime flounder, whereas we acknowledge a king men did not crown and cannot dethrone, as we are citizens of a city of God they did not build and cannot destroy. Thus the apostle Paul wrote to the christians in Rome, living in a society as depraved and dissolute as ours. Their games, like our television, specialized in spectacles of violence and eroticism. Paul exhorted them to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in God’s work, to concern themselves with the things that are unseen, for the things which are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal. It was in the breakdown of Rome that Christendom was born. Now in the breakdown of Christendom there are the same requirements and the same possibilities to eschew the fantasy of a disintegrating world and seek the reality of what is not seen and eternal, the reality of Christ.

01 Dec 2005

Based on the response to the earlier post, there is general interest in internet filtering, so please excuse another detour to talk software…

After extensive review of many sites (examples: here and here), two candidates are now vying to replace Cybersitter on our computers:

  • Covenant Eyes. This $6.99/month product does no filtering (it allows you to go where you please), but it sends activity logs to an accountability partner of your choice on a regular basis. Covenant Eyes has an impressive web site and it gets high marks from reviewers. It claims to be superior to its free accountability competitor, X3Watch . Another positive: Covenant Eyes is planning to release filtering software to complement their accountability service in January 2006.
  • Integrity Online Shield. This is stand-alone filtering software that costs $49/year and you can download the aforementioned X3Watch program from their site as a free accountability add-on. Integrity Online Shield is provided by Integrity Online, the largest filtering ISP. The intriguing thing about Integrity Online Shield is that it leverages a powerful artificial intelligence technology called Netsweeper that is usually only available to libraries, ISPs, etc. [Note that you can actually switch your ISP service to Integrity Online and the spam and web site filtering will be handled automagically for you by their network, but they want $48/month for a 600K DSL connection and $80/month (!) for a 1.5mb DSL connection].

Both products offer free trial periods.

Let the testing begin…