Friday, May 31, 2019

Modern Technology and the Human Future



I recently finished reading Craig Gay’s book, Modern Technology and the Human Future and found it to be a very balanced approach to many of the questions we find ourselves asking about the good and bad of contemporary technology. We all know how valuable our hand-held devices can be and Gay speaks highly of the gains in productivity and efficiencies afforded by such devices before citing some telling statistics. “‘On average,’ one recent study found, ‘people in the United States across all age groups check their phones 46 times per day’, roughly once every fifteen minutes. For people between the ages of eighteen to twenty four, that number goes up to seventy four times per day, or once every twelve minutes.”[1] Many might say that we are enslaved to our phones, but if that word seems a little harsh, let’s just say we are obsessed with our phones. What are we checking for on our phones? Well it could be all kinds of good information in the virtual libraries of information available to us. We could be exploring art galleries in distant cities, getting the latest facts on nutritional information, or following NASA’s ever curious explorations of the galaxy. More likely than not, we are checking our social media accounts to see how many people have liked our recent post or seeing what posts others have made that we can like, hate, find funny, or thumb-up.

Gay is not a technophobe or luddite, his confessions in the chapter entitled “A Personal Conclusion” make this clear, but what he is saying is that we must consider every advancement in light of the good it will do and what we will give away as we embrace the technology. He points out that one of humans’ early advances was going from an oral culture to a written culture and to a culture of the printing press. Socrates expressed concerns that increasing literacy rates would have a debilitating impact on memory.[2] Of course he was right! Oral societies must commit all important information to memory, but as soon as one adapts to a written culture, much can be stored in lists, recipes, personal journals, and text-books. However, without literacy, one could well argue that we would never have the kind of understanding of who we are and what we can do.

Gay does lament that contemporary technology tends towards seeing all of nature as a machine.[3] Photosynthesis in the hands of a scientist can become nothing more than physics and chemistry. Similarly, the human body and mind can also be viewed as a complex machine that could, given enough time, be converted into a mechanical device to house our consciousness. He also calls us back to remembering who we are. “The church has long recognized that if the eternal Word of God ‘became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” as the apostle John declares (Jn 1:14), this confers staggering value upon ordinary fleshly existence.”[4] “While the Christian church always stands in need of remembering its theology, the need today is particularly acute, given how rapidly automatic machine technology is trending away from ordinary embodied human life.”[5]

In this book, Gay calls us to “repent of our hubris” and recognize that the “principle precept of Christian discipleship is that we are not our own” and that our “task, therefore, is primarily one of stewardship.”[6] He speaks of a proper place for technology where it “starts great conversation” and an improper place when it “prevents us from talking with and listening to one another.”[7] Proper uses of technology will lead to greater harmony of people, animals, plants, and rocks rather than dis-harmonies. Gay calls us back to our theology of being, incarnation, and eucharistic embodiment and prompts us that the eucharist or communion meal is to be a place where we reorient ourselves around what is important: God and his people embodied in flesh.

There is much more that could be said, but I leave it to the reader to take the time to purchase and read this book for yourself. It is readily available wherever books are sold.

Works Cited

Gay, C. M. (2018). Modern Technology and the Human Future: A Christian Appraisal. Downers Grove: IVP Academic.




[1] 2015 data; (Gay, 2018, pp. 31, 32)
[2] (Gay, 2018, p. 25)
[3] (Gay, 2018, p. 101)
[4] (Gay, 2018, p. 133)
[5] (Gay, 2018, p. 165)
[6] (Gay, 2018, p. 169)
[7] (Gay, 2018, p. 177)

Stark Raven Mad

 
In other blog posts, I have told of the intelligence of ravens, crows, and other corvids. These birds have been shown to use tools, create tools, and communicate danger to others in their area. Recently, another study has shown greater detail on the communication abilities of these remarkable birds. The study shows that when one raven dislikes its food choices, this mood toward food can be passed along to others such that they have a negative expectation of their food choices as well, even before the naive ravens had any idea of what might be in a food box. Thus, the “glass half-empty” attitude was communicated and transferred to other ravens who had not yet had a reason to be pessimistic. The “how” of this empathy transference is unclear but it is likely the same mechanism used to warn fellow crows about dangerous individuals on a university campus. More studies are needed to bring light to the amazing social communication of these birds. Watch this blog and Science News for more developments.

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Great Beyond Trailer


The Great Beyond is a novel with spiritual insights. It is the story of Ray, a man who has done much wandering and is now on the greatest journey of his life. Through out the story, Ray must make choices that impact his future and his ultimate happiness. The book trailer is available here and the summary appears below.

Ray did not expect his life to take the turns it did. He had always been a simple man who enjoyed modest pleasures and a few travel experiences. In fact, he thought he might have travelled more. But life just sort of happened and he never got around to the things he wanted to see. Now, on the biggest journey of his life, going places he could only imagine in his dreams, he is not sure he wants to be on this path. He is not sure how he got on this path or where it will take him next. Perhaps the biggest question is, "Who is in control?"
The Great Beyond is available at Amazon.ca: https://amzn.to/2VbVu6c; Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2DnEVtY; and Indigo: https://bit.ly/2UOieK3



Thursday, March 28, 2019

Miracle Girl



In my family, I have developed a tradition. With the arrival of each grandchild, I write a song. Whitney arrived nearly five months ago in November. So, I am a little behind on getting her song written. Her parents, Lauren and Dean, have been very patient. So, I give you "Miracle Girl."


Miracle Girl

A miracle even before she was born
Coming into their life, it soon was clear
She would be one who would change their world
Always keep growing, and lead us from here

Miracle Girl making a believer of me
Every time I greet you, new miracles I see
Telling the world that you believe
Miracles will happen when God is near

Light in her eyes, as this little one grew
Her face had a charm that welcomed you
More than the trait of eyes of blue
You knew that this was a Godly hue

Miracle Girl making a believer of me
Every time I greet you, new miracles I see
Telling the world that you believe
Miracles will happen when He is near

Her life won’t be easy, time takes a toll
There will be moments, of scoffs from the crowd
The Spirit inside gives her strength to stay whole
Determined to keep living her faith out loud

Hey, Miracle Girl, you’re a wonder to see
And you are bringing miracles to be
Follow her, and you will soon believe
Supernatural things are easy to see

As the years wear on and life takes its course
Her face will always stay tuned to the light
She’ll take each moment for better, for worse
Leading many to change wrongs to right

Miracle Girl making a believer of me
Every time I meet you, new miracles I see
Telling the world that you believe
Miracles always happen when He is near

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Raise a Hallelujah


I have been very intrigued by a song recently recorded by Bethel Music. Bethel Music is the music publishing and recording arm of the Redding, California, Bethel Church. The church is large and has a theological stance that leans heavily toward expecting healing miracles. They are a non-denominational charismatic church.

The song that has caught my attention is called “Raise a Hallelujah” and was written by Jonathan David Helser, Melissa Helser, Molly Skaggs, and Jake Stevens. (One name of note in that list is Molly Skaggs, the daughter of famous Bluegrass artist Ricky Skaggs.) Jonathan David Helser found inspiration for the song in a dark time that resulted in a healing miracle. Helser and his wife are worship leaders at the church and work alongside Joel Taylor, CEO of the Bethel Music worship ministry. Joel’s two-year-old son Jaxon became grievously ill when he contracted a dangerous E. coli infection. Jaxon’s sister, Addie, also became ill but not to the same dangerous degree.

At one point, Joel Taylor called David Helser deeply concerned that Jaxon might die in the hospital. Helser remembers the pain and fear of this moment and then the song began to form. Right there in that quiet moment he began to “raise a hallelujah” and the song began to form in his heart. The song speaks of praising God in the midst of great darkness, fear, and many enemies. Word was sent out and the whole Bethel Church community began praying for Jaxon.  Jaxon recovered and walked out of the hospital a healthy two-year-old. Was this truly a God miracle or a medical miracle? We cannot be sure because God always leaves room for us to believe and room for us to doubt. By all that I have read, I would say that God healed this little boy and inspired the song to proclaim his love for his people.

This type of miracle can raise many questions and can inspire our hearts. In my own life these types of questions have led me to begin writing a book about the supernatural and God’s miraculous interventions in life. Pray with me that we might come to have an even better understanding of God’s work in our natural and supernatural world. The lyrics of the song follow.

Raise a Hallelujah

I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies
I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief
I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody
I raise a hallelujah, heaven comes to fight for me

I'm gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you're gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!

I raise a hallelujah, with everything inside of me
I raise a hallelujah, I will watch the darkness flee
I raise a hallelujah, in the middle of the mystery
I raise a hallelujah, fear you lost your hold on me!

I'm gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you're gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!

Sing a little louder (Sing a little louder)
Sing a little louder (Sing a little louder)
Sing a little louder (Sing a little louder)
Let's sing a little louder (Let's sing a little louder)

Sing a little louder (In the presence of my enemies)
Sing a little louder (Louder than the unbelief)
Sing a little louder (My weapon is a melody)
Sing a little louder (Heaven comes to fight for me)

Sing a little louder (In the presence of my enemies)
Sing a little louder (Louder than the unbelief)
Sing a little louder (My weapon is a melody)
Let's sing a little louder (Heaven comes to fight for me)
Sing a little louder!!

I'm gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you're gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!

Oh, I'm gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you're gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!

I raise a hallelujah
I raise a hallelujah
I raise a hallelujah
I raise a hallelujah!

Just begin to raise your own hallelujah
I can't do it for you
There's a song written on your heart only you can sing
And when you sing enemies flee

When you sing prison walls come falling down
When you sing heaven invades the earth
So just begin to lift up your hallelujah

Raise it like a banner
Raise it like a flag
Raise it in the middle of the storm
Let it rise, let it rise

Like a symphony to the King
Everything to You, Jesus
We raise it all
Sing a little louder!

I raise a hallelujah
I raise a hallelujah
I raise a hallelujah
I raise a hallelujah

I raise a hallelujah (In the presence of my enemies)
I raise a hallelujah (Louder than the unbelief)
I raise a hallelujah (My weapon is a melody)
I raise a hallelujah (Heaven comes to fight for me)

Songwriters: Jonathan David Helser / Melissa Helser / Molly Skaggs / Jake Stevens
Raise a Hallelujah lyrics © Bethel Music Publishing

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Good-bye Opportunity


About three weeks ago I wrote about the Curiosity Rover that has been functioning on Mars for six and a half years. Today we say farewell to the Opportunity Rover (2004 – 2018) which was formally pronounced dead at a news conference yesterday. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate, said, "I'm standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude to declare the Opportunity mission as complete, and with it, the Mars Exploration Rover mission as complete."[1]

What a run this little rover had. NASA has a webpage[2]dedicated to the travels and images of this rover from more than fourteen years of roving. It was last heard from on June 10, 2018 when a dust storm caused it to begin to lose the ability to harvest electricity from the sun. Yesterday’s announcement emphasised the technological triumph of this rover staying active far beyond the days of its original 90-Martian-day (90 sols) mission.[3]Of course NASA’s Curiosity Rover is still expected to continue sending back data for the foreseeable future and NASA has plans for a Red Planet: Mars 2020 mission that includes another rover.

So, this Valentine’s Day, we send our love to Oppy, the little Rover who gave us so much more than we asked. We look forward to the next series of explorations of the Martian landscape.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

With God as Our Father


The Bible repeatedly refers to God as father and his followers as his children. Dependent upon our relationships with our earthly parents, this can either be a calming thought or one that leads to tension. Some of us were taught that our heavenly father was mostly a judge who showed his disappointment and anger when we made mistakes. Most of the time when I think of the relationship between father and son, my mind goes to how I feel as an adult, but perhaps the better way to imagine the concept is between a wise father and a very young child. The Bible tells us that God is far superior to humans in reasoning and love (Isaiah 55:8 is only one place we find this truth) and we can readily see that as the creator of this vast universe in which we live, he is far beyond us. When we are mere babes-in-arms or toddlers, and our fathers are given the responsibility to care for our needs and train us up in the ways that we should go, perhaps that is when we are most like the relationship between God the father and we the children.

Pastor Steve McMillan at Bow Valley Christian Church recently used an illustration that points to the truth in this. When a child reaches that age where they begin to walk (usually within a few months of their first birthday) we see the pride of the father in the child. The child manages to get up and hold onto some piece of furniture and walks along it before coming to the end of safety. At some point, they must launch out on their own and so they stretch a leg and arm out and take those first halting steps. Soon the awkwardness of legs, body, and heavy head get in the way and the child thumps down on the forgiving cushion of a nicely padded bottom. At this point we don’t see the father berate the child for falling. We don’t hear him say, “What is wrong with you? You only took three steps!” No, instead the father is ecstatic. He cheers the babe on and says, “Wonderful, you did so well. You took three steps before falling." He pulls out his cell phone and tries to capture the next steps on video. He calls his wife into the room and says, “Honey, come in here quick, see what our daughter has just done!” He calls his parents on the phone and acts like his child is the most brilliant and coordinated child on the planet. He jumps around and hoots like a mad-man, all because this child took three steps and fell hard.

So too, our heavenly father is more interested in the steps we take than in the many times we fall. Sure, he does not want to see us fall and get hurt; there is pain in his heart when he sees us scrape our knees and bruise our muscles. Yet, he is more interested in the fact that we actually walked for a while. He is there to encourage us to get up, wince at the pain, bandage the scrapes, and get moving again. Fathers do not worry about the falls. Certainly, if the child keeps falling for the next several years there may be something wrong and the father intervenes to find a way to help the son walk, but that is not the usual case. 

So, what of my life here on this earth? Am I focussed on how many times I fall or on how much progress I am making? I would do well to set myself some goals and aim toward them rather than focussing on the time I spend on the ground. My heavenly father is certainly looking at foot-steps and progress, otherwise he could not be my loving father at all.