How Online Dating Impacts Health

By creating a seemingly endless choice of romantic partners for its users, online dating apps have facilitated a "hook-up" culture that's not conducive to settling down and is driving loneliness, anxiety and depression. (Composite: Letty Avila. Image source: iStock.)

Hey  TD!

I read this article by USC Dornsife’s Susan Bell and thought it an interesting topic of discussion.  It’s not an article written from a Christian perspective, but I think brings up some good points to think through, pray about, and discuss.

What do you think of online dating? What do you think of the research results?  Many in our church have used online dating services, while others swear against it.  What guidelines do we find in the Bible that would help us think about this more clearly?  Does this research have broader implications than just for dating?

This would be great to discuss with your small group members and leaders on several levels!

For better or worse: Looking for love in the internet age

Online dating and social media have revolutionized how we look for love. USC Dornsife’s Julie Albright reveals how this digital technology has far-reaching effects on our health and well-being. [4 ¾ min read]

By creating a seemingly endless choice of romantic partners for its users, online dating apps have facilitated a “hook-up” culture that’s not conducive to settling down and is driving loneliness, anxiety and depression. (Composite: Letty Avila. Image source: iStock.)

When online dating began, there was no swiping left or right, no photo-shopped selfies or alluring videos, just lonely singles pouring out their hearts in internet chat rooms.

Initially, there was a certain shame attached to online dating, Julie Albright says. “But people were really opening up and talking about things, maybe for the first time. It was all about getting to know the inner person, and many people felt like they’d met their soul mate.”

The original stigma may have gone as online dating went mainstream with the dawn of the mobile internet era, but Albright, a lecturer in psychology at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, says everything else has changed, too, as the app economy commodified people and relationships into something far more superficial.

Online dating is now the second or third most common way — depending on age — for Americans to meet romantic partners. In Albright’s upcoming book, Left to Their Own Devices: How Digital Natives are Reshaping the American Dream (Prometheus Books, 2019), she describes how it has altered the landscape of love and romance in the 21st century and reveals how the ways we now look for love are affecting our relationships, our health and our well-being — even the very fabric of society.

 

The loneliness paradox

Online dating creates the idea that there are thousands of romantic possibilities available to us. However, that brings problems of its own, Albright warns, because when faced with a vast array of choices, paradoxically, we’re unable to choose.

“We keep thinking there are endless choices, that maybe someone better will come along,” she said. “But at the end of the day, people who don’t choose are going to end up lonely because they’re not in a relationship. You have to choose and you have to commit to build something.”

But by facilitating a “hookup” culture, dating apps have created an environment that’s not conducive to settling down.

Dating has become a sport, Albright argues, rather than a means to build a long-term relationship.

“You couldn’t talk to 300 women in a night in a bar, but with a dating app, you can throw out a thousand hooks and get 300 bites.”

Traditions like marriage or buying a home, she says, provide a guiding north star by which people can navigate their lives. Now, young digital natives, hyper-attached to digital technologies and no longer choosing commitment and marriage, are unhooking from traditional social structures and are cast adrift — a process Albright calls “coming untethered.”

“Taking the endgame out of courtship changes the dynamic of what dating is about. If you’re just dating in a constant churn, there’s no future and no hope on the horizon,” she said. “Instead, it becomes all about experience.”

The result, Albright argues, is that people find themselves lonely or anxious without knowing why.

“You would think we’re more connected than ever,” Albright says, “yet paradoxically, as we become increasingly enraptured and mesmerized by our devices, we’re separating from one another.”

A warped sense of self

 

Noting that we develop our sense of self through the reflected appraisal of others, Albright warns that people are drifting far from their true selves in constructing their dating profiles. The end result can undermine self-esteem because others are giving validation for a self that the person knows to be false.

This “virtual mirror” is also causing anxiety and depression, Albright notes, as people feel they can never live up to the images they see, even although they’re comparing themselves to an “other” that doesn’t really exist.

Doubly addictive

Even if we know online dating is making us depressed, it’s not easy to stop, Albright argues. She compares using dating apps to playing one-armed bandits in Las Vegas. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and that’s why you keep going back for more,” she says, noting the power of random reinforcement as a behavioral driver.

And that’s not all. Dating apps and social media also fuel a narcissistic desire for attention, satisfying primitive psychological needs for attention, affirmation and validation.

“People can get very hooked on that,” Albright says.

Even if we can overcome our addiction to dating apps, abandoning them in favor of real-life encounters isn’t so easy either. Meeting in real life now makes many people nervous, Albright says, as subtle conversation and flirting skills are lost through lack of practice, causing people to feel increasingly anxious and socially awkward.

As a result, many younger people prefer texting to talking. This can translate into fewer partners as digital hyper-connectivity replaces physical relationships.

The good news

Albright does see some positive aspects to online dating.

Early indicators show that relationships started online may be more successful. Online dating and social media can help people meet someone based on common interests and values that can predict a lasting relationship. They can also enable users to meet potential partners outside their normal social sphere, leading to more interracial relationships.

Postponing marriage may mean couples are more mature and marriages later in life tend to be more stable — good news, too, for older women, who tend to be more successful dating online than younger women.

“Online dating does open up new doors for people by giving them a place to begin again,” Albright says. For older people coming out of a divorce or a long relationship, particularly, and unused to dating, it offers hope.

And Albright’s advice for finding true love?

Avoid creating a false online persona, and take time to develop intimacy. But above all: Switch off your phone.

“Spend time together, get to know each other, look into each other’s eyes and make building that relationship a sacred space. Just make sure it’s without the intrusion of a device.”

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How Could All the Animals Fit on the Ark?

Ark Animal Care

Hey TD!

As Stella and I were discussing Noah’s Ark this week, I found myself not only wondering how Noah was able to get all the animals on the ark, but what animals he really got on the ark, and, to be honest, … was this really possible … at least as I understood it?

Lo and behold, I received this article in my inbox this morning from Answers in Genesis and thought that some of you would be interested in reading it.

Feel free to discuss it with one another or with a leader, for good discussion helps sharpen and refine our thoughts and understanding. – Arthur

How Could All the Animals Fit on the Ark?

by Michael Belknap and Tim Chaffey on April 2, 2019

One of the most important issues relating to the Bible’s flood account is the topic of animals on the ark. The estimated numbers, sizes, and types of ark animals impact nearly every aspect of the vessel’s interior operations, including time and labor expenditures, food and water needs, space and waste management, and enclosure design.1

The subject of fitting the required animals on the ark is a significant point of contention between biblical creationists and skeptics. However, properly addressing these concerns is more complicated than a mere compilation of data about different animal species. First, we must answer some fundamental questions.

How Large Was the Ark?

ACCORDING TO GENESIS 6:15, THE ARK WAS 300 CUBITS LONG, 50 CUBITS WIDE, AND 30 CUBITS HIGH—THE PROPORTIONS OF A GENUINE SHIPPING VESSEL.

According to Genesis 6:15, the ark was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high—the proportions of a genuine shipping vessel. A cubit is typically considered to be the length from a man’s furthest fingertip to his elbow. While various cubit lengths have been used throughout history, the Ark Encounter calculated the size of the ark based on a 20.4-inch (52 cm) cubit. The result is a vessel 510 feet (155 m) long, 85 feet (26 m) wide, and 51 feet (16 m) high. Accounting for a 15% reduction in volume due to the curvature of the hull, an ark this size could contain the equivalent of 450 semi-trailers of cargo or about 1.88 million cubic feet (53,200 m3)—a truly massive ship.

Which Animals Were Required on the Ark?

The Bible informs us that the ark housed representatives of every land-dependent, air-breathing animal—ones that could not otherwise survive the flood (Genesis 7:21–23). Conversely, Noah did not care for marine animals, and he probably did not need to bring insects, with the possible exception of delicate insects like butterflies and moths—since most insects could survive outside the ark. Also, insects take in oxygen through spiracles in their skin, and the Bible specifies that those creatures targeted outside of the ark were those “on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life.”

How Many Species Are in the World Today?

Skeptics often assert that there are millions of species in the world— far more than the number that could fit on the ark. However, according to estimates published in 2014, there are fewer than 1.8 million documented species of organisms in the world. Consider also that over 98 percent of those species are fish, invertebrates, and non-animals (like plants and bacteria). This means that there are fewer than 34,000 species of known, land-dependent vertebrates in the world today.2

Species or Kinds?

Though wild animals today are often considered according to their species, the Bible deals with animals according to their min, a Hebrew word usually translated as “kind.” We can infer from Scripture that God created plants and animals to reproduce after their kinds (Genesis 1:11–25), and it is clear from various texts that a kind is often a broader category than the current concept of a species. This means that a kind may contain many different species. Since Noah was only sent select representatives from relevant kinds, all land-dwelling vertebrate species not present on the ark were wiped out. Therefore, if we see an ark kind represented today by different species (e.g., horses, zebras, and donkeys of the equid kind) those species have developed since the time of the flood. Therefore, species are simply varying expressions of a particular kind.

What Is an Animal Kind?

There are numerous approaches to defining a kind, but one of the simplest is a distinctly created type of organism and all descendants. Kinds are often referred to as baramins (from the Hebrew words for “created” and “kind”), and the study of created kinds is called baraminology.

What Are the Criteria for Identifying Kinds?

In 2011, Ark Encounter researchers began in-depth animal studies with the goal of identifying the maximum number of ark kinds.3 The researchers applied three primary criteria in estimating the ark kinds: hybridization, cognitum, and statistical baraminology.4

Hybrid data is the favored method in identifying kinds. Researchers believe that only closely related animals can successfully produce offspring, and this is consistent with the Bible’s emphasis on the relationship between reproduction and created kinds. Since only animals in the same kind are related, hybrids positively identify which animals are part of the same kind. The usefulness of hybrid data is limited, however, in that not all potential crosses have been tested or reliably documented, and some organisms have gone extinct. Hybridization is also strictly an inclusive criterion, as not even all related animals can produce offspring together (i.e., they have lost the ability to reproduce with certain others of their kind).

The cognitum approach estimates animal kinds using the human senses of perception. This method assumes that animal kinds have maintained their core distinctiveness even as they have diversified over time. Presently, extinct animals are most often classified using this approach. For example, woolly mammoths are extinct, and no hybrid data are connecting them with elephants. However, their extreme similarity to elephants has resulted in their assignment to the elephant kind.

In statistical analyses, continuities and discontinuities of animals are identified by comparing physical traits using statistical tests called baraminic distance correlation (BDC). Like the cognitum approach, this method assumes that the physical similarities and dissimilarities identified in the tests are reliable indicators of relatedness. It also assumes that the traits selected for comparison are baraminologically significant.

What Are Some Safeguards Against Underestimating the Number of Ark Animals?

The Ark Encounter researchers put several safeguards in place to avoid underestimating the number of animals on the ark. These include a tendency to “split” rather than “lump” animal groups. Also, all “clean” and all flying creatures—not just “clean” ones—were multiplied by fourteen instead of seven animals.

What Are Splitting and Lumping?

Estimating the number of animals on the ark depends upon several factors. Near the top of that list is the decision to split or lump the animals that may or may not be related as a kind.

Coyotes, wolves, dingoes, and domestic dogs can generally interbreed. Thus, they can be lumped into the same kind. So, Noah just needed two members of the dog kind on the ark.

On the other hand, there are approximately two dozen known families of bats, living and extinct. Based on anatomy and other features, many of these families probably belong to the same kind (e.g., if we used the cognitum criteria). In fact, it is possible that every bat belongs to the same kind. However, since breeding studies have not yet confirmed this idea, the Ark Encounter researchers split the bats into their various families. So instead of including as few as 14 bats on the ark, the team accounted for over 300 of them (14 from each family). In keeping with the worst-case approach to estimating the number of animals on the ark, the animals were split into separate kinds whenever the data was insufficient to support lumping them into a single kind.

Why Fourteen Instead of Seven?

Some Bible translations indicate that Noah was to bring seven of each flying creature and clean animal. Yet other Bible translations state that seven pairs of these creatures were on the ark.

Seven of Each Kind Seven Pairs of Each Kind
KJV*
NKJV
NASB*
NET*
NIV (1984)*
NLT
ESV*
HCSB
NRSV
NIV (2011)
* Asterisks indicate that a textual note appears in these Bibles that mentions the possibility of the other view.

The Hebrew text literally reads, “seven seven—a male and his female” (Genesis 7:2). Does this unique phrasing mean seven or fourteen?

In favor of the “seven” view is that Genesis 8:20 states that Noah sacrificed clean animals and birds after the flood. While it doesn’t say that Noah sacrificed just one animal of each clean kind, those who hold to the “seven” view could point to the common “six and one” pattern seen in the Old Testament. For example, God created the world in six days and rested for one (Genesis 1; Exodus 20:11). Perhaps six of each clean animal were for man’s use, and one was dedicated to the Lord.

In favor of the “seven pairs” view is the text’s mention that there would be a male and “his female” for the clean animals. If an odd number was brought to Noah, then plenty of animals did not have a mate. Furthermore, the Hebrew text does not use similar wording with the unclean animals in verse two. That is, readers can know that one pair of unclean animals was in view, but the text does not say “two two, a male and his female.” It just has the word for two.

Since Hebrew language scholars do not agree about this issue, it seems wise to be tentative about which view is accurate. Since a worst-case approach is being used regarding the animals, these calculations are based on the “seven pairs” position.

What Is Meant by a “Worst-Case Scenario?”

The Ark Encounter depicts a worst-case approach when estimating the number of animal kinds. Some people believe Noah brought two of every unclean animal and seven of every clean animal. The text seems to indicate that Noah cared for more animals than this (Genesis 7:2–3), particularly when it comes to the clean animals and flying creatures. The Lord may have sent seven pairs of the clean animals and seven pairs of all the flying creatures (not just the clean varieties).

Although this worst-case approach more than doubles the total estimated number of animals on the ark, this model shows that even a high-end estimate of total animals would have fit on board. Obviously, if the Lord sent just seven of each clean animal and seven of just the clean flying creatures, the ark would have had plenty of space to accommodate this lower total.

How Big Were the Ark Animals?

People often wonder how all the animals could have fit in the ark, particularly when considering the massive dinosaurs. We see so many illustrations of large creatures packed tightly into a little boat. But this image is inaccurate. Noah’s ark was much larger than it is usually depicted, and many of the animals were probably smaller than shown in popular pictures.

NOAH’S ARK WAS MUCH LARGER THAN IT IS USUALLY DEPICTED, AND MANY OF THE ANIMALS WERE PROBABLY SMALLER THAN SHOWN IN POPULAR PICTURES.

It makes more sense to think that God would have sent to Noah juveniles or smaller varieties within the same kind. Consider the following advantages of bringing juveniles or smaller versions of a creature:

  1. They take up less space.
  2. They eat less.
  3. They create less waste.
  4. They are often easier to manage.
  5. They are generally more resilient.
  6. In the case of juveniles, they would have more time to reproduce after the flood.

Indeed, even when the giant dinosaurs and elephant-sized creatures are factored in, the ark animals were probably much smaller than is frequently assumed. According to Ark Encounter estimates, it is projected only 15 percent of ark animals would have achieved an average adult mass over 22 pounds (10 kg). This means that the vast majority of ark animals were smaller than a beagle, with most of those being much smaller. Starting with a mass category of 0.035–0.35 oz. (1–10 g), the animal groups were distributed into eight logarithmically increasing size classes. Amazingly, the size range with the highest projected number of ark animals was 0.35–3.5 oz. (10–100 g).

How Many Animal Kinds and Individuals Were on the Ark?

Based on initial projections, the Ark Encounter team estimates that there were around 1,400 animal kinds on the ark. It is anticipated that future research may reduce that number even further.

The Ark Encounter team projects that there were fewer than 7,000 animals on board the ark. The wide discrepancy between the number of ark kinds and individuals is due to the relatively large number of flying and “clean” kinds—each estimated at 14 animals apiece.

Extinct Groups Kinds (est.) Per Kind Total Animals (est.)
Amphibians 54 2 108
Reptiles 219 Flying: 24 x 14 = 336
Flightless: 195 x 2 = 390
726
Non-Mammalian Synapsids 78 2 156
Mammals 332 Clean/Flying: 15 x 14 = 210
Unclean: 317 x 2 = 634
844
Birds 89 Flying: 69 x 14 = 966
Flightless: 20 x 2 = 40
1,006
Living Groups Kinds (est.) Per Kind Total Animals (est.)
Amphibians 194 2 388
Reptiles 101 2 202
Mammals 136 Clean/Flying: 31 x 14 = 434
Unclean: 105 x 2 = 210
644
Birds 195 Flying: 190 x 14 = 2,660
Flightless: 5 x 2 = 10
2,670
Total 1,398 6,744

Conclusion

It is worth noting that the numbers included here are only initial estimates drawn from currently available information. On the other hand, a hypothetical 3D-digital ark created by the Ark Encounter design team, complete with all enclosures, interior structural elements, food, and water storage, showed that everything fit extremely well with little space left over.

JUST AS NOAH TRUSTED GOD CONCERNING UNSEEN THINGS, SO TOO SHOULD WE TRUST GOD IN THE THINGS WE CANNOT WITNESS.

In the end, the most important reason to believe that all the right animals fit has nothing to do with spreadsheets and 3D models—as helpful as they can sometimes be. We find this reason in Hebrews 11:7, where the writer says, “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” Just as Noah trusted God concerning unseen things, so too should we trust God in the things we cannot witness. Since God provided both the ark specifications and the creatures sustained within the vessel (Genesis 6:20), we can know just as surely as Noah that they all fit and were spared the watery judgment.

Adapted, with permission, from Tim Chaffey and Laura Welch, Inside Noah’s Ark: Why It Worked (Green Forest, Arkansas: Master Books, 2016), chapter 3.

Footnotes

  1. See Inside Noah’s Ark: Why It Worked, ed. Laura Welch (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2016).
  2. IUCN 2014. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. . Downloaded on 9 November 2016.
  3. See the following articles:
  4. These last two methods are admittedly subjective and play off the assumption of common design indicating common ancestry within a kind. Even though these methods are utilized, the results are seen as highly tentative since they have proven inaccurate in certain instances. But due to the limited amount of hybridization data, these are presently our best alternatives.

Doers, Not Hearers Only

Image result for doers of the word

Hey TD,

Here’s a great reminder and charge to go and put our faith into practice in our everyday lives.

James wrote his letter to Diaspora Jews who had become Christians (1:1). As Jews living outside Jerusalem, they had developed a great appreciation for listening to the reading of the Law in the synagogues, especially because they could not attend the temple services. They considered hearing the Law to be a proper substitute for the temple sacrifices. After becoming Christians, it appears, they continued to think in the same way: to hear the Word of God in their meetings was enough for them to remain God’s people.

James, however, says to them that merely hearing the Word will not save them:

Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. (James 1:22–24)

If the people did not practice what they regularly heard in their meetings, they were deceiving themselves. “To deceive” here means to make an erroneous assessment of something and then lead someone else to error through this assessment (Col. 2:4). James’ readers were deceiving themselves by having misjudged the value of hearing the Word, as if merely listening to sermons could save them. The Word is powerful to save, and when the Word saves people, it causes them to bear the fruit of obedience. However, because they did not make this assessment, they were content with being mere hearers. They were deceiving themselves.

James exhorts them to be “doers” of the Word. Doers go forward with something, as part of what they believe. Doers obey the Word of God, putting His teachings into practice, in contrast with someone who is content at merely listening to that Word.

James introduces a comparison to explain the uselessness of hearing the Word without acting on it. There is a similarity between the mere hearers of sermons and someone who looks in the mirror and soon forgets his face. Both the mere hearer and the forgetful contemplator do nothing about what they have heard and seen. Therefore, the hearing and seeing do not result in anything. They are useless and fruitless exercises, even if done with great attention and dedication.

What is the use of hearing the Word of God if we are not corrected and encouraged to do what is right? How can we have been saved if we do not practice what we hear? Through the prophet Ezekiel, God denounced His people under the old covenant for exactly the same mistake: “They hear what you say, but they will not do it” (Ezek. 33:31–32). The Lord Jesus compared the one who hears His words and does not do them to a house without a solid foundation (Matt. 7:26). Many Christians do not so much need to learn new things but need instead to put into practice what they have already heard and learned.

Are We Eating “Processed Religion”?

Image result for processed religion

That’s a good point, isn’t it, TD?

Yet, that seems to be something we are fighting each other about.  “TD is too intense, too long, too deep” et al are the cries of those who want TD studies to be lighter, simpler, and more bite-sized for easier consumption. But is that really what God wants from us? Is that what’s going to help get you through high school growing spiritually stronger each year? This is something we all at TD, both students and leaders alike, need to consider and pray through, and then act upon. I believe the following article brings some insight into the discussion. – Arthur

Some years ago, after watching a documentary that extols the virtues of juicing, I experimented with doing a juice fast. I started buying produce by the bushel and tried all sorts of juice recipes. My kitchen hummed with the sound of my juicer or my trusty Ninja blender.

It was fun for a while—a short while. The process was messy and time consuming, and cleaning the juicer was a pain. So I started buying bottled juice instead, but that was boring and expensive. I gave up before long.

One of the reasons I undertook the experiment had to do with taste. I’ve always been a picky eater, and I began to suspect that part of the reason for this had to do with what I had done to my ability to taste. I had subsisted for so long on processed, artificial food that I could not taste or appreciate more subtle (and natural) flavors. I had burned out my taste buds. So, I wanted to take some time when I was ingesting only natural foods in hopes that I could learn to appreciate real flavors.

Sometimes, when I survey the state of American Christianity, I am reminded of this reason for my juice fast. Many Christians are feeding themselves with the spiritual equivalent of processed food. It is processed religion: light shows and rock bands in place of reverent worship, self-help books masquerading as edification, and self-focused comedy shows presented as sermons.

Processed religion is often attractive. But it has been heavily refined in order to be highly palatable, so it provides only a short-term boost without much lasting nutrition. Like a sugar rush, it carries you on for a while, but it cannot sustain you over the long term. Even the best of it is spiritual milk, but we are called to move on to spiritual meat (1 Cor. 3:1–2; Heb. 5:12–14).

As I had burned out my taste buds on processed food, I fear that we are at risk of burning out our spiritual taste buds when we subsist on processed religion. We are called to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8), to “come to the waters,” and to “eat” (Isa. 55:1). But the flavors of biblical religion can be subtle, and they take time to appreciate. A quiet time of prayer, the solemnity of the Lord’s Supper, the gravity of a well-crafted, biblical sermon—these are the things that nourish our souls.

God has prescribed in His Word the things that will satisfy our spirits, because He knows better than we do what is good for us. He has provided for us the ordinary means of grace—the Word, the sacraments, and prayer—as the simple, methodical, steady diet that will allow us to grow in grace over time. When we come and eat and drink of the deep, fulfilling richness of God’s means of grace, we will be satisfied

When we concentrate on the God-ordained means of our spiritual nourishment, we can grow to appreciate them as the genuine food that they are, and we will want nothing else. And unlike my juice fast, they—and God—will not disappoint us.

How to Train Your Dragons

Image result for how to train your dragons greg morse

Hey TD!

Here’s a good article that Rebecca sent me last month that is quite pertinent to our lives and to our discussion in TD this month on dying to self and living for God.  Slay your dragons, friends.

How to Train Your Dragons

KILLING PET SINS BEFORE THEY KILL YOU

by Greg Morse

“Excuse me, can you repeat what you just said?”

I was certain I heard him wrong.

“ . . . ”

“So you’re saying that if we are struggling consistently with sexual sin, we should wean ourselves off of it by sinning in moderation? If we do said sin six times a week, you’re telling us to limit it to five per week for a time, then to four, three, two, until zero?”

The leader of a highly recommended program for male Christian purity reiterated the sentiment as everyone around me nodded at the sage’s words. After all, we just heard Jimmy’s video testimony about how he went from sinning several times a day to only sinning, well, several times a month. The strategy must work.

The friend who brought me braced himself.

“With all due respect, you can’t be serious. Do you know what sin is?

As he continued to talk, it was evident that he did not.

To him, making provision for the flesh several times a week was, in the end, beneficial to our holiness. To him, a couple of slices of forbidden fruit wasn’t really that bad. To him, sin was manageable, tamable, controllable. To him, cutting off one’s members seemed like an overreaction — just gently wean yourself off of the sin.

To him, sin was not:

  • The glory of God not honored.
  • The holiness of God not reverenced.
  • The greatness of God not admired.
  • The power of God not praised.
  • The truth of God not sought.
  • The wisdom of God not esteemed.
  • The beauty of God not treasured.
  • The goodness of God not savored.
  • The faithfulness of God not trusted.
  • The promises of God not believed.
  • The commandments of God not obeyed.
  • The justice of God not respected.
  • The wrath of God not feared.
  • The grace of God not cherished.
  • The presence of God not prized.
  • The person of God not loved.

Nor was it,

The dare of God’s justice, the rape of his mercy, the jeer of his patience, the slight of his power, and the contempt of his love. (John Bunyan)

To him, sin was like breaking the speed limit — nothing personal.

It was not an injury to our greatest Lover, a betrayal of our truest Friend, a dishonoring of our heavenly Father, an act of war against our mighty King, the creature spitting towards his Almighty Creator.

One of these was enough to curse the entire world. But allowing for several per week was apparently fine. Sin was a pet that we should eventually get rid of, but in the meantime, you could scratch its belly and teach it to play dead.

Sin Is Not a Pet

Sin is not a pet to be walked several times a week. It is a lion, a wolf, a bear. It bites and hunts at will. It attacks as a piranha. It is a restless evil lit ablaze by the fires of hell. Sin cannot be trained, bridled, or domesticated. Cannot be rescued, rehabilitated, or redeemed. Sin will never wear a collar, stick to its kennel, or cease clawing at your throat.

Sin marks us as targets for the great artillery of God’s wrath (Colossians 3:5–6). Sin makes us worthy of death (Romans 1:32). Sin will be found out and hated (Psalm 36:1–2). We never make peace with it, never make provision for it, never mark it in our calendars. Sin must be destroyed by the Spirit if we want to live (Romans 8:13).

Safer to have a pet male tiger than a pet sin.

The Lizard Upon the Shoulder

But many have tried. C.S. Lewis depicts this philosophy pictured above in The Great Divorce. In the book, a Ghost who has been kept out of heaven tries to keep his pet sin, a red lizard. In the scene, the Ghost constantly scolds the pet upon his shoulder. An angel asks the Ghost if he would like the lizard silenced.

“Of course I would,” said the Ghost.

“Then I will kill him,” said the Angel, taking a step forward.

“Oh — ah — look out! You’re burning me. Keep away,” said the Ghost retreating.

“Don’t you want him killed?”

“You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.”

“It’s the only way,” said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the Lizard. “Shall I kill it?”

“ . . . ”

“Well, there’s time to discuss that later.”

“There is no time. May I kill it.”

“Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please — really — don’t bother. Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.”

“May I kill it?”

“Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.”

The gradual process is of no use at all.

More excuses are given, but now we overhear the lizard whispering in his ear,

“Be careful,” it said. “He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you’ll be without me for ever and ever. It’s not natural. How could you live? You’d be only a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now. He doesn’t understand. He’s only a cold, bloodless abstract thing. It may be natural for him, but it isn’t for us. Yes, yes. I know there are no real pleasures now, only dreams. But aren’t they better than nothing? And I’ll be so good. I admit I’ve sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won’t do it again. I’ll give you nothing but really nice dreams — all sweet and fresh and almost innocent. You might say, quite innocent . . . ”

It is easy to fall into patterns of training our sin rather than killing it.

If your biggest reason to fight sin is that you don’t want to confess it again to an accountability group, you’re training your sin. If you only pray about the sin after you’ve “done it again,” you’re training your sin. If you do not seek Christ’s presence, if you do not commune with him in prayer and his word, if you do not invite believers into your life to stick daggers into your sin, you are training your sin to play dead without killing it.

Go and Sin No More

If you have a pet sin, you must renounce it at once. Your salvation depends on it.

Only those who have a string of sin’s carcasses behind them will enter into heaven. Only those who “work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling” knowing that God is working in them “to will and to work for his good pleasure” will be saved (Philippians 2:12–13).

But what about being saved by faith alone? You’re not. You’re justifiedthrough faith alone. Final salvation comes through justification andsanctification — both initiated and sustained by God’s grace.

There is a holiness that, if you do not have it, will keep you from seeing the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

Do not be deceived. If you sow to the flesh, you will reap ruin (Galatians 6:8). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Many will say on that day that they knew him, but he will cast them out into darkness because they were “workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:21–23). Warnings are active for the Christian, and the Spirit uses them to keep us fearing God and turning from sin.

The Christian doesn’t train his dragons. We do not plan on sinning five times per week, then four, then three, until infrequent times of rebellion. After he pardons the sinner, Jesus does not say go and sin less; he says, go and sin no more. Be killing your pets, or your pets will end up killing you.

 

“An Act of Pure Evil” – Searching for Meaning in Las Vegas

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Hi TD,

With heavy heart over what’s transpired, I urge you to read Dr. Al Mohler’s response to the massacre in Las Vegas.  The truth of the matter is this, if God does not exist, then there’s nothing truly wrong with what happened in Las Vegas.  We cannot, as a nation, straddle both sides of the fence, wanting our cake and eating it too.  And we cannot as Christians either … and too many of us are.  Let us pray and then let us live hard the life God wants us to live, being who God wants us to be, doing what God wants us to do; and put the world be on notice that there is a real God who will provide real salvation, and grant real victory. – Arthur

14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve … But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15

“An Act of Pure Evil” — Searching for Meaning in Las Vegas

by R. Albert Mohler

Evil points to a necessary moral judgment made by a moral authority greater than we are — a transcendent and supernatural moral authority: God.

Today, most Americans awoke to news from Las Vegas that is nothing less than horrific. For so many in Las Vegas, Sunday night must have seemed like the night that would never end.

In the face of such overwhelming news, we naturally seek after facts. We want to know what happened, and when. We want to know who did it. By mid-morning the facts were staggering. More than fifty people are dead and hundreds wounded after a lone gunman opened fire on a music festival from a perch in a hotel room 32 floors above. The attack was deadly, diabolical, and premeditated.

The shooting is already described as the worst in American history. The gunman, believed to be Stephen Paddock, killed himself as police prepared to storm his hotel room, from which he had aimed his deadly gunfire. The facts emerged slowly, and are still emerging. Paddock had no notable criminal record. He had worked for a defense contractor, owned two private aircraft, and was known to own guns. He was reported to like Las Vegas for its gambling and entertainment. No one seems to have considered him a threat. His brother, contacted after the massacre, said that the family was beyond shock, as if “crushed by an asteroid.”

In Las Vegas and beyond, hundreds of families are crushed by grief and concern. More than fifty human beings, very much alive just hours ago, are now dead, seemingly murdered by random order.

The facts will continue to come as investigations continue. We need facts in order to steady our minds and grapple with understanding. We must have facts, and yet we can be easily overwhelmed by them. Some “facts” will not be facts at all. National Public Radio helpfully and honestly ended its news coverage of the massacre with these words: “This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities. We will update as the situation develops.” I count that as both helpful and honest.

But the facts of who and what and where and how, still unfolding, point to the even more difficult question — why?

Why would anyone kill a fellow human being? Why launch an ambush massacre upon concertgoers listening to country music? Why premeditate a mass killing?

Was he driven by some obsession, fueled by some grievance? Was he sending a signal or political message as an act of terrorism? Is the answer psychiatric or pharmacological? Our minds crave an answer.

Why do we ask why?

We cannot help but ask why because, made in God’s image, we are moral creatures who cannot grasp or understand the world around us without moral categories. We are moral creatures inhabiting a moral universe and our moral sense of meaning is the faculty most perplexed when overwhelmed by horror and grief.

The terror group known as ISIS or the Islamic State claimed that Stephen Paddock was a “lone wolf” attacker who had recently converted to Islam. Law enforcement authorities said there is no evidence of anything related to ISIS or Islam.

Clark County (NV) Sheriff Joe Lombardo told reporters that he was not sure if the massacre was sending a message as a terror attack: “We have to establish what his motivation is first. And there’s motivating factors associated with terrorism other than a distraught person just intending to cause mass casualties.”

So far as we now know, Paddock left no note and communicated no clear message. The gunfire tells some story, but we do not yet know what the story is. We may never know.

That troubles us, and so it should. Knowing the story and determining the motivation would add rationality to our understanding, but we will never really understand.

A massacre by a lone gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007. Another killed 27, mostly children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Yet another killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016. We really do not fully understand any of these attacks, nor countless other outbreaks of evil around the world.

One of the main theological insights about evil is that it is so often absurd. It is ultimately inexplicable, unfathomable, and cannot be resolved by human means.

President Trump has demonstrated little interest in academic disputes over moral philosophy so he probably did not intend to wade into deep theoretical waters when he called the massacre “an act of pure evil.” But he called it right, and he expanded on his judgment. “In times such as these I know we are searching for some kind of meaning in the chaos, some kind of light in the darkness.” He went on to say: “The answers do not come easy. But we can take solace knowing that even the darkest space can be brightened by a single light, and even the most terrible despair can be illuminated by a single ray of hope.”

That is exactly how a president should speak, and underlining the “act of pure evil” as evil is exactly how a morally sane person should think. The judgment of evil here, real evil, should be beyond dispute.

Evil is a fact, too. And evil is a theological category. The secular worldview cannot use the word with coherence or sense. The acknowledgement of evil requires the affirmation of a moral judgment and a moral reality above human judgment. If we are just accidental beings in an accidental universe, nothing can really be evil. Evil points to a necessary moral judgment made by a moral authority greater than we are — a transcendent and supernatural moral authority: God.

College professors tell us that moral relativism has produced a generation of Americans who resist calling anything evil, and even deny the existence of moral facts. Justin P. McBrayer, who teaches at Fort Lewis College in Colorado, wrote in The New York Times that “many college-aged students don’t believe in moral facts.”

That’s truly frightening, but McBrayer argues that by the time students arrive at college, they have already been told over and over again that there are no moral facts — that nothing is objectively right or wrong.

Only the Christian worldview, based in the Bible, can explain why moral facts exist, and how we can know them. Only the biblical worldview explains why sinful humanity commits such horrible moral wrongs. The Christian worldview also promises that God will bring about a final act of moral judgment that will be the final word on right and wrong — as facts, not merely speculation. The Gospel of Christ points us to the only way of rescue from the fact of our own evil and guilt.

Our hearts break for the families and communities now grieving, and we pray for them and for those even now fighting for life.

It is both telling and reassuring that secular people, faced with moral horror as we see now in Las Vegas, can still speak of evil as a moral fact — even if they continue to deny moral facts in the classrooms and courtrooms. No one can deny that the horror in Las Vegas came about by an act that was evil, pure evil, and evil as a fact.

I think of the Prophet Isaiah’s words: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light, and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” [Isaiah 5:20, ESV]

 

 

 

 

How Are You at Keeping Confidences?

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Hey TD,
As we continue to work out our faith during the summer, here is a convicting and challenging reminder by the legendary Chuck Swindoll about an essential part of Christian maturity. There are lots of Christians who are expert in giving a good “Christian” show to people and to the public, but are loose on the inside in matters of personal honesty and integrity; and yet this is exactly where the Lord’s pulse is with respect to evaluating how we’re really doing (on the inside, where no one else but God is watching).
There are lots of apropos applications and self-confrontations for us to make after reading this – and probably with other people – but let’s start with ourselves and work it, ok? – Arthur
Keeping Confidences

“3 Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips. 4 Don’t let me drift toward evil or take part in acts of wickedness. Don’t let me share in the delicacies of those who do wrong.” Psalm 141:3-4

Can you keep a secret?

Can you? Be honest, now. When privileged information passes through one of the gates of your senses, does it remain within the walls of your mind? Or is it only a matter of time before a leak occurs? When the grapevine requests your attention from time to time, do you refuse to help it climb higher, or do you encourage its rapid growth, fertilizing it by your wagging, unguarded tongue? When someone says, “Now this is confidential,” do you respect their trust or ignore it . . . either instantly or ultimately?

The longer I live, the more I realize the scarcity of people who can be fully trusted with confidential information. The longer I live, the more I value those rare souls who fall into that category! As a matter of fact, if I were asked to list the essential characteristics that should be found in any member of a church staff or officer on a church board . . . the ability to maintain confidences would rank very near the top. No leader deserves the respect of the people if he or she cannot restrain information that is shared in private.

Our minds might be compared to a cemetery, filled with graves that refuse to be opened. The information, no matter how juicy or dry, must rest in peace in its coffin, sealed in silence beneath the epitaph “Shared in confidence—Kept in confidence.”

You and I wouldn’t give a plugged nickel for a doctor who ran off at the mouth. The same applies to a minister or an attorney or a counselor or a judge or a teacher or a secretary . . . or a close, trusted friend for that matter. No business ever grows and remains strong unless those in leadership are people of confidence. No school maintains public respect without an administration and faculty committed to the mutual guarding of one another’s worlds. When leaks occur, it is often a sign of character weakness, and action is usually taken to discover the person who has allowed his or her mental coffin to be exhumed and examined.

Information is powerful. The person who receives it and dispenses it bit by bit often does it so that others might be impressed because he or she is “in the know.” Few things are more satisfying to the old ego than having others stare wide-eyed, drop open the jaw, and say, “My, I didn’t know that!” or “Why, that’s hard to believe!” or “How in the world did you find that out?”

Solomon writes strong and wise words concerning this subject in Proverbs. Listen to his counsel:

Wise men store up knowledge,
But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand. (10:14)

When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise. (10:19)

He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets,
But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter. (11:13)

The one who guards his mouth preserves his life;
The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. (13:3)

He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets,
Therefore do not associate with a gossip. (20:19)

Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot
Is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble.

Like a city that is broken into and without walls
Is a man who has no control over his spirit. (25:28)

From now on, let’s establish four practical ground rules:

  1. Whatever you’re told in confidence, do not repeat.
  2. Whenever you’re tempted to talk, do not yield.
  3. Whenever you’re discussing people, do not gossip.
  4. However you’re prone to disagree, do not slander.

Honestly now, can you keep a secret? Prove it.

What you’re told in confidence, don’t repeat. When discussing people, don’t gossip.

— Charles R. Swindoll

Excerpt taken from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission. For additional information and resources visit us at www.insight.org.

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