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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Why the Internet is Full of Temptations (and what we can do about it)

This is a guest post from Luke Gilkerson. He is the general editor and primary author of Breaking Free, the Covenant Eyes blog. Luke has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and is working on an MA in Religion from Reformed Theological Seminary. Before working at Covenant Eyes he spent six years as a college campus minister. He is also the author of Porn in the Pews: Teaching Your Church about the Dangers of Pornography. He lives in Michigan with his wife Trisha and two sons, Bradley and Cameron.

How many times have you heard a story about an Internet-related problem in the past few months? I’m not just talking about things like identity theft or cyber crime—I’m talking about all the poor uses of the Internet that seem to ruin lives and dissolve our most important relationships.
  • Headlines speak of the latest Internet predator caught in the act of grooming a teenager. 
  • New reports come out weekly about how slanderous words exchanged over e-mail or Facebook lead to broken hearts or shattered reputations.
  • More and more studies show modern families are becoming engrossed in technology, so much so their face-to-face relationships are suffering.
  • Literally millions of websites with graphic and degrading sexual content are available to see at the click of a mouse, and this doesn’t even include all the “grey areas” of temptation and titillation.

The common thread

 What is the common thread for all of these problems? Some want to blame the technology itself. The Internet has given us a level of accessibility that, perhaps, many people are not ready to have. While this is one common thread, I don’t believe is it the most important one. I believe the problem is not mostly technological, but relational.

One of the more insidious common threads that runs through Internet-related dangers is that of anonymity. The Internet gives us the ability to experience, explore, and express ourselves in total secrecy. Knowing no one has to know what I do, what I see, or who I talk to often lowers our defenses and removes our inhibitions.

Many times, this cloak of secrecy brings out the worst in us and exposes us to the worst in others. We are like Gyges of Lydia (mentioned by Plato), who found a magic ring that could make him invisible. Intoxicated with his new power, this once-humble shepherd snuck into the palace, seduced the queen, plundered the palace, and assassinated the king. In a similar fashion, today we hide behind monitors and smartphones so we can be seduced by flickering pixels, squander our time in endless amusement, and slaughter one another with our words.

Accountability vs. anonymity

 In our always-plugged-in culture, the battle must be waged on two fronts.
The first front is the gate of our own hearts. Try as we might, we cannot blame technology for corrupting us. Technology has only exposed how easily corruptible we really are.

The first front, therefore, is our accountability to God Himself. We must admit to ourselves and to God our weaknesses when it comes to living lives of faith in the Information Age. We must train ourselves and our children to recognize that, despite the apparent anonymity of the online world, nothing escapes God’s penetrating gaze. He is always present.

The second front of the battle is our connection to other people. Despite the fact that much of our time online is private time, we should not be seduced into believing what we do online does not impact others.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Desiring God 25th Anniversary Edition Endorsement

This past February, I had the privilege of organizing a meeting for a couple hundred pastors who serve in the urban communities of Los Angeles, with the aim of introducing them to John Piper. Because John is not on the radio in LA, as inconceivable as this might seem, many of the pastors were unfamiliar with Desiring God Ministries (DGM). As I brought John to the pulpit, I stated how I share his conviction that Jesus did not die to build a segregated church. John preached a new wrinkle in his Desiring God message; he titled it “What is the Bottom of Your Joy?” The pastors were moved, God was glorified, Jesus was preached, the Spirit stirred the hearts of His servants, and I have not stopped listening to that sermon. It gave me words to express why God is the bottom on my joy. It plunged my mind deeply into the reservoir of God’s infinite love for me. I pray that the truths unleashed in Desiring God 25th Anniversary Edition will flow to all of Christ’s churches, and that God uses them to saturate more hearts with the joy that comes from marveling at the depth of the glory of His love which He reveals to His saints through Christ.