People With No Attention Spans Can’t Think About God

Here’s the latest article about how the internet and constant entertainment is killing our brains and our ability to concentrate.

The more entertained we are the more entertainment we need in order to feel satisfied . The more we fill our world with fast-moving, high-intensity, ever-changing stimulation, the more we get used to that and the less tolerant we become of lower levels.

Our attention spans are now thought to be less than that of a goldfish (eight seconds). We are hard-wired to seek novelty, which produces a hit of dopamine, that feel-good chemical, in our brains. As soon as a new stimulus is noticed, however, it is no longer new, and after a while it bores us. To get that same pleasurable dopamine hit we seek fresh sources of distraction.

It has always been hard to get people to think. It’s becoming more difficult. Thinking requires silence and time; two things we won’t endure.

It is no surprise that we are unable to have civil conversations about deep subjects. Deep subjects require deep thinking. It’s easier to sound-bite and ridicule than it is to think along with someone.

God gave us a book, one of the more boring mediums of communication ever invented. It won’t interrupt you. It doesn’t flash or sparkle. It just sits there, waiting for you to read it and think about the words on the page.

No videos. No pictures. No links. No cute memes.

Just words on a page. Words of life patiently waiting to be read.

Is God a total moron for not picking a better medium to get our attention? Or is He merely demonstrating how much we really don’t care?

Entertainment has its place. Living in a cave isn’t the answer. The answer is moderation. The answer is being quiet for stretches of time.

Our entertainment saturated society is increasingly denying the existence of God. Coincidence?

“Be still and know that I am God” wasn’t said on accident. Satan is a deceiver, and the main point of his deception is to distract you into hell.

He’s winning. He owns the broad road.

Have to stop writing. Have to go play Candy Crush now.

Russell Moore on Christ’s Confidence

Jesus is not threatened. The remarkable thing to me in the gospels is how un-caffeinated Jesus is when everyone else is freaking out. Jesus is becoming anguished, anxious, and provoked at the oddest times. When everybody else is asleep or just kind of walking through the temple, this is always there, but when everyone else is outraged and panicking, Jesus has this tranquility that I think ultimately is rooted in confidence.

He really does know who he is and what he’s about. And if you have a church and a people of God who are confident in their gospel, then those are going to be people who are not going to be as panicked when they have people who say, “We think you’re crazy, we think you’re bigoted, we think you’re wrong.”

–Russell Moore

Celebrity, Money-Driven Science Is Turning Out Junk Results

Scientism is the new religion of our day. People worship science for its ability to weed out false conclusions and settle on fact.

The problem with this notion is that it’s largely not true. Sure, science has certainly determined some things to be true, but it’s track record of reporting facts is sloppy at best.

One author submits that this sloppiness is not accidental.

Scientists have long been aware of something euphemistically called the “experimenter effect”: the curious fact that when a phenomenon is investigated by a researcher who happens to believe in the phenomenon, it is far more likely to be detected.

A scientist coming up with a problem that needs an answer, will generally have his answer in mind before experimenting. After experimenting he is very likely to achieve the answer he thought he’d get.

Time and testing reveal many of these ideas to be false. Science likes to brag that science will weed out the false through peer review. The problem with peer review is similar, however.

If peer review is good at anything, it appears to be keeping unpopular ideas from being published.

This statement was made after studies done on peer-reviewed journals publish and then later retracting so many articles. It seems science is not pure. Money, tenure, grants, and publicity are responsible for getting results the establishment wants you to get. Critiquing scientific methodology or disproving pet conclusions will get you in trouble real quick.

For all of science’s bashing on religious fundamentalists and close-minded religion, it appears as though science has its own fundamentalism that dare not be crossed.

Which brings us to the odd moment in which we live. At the same time as an ever more bloated scientific bureaucracy churns out masses of research results, the majority of which are likely outright false, scientists themselves are lauded as heroes and science is upheld as the only legitimate basis for policy-making. There’s reason to believe that these phenomena are linked. When a formerly ascetic discipline suddenly attains a measure of influence, it is bound to be flooded by opportunists and charlatans, whether it’s the National Academy of Science or the monastery of Cluny.

Scientism has produced a group of raving fans, bent on cussing and celebrating science’s awesomeness.

If science was unprepared for the influx of careerists, it was even less prepared for the blossoming of the Cult of Science. The Cult is related to the phenomenon described as “scientism”; both have a tendency to treat the body of scientific knowledge as a holy book or an a-religious revelation that offers simple and decisive resolutions to deep questions. But it adds to this a pinch of glib frivolity and a dash of unembarrassed ignorance. Its rhetorical tics include a forced enthusiasm (a search on Twitter for the hashtag “#sciencedancing” speaks volumes) and a penchant for profanity. Here in Silicon Valley, one can scarcely go a day without seeing a t-shirt reading “Science: It works, b—es!” The hero of the recent popular movie The Martian boasts that he will “science the sh— out of” a situation. One of the largest groups on Facebook is titled “I f—ing love Science!” (a name which, combined with the group’s penchant for posting scarcely any actual scientific material but a lot of pictures of natural phenomena, has prompted more than one actual scientist of my acquaintance to mutter under her breath, “What you truly love is pictures”). Some of the Cult’s leaders like to play dress-up as scientists—Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson are two particularly prominent examples— but hardly any of them have contributed any research results of note. Rather, Cult leadership trends heavily in the direction of educators, popularizers, and journalists.

This hyper-coolness mixed with prideful certainty seems to be wrecking the entire scientific community. The irony of science fans is that many of them celebrate unscientific results. Watching science take a downfall by runaway pride is fun to watch. It’s about time this stuff happened to someone other than religious people!

When cultural trends attempt to render science a sort of religion-less clericalism, scientists are apt to forget that they are made of the same crooked timber as the rest of humanity and will necessarily imperil the work that they do. The greatest friends of the Cult of Science are the worst enemies of science’s actual practice.

It might be time for scientists to remember that we’re all sinners with deceitful hearts.

(Quotes are all taken from this excellent article you can read by clicking here.)

The Misguided Fixation of #Blessed

The Prosperity Gospel is no longer reserved for televangelists and whacky, fringe churches. Prosperity Teaching is now normal Evangelical faith.

Maybe not blatantly, and certainly never admittedly, but there is little difference between the central tenets of Prosperity Teaching and most Evangelical doctrine.

The most recent manifestation of this is the #Blessed trend. Happy Christians must prove their constant happiness on their happy social media feeds. A lack of happy, positiveness demonstrates lack of faith. This trend has its roots in Prosperity Teaching.

Far from lazily hoping that God would somehow fix all their problems. . . the prosperity gospel requires practitioners to cultivate an intense mental discipline in order to constantly suppress thoughts of negativity or doubt.

Thus, they focus on the positive and chalk it up to God’s blessings, whether it is or not. This focus on the positive, while avoiding the “negative,” makes for a very lopsided view of life.

It even lopsides the Gospel. Where is the Man of suffering acquainted with grief? In what sense do we have the mind of Christ if He is this man of sorrow and grief? How does this hyper-happy, negativity-avoiding mentality deal with handicaps, suffering, and persecution?

The prosperity gospel has taken a religion based on the contemplation of a dying man and stripped it of its call to surrender all. Perhaps worse, it has replaced Christian faith with the most painful forms of certainty. The movement has perfected a rarefied form of America’s addiction to self-rule, which denies much of our humanity: our fragile bodies, our finitude, our need to stare down our deaths (at least once in a while) and be filled with dread and wonder. At some point, we must say to ourselves, I’m going to need to let go.

Prosperity Teaching promises you Jesus plus all the world. There is no sense in which the Bible agrees with this. Nor is there any way this can possibly be the Gospel that shows compassion to the weak, sick, persecuted, and poor among us.

The promise that we can have whatever we want leaves us ill-equipped to confront the realities of death and suffering. Tragedy becomes much harder to deal with when we are conditioned to think of ourselves as “blessed.”

God does bless His people. But the same God who constantly warns us about money and possessions and the inherent dangers of having and pursuing wealth, cannot then turn around and show His favor by heaping on us what He thinks is most dangerous.

This hyper-happy materialism is unbiblical and heretical. And it’s also modern American Christianity. Beware.

All quotations are from this article, which you can read by clicking here.

Benjamin Franklin on The Morals of Chess

Ben Franklin was our most moralistic Founding Father. By “moralistic” I mean–he had to make some huge philosophical, right and wrong statement about everything in existence.

Some of this moralism is good, but most of it smacks of stupid based on the guy’s life. He who said “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” Used to sleep until noon and go to bed in the early morning hours.

Morally speaking, he was a rather depraved individual. For me, this disqualifies him from being someone I take seriously, and most of his moral blather is probably just guilt justifying itself.

chess--it is a cool game
chess–it is a cool game

But alas, he wrote a cool piece on the morals of chess–how chess teaches important life lessons as well as how to play the game morally and how to win, lose, or spectate.

we learn by Chess the habit of not being discouraged by present appearances in the state of our affairs, the habit of hoping for a favourable change, and that of persevering in the search of resources. The game is so full of events, there is such a variety of turns in it, the fortune of it is so subject to sudden vicissitudes, and one so frequently, after long contemplation, discovers the means of extricating one’s self from a supposed insurmountable difficulty, that one is encouraged to continue the contest to the last, in hopes of victory from our own skill, or at least of getting a stalemate from the negligence of our adversary

Practicing Christian Living

“Practice makes perfect.”

Recent brain research has found that one of the main benefits of practice is that you don’t have to think about what you’re practicing after a while. It becomes “automatic.” The result of getting things automatic is that you can do it better and faster, more efficiently, and use less effort.

The above video shows a cup stacker and how little his brain is engaged in what he is doing. This allows him to go faster.

When it comes to Christian Living, I wonder how much practice we need to become efficient and proficient?

This study has very easy applications to make here for sports. But notice how often the Bible uses athletic games as metaphor for Christian Living.

What are we to practice in Christian Living that we could do better? Memorizing is easier the more you do it. So is reading. So is preaching. So is evangelism.

If you’re not used to living Christianly, you will stumble and falter. Your actions won’t look natural, nor will they go well. Is Christianity so much a part of who we are that our brains don’t even have to notice we’re doing it?!

Christian Living is a skill like any other. It requires time, energy, and practice. Don’t get frustrated. Keep going. Put in the time. We aren’t saved into automatic maturity; we grow. Growing takes time. Put in the time.

Many Christians falsely assume that because the Spirit is involved, I don’t have to do anything. Spiritual growth is automatic and we merely sit around and wait for the Spirit to get to work. That’s not how the Bible puts it, but it is what most Christians believe. We are getting results that prove we are misguided in this thinking.

Practice what you preach!

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

What is Marginalia?

I was recently introduced to the word “marginalia.” It’s a word that refers to notes and marks made in the margin of books. Lots of people do this, while others view their books as treasured possessions never to be marred.

The first pieces of marginalia were actually in Bibles. Many older Bibles contained illustrations as well as notes for liturgical purposes.

writing in Bibles has a proud tradition
writing in Bibles has a proud tradition

Mark Twain wrote in margins

Mark Twain's handwriting is nice
Mark Twain’s handwriting is nice

My grandfather used to scribble in his books, often noting what he did the day he read that page. Odd notes about what his kids were doing, even patterns for wood carvings traced on a page. Not sure that’s how it should be done. . .

If you’d like to know how to start doing Marginalia, consult Mortimer J. Adler’s article “How to Mark a Book.” Or this article about applying Adler’s advice, “Reading Actively.” Or perhaps read “A Weapon for Readers.”