The World Wide Web had quietly been implemented less than a year after the Soviet Union broke up. Still, by 1993, when the first editionof Ashamed of the Gospel hit the shelves, no one but the earliest Internet insiders had even heard about the Web—much less seen it. Most people had no clue how quickly or how drastically the Web would alter the world as we knew it.
I remember being told at a strategic planning retreat in 1996 that the World Wide Web would eventually become the primary vehicle for the dissemination of our radio broadcast and recorded sermons. (At the time, radio and cassette tapes were still the only media we were using for audio content.) When the men at Grace to You who stay abreast of new technologies predicted that within twenty years or so cassette tapes would be a totally dead technology, I thought they were exaggerating. “You can’t access the Internet in a car,” I pointed out. “Even if you could, who wants to carry a computer on the car seat, when it’s so much more convenient to pop in a cassette tape?”
Technology is clearly not my forte.
The speed with which the world has caught onto the new media is mind-boggling. The convenience and velocity of Internet communications have changed almost every facet of how we live. The easy availability of so much information (and misinformation) has profoundly altered the way people learn and think and make decisions.
Meanwhile, the ease, immediacy, and affordability of Internet publishing has leveled the playing field between pundits and the proletariat. Anyone can start a blog, for free. Anyone with a computer (or cell phone) and an Internet connection can instantly broadcast his every opinion worldwide. Novices and scholarly authorities alike can employ the same media. Those who are most adept at gathering an audience are the ones who are being heard, not necessarily those most qualified to speak.
So many opinions and so much information all moving so quickly means a simple, off-the-cuff sound bite may be a thousand times more influential than a meticulously-researched treatise. In fact, whether something is true or false is usually deemed less important than the way the idea is communicated. (Today’s marketing strategies are based on that assumption.) Most people naturally prefer a punchy one-liner to a carefully-written essay. So style takes precedence over content in almost every venue. Sound-bites are simply easier to swallow than a serious discourse.
That reality is reflected in the way we digest the news, the way our politicians run their campaigns, and even the way people manage personal relationships. Text-messages are probably the most common form of communication between individuals. “Power-dating” has replaced courtship. “Quality time” is seen as a substitute for real parenting. The typical radio talk show invites listeners to call in, but the host invariably cuts callers off rudely if they can’t make a cogent point in four seconds or less. Interviewers on network television do the same thing to guests they invite to participate in panel discussions, squandering the panelists’ expertise in favor of keeping the show moving at a pace no one can really keep up with anyway. It’s the show, not the substance, that matters. The quest for a bigger audience-share trumps the truth. (And isn’t that exactly like the philosophy that drives so many contemporary churches?)
I’ve participated in several of those televised panels, and sometimes the panelists are physically scattered across the continent, unable to see one another and barely able to make out the other speakers’ sound-bites in those discreet earpieces. Even that doesn’t matter. As long as the camera gives the impression of bringing many points of view face to face, the goal has been met. So what if no one gets to say more than half a sentence at a time? Our culture has simply lost patience with reasoned discourse and careful exposition.
It is not without significance that the most popular form of communication on the Internet at the moment is Twitter—an application that lets users broadcast their thoughts to the entire world in pithy quips. Each “Tweet” has a 140-character limit, and millions of them are sent every week. It’s the next logical step in the evolution of the new media. Blogs have already begun to fade from the limelight. (The average blogpost is three paragraphs. Too wordy.)
Attention spans are getting shorter, literacy has suffered dramatically, and logic itself is frequently dismissed as unnecessarily pedantic. The Web is well-suited to a culture where what we “feel” is deemed more important than what we “think.” The Internet hosts millions of forums where people trade opinions and aphorisms, and these often become the electronic-data equivalent of acrimonious yelling matches. Internet forums are notorious for the profanity and hostility that dominate them. If you want vivid proof of human depravity in abundance, eavesdrop on practically any unmoderated Internet forum, including the ones devoted to discussing theology.
The Internet has created an ideal environment for postmodernism to flourish and spread—not in spite of all those shortcomings but precisely because of them.
#1 Posted by
Ed Rudd | Tuesday, February 9, 2010at
What amazes me is that even though I am a product of the effort to dumb down our society with twisted facts involving everything from evolution and history to using school kids as pawns with the church state division lie, along with a family history rooted in legalism, that God would find a way to burst through the accumulated clutter with the Truth and save a lie propagator like me.
Amazing- Amazing Grace
#2 Posted by
Charles Carroll | Tuesday, February 9, 2010at
Isn't it amazing that, in this modern age of abundant technology, that we are becoming more illiterate as a society? Many of the "kids" who are the peers of my children have trouble understanding and communicating the written word. As a preschool teacher, I wonder where the kids I teach now will be in 10 years! It's infiltrating the church, too! Easy Christianity without reading the Word for yourself. It's like a present day Sodom & Gamorrah.
#3 Posted by
James Chappell | Tuesday, February 9, 2010at
As a wordy blog-writer who has slowly pared down my messages to a few short paragraphs so as to overcome the attention span barrier, I see one possible consequence of "tweets"... With the short phrase communication comes an easier chunk of words to translate.
Though the Prince of the power of the air benefits from the advancement of communication technology, it is God Almighty who will have a witness for His word! Take heart, there are two sides to every coin :)
#4 Posted by
Richard Miller | Tuesday, February 9, 2010at
How do we teach our children to work for knowledge? Even the volumes of biblical resources pastor's require in their sermon preparation are available in binary code. An entire libray on a memory stick.
#5 Posted by
Ryan Rosene | Tuesday, February 9, 2010at
It is amazing athow much the internet is being used today. I like tothink of it in terms of this: backbefor the NT era, God was placing Greek as the common language to the known world, and so now the internet is the common means to share information and everything else to all who will listen. But this also draws in the importance of good hermaneutics as we all discussed last week. Discernment is now more needed than ever becasue as John MacArthur pointed out, whoever has the skills to draw crowds to listen are not necessatily qualified to speak. Another branch of ministry has been born with the popularity of the web. I think it is amazing. What is God going to do next? I stand in awe.
#6 Posted by
Bill Ziegler | Tuesday, February 9, 2010at
Proliferating 'is giving life'
Ignorance 'the condition or state of being unaware, uneducated or uninformed'
Put together you have the argument, the results and the state of medical marijuana programs.
Or maybe today's educational system where yesterdays B student is today's A to yesterday's F is today's D.
Did the government pull 'em up a level or drop 'em a level and do they know?
#7 Posted by
Scott Rick | Tuesday, February 9, 2010at
This generation of the young ones today are absolutely being bombarded with the relentless schemes of the evil one. Society today is cultivating a thoughtless, lazy and preoccupied nation thru the drug and entertainment industries. Its lead by decieved undiscerning adults spewing corrosive and damning ideologies and the internet provides a faster broader spectrum for that.
Kids today will naturally go along with the masses because its easier and for fear of making a judgement call. We have become so politically correct that our youth will be swimming in a massive state of confusion where right and wrong will be so closely related that you cant tell where one ends and the other starts. As adults, we need to do our homework and have answers for these young ones that have questions that might not be tolerated anywhere else. We have to spur some thought in these kids and have solid answers for them. That will not get done through idleness on our part. Like Pastor MacArthur said, Truth is a battleground. Thank you again Pastor for expositing the Truth and equipping us for the battle!
#8 Posted by
Douglas Mollett | Tuesday, February 9, 2010at
From a sheer economic standpoint, without the continued blessing of the LORD JESUS CHRIST, America is doomed to fall into obscurity perhaps this generation. Lets face it, India(i get this info from Dr. Jack Van Impe) has more college level graduates then the entire population of America combined! Also, Japan requires their students to be educated year round, whereas we Americans give our children summer vacations. I did a study not too long ago that Pastor Macarthur gave concerning God's wrath(as found in Romans chapter 1:18-32). In that study, it is revealed that one of the ways GOD displays wrath is to simply remove HIS hand of blessing, and allows a nation (or nations) to simply run its course to its eventual demise (Prov 14:34; Ps 9:17). As Pastor John shows in his blog here, our education leaves much to be desired(I myself am not guiltless, i have only a GED with some college credits). Father forgive us for forgetting about you, and may we humble ourselves and pray and seek your face(2 Chron 7:14) in Jesus name, amen.
#9 Posted by
Bill Grandi | Tuesday, February 9, 2010at
I came to blogging late (only been blogging about 2 1/2 years). I enjoy it because it gives me an outlet for my thoughts and writing. I consider it a hobby. I don't Twitter or FB and have no plans to do so. Keeping up with someone's daily habits is not something I am interested in. Technology has been both blessing and bane to the church. We need to use it wisely in spreading Truth.
#10 Posted by
John Kelsie | Tuesday, February 9, 2010at
I think it is awesome that due to technology there are so many resources that can be obtained nowadays in regards to studying the Word. The internet makes so many bibles, commentaries, dictionaries, concordances etc. available to the public and at no charge. Add to that ministries like GTY and it is almost impossible not to be a Berean! (almost)
Folks need to be ashamed of themselves they way they interpret the bible when so many resources are readily available and most for no charge. It makes me respect our forefathers all the more for doing so much with the resources they had.
“There is no excuse for ignorance when knowledge is available.”
#11 Posted by
Jonathan Akers | Tuesday, February 9, 2010at
Good post John, at least I think it was....I kinda lost my focus and wasn't able to finish reading it.
Just kidding. Technology is an awesome way to advance the Word of God and I'm very thankful to GTY for taking advantage of the latest technology. Especially grateful to the board for voting in favor of making the sermon downloads free! For those of us with no good expositional teaching nearby it is truly a blessing!
#12 Posted by
Bryan Chasteen | Tuesday, February 9, 2010at
I don't think there is anything more to say here. Wow. John, I think you are right and it is a joy to read these insightful thoughts on our world today. I think your blog and everything you do is just such a huge blessing to me and some of my friends. I don't know where a lot of us Christians would be without your straight-forward Bible teaching. Well, I know where I would be and thank God that he has ordained you for this work. That comment about blogs fazing out is pretty right on track to. We seem to be dumbing ourselves down at a surprising rate.
#13 Posted by
William Howard | Wednesday, February 10, 2010at
A phrase "wilfully ignorant" in 2 Peter chapter 3 comes to mind. As a 30 year plus correctional professional, I have experienced my share of offenders that have come before a judge or judgement panel with some form of the excuse "I didn't know ..." when, in fact, the closer truth is that they didn't want to know. I suspect the same "excuse" is in mind at present in those that are in the process of perishing. I say this not in haughtiness, but with a profound sense of sorrow.
#14 Posted by
Lynda Ochsner | Friday, February 12, 2010at
Yes, I have to agree, from everything I've observed with Facebook and blogs, etc. A lot of blogs now just have links to video clips, as people would rather be entertained by watching something than even taking the effort to read. I have my own blog as a hobby (only started just over a year ago), a way to write about the things I learn through Bible reading and study -- but so few people are interested in reading anything longer than a paragraph, and increasingly some of the blogs I visit have shorter and shorter postings.It's a pity, that the Internet technology brings such great access to good Bible study resources, some really great material that the average Christian could not have even dreamed of even 15 years ago -- but the vast majority of people have become even lazier and do not avail themselves of the opportunity.
#15 Posted by
Sherry Ginther | Friday, February 12, 2010at
I have enjoyed your teaching going on two decades now, Mr. MacArthur. Thank you for your tenacity in hanging on to the pure Word of the gospel, and thank you for sticking to only one or two versions of scripture. I won't get too deep into the semantics of all the different English Bible versions as a means of causing chaos - there are presently some 20 versions. How are we to be of one mind, if we can't recognize scripture being read (isn't the best way to defeat a foe, to divide and conquer?). How does having a plethora of English versions of scripture, and most of them unrecognizable in their entirety, aid in evanglizing the lost? It has only served to confuse and discourage new believers. Most of these versions are not easy to memorize either. If commodity was supposed to bring in new converts, it's failing miserably. All I can see is $$ signs in the eyes of many of these copyrights. (No offense meant Mr. MacArthur, your study Bible is actually made to teach the flock. It's not just a little 5 minute feelgood, "There I've read the Bible for today," devotion.
I would like to comment about the "education or lack of education" of America. Education in and of itself is not a Panacea of blessing. Scipture says, "too much knowledge puffs up".
The people who tamed our Alberta prairie wilderness 100 years ago most likely had no more than a 3rd-8th grade education (which was probably equivalent to a 1st year college, presently). However, case in point, they took pride in a job well done, based on the fact that the Lord said we were made to work and we work for Him, and so that's how many did it - for Him. Our ancestors here in this North American continent were hard workers, tenacious, fearless, individuals who when there was a job presented to them, took said task in hand and completed it. There were no surveys, or polls to see if it was feasible, or how it would benefit the City Council... most of the cities here in the west were the size of a large town. They faced famine, disease, loss of livestock, loss of loved ones..... and most of all loneliness. These prairies are still sparsely populated in comparison to much of the world. You can drive for miles, and miles between our wheat fields looking for the honesteads that the lands belong to.
I am not belittling education; however, our society has produced some of the most uninformed, superstitious, lacking in common-sense "scholars" ever in the history of education, given the volume of information that is actually available. Most University students cannot spell as well as my Grandmother could, much to their shame (and she did not graduate). The issue of lack of common-sense among the scholarly elite is rather embarassing as well. The mejority of ordinary tradesmen i.e.; Journeyman Technicians in Heavy-Duty Mechanics, Tool and Die, Automotive, Carpentry, and such the like put many of our "educated" people to shame with their problem solving abilities and talents for seeing things as they really are.
It is was not my purpose to be contentious about this subject, but the lack of sensibility of society in dealing with real life comes mostly from their formal schooling. Which purports to aid us and our children in functioning in this world - I present to you that this could not be farther from the truth. Our society has substituted secular education (the Goddess Sophia), as the "God of this Age" - Satan has manipulated it well, as we in this world are putty in his hands; and the church has been blinded by it. I, myself, simply have a diploma, but my grandmother and my mother instilled in me pride of workmanship, a desire to learn, and the joy of life (through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ).
#16 Posted by
Shauna Bryant | Friday, February 19, 2010at
Comment deleted by user.
#17 Posted by
Shauna Bryant | Friday, February 19, 2010at
Douglass Mollett - # 15 Sherry Ginther's post should allay any guilt you have about having 'just a GED' and some college credits. Dr. MacArthur is also talking about biblical knowledge. You are a saved man and that sir - as you already know, is by far the most important thing! Personally, I would rather my children have no education, save for the Bible - if being educated by wordly standards meant their soul was lost. That being said I am a fan education- of properly guided, biblically sound education which is why we home school.
In Christ, Shauna Bryant (wife of John Bryant)