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Does God Hold Me Responsible For What I Do In My Dreams?

It’s unlikely God holds us much more accountable for the fantasies that appear in our dreams than He does for the predispositions to sin that we all share, including temptations or evil thoughts that drift into our minds. In fact, some of the things that happen in the theater of our dreams may help us be more aware of our deepest longings, conflicts, and fears.

Sexual fantasy, rage, and violence often occur abruptly and seemingly uncontrollably in dreams. We don’t know how much we are capable of regulating behavior in dreams. Some of the ascetic church fathers thought we are responsible for what we do in dreams, but Scripture nowhere indicates that this is true.1

Dreams are generally things that “happen to us,” not things we consciously choose to do. To the extent that our dreams are “lucid”—that is under the control of our conscious mind—we may find we encounter some genuine temptation. (See What should I think of what I experience in dreams? and Is it possible that some dreams contain important symbolic meaning—or even a message from God?)

If troubled by dreams, we should commit them to the Lord, asking for protection as we sleep. We should also ask Him to instruct us as we sleep and strengthen our ability to resist both conscious and unconscious temptation.

  1. Furthermore, Scripture nowhere implies that we adopt the other extreme forms of self-discipline the ascetics embraced, such as living in isolation, eating starvation diets, tormenting themselves with hair shirts that constantly itched, remaining unbathed so that lice could multiply, and so on. Back To Article

 

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Is it wrong to ask God to provide financial gain?

Jesus made it clear that the measure of a person’s value has nothing to do with their material possessions. In fact, He declared that “mammon” (Syriac for wealth or riches) is one of the most common obstacles to having a right relationship with God (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:9-13).

If we pray for improvements in our finances, we are like a child asking his father for a new bicycle. There is nothing wrong with asking, as long as we are willing to accept “no” as a possible response.

Just as a father may realize that his child isn’t mature enough to ride a bicycle on busy streets, God may realize that we aren’t ready for a financial windfall. He may know that we still need to learn discipline and self-control in order to achieve financial gain and handle it when we have achieved it. Or he may know that would be better for the development of our character if we never gained it.

If we pray for financial gain, it should be worded something like this:

“Heavenly Father, if it is Your will for me at this time, please help me financially. I have (list them) serious concerns, and don’t know how to deal with them. Please give me guidance and wisdom.”

 

 

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Does Satan Have a Special Hatred for Israel and the Jewish People?

There is a sense in which Satan has a special hatred for Israel and the Jewish people, just as he has a special hatred for the church and the Christian people. From the beginning, Satan has hated God, God’s authority, and God’s plans for the human race (Genesis 3:1-15; John 8:44) He has always had a special hatred for God’s faithful servants (Job 1:9-11; 2 Corinthians 12:7), including the faithful of Israel and the church, which is made up of both Jewish and Gentile Christians. Above all, Satan hates Jesus Christ (Luke 22:3-4; Revelation 12:3-4), as Christ embodies God’s plan for all the ages.

The reality of satanic hatred for Jews and Israel inclines some people to believe that any criticism of Israel places one on the side of Satan. People with this perspective naturally tend to side with Israel in its conflicts. This perspective, however, fails to recognize that not all criticism is motivated by an evil hatred. There is a kind of criticism that is motivated by truth, love, and a longing for justice and mercy. If we don’t recognize the difference motive makes, we might conclude that something as important as the Protestant Reformation should have never taken place.

Scripture shows Satan’s hatred is motivated by his desire to disrupt God’s redemptive plan, from the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, through the events leading to the flood, the trials of the patriarchs, Moses, the prophets, and Jesus Christ himself.

In 1 John 3, the children of the devil are contrasted with the children of God. The children of the devil are described as being in the spiritual line of Cain. This is consistent with the two “seeds” of Genesis 3—the seed of the woman and the seed of the devil.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel (v.15 nkjv).

This division between the children of God and the children of the devil includes both Jews and Gentiles. John 1:12 declares that those who received Jesus Christ and believed in His name are the children of God. The apostle Paul wrote: “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9 niv). He went on to link the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit) with the children of God: “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (8:14). Speaking to a Jewish audience, Jesus himself referred to the division between the children of the kingdom and the children of the devil. He said the “father” of His Jewish enemies was not Abraham but Satan (John 8:42-44).

Here we find ourselves faced with an important distinction we can’t afford to miss. Jesus himself took issue with His own Jewish countrymen, and even with His own disciples when their hearts were aligned with the purposes of Satan rather than the redemptive plan of God (Matthew 16:23).

This Christ-based readiness to take issue with anything that is not according to the justice and mercy of God helps us understand why the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles describe in great detail the intense and unrelenting hostility of a segment of Jews to Jesus Christ and His followers (John 8:39-47; Acts 7:54–8:3; 12:1-3; 21:27-31; 25:2-3). The book of Revelation even refers to these as the “synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9; 3:9).1

This hostility towards the Christian gospel didn’t end with the apostolic era. Before the end of the first century, Christian Jews were excluded from synagogue worship.

About ad 90, a member of the Sanhedrin named Samuel the Less reworded one of the blessings recited daily in the synagogue so as to make it include a curse (against Christians) . . .

For apostates let there be no hope, and the kingdom of arrogance do Thou speedily uproot in our days; and let Nazarenes and heretics (minim) perish as in a moment; let them be blotted out of the book of life and not be enrolled with the righteous. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who humblest the arrogant.

This revised edition of the prayer was authorized by the Sanhedrin and adopted in synagogues, so that Jewish Christians, by keeping silence at this point might give themselves away and be excommunicated(F. F. Bruce, New Testament History, pp. 385-86).2

From such biblical and historical examples, we see that like any other group or institution, the people of Israel may need loving, patient confrontation rather than support and affirmation. As the apostle Paul knew from personal experience, many of his Jewish countrymen had hearts open to God and the truth, but were blinded to the identity of Jesus Christ (Romans 11:5-6).

Scripture makes it clear that the eschatological punishment of both Israel and the Gentile nations is based in God’s judgment, not Satan’s hatred (Isaiah 3:1–4:1; 13:9-10; Jeremiah 30:1-7; Ezekiel 13:1-7; Joel 2:1-11; 3:14-17; Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 1:7-13). Perhaps the most striking Old Testament prophecy is Zechariah 14, where God brings the nations of the earth against Jerusalem and unbelieving Israel before turning in judgment against those same unbelieving nations (vv.2-3).

Just as Christians do the church no favors when they ignore its abuses and corruption, they do no favors for Israel when they ignore or fail to lovingly call attention to the injustices and unbelief of the one nation on earth that, more than any other, bears the name and redemptive history of God.

  1. This hostility of a segment of Israel to the gospel conforms with the prophetic portrayal of Israel’s endtime suffering as the result of God’s judgment, not Satan’s hatred. In Matthew 24, Jesus declares:

    And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Therefore when you see the “abomination of desolation,” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened (24:14-22 nkjv).

    This judgment is based on the corruption and hypocrisy Jesus described in the previous chapter:

    Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. . . . O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (23:33-39 nkjv). Back To Article

  2. Soon the Talmud (a compilation and expansion of the man-made legal rules that Jesus called the “tradition of men” [Mark 7:5-8] that became the supreme document of the Judaism that survived the wars with Rome) officially declared Jesus a blasphemer, sorcerer, and bastard son of a prostitute. (See Peter Schaefer, Jesus in the Talmud, Princeton University Press.)Hostility towards Jesus Christ still exists among a large segment of Jews today. In fact, the modern state of Israel officially suppresses propagation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Back To Article
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Why did God Give our Pets Such Short Life Spans?

Although land tortoises can live over 150 years and parrots sometimes live as long as people, most pets have short life spans Perhaps the Lord gave our pets short life spans to keep us from getting more attached to them than to our fellow human beings. Since the love of some intelligent pets for their human masters is remarkably unconditional, they often establish a deep emotional connection with us. In fact, we sometimes find it easier to love them unconditionally than each other.

The emotional impact of the death of a family’s pet is like the loss of any family member, though on a lesser scale. It offers opportunities for learning important lessons in preparation for future losses that will be worse. The grief at a pet’s death can bring an awareness of our need for deeper relationships with the people in our lives.

 

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Did Jehovah, the Father, Tell Jesus What to do?

The relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is considerably more mysterious than is implied by the expression “persons of the Trinity.”

The word translated LORD in the King James is always the tetragrammaton YHWH.1 This word is used in combination with other words to emphasize specific qualities of God. Whenever either Jehovah or LORD is used in the King James Bible, it is used in reference to YHWH.

The King James translators translated YHWH as Jehovah Yir’eh, “The LORD provides” (Genesis 22:8,14); YHWH Shalom, “The LORD is peace” (Judges 6:24); YHWH Tsidkenu, “The LORD is our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6); YHWH Shammah, “The LORD is there” (Ezekiel 48:35).

When the most commonly used Hebrew word for God, YHWH, was translated into Greek, the word Kurios (Lord) was used. This is the same Greek word used by the followers of Christ to refer to the Savior.

The New Scofield Reference Bible has a helpful comment on this aspect of God’s redemptive name:

Jehovah is distinctly the redemption name of Deity. When sin entered the world and man’s redemption became necessary, it was Jehovah Elohim who sought the sinning ones (Gen. 3:9-13) and clothed them with coats of skins (Gen. 3:21), a beautiful type of the righteousness provided by the LORD God through sacrifice (Rom. 3:21-25). The first distinctive revelation of Himself by His name Jehovah was in connection with the redemption of the covenant people out of Egypt (Ex. 3:13-17).

As Redeemer, emphasis is laid upon those attributes of Jehovah which the sin and salvation of man bring into exercise. These are (a) His holiness (Lev. 11:44,45; 19:1,2; 20:26; Hab. 1:12,13); (b) His hatred and judgment of sin (Deut. 32:35-42; cp. Gen. 6:5-7; Ex. 34:6,7; Ps. 11:4-6; 66:18); and (c) His love for and redemption of sinners, which He always carries out righteously (Gen. 3:21; 8:20,21; Ex. 12:12,13; Lev. 16:2,3; Isa. 53:5,6,10). Salvation by Jehovah apart from sacrifice is unknown in Scripture.

However, we should not limit the use of the name Jehovah to Jesus Christ alone. The Old Testament is not as explicit in the identification of the persons in the Godhead as is the New Testament. There are three primary names for God in the Old Testament but these do not really correspond with the three Persons of the Trinity as revealed in the New Testament. There are some occasions when the name Jehovah might better apply to the Father or the Trinity as a whole.

  1. The Webster’s New World Dictionary explains that the term tetragrammaton (tetra = 4, gramma = letter) refers to the four consonants of the Hebrew name for God that was too sacred to be pronounced aloud. When it was necessary to refer to God aloud, the term Adonai (Lord) was used. Back To Article
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Is Deep Sorrow Necessary to be Saved?

The term repentance in Hebrew means “to turn or return and is applied to turning from sin to God” (The New Bible Dictionary). In the New Testament, the term repent has the meaning of “a change of mind.” Repentance involves grief for sin and a willingness to set one’s priorities aright in faithfulness to the gospel message.

Jesus Himself linked repentance with conversion (Matthew 4:17; Luke 13:3; 17:3). A person can’t willfully continue in conscious sin and assume that God will automatically forgive him should he die before he can change his ways.

Genuine repentance always involves genuine fear (See the ATQ article, Is Fear Ever an Appropriate Motivation for Conversion?) and genuine sorrow. However, salvation is entirely a gift of God’s grace. It isn’t our sorrow or the extent of our sorrow that saves us. We can’t earn salvation by means of our sorrow or anything else we do.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

“So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Romans 9:16 ).

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

Repentance is necessary for conversion. But if we think our sorrow over sin must reach a certain “depth” before we can be saved, we are making our salvation dependent on something we do.

Genuine sorrow is always present with sincere repentance. However, just as repentance and godly sorrow for past sins don’t “earn” God’s forgiveness and grace, repentance and sorrow don’t end after we become Christians. They will continue throughout the rest of our life as the supernatural process of sanctification makes us increasingly aware of our personal corruption and sin (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 13:20-21). With spiritual growth comes sensitivity to the sins we committed in the past. Our sorrow for those mistakes—and our desire to avoid repeating them—is an essential part of our becoming new creatures in Christ. We will experience deep sorrow as part of the process, although deepest sorrow never occurs at the beginning. In fact, it is impossible for us to sorrow as deeply for our sins when we begin our relationship with Jesus Christ as we will when He enters deeply into our lives and consciousness.

The sweet comfort that God provides to us in times of godly sorrow is also deeply affirming to our faith in Him.

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Should I Believe in the Doctrine of Eternal Security?

Many Bible passages emphasize the reality of our security as believers in Jesus Christ: John 10:27-30; 13:1; Romans 8:29-39; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30; Jude 1:24.

But even genuine believers can backslide and lose the joy of their salvation. The New Testament gives many examples of believers who drew back from their fellowship with Jesus Christ: the disciples (Matthew 26:56); Peter (26:69-75); the Christians in Corinth (2 Corinthians 12:20-21); and the Asian churches (Revelation 2:4,14-15,20).

There is a stark difference between backsliding and apostasy—a permanent departure from the faith. A true Christian can backslide, be chastened, and then repent and return (Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 2:5). A person who has merely professed faith without a genuine encounter with Christ may depart, prosper outwardly, and never return. The apostle John said that some who had left the fellowship of believers and were now teaching false doctrine showed by their actions that they never really belonged (1 John 2:19).

The doctrine of eternal security is taught in Scripture, but it is intended to comfort true Christians who are earnestly concerned with living faithfully for Jesus Christ. People who once professed faith and are now living sinfully without remorse should not be comforted by assurances that their profession of faith guarantees their salvation. We gain nothing by examining the nature of the “decision” they made. We need to point out to them that their present lifestyle is out of keeping with their profession by showing them Scriptures such as 1 John 3:4-9. They must be led to self-examination. If they are genuinely saved, God will chasten them (Hebrews 12:6). They will repent and return.

It may be impossible for us to make a judgment as to whether a person is a backsliding Christian or an impostor. Sometimes only time will tell.

 

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How Can We Love our Neighbor as Our Self, as Jesus Commanded?

Loving other people as oneself is a difficult goal. But Jesus clearly made it fundamental to Christian living. On one occasion, an expert in the Jewish law challenged Jesus with the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Luke 10:27 NKJV).

Although the goal of loving one’s neighbor as oneself is difficult, it isn’t impossible.  In Luke 6:36-38, Jesus gives some basic principles that help us understand what it involves:

Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you (NKJV).

This passage contains two principles. One principle is that our expectations of our neighbors are directly related to the expectations that will be placed on us. As Jesus said, “With the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” The expectations we have of others will be required by them (and God) of us. But even subjectively, we already love—or hate—our neighbors as ourselves. We subconsciously project our own attitudes and values upon other people, expecting them to perceive us as we perceive them. If we are impatient and judgmental towards others, we assume others will be impatient and judgmental towards us. If we are compassionate and patient towards others, we won’t have to deal with the pressures that come from assuming that others view us with hostility and impatience. Love or hatred directed outwards is always matched by love or hatred directed inwards.

The second principle is that love for one’s neighbor should never be confused with indulgence. A father who gives his children anything they want spoils them. If we love our neighbor as our self, we must be as careful in setting standards and goals for him as we do for ourselves. If God were a genie in a lamp who gave us anything we wanted, would we ever be satisfied? Of course not! Love for our neighbor involves the same principle. While love always seeks to promote the other person’s well-being, at times it is manifested in acts of charity and at other times in firm confrontation.

Our neighbor is just like us. At times he needs mercy, at times he needs correction, but he always needs our love.

 

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Can We Rely on the “Mainstream Media” as a Source of Information?

Compared to past generations, 21st-century people have access to an unprecedented amount of news. We see live coverage of disasters and conflicts in distant places and are flooded with information and commentary on thousands of subjects, from politics and social problems to religion and popular science.

Much of the news we get from mainstream media is based on real events and reliable reporting. But most of us also know that political parties, corporations, and nations at war often contribute large amounts of spin, selective reporting, and even disinformation.

Interestingly, another reason for wondering about the reliability of mainstream media comes from the pages of the Bible. The New Testament describes the kingdoms of the world as being under the control of an evil spirit that is deceptive by nature (Luke 4:5-6; John 8:44; 14:30; 2 Corinthians 4:4). The author of 1 John declares: “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (5:19 nkjv).

In spite of these scriptural warnings, we often overlook the ways that governments, political parties, and ruling classes of every age try to shape the news in ways favorable to their interests. In modern times, these efforts to shape the news are called “propaganda.” 1

Propaganda was first used in a systematic, scientific way in the early 20th century in association with WWI. Most historians now realize that the First World War began as the result of reckless military alliances and unanticipated events. Many people in the United States sensed that the war was a dreadful tragedy with no clear heroes or villains, and a large majority was not interested in getting drawn into European bloodshed. President Woodrow Wilson campaigned as a peace candidate in 1916 with the slogan, “He kept us out of war.”

Although President Wilson publicly maintained a neutral posture, he and most other powerful US political leaders lent support to the English war effort in ways that inevitably drew the United States into the war. After entering the war, President Wilson created a commission to win the support of the American people. The President’s Committee on Public Information, launched a giant propaganda campaign utilizing all of the new media technologies.

The Committee on Public Information (also known as the Creel Commission) was successful beyond its organizers’ highest expectations. It portrayed a complex and tragic European conflict as a stark struggle between good and evil. Violations of international law by Britain and its allies were overlooked, while Germans were portrayed as Huns, rapists, and baby killers. Within 6 months, most US citizens were supporters of the war. Hatred towards all things German reached such a peak that orchestras no longer played music by German composers; German names for cities, towns, and streets were replaced; and the German language was no longer taught in schools. Congress passed legislation (Espionage Act 1917; Sedition Act 1918) that threatened dissenters with prosecution and imprisonment. Prominent critics of the war were thrown into prison.

One of the key members of the Committee on Public Information was Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud. Bernays was to become known as the “father of modern public relations.” In his 1928 book, Propaganda, he acknowledged propaganda’s crucial role in fostering popular support for WWI:

It was, of course, the astounding success of propaganda during the war that opened the eyes of the intelligent few in all departments of life to the possibilities of regimenting the public mind (p. 54).

He explained why and how the ruling class should continue to use propaganda to control the thinking of the masses:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. . . . In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons . . . who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind (p. 37).

If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it (p. 71).

In place of thoughts [the group mind] has impulses, habits, and emotions. In making up its mind, its first impulse is usually to follow the example of a trusted leader (p. 73).

Edward Bernays’ principles have been accepted and applied by government and corporations ever since WWI. The public relations industry is based on them. As a result, modern mainstream media does more than provide the public with objective information about current events. Powerful interests continue to use the media to manage and shape public opinion. This doesn’t mean that journalists and editors are conscious liars who conspire to conceal the truth. Actually, if journalists were conscious conspirators and liars, the media would have less influence, as journalists would be struggling against their own consciences and be much less believable. Media misinformation and propaganda are more insidious. Most media spokespeople are probably unaware of their biases or the way they “spin” the news. They rise to the top of their professions by being outstanding representatives of the interests that pay their salaries and grant their promotions. They soon discover the themes and subjects that are taboo.

The reality and effects of government and corporate propaganda have been extensively documented. One example is a 1980s study of media coverage of the Vietnam War. Based on a painstaking analysis of the news coverage of the period, the authors showed that the mainstream media 2 “inculcate and defend the economic, social, and political agenda” of the ruling class by “selection of topics, distribution of concerns, framing of issues, filtering of information, emphasis and tone” and “keeping debate within the bounds of acceptable premises.” 3

Today a handful of large corporations control television and cable news networks. Such corporations are not altruistic, but present the news in ways that promote their agendas and protect their profit margins.

Sensing that corporate news sources are superficial and biased, many people have turned to “talk radio” commentators who seem more reflective of their concerns. Unfortunately, such “independent” talk show stars are usually less concerned with conscientious commentary on the news than they are in generating good ratings and relationships with networks and sponsors.

Many today are awakening to the fact that mainstream media have long been misleading us about some of the most important events, issues, and facts of our time. Our struggle is truly not “against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 nkjv).

  1. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary definition of propaganda is “the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person” and “ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause; also a public action having such an effect.” Back To Article
  2. Mainstream media (MSM) are those media disseminated via the largest distribution channels, which therefore represent what the majority of media consumers are likely to encounter (Wikipedia). Back To Article
  3. Here’s a quotation from the study’s conclusion:

    In contrast to the standard conception of the media as cantankerous, obstinate, and ubiquitous in their search for truth and their independence of authority, we have spelled out and applied a propaganda model that indeed sees the media as serving a “societal purpose,” but not that of enabling the public to assert meaningful control over the political process by providing them with the information needed for the intelligent discharge of political responsibilities. On the contrary, a propaganda model suggests that the “societal purpose” of the media is to inculcate and defend the economic, social, and political agenda of privileged groups that dominate the domestic society and the state. The media serve this purpose in many ways: through selection of topics, distribution of concerns, framing of issues, filtering of information, emphasis and tone, and by keeping debate within the bounds of acceptable premises. We have sought to show that the expectations of this model are realized, and often considerably surpassed, in the actual practice of the media in a range of crucial cases. We quite agree with Chief Justice Hughes, whom Lewis also cites, on “the primary need of a vigilant and courageous press” if democratic processes are to function in a meaningful way. But the evidence we have reviewed indicates that this need is not met or even weakly approximated in actual practice. (Herman, Edward S. and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, p. 298). Back To Article

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Should Christians Trust What They Read on the Internet?

Lots of Christians question the Internet as a source of reliable information, but an historical perspective can help us understand its potential.

In biblical times, lots of people had rudimentary reading ability, but only a small portion of the population could read and write well. These were the priests, scribes, educators, historians, and lawyers—the ruling class in general. One of the reasons most people couldn’t write well was the relative scarcity of writing materials. Documents were handwritten on parchment made from animal skins, in soft clay or wax tablets, or on paper (made from papyrus in the Mediterranean world). If someone wrote something important, the only way it could be propagated was by painstaking hand-copying.

This was the state of the ancient “media”: People relied on what they heard by word of mouth, and their worldview was shaped by religious, political, and family leaders who were ultimately dependent on a small number of handwritten sources. Until the invention of the printing press, the consensus reality of the masses was based on a small group of scholars and scribes with access to hand-copied documents.

Even though many other significant social, cultural, and technological changes occurred by the 15th century, there was no important advance in “media” technology. False reports and mistaken viewpoints from respected sources still had tremendous influence. Although millions of people had been exposed to the gospel, under medieval conditions the gospel was badly distorted and corrupted.

The Gutenberg printing press (1440) confronted the ignorance and corruption of the political and religious hierarchy with printed books that a much larger portion of the population could afford. With relatively inexpensive printed material available in unprecedented quantities,1 important new ideas spread rapidly. Of course, just because something was printed in a book didn’t mean it could be trusted. Pamphlets and books were circulated by wild-eyed fanatics as well as by conscientious thinkers, and even conscientious thinkers made mistakes. Nevertheless, the overall impact of printing technology was an advance in knowledge. It is hard to see how the Enlightenment or the development of modern science could have occurred without this means of rapidly disseminating (and comparing) ideas.

In the centuries following the Reformation, pamphlets, broadsides, and books became commonplace, along with tremendously popular new forms of literature (the novel, the newspaper, the magazine, etc.), and most people in countries under the influence of Western civilization learned to read and look to printed material as a main source of information about reality. The effects of the Gutenberg press traveled around the world.

In recent history, 20th-century technological progress introduced other new forms of media, including recordings, motion pictures, radio, and television. In the midst of world wars and tumultuous cultural changes, these forms of media also began to shape the worldview of a now mostly literate population.

Because of the importance of printed material as a source of information, most people consider freedom of the press and related media an essential foundation for a healthy society. In some countries, freedom of speech and press are constitutionally protected.2 But the scale of society is much greater today than in the early years of representative democracy. Even though freedom of expression still exists and offers some residual cultural and political protection, it has diminishing influence as mass communication has become monopolized. The costs of producing and distributing ideas through the mainstream media are now much too high for most individuals and groups to compete. Corporations, governments, and other groups with very deep pockets control much of what the masses (i.e., you, me, and other evangelical Christians) are permitted to know.

The control of today’s “principalities and powers” over information is similar to the power the ruling elite held over information in the 15th century, but the means of control and manipulation today are more sophisticated and done on a much larger scale. In fact, the control of information is so extensive that we are generally unaware of how much our worldview is shaped and how badly our consensus view of reality has been distorted. We have been trained to rely on “experts” to tell us what is “true” (or socially acceptable) to the degree that we have almost forgotten that the “experts” promoted in the mass media have been selected on the basis of their willingness to tell us what the “principalities and powers” (Ephesians 6:12) want us to hear.

This is why the Internet is so important. It is the Gutenberg press of the 21st century. It offers the potential for true and unbiased information to be propagated to an ultimately limitless audience without the backing of great wealth and power, and it gives conscientious people and truth seekers the opportunity to network directly with each other without elite control or censorship. At the same time, like other forms of media, it can be used to corrupt and mislead as well as to educate and edify.

Christians should “test all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21; Romans 12:2). Evangelicals today need to be just as skeptical about the consensus reality propagated by the mainstream media as the Reformers, Christian humanists, and scientists of the 15th century were about the worldview and “consensus reality” dictated by the ruling elite of their day. The kingdom of God is just as revolutionary today as it was when Jesus proclaimed it to the multitudes in Galilee and Jerusalem.

  1. There were possibly “upward of 10,000 titles” published in pamphlet (Flugschrift) form during the first half of the 16th century (Kenneth E. Strand, “A Note on Reformation-Era Flugschriften”).Back To Article
  2. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution (part of the Bill of Rights) guarantees freedom of the press, along with other basic rights pertaining to freedom of expression and association, to United States citizens. Back To Article
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