Tag Archives: Total depravity

Why Technology and Science Can’t Save Us

By Eugene C. Scott

The only time I’ve ever given something (my computer) up for Lent, it wasn’t even Lent. And I didn’t choose–of my own free will–to give up my computer.

A few years ago, despite the fact that I own one of the best and most reliable computers going (yes, you poor PC plugs it is a world-famous Mac), my 256 megabyte hard drive crashed and burned. After trying several home remedies such as opening and closing the laptop lid, pushing various mysterious buttons (I wonder what the “F” stands for on those buttons), and muttering to myself, I finally scheduled an appointment with the “Mac Genius” in the closest Apple Store, which happened to be a mere 150 miles away. At the time I lived in the mountains near Vail, which was great except when . . . . Anyway the 2.5 hour drive to Boulder, CO did give me time to reflect—to take stock of my life as it relates to computers and electronic stuff.

The way I remember that fateful drive is like this:

That drive turned out to be a sobering and painful several hour odyssey, during which my hands trembled on the steering wheel and thoughts of living computerless distracted me. The usually spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery passed in a blur. My skin became clammy to the touch, as I fought back fear and worry each time I thought of how long it had already been since I had last checked my e-mail—ten hours and counting.

What if someone sends me an extremely important e-mail chain letter and I break the chain? I worried. I sobbed when I realized my communication ties to my world had been sadistically and heartlessly severed. I had unwillingly joined the ranks of the out-of-touch and uninformed. I feared I might become e-illiterate.

Less important but equally traumatic it dawned on me that I had lost parts of my seventy-five page (so far) doctoral dissertation, and my most recent sermon (I convulsed at the idea that I now faced researching sermons using books rather than the internet and writing them on those hideous yellow legal pads).

And how could I live in a world where my entire iTunes library had vanished?

Then panic hit! With my Treo palmOne phone calendar lost in cyberspace, how could I possibly know when to be where and with whom I was supposed to be? I nearly ran off the road. I saw my life pass before my eyes. To my horror my life was configured in indecipherable ones and zeros. Tears blurred my vision. I pulled over and turned on my emergency flashers.

I was a mess. Right then and there I knew what I must do. Admit my dependency.

So looking up to the blue sky through my pitted windshield I mumbled, “Hi, my name is Eugene.” I paused; I breathed; I listened. Then white-knuckling the steering wheel, I continued, “And I am addicted to my Mac! Computers, and other electronic devices rule my life.” I listened again. Sadly there was no encouraging “Hi, Eugene” response because there is no support group for this. I sighed. More tears flowed. At least I had said it. It was out.

On the drive back to Edwards, CO, determined but frightened, I swore I would use the three to ten days it would take to repair my PowerBook G4, to overcome my addiction and start a new life. I told myself I would read more books, talk to people face to face, and occasionally— shudder—use a pen or pencil to write. I even thought I would break out the old turntable and listen to a record or two. I pulled into our driveway ready for anything. I was fearful but resolute.

Fortunately my PowerBook was ready in three days and I never had to follow through on those rash resolutions. Though on day two of web-sobriety I did pick up my old, loose-leaf Bible. I stumbled on this passage, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Then I googled the passage to find out what it could mean.

Some wise saint (possibly John Calvin) once said, the human heart is an idol factory. The ancients carved wood and stone into what they hoped would be gods of their salvation. We fashion chips and technology into the same hope.

If you listen to the chatter of our world, how many times a day will you hear that a certain scientific discovery, or hypothesis, or technical advancement will bring us the healing or answers we are looking for? Hundreds? All the while God stands at the side of the internet-super highway with his thumb out, hitching a ride. As wonderful as science and technology are, they are finite–limited–and can’t save us.

This is because they are creations of our own limited minds. Technology is created not in God’s image but ours. We are broken beings capable of taking anything good and using it for evil. And we do. Also, if our struggles were material/physical only, maybe physical/material solutions could help. But our problems run deep into our souls. And not even a super computer can go there. Only God can.

I may have exaggerated my struggle with my forced fasting from electronics of several years ago. But I did recognize then, and still do now, how easy it is for me to try to slip something else into that God shaped void in my life.

Maybe that’s what seasons like Lent are really about. Not just giving stuff up. But taking stock of where in our life God stands or who/what we have standing in God’s place.

Eugene C. Scott writes the Wednesday Neighborhood Cafe blog.  If you’re reading this on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com. Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO

Beginning on March 13–the Sunday following Ash Wednesday–we will begin a Lenten series titled “Embrace: Discover, Desire . . . Jesus” at The Neighborhood Church.  During worship we will explore those things of God we can embrace and add to our lives as a response of love to Jesus.  These worship gatherings will also include hands-on opportunities to practice these things God asks us to add to our lives.  Join us.  See tnc3.org for worship times.

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The Second Deepest Truth About You, Me, and Joel Osteen

by Michael J Klassen

Two nights ago, mega-mega church pastor Joel Osteen, from Houston Texas was interviewed on Piers Morgan’s new television show on CNN.

I’ve been pretty open about my criticisms of Joel on this blog. Osteen preaches a gospel that is decidedly too American and simplistic, and he’s a lousy theologian, but I digress…nevertheless, I was proud of Joel for standing for something on the program.

Morgan commented to Osteen that he had offered different opinions about homosexuality in various interviews. Once and for all, Piers Morgan wanted the viewers to know if, in his view, homosexuality is a sin.

I’m amazed that neither Joel nor his wife Victoria show any sign of flinching as the question is asked. I’d bet the family farm that inside, both were thinking, Don’t cringe, don’t cringe, don’t cringe!

“I’ve always believed the Scriptures show that it’s a sin,” he answered.

Wow! Joel Osteen finally stood for something other than the prosperity gospel! As the discussion ensues, Osteen explains that his intent is not to judge homosexuals.

I applaud Osteen for finally taking a stand on something, but he failed to point out the second deepest truth about all followers of Christ.

“You don’t normally talk about sin,” Morgan replies. Then, referring to Elton John (an avowed gay), he asks, “Why are they sinners?”

This is where Joel misses the mark. If I had been sitting next to Joel during Piers Morgan’s interview, I would have whispered, “Hey Joel—remember? We’re all sinners.”

In Jesus’ day, religious leaders tended to divide Jews into two camps—sinners and righteous people. I’m sure you can guess which camp the leaders placed themselves in.

So in Matthew 5, Jesus challenged the religious leaders.

“You have heard it said, ‘You shall not murder…But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister, will be subject to judgment” (5:21-22).

But he didn’t stop there. Jesus continued…

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ” (5:27–28).

Wait a minute?!? Everybody gets angry and everyone has lusted more times than they can count (if they’re honest). That makes all of us are adulterers and murderers.

WE’RE ALL SINNERS!

And with one comment, Jesus leveled the playing field for all of us. Theologians call this “total depravity.” It means given our choice, we’ll choose sin and hell every time without the Holy Spirit’s help. We’re unable to find Jesus on our own. I’ll give Joel a little credit here, too, because he defines sin literally as “missing the mark.” Sin means missing the mark–falling short–of God’s perfection and holiness (see Romans 3:23).

And really, total depravity isn’t that hard to prove. Just look around. The effects of sin surround us—not only on a national level but on a personal level. We live in a broken world full of broken people.

Like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, for years I convinced myself that I was a pretty good person. When faced with my shortcomings, I would get defensive or point my finger at people with greater sins than me. But after messing things up pretty badly in a church I pastored, I couldn’t talk myself out of the “I’m a pretty good person” argument. I was finally forced to face the facts: I’m a sinner.

Now, you’d think it would make me feel worse, but in reality, I was suddenly overwhelmed with a tremendous sense of relief. Here were the immediate benefits of acknowledging my total depravity:

  • I no longer felt the pressure to be perfect. Perfection is a physical and spiritual impossibility.
  • With this in mind, I no longer felt the pressure to fool people into thinking I had it all together.
  • Forgiveness came much easier because I suddenly realized that I need forgiveness, too. How can I withhold from others what I need for myself?
  • Most importantly, by acknowledging that I’m a sinner, I saw my deep need for Jesus. I cannot save myself.

The apostle Paul understood this. He wrote:

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15).

Think about it: Paul was second only to Jesus in importance to the New Testament church (if we’re just talking about humans, of course). He was an amazing leader, apostle, and theologian who has left an indelible imprint on every church over the last 2,000 years.

Yet he said he was the worst of all sinners.

Yeah right, you might be thinking to yourself. You’re just saying that. You don’t really mean it… But I‘d be willing to bet my firstborn son that he would interrupt you.

And if Paul was the worst of all sinners, what does that make you? What does that make me?

And with that, I want to open up the conversation to all of you. How does knowing that you’re a sinner positively affect the way you look at yourself and your life?

If you’ve given your life to Jesus, this is the second deepest truth about you and me. Next Friday, we’ll look at the deepest truth about you.

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