Sunday 31 March 2024

Repentance In The Age Of OnlyFans

Over the last few weeks, a fair amount of hubbub has surfaced on Twitter (still not calling it X) about an OnlyFans model who has found Jesus.

You'll note I did not add any qualifiers to that "found". No apparently’s or evidently’s or other questioning of what might be the Holy Ghost's work in the young woman's life.

And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30 KJV

I believed Ye when he did this, and I believe Nala the Ninja too. This post is not about the legitimacy of confessions. That's the easy part. Reformed guys like me all know this. We contribute nothing to our salvation save the sin that made it necessary. And all Edwardian gusto. That doesn’t mean I don’t have reservation's and a fair idea of what she should be doing now that she’s found Jesus. It means I’ll leave her spiritual formation and discipleship up to her pastor and not Twitter, (Still not calling it X).

My issue, and what this blog post will cover, are the myriad of unique problems a technologically enabled adulterer or whore brings to the communion table, not the baptistry. Because they are problems of the communion table not the baptistry.

When a man sleeps with another mans wife, instead of his wife, a particular type of scenario forms. The man is separated from his wife by sin, and also separates the other mans wife from him by sin as well. And vice versa. The way this set of separations gets fixed is Jesus dying on a cross and some very tough conversations between the parties involved and a pastor or two. The wife must forgive the husband who cheated, the husband must forgive the husband who cheated, the wife must forgive the wife that cheated and the husband must forgive the wife that cheated. An intricate and delicate web of brokenness forms between the four souls, from even a single incident of sexual impropriety.

How big does that web get when there's more than one husband committing adultery with the wife in question. When a married woman allows, even encourages, hundreds of married men to sleep with her. Or since Jesus lowered the bar so much, to look at her lustfully. (Matthew 5:27) He lowered that bar but we’re the ones lowering the bar from married people to the vast swaths of singles in the church with a porn problem. What then?

In Christ's time, this meant a literal crowd gawking at a woman with less than manly intent for her body. Hence why Jesus asked for the sinless to step forward when he was present with this exact problem in John 8:1-11

What does this look like when the looking isn’t exactly direct, and the body isn’t exactly a body. And how far or closely do we stray from the Bible when we teach about what to do with porn addiction, now that we have porn actresses finding Jesus on the other end of their web cams.

For years, in response to the problem of porn, The church has instructed and taught that this is a sin the husband commits against the wife. And rightly so. He is sinning against here by looking at pictures and videos of naked people on the internet instead of being sexually fulfilled and devoted to his wife. But here’s the problem. Something we’ve been fine to avoid so long as we had a boy to whip when confronted with the friction between the online “world” and the real one. The Bible doesn't speak about any kind of visual media when it talks about lust. Instead, it talks about people. Jesus' clarification that to look upon a woman lustfully meant adultery in the heart, was talking about a real life woman. Not the image of one. And Nala the Ninja’s conversion is going to try to force that issue if everyone at her church reads their bible enough.

Because, while possible there is no practical or meaningful way Nala can be reconciled to all the girlfriends and fiancés and wives that she’s sinned against, and conversely no way all those boyfriends and fiancés and husbands could come clean either. Commentators on this verse make a fuss about the missing man adulterer in John 8:1-11. What on earth are we going to do with this cloud of witnesses. Nala has likely not actually slept with almost all of the people who used her pornographic content. But all of them, according to the church, have committed adultery with her by using said content. 

That is unless they haven’t. Because they’ve never actually seen her, just her content.

The problem with converting porn stars is that you gain a follower of Christ who can’t rightly be admitted to the communion table because of the lingering past self that remains on the internet. Because we treat the internet as a place those images and videos of the sinful woman are still sinning on her behalf as people. There's no reliable way to remove anything from the internet once posted. It’s too easy to repost and download and the type of image becomes too wide spread. If Nala is any kind of famous or well known, like she is, then even her conversion will drive searches for her past self which she has put to death to follow Jesus. Copies of her indiscriminate past will live along side her new life even as she grows in faith and closeness with the Lord. Hell, since I've typed her name in a few times now. how many of you have searched for her content. The Barna Group did the stats on this and it’s North of 50% for the pastorate, let alone the laity. Does a youth pastor staying up to date on Twitter, (still not calling it X) who peeks, make this woman an adulterer again, even with weeks of a porn free production schedule on her docket?

What we’re presented here is the concept of a created thing causing our sin for us. While small digital pictures and videos are still things. Consisting of electrons held between resistors to make up to code of the actual file of the image or video. These electrons have mass, not lots but enough to call them matter. Every time a digital camera is set upon a scene or a person wanting the product of of that camera, those electrons are organized to tell the rest of the computer what to show on the screen on demand. like tiny parts of a pervert Ikea cabinet. These are things we are talking about. Pornography is not objectifying people conceptually, they are objectifying themselves, literally. They make little versions of themselves for their audience to use and consume on their computers and we copy them on our computers, even temporarily while viewing these things online. Do the little versions of Nala still running truant across the internet have the ability to cause sin that Nala is responsible for, on her behalf, even while Nala is in a state of repentance?

A lot of churches would say yes, and I know why and I don’t blame them. Pastors are not the media savvy midwits they claim to be, on average. They know the Bible doesn’t speak on the topic of high speed internet porn and E-girls so they apply what the Bible does say about similar women and find a heuristic, broad enough to keep the wolves at bay with, if swung that is. The church has never had a problem with its understanding or teaching about lust.

But what if this isn’t just a lust problem? What if how we’ve been teaching about pornography is the right tool for a different job. A stick for the wolves that leads us to forego watering the sheep. What's happening here in principle is not men and women in throes of lust. which requires them to be in proximity to each other, biblically. It’s men in women in the motions of idolatry. Which requires that they fashion articles of worship out of physical materials.

What was it that Nala did as a pornstar?

Nala crafted idols of herself in digital likeness to give to her adoring devotee’s and her followers have dutifully sacrificed their time, money, and sensual energy, to pay tribute to their object of affection.

The sin of online pornography then, isn’t Lust, it’s Idolatry.

When that particular monster is slain, Nala can know redemption and sanctification, even with a host of digital versions of her sinful deeds colouring the past she left behind. Because they are no longer part of who she is. They are who she was. Copies of the idol of her own sexuality that was smashed when she declared Jesus as Lord. She can stop sinning like Jesus wants her to, and the lingering pornographic images that will taint the internet for decades after will be the sole problem of their idol worshiping users.

Nala will be free and free indeed the second she professes a faith in Christ, and no part of her sinful past will drag her back to an earthly death. Because she will be free. Her sins forgiven even covering the making of sexual idols still worshipped by the left handed masses of OnlyFans. She will not be held liable for those images because those using them are the ones creating them by copying the pictures and videos to proliferate their sin. They are still idol worshipers looking to plant their idols of sexual desire where ever they can. Building them out of new pixels and megabytes every time they enter her name in the search bar or look for her name in a list of her former peers.

When we come to terms with what the internet is actually doing instead of what it looks like it's doing we can start to see how the unique sins of the internet work. It is easy to look at pornography as an outcropping of lust and treat it as such. But if it’s more than that. If it’s different than that. Then what we do in regards to our personal righteousness, might be misplaced.

We are taught in the scriptures to flee and resist Lust in our lives.

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22 KJV

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 1 Peter 2:11 KJV

What are we taught in the scriptures concerning idols and what to do with them?

But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. Deuteronomy 7:5

But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves. Exodus 34:13

Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. Ezekiel 14:6

Nala has turned from her idol making. She hopefully, as far as it’s up to her control, smashed her copies of the idols she produced and is not walking in obedience towards a relationship with Jesus. And if Her pastor did not insist on this before admitting her to their baptism tank, he’s a fool. But if he did he’s likely wiser than most guys teaching bible studies on lust, without a grasp of how the internet works in the first place. Nala is forgiven and is tasked with sinning no more.

What’s left is for the rest of the internet to do the same.

This is only going to be more and more of a internet specific problem the church faces. As the throngs of young women using sites like OnlyFans to make a living, find their life choices empty and Jesus, ready and willing to forgive them. It will be up to the church thereafter to disciple these women in sanctified living, not apart from sins they have been forgiven for, but from sins that they have left at the cross. That can only happen if the church recognizes and teaches about what the internet is and isn’t. So long as we treat it as a place, we will inevitably treat the files and media in that place as people, so long as they look like people. When those people actually show up to our church doors, we will be confronted with the reality that there is a soul seeking communion with God and his church, that we might very well refuse because we didn’t know how online pornography worked, just that we liked it enough to use. 

Today, thankfully, we celebrate the actions of Jesus fixing all of this mess. May we join Him in that restoration and share in his life that was also in close proximity to women, exactly like Nala. 

Happy Easter Everyone.

Monday 18 March 2024

To A Chainsaw, Every Problem Looks Like A Massacre.

The adage goes, guns don't kill people, people kill people. And as a pro-gun person, I used to blindly accept this statement. I knew my gun safety basics, and intermediates, and knew that it takes a person to kill another person, via negligent or nefarious actions, and not via the gun. The gun does the dirty work but it's the person who brings the dirty.

But then I saw footage from the war in Ukraine. Saw Russian soldiers chased down by Ukrainian drones strapped to grenades and realized that what I was watching was also being filmed by a Ukranian drone. That men were no longer using guns to kill people. They were using remote controls.

Casey Neistat may have made the quadcopter drone famous. But Zelenski is making them infamous right now.

The question posed then, is if there is any difference between death by trigger or death by joystick. I imagine one is more fun for the sinner. And also less fun for the sinner. And I also imagine this is what it's meant when we're told war is hell. Sinners sinning against each other. The Ukrainians are embodying our much-praised value of innovation. They are exhibiting our much sought-after virtue of resourcefulness. But most of all, I think, they get what technology is and what technology does. They understand the difference between precept and concept, as it comes to drones. And it's exactly that which robbed them of their honour and courage. Even if it gives them a remote control edge on the battlefield. To be clear I have no dog in this fight. Both sides are bad guys by this point. And if you don't see that, you're drone footage needs to be a bit more clear.

When we look at tech as the church, we need to look at it as it actually is. Not how we think it will only get used. Calling virtual services, A.I., even smoke machines, tools as if that's all they are, is naive and a great example of conceptualization. We get enough of a grasp of the thing to use it without handling it long enough to understand it.

Most kids have this with video games. They have a concept of what it means to drive and jump and shoot. But have them attempt those things in the real world, doing real jumping and driving and shooting and a very different sort of thing happens. Kids who can ace a platform game like Mario can't get close to the rim of a basketball net, even when the court is as platformed as it can be, being the ground. Kids who have top scores on any given track in Grand Turismo, stall a standard transmission on their 1st through 20th time behind the wheel. And kids who fire a real gun, get a real level of respect for the destructive power that a firearm has when nefarious or negligent kids get behind them. Technological reality splits from technological use. And they learn to perceive the things they only have conceptions about from behind the controller.

We praise every online platform we can get our hands on, because of their innate ability to reach people. Oblivious that their creators don't use them and won't let their children use them either. That is like a gun maker raising pacifists but recording record sales in the Donbas.

"Don't worry too much. We know how this works, we're going to use this gun to do some non-gun things. I'm sure no one will get hurt. Now hand me that box of hollow points will you? We have missionary work to do."

Did that last bit of fiction have more kick than expected.

I'm sure DJI and GoPro are confident their flying cameras have found their intended market. What with the billions of dollars being spent on them in the Ukraine right now. And just like it would be absurd to think a gun made to kill people could bring them to new life in Christ, so is the idea that drones made for B-roll footage couldn't be used to send people to heaven. Technology is not neutral, because technology is only ever used by sinners. In some cases, in narrow and difficult circumstances, non-neutral technology is used for good. But it is always used by sinners. Sinners outright or sinners saved by grace. There are no innocent or pure people with tech at their disposal. The best we can hope for is sinners washed in the blood of the lamb before they end up shedding the blood of their neighbours. 

So if your church uses technology, nay, depends on it for its operation, maybe it's time to take a good hard look at its faux neutrality.

Are the projectors and lights and sound system helping your congregation grow in worship. Or are they performative outcroppings of a neutral view of tech? Because by that same neutral standard, we could turn every karaoke bar into a church plant. With only a few willing missionaries and a proper view of alcohol in the laity. All I did there was take your church's worship standard and their technological standard and remove the couch cushion reserved for the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit getting sidestepped by the emotional manipulation of a dark room and bright lights. But if I know that this is what gets asses in the seat, why wouldn't I pray at that church.

That by all means I might save some, right?

What we are rubbing up against is the chain of technology's saw. Do yourself a favour and look up why chainsaws were made, and what for. And that rub is only there because of the design of the thing. Turns out, it is the perfect instrument for a completely unrelated field. Forestry. One as distant from breached births as the east as is from the west. And I would argue that much of tech is actually not meant for church in the very same way. Designed for, sure. Intended for sure. But actually at home in drastically different settings. Worship and concerts shouldn't be as similar as they are. But when your songs are written with click tracks and light cues in mind, they don't lend themselves to other uses unless we shove them there. It's the shoving that does the damage. Especially with chainsaws.

How many choir lofts got the proverbial axe (read Gibson guitar), so that congregations could get worse at singing in church? How many baptistries got inserted into a sound stage so we can hide what was no longer important to liturgies of our faith. Because inflatable pools and cow troughs do the trick. 

Technology isn't neutral. And you can see that by looking around most churches using technology, to keep up with churches who use technology. There are pieces of this body lying everywhere. Blown off as old fashioned and backward as if it stopped working. Well, the truth is it was stopped from working. That moving a goalpost from filled pews to dynamic views on a live stream, changes the proverbial battlefield. You may think door-to-door evangelism is a dead idea. But statistically, it's not. You just can't use what it does for TikTok material. Basic, exegetical, through the books of the bible preaching is called boring but for some strange reason, everywhere Mark Driscoll does it, his church grows. Hard to repackage ad absurdum into 4-week bible study guides you can sell on Right Now Media. But great for the tithe.

Technology isn't neutral. It's actually more like a reverse gear in a standard. If you put it into place when a vehicle of faith is making good enough progress forward, it can kill the transmission of the gospel. The engine of the thing gets torn to pieces and the whole thing needs to be rebuilt. Don't worry. I hear you can find a YouTube video for that kind of automotive work. Why take an evangelical K-car to the dealership these days. 

Technology isn't neutral.

And neither are the people who use it.

Friday 1 March 2024

On Cool Church Music And Drug Dealers.

The technology we use to make things cool will make things uncool with time as the only variable. That's because technology only makes things cool by connecting the desired product with the desires of the consumer. In short, technology is a means to fulfilment that otherwise would have to come from one's self. 

McLuhan talks about this as technology is the extension of our nervous system into reality. That's all well and good when we're talking about how an eye needs to see more clearly or farther but that same nervous system is why you cry during certain songs. The golden ticket of any worship leader's career. 

So for today's experiment and demonstration, we're going to show you how cool, as a concept, fades. And why that's important to know, and what happens when it's not known. We'll then end on a dystopian nightmare for the church and worship leaders at large. 


The link below is for a band named Sonseed

Now the kind of recording and clothing worn by the band might give it away, but this band is a little old. They sing a catchy if not simple song about Jesus that for all intents and purposes is theologically correct. We could dissect the lyrics, but I think it might be more fun to dissect the aesthetic. Aesthetic is something we are obsessed with these days in the church. Our websites need to look like they belong to churches who know how to run websites, to the point where we will put stock images of people who do not attend our church, or even of people not at our church but others, on that website. When people find our website, they can then see who we aren't but want to be. That's an aesthetic decision and one too common not to mention.

But where you find that kind of decision being made isn't the mega-church propper that would seem like the culprit of over-aestheticism. No. It's in their main consumer, the mid-sized church that is looking for the same thing that the mega-church does in its worship services. This is why you'll see a near-uniform painting of the back wall black, in churches meant to be churches and not concert halls or stadiums. They want their worship leaders to look like the worship leaders who sing the songs they play and when you google those songs you do not find them in hardwood-clad, pew-lined churches, with dated carpet and fake plants on either side of the large pulpit. You find them on black LED-lit stages or in abstract spaces lit with hanging bulbs where the band is in a circle. Neither of these places is a church, that's not the point of the worship music being produced online. No one makes a video of a worship band performing in a warehouse by themselves because that's where Jesus needed to be worshiped. They make that video there to sell you that song, which is fine, so that you'll sing that song in church, also fine. And they do so by appealing to the emotional reactions they want to get and plan to get from the video in question.

Which is exactly what Sonnseed tried to do and I would argue did, they might have been chasing different emotions. Crafted for a different time, sure, but the videos being produced for songs by Elevation Worship and Hillsong are the same thing, if not at the very least the same kind of thing. Sonseed is just after a different emotion and one I might add that no longer has the public sway as it comes to religious expression anymore. In 2023 we do not want a Jesus who is fun or friendly, we want a Jesus who can fix everything and restore our brokenness.

Enter Zach Webb

Whose song I enjoy. It found me, ironically, at a dark time in my life and did what it is supposed to do. To speak truths about the Christian life and lead me to worship God because of it. But again we see a music video of not a church where this worship song will be sung but a beach and twilight and melancholic wanderings of a man talking about God.

These two videos are the same thing. They are not both worship songs, though they are both worship songs. They are both not music though they are both music. They are both cool, and the fleetingness of cool is a thorn in the hamstring of modern worship. Because the plain truth is that a lot of the new contemporary worship songs are beautiful works of art, centred around the worship of our Lord. But they are sung as if songs like Sonseed's or other older worship songs aren’t also that same thing. They are sung, and more importantly sold, as cool.

What throws us for this loop is that we chase cool things on an emotional level and pursue true things on a rational level. That rationally, Sonseed sings a theologically sound enough song, as does Zach Webb, but they are in tune with different emotional values. This is not a problem. Your parents and grandparents in the 70's and 80's do not need to feel the same way you do about religious life for you to both worship Jesus. Emotional response to the divine is not uniform or rational.

This is dangerous, though, because of things like this

This girl illustrates why worship has to be something we enter into logically and experience emotionally, in that order. If the emotionalism comes first, then anything that can illicit the chemical responses of emotional response can sidestep into the place we’ve reserved for religious feelings. Because they are chemical responses and religious feelings. But they are likely feelings first. Not confessions or declarations. Feelings. We can't remove the chemical nature of how the physical world we live in affects us emotionally. How those chemicals make us feel. Rollercoasters are exhilarating, not because they are an idea but because they put us on the edge of danger in a safe way. You move just as fast and get just as close to heavy steel objects on the road in your car and never once say "Weeeeeeee." That's because you step onto a roller coaster knowing you are not in control of the heavy metal objects and speed, and you feel the result of that kind of surrender. It's a rational if not laboured decision to go on a roller coaster. But everything after the restraints get locked is emotion. And we love it. More or less. 

Modern worship leaders sing true things in dark rooms to emotionally isolate you, they light the stage and the singers and the words on the screen because they want you to focus on what the words say, what the singers express and what the darkness and moving lights up front will evoke. Take any modern song away from that context. Perform it in a well-lit conference room with paper handouts for the words and see the magic disappear. Because it's not magic. It's tech doing its job and worship leaders doing theirs. Using emotional manipulation to lead people into worship, through feelings.

You might shrink back at the use of "manipulation" there, but I don't. Everyone manipulates everyone. I do it with words, others do it with clothes. And the church is clearly doing it with its worship music. And being blind to it just means you have a better time for the most part. No time spent dissecting a rendition of a song alongside its light cues. If worship leaders are manipulating people to confessions in Christ, praise of his name, and changing of lives for righteousness' sake, there is no good done in pointing it out just to make them stop out of principle.

But just like the nose-ringed girl lost her religion to the band One Direction, we risk losing our religion to much more theologically challenging opponents than the average boy band. This might be a fevered dream with too much REM to blame, but it is, at the very least, a possibility.

What happens when we mix more tech than just the moving lights and screen with this cocktail of emotions and Jesus? Because I wager that the only reason we have this emotional rollercoaster, at all, is because we have tech in our worship services as much as we do. And that tech use is progressing faster than the decline of said roller coaster. We are past the peak and trending downward at an accelerated rate. Everyone is having a good time 

What happens when We dabble enough with A.I. to let a robot decide what songs to play and how to play them and how to move the lights and dim the room and eventually move the people around the stage or generate them artificially. What happens when the church hands over the reins to the emotional crazy train to someone other than pastor Osbourne and we find out how black the sabbath can get? At least twice as black as the stage is now, I figure. 

Imagine a worship set tuned to its congregation, so finely, that everyone feels what our nose-ringed friend felt before she saw the boy band up close. Everyone getting locked in by the emotional manipulation because the A.I. was trained on everyone's response to the variables of modern worship's need for tech to do what it does. An A.I. hooked up to a myriad of sensors and cameras, that you'll now notice if you look close at everything but the well-lit stage in the dark room next time you go to a mid-sized mega church. You might scoff but A.I. has already begun generating worship services like these two.

The same pastors who would tell you the dark room, and black stage, and moving lights, are only aesthetics are doing this kind of thing too.

A fundamental truth in technology is that technology progresses. No one finds a better mousetrap and then gets a cat that they're allergic to, because of its traditional aesthetic appeal. They take the mouse trap that kills mice and forego the sneezing in church. Painting it black like your sanctuary walls lets you charge a bit more for the trigger and spring. The hardwood pews you ripped out for soft seating will not be reinstalled. The choir loft you ripped out to make the front of the church a sound stage will not be built back better. We're in the thick of it now. Our choice to embrace the darkness of the modern worship big room is separate from the darkness embracing us all back. Rollercoasters don't take you along their tracks. They let you ride them. It's all momentum till someone hits the brakes.

What A.I. will do when given full control and a proper set of emotional tools to use on us, is hone the fine edge of chemical addiction and surgically keep us addicted to church services. Whether or not those services are in line with Christian worship or not. It will do it in other places for sure, it already is in fact. Dopamine is a hell of a drug. Porn is a (Hell) of an industry. That will be where A.I. gets its blueprint for hooking the modern Christian, emotionally. Because statistically, that's where over half of the modern Christians go to get their dopamine. And it, dopamine, is the reason you get the tingles across your arms and back when a good song comes on the radio that you can't help but sing along, or a well-performed worship set sends you to tears because of how loved you are in and by Christ. When those tingles are not only produced but measured by a machine instructed to evoke those responses, It will do so. With machine-like precision and efficiency. And what we have at the end of the day is a tech-enabled drug dealer for dopamine in the name of Jesus. 

And we will be nothing but happy for it. 

By design. 

Friday 23 February 2024

Did You Hear The One About Robot Zombie George Carlin.

It's not nearly as funny as the late great king of cuss words, by far. But it is still funny. Not funny haha. Funny that we think jokes from a robot zombie would be worth sullying the memory of our favourite dead guys. Funny the way margarine tastes like butter but is in no way shape or form as good for you as butter. And yes, I know you can't believe that. Faith will always have problems with this kind of sour milk.

If you're still searching for the punchline here. A YouTube channel has produced an hour-long comedy special-style video of an A.I. Geroge Carlin doing jokes using various A.I. tools to give us a bizarre and crude version of the comedy great doing stand-up.
And in so, showed us what being a medium looks like in the cyberpunk era. 

Thankfully Dudesy, the YouTube channel that performed this act of sacrilege, has taken the video down and is being sued for what they did.

What's being done here is the technological equivalent of a person saying they can let you talk to your late dead uncle who taught you all the dirty words back in the day. Just plug in the crystal ball machine and the voice and visage of Uncle George show up to tell us jokes again and make us laugh. But if we're being honest. It's a nervous laughter. Because are we really going to stop with comedians we want to say things? Where's the line here. The one needed between this macabre reanimation of comedy and the technological tyranny that could easily take its place. How much material did Hitler write, after all? Or for that matter any President you may or may not like. Or perhaps we'll stop making the dead speak for us, via A.I., when we get to trying to get prophets to speak again. 

Oh wait we have a Bible verse for that.

‭‭1 Samuel‬ ‭28:3‭-‬16‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land. And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at En-dor. And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee. And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die? And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, As the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing. Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.  And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth.  And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself. And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?

One of the problems technology presents us is the illusion that we're not just pagans like the kind of people needing redemption in the Old Testament. Since we're part of the unwritten parts of the New Testament, our Acts 29 if you will. We think in our heart of hearts that we won't do the kinds of things pagans did. But the truth is we build our heresies and idols one brick at a time. The same way Babel did. And so do YouTube accounts that grave rob the greats in standup comedy. 

There is a subtle but subversive paganism hidden in the code of modern tech. One that disguises idols as features and hides its sorcery like bugs. Which is only a problem if our leaders don't notice or worse, think they are above the commandments and prohibitions to not act in pagan ways.

Deuteronomy 18:10-12 KJV

There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee

Keeping with the butter metaphor from the opening paragraphs, what kind of toast are we cooking? We keep saying it's a hearty whole-grain brown bread filled with all the nutritious ingredients that we once witnessed from Gutenburg's press. But as the edges burn and the bread dries out under history's heat, we're left with a crumbly gluten-free option that we're told is good for us. Because heaven knows we can pronounce the ingredients. Maybe we should just read them backwards?

And just like that concoction of chemicals and compounds would be mistaken for alchemy and potions in the days of yore, we need to know what sorcery, mediums and necromancy look like in the days of YouTube. Solomon was wise to say that there is nothing new under the sun. Perhaps we need to start thinking, reacting and rejecting things in older frames of mind.


Friday 16 February 2024

A Litmus Test For Worshiping Large Language Models.

I make a lot of fuss about the similarities of what mankind is doing with A.I. and what mankind has done with idols. The comparison often falls on deaf ears, stuffed with Airpods, and I plant my feet firmly in the sands of what it means to do theology honestly in the face of no longer being a cool kid.

I get called a traditionalist and old-fashioned and get accused of holding the church back from using new technologies, and have yet to, but expect it shortly, get told that my hesitance is tantamount to sin because of where and what these technologies can do for the church. I'm waiting patiently for that last one. I know it's coming, and this blog post is my litmus test for the idol worshipers who will bring that last question to me.

I don't mind being called names that don't apply to theologians doing their jobs. I don't mind being labelled with words that get thrown like distractions either. Because I've learned over the years that if there's one thing pagans hate. It's being labelled properly. Use of words like sodomy, mutilation, sexual deviant and pervert, gets their metaphorical panties in a bunch, and their actual panties in a bunch. So if you're following along in the hymnal, you know who I'm talking about when I say those three or four identifying words. You know because labels only mean things when they relate to and describe the person place or thing being labelled. Call a married couple with three beautiful kids "sexual deviants" for their behaviour, and the label falls on deaf ears and blind eyes. But it sticks to the rainbow flag like velcro and is just as loud when you try to separate it unironically. 

I say all this to illustrate what properly addressing sin and impropriety can look like in one realm. So you can imagine how it looks in another realm as well.

So where's the litmus test? And how does this relate to A.I.?


Can you imagine an area of human experience in which A.I. as we have it now, can't make it potentially better?

Let's give you some options to choose from to start. Let's take Dating, Cooking, Real Estate, and Microbiology.

If you're being honest with yourself and your understanding of the nature of generative A.I., can that same A.I. make any of these wildly disparate and broad themes better. We both know the answer like we both know what the word marriage actually means, or man, or woman, but popular discourse has wormed its way into our lives and will soon be on parade on a regular basis as well. A.I. is being heralded as the Salvation and Destruction of the world as we know it, and is being crammed into everything that it can fit into, onto, and otherwise around. It's already in the church and that's where I come in because it shouldn't be on principle. But most people can't see why. Or maybe, they can't say why. 

When you do this litmus test, when you find the answer being yes for all four of the categories listed above, I'm hoping that you realize what happened when I posed the question. Because it really didn't matter which words I gave you. It didn't need to be Dating, it could have been Demographics. It didn't need to be Cooking, it could have been Cars. And it didn't need to be four categories, it could have been one. But often, we need a body of evidence to see the problem. And the problem is that you can in fact apply A.I. to everything you can think of. And it's really only been mainstream for a year or so now.

Being able to be everywhere from Cooking to Cars and Dating to Demographics, in the same way and for the same reasons is a kind of omnipresence. Not all tech is like this. Hammers enjoy no such ubiquity even though they do tend to see every problem as a nail when given the chance. In that regard, A.I. and hammers are alike. They insist upon themselves. But the hammer, wrongly thinks that the solution to modern dating is hitting things with a hammer. I'm not convinced A.I., and those who worship, it are so dissuaded.

Yes. I used the word Worship because I meant the word worship and that's because I used the word omniprecence and meant that too. Even if I didn't Bold it for you I know what it means to try to be a god. And that's because I have a relationship with God. You don't need a hammer to be everywhere the same way you don't need a phone to be everywhere either. Though that little piece of tech came close. A.I. is on a trajectory to hit its target hard. We need A.I. to fit everywhere because that's what you require from small-g gods. 

An idol, properly understood, is the physical manifestation of a demonic power.

"Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he? All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not."

1 Cor 10 18-23 KJV

Now that's an honest exaggeration so long as it's still the hammer treating every problem like a nail. But A.I. isn't getting that kind of treatment. Is it? We all know that A.I. could be the modern-day version of a small-g god and we all dismissed it as meat sacrificed to idols too. The issue here isn't that the people who use A.I., specifically in the church, think that A.I. is a small-g god. The issue is they're not treating it like it's anything less than that. 

It's one thing to buy your top sirloins from the back of Baal's BBQ. Because you know it's cheap and it makes for good fare at the men's bible study. It's another thing to host the bible study and cook the steak to Baal's specifications as if the preparation didn't matter so long as you call them Jesus steaks. The meat isn't a problem if it's being treated as meat. But if it's treated like the sacrifice that it was. If it's honoured or valued or even given preference to. Then we have a problem and a conflict of what we partake in.

This is why I don't think it's a problem, at all, for Christians and pastors to use artificial intelligence in the things they do. Like when Grammarly shows me where I've misspelled Deutoronomy. Because that is a Christian using a tool for the tool's intended purpose. And that purpose is subjective based on it's use. Not neutral, subjective. Grammarly, certainly edits what little is left of the articles written for porn these days. But that it's used for x-rated articles and sermons alike is secondary to its use as a spell checker. There's no conflict here except for really, really, REALLY weak brothers in Christ. But there is conflict for the normally weak brothers in Christ who dabble in writing worship songs, sermons or asking prayer-like questions with generative A.I. because "It's just a tool, bro." 

What that is, is Idolatry. It is the presupposing of divine attributes into or onto an object that man has made. 

Worship songs should be coming from the conviction of a Holy Spirit and Believer in unison and through that same Holy Spirit's gifts. Not a data set and prompts. 

Sermons, similarly, are the outcropping of a spiritual gift, not content to be generated. A pastor who can't find time to properly search the scriptures and craft a sermon, isn't strapped for time and resources in the busy modern church office. He's biblically unqualified to lead.

"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;"

1 Tim 3:2 KJV

When we introduce generative A.I. into this what we are asking of the A.I. is what is supposed to come from God. You can not ask an object for spiritual blessings and expect God not to treat you as he would an idolater. Because that's what you're doing. Or were you confused about who this next verse might be talking about? 

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

Matt:7:21-23 KJV

These two examples of sermons and worship songs, are two of the growing list of examples of where Christians don't see that they are doing exactly what pagans are doing with their tech. But calling it "Christian" as if that authorizes the practice and makes it fit for Christian consumption. The same pagans, I might add, that are scared to death of what happens when their A.I. god gets bigger than they can manage and prompt. They're terrified of the nightmarish, sci-fi possibilities of an all-knowing entity and wanted to pump the breaks around the same time we were letting this kind of thing preach in German churches.

We just sing Sunday school songs about Him.


Wednesday 25 October 2023

A Change Of Coates' Now That It's Flu Season.

I should start off by saying it has been a hot minute since I stopped writing about COVID and tyranny and started writing about where that tyranny pushed the church. My focus as a writer has been and is the relationship the church has with technology in general. But to not address what was one of the iconic moments of my province during the last few years in relation to where COVID pushed the church, Well, that would just be cowardly.

James Coates was acquitted of all charges of health order violations along with his church a few months ago. All, not some, not (but we'll stick you with a big fine for the sake of the crown.) some, All. 

Shortly thereafter, Tim Stephens had all his charges withdrawn by the court.

These two pastors were held up by the media as objects of derision for the churches that would comply and close their doors. And while I would love to get into the nitty-gritty of all the things the COVID mandates did to change how we did church and truly how we do church now, I'm going to focus on one aspect. Moving our churches online.  

These two pastors chose not to merely accept the baseless assumption of moving their church services online as a valid activity in the face of the risks COVID presented. In doing so, they both ran against the grain of the church at large, which almost uniformly moved online in one capacity or another. Barna Reports that 96% of churches moved online as early as 2020, But these two men stayed firmly in the 4% that remained. While the new field and market of online church service began to bloom and the government began to arrest pastors for exercising their constitutional rights, we saw what might be one of the biggest changes to church liturgy or ecclesiology happen across almost every denominational background. That being the equivalency of online worship and in-person worship.

The church at large decided that online worship was not only a possibility but was the right thing to do. And they did so in the face of a small minority of church leaders like Coates and Stephens that did not. This minority was painted as wrongdoers and the online church was the obvious right thing to do given the circumstances. Those logging in and signing up for online church were being righteous and what was happening at Gracelife and Fairview Baptist, was just plain wrong. We could be sure of them knowing it was wrong because of federal law enforcement fitting nicely into a simplistic understanding of Romans 13, but more on that later. 

The issue we face is that the same government that declared them to be wrong, found them to be acquitted of their wrongness, and withdrew their charges. If these two pastors weren't the bad guys legally, if they weren't the law-breaking radicals the news and government painted them as. Who were they?

The problem with handing Romans 13 to a secularized government, like all of them we have up here in the true north strong and free-ish, is that if you don't teach it to them right, because you don't understand it right, then they end up twisting scripture to do wrong in the name of God's word. We simply can not have a freedom to exercise our religion that can not be infringed upon or abridged or abrogated, if three layers of fencing or a health order can do the impinging or abrogating. A health minister should have near total authority to do what is needed to be done during a pandemic response, but the charter is written as to be a total authority with measures put in place to make sure no one else gets near it. And it got trampled on like the lawns of Gracelife as the fence went up. 

James And Tim clearly knew this when they took their stand and the health ministry did too. That's why there are measures put into the Emergency Act as to grant universal amnesty to the health minister for actions done in good faith. Pastors who act on their good faith, because they have good faith, well, they get to go to court.

And while I'm happy for Fairview Baptist and Gracelife and the people I know that no longer attend my church that closed but attend these churches that stayed open, we have a lingering issue to deal with in the church at large.

You see if the government loses a lawsuit like this, it isn't like it's some neutral party to that loss, despite the assurances the Emergencies Act gives the plaintiff. If these pastors are now acquitted of all wrongs. Then the plaintiff was wrong to arrest them, jail them, but most of all, it was likely wrong in the ways it told churches to worship in alternative ways, unlike these two churches. We were told by our government and our churches that we could simply if not by concession, worship online. And that this was the right thing to do in light of the wrong things being done over at Gracelife and Fairview Baptist, We Romans 13'd our way to live-streamed at-home eucharist and these men spent a few months in jail. We were told we were doing things the right way, and that was contrasted by trying our very best to not talk about what was being portrayed as the wrong way.

I could rip into the individual communion servings. The ways we did weddings and funerals and a host of other things. But I want to write about how the church went online. Because prior to all the nonsense, we had every opportunity to move church online without a government essentially telling us to do so. Youtube accounts are free as are their reach and effectiveness. If the Government told us to do so from a position of wrongness, was our move online during the pandemic an exercise in righteousness? Would you have made the changes to your church, (I'm talking to you, pastors) that you did, in how you look at the online service model, had you not been in a position of either causing a super spreader event or going to jail? Because the capacity to do so was freely available to the church for a decade or so prior to the pandemic.

But you did make changes, changes that had no theological backing only pragmatic ends. And those changes were lauded by a government now found in the wrong for insisting on those changes at Gracelife at the point of a gun. If you listened to that insisting on the right thing to do at your church, insisted on that particular interpretation of Romans 13, then any way you swing it now, you got that wrong. The pastors that went against the grain and ended up in jail for it, turns out, were doing what they not only were allowed to do, but what they should have been doing.

Does that not put us in the position of having done what we shouldn't have as the church at large?

Again, Barna reported that 96% of pastors moved their churches online in some capacity in 2020. leaving a very narrow gate of 4% that either did nothing or did enough of something to catch the eye of authorities. 96% of pastors who historically don't agree on baptism, women in leadership, church membership, the end times, scriptural authority, wine in the eucharist and what to think about rainbow flags. Yet somehow all agreed that online church is a valid and appropriate place to practice worship. Even when it isn't a place.

That needs to be brought back up for the kinds of questioning and cross-examination that pastors like  Coates and Stephens are all too familiar with. The reasons we move online are not just blind progress and if you let blind progress and pragmatism get you online. You now have a reason to at least check your motivations. 

Because fear is the worst reason to do online church, and I fear, it's the only reason we're 96% in favour of it right now. Or at least it was.

So, take this to your next general assembly or annual meeting or bible study if need be. Do it in person. do it without a mask on and ask the church a few things. 

Why are we online? 

Why did we go online?

And, Do 96% of us think we fit on the narrow path or not.

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Matthew 7:13-14 King James Version (KJV)

Friday 25 August 2023

A Hand Up The "Ehem, Interpretation" Of A Biblical Puppet.

We all get told at Bible college that eisegesis is a poor way to make our arguments in any faith conversation because it doesn't say what the text said, it says what we want to say by using the words of the text. This twisting of scripture is problematic on a number of levels but mostly because it makes the focal point of the text used for justification, the person's own mind and not the original intention of the Holy Spirit, that wrote the words down through the biblical authors.

Now that doesn't mean that a verse at any given time only has one given meaning or interpretation because the word is living and active. (Heb 4:12). But it does mean that when you notice someone is taking a verse out of its clear context and that you should be offering correction after listening or offering a refusal to listen in the first place.

But this exists in the give-and-take world of Christian debating, which is at least the kind of human event to expect humans to act like and sin like humans do.

What happens when we remove the human part of the equation? 

Does the debating still happen?

Various "Well-meaning" actors in the church tech world seem to think so, as the generation of bible A.I.'s did not take that long to green light. Like the top Google hit of which purports to be a powerful tool for people seeking a deeper understanding of God's word. But as you dig a little deeper into the function of the tool, you begin to realize something about the answers the glorified chatbot (and I do mean glorified) is giving you. Specifically, that it won't give you an answer that isn't couched in some form of interpretation. If you ask it about the sinfulness of homosexuality, it always divides its holy words with a "however" when asked about the standard fare of controversial topics. Plainly put, if you take a reformed view of scripture, and call sin, sin, the A.I. bible will give you a "however" and explain why doing so isn't the best version of Christianity to be practiced. That perhaps you need an upgrade.

An interesting note is that culturally risky topics such as bestiality seem to still get a flat biblical response, with no "however", even a call for repentance if the questioner is possibly practicing the sin in question. But should those sins have a flag and a parade slotted in for June, the "however's" persist.

What you're seeing here is a very complicated puppet, paper mache'd out of the pages of your Bible. No matter what is on the outside, it still has a progressive hand up its ass, making it pronounce the "however's" and respect the pronouns. It looks like the Bible on the outside. The words of the scriptures that are glued to the puppet's carcass give it that credence. You can see that it looks like the Bible and enough of your mental guards go down as you approach this strange new way of interacting with God's word. But inside of the puppet is always someone wanting to say something while hiding their face, or throwing their voice. That's how puppets work. And this one, in particular, lets you know that reality any time you ask about sodomy. 

The irony is disgustingly palpable.

You would reject an app on your phone with a golden calf icon that planned your child's sacrifice for you, with just as much convenience and ease, the very same way you accept that yoga is "just stretching." but in reverse. Knowing how idols work is more than just recognizing the materials they are made of and avoiding the golden statues in your life. Because how the idol benefits you is agnostic to its relation to the worship of God. The big idea is that this new age of technologically empowered churches is going to be the concept of "Christian-Flavoured Idols". Things that mask themselves as orthodoxy 2.0, but are just the next version of idolatry, but this time with three cameras or no headphone jack. 

There is a necessity of twisting of scripture, inherent to this automated bible answering machine, that is being overlooked. You can't let the Bible talk for itself without human intervention because the words of God once recorded have already been touched by the hands of man, or written them. But this isn't just an addition to the canon. That would be too obvious and, again, dismissed as wrong at the onset. This is an adjustment of the canon. This is making a verse like Lev 18:22 or 1 Tim 2:12 say "however", when it doesn't. This isn't a commentary on what the words in those verses mean. This is adding to them so you can't know what they mean plainly. You can not find a way to make a "Shall Not" mean anything but "Shall Not", unless you add a "however". And once you do you are not giving the reader the Hebrew root for "Shall" or the contextually biblical meaning of "Not"

But what is happening is an ultra-convenient avenue for people to not have to wrestle with "Shall Not". The spirit of the age of internet porn learned that it did not need the children of God to actually have sex with temple prostitutes to worship the false gods of technology. It could simply attack other appetites. Like sloth. You could get a real bible that can't be remotely edited. You could learn Hebrew and Greek, or you could surrender all those freedoms of intellect to an app that you don't control and that adds "however" to the Bible where it needs to. No more arduous Bible study. We have a single button to press for our demands of the scriptures, to say what we want them to say.

If a bible A.I. doesn't only respond with the Bible, it necessarily will have the ability to answer questions of it by avoiding the use of the Bible altogether. If it can add a "However" it can subtract anything put there by the same sinning human hands that wrote the Bible in the first place. Which is why it's important to know that humans didn't just write the Bible. The Holy Ghost did this through His humans. And no part of The Trinity is adding "however" to its already completed and perfect word of God. That's being done by the hidden hand, literally. And it's still up the puppet's ass. 

What we need to stop doing, as it pertains to technological use, is stop using it like idol worshipers. At a praxiological level, technology needs to serve the mission and not contradict the heads of that missionary movement. There is wisdom in using a sharp tool for the work of sharp tools and not complaining that an axe grows dull as if it doesn't affect the work. Or refusing a chainsaw when the invention reveals itself. But when the chainsaw begins to let you know that building houses is the leading cause of tree death, or that pulp mills are often used to supply paper to extremist Christian literature printing. Well, then you need to start looking for a whetstone. 

A.I. could be the next great thing for missions, but it's currently demonstrating to be the next place progressive ideologies hide from reformers with hammers and theses.  If we're not careful we will follow its suggestions to hop off whatever cliff it needs us to, to stay progressive and ideological. And God might not be there to catch our fall, because of how our A.I. prompts were worded.

"And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."

Luke 4:9-12 King James Version