Issue #69

Discipled by Algorithms, What Did You Expect God to Do, Telling the Truth about Christian Institutional Sin, and more...

Issue #69
Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

Living This Christian Life 🤴👸

Discipled by Algorithms: Where Is ‘Big Tech’ Leading You? | Jason Thacker 📃 →

The headline grabbed me. “Discipled by Algorithms” is a succinct phrase to label many of the problems of this social-media-crazed age.

Social media algorithms are designed to generate profits for companies. They do this by showing you content on your Facebook feed, Twitter timeline, TikTok…whatever it is, and so on, that they think will keep you coming back. The algorithm itself is, in a way, a kind of blind evolution leading to a good result for the company.

The fact that it’s a good result for the company is important to keep in mind. You, the human being, are incidental. To the algorithm, all that is important is what will keep you coming back so that they can keep selling ads.

Unfortunately, that leads to problems like we see now. People react far more easily to quick senseless humor and to things that enrage them than to other emotions. Letters like this one are intended to make you pause, think, and spend some time examining yourself and your world. Letters like this one aren’t designed for the social media age.

Anger and shallow humor have thus pervaded the internet and now, 15 years later, are saturating our more traditional media, such as news channels and movies.

This leads to the question, are you being discipled—trained—by social media algorithms? Ponder that question and examine yourself, then read the post.

Consider Another Perspective 🤔

The Case Against the Papacy | Gavin Ortlund and Cameron Bertuzzi 📽 →

This video is interesting because Cameron Bertuzzi is a Protestant Youtuber who has over time become more interested in Catholicism, to the point of considering conversion. Ortlund is a Protestant pastor who has engaged with Catholic thinkers over time and has retained his protestant beliefs. Here, he lays out some reasons he thinks the position of the pope is not legitimate.

Reminder: the author of this letter is Protestant, but has featured links with Catholics before. We hold to a Protestant statement of faith, but are more interested in our readers becoming like Christ and finding salvation in his name and finished work than in intra-Christian debates. I think that a wide range of Christians will find this video helpful.

The Case against the Papacy | Capturing Christianity YouTube

Explore the Scriptures 📖

What Was Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh? | Dane Ortlund 📃 →

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
— 2 Corinthians 12:7–10 (ESV)

Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” is a sometimes contentious topic. Many (perhaps most?) theologians understand his thorn to be a physical ailment of some sort.

However, because of the prevalence of “word of faith” / “name it and claim it” theology, many will push back, saying that it couldn’t be a physical ailment because God has promised to heal those who have faith. In this passage, God tells Paul that this thorn is his will, and since physical ailments are never his will, the thorn cannot be physical.

In this article, Ortlund walks through the passage, looks at the Old Testament context that Paul is drawing on, and gives us some things to think about.

Consider the Culture 🎨

Why Christians Can Be Content with a Quiet Life in a Social Media World | Jordan Wootten 📃 →

Christians often find ourselves in serious pursuit of more online followers and influence. Sometimes, it’s because we are rightly seeking to embrace the call to spread the gospel that’s been entrusted to us. Yet, the very nature of social media means users are encouraged to increase their notoriety. And while this may create a unique opportunity for us to share the gospel, it also presents us with a dangerous temptation that Jesus warns us to avoid — “practicing our righteousness before others to be seen by them” (Matt. 6:1).

So, while God may be calling some believers to use social media platforms for the sake of the gospel, what if the way of faithfulness for most of us is more akin to serving in obscurity? In a culture that seeks notoriety at all costs, one of the most important ambitions that some of us can choose to adopt is to embrace a quiet life, where we serve and share the gospel with those around us and recognize that our God-given desire to be seen and known will only be fully met by Christ himself.

Listen and Learn 🎧

I Have Multiple Disabilities — How Do I Not Waste My Life? | John Piper 🎧 →

The question:

“I have a question concerning the story, or parable, of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31 — specifically about Lazarus. Please help me make at least some sense of his life. He lived all of it poor. He died poor. It shouldn’t bother me, but it does. I carry neurological, physical, and mental disabilities, and have for many years as an invalid, unable to create any life for myself. I’m now thirty. I feel I should have become a productive, self-reliant man by now. I’m not, and may never be. But we also don’t see a definite purpose or self-will or self-drive in Lazarus’s life either. I also lack those very same things. How would you motivate a disabled man — disabled nearly to the degree of Lazarus — to not waste his life as his physical life wastes away?”

Read and Reflect 📖

What Did You Expect God to Do? | Lindsey Carlson 📃 →

Discouragement attempts to persuade Christians to believe that our faith holds no treasure, the cross is emptied of its power, and we cannot trust God to provide for us. We assume if we’ve professed faith, we should always feel #blessed. When we don’t discern God’s tangible provision, we assume he hasn’t provided good, riches, or blessing and we behave as though we must squint to catch a glimpse of God’s meager provision in our daily life.

We’re often not convinced by God’s goodness or provision because he provides differently than we expect and slower than we’d like. When we pause to read Scripture or pray in accordance with God’s promises, we expect to see an immediate return on investment. We want microwaveable mercies so that healing happens fast and minute-by-minute miracles so we don’t lose focus or faith.

We’re not trained or skilled in looking for the riches of God’s mercies because our culture has trained us to “get it, girl!” by going in search of whatever we want and not settling until we’ve “believed and received.” But what if we haven’t learned to treasure what we should or desire what God wants? We are often emptied of our ability to trust God because we wrongly presume upon mercies that aren’t promised instead of looking to God’s promises and trusting he’ll provide good.

God’s promises are “yes and amen” in Messiah Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20), but we often don’t stop to ask…what are God’s promises? Carlson digs into what God promised our forefathers in the faith, what God doesn’t promise, and more in this short article adapted from her book.

For More:

Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️

Telling the Truth about Christian Institutional Sin | Nancy French, David French, and Curtis Chang 🎧 →

Living in northern America, I had never heard of Kanakuk camp. I’ve since discovered that it’s perhaps the largest and most influential Evangelical Christian summer camp in America. Nancy French has done a tremendous amount of work in the last few years to uncover horrific abuse not only perpetrated by leaders in the camp but covered up and everything done to protect the institution at the expense of the abused.

Many evangelical institutions have recently reckoned with similar abuses (such as Ravi Zacharias Ministries and the Southern Baptist Convention), and that leads to the question: why does this keep happening? And why are so many people and institutions eager to downplay abuse to protect the institutions? Does Jesus need our institutions?

Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

A disciple is not above his teacher, or a slave above his master. It is enough for a disciple to become like his teacher and a slave like his master. If they called the head of the house ‘Beelzebul,’ how much more the members of his household!
— Matthew 10:24–25

Joel Fischer