Friday, November 17, 2017

Heartbreak and Thankfulness

 As we approach Thanksgiving, I find myself thinking about the people who recently went to church on a Sunday morning. They attended service that day for various reasons. Some out of obligation. Others because of habit. Some with deep commitment to obedience, with a love for Christ. With thanksgiving. They went to find peace in the sanctuary. To rekindle hope. To know God. Perhaps one came seeking salvation. Whether saint or sinner, they met the same killer. The same weapon. The same terror.

This was one of those situations which brings a cry from the believer: Why? And perhaps from the doubter, a statement: A good God would not allow it to happen. The believer may have no answer for the doubter. The doubter will never convince the believer that God is not good.

The ones who left their earthly bodies, their ties to this world behind from the one place they should have felt safe found themselves immediately in the only truly safe place they could ever know. I can’t help but wonder if they even remembered, once they arrived in their heavenly home, what had just occurred. But that’s only my imagination. God only knows how splendid the swift journey into the arms of Jesus must have been. And how deep the hurt of those left bleeding, of the ones left to mourn.

Now here we are, the safe observers who only experienced the horrible Sunday on TV and then tried to forget that it will happen again. Perhaps some made the decision never to go to church again. Good idea. Never go to church, or a concert, or a school, or a restaurant, or the grocery store for that matter again. Because you not safe. Not in this life.

Feeling thankful? I am. I won’t stop going to church. I’m thankful it’s still legal, if not safe. I’m thankful for schools and music and groceries. For the vast opportunities existing in the time and place God chose to place me. I pray I never cower in fear, but shine the light of the gospel in a world quickly growing darker. I’m thankful for the trip home to heaven, no matter how hard and heartbreaking the exit from this world might be. I know what awaits. And I am most thankful the day is approaching when all things will be made right by the soon returning King of Kings.

 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Rev. 21:4

Have a joyous Thanksgiving Day.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Future Church, Part II

In my last blog post, Future Church, Part I, I wrote about the methods my church has adopted to assure the gospel continues to influence future generations. Most evangelical churches are utilizing similar practices. Historically, we’re only repeating a pattern of adaptation. Worship-style changes. Outreach is adjusted. We alter our ways to remain effective in our culture, but we are still frail, imperfect people. And God is still God.

If you’ve read my fiction, you know I’m interested in transhumanism. I made up a lot of stuff when I wrote my trilogy about Chase Sterling, but I didn’t make up all of it. Using technology to bolster the human race is the aim of the transhumanist. It’s for our own good. Now, in addition to giving us better bodies and brains, a group within the group wants to bless us with an AI deity. A god-bot.

Recently I read a couple of articles about the techno-god who will make us better humans. From my worldview, I can only consider this movement as representing the transhumanist agenda, and not the church. But to some it covers both the aim of progressing of our race and lighting a new path to our understanding of God. Anthony Levandowski, a man behind the self-driving cars I wrote about in my books, has launched a religious non-profit group. Here’s the mission statement:

“Our mission is to develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence and through understanding and worship of the Godhead contribute to the betterment of society.”

A slim branch of the church, or pseudo-church, called the Christian Transhumanist Association supports the idea of creating a god for us to worship. Sound familiar? I think it’s been done before. Are we so itching to build an idle for ourselves? I believe most of us aren’t, but the CTA believes that AI can be used in promoting the gospel. Of course, it can. The inventive drive of the human race comes from our God-given gift of creativity. We who follow Christ should use that energy to glorify God and reach the lost world. But shifting the focus of our worship from the one true God to an AI facsimile would neither glorify God nor ensure the future of the church.

I’ve no doubt transhumanism will benefit people, Christians included. It may also lead to our destruction. SpaceX and Tesla Inc. founder Elon Musk is quoted as saying that with AI we are summoning the demon. I agree with the clergy who note that technology can be used for both good and evil, but when I think about the mass of humanity being led by a digital god, I’m reminded of the second beast in Revelation 13. An image coming to life? An unholy beast? Could this be the god-bot? I have more questions than answers, but I won’t be turning my head to the AI deity. It may bring a glance from those who have not tasted the truth of the gospel, but it will save no souls.

This certainly can’t be a move of God to carry the church into the future. It’s almost laughable to think of true believers trending this direction, but some people are hoping to pull the church right along into the strange new world.  It makes the music and ministry ideas my church has adopted seem like rather old-fashioned attempts at remaining relevant. Will our methods be enough to ensure the hope of the gospel reaches the next generation? Because the future is coming.

No, the future is here.