By P.J. Casebolt
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty as an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).
The use of aids, even visual aids, is a well-established principle in preaching and applying the word of God. Jeremiah used a linen girdle (Jer. 13), and a potter’s vessel (Jer. 19), to emphasize his message to God’s people. But, these visual aids did not supplant the message, they supported it.
In preaching and teaching the gospel, we have used newspapers, radio, and TV as mediums by which we spread the gospel message. Some have employed chalkboards, cloth charts, flannel boards, overhead projectors, and possibly other aids to illustrate their messages. I have seen some teachers and preachers use these aids smoothly and effectively, while other attempts simulated the slapstick comedy of the Three Stooges and distracted from the lesson instead of supporting it.
Now, we have a new technology which some are using to convey their message to visible and even invisible audiences. This newest form of technology is basically called a computer, but I have neither the ability nor the desire to describe the terminology or language by which owners and operators of these devices communicate with each other, and possibly with thousands of recipients unknown to the operators.
I can see how the medium of E-mail may reduce the volume of telephone calls and even messages now handled by the U.S. Postal service. Families and churches have communicated with those who live and labor in foreign fields. We may even teach the truth and convert people by means of computers, just as we have done by the printed page, radio, TV, and telephone. But you can’t baptize people by any of these mediums, and neither do I see how we can fulfill many of our other responsibilities (and privileges) such as assembling with the saints, by joint sessions via computer. But I’m not naive enough to think that someone won’t attempt to prove me wrong.
Within one week’s time, I was made aware of the potential abuses which can accompany this latest invention of the world, and this in spite of the fact that I live in a rather remote area and don’t even own a computer. This forces me to conclude that other such instances are happening to others elsewhere, and given the very nature of computers, it will be impossible to determine to what extent either good or evil has been served.
One such instance of abuse was the report of a kidnapping with detailed descriptions, the information was disseminated and passed on by E-mail, and I heard about it by word of mouth from a recipient of the E-mail transmission. I don’t know how many others saw it, read it, or passed it on by some other means of communication. But, by a purely unrelated telephone conversation with an acquaintance in a distant town, I learned that the whole thing was a hoax. Maybe we had better keep a phone, a fax, a mailbox, or a bonfire with blanket and smoke signals as a back-up in order to atone for these “glitches” in the latest technology. Or even a mechanical typewriter in case the electricity goes off.
I know some of the people involved in this hoax, feel sorry for them, and know that they would and will do everything possible not to become involved in such a scenario again. But sometimes others involve us, like Achan did Israel (Josh. 22:20), and such perpetrators of such hoaxes suffer not alone in their iniquity.
The second example in what seemed to be a national week for observing worldly abuses came just a day or so after the first one (which came on the Lord’s day just as we were assembling for worship). Two preachers in distant states were conversing via the Internet (something like interstates for vehicles I think, only faster), one of the preachers made an accusation against a third preacher in a still different/distant state, and a fourth preacher in yet another state picked up the conversation via his computer and notified the third preacher by letter to his RFD mailbox, because the third preacher doesn’t own a computer, can’t afford one, couldn’t operate one if he had it, and has no place to put one at present unless it would be in the attic.
And if someone suggests that here is proof that the third preacher needs a computer to protect himself against slander, libel, gossip, or backbiting, that third preacher may counter with two good recent arguments as to why he doesn’t need or even want one (and wouldn’t know how to abuse one even if he had it).
Before these abuses of innocent aids get out of hand, the owners and operators of computers had better read up on the civil laws regarding libel and/or slander (The Newspaperman And The Law, Walter A. Steigleman, 1950, 235-342). I’m assuming that similar laws apply to computer usage, unless operating a computer isn’t as dangerous as operating a motor vehicle on an interstate. The latter requires an operator’s license and registration. Maybe we will need some such restraints for computer owners/operators before too long.
When it comes to abusing the things of this world, even more of a deterrent (than civil law), should be the law of Christ. “Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake” (Rom. 13:5). We are not to use our liberty as “a cloak of maliciousness” (1 Pet. 2:16), nor should we let our “good be evil spoken of” (Rom. 14:16). It is never expedient to abuse the things of this world.
It may now be rumored that I am opposed to computers, even as it has been rumored that I am opposed to preaching the gospel, cooperation, education, and helping orphans and widows, simply because I have opposed abuses, excesses, and even plain violations of the doctrine of Christ in these areas. But my readers and listeners will not have to depend on rumors to find out what I am for or against. They will hear it from me, and “the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err” in understanding my position (cf. Isa. 35:8), for I will not speak with “forked tongue,” nor do I “speak into the air” (1 Cor. 14:9).
But for the present, don’t waste your time surfing the Internet to find a message from me. You can use (not abuse), that time more profitably.