God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, and the mountains quake with their surging, I will not fear.
Psalm 46 – which many attribute to Isaiah – does not promise that God will keep us from trouble. It promises that he will sustain us as we face “earth-giving-way-and-mountains-falling-into-the-sea” level troubles. The incarnation is the ultimate example. May we learn to expect trouble and find our refuge in him.
Stay in the Game: This piece doesn’t fit neatly into normal Friday Update fare, but I sure enjoyed it.
AI: Between the unparalleled spread of ChatGPT, Microsoft’s efforts to usurp it, China’s moves into the AI space, and the bevy of over-hyped reports about it – including a WSJ piece in which the authors gushed that AI will help humans “define the purpose of our species,” I can’t keep up. I’ve stopped trying to read about AI and started asking ChatGPT to tell me what I need to know. What could go wrong?
Wisdom: AI jokes aside, I am hoping that one of the benefits of AI is that more people will realize that just as data < knowledge, knowledge < wisdom. My advice? In addition to rewatching 2001 Space Odyssey, read and reread the Book of Proverbs.
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Without Comment: 1) According to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), while two-thirds of faculty over 55 years of age think it is unacceptable for a student to shout down a speaker, only 37 percent of faculty 35 and under think so¹; 2) Debates are underway about revamping Canada’s doctor-assisted suicide program. Initially expanded from those “facing death in the reasonably foreseeable future” to those whose illnesses “need not be terminal,” there are now efforts to expand it to include “mature minors, including those as young as 12;”² 3) Following the Ten Commandments is the best, safest and – over the long-haul – easiest way to live; 4) Silence is one of the least practiced practices; 5) Simple solutions seldom are; 6) A UPenn study concluded that the replacement cost of Philadelphia churches to communities and government would be $250M annually³; and, 7) Between Watergate and the 2020s, trust in American media has dropped from 79% to 16%.⁴
WOTW: Thanks to those who nominated institutional neutrality, which is one of the new buzzwords in the halls of academe. I’m not selecting it because I can’t imagine what those in higher ed mean by neutrality. Trend-jacking, identity-protective cognition (our ability to “subconsciously resist factual information that threatens our defining values”), copypasta (a “block of text that is repeatedly copied and pasted in internet chat groups, often because it is amusingly ridiculous”) and doom loop were also nominated, but the winner is unbefriended. It’s a term used by hospital staff to refer to patients who have no family or friends helping them. It’s an increasingly important word not just because those who are unbefriended have poorer health outcomes, but because it is being used increasingly often.
Two Observations: I’m pondering two things that emerged from a men’s retreat I attended in CO last week: 1) Though we were surrounded by spectacular beauty, when asked to name a high point, several of the men mentioned small acts of kindness extended to them by other men; and 2) The single most common prayer request concerned the repair of strained relationships with adult children.
Noteworthy: 1) Some (many?) pols do not enter politics to pass legislation; they do so to become celebrities; 2) Young people used to go to college to learn from people who were older and wiser; today many go to college to tell those older than they are what they should be thinking and saying. And tragically, enough of the professors crave the validation of the young so much that they acquiesce; 3) It’s not just that there are people who have what you believe you need to be happy – and yet are not happy. It’s that there are people who believe that if they only had what you already have they would be happy.
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Words Matter: It’s not serendipity, it’s providence. It’s not Mother Nature, it’s creation. It’s not forgetting, it’s forgiveness. It’s not optimism, it’s hope. It’s not coincidence, it’s sovereignty. It’s not need, it’s desire. FWIW, when I asked for other examples, a youth pastor said, “It’s not delivery. It’s Digiorno.”
Quotes Worth Requoting: 1) To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle. George Orwell. 2) We find time for things that are important to us. Period. Scott Douglas, Running Times. 3) If you thought the religious right was bad, just wait until you see the irreligious right. Russell Moore.
Clean Up: 1) In the piece endorsing the film Jesus Revolution, I said its Rotten Tomatoes rating was 99%. That was the audience’s rating, not that of the critics; 2) I credited the hymn Is He Worthy? to Chris Tomlin, when I should have given credit to Andrew Peterson. My bad. FWIW, Peterson’s version is also profound. Do your soul a favor and take four minutes to listen to it.
Resources: Click here to listen to my conversation with Dr. Peter Williams – the principal of Tyndale House at Cambridge – about his book, Can We Trust the Gospels? and here to listen to my conversation with Dr. Michael Gleason – the author of When God Walked on Campus – on collegiate revivals in general and recent events at Asbury in particular.
Closing Prayer: My God, you are always close to me. In obedience to you, I must now apply myself to outward things. Yet, as I do so, I pray that you will give me the grace of your presence. And to this end I ask that you will assist my work, receive its fruits as an offering to you, and all the while direct all my affections to you. Amen. (Brother Lawrence 1611 – 1691)
⁴ Matthew Schmitz, Vanity Press, First Things, Feb. 2023.