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Outsourcing memory and wired for distraction

If you are scanning this article—stop—you need to read it. Not because I am important, but because your mind matters!

Over the last few years I have had a minor, but growing, niggle about my ability to remember and make connections with clarity and sharpness. Was it simply growing older, or the impact of several general anaesthetics in a short space of time, or was it something else?

I began to suspect my use of the internet/computer/email/facebook was contributing to a disconnectedness and fragmentedness in my own thinking. I would be working at something at my desk, and after a few minutes reading, I’d look up and check my email, follow a link, and then return to reading.

I read a little (Tim Challies’ book, The Next Story) and found that we were indeed rewiring our minds for distraction—consider how often you check your phone—there has been no alert, but we check nonetheless—mid sentence or in the middle of another task.

But there is more to it than simply distraction. I found I was less able to remember what I had read, but was able to remember where to find it—eg. “I read about that recently in such and such a book. It was […]

Podcast Recommendation: Christopher Watkin on Jacques Derrida

Usually Austin does the podcast reviews around here. Also, philosophy is far from my strong suit. So I am not recommending the following to usurp Austin’s place or try to show you how smart I am. I just want to recommend a podcast outside my typical reading or listening disciplines that I recently enjoyed.

Reformed Forum conducted a three-part interview with Christopher Watkin on the influential French philosopher Jacques Derrida, who is one of the fathers of postmodernistic thought and is perhaps most known for formulating what became known as deconstruction. Dr. Watkin, a Reformed believer, was fascinating to listen to because of the depth of knowledge he has of Derrida and the way he was able to explain Derrida’s thought to those unfamiliar with his writings (all done with politeness and a beautiful accent, I might add!). But what really drew me was how Watkin critiqued Derrida in a gracious way that showed his brilliance yet also revealed his shortcomings under the light of Scripture. He was able to describe Derrida’s points of contact with truth and reality yet describe how they veered away from the revelation of the Triune God.  For me, it not only taught me lessons in philosophy but how to engage unbelief in a winsome […]

Of Burner Phones and Busy Lives: Making the Best Use of Time

A couple of weeks ago I walked into a cell phone store and said,  “I would like to trade in my iPhone 6 for a dumb phone.” Puzzled, the clerk asked why I would do such a thing. I told him I longed for the simplicity of the 2000s. The look of puzzlement continued as I described why I only wanted talk and text: I am tired of the media access on my phone. It’s a time vacuum.

He consulted with another employee and then informed me that they no longer sold dumb phones and said I would have to buy a “burner phone” to avoid media. I could try CVS or Target. All phone plans now carry a media charge; it cannot be avoided.

I went home disappointed, but as a small victory in the media-fatigue battle I deleted my Facebook app. I love you all, but you don’t need to join me on coffee dates with my wife and you don’t need to accompany me to the park with my children. I don’t need to see your vacation pics while I’m waiting for the light to change. There are better ways for me to use my time.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus, gives a […]

Browse Worthy: Help for Living in this Digital Age

From the “Twitter Wars” between presidential candidates down to trying to talk with a family member looking at a screen, we all need help in processing the content, protecting our families, and being productive in this digital age. Here are a few links and resources to that end.

Can I Ask a Dumb Question?

Tim Challies offers wise counsel about not joining the latest Twitter mob when people are merely being dumb rather than malicious on social media. “Social media shaming is a new force for justice, a means of shaming an offender into silence or repentance…The problem is that the response we bring against the worst malevolence can also be the response we bring against those who say or do things that are merely dumb. We can mete out the same punishment as a response to two very different offenses.”

WTAE Fires Wendy Bell

As if to make Tim’s point above, an award-winning local journalist here in Pittsburgh created a firestorm over comments she made about African Americans following the horrific shootings that left six people dead. Though certainly dumb and insensitive at points, Bell did seem to be awkwardly trying to address a real problem and did apologize for her comments. However, it […]

Answering Jihad

Every time another Islamic terrorist blows up something or someone, political and media leaders speculate as to the root causes of jihad. What possesses people to sacrifice themselves for the sake of killing others? Former Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi, whose 2014 autobiography Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity describes his journey from committed apologist for Islam to born again Christian, has written helpfully this week in USA Today about the root causes of the radicalization of young Muslims.

Browse Worthy: Our Sad, Sex-Saturated Society

Some sane thoughts for dealing with this culture in which we live.

On Nude Selfies

One of the Kardashians put up one of these on the internet. Practical Theology for Women discusses how “body part” currency is truly a counterfeit one.

Sex Trumps History

No, this is not about the presidential race. Rather, Carl Trueman finds yet another reason (a surprisingly valid one, I might add) for why people do not know history.

The Modesty Debate

Sam Powell discusses that the common emphasis in the church on women dressing modestly can often be a cover up of the wrong kind.

Openness Unhindered

An insightful and lengthy review over at Reformation 21 of Rosaria Butterfield’s book by this title.

Sex, Sin & Salvation

For training and help in this area, on April 21-23 in Pittsburgh, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary are hosting a conference with this title. Speakers include Rosaria Butterfield, Tim Challies, Peter Jones, Heath Lambert, George Scipione, John Street, and Derek Thomas. Click the link or banner to find out more and register.

You’re Not Electing a Pastor-in-Chief

It’s campaign season. That either excites you, frustrates you, or–if you’re like me–a little bit of both. On the one hand it’s fun to follow along with the political debates, columns, and commentaries. On the other hand, the over-the-top rhetoric, inconsistencies, self-congratulatory spirits, and drama can be the source of a lot of angst. I have generally tried to avoid being too political in public. To be sure, there are issues I hold to uncompromisingly and others for which I adopt a more laissez-faire attitude. There are candidates I appreciate and others who make my blood boil. I do my best to be semi-informed on domestic and foreign policy and our contemporary social issues. I try, when conscience allows, to participate in elections and maintain that a principled vote is always better than a pragmatic. But despite being an armchair political junkie, I don’t make it a habit to speak or write much about political issues. This post will be, most likely, my only exception to that.

One of the things I have found most fascinating about this election cycle is the place that has been given to character. Maybe I’m too young or haven’t been involved in the political process […]

Of Christian Courage, Contemptible Candidacies, and COFFEE

How much of our Christian courage is a function of the comfort and convenience of our surroundings?  How much of our boldness in Christian witness would wilt if the cozy accoutrements of a wealthy modern culture were taken from us?

Imagine if our words in praise of Christ no longer had the internet as an outlet, if every word of public witness had to actually be spoken in public, or at least in private to a living, breathing, and potentially hostile human being.  Imagine if there were no more church conferences to attend, no more family camps, no more youth group outings at which to find Christian fellowship.  And, perhaps worst of all, imagine if there were no more coffee shops – !!!!!- at which to study Scripture, write sermons and do theological cyber battle with Christians from different denominations, all comfortably and anonymously as one among  many happy, well-caffeinated people.

3GT Episode 12: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down

Oh, yes, in this episode the gents dare to dive into the subject of relationships.  They ask: What qualities ought one look for in a potential spouse?  Next the theologian’s reading challenge is briefly explored.  And lastly, Psalm 26 is taken up with an eye fixed on the issue of braggy-pants (did the Psalmist think too highly of himself?).


In order to set the mood for dating advice, a little Sting might be in order:

There is No “Junk” in God’s World

The human genome has around three billion base pairs of DNA, and yet our best estimates are that this massive amount of DNA only includes about 20,000 protein-coding genes. These genes amount to a mere 1.5% of the total genome. Scientists have known that some portion of the remaining “non-coding” DNA has regulatory functions but the vast majority of the genome appeared to have no function. When I started a PhD program in molecular biology in 1992, the functionless DNA was sometimes called, “junk DNA” and was considered an artifact of evolution. “No intelligent being would make a genome this inefficient” was a common refrain.

Nearly twenty-five years later it turns out that “junk” is just another name for our ignorance.