Christians and the World Wide Web



Christians
and the World Wide Web

The following letter is a response that someone sent to a sister in Christ concerning her concern that he was using the Internet.  He has changed the names of the people involved out of concern for them. 

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Dear Sister,

You spoke of being willing to be challenged and I am glad to hear that.  Many times I find that people are always quick to be hurt and shut down when conflicting discussions take place.

You asked me if having the Internet is worth the risk.  The following is my answer concerning that question.

”Worth the risk”:  Sister, we are Christians, who are at war with the enemy.  We are in battle with Satan and his forces.  We are constantly in danger of his darts and evil efforts.  As a soldier, we should not willfully endanger ourselves for silly periods of pleasure and for knowingly fruitless efforts.  However, sister, we must not run in fear from the enemy during battle or while carrying on the responsibilities that our commander in chief has set before us.  I have a responsibility to raise my children, support my wife, work with my hands in order to take care of those needs and responsibilities, proclaim the will of God to others, etc.  In each one of those efforts, I am required to do so in a world of sin and wickedness.  I am in a world where Satan is in control and has put his army in full battle array. 

If I were to avoid all risk of danger to myself, I would be failing to fulfill my responsibilities to God.  Even in the Garden of Eden where everything was perfect, there was danger present and man stumbled.  God did not remove that risk but expected Adam and eve to deal with that danger.  Please remember God placed the tree in the garden.  The same goes for us.  We must learn to not sin while living in a world full of temptations.  I would agree that there are things “worth the risk” from that standpoint.  I will give you some examples.  Marriage causes many new risks for a person.  Paul even advises us that single life is an advantage.  Yet, I decided that Marriage was worth the risk.  Children are a new struggle and they create many spiritual dangers for me while on this earth.  Many times, I will be required to decide between my children and my God.  But I must have felt it was worth the risk.  Your parents becoming foster parents is a free choice on their parts yet it is easy to see the potential spiritual risks which are involved in that decision.  They are willing to face those risks to fulfill a specific desire they have.  Are they wrong for doing such?  I do not think so.  However, they are facing many risks in doing so.

Should I then separate myself from them because we see differently on that issue?  If I do, I would have to create a congregation of people who only duplicate my ideals.  And that would be wrong.  You are considering becoming a midwife and if you go through with it, it will be putting yourself in many different and new dangers that you are not facing now at home.  As long as we live on this earth, we have to contend with new dangers and new battles against sin.  One of the greatest dangers I see in this life is the job of snatching people out of the fires of Hell.  Not only are there the normal dangers associated with such an effort, there is also the added danger of facing the anger of Satan at thwarting his efforts.

These types of dangers are those, which are there in our everyday lives.  We face dangers that could be avoided to some degree by us moving, growing our own crops, not having children, self-employed verses employed by someone in the world etc.  But we choose to face these dangers rather than to put a lot of effort to venture into something different which we may THINK are safer areas.  Your father works for a company.  There are many dangers in that job which I personally have chosen to not face due to my personal concerns about the possibility of coming into contact with pornography.  I would see that job as, (for me), taking unnecessary risks.  But in your father’s case it may be one he has to deal with. 

Dear Sister, we need to realize that Satan can get to us wherever we are and he will do his best to do just that.  The lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life cannot be avoided entirely.  We individually have to do the best we can.  We know our weaknesses and strengths and we need to adjust our lives to give us the greatest security we can.  Yet we must also realize that we cannot save ourselves.  We should be always mindful of the importance of the precious blood of our Lord.

You mention Luke 9:23:  Denying oneself sometimes means putting himself in danger for others.  At all times it means putting God’s will above our own.  Paul often put himself in danger to fulfill the will of God.  Look at all the suffering he went though.  Suffering which causes many to fall by the wayside.  Look at all he had to give up; things that would have caused many to forsake Christ rather than to loose possession of.   Paul even stated that if it were possible he would gladly forfeit his own soul if it would save those whom he loved.  The following phrase is a play on words but may make my point. 

“It is very risky to not take a risk at times.”

We do need to realize that we need to be careful to not take this to an extreme to justify anything our carnal flesh desires.  We need to ask ourselves which side is speaking the carnal or the spiritual. 

Sister, I think you may have some confusion over some things in your comparisons with watching TV and our use of the internet.

I will try and explain:  You mention you cannot see the difference between the Internet and TV.     

Both the TV and the Internet use a screen and show pictures.  Both the TV and the Internet have electricity and sound.  Both the TV and the Internet can be used for entertainment.  Both the Internet and the TV can be used to sin.

But there are some differences also.

The TV At this point and time has primarily been used for the purpose of entertainment.  The general material on the screen is decided by a few individuals, who, had no godly purpose for their choices.  We are also aware that the content of the TV is primarily filled with wickedness and it is virtually impossible at this time to be able to control what you watch.  What I mean by this is even a “good” show contains many ungodly and provocative commercials that are intended to cause you to be carnal in nature.  And I even question many of the so-called good shows as really being good.

The Internet, on the other hand, is more like a library or catalog of material.  Except that you must ask for a book or piece of information before you see it.  It is not automatically sent to you!  When you receive mail, you are given the name of the sender and their address.  But unless you open it you see nothing at all.  You can trash it, send it back, or open it your choice.  If you want to use the rest of the Internet, you have to open that file.  Then you have to punch in the proper address to find it.  Once you are there, you only see what you ask for and need to choose more options at that time.  If you do not know the address you can go to a search mode and type in specific information and you will get various options by which you can choose.  All these options are just lines of information concerning that site, such as the name of the site and possibly some subtitles or a brief statement of its content.  Again, you are not flooded with information you have not chosen to look at. 

The Internet is a tool of communication by which people can communicate ideas economically and quickly.  Now granted they can be bad or good depending on the source and the purpose for which you are using it.

When you punch in to the Internet you get a screen, which ask you what you want to look for.  You make your request and it supplies you with that information.  That is it!  The risks I face spiritually are dependent on the decisions I make.  If I choose to sin I have to ask for it.  (With the exception I will deal with later.)  I only get what I ask for and no more.  When you order a book, you do the same thing.  When you go to the store, you do the same thing.  When you receive or write a letter, you do the same thing.  When you talk to someone personally, you do the same thing.  When you read material, you do the same thing.  When you go to look at a goat to purchase, you do the same thing.

Now the exception part: Yes it is possible to get something you do not want if you are not careful.  Let me explain.  There are demons out there that want to cause harm wherever we are.  One could ask for an article on raising goats and someone could fabricate an article which states it is about Goats but really contains sinful pictures.  You could get that and stumble.  We have never had that happen but I have heard of it. 

Another problem is there are banner adds on some sites which sometime contain women in what I consider not proper attire or advertising things I would not want to buy.  But up to this point, I will say that they are better dressed than what I see at market, the store, or on billboards, or on the packages of things I buy for the home.  If I were to want to look at pornography, I could do it.  We have put in safeguards to prevent such a willful stumbling, however.  Before we can seek out information on the internet or receive mail, one parent and one child or both parents have to be present in order for us to receive any information whatsoever that comes across the phone lines into our computer.  So this is not the case in our family.  One would have to put a lot more effort to look at something on the internet in our family than if they just went to town and bought it.  Our regular mail is much more concern for us than the Internet. 

Is the Internet dangerous?  Yes.  But in many ways, for our family, it is less dangerous than not having it.  Let me explain.  

Economical:  It has saved us much money in supplying us a cheaper way to do things.  This gives more time together and less time in the world. 

Convenient:  Because of the Internet we have been able to have much more communication with those whom we feel we can help spiritually.

Business:  It has helped us to perform our business in a much more efficient, spiritually and physically safe way.  I can deliver communications without having to go to town.

Spiritually:  It has given us many more opportunities to do our spiritual work.  The amount of communication I have done in the last year by use of the Internet has exceeded what I have done in the past.  I can safely say that I have probably had 10 year’s worth of communications with others about spiritual things since I have had the Internet.

People can, with the click of a finger, find out what we believe.  They can get an article I have written any time of the day or night and have it in their hands in minutes even when we are not home.  I can hand someone a business card and give that person access to all my beliefs I have written on my home page.  People can leave me messages any time of day or night and send it to me.  From the time, they send it, to the time I could get it, is only a matter of a few seconds.  This morning we received 23 letters.  We receive 3 letters from a brother in Christ and two from another Christian family.  The children received a few and the rest were business related. I received a number of emergency requests and answered those requests in a matter of minutes.

Home life.  We can get answers to questions without having to go to the library.  We can accomplish many tasks, which would normally separate the family for hours and never have to leave.  When my children would go to the library, they can look at any book without my knowledge and can be tempted by the books that are placed in front of their eyes.  With the computer, I can check back and see what they looked at.  And they cannot accidentally look at all the books that are on the shelf.  It only brings up the info they request.  We are home more than if we had not had it.

My children: It has helped my son to become more active spiritually.  He is the one who has put forth the effort to type up many of my articles and placed them on our home page.  He, in the last month, has shown more interest in spiritual things since he has had the ability to use the computer to help him in his communication.  The girls are also more active in spiritual things since we have received the net.  They read and correct my letters, and encourage me to answer the ones that come in.  Many times, they read my letters I receive and give me summations of what was said and we have discussions concerning those letters.  They are also able to stay home more and conduct business where they are not tempted. 

God has blessed us to date with our use of the Internet.  I am not saying this is for everyone but what I am saying is that there is a vast difference between the TV and the Internet.  All of the above things could not have been done with a TV.

You ask, “What if someone in your family fell away because of it” (internet).

I have considered that and here are some thoughts on the matter.  I have spent the better part of my life trying to raise my children in the way of Christ.  Over those years, there have been many things, which I have had to deal with which I feel were dangers for my children.  Keep in mind I am speaking of dangers and not sinful things.  There is a difference between those two aspects.  Those things which were sinful I did my best to protect my children from.  Those things which were dangers, I tried to teach my children to tread with caution. 

Let me give you an example.  There are people who have lost children and loved ones to gunshot wounds.  The gun is very dangerous.  We do not need to have guns.  But Guns are not wicked things, which should be destroyed.  We have guns.  I am fully aware that the use of a gun could kill one of my children but I still have guns.  I look at it this way.  There are many dangers that are out there, which can cause harm to my family.  I try to teach and raise my family to handle those dangerous situations in a safe and proper way.  If handled safely, a gun becomes very handy.  We have fed our family by the use of them and we have protected our animals by shooting the predators, which harm them.  Now, am I wrong if one of my children happens to die by a gunshot?  I don’t believe so.  It will be a tragedy and at that time, I may never want to have a gun in the house again.  But I would be wrong to go out and crusade that all guns should be destroyed.  The Internet is not a sinful thing.  It is a tool like a gun, electricity, tractors etc.  Yes, it can and has been used for sinful purposes and that is wrong.  But it is not always used for sinful purposes and in those areas we cannot condemn it anymore than we can condemn any other tool or resource that may have been used for sinful purposes.

You write, “I think Satan is glad you and other Christians are on the Internet because that means you are close to more temptations for sinning than if you didn’t have it.  I don’t think it is an appropriate attitude.”

My comments:  Please be careful in making such conclusions.  Sister, Satan is able to destroy us anyway.  If you lived in a monastery, you would face just as strong of temptations as you would in New York City.  Jesus Christ was tempted just as much as you or I are.  His struggles were just as difficult as anything you may face.  And many of those temptations were in the wilderness.  Job’s temptations were just as great and dangerous as anything we may ever face.

Evil may be more abundant today but our temptations are not more extreme.  No man is tempted by more than what he can bear.  It is impossible to truthfully say “The devil made me do it.”  You cannot escape your testing, trying, or temptations.  They will always be there!  Our struggles are not greater than those who have gone before us.  If we say they are, then Christ was not tempted as we are and he did not have it as rough as we did.  I do not believe that.  Living a life of solitude away from the world is not in Gods plan and it will give us no advantage.  Besides, the Internet does not pose a temptation.  Our lusts do!  I may be able to fulfill those lusts on the Internet but I can do the same anywhere and any time with out the Internet.  We do need to take heed around the Internet lest we fall!!  But don’t you also have to take heed around your animals lest you fall?  Don’t you have to take heed when you are alone in bed at night?  Is not that verse applicable in every situation in our lives?  But does taking heed mean doing nothing?  I don’t think so. 

You say:  “I don’t see the danger in having cars the same way you do, because I could go to the same places to do the same wrong things either riding a horse or walking.”  Sister, that is a very good point.  And it applies to the Internet as well.  The immorality is no different on the Internet than it is anywhere else.  You can sin just as easily without the Internet as you can with the Internet.  Everything that is available on the Internet is a thing that is taken from the world and made available by the Internet.  The Internet has not created any new sins or evil.  Again let me state that the Internet is a communication device, a tool by which we make our work and communication easier. 

As far as my support of the Internet: I see no wrong in communicating with other people.  I see no wrong in getting information that is not sinful.  I see no wrong in expediting my work.  I see no wrong in evangelizing.  I see no wrong in Bible studies. I see no wrong in learning godly things.  I see no wrong in conducting business and selling my wares.  These are the things I do with the Internet.  Every one of these things is scriptural.  Everyone is within my God given responsibilities.   

The Internet is a telephone which has a visual aspect added to it.  Both are computer run.  You can sin with the telephone just as easy as I can with the Internet.  It is a choice you have to make.

Computers run our cars, computers run our phones, our electricity is run by computer.  Our letters are sent by the use of computer. Our books are printed with the use of computer.  Our food is processed, marketed and sold with the use of computers.  And most of those computers are working with the use of phone lines.  You cannot avoid the computer in your life.  It’s there and it is not sinful.  I fear that you are reacting out of ignorance of what it all is. 

Sister, I know many Amish families, which have none of these items, and yet they are sinning at just as fast a rate as the rest of the world.  The sin nature is capable of doing its damage everywhere with whatever resources it has available.

As far as our group and their differences.  Yes, we discuss them and often they come up.  But we are able to grow without the tension I see in so many groups.  To date we have all made many changes because of those discussions.  One of those changes was my use of the Internet. 

When the Internet subject came up we were shocked to find that your family was willing to let that come between us.  We were not sinning with it and we did not intend to sin with it.  It just seemed that your family had let a fear come between us.

When your dad made the statement that they could not worship with us because we had the Internet I was put in a very difficult situation.  In order for you to be willing to come, I would have had to make a “standard” for this church that anybody who comes here cannot use the Internet.  Sister, this is what the Mennonites do.  They make standards based on their opinions and fears.  Your parents are quite capable of teaching their children at home but the church made a standard that children must be church schooled.  I cannot do this.  I can say anyone who sins on the Internet will not be accepted here but not if they use it for righteous purposes.  Right now, it would be simple to say ok, no Internet.  You would come and then what would I do when the next person came and used the Internet?  Would I bind them to our standard?  Do you see the problem?  Your wish is not one that would work.  I would have to exclude a dear brother I know and respect, if he wanted to come!! (Of course, that is not likely L) 

You use the verse James 4:17 to state why you cannot come here.  Sister, if that is the proper way to apply this then we would all be by ourselves.  We are not requiring you to use the Internet.  We realize that it would be sin if you went against your conscience.  But to say that the rest of the Christians have to abide by your personal view would open up the way for all kinds of problems.  I know a brother who is against chewing gum.  Does that mean that all Christians have to give up gum?  

We do not expect you to use the Internet or the computer, or any other tool for that matter.  The problem is that it appears that we must create a “standard” and enforce that standard with all involved when God has not done so.  Looking towards the future, I know this would cause all sorts of extreme problems.  And in the end it might have put your family in a tough situation. 

To sort of reverse your argument let me ask: Is it not necessary to substantiate that the use of the computer and Internet is evil and sinful before a body of believers can justly make such a decision?  Do we just create legislations for a whole body of believers based on personal feelings with no concrete evidence to support those feelings?  Your family, of all families, should see the danger of doing such things, being affiliated with the Mennonites as you were.  This is what they do.  Each and every church has their own standards by which everyone must abide if they wish to be a part of that fellowship.  You have seen what kind of damage that causes!  In that very first conversation with your father, I emphasized that very fact.  I made the statement something like this.  “Brother if I thought getting rid of the Internet would make this all work out I would do so in a second.  But there is more to this than that.  I cannot bind such on others without a scriptural reason.  If I were to do that in all similar situations it would create all kinds of problems.”  I thought your father understood what I was trying to say.  His comment was “I know you would Dan”  “But this is a decision we have made and that is it.”  I realize this is not an exact quote but the gist of how I understood it to have happened.

Also sister:  nowhere have I ever said that you must accept “all the wickedness, trash, and sinful things, and pictures or go find fellowship elsewhere.”  We are totally opposed to such things and would consider that looking at such willfully is grounds for withdrawing fellowship!  That would be sinful and if that were being done, we would be against it. 

All we are saying is that it is possible for someone to use the Internet without sinning and it is possible for righteous and good things to be accomplished and viewed.  We cannot condemn such.  We do not demand you use it at all!  What we are asking though is please do not make unrighteous judgments regarding our actions based on preconceived fears.  The Internet is not an item where when you turn it on garbage comes out at you!  I too had those fears and have been proven that they are false. 

The main dangers I see on the Internet are as follows.  And they are not limited to the Internet.  Because it is a tool to make communication easier, it could also make evil communication easier if one were to desire to do such.  Because I, as a father, have a requirement to oversee my family, I have put in safeguards to protect against willful acts of disobedience.  It is also possible, as with everything else, for Satan to intentionally sneak us some evil when our guard is down by giving us the impression we are bringing up a innocent file and finding there was an intentional deception and that the file contained evil.  We are aware of his devices and are quite alert to that possibility.  We pray and hope that we will be able to resist those attacks and turn away from it.  It has not happened as of yet, but it could. 

It has happened to me in the pornography area many times in my everyday life.  He has placed them opened in the top of trash cans, on mirrors of cars, along sides of roads, in the middle of woods while hiking, displayed around dead deer when I was called to pick them up, on walls of people’s homes when we go to visit, in the mail box when my children have gone to get the mail, on toilet walls in public restrooms.  Who knows where he will put them next. These types of darts I cannot protect my children or myself from by avoidance.  We have to strengthen our armor to resist those darts.  We have to keep our cause ever present on our minds.  So, this type of temptation could very well happen on the Internet.  But overall, this has not happened with the Internet and it has been much safer than the rest of life to date. 

Sister, you say you have Biblical reasons for us not having the Internet.  What are they?  You have expressed that I have not given my reasons for accepting it but what are the valid reasons for not having it?  So far, most of your comments are speculative and not found to be accurate. 

I too was of the same opinion as you at first, but have had to admit that those opinions were based more on my fears of a new device and my past experience with TV.  Much of that I have found was based on ignorance on my part and by what I have heard by others who use it for the primary purpose of looking for and opening up offerings of entertainment on the Internet.  I will agree that if you are using the Internet for that purpose you will bring in much sin into your home.  I know of no one who designs and markets entertainment that does so with a godly perspective.  It is usually always of Satan. 

I fear you have made judgments, which are unfounded.  We cannot assume that because Las Vegas contains pornography, adultery, prostitution, and gambling that all who live there are evil or committing sin and practicing such wickedness.  We cannot assume that because you live in Washington you must be engaged in earth worship and are a part of a militia.  And be cause we live in Wisconsin is no reason to believe that I am perfect and live in a heavenly environment!!  J L  Remember there were churches in Corinth.  Paul went to Corinth to preach.  If you were to do research about Corinth, you would find that it was a very evil and wicked city where one could not exist without being around nakedness and adultery, and prostitution, and idolatry and every other evil imaginable.  I would not want to have lived there, but to say all Christians must move would be wrong.

I can personally attest that for our family the Internet has, to this date, been a much better and wholesome place to be than almost any trip to town and most trips to work of which it has replaced.  It is also a much better choice of communication economically as well.  And we are optimistic that it will also prove so in the realm of evangelism also.  Our articles and teachings are at this moment available to anyone in the entire world in a matter of minutes.  We have found that just as one can go to it for the sake of seeking evil one can also go to it for the sake of righteousness.  By their hearts and actions, you will know them.  If you wish to serve Satan, he can use this tool as well to destroy you.  And if you wish to serve God, he also can and will use this tool to bless you.

May God bless you in your reading of this letter.  And may God impart understanding as to what I am trying to say in my writings.  We do love you all and wish all would work to His glory. 

Let us walk in the His light,

Daniel E Mielke.

 

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