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"A neighborhood of strangers and a world of fragments" by Neil Postman

“A book is an attempt to make thought permanent and to contribute to the great conversation conducted by authors of the past. Therefore, civilized people everywhere consider the burning of a book a vile form of anti-intellectualism.

But the telegraph demands that we burn its contents. The value of telegraphy is undermined by applying the tests of permanence, continuity or coherence.

The telegraph is suited only to the flashing of messages, each to be quickly replaced by a more up-to-date message. Facts push other facts into and then out of consciousness at speeds that neither permit nor require evaluation.

The telegraph introduced a kind of public conversation whose form had startling characteristics: Its language was the language of headlines–sensational, fragmented, impersonal. News took the form of slogans, to be noted with excitement, to be forgotten with dispatch.

Its language was also entirely discontinuous. One message had no connection to that which preceded or followed it. Each “headline” stood alone as its own context.

The receiver of the news had to provide a meaning if he could. the sender was under no obligation to do so. And because of all this, the world as depicted by the telegraph began to appear unmanageable, even undecipherable.

The line-by-line, sequential, continuous form of the printed page slowly began to lose its resonance as a metaphor of how knowledge was to be acquired and how the world was to be understood.

“Knowing” the facts took on a new meaning, for it did not imply that one understood implications, background, or connections. Telegraphic discourse permitted no time for historical perspectives and gave no priority to the qualitative.

To the telegraph, intelligence meant knowing of lots of things, not knowing about them.

Thus, to the reverent question posed by Morse–What hath God wrought?–a disturbing answer came back: a neighborhood of strangers and pointless quantity; a world of fragments and discontinuities.

God, of course, had nothing to do with it.”

–Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York: Penguin, 1985), 70.

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“The great disease of our age” by Herman Bavinck

“Inconstancy is the great disease of our age— agitation, restlessness.

This is manifested in many forms:

in seeking distraction and diversion,

in chasing exciting pleasure,

in pursuing recreation over solitude,

in being bored with oneself.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics: Created, Fallen, and Converted Humanity, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2019), 1: 126.

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“Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ” by A.W. Tozer

“To be specific, the self-sins are these: self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love, and a host of others like them. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention until the light of God is focused upon them.

The grosser manifestations of these sins – egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion – are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders, even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy. They are so much in evidence as actually, for many people, to become identified with the gospel.

I trust it is not a cynical observation to say that they appear these days to be a requisite for popularity in some sections of the church visible.

Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice.”

–A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, in Three Spiritual Classics in One Volume (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1948), 253.

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“Solitude produces melancholy” by Martin Luther

“More and graver sins are committed in solitude than in the society of one’s fellow men. The devil deceived Eve in paradise when she was alone.

Murder, robbery, theft, fornication, and adultery are committed in solitude, for solitude provides the devil with occasion and opportunity.

On the other hand, a person who is with others and in the society of his fellow men is either ashamed to commit a crime or does not have the occasion and opportunity to do so.

Christ promised, ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’

Christ was alone when the devil tempted Him. David was alone and idle when he slipped into adultery and murder. I too have discovered that I am never so likely to fall into sins as when I am by myself.

God created man for society and not for solitude. This may be supported by the argument that He created two sexes, male and female.

Likewise God founded the Christian Church, the communion of saints, instituted the Sacraments, preaching, and consolations in the Church.

Solitude produces melancholy. When we are alone the worst and saddest things come to mind. We reflect in detail upon all sorts of evils.

And if we have encountered adversity in our lives, we dwell upon it as much as possible, magnify it, think that no one is so unhappy as we are, and imagine the worst possible consequences.

In short, when we are alone, we think of one thing and another, we leap to conclusions, and we interpret everything in the worst light.

On the other hand, we imagine that other people are very happy, and it distresses us that things go well with them and evil with us.”

–Martin Luther, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, Ed. Theodore Tappert (Louisville: Westminster Press, 1955), 95.

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