Wyatt Graham

Technology Isn’t the Bad Guy

Technology can kill you but it cannot harm you (to rephrase Socrates). It harms you when you let it harm you. Deep purpose, profound self-control for that purpose, and finding family or church or community to encourage you along the path—that’s what we need.

I am more and more convinced that the weight we put on the structural implications of technology and its deleterious effects on us misses the mark. The loss of civic virtues and institutions that had taught forms of self-control, gave community, and more have played a huge role.
This role is unstated, often in technology studies. But one reason why people attempt to find community online is because they cannot find it in real life. Everyone is isolated, lonely, living in cities that tend to further this isolation, prevent large families from existing, etc.
Without the traditional mediating institutions of clubs, churches, fraternities, schools, and other such places, people gravitate towards what’s left: social media and community online.
Further, these institutions valourized self-control and real-life community to curb negative impulses and emotions (in various ways). But now we lack those. And so we accelerate towards lack of impulse control.+
FDR famously said that the only thing we need to fear is fear itself. Now, why might he say that? Well, I am not sure of his exact source, but this line of thinking crosses 2,300+ years of moral and civic temperance—the fear of something in our mind is greater than in reality (a stoic doctrine).
The point is: we had these inherited ideas and institutions like the family which could cement them and support people through their traumas. With these gone or mostly gone, what’s left?
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Am I Responsible for Changing Others?

What’s outside of our power is someone’s internal dispositions. So, at one level, taking the emotional burden of changing someone else can only lead to worry or anxiety, because we cannot control the result. 

Am I responsible for changing others? Like a friend or someone you know?
I think we are responsible to do our best, but we cannot make someone change. So feeling responsible for someone’s change of disposition is outside of our power.
As I understand it, some things are within our power; some things are not. The future is outside of our power (don’t worry about tomorrow…). The present is in our power (whatever you do, do with all your might…).
What’s outside of our power is someone’s internal dispositions. So, at one level, taking the emotional burden of changing someone else can only lead to worry or anxiety, because we cannot control the result.
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Is Complementarianism Inherently Harmful?

This crisis partly calls for more theological and practical work that explains why Holy Scripture teaches a male-only episcopate. God does not act in arbitrary ways. A male-only episcopate is not a random or eclectic practice of the first century. Some deeper truth is at hand; some rational and explainable reason exists. God created the natural order to work in a specific way. 

During the last forty years, evangelicals have debated whether or not the Bible allows for women to occupy the role of elder or bishop. Egalitarians maintain that men and women may take the office of elder, while complementarians believe in a male-only episcopate. A host of other notions around gender and roles also appear in such discussions.
Yet I have noticed a recent shift in arguments. Yes, both sides still claim the Bible as their source for their conclusions. But egalitarians argue that complementarian teaching is inherently harmful or at least that it controls women. And since harming women is wrong (everyone agrees on this), it follows that complementarianism is wrong. 
A New Egalitarian form of Argument
To cite one example, Aimee Byrd explains in a recent article how she used to believe in complementarian teaching, but now she knows who pays the price for it (i.e. women). Sheila Gregoire explains in a comment how her body reacts—presumably due to experiencing trauma or seeing so much of it—when she considers complementarian teaching. She explains, “​​I just can’t do it anymore. Like, I physically can’t. My body has all those reactions as well.”
I trust that both Byrd and Gregoire have experienced all sorts of unkindness. My point here is not to deny their experience but narrate one example of what seems to be a common pattern. Egalitarians (or those who are at least anti-complementarian) argue:

Major premise: Abuse and traumatizing women are wrong (and all agree)
Minor premise: Complementarian churches have lots of abuse and trauma in them
Conclusion: Complementarian promotes abuse and trauma and is therefore wrong.

Now, churches that promote a late twentieth-century teaching called complementarianism could promote such things in their congregations. We might say they imbibed some modern and rotten theology. Recently, I met someone who basically followed Bill Gothard’s teaching of the family. Admittedly, I find such teachings bizarre and wrong. I had never encountered them before.
When I read Beth Allison Barr’s book on The Making of Biblical Womanhood, I found her negative examples of patriarchy wild and outside of my experience. You can read my review of her book by clicking here.
My suspicion is that those most critical of complementarianism have left a form of fundamentalism as well. And such an exodus often characterizes why they reject so strongly complementarianism. It, after all, encodes a gendered teaching on men and women in pervasive ways.
I also suspect there are many things evangelicals should reject that go under the name of complementarianism. As noted, when I heard about Bill Gothard or some of the things that Beth Barr narrates, I found them both foreign and incorrect.
With all that said, I still wonder if the argument that I described above masks the real debate at hand: what does the Bible teach about the role of a pastor and of men and women generally?
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If Perfect Love Casts Out All Fear, Why Should We Fear the Lord?

The Fear of the Lord must of a category that differs in part. And yet: the fear of the Lord—often assumed to mean awe—could easily mean the fear of the Lord’s judgment due to our irrational dread. If so, then this indeed is the BEGINNING of Wisdom. And love would be its end. Since this type of fear should recede, the more we come to realize the love of God in Christ for us.

Maximus the Confessor is helping me understand the fear of the Lord better these days. I have found it a bit hard to understand how fear can be sinful, we should fear God, and yet love casts out all fear. The Bible speaks in different ways about fear.

Maximus goes straight to Jesus, as he always does, to clarify the idea of the fear in Scripture.

First, we can fear in two ways, Maximus argues. We can fear in the natural way to preserve our existence. So we might fear being too thirsty since we need water to live; or we might fear heights since we know that falling might kill us. There is no sin in this fear. God made us to have this fear.

The second way of fear, Maximus explains, is the irrational fear that leads to dread.

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The Book of Job is About Asking the Wrong Question

God is too free and wisdom is too profound for the retributive principle to be immutably true in every situation; rather, it is mutably true in many situations. And so we should not judge on the basis of the appearance of things but be slow to judge. We will protect ourselves from thinking that God is unjust; and we will more wisely endure the vagaries of life.

In my view, the Book of Job centres on Job’s three friends and Job trying to understand why Job was suffering, while assuming the retributive principle (an eye for an eye).

The big reveal after 34 chapters is that everyone was asking the wrong question. The retributive principle, although wise as it is given in Proverbs, does not represent an immutable principle of justice.
Rather, as the narrative couching of Job tells us (chs 1-2 and 38-42), behind the appearance of things (Job’s suffering in this case) lies deeper truths and wider realities.
That’s why Job 28 likens wisdom to mining below the surface level to the deeps of the earth to find what’s valuable. Even so, wisdom is yet hidden. We cannot comprehend wisdom in full.
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Canadians Must Not Assist a Culture of Death

The proclamation of the gospel challenges aspects of MAiD. So does basic truth telling. MAiD ends lives. MAiD is euthanasia. MAiD preys on the suffering and weak. MAiD exploits the poor who apply for death on the basis of acute suffering to which their neighbors have turned a blind eye. The moral consensus that Canadians—both Christian and non-Christian—once shared has slowly eroded. In its place, Christians stand on morals and ethics that are offensive to a world that celebrates death.

In March 2023, Canada will begin assisting the mentally ill by terminating their lives. Canada first legalized medical assistance in dying (MAiD) in 2016. Bill C-7 in 2021 expanded the criteria for MAiD beyond those who had a foreseeable death. Now, a further expansion will allow those with mental illness to receive a prescription for death.
The slope is not only slippery—the ground below MAiD collapsed into the pit of the earth. We should expect the requests of parents to end their children’s lives to soon be granted. We will not have post-birth abortion; we will have parents requesting to have their children receive the care given by medical assistance in dying. Lest I be accused of exaggeration, Quebec’s college of physicians has already (in 2021) recommended euthanizing infants and teenagers.
The euphemism “medical assistance in dying” means a medical professional will administer drugs that end the life of a patient. In traditional language, MAiD is euthanasia. And it’s the new normal in Canada.
The stories of people applying for MAiD in combination with the sympathetic reception of MAiD among Canadians will force Canadian Christians into conflict because any attempt to save someone’s life will invoke the ire of those who call death good and preserving life wrong.
Stories of MAiD
In a Toronto, a woman with an incurable sensitivity to chemicals used in housing has applied for MAiD. The woman, Denise, cannot afford to find housing without the chemicals that destroy her life. She may qualify for MAiD due to this incurable sensitivity, but her poverty means she has yet to find long-term affordable housing to preserve her health. 
Denise has found “a temporary home” in a hotel, CTV News reports. Yet she has “not cancelled the MAID application.” Denise can’t live there forever; she may have to return to her apartment where she struggles to breathe.
A man in St. Catharines, Ontario, has also applied for MAiD because he suffers from depression, anxiety, and the real fear he might become homeless. Amir Farsoud explains, “I do nothing other than manage pain.” The fear of living with such mental anguish without affordable housing has driven him to the edge. “I don’t want to die but I don’t want to be homeless more than I don’t want to die.”
Homelessness doesn’t qualify someone for MAiD. But Farsoud may soon qualify on mental health grounds due to his ongoing anguish. Erin Anderssen explains, “On March 17, assisted dying will become legal for Canadians with a mental disorder as their sole condition.” Yet Farsoud doesn’t necessarily need the March update to MAiD. One of his doctors has already approved his application to MAiD due to his physical suffering, which is “intolerable and cannot be relieved.”
Julie Leblanc suffers from near-lifelong mental illness. She has an 8-year old son who plays a role in her will to live. Yet she “wavers between wanting to die and trying to live. . . . She feels trapped in despair and anxiety, while carrying the deepest sorrow of all—her illness prevents her from being a good mother to her son.”
Leblanc fears taking her own life because of the pain and the consequences of a failed attempt. MAiD tempts her since it promises a peaceful end.
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Parents, Teach Your Kids Theology

It might be seven minutes a day as you cuddle your little one to sleep and talk to her about the goodness of God and his lovingkindness for us made flesh—Christ. It’s possible. And by relying on God’s grace (not our own strength), we can teach God’s word diligently to our children to help them face a post-Christian world in which moral norms are no longer Christian norms. 

To be a parent, you apparently need to be a theologian if you want to be able to answer the questions your kids have. Because as it turns out the faith of a child is a faith that asks every difficult theological question possible.
Dad, why did God create Satan if he knew Satan would turn out evil?
That’s a question I’ve been asked. And they don’t get easier.
As parents, we need to know theology and Scripture to guide the minds and hearts of our children.
Lest I am misunderstood, no, parents do not need a theology degree or be to a church theologian with all the traditional implications. What I mean is that we need to think about who God is, who we are, and what the Bible says about both, so that we can help our children love God with their minds and hearts.
As I talk to or hear younger people communicate, I see people who want to know more about God, about Christianity, and about what it all means. And in a world in which Christian norms are no longer the norm, we need to justify, explain, and contemplate the reasons and purposes of almost everything.
What is sex? What is gender? What is good? Are phones good? Are all sexual acts good? Are we given our purpose in life, or do we find it? Do we discover or create our purpose? Why does the sun rise? Or actually, should we say instead that the earth rotates and it only appears like the sun rises? What is abortion? Is it wrong? Is it right? When? How?
What is evil? Why is there so much sexual malfeasance? Why do churches sometimes rule over people as tyrants; why do other churches make you feel the presence of the Spirit of Jesus?
Parents must know not only the answer to these questions but the reasons why we answer in the way we do and the purpose of all these things—what is sex for, just to ask one question.
Let me cite an example to explain why this is so important. We laugh at the virtue of chastity.
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Don Quixote Christianity: Why Many Heroic Stands of Today Are Like Tilting at Windmills

Christian heroism virtually never looks like a lone ranger standing for truth. Most stories that are told that way are, in fact, not grounded in real history. It takes the whole body of Christ. And a heroic tweet, blog post, or the like often amount to tilting at windmills, an imaginary stand often aimed at an imaginary enemy. It appeals to the base, but it will be forgotten next week. 

A colleague recently compared (so-called) heroic stands of faith to Don Quixote. Someone thinks they will change the world by a controversial tweet or blog post. They think themselves to be like Athanasius, contra Mundum—against the whole world! Never mind that Athanasius never stood as an individual against the world, but worked with whole teams of peoples and congregations across the Roman World.
But here the facts do not matter. The point is the heroic stand. And the kind of heroic stand I am talking about often ends up with a knight tilting at windmills, thinking himself to be slaying a giant when he in reality has done nothing at all. Worse, he might have even hurt the cause which he putatively aims to support. 
Heroic Stands
Over the years, Christians have mocked or attacked trivial things as man buns and the length of hair on men. Too bad for Hudson Taylor, who styled his hair into something akin to a ponytail, or Samson, whose hair flowed long because of his Nazirite vow (Judges 13:5), or John Owen, whose flowing locks border on the comical.
Such foolhardy statements flow, I fear, from a heart desperate to be the hero of the story. In some circles, the only way to be a hero is to be against something or someone. How else can you galvanize a community, if not by being against some hated person or entity?
This againstness becomes a self-made trap. To gain followers and remain the hero, one must constantly find new dragons to slay. If the dragons die, then the story of the heroic knight dies too. No more book sales, no more conferences, no more internet fame. How can you get the amens from the congregation, unless you attack the enemy everyone already despises?
I wonder how we might survive an encounter with Jesus, who once said that “if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matt 5:41). As historian Michael Haykin recently explained:
This text is grounded in the brutal military tactics of the tyrannical regime of the Roman Empire. The Roman army, with its ubiquitous and endless need for transport, would often force citizens to carry equipment etc. It was a vicious and an ever-present reminder of the brutality of Roman rule, or pax Romana, as the Roman ruling elite called it (did the ordinary citizen experience it as such?).
Western Christians, raised on a pervasive diet of rights, etc., react to this saying, if they truly understand it, with disbelief. Surely, Jesus, the Son of the Lord of the Jewish people who commanded the slaying of tyrannical rulers, would command a different path?
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Eternal Submission? Not Arianism, but Still Wrong.

Transferring human obedience, creaturely obedience, into the life of God implies his creaturehood. That implication must be rejected. As the Bible tells us and consent of the church has confirmed, the Father and Son are distinguished by Fatherness and Sonness. Their relation is one of Fatherness and Sonness. 

In 2016 Evangelicals debated about the best way to affirm that God is one and yet Father and Son. The old answer is: the Father begets the Son eternally; the Son is eternally begotten. Beget and begotten are old words to describe how fathers generate children. A mother births them; a father begets.
In recent years, evangelicals attempted to find a new way to talk about Father and Son. They said that the Father relates to the Son because he has paternal authority; the Son relates to the Father in a mode of submission. Authority and submission distinguish Father and Son.
For the most part, people found the new approach insufficient. It implied eternal inferiority of the Son, implied two wills, and inserted the human life of Jesus where he obeyed the Father into God. It unintentionally implied a creaturely characteristic in God since Jesus’s creaturely obedience to the Father gets imported into how God is eternally!
Recently, however, a theologian reaffirmed that the Father eternally has authority over the eternally submissive Son. Interestingly, the theologian cited Augustine and Hilary of Poitiers as proponents of his position. 
Two Reasons Why Eternal Submission Does Not Work
First, Jesus submits to the Father in his role of Mediator, one who became obedient to the point of death in the form of a slave (Phil 2:7). But he was equal to the Father in the form of deity (Phil 2:6).
To transfer submission into God as the way the Father and Son differ is to transfer a creaturely characteristic into God. Because Jesus took on humanity, he obeys the Father vicariously in his role of Mediator for our sake.
Second, the church Fathers such as Augustine and Hilary made the above distinction clearly. They affirmed the obedience of the Son according to his humanity. But they did not pass through this obedience into God to explain how the Son and Father eternally related.
Just one example. Augustine in The Trinity writes: “In the form of a servant which he took he is the Father’s inferior; in the form of God in which he existed even before he took this other he is the Father’s equal.” Elsewhere, he says “the Father is greater than is the form of the servant, whereas the Son is his equal in the form of God.”[1]
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Mesmerized by The Phone, Missed My Daughter

Phones and their social media apps algorithmically draws our time to exploit us. They do not just sell our privacy. They also shape our desires. By their use, we show a love for the digital, the use of the finger to swipe and tap. An ephemeral practice that leads nowhere and leaves nothing behind. 

Today, I took my daughter to swimming lessons. With five other parents, I observed the class. I should say: I observed. At one point during the class, I looked around and saw every parent—all five—mesmerized by their phones. No parent watched their child. All watched their phones.
I am not uniquely virtuous. Last week, I was mesmerized by my phone. I missed my daughter when she dunked her head under water. She told me, don’t look at your phone! I mostly obeyed. I looked at my phone, but not for long. The compulsion to look took over, and I fell into a mania of technology. But I held on to my sanity. I stopped, and here is what I saw.
I saw a young boy tell my daughter, You are doing great! I watched my daughter swim in the deep end with a life jacket. I walked near her and told her she did great. She looked at me with glee, a smile broken across her face, saying something like, That is my daddy! 
Whatever moment we had, we had because I was not memorized by the screen but by her. 
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