Category: Christian

The Virtual Soul

The Virtual Soul

March 31, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

The Virtual Soul I’m writing about today is — maybe — quite a bit different than what you were expecting. And just possibly a whole lot cooler than you would have imagined!

I’m a big fan of church history. The early stuff, before it became all about the Roman Church. I’m going to take you back to the Second Century, call it 130 A.D. An anonymous writer takes the name Mathetes (“a disciple of the apostles”), and writes a letter to the a man named Diognetus. And no, we have no idea who he may have been.

Mathetes writes about what Christians were like back then. Keep in mind that you’re reading something read by people all over the old Roman Empire. If it were not true, we’d have heard about it. How would you like to be characterized as wonderfully as this?

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For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity.

The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking17 method of life.

  • They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners.
  • As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners.
  • Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers.
  • They marry, as do all; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring.
  • They have a common table, but not a common bed.
  • They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.
  • They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.
  • They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives.
  • They love all men, and are persecuted by all.
  • They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life.
  • They are poor, yet make many rich.
  • They are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all.
  • They are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified.
  • They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless.
  • They are insulted, and repay the insult with honor.
  • They do good, yet are punished as evil-doers.
  • When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life.
  • They are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

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When Mathetes finished that much, he added a few comments. These comments are what I referred to as The Virtual Soul. Here’s what he wrote:

“To sum up all in one word — what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world.”

Most students of Bible prophecy believe that the Holy Spirit of God (living in the bodies of individual Christians, and local churches) is the great restraining influence on evil in our world. They represent that Virtual Soul that keeps this world on its feet. Without that virtual soul, this old world stumbles around in its wickedness, alarmingly like the zombie-types on AMC TV’s The Walking Dead. When that virtual soul departs… what’s going to be left?

Footnote:

The writer part of me thrills to read something written nearly two thousand years ago by an author whom none of us know. He had no agent, no publisher, no social media, no publicist. Yet because of that tenacious quality of prose in print to keep on surviving, we still have these words with us today. And many more.

To other Christian writers, I say — Keep on going! Whether this year or next, or (if the Lord Jesus tarries His coming)  a century or more from now, someone you’ve never heard of will read what you wrote. Make it count.

Stepping Into The Virtual Reality of the Matrix

Stepping Into The Virtual Reality of the Matrix

January 4, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

In The Matrix, Morpheus offered Neo two choices: The red pill, or the blue pill. The blue pill would allow Neo to remain in his virtual reality… the Matrix. The red pill would take him into reality. The real world.

The rush is on to make the blue pill real. A way to escape the real world and live in a life-like fantasy… a Virtual Reality.

Websites like Second Life are proliferating. The hook is, “Experience endless surprises and unexpected delights in a world imagined and created by people like you.” In Second Life, you can create your own avatar (an animated figure that is “you”), choose (or even design) a world to live in, and begin your encounters with other virtual people.

It’s no secret that many who visit Second Life, and the websites like it, do so in order to experience secret romances and sexual encounters, not necessarily with humans. In the free version, you can choose to start off as a person, a vampire, an animal, or more.

“But,” you say, “People wouldn’t really experience those things. Not really.”

Right. And not right. The key phrase is not really. This article is about some of the technologies going on now that will make the not really more real than ever.

We have five senses.

  1. Sight
  2. Hearing
  3. Taste
  4. Smell
  5. Touch
Let’s talk about these senses in terms of what is now in the works for experiencing them in Artificial, or Virtual Reality. I’ll be using the generic “we” below.
 
Sight and Hearing:

If you can see your computer display and hear your speakers, then you’re already half-way there. But people are going to want more than that. We’ll want 3-D, and we’ll want to be able to look up, down, all around. Hear as if surrounded by sound. How do we make that better? The answer is VirtualReality Headsets.

  • This video promotes the new one from Sony. You can buy it today for $999. Sony’s VR Headset
  • The headset most talked-about is the Oculus Rift.

With these VR (virtual reality) headsets, you’re going to get the full sense of 360 degree vision, surround sound. . . the works. And the technology is going to keep getting better and better.

  • Here’s an example of what I mean by the technology getting better – Innovega is now producing contact lenses with built-in digital displays. You wear a pair of special glasses with them to reflect the images back to your eyes. These can be worn all day long, just like normal lenses.

    Notice the girl at the end of the video. She is virtual, superimposed into the real world view. Don’t worry that she looks a little artificial now. Given time, this technology will get so good you won’t be able to tell the difference. Your virtual friend (think Friend Me) will be able to accompany you wherever you go.

In Friend Me, Rachel re-created a friend that had died from ovarian cancer. Her friend was back again! Using the technology in the video above, you’ll have the potential to not only re-create that lost loved one (husband, father, wife, child. . .), and have them go with you throughout your day. If you think it looks strange to see people talking on their Bluetooth earpieces to people you can’t see, wait till this one is a reality!

Taste:Virtual Reality - Taste

Are You Ready for Virtual Taste? is what sparked the idea for this article. A researcher in Singapore has put together a very simple device that is held against the tongue. He has developed a way (Taste Over IP) to send those tastes over the Internet.

It will be trivial to incorporate taste into VR headsets. Just a wired (or even wireless!) device like a football mouth guard with a taste receptor. I’ll estimate such a device could go into production in ninety days.

Smell:

Ever heard of Smell-O-Vision? Virtual Reality - SmellOk, I can hear you laughing. The movie illustrated here sent thirty different odors into movie theater seats, triggered by markers on the soundtrack. Again, this is trivial to implement, once you’re wearing a VR headset. Call it done. For a little interesting history on Smell-O-Vision and other variants like Aroma-Rama, click here or on the picture.

Touch:

This is where it’s all headed. Lots of research is being done to make this happen. A new technology called Hapic Technology is a major step in bringing Virtual Reality You Can Reach Out and Touch. Big companies like Kyocera, Redux and Valve are getting behind it. Oculus, mentioned earlier, is promoting a treadmill (see it here) that allows the user to run and walk in his virtual world. That’s only a step half-way to real touch, though. Touch is going to involve all the tactile senses of the human body. That’s right. All of them. And you can easily guess where that’s going to wind up.

In The Matrix, Neo was totally wired up to a computer. His sensory perceptions  (yes, I know it was just a movie) worked on all five levels. Do you imagine there mighVirtual Realityt be people today that would prefer that to a real life? I’ll guarantee you there are many who would, and would pay for the privilege.

A man with a virtual girlfriend is eventually going to want to touch her. Ditto for the woman weary of Harlequin romance novels, who wants a “real” person, without the trappings that come with a human relationship. When I wrote Friend Me, I had exactly this sort of idea in mind. Current science — to my knowledge — hasn’t matured the technology for this part of VR yet. But it’s coming.

Some Conclusions:

This is weird stuff.  Friend Me used simple technology that people see every day. Going beyond that would have put it into the Science-Fiction realm, and I didn’t want to be there. One editor from Random House told me she wanted Friend Me “right now,” but insisted on making it a Sci-Fi publication. Why? She said, “Because it hasn’t happened yet.” I beg to differ.

It’s All Bad, Right?

It’s easy to only look on the negatives when it comes to virtual reality. And no wonder, there are plenty of them. Our society is rife with people trying to escape reality. I know people, and so do you, whose entire social life is on Facebook. That is a virtual reality. The entire genre of fantasy, and I’ll include most romance, novels is there to provide an escape from this present world, and transport you into an imagined (that’s what virtual is) world of your choosing. Again, not necessarily bad, but it’s an area where the Enemy has a field day.

My prognostication — Pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. They’re going to have the finances to push this technology to the limits of evil. You might as well get ready for it, because if the Lord tarries His coming, you’re going to see it happen.

Is There Any Good In It?

I’ll suggest one use that may not have occurred to you. Suppose you were physically disabled to the point that you could not leave your bed. How would you like to be hooked up (via your Virtual Reality System) to a robot that works like the one below — see everything the robot sees, go everywhere he goes, do everything he does. This technology exists now. It’s only waiting for someone to bring it all together. The Honda-manufactured robot in the video is actually working independently, which is a little creepy in itself!

I think there are other good uses too. Think about the possibilities for new ways to present fiction, for training (especially in risky, dangerous endeavors), and immersive education. Yes, there are some excellent applications for the technology.

We don’t know yet where all of this will go. As with all things, the Christian must do as the Lord Jesus said: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16). Just because something is cool doesn’t mean it’s good. Conversely, it is silly to think that if something is good, it can’t be cool. Believers are expected — commanded — to exercise discernment in the things we involve ourselves in.

Please comment on this article. I have more to say in the future on the subject, but in the meantime, I want to hear from you.
Heard in a Church Lobby

Heard in a Church Lobby

December 19, 2013 | By | Add a Comment

I got to church earlier than usual on a Wednesday night, and walked into the church lobby. We’re pretty traditional. That’s our night for prayer and Bible study. My wife runs our AWANA Clubs upstairs.

Ray is one of our ushers, and tonight he was looking for something. Two young teen girls were standing in the middle of the room looking lost. I greeted them, and waved to Ray. He stopped, looked at me, and asked if I could help them. They wanted to know if there was an AWANA meeting tonight.

“Tonight’s your lucky night,” I said. “My wife runs the whole thing. I’ll take you upstairs.”

The worried look went out of Ray’s face when I took over the care of the girls, who it turned out were in fifth and sixth grades. When I got back downstairs, he was seated in one of the wing-back chairs sorting through some Christmas cards he was giving out.

“You’re a good guy, Ray. Not many men would go to all that trouble to make sure people got Christmas cards.”

He leaned toward me, and I could see that he hadn’t heard me well. Ray’s seventy-eight years old. I repeated what I’d said, and he replied, “It’s not too hard when your wife leaves you the list. Barbara left me the whole list.”

Barbara had died a couple of years ago from colon cancer. He wasn’t going to be getting over her absence any time too soon.

“She made me promise I’d do this. There’s only one promise she made me make that I’m not going to keep.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“She was laying on the hospital bed just before she died, and she made me promise her I’d remarry after she was gone.” He looked up at me from the chair. “I can’t keep that promise. There’ll never be anyone else as sweet as her.”

“She was worried about you. She didn’t want you to be alone,“ I said. I know something about that. My own wife died just short of our twenty-sixth anniversary when I was forty-four. I knew what that loneliness was like.

“You may still remarry. Maybe someone almost as sweet as she was,” I said.

“No, I don’t think so.”

He began to relate some of his story to me. I’d known Ray for twelve or thirteen years, but I was thrilled as I heard him tell how God had worked in his life, starting way back in 1936. Seventeen years old, and he went into the Army. Married his sweet wife. Adopted two children from rough backgrounds, loved and raised them as their own.

Now he’s watching out for his granddaughter and her husband. Another answer to prayer, he says. He and Barb prayed for her to meet some good young man. They even picked a couple good prospects out. Sure enough, she’s married to one of them.

Ray’s an Army retiree. He’s spending what’s left of his life serving the Lord in every way he can, and doing his level best to help that young couple get a solid start in life.

There was a lot more to Ray’s story than I’m telling here. But I’ll wager you’ve met people like Ray, too. It’s the stories like his, that you want to have become yours.

The greatest joy we’ll ever know as a believer in Jesus Christ is to hear His words one shining day, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of thy Lord.”

I know at least one guy who can expect to hear just that. And now you do, too.

*  Matthew 25:23 “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”