Monday, October 12, 2009

The Internet

The following timely remarks were penned by Gerald Cowan in response to this question: "I've heard the internet is responsible for the spread of pornography. Would that mean a Christian shouldn't take part in it?

The so-called Internet, is an information exchange system to which one is connected electronically. One's computer is connected to various sites by a telephone line, wireless phone or satellite system. Being online describes the act of being connected or interconnected electronic-ally to a "World Wide Web" of information, etc. Once connected to the network, one can alternate quickly between various sources of information, entertainment, and commerce. One can buy and sell information and goods. One can send and receive electronic mail (email) instantly and with no additional charges There are 'chat rooms' where you one 'talk' to other persons about anything of interest. Movies, music, and sporting events are available. Browsing through various offerings, sometimes called 'surfing the net' is somewhat like channel hopping on the TV. What could be "evil" about such an efficient and inexpensive way to share information?

Actually the Internet is like a library combined with a museum, a supermarket, a concert hall, a theater, a porno peep show, a bulletin board, and who knows what else? Information is arranged by category, and one can go from one collection site to another as long as he wants to, and can pay for his connection service and all associated fees. The internet or electronic information system itself is not evil. It is no more wicked in and of itself than the library, book store, movie theater or video rental store, or magazine section in the grocery or department store. All of those places have material available that is good and wholesome, but they all have things that are not good or wholesome. It is what people do with the materials that are available that causes so much trouble. We can't just close down the library or outlaw TV, movies, and videos (all these things have been tried). We need to be properly instructed in how to use the good things to which we have access and stay away from the things that are not good.

There is a subtle danger in the easy access to electronic information media. It can be done, and is done mostly, in the privacy of one's home. It isn't quite like being caught in the wrong section of the bookstore or video rental shop. Most people will never know what kind of programs the net surfers are watching and downloading for future watching. The ability to sin anonymously is a great temptation, and the internet certainly makes it easier for people to burn their brains with salacious smut. I hope some way can be devised and enforced to keep people honest and honorable in their use of electronic information and entertainment media. Those who want complete freedom of expression will resist to the death any effort to censor the internet or to mark those who use it improperly.

But to answer the question: the internet has certainly spread such evils as pornography, making it more easily and widely accessible, with less fear of personal exposure. But that does not mean the internet is responsible for the spread of pornography. There is a tremendous amount of false religious information on the internet, but the internet is not responsible for the spread and proliferation of smut and error. The internet is a tool that can be easily misused by purveyors of evil. But is also an effective tool for propagation of the truth. The devil encourages people to abuse or misuse even good things - some do not need much encouragement. Most things, even good things or things that have a good purpose, can be used in a sinful way. We must learn to make appropriate use and avoid any abuse or misuse.

- Gerald Cowan preaches for the Dongola church of Christ in Dongola, IL. He may be contacted at

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