"Christians and the Internet" newsletter
CATI, Vol. 1, No. 19:  May 12, 2000.
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is
Copyright (C) 2000 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved.  For
permission to reproduce material from this newsletter, contact
Barry Traver at cati@traver.org.  Permission is hereby granted,
however, to pass along this issue to others, provided that (1)
no changes are made and (2) it is passed along in its entirety.
To subscribe, write to cati@traver.org, including "Subscribe to
CATI" in the Subject line and including in the body your real
name and the email address to which you wish CATI sent.  (To be
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but include "Remove from CATI List" in the Subject line.)
In the previous issue of CATI I introduced Phil Johnson's
Bookmarks, which you'll find at the following address:
Phil Johnson's Bookmarks
That annotated list of links to Web sites includes the good,
the bad, the useful, and the strange, with helpful comments
about each site from Phil.  In his "bookmarks" he commends
sites where you can find good theology, and he warns against
sites where you'll find bad theology, really bad theology,
and really, really bad theology, and his comments often
display wit and humor (although you may or may not always
agree with his remarks).
Phil Johnson is the Executive Director of Grace to You, a
Christian tape and ministry featuring the preaching ministry
of John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church.  Phil
also teaches courses in writing and editing at The Master's
College and Seminary, associated with Grace Church.  In
addition, he is  a trustee of The Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Recordings Trust in England.
Phil also maintains the following excellent Web site (where
the same intelligence, wit, and humor are displayed), a site
we will look at in this issue of CATI:
The Hall of Church History: Theology from a Bunch of Dead Guys
Here's how he introduces that site:
"A friend who noticed my reading habits asked, 'Why would
anyone want to study theology by reading A Bunch of Dead Guys?
Shouldn't you focus mostly on current works, or risk becoming
an irrelevant theological fossil?' My answer: the truth about
God is timeless. The last infallible book of theology was
written nearly two thousand years ago. In theology, if it's
new, it probably isn't true. The best of the men featured
here knew that. Though they are dead, they still speak (cf.
Heb. 11:4). Scripture was their supreme rule of faith. Their
theological line of descent is clearly traceable from the
Reformers, to Augustine, to the Apostle Paul, to Isaiah, to
Abraham--all the way back to the first promise God made to
Adam in the Garden (Gen. 3:15)."
This does not mean, however, that all past theologians are
equally helpful:
"Watch your step.... As you walk through The Hall of Church
History, if you veer too far to the right or to the left,
you'll encounter people whose tendency has been to enshrine
tradition over Scripture, or to pursue what is innovative and
novel at the expense of what is sure and steadfast. These dark
corners of The Hall of Church history can be interesting and
informative. But we encourage guests to spend most of their
time in the central hall, which takes you from the Church
Fathers, through the Medieval Churchmen, down a narrow,
treasure-filled hallway devoted to the Puritan and Reformed
writers, to the more recent stalwarts of the faith. We have
named this corridor 'Berean Hall,' in honor of those noble
recipients of the apostolic message, who 'received the word
with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily,
whether those things were so' (Acts 17:11)."
Thus even in the Hall of Church History you can find good
theology and bad theology.
Here's a list of the main categories (or "rooms"):
The Church Fathers (Athanasius, Augustine, et al.)
The Medieval Churchmen (Anselm, St. Thomas Aquinas, Thomas
    a Kempis, et al.)
The Heretics (Marcion, Gnosticism, Arianism, and more)
The Eastern Orthodox (various documents)
The Catholics (John Henry Cardinal Newman and more)
The Reformers (William Tyndale, Martin Luther, John Calvin,
    John Knox, Richard Hooker, and more)
The Puritans (John Owen, Richard Baxter, Thomas Watson, John
    Foxe, John Bunyan, Thomas Manton)
The Anabaptists (various documents, including Mennonite)
The Arminians (including John and Charles Wesley)
The Cultists (Emanuel Swedenborg, Charles Taze Russell, Mary
    Baker Eddy, Joseph Smith)
The Unorthodox (Charles G. Finney!, Karl Barth, Dietrich
    Bonhoeffer, and more)
The Baptists (John Gill, Charles H. Spurgeon, J.P. Boice, et
The Recent Stalwarts (John Newton, Jonathan Edwards, George
    Whitefield, Thomas Boston, John Gill, Augustus Toplady,
    Robert Murray M'Cheyne, Charles H. Spurgeon, R.L. Dabney,
    J.C. Ryle, Alexander Whyte, Arthur W. Pink, G. Campbell
    Morgan, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Francis Schaeffer, et al.)
And here's another useful room:
Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms
Here is some of what is included in that room:  Creeds from
the Bible (Statements of Faith), The Apostles' Creed, The
Nicene Creed, The Athanasian Creed, The Belgic Confession
of Faith, The Heidelberg Catechism, The Second Helvetic
Confession, The Canons of the Synod of Dort, The Thirty-nine
Articles of Religion, The Westminster Confession of Faith,
The Westminster Shorter Catechism, The Westminster Larger
Catechism, The Baptist Confession of 1689, The New Hampshire
Baptist Confession, Spurgeon's Catechism of 1855, and The
Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.
What would be my recommendations as to which rooms to visit
first in the Hall of Church History?
"The Recent Stalwarts" may be a good place to begin.  (If you
are wondering why there are so few modern names other than
Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Francis Schaeffer, remember that the
Hall of Church History restricts itself to "Theology from a
Bunch of Dead Guys."  For living contemporaries, you'll have
to go elsewhere.  They're not yet "history"!)  Note that the
list includes representatives of different denominational
perspectives, including R.L. Dabney (Presbyterian), Charles
H. Spurgeon (Baptist), J.C. Ryle (Anglican), and others.  Some
authors I have especially appreciated include the ones I have
just mentioned, as well as John Newton (author of "Amazing
Grace"), Arthur W. Pink, and George Whitefield, but you may
find others on the list to be equally helpful.    
The Recent Stalwarts
Incidentally, in your exploring be sure to visit another Web
site maintained by Phil Johnson (who, remember, describes
himself as a Calvinistic Baptist):
The Spurgeon Archive
In addition to "The Recent Stalwarts," another room in the
Hall of Church History that I recommend exploring is this:
The Puritans
Included here are John Bunyan (author of Pilgrim's Progress)
and John Owen (unlike Bunyan, not easy to read, but a great
theologian if you can handle the archaic language), but Thomas
Manton and Thomas Watson are also worthwhile.  And John Foxe's
Book of Christian Martyrs is, of course, like John Bunyan's
Pilgrim's Progress, a great Christian classic that has had
great influence and continues to be worth reading today.
After "The Recent Stalwarts" and "The Puritans" I recommend
a visit to this room:
The Reformers
My favorite here (as you might guess) is the Reformer John
Calvin.  Many have heard about Calvin's Institutes of the
Christian Religion, but how many have actually read it?  And
it is available online, along with commentaries and many other
works by John Calvin.  (If you like the Institutes and you can
afford it, I recommend purchasing the Battles edition, which
is easier to read and includes more helps than the Beveridge
translation available online.)  Martin Luther is also good
reading, including the famous Ninety-Five Theses but going
beyond that to his sermons, hymns, and other works.
So those are my suggestions:  in Phil Johnson's Hall of Church
History start out by exploring "The Recent Stalwarts," "The
Puritans," and "The Reformers."  You should find more than
enough good reading to keep you busy for a while.  And you
will find the reading to be more spiritually profitable and
edifying than much contemporary fare.  You may come to agree
with Phil Johnson that "Though they are dead, they still
speak (cf. Heb. 11:4)... [because] Scripture was their
supreme rule of faith" and "the word of the Lord endures
forever" (1 Peter 1:25).
P.S.  You'll find some unexpected treasures in the other
rooms as well.  For example, in "The Church Fathers" you
will find a link to Athanasius's On the Incarnation, the
classic defense of the deity of Christ and the Trinity,
complete with C. S. Lewis's preface to the modern English
Christian stewardship includes making good use of the money
God has entrusted to us, including at times saving money by
reducing expenses.  One way this can be done is to make at
least some long distance phone calls for free (or, to put
it more accurately, without its costing us anything beyond
our normal expenses for being on the Internet.
First, the bad news:  the voice quality is not that great.  At
best it is like talking on a cell phone.  But that's about the
only bad news.  The good news is that it's free and easy to
use (I have made use of it myself).
There are a number of places where you can make long distance
phone calls for free over the Internet.  A USA Today article
on "Free long distance via the Net" by Peronet Despeignes has
this to say:
"A growing number of Americans are using the Internet to
make long-distance phone calls - many for free.  Web sites
such as Net2phone.com, Deltathree.com, Accesspower.com and
MediaRing.com offer a no-frills alternative to Ameritech,
AT&T, Sprint and other traditional providers."
According to USA Today, "here are some Web sites that allow
users to make cheap, long-distance phone calls through the
Net Caller
Both PC Magazine and PC World seem to agree that Dialpad.com
is the best place for free Internet long distance service on
the Internet (so that's the one I tried myself).
An undated article on "Four Ways to Keep in Touch" by Dan
Mitchell in the "How To" area of the ZDNet Web site suggests
Dialpad.com for "telephony":
"Telephony allows you to send and receive sound over the
Internet without the use of a telephone. This means the end
to long distance charges every time you want to call Grandma.
Dialpad.com is a website that allows you to make free Internet
telephony calls. All you pay for is your Internet connection.
The rest is free." 
Important:  the person you are calling using Dialpad.com does
NOT have to have an Internet connection or even a computer.
A telephone is all that is necessary for that person.  (You
are the one who needs a computer and an Internet connection!)
You can find more information in a PC World article entitled
"Price of a Phone Call Drops to Nil" by Candice Bergen, an
article that was posted or published on November 2, 1999:
"The concept is not new. But dialpad.com is winning the praise
of analysts who say the company's banner-ad-sponsored service
is near 'cellular quality' and extremely easy to use....
Getting started is simple. Answer two pages of demographic
information and grant permission for diailpad.com to download
a small Java applet onto your computer. Next, a window pops
up. Just punch in the telephone number you want to call, press
'dial', and start talking."
One of the headings in that article is "Talk Is Cheap on the
Net," and this same "Talk Is Cheap" theme also appears in the
newsstand edition of the June 6, 2000 issue of PC Magazine,
which contains an article on "Cheap Talk" by Les Freed (see
pages 244-2246, 248).  Dialpad.com is PC Magazine's Editors'
"Simple to use and a great bargain to boot, dialpad.com is a
Web-based telephone service that lets you call any phone in
the U.S. for absolutely no charge.  There's no software to
buy: You just download a free 170K Java applet (for Windows
95, 98, and NT only) when you sign up for a dialpad.com
account.  In return for free phone calls, you agree
to receive promotional e-mail from dialpad.com and its  
affiliates.  You'll also see some banner ads on the dialer
interface, but they aren't too much of a nuisance."
PC Magazine also observes the same good news (it's free and
easy to use) and the same bad news (varying sound quality,
although most of the time it was similar to a cell phone):
"To use the service, you simply enter a phone number, click
Dial, and then talk all you want.  dialpad.com's only
downside is that its voice quality can vary widely.  At best
--which was most of the time--it's like talking on a cell
phone; at worst, it's barely intelligible....  Altogether,
though, the few low-quality calls we experienced on
dialpad.com were a small price to pay for the value and
convenience of this terrific service."
This article is not (yet) posted on PC Magazine's Web site,
but you'll find PC Magazine's Web site here:
As you may have guessed, PC Magazine and PC World are two
computer magazines that I've personally found to be very
helpful.  Following is where you'll find the Web site for
PC World:
I recommend both magazines highly to those people who have a
serious interest in computers.
If you make a fair number of long distance calls, you may want
to try out Dialpad.com:
By the way, your computer does need a microphone and speakers
(or a headset to reduce on the echo if that proves annoying),
but most computer systems today include those as standard
CATI 1/14 raised some questions about the conclusions of a
study done by the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative
Study of Society (SIQSS), which suggested that the Internet
may lead to greater social isolation.  I pointed out that the
study's own data suggested that the opposite may be true,
that is, that in fact the Internet appears to be helping
people to become more interconnected!
I was encouraged to see not only that Fred Langa in his Langa
List newsletter recently raised some of the same points that
I did, but also that a new study done by the Pew Internet and
American Life project, as reported by Joe Burns in his HTML
Goodies newsletter, supplies some fascinating evidence that
further confirms the positive social effects of the Internet.
Here's one example of what the Pew study found:  "a person
who is an e-mail user is far more likely to visit or phone a
friend than a non e-mail user."  Here's another:  "an e-mail
user is more likely to personally visit someone a day earlier
than a non e-mail user."  But we'll return to such things in a
First, let's take a look at Fred Langa's comments:
"... Is The Web Isolating You? A highly publicized study from
Stanford University says, 'Yes.' In fact, it made headlines
several weeks ago when researchers at...SIQSS...conducted a
national survey of web users that led them to conclusions like
  'The more hours people use the Internet, the less time they
  spend with real human beings.... The Internet could be the
  ultimate isolating technology that reduces our participation
  in communities even more than television did....'
The study has all the normal trappings of objectivity and
statistical validity but, to me, it appears the researchers'
interpretation of the results is rooted in a subtle but
distinct anti-Web/anti-tech bias...."
One of the examples that I mentioned in CATI 1/14 is given by
Langa as well:
"For instance, the study trumpets that 26% of Internet users
report they spend less time talking with family and friends on
the phone---clearly, a symptom of increasing social isolation,
right? But the same study shows that by far the most common
Internet activity is sending and receiving email. Amazingly,
nowhere in the study did I find anything that recognized what
is, to me, the obvious causal link: Email simply has replaced
the phone for many routine types of communication. (As my
daughter would say, 'Duh!') The interpersonal interaction still
takes place; it's just shifted from one medium to another."
Langa's conclusion?  He says, "I think this study is deeply
flawed by biases that view people who enjoy the online world
as stereotypical geek isolates."  There are, I'm sure, some
exceptions, but my own experience has been that people who
are active on the Internet tend to be socially active off the
Internet as well.
Joe Burns puts out a newsletter for people who have their own
Web sites, and in a recent issue he makes some very interesting
observations, including statistics not only on social activity
but also on men and women on the Web:
"For those of you who run Web sites, here's a big heads-up.
Over the past six months, more than 9 million women have made
their way to the Web. That's about 10% of all the women who
live in the U.S. Just five years ago, less than ten percent
of the Web's users were women, now they make up over half of
the users on the Web.
(CATI 1/14 has an article on men and women on the Web as well
as an article on the SIQSS study on social isolation.)
In his article, Burns reports on the recent Pew study:
"I read a study that just came out that actually offered some
eye-opening information on the topic. It was done by the Pew
Internet and American Life project. Dig this: Who plays more
games on the Web, men or women?  Women, 37% to 32%! You thought
men did, didn't you? Chauvinist. Who uses the Web more for
shopping? Women, right? (Buzzer sound effect here). It's men,
80% to 67%. The survey points out that women tend to enter
into shopping with a far more cautious eye than men have.
Apparently we'll throw a credit card at anything that moves."
Burns goes on to report on e-mail usage by men and women:
"Women take to e-mail far faster than men do. The survey points
out that 65% of women using the Web claim they couldn't live
without e-mail, whereas only 55% of men said the same. Women
reported using e-mail to strengthen bonds between friends and
family. The study found that a person who is an e-mail user is
far more likely to visit or phone a friend than a non e-mail
user. They also, somehow, suggested that an e-mail user is more
likely to personally visit someone a day earlier than a non
e-mail user."
The Pew study also deals with "social isolation":
"Women were more likely to report the Web as being a tool for
reducing isolation. If you remember a few newsletters back,
I suggested that. Remember the survey done by Stanford
University that said the Web was an isolating tool? This
survey skews that theory."
These differences between men and women apply primarily to
older people, since, according to Burns, "The survey results
show that under the age of 30, men and women tend to act very
much alike.... Once the sample respondents were 30 or above,
then the big changes...were seen."
What's the bottom line?  The Internet can increase or decrease
social interaction.  The good news is that the evidence at this
point seems to show that in general the Internet is a positive
force in this area, but that conclusion may or may not be true
for particular individuals or families.  Here it is proper to
do a little Christian self-examination.
Fred Langa suggests some questions that all those who use the
Internet may do well to consider:
"Has the Internet and Web enhanced or detracted from the social
connectedness of your life? Does the online world make you feel
more isolated, or less? Does it strengthen the social fabric of
your life, or weaken it?"
Christians will endeavor to ensure that their own use of the
Internet will show good stewardship of this resource in a way
that enhances our relationships with family and friends.
This is the nineteenth issue of a free newsletter devoted
to "Christians And The Internet" ("CATI," pronounced "Katy," 
but spelled with a "C" and an "I" for "Christians" and the 
Privacy policy:  The information in the "Christians And The 
Internet" mailing list will NOT be sold, rented, or given to
others.  (Let them make their own lists! <grin>)
Past issues:  you'll find archives of past issues of CATI
available online at http://traver.org/cati/ .  ("It's not a
pretty site," but hopefully it may be a useful one.)
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is
Copyright (C) 2000 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved.  For
permission to reproduce material from this newsletter, contact
Barry Traver at cati@traver.org.  Permission is hereby granted,
however, to pass along this issue to others, provided that (1)
no changes are made and (2) it is passed along in its entirety.
To subscribe, write to cati@traver.org, including "Subscribe to
CATI" in the Subject line and including in the body your real
name and the email address to which you wish CATI sent.  (To be
removed from the emailing list, also write to cati@traver.org,
but include "Remove from CATI List" in the Subject line.)