"Christians and the Internet" newsletter
CATI, Vol. 2, No. 5:  February 28, 2001.



Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is
Copyright (C) 2001 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.


When people mention "technology" today, the focus is often on
the Internet, and that is certainly true of the February 19,
2001 special technology issue of the evangelical publication
Christianity Today.

Here's the home page for Christianity Today:

Christianity Today

If you're not a subscriber to the magazine, you may have to
find access to the special issue in another way (e.g., does
your local library carry the periodical?).  Some (not all) of
the articles and items, however, can currently be accessed
online (if I'm aware of the URL, I'll try to provide it).

The cover asks, "Is God.com Dead?"  The table of contents
describes this feature article as follows:  "Investors lost
faith in iBelieve.com, Lightsource.com was extinguished,
and Crosswalk is being run over.  The rise and fall of the
for-profit Web site boom."

Here's where you'll find the article online:

Christianity Today: "Is God.com Dead?"

Another Internet-related feature article in this special
technology issue is "Open Debate in the Openness Debate."
Here's CT's description of the article:  "It's been centuries
since Luther nailed his theses to a church door, but the
Internet is reintroducing theological debate to the public

And here's where you'll find the article online:

Christianity Today: "Did Open Debate Help the Openness

If you haven't heard of the "openness debate," here is how
the article describes the background:

"Open theism, the idea that God does not fully know the
future because humans have not yet made the choices that will
affect it, has been called everything from 'an enlightening
new paradigm' to 'merely an extreme form of Arminianism' to
'heresy.' Open theism did not originate in—and is not limited
to—the BGC [Baptist General Conference] (the Southern Baptist
Convention, for instance, added an anti-open theism clause to
its Faith and Message at its June 2000 meeting). But so far
it has created more turmoil in the BGC than in any other
Christian body."

Personally, I do not believe that "open theism" is an advance
in theological understanding.  Rather, I believe instead that
classical theism got it right and that the position set forth
in the traditional Presbyterian and Reformed creeds (such as
the Westminster Confession of Faith) is an accurate stating of
what is set forth in the Bible, viz., that God is omniscient
and fully knows what the future holds.  Thus I'm thankful for
such men as John Piper who have argued on behalf of classical
theism as over against "open theism."

Here's where you will find John Piper's Web site, as well as
a page which tells where you can find other articles that
relate to the controversy:



Here is Pastor Piper's judgment of this new theological

"Open theism, which denies that God can foreknow free human
choices, dishonors God, distorts Scripture, damages faith,
and would, if left unchecked, destroy churches and lives. Its
errors are not peripheral but central.... O how precious is
the truth of God's all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful care
over our fragile lives."

Another article in CT's special technology issue is "Not Just
for Visitors."  Here's Christianity Today's description:
"Churches are discovering their Web sites can do more than
tell people how to find the building on Sunday morning."  "CT"
also mentions that a "New study [the Pew Internet and American
Life Project] suggests church Web sites will help create

Here's where you can find the Christianity Today article

Christianity Today: "Not Just for Visitors"

Here's how the article begins:

"About 60 percent of churches have developed Web sites in
the last three years. But any frequent visitor will tell you
that most church sites are little more than glorified maps
listing driving directions and service times. That will not
be the case much longer. While new research from the Pew
Internet and American Life Project indicates that many church
sites are bare-bones operations, the study also indicates that
churches are starting to recognize the Web's potential to
streamline office work and provide up-to-date information to
large numbers of people. If the Pew study's findings are
correct, church Web sites are well on their way to becoming
community-building tools."

Here's where you can find the Pew study itself:

Pew Internet and American Life Project

Here are some other Internet-related articles you can read at
the Christianity Today Web site (all appearing in the special
technology issue):

Christianity Today: "Whole Lot of Clicking Going On: Some
    results of the Pew Internet and American Life Project"

Christianity Today: "Feds Teach Kids Not to Hack: FBI
    launches morality education program for would-be computer

Christianity Today: "Christian Nonprofits Divided on IRS
    Proposals: Web sites may have to limit hyperlinks and
    monitor message boards for political activity"

Christianity Today: "Good Idea, Fallible Filters: Why even
    free-speechers liked the Children's Internet Protection

Christianity Today: "No Luddites Here: Evangelicals have
    (almost) always been quick to adopt communications

The Christianity Today site, of course, also has on it a
number of Internet-related articles that were published
apart from its special technology issue.  Here are just
two examples, dated February 23, 2001:

Christianity Today: "Resources for the Ensnared:
    Christ-centered help for those struggling with Internet
    pornography and sexual addiction"

Christianity Today: "Tangled in the Worst of the Web: What
    Internet porn did to one pastor, his wife, his ministry,
    their life"

You won't, of course, find as many Internet-related articles
in other issues of Christianity Today as we've seen in their
special technology issue, but "CT" is a magazine that you may
like to receive on a regular basis (although I do not think it
is as conservative now as it was under the leadership of its
founding editor Carl F.H. Henry).  For more information, check
the magazine's home page:

Christianity Today



Two of the most respected newsletters on the Internet are
the LangaList written by Fred Langa and the Internet Tourbus
written by Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen:


Internet Tourbus

If you use Juno.com's free Internet service (or if you have
friends who do), you should be aware of a warning passed on
by both newsletters.

Let's start with the February 8, 2001 issue of the LangaList:

"TANSTAAFL is the acronym for 'There Ain't No Such Thing As
A Free Lunch'; it was first popularized by author Robert A.
Heinlein, many years ago. Of course, it refers to the fact
that things that appear free usually have a hidden cost, and
we've discussed the TANSTAAFL principle ... before in these
pages.... And it's back now, big time.

Reader Theo Tanalski, who is a user of the Juno ISP service,
... sent along this clip extracted from Juno's latest service
agreement dated 1/18/2001:

"You expressly permit and authorize Juno to (i) download to
your computer one or more pieces of software ... designed to
perform computations ... on behalf of Juno (or on behalf of
such third parties as may be authorized by Juno...), (ii) run
the ... Software on your computer to perform and store the
results of such computations, and (iii) upload such results
to Juno’s central computers during a subsequent connection,
whether initiated by you in the course of using the Service or
by the ... Software.... In connection with downloading and
running the ... Software, Juno may require you to leave your
computer turned on at all times....'

"There's lots more, but the above encapsulates the amazing
part: In effect, Juno is saying that you must give them the
right to use your PC for whatever purposes they choose, when
they choose....

"...This isn't just stealing a little bandwidth to cram some
ads down the wire at you--- this is taking over your PC at
a fundamental level. And that might lead you to wonder,
'What happens if Juno's software trashes my system?' That's
spelled out in the rest of the amended terms of service: The
subscribers must perform these forced services at their own
risk and expense: You pay for the power consumed to run Juno's
calculations ,,, and if Juno's software crashes your PC and
eats your data, well, tough luck....

"So ... Juno users will have to weigh the cost of the
force-fed ads, plus the cost and risks of running unknown
software on their PC--- software of unknown quality, by
unknown parties for unknown purposes--- against the benefit
of saving a few bucks a month. Sometimes "free" lunches turn
out to be very expensive."


Fred Langa's February 28, 2001 newsletter continues discussion
of Juno.com's plans (and raises the question of whether other
companies may similarly invade your personal computer):

"Several issues ago ... we discussed how Juno--- the giant ISP
with 14 million subscribers--- is mandating that its users
join a stealthy P2P ("peer to peer") network....

"...In effect, Juno says that you must give them the right to
use your PC for whatever purposes they choose, when they
choose. You have no rights to what they do with or on your PC.
You can't even try to find out what Juno's doing. You must
perform these forced services at your own risk and expense:
You must keep your PC on at all times in order to run Juno's
calculations; if you don't leave your PC on ... Juno can
cancel your account.... and if Juno's software crashes your
PC and eats your data, well, tough luck. And worst of all,
the whole scheme is being done quietly, in a way most Juno
users may not even be aware of....

"When I did some additional digging, I came to the alarming
conclusion that Juno is probably just the first of many
companies that will try to grab a little (or not so little)
piece of your system. Soon--- very soon--- you may be at risk
every time you download any software, music or videos; install
any drivers or upgrade any programs; or even just connect to
any ISP in the future.... Is Juno's power-grab a case of one,
or--- as I believe--- is this something we'll see a lot more
of in the future?"


Fred Langa is not usually given to alarmism, so he may or may
not be right about others following Juno's lead (although the
technology is there to do such things), but the situation with
Juno.com is more than hypothetical:  it is announced policy.

Bob Rankin in the February 27, 2001 Internet Tourbus also
warns his readers about Juno.com's plans.

"If you use Juno's free Internet service, you should be aware
of a new policy the company announced.... Juno Online Services
has announced the establishment of ... a distributed computing
project that seeks to 'harness the unused processing power' of
the computers owned by subscribers to Juno's free service.
In other words, Juno plans to use YOUR computer to run
"computationally intensive ... applications" for the benefit
of commercial clients....

"Under the new terms of service, Juno users must allow the
downloading of software to perform these calculations, must
agree to leave their computer on 24 hours a day if requested,
and give Juno permission to initiate a telephone connection
to Juno's central computers at any time.

"This announcement gave the shivers to privacy pundits, who
worry that it may open the door for government investigators
to use Juno to gain access to customers' computers without
their knowledge.  Granted, privacy pundits stay awake nights
dreaming up doomsday scenarios. But if you're a Juno user,
you'll have to decide if it's worth saving a few bucks a month
to put up with these new requirements."


Someone has described radio, television, and the Internet as
"the home invaders," and this latest development seems to be
a disturbing example of what kinds of "home invasion" can be
possible.  With Juno.com, it appears to be a matter of forcing
your computer to work for Juno (and various third parties),
but the technology raises privacy issues as well, as Rankin's
comments make clear.  The U.S. government has already announced
its plans to spy on the email of certain U.S. citizens through
a program known as "Carnivore," and the topic has created much
discussion, pro and con.  See, for example, news stories such
as the following:

About.com: "Carnivore No Threat to Privacy FBI Says"

About.com: "I-Spy : Critics Blast Cyber Snooping Device"

TechTV: "FBI Defends Email Spy Tool Before Congress"

ZDNet: "FBI's Carnivore: Gnawing at Liberty?"

ZDNet: "Battle Over Your Inbox: Why the Feds Want Snooping Rights"

You may or may not be concerned about what the U.S. government
could do, so far as invading your home computer through the
technology employed by Juno.com is concerned.  The point,
however, is this:  the technology is there to be misused by
whoever chooses to misuse it.

Thus care needs to be exercised before you allow others to use
or invade your computer.  If you choose to use Juno.com as a
free Internet access provider, you need to be aware of what
that may mean.  And you may wish to keep yourself informed on
such issues through such newsletters as the following:


Internet Tourbus


Looking for a exciting computer games that is wholesome in
content and not characterized by "blood and guts"? Such games
exist.  One of the most popular computer games of all time
was/is Myst, a game that challenges the mind and does not
rely on violence, sex, etc., the way many of today's computer
games do.

World magazine has some interesting background on Myst and
on its worthy sequel Riven:

"... the best-selling computer game of all -- in fact, the
best-selling CD-ROM of any kind, at over 3.5 million copies
sold -- was created by Christians. Rand and Robyn Miller's
Myst has no violence..., nor does it trade on other kinds of
morally problematic behavior. Instead, it is a quiet and
contemplative game, appealing to both children and adults,
which immerses the player in a fascinating imaginary world.
And now there is a sequel, Riven."

Randy and Robyn Miller are not only Christians, but also
"P.K.'s" (Preacher's Kids):

"Sons of an evangelical minister, the Miller brothers are
avowed Christians, and their values are reflected in both
games, which favor contemplation over action and reflection
over reflex. The games depict peaceful, yet intriguing
environments riddled with enigmas that the player must make
sense of.... Although neither is overtly Christian in
content, both promote careful observation and thought, and
the ability to make connections and put details together
to see a larger whole. This is a fantasy that, in our
irrationalist age, encourages reason. The world of Myst
and Riven -- like the real world -- may seem strange and
mysterious at first, but in the end it is coherent, orderly,
and imbued with meaning."

Myst and Riven may be implicitly Christian, but how about
a good computer game that is explicitly Christian?  Do such
games exist?  Well, there is at least one game that is worth
noting, which -- although perhaps not up to the quality of
Myst and Riven -- is a quality game for which there is no
need to apologize.

The game is called Catechumen, and it merited a two-page
feature article in Christianity Today magazine's special
technology issue of February 21, 2001.  Here's where you
can read that article online:

Christianity Today: "Trained to Thrill?: The first Christian
    video game with a decent budget is garnering praise from

The game is called Catechumen, as I said, and it has been
released by N'Lightning Software.  Here's where you will
find their home page (and where you can download a demo of
the game):


Here are some of the positive review comments Catechumen has

USA Today
"Nothing sets the gamer's eyes rolling quite like the words
'family oriented' or 'Christian action' stamped on a video
game box. Such terms often mean little more than pious
nonsense and cheesy graphics masquerading as electronic
entertainment. Occasionally, however, a title comes along like
the Christian-theme Catechumen (kat uh KYOO mun) that deftly
matches its secular counterparts challenge for challenge and
thrill for thrill.... Catechumen seems too much of a good time
to count as a digital devotional."

Christian Gaming
"Overall the game is a thrill ride. It offers fast paced
action, variety and beautiful graphics....  The graphics
are on par with all but the few best 3D games on the market
today. The sound and level design are well done...."

"Catechumen is well worth your time to check out. This
game should provide hours of enjoyment and possibly
even enlightenment.... [T]he concept is highly original
and a somewhat refreshing change from typical FPS's....
All in all, I found Catechumen to be highly engrossing
and entertaining.... There have been other games before
this one that have been based ... on biblical events....
It's a difficult task at best to produce a viable product
that not only meets the demanding quality standards of the
industry, but also presents its message in a way which
enhances rather than detracts from gameplay.... Catechumen
strikes a wonderful balance. It never gets to the point of
forcing religious beliefs on the player. They are integrated
seamlessly into a storyline that would be diminished by
their absence.... [Catechumen] proves you don't need blood
and guts for a great game." ["FPS" games refers to "First
Person Shooter" games; in Catechumen the weapon is the Sword
of the Spirit. --BAT]

GameZone Online
"Catechumen is a Christian-based RPG that incorporates
Scripture, adventure and intrigue. This program presents a
welcomed spin on an established genre. Though the game is
Christian in outlook, it is still broad-based enough in its
storyline to appeal to everyone."

Just Adventure	
"Adventure gamers who have been searching for the perfect
action game to baptize their trigger fingers should look no
further than Catechumen."

National Gamers Guild
"Overall, I found Catechumen to be a great game.... It is
a solid Christian game that will also have appeal to the
secular market. It doesn't come off as preachy like a lot of
Christian games can, but at the same time is solidly rooted
in scripture. The game is exciting and provided me with many
hours of enjoyment, along with many tense moments...."

Suite 101.com
"It would be easy to dismiss Catechumen as just a religious
game and walk away from it. However to do that would be to
dismiss a whole lot of fun.... Catechumen was developed by
N'Lightning Software and the game is unabashedly religious
and the developers make no apologies for this. Nor should
they.... The bottom line with this game is: TRY THIS GAME!
Visit the site ( http://www.catechumen.com/ ) and download
the demo...."

I must confess that I tend to prefer thinking-type games over
action/adventure RPGs (Role Playing Games), so I prefer games
like Myst and Riven to games like Catechumen, but I think I'm
probably in the minority there.  When I was programming for
a Texas Instruments computer known as the TI-99/4A, I wrote a
number of thinking-type games, including "Giant and Dwarfs,"
"Tic-Tac-Toe (Philadelphia Style)," and a collection of games
called "Coney Games" (games I hope to bring over into the PC
world), but I've never tried action/adventure games and maybe
I never will.  So I have not played Catechumen myself and am
not able to offer comments based on my own experience with the
game; you'll have to talk with friends and to read the full
reviews to learn more about the strengths (and weaknesses?)
of Catechumen.

If you've played the game yourself, however, I'd love to read
your comments.  Please feel free to write to me at the email
address cati@traver.org.  Thanks!


This is the fiftieth 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

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.

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) 2001 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.