"Christians and the Internet" newsletter CATI, Vol. 2, No. 5: February 28, 2001. _______________________________________________________________ TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. CHRISTIANITY TODAY MAGAZINE'S SPECIAL TECHNOLOGY ISSUE 2. JUNO USERS: A WARNING YOU MAY WANT TO CONSIDER 3. CATECHUMEN: A CHRISTIAN GAME GETTING SECULAR ATTENTION 4. SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION FOR THIS NEWSLETTER _______________________________________________________________ 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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.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. _______________________________________________________________ 1. CHRISTIANITY TODAY MAGAZINE'S SPECIAL TECHNOLOGY ISSUE 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 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ctmag/ 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?" http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/003/1.32.html 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 square." And here's where you'll find the article online: Christianity Today: "Did Open Debate Help the Openness Debate?" http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/003/3.42.html 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." http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/003/3.42.html 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: DesiringGod.org http://www.desiringgod.org/ "Foreknowledge" http://www.desiringgod.org/About_DGM/DGMFAQs/TheologyFAQ/Foreknowledge.htm Here is Pastor Piper's judgment of this new theological perspective: "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." http://www.desiringgod.org/About_DGM/DGMFAQs/TheologyFAQ/Foreknowledge.htm 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 community." Here's where you can find the Christianity Today article online: Christianity Today: "Not Just for Visitors" http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/003/10.17.html 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." http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/003/10.17.html Here's where you can find the Pew study itself: Pew Internet and American Life Project http://www.pewinternet.org/reports/toc.asp?Report=28 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" http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/003/11.17.html Christianity Today: "Feds Teach Kids Not to Hack: FBI launches morality education program for would-be computer criminals" http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/003/16.24.html Christianity Today: "Christian Nonprofits Divided on IRS Proposals: Web sites may have to limit hyperlinks and monitor message boards for political activity" http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/003/15.22.html Christianity Today: "Good Idea, Fallible Filters: Why even free-speechers liked the Children's Internet Protection Act" http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/003/20.30.html Christianity Today: "No Luddites Here: Evangelicals have (almost) always been quick to adopt communications technologies" http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/003/5.50.html 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" http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/004/36.45.html Christianity Today: "Tangled in the Worst of the Web: What Internet porn did to one pastor, his wife, his ministry, their life" http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/004/1.42.html 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 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ctmag/ Enjoy! _______________________________________________________________ 2. JUNO USERS: A WARNING YOU MAY WANT TO CONSIDER 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: LangaList http://www.langa.com/ Internet Tourbus http://www.tourbus.com/ 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." http://www.langa.com/newsletters/2001/2001-02-08.htm#1 ________________________________ 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?" http://www.langa.com/newsletters/2001/2001-02-26.htm#4 ________________________________ 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." http://listserv.aol.com/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0102D&L=tourbus&P=R193&m=1 ________________________________ 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" http://usgovinfo.about.com/newsissues/usgovinfo/library/news/aa071300b.htm About.com: "I-Spy : Critics Blast Cyber Snooping Device" http://usnews.about.com/newsissues/usnews/library/weekly/aa071300a.htm TechTV: "FBI Defends Email Spy Tool Before Congress" http://www.techtv.com/news/politicsandlaw/story/0,23008,10194,00.html ZDNet: "FBI's Carnivore: Gnawing at Liberty?" http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/2000/27/ns-16565.html ZDNet: "Battle Over Your Inbox: Why the Feds Want Snooping Rights" http://www.zdnet.com/anchordesk/stories/story/0,10738,2606926,00.html?chkpt=zdhpnews02 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: LangaList http://www.langa.com/ Internet Tourbus http://www.tourbus.com/ _______________________________________________________________ 3. CATECHUMEN: A CHRISTIAN GAME GETTING SECULAR ATTENTION 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." http://www.worldmag.com/world/issue/12-06-97/cultural_5.asp 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." http://www.worldmag.com/world/issue/12-06-97/cultural_5.asp 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 critics" http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/003/8.60.html 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): Catechumen http://www.catechumen.com/ Here are some of the positive review comments Catechumen has received: 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." http://www.usatoday.com/life/cyber/tech/review/games/cgg241.htm 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...." http://www.christiangaming.com/Reviews/XCatechumenFull.html GamesDomain "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] http://www.gamesdomain.com/gdreview/zones/reviews/pc/oct00/cate.html 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." http://www.gamezone.com/gzreviews/r15810.htm Just Adventure "Adventure gamers who have been searching for the perfect action game to baptize their trigger fingers should look no further than Catechumen." http://www.justadventure.com/reviews/Catechumen/Catechumen.asp 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...." http://nggnet.com/games/pcgames/articlesreviews/catechumen.htm 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...." http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/computer_gaming_previews_reviews/53144 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 email@example.com. Thanks! _______________________________________________________________ 4. SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION FOR THIS NEWSLETTER 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 "Internet"). To subscribe, write to firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com. 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.