"Christians And The Internet" newsletter
CATI, Vol. 3, No. 13:  November 15, 2002



The latest revision of this issue of "CATI" can be accessed
online at http://traver.org/cati/archives/cati76.htm.  The
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Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is
Copyright (C) 2002 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved.  See
the end of this issue for more information on "CATI."


During the fundamentalism/modernism controversies that took
place in the 1920's, a great defender of historic, Biblical
Christianity was J. Gresham Machen of Princeton Seminary.
One particularly influential book was his Christianity and
Liberalism, a book whose virtues were admired even by those
who did not hold to traditional Protestantism or, for that
matter, hold to any profession of religious belief.

One example of such was Walter Lippman, who in his book A
Preface to Morals (1929) wrote at some length about the
controversy and Machen's book:
Fundamentalism is....avowedly a reaction within the
Protestant communions against what the President of the
World's Christian Fundamentalist Association rather
accurately described as 'that weasel method of sucking the
meaning out of words, and then presenting the empty shells
in an attempt to palm them off as giving the Christian
faith a new and another interpretation.'...

There is...a reasoned case against the modernists....[T]his
case has been stated in a little book called Christianity
and Liberalism by a man who is both a scholar and a
gentleman. The author is Professor J. Gresham Machen of
the Princeton Theological Seminary. It is an admirable book.
For its acumen, for its saliency, and for its wit, this cool
and stringent defense of orthodox Protestantism is, I think,
the best popular argument produced by either side in the
current controversy. We shall do well to listen to Dr.

Dr. Machen insists, rightly I think, that the historic
influence of Christianity on the mass of men has depended
upon their belief that an historic drama was enacted in
Palestine nineteen hundred years ago during the reign of
the Emperor Tiberius. The veracity of that story was [is?]
fundamental to the Christian Church....  The fundamentalist
goes to the very heart of the matter, therefore, when he
insists that you have destroyed the popular foundations of
religion if you make your gospel a symbolic record of
experience, and reject it as an actual record of events.

The liberals have yet to answer Dr. Machen when he [argues
that "the] Christian movement at its inception was not just
a way of life in the modern sense, but a way of life founded
upon a message. It was based, not upon mere feeling, not
upon a mere program of work, but on an account of facts." It
was based on the story of the birth, the life, the ministry,
the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That story
set forth the facts which certify the Christian experience.

Modernism, which in varying degree casts doubt upon the
truth of that story, may therefore be defined as an attempt
to preserve selected parts of the experience after the facts
which inspired it have been rejected. The orthodox believer
may be mistaken as to the facts in which he believes. But he
is not mistaken in thinking that you cannot...have a faith of
which the only foundation is their need and desire to believe.
The historic churches, without any important exceptions, I
think, have founded faith on clear statements about matters
of fact, historic events...."


Similarly, the irreverent H.L. Mencken in his newspaper
article "Dr. Fundamentalist" had much praise for Machen:
The Rev. J. Gresham Machen, D. D....was actually a man of
great learning, and, what is more, of sharp intelligence.
What caused him to quit the Princeton Theological Seminary
and found a seminary of his own was his complete inability,
as a theologian, to square the disingenuous evasions of
Modernism with the fundamentals of Christian doctrine. He
saw clearly that the only effects that could follow diluting
and polluting Christianity in the Modernist manner would be
its complete abandonment and ruin. Either it was true or it
was not true. If, as he believed, it was true, then there
could be no compromise with persons who sought to whittle
away its essential postulates, however respectable their

Thus he fell out with the reformers who [were] trying...to
convert the Presbyterian Church into a kind of literary and
social club, devoted vaguely to good works. His one and only
purpose was to hold [the Church] resolutely to what he
conceived to be the true faith. When that enterprise met
with opposition, he fought vigorously, and though he lost
in the end and was forced out of Princeton it must be
manifest that he marched off to Philadelphia with all the
honors of war....

...I never had the honor of meeting him. Moreover, the
doctrine that he preached seemed to me...to be excessively

dubious.... But Dr. Machen had the same clear right to
believe in it that I have to disbelieve in it, and though
I could not yield to his reasoning I could at least admire,
and did greatly admire, his remarkable clarity and cogency
as an apologist, allowing him his primary assumptions....

...[H]is opponents....essayed to overhaul the scriptural
authority which lay at the bottom of the whole matter,
retaining what coincided with their private notions and
rejecting whatever upset them.

Upon this contumacy Dr. Machen fell with loud shouts of
alarm. He denied absolutely that anyone had a right to
revise and sophisticate Holy Writ. Either it was the Word
of God or it was not the Word of God, and if it was, then
it was equally authoritative in all its details, and had
to be accepted or rejected as a whole. Anyone was free to
reject it, but no one was free to mutilate it or to read
things into it that were not there.

Thus the issue with the Modernists was clearly joined, and
Dr. Machen argued them quite out of court, and sent them
scurrying.... His operations...at least disposed of those
who proposed to read [Holy Writ] as they might read a
newspaper, believing what they chose and rejecting what
they chose....

It is my belief, as a friendly neutral in all such high and
ghostly matters, that the body of doctrine known as Modernism
is completely incompatible, not only with anything rationally
describable as Christianity, but also with anything deserving
to pass as religion in general. Religion, if it is to retain
any genuine significance, can never be reduced to a series of
sweet attitudes, possible to anyone not actually in jail for
felony. It is, on the contrary, a corpus of powerful and
profound convictions, many of them not open to logical
analysis.... It is potent in a man in proportion as he is
willing to...accept its fundamental postulates....

These postulates, at least in the Western world, have been
challenged in recent years on many grounds.... But it is
one thing to reject religion altogether, and quite another
thing to try to save it by pumping out of it all its
essential substance....

That, it seems to me, is what the Modernists have done....
What they have left, once they have achieved their imprudent
scavenging, is hardly more than a row of hollow platitudes,
as empty of psychological force and effect as so many
nursery rhymes....

Religion is something else again.... Dr. Machen tried to
impress that obvious fact upon his fellow [Presbyterians].
He failed--but he was undoubtedly right.


Machen did not like the term "fundamentalist" (he believed
not merely in five or so "fundamentals of the faith" but
in "the whole counsel of God" in the Bible as summarized in
the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms), but when
the battle-lines were drawn between the "fundamentalists"
and the "modernists," he did not hesitate to take his
stand with the "fundamentalists" as over against those who
denied fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith (the
trustworthiness of Scripture, the virgin birth and deity
of Jesus Christ, His death as a substitutionary atonement,
His bodily resurrection, and His second coming).

The battle was largely lost in the mainline Protestant
denominations (such as Machen's own Presbyterian church)
and seminaries (such as Princeton).  In response, Machen
was involved in the founding of Westminster Seminary and
was also one of the founders of what is now the Orthodox
Presbyterian Church.  (I count myself priileged to be a
graduate of Westminster Seminary -- M.Div; Th.M. in New
Testament -- and an ordained minister in the Orthodox
Presbyterian Church.)

You can read J. Gresham Machen's Christianity and Liberalism,
the entire book, online at any of the following addresses:

J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism

Following is a list of many (but not all) of the writings of
J. Gresham Machen available online:

"The Atonement"

The Christian Faith in the Modern World (book)

"Christianity and Culture"

Christianity and Liberalism (book)

The Creeds and Doctrinal Advance"

"The Doctrine of the Atonement" (three parts)

"The Fear of God"

"History and Faith"

"The Importance of Christian Scholarship"

"Jesus and Paul" (essay)

"Liberalism or Christianity?" (essay)

"The Life of Christ"

"The Living Saviour" (sermon)

"The Minister and His Greek New Testament"

"My Idea of God" (PDF file)

"New Testament Greek: A Brief Introduction"

New Testament Greek for Beginners (book)

"On the Deity of Christ" (seven parts)

The Origin of Paul's Religion (book)

"Prophets False and True" (sermon)

"The Proposed Department of Education"

"The Resurrection of Christ"

"What Is Christianity?" (essay)

"The Witness of Paul"

Various excerpts, essays, etc.

And here is a list of some online articles about J.
Gresham Machen:

Barr, James Daniel. "Newspaper Coverage of J. Gresham
    Machen's Ecclesiastical Trial In 1935" (Premise)

Hart, Darryl. "Bibliographic Essay on the Works of J.
    Gresham Machen" (Premise)

Hart, D.G., and John R. Meuther.  "J. Gresham Machen and the
    Regulative Principle." (Premise)

Hawkins, Craig S.  "A Short History of the Life of J.G.
    Machen: His Relevance for Today -- '...by Faith He
    Still Speaks, even though He is Dead'" (written by
    a non-Calvinist, but helpful and informative)

Helseth, Paul Kjoss. "J. Gresham Machen and 'True Science':
    Machen's Apologetical Continuity with Old Princeton's
    Right Use of Reason" (Premise)

"Lessons from J. Gresham Machen" (summary of an address
    by Carl Trueman)

Oliver, Randy.  "Defender of the Faith: The Life of John
    Gresham Machen (two parts)

Piper, John. "J. Gresham Machen's Response to Modernism"

Rosenthal, Shane.  "Was J. Gresham Machen A Consistent
    Calvinist?: Van Til vs. Machen & The Princeton
    Apologetic of Common Sense."

Schlect, Chris.  "Machen Against Fundamentalism"
    (Credenda Agenda)

Sundberg, Walter. "J. Gresham Machen: Christianity and
    Liberalism (1923)" (First Things)

Walker, Daniel F.  "J. Gresham Machen: A Forgotten



If you receive an electronic greeting card from an unknown
source or even get an unexpected card from someone you know),
it may be wise for you to hold off on opening it until you
confirm its authenticity (e.g., by first checking with the
family member or friend it claims to be from).  Otherwise you
may be exposing yourself or those you know to spam mail or
pop-up pornography ads.  If you get an E-Card, for example,
from "friendlygreetings.com," delete it (and check out any
other suspicious e-cards before opening them)!

This warning is not an "urban legend" (like the rumor passed
around earlier about Blue Mountain e-cards), but actual fact.
Here's how TruthOrFiction describes the situation:

"Summary of the eRumor. A warning is circulating on the
Internet about a 'virus-like' program that says a friend
has sent you an e-card, but if you respond to it, all the
addresses in your Outlook address book will be sent to the
greeting card company. The Truth. The warning is true.
What appears to be an invitation to read an e-card actually
forwards your Outlook addresses to a Spammer who will be
sending advertisements to your friends [quite possibly]
about pornography."

I added the words "quite possibly," because apparently the
same approach is now being used by other spammers as well.
("Spam" is Internet slang for unasked-for e-mail, such as
get-rich-quick schemes, invitations to pornographic sites,
etc.) TruthOrFiction warns of that and suggests some ways
to protect yourself:

"Virus experts are warning that there are other companies now
trying this tactic.  They suggest avoiding installing programs
from emails and that if there is fine-print, read it.  Also,
Lawrence Baldwin, president of Internet security firm
myNetWatchman.com told CNN that he suggests disabling the
Internet Explorer function that allows browsers to instantly
download ActiveX Controls."

If you read the fine print, you may discover that you are
giving the company permission to have the program send to
them all the e-mail addresses in your address book.  For
this reason and since the program does not do any actual
damage to your computer, it's not technically a virus and
thus is sometimes ignored by anti-virus programs.

The same e-Card approach that is used to gather e-mail
addresses to which to send spam, either pornographic or
otherwise, can be used to install pornographic pop-up ads:

"A trojan progam called Ortyc sends out a goofy graphic
e-card that installs a marketing program that assaults you
with porn pop-up ads. The e-card may arrive as an email with
a message alerting you that you have received an e-card. It
then links you to the website, where a permission box pops
up saying an extra program is needed to view the card. This
is what secretly installs the porn pop-up program."

Not all electronic greeting cards are booby-trapped, of

"There are still legitimate e-greeting cards out there, but
overall, security experts say that users should take caution
when opening such messages. As with any suspect e-mails,
experts recommend that receivers of such e-greeting messages
should personally contact the sender to verify that the e-mail
was indeed sent by them."

For further information on the situation, check out these
online articles:

"ABCNews: "E-Cards Delivering Nasty Greetings: Hackers and
    Marketers Tap Into Popularity of Virtual Greeting Cards"
    by Becky Worley (slightly different from the Tech Live

CNN.com: "E-mail greeting card hides porn" by Jeordan Legon

MSNBC: "Wormlike e-card still spreading"

NewScientist.com: "Email greeting card hides spam software"
    by Willl Knight

Tech Live: "E-cards Delivering Nasty Greetings: Virus writers,
    spammers, and porn peddlers are finding e-greetings a
    useful means to deliver their wares" by Becky Worley
    (slightly different from the ABCNews article)


In October 2002, two popular Internet Service Providers --
America Online (AOL) and Microsoft Network (MSN) -- offered
a new version of their software.  Both called the update
version 8.0, so the purpose of this article is to compare
AOL 8.0 and MSN 8.0, for the sake of readers who would like
to compare the competition with what they already have.

Although we may take a brief look at other things as well,
the emphasis here will be on "family-friendliness" and on
parental control options, since I expect that area may be
of particular interest to CATI readers.

Both AOL 8.0 and MSN 8.0 were reviewed recently by Dan
Tynet.  The results of his comparison were published by
both ZDNet and CNET.  Those reports form the starting
point for our discussion here.

Before we go into particulars, here's the bottom line:

"If you use AOL and don't like it much, MSN 8.0 is a family-
friendly alternative. Get it if you need parental controls
and surfing filters, but Net-savvy surfers shouldn't switch
from another ISP.... Net newbies, disgruntled AOL users, and
those with families should look to MSN 8.0 for the best all-
in-one Internet package, but anyone using another ISP, such
as EarthLink, needn't switch."

Neither AOL nor MSN at present offers a perfect package to
parents, but -- between the two -- MSN is more "family-
friendly," judging from Tynan's reviews:

CNET review of AOL 8.0

CNET review of MSN 8.0

ZDNet: "The Great Eights: AOL 8.0 vs. MSN 8.0"

ZDNet review of AOL 8.0

ZDNet review of MSN 8.0

If you're considering changing your Internet Service Provider
and are thinking of AOL or MSN, I recommend that you read the
full reports before deciding (but keep in mind also that they
represent primarily one person's opinion you are reading) and
that you check out other reviews of both services where it is

Let's look at parental controls on AOL 8.0 and MSN 8.0.

"...MSN's new parental controls are more sophisticated than
AOL's. As with America Online, you pick one of four age
settings for each member; at the strictest setting (age nine
or under), children must obtain permission before exchanging
mail with strangers, entering a chat room, downloading a
file, or accessing all but a handful of Web sites. A unique
feature lets parents grant permission by filling in a box on
the child's screen or responding to e-mail; parents can also
obtain weekly reports detailing their child's online activity.
(AOL plans to introduce similar parental controls later....)"

In his review of "AOL vs. MSN," John Morris offers similar

"It's a sad commentary that some of the most prominent new
features in the 8.0 versions are meant to protect users from
the Internet and e-mail, rather than take best advantage of
them. Both services include expanded parental controls
starting with simple, age-based controls, but Microsoft
[i.e., MSN] has given a little more thought to how these
controls will actually work for busy families. For example,
you can bar specific sites or e-mail addresses (both services
let you block downloads) and get a regular report of your
children's online activities."

Michael Martinez at Kiplinger.com, going into even further
detail in this area:
"Parental controls. For a while, AOL was the only major
service to have parental controls -- settings that parents
could use to monitor and control their kids' Web surfing
habits. MSN didn't have them in past versions but more than
made up for it in 8.0. AOL's trend-setting parental controls
look simple and tired now, giving parents just a handful of
options based on their child's age and maturity.

MSN took things about 50 steps further. Parents can not only
assign filters to Web sites based on age but can also identify
categories of Web sites or specific sites that your child can
or can't access. If your kid comes across a site that he or
she really wants to view but is blocked, you can be petitioned
via e-mail to see the site. If you agree, you can then give
your child immediate access via e-mail.

MSN also offers more flexibility in mail and messenger use,
and can even control access to the child's "buddy list" and
address book to prevent unwanted messages from appearing.
Parents can go in and generate reports at any time. So if
you really want to be paranoid, you can scan your kids'
surfing every day.... You can shut down the child's access
from wherever you're logged in, at work or at home. If
there's homework to be done, rest assured that your kid
is actually working on the computer instead of goofing off."


For further discussion of the improved parental controls in
MSN 8.0, see the following:

Arizona Star: "New features in MSN 8.0 give parents more
    control" by James Coates of the Chicago Tribune

Currently MSN offers parents more control, but that's good
even for AOL users, because it forces AOL to play "catch up"
in the future, as John Morris indicates:

"...AOL promises to slip in many of MSN 8.0's features, such
as parental reports, in coming months. But for now, if you're
looking for a new ISP and want the added features of an
online service, MSN 8.0 is the clear choice."

In the comparisons I saw, MSN 8.0 seemed consistently to be
preferred over AOL 8.0.  CNET gave MSN an 8 (out of 10) and
AOL a 6.  ZDNet gave MSN a 7.8 and AOL a 6.4 (essentially
the same as CNET, as we might expect, since Dan Tynan is
the basis for both), but user ratings at ZDNet also showed
a preference for MSN over AOL (8.4 vs. 5.3).  The results
of a benchmark study by the Usability Sciences Corporation
claims to have shown "MSN 8.0 to be the preferred product
over AOL 8.0 by a three to one margin":

"The results indicate that MSN 8 was, by a substantial margin,
the product of choice among consumers. The sample population
recruited for this study reflects subscription patterns across
the wider Internet population. The 150-user sample consisted:
30 percent current AOL users, 10 percent current MSN users,
and 60 percent Internet users of neither product. The study
required the 150 users to execute a series of commonly
performed tasks on MSN 8.0 and AOL 8.0. Seventy five percent
(75%) of users preferred MSN 8.0 over AOL 8.0. Twenty five
percent (25%) of users preferred AOL 8.0 over MSN 8.0."

But perhaps it ought to be mentioned also that "The benchmark
was commissioned by Microsoft," so this study may not be as
persuasive as it might otherwise have been.

Final thoughts:  MSN may offer more functions and more control
to parents than AOL at present, but AOL is easier to use, so
there may be reason for some people (especially the "newbie
newbies") to prefer AOL over MSN.  And parental control on
neither is perfect (as I've often said, the best parental
control is done not by parental control software, but by
parents involved in the lives of their children).  Also, it
should be said that there are other options besides AOL and
MSN (including family-friendly "filtering" Internet Service
Providers), options which cost no more (and often cost less)
than AOL and MSN.

Ultimately, the choice is yours as to what is best for you
and your family.  My purpose in CATI is simply to provide
information so that you may make a more intelligent and
informed choice.  If you're not satisfied with what you
have now, you may want to consider switching (once you
are convinced that what you're switching to is better
for your own specific situation).

Here are a few more online articles that may contain
useful information on AOL 8.0 and MSN 8.0:

ABCNews.com: First Look: AOL 8.0

ABCNews.com: First Look: MSN 8.0

MSNBC News: Review: AOL 8.0 vs. MSN 8.0


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Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is
Copyright (C) 2002 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved.