The internet can be a valuable information resource for Christians, if it is used sensibly. Some believers may already be online, others may be considering installing the internet in their own homes. This article aims to inform such about effective Internet usage and to encourage others to indulge.
What is ‘the Internet'?
The Internet is a vast global network of computers. It provides standardized facilities for storing and exchanging digital information. The Internet was originally sponsored by the US military as a research project in the 1960s. It gained prominence in the 1990s, by which time the world of commerce had seen its potential. Now, the Internet is an everyday reality and an essential part of the world’s communication infrastructure.
How do I get online?
You do need a modern personal computer. Most recent computers will work on the Windows XP operating system, which is ideal for connecting to the Internet. A web browser such as Internet Explorer should be already installed on the computer you buy. This program enables you to receive and view web pages. These web pages contain the majority of online information that is accessible by you as the user.
Having got the equipment you now need to get online. There are two ways to do this. Almost all new computers contain a modem. This is a device that plugs your computer into an ordinary telephone line. This enables you to dial an Internet service provider each time you want to get onto the Internet, which is one route to getting online. However a modem is a slow connection, since it is unable to transfer large amounts of information quickly. It is sufficient for occasional, non-intensive access to the Internet. The faster route is via ‘broadband’. This involves arranging a broadband connection with your telephone company. It may require a home visit from an engineer. There can be an installation charge, and then there is a fixed monthly fee. Broadband is the more expensive connection route, but it is much faster than a modem and a continuous connection. It is only required for frequent, intensive access to the Internet.
What does it provide?
The Internet enables you to access huge repositories of online information, via the World Wide Web. For instance, as a Christian, you may like to read different editions of the Bible and a selection of good commentaries. If you have an Internet connection then you do not have to buy them. Also you may choose to listen to recordings of hymns and Bible teaching meetings, search for children’s resources, or discover the latest news about missionaries. All can be easily obtained through the Internet.
How do I prevent misuse?
As with all man-made inventions, the Internet requires caution in its use since there is great potential for sinful misuse. Plenty of unhelpful and unsavory material is freely available as well as the vast amount of good and useful material. As with all broadcast media in the 21st century one does not need to look too hard to find items to feed ‘the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life’, 1 John 2. 16. Christians should be assured that sufficient safeguards are in place to prevent accidental access to this kind of material. Most web browsers and search tools have security options that can be set up to avoid ‘unsafe’ material and will exclude virtually all of it from access through your system.
Computer viruses pose another danger. Malicious programmers create programs that can be transmitted automatically to your machine. These ‘virus’ programs can damage your system and destroy your stored information. Alternatively, they may try to steal private information such as your banking details. An up-to-date virus protection tool is essential. Another helpful item is a ‘Firewall’ that prevents unauthorized programs from accessing your machine. An all-in-one Internet security package is probably the safest (although most expensive!) option. Most new computers arrive with such software already installed.
Common objections to the use of the Internet
Some Christians are sincerely opposed to the Internet. They see it as yet another transmission facility for worldly ideology and a powerful instrument for evil. Others believe that computer-networking technology will play a major role in the administration of Satan’s ruler the Beast’s regime during the future tribulation and Christians are well advised to keep away from using it. Such prejudice, if well founded, would prevent any genuine believer from venturing online. However, this article advocates a more pragmatic opinion.
Good reasons why Christians should use the Internet
Mankind, over the course of history, has made many inventions. Generally inventions are neutral, and ultimately it is only the use these inventions are put to that can be classified as ‘good’ or ‘evil’. Consider the construction industry, for instance. Its earliest proponents were responsible for the Tower of Babel, Gen. 11, decidedly anti-God in character. Later, builders worked on Solomon’s Temple, which Jehovah Himself owned as ‘an house unto the name of the Lord’, 1 Kgs. 5. 5. In a similar way, the computer industry is neutral, but computer technology may be applied for ‘good’ or ‘evil’ as man chooses and uses. As a second example, we might consider the civilization of the Roman Empire. This was predicted by Daniel’s prophecies, and is an illustration of God’s foreknowledge and providence. However, men according to God’s providential will, created the Roman Empire. For many years, it was entirely opposed to the people of God, whether Jews or Christians. However, no one will deny that the superb Roman infrastructure was a contributory factor, again, according to God’s providential will, in the rapid spread of the gospel. The world could not have been turned upside down by the gospel so quickly, without Roman roads and the Greek language. Again, this shows that God can use man’s inventions to bring about His purpose in blessing.
How do I determine whether information is reliable?
This question raises one of the more subtle dangers in using the Internet and it stems from the unmoderated nature of its content. A great deal of information purports to be ‘Christian’ or ‘Bible-based’ yet it is unreliable doctrine propagated by false teachers in cults or Christendom. All teaching must be assessed carefully in the light of scripture. A Berean attitude of searching diligently in the scriptures to see that these things are so and resorting to the word of God for all backup, is essential. However, given suitable caution, a wealth of appropriate and reliable Bible-based information is readily available online.
How do I avoid wasting time?
The Internet requires discipline. This is true of all our activities. We must not allow our servants to become our masters. While the Internet may be absorbing at times, we should not allow it to impinge on our personal walk with God, or on our fellowship with other believers. Paul certainly believed in good time management, 1 Thess. 4. 11, and we should adhere to the same principle in our lives.
How do I become computer literate?
The Internet requires some expertise. A certain basic level of computer literacy is required for effective Internet usage. Nowadays, such skills are readily acquired from library books or grandchildren! Many Colleges, Councils and employers run free courses for beginners. Patience and cheerful perseverance are great aids.
The Internet is a valuable resource. Christians should use it with caution and discipline. It must not replace conventional Bible study, but it may be a helpful source of aid and encouragement. The next few issues of the magazine will highlight interesting and reliable websites as a guide and help to beginners. Also note that the new Precious Seed website is described elsewhere in the current issue.
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