Public Library Pitfalls

Growing up forty years ago, my brothers, sisters, and I would often visit our local public library — especially during the summer months when we were not attending school. Usually, our parents were not with us during these visits as we lived within biking distance of the library. At that time, many of the current methods of entertainment (streaming music and video, DVDs, etc.) were not available. In the 1980s, the internet was in its infancy and not accessible to those outside of universities or the military.

At home, we did not have a television set, and instead, relied primarily on books to take us on adventures and experience historical events in our imaginations. As we grew older, graduated from high school, and attended college, we had less time for leisure reading. Now, as middle-aged parents, we are taking our children to the library. But, unlike some things in life, public libraries have not improved with age.

Public libraries have changed significantly over the last 40 years. Books promoting immorality have been part of libraries for decades, however now these themes are showing up in books for young people. Many books speak about “free love” and describe sexual acts without consequences; committing adultery seems quite normal. Books with LGTBQ characters are featured conspicuously for curious, young readers. Our local library featured a book about a little girl with “two mommies” on a shelf in plain view, easily accessible by its target audience — children. The children and young adult departments of our local libraries now contain large numbers of books dealing with horror themes as well as magic and fantasy motifs. Biographies and stories relating important historical events are now written from a left-wing “social justice” inspired point of view. They focus on marginalized persons, on “social justice” for the underrepresented and oppressed in society. When such books refer to religion, they give the impression that God’s Word deals solely with “social justice” – which can then become a religion of its own.

Some public libraries have a section dubbed “Christian fiction” or something similar. This might cause one to automatically believe that these books could be considered “good books”. However, the religion in those books is mostly a cheap, superficial religion which consists of “thanking God” and “always trusting God” during times of trouble. These books breathe Arminian thoughts and ideas which we should avoid. It is rare, in these types of books, to read about a sinner who became guilty before God and men. We do not hear how the Lord leads His people and begins His work in their life. Instead, these books generally speak of a religion where the characters begin immediately to “trust in God”. These types of books begin to sow the seeds of doubt about experiential truth as taught in the Scriptures. The question can then come to mind: is it really  necessary for us to be converted according to what we hear preached in our churches? Are we the only church denomination which teaches the truth and necessity of conversion according to God’s Word? Are all of the other churches and denominations wrong? Do we become jealous of those people who can trust in God so easily, despite their circumstances and difficulties? Dear friends, do we see the danger of slowly, but surely, getting more detached from the experimental truth and drawn into an Arminian lie?

In addition to lending books, many libraries have, for many years, made DVDs and Blu-Ray discs available for borrowing by patrons. Over the last decade, libraries have added iPads, Chromebooks (with an included wifi hotspot for internet access), and video game consoles (for playing video games at home). One very popular item are the take-home internet hotspot devices which allow a library user to get internet access wherever they take the hotspot device. These items are either available for free, or for a low rental fee.

Computers with internet access are often freely available in libraries, for children as well as adults. And, even though the “Children’s Internet Protection Act”, in the United States, requires computers used by library visitors to have filtered internet access , children are still able to access a multitude of topics and1 information which we would not allow into our homes. Canadian parents should be aware that their local libraries are not governed by a similar “Protection Act” It might be wise to only allow computer access at2 home where the computer (and mobile devices) can be electronically and visually monitored.

As can be imagined and considering how libraries have evolved in the past forty years, giving children, especially teenagers, unsupervised access to all of these materials (and possibly more, depending on the library) would be a huge mistake. Think twice before allowing your younger children to visit the library unaccompanied by a parent or a responsible brother or sister. If parents allow their children to get books from the public library, they should monitor what materials are being checked out, based on the ten commandments. The question should be asked, “How do the contents of this book hold up against the standard of God’s Word and the commandments?” Make some effort to help your children find good, solid literature they will enjoy. True to their sinful nature, and left to themselves, children are often drawn to books and other media that invite them into worlds of fantasy and magic. Moving to books dealing with dark fantasy and the occult is a possible next step. It is of great importance that parents talk with their children about why we must not read certain books and why the contents of many books are sinful in the eyes of the Lord. If the Israelites were warned to, “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:31), certainly we should take care in avoiding books and other materials dealing with these evils.

If you have them nearby, visit several local libraries – you may find that one could have less of the problematic materials described above. Some libraries are not so quick in getting rid of older books, which will generally have less objectionable themes and topics.

Seeing that many items in the public library cannot stand the test of portraying a morality according to God’s Word and the ten commandments, the question might be asked, “Are there alternatives to using the public library?” Yes – one option might be for parents to consider acquiring their own “family” library. Over time, begin buying good books from library book sales, thrift stores, and garage sales that might be selling books cheaply. This is something to begin with as soon as children are born as it takes time and some money to acquire good reading material. It’s quite satisfying as a parent, however, to see your children enjoying good books, bought with them in mind before they were even able to hold onto a book.

We had to bike along busy roads when we visited our local library as children. Our parents expressed some worry when we asked to visit the library – mostly concerned about our physical safety. Today, our children’s physical well-being is still important; however, we and our children also need to be protected from the moral and spiritual dangers lurking at the library. We need the Lord’s help and strength to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (I Peter 5:8).


1 Internet filtering is required in all libraries receiving funding from the United States federal government. Public libraries not receiving federal funds are not required to have internet filters installed.

2 Schulz, K. (2020). Internet filters in Canadian libraries. Pathfinder: A Canadian Journal for Information Science Students and Early Career Professionals, 1(2), 36-50. https://doi.org/10.29173/pathfinder23

“Lo, This Only Have I Found, that God Hath Made Man Upright; but They Have Sought Out Many Inventions” (Ecclesiastes 7:29)

This article written by Rev. John Witvoet was published in the January/February 2020 edition of “Insight Into” and is posted here with the author’s permission.


 

Friends, we live in an uncertain, fast-changing world, but what hasn’t changed is what is found in God’s Word as admonition and instruction. This is also true relating to our use of modern media and our devices. The Word of God is never outdated, not even in this postmodern era. “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

I think it can be safely said that much of the time when we are using our “devices,” we are treading on, or dangerously close to, enemy territory. The modern media has become the modern means the devil uses to subtly trap and ambush, or blatantly bombard both the wary and careless user alike. Although the means the devil uses are new, his devices are not, as we can see from God’s eternal Word. Nearly 2,000 years ago the Apostle Paul admonished the church in the progressive city of Ephesus to “put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:11-12). We read in Acts 19 that many of them from that congregation that used the media of the day (books) came together and burned those that were evil. Since then the devil has become all the more crafty and men all the more corrupt. In these modern times we can no longer simply destroy and be rid of all the means that the devil uses to infiltrate our eyes, ears, minds, and ultimately our hearts and souls.

We live in a world inundated by modern digital media! Infinite pieces of data abound, all accessible to us by over three million apps and nearly two billion websites. This does not even include digital personal files or proprietary business systems. We have become so dependent on modern media and modern digital technology to operate our businesses, to keep us efficient in our work, and for record keeping. It is an integral part of all of our modern lives. We use it in our studying, buying, selling, communicating, and in nearly every aspect of our lives. It has become impossible to function in the modern world without the use of this “new media.”

 

Satan’s tactics

Paul also writes of the devil’s tactics to the Corinthians, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11); in other words, his wide range of subtle and blatant attacks. And are these things not written in God’s Word for our “admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are to come” (1 Corinthians 10:11)?

First, what a brazen onslaught he wages against us! Every day, nearly at every moment, a barrage of attacks comes at us by way of the media that has become so much a part of all of our lives. It need not be proven that a vast majority of the content that comes to us every day by these means is blatantly wicked and contrary to God’s Word. It is feared that much soul-destroying content is being searched out or “stumbled across” by many of us on pornographic and lewd sites, but far more prevalent, and maybe equally as dangerous, is the endless searching and filling our minds with thousands of meaningless pieces of information. Even when it is not movies, videos, music videos, gaming and the like, surfing digital media has become a modern form of entertainment. With an endless supply, our precious time is not only wasted, but we have become addicted to consuming information.

Secondly, and more subtly, with the greater influx of modern media, printed and audible forms of media are being replaced. Reading and listening are becoming more and more difficult for the modern generation. We are constantly bombarded by texts, tweets, notifications, ads, Facebook posts, emails, and more. Our brains get hooked on all this stimulating content. We crave more and more new information, and it can be difficult to pay attention to any one thing for very long. On the other side, it also makes it difficult to hold anyone’s attention for very long. A recent study found that the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 (or around the time smartphones hit the scene) to eight seconds today. In comparison, scientists believe that the goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds.

What does this mean for us? The devil cannot destroy God’s Word, but it becomes evident that this subtle undermining by the devil is a tactic whereby he seeks to keep us from reading and concentrating on even a short portion of God’s Word. Is it not to be feared that this is affecting our ability to sit in church and listen with concentration and participation for an hour-and-a-half worship service? Satan not only seeks to undermine the stronghold of God’s Word itself, but also the means of grace by destroying our concentration in God’s house, if by nothing else than keeping us up late on our devices the night before. Not to mention using it unceasingly on the Lord’s Day.

 

Nothing new under the sun

No, there is nothing new under the sun; the devil’s modern device is to use our devices! Let me illustrate this further. Psalm 37:7 speaks of “the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.” The original uses a word that means “a plan, or witty invention, usually evil, sometimes good, or a wicked or mischievous device or plot.

How about what the Lord says of mankind in Ecclesiastes 7:29, “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” Again, let’s consider the meaning of the original word, only found in two places in Scripture, which is “any contrivance, art, device, or invention; a warlike machine or engine, or mental plot to break down a stronghold.

Therefore, it makes sense that the other place we find this word used is to describe King Uzziah’s invention in 2 Chronicles 26:15, “And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal.” These were machines that could hurl many arrows or stones at once, or continuously in a thick barrage against a stronghold or enemy.

The application that can be made to our modern time is clear. Do these not coincide with the modern day invention of both computer hardware and software? What a barrage of deadly arrows and crushing stones can come at us with every click of a mouse or every swipe or tap of a screen! Not only has the devil gained such an advantage by this new technology to captivate and destroy our never-dying souls, but we have become victims of our own inventions! We are destroying ourselves, and the devil gladly helps us along both boldly and subtly. For he, too, has become much wiser after 6,000 years! Is this not seen today? How the devil seeks to destroy the stronghold of the Lord’s institution of marriage! Thousands of divorces are related directly to the misuse of the Internet, viewing lewd content, pursuing online relationships, social media connections, and so on. The misuse of modern media is destroying personal lives, marriages, families, and ultimately souls.

 

“The whole armour of God”

Friends, God’s Word has not changed, neither has His admonition and instruction. We are commanded to “put on the whole armour of God.” In the first place, this must be spiritual armour, because we have no might against this powerful enemy and his spiritual wickedness. But also practically we must take up the shield to protect ourselves and our loved ones in this unceasing conflict. We cannot pray for keeping if we do not implement the available filters and means to protect ourselves while using all of our devices. Furthermore, let necessity alone dictate the use!

Finally, let us realize that the great danger lies in the sinful and susceptible nature that we all possess. The devil has a great advantage in this war since he has very willing accomplices in us! What we need above all is a hatred for sin and a love for the Lord and His law. Oh, that we may be granted the fear of the Lord in our heart and receive grace for our soul! Pray the Lord to supply this by His Word and Spirit! Even then, the Lord must keep it in exercise, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). A true, Spirit-wrought conversion is by far the best filter; a true prayer is the best defense; and the true and mighty Saviour is the only Stronghold that will stand, not only in our modern times from the attacks of a defeated but angry devil, but ultimately from the eternal wrath of a righteous, all-knowing, and sin-punishing God. No, there is nothing new under the sun, also in the way the Lord teaches and gives His people all these things.

Book Review: A Pilgrim in Media Land

“How can we create more openness in our families when it comes to discussing our Internet activities and our use of media time? What agreements can we make with each other to put this into practice?” These are just two of the many discussion questions we read in the book, A Pilgrim in Media Land. This book, authored by Mr. Steef de Bruijn and Mrs. Henrieke Hoogendijk-van Dam, is originally written in the Dutch language as an initiative of the Driestar Christian University and the Erdee Media Group. The Modern Media Committee from the Lethbridge NRC has, with the permission of the authors, translated and published this book to be used in our denomination. We are thankful for this effort.

Much has been spoken and written already about modern media. In our Reformed circles we have always been very reluctant and cautious to use modern media like the Internet. We realize, however, that we cannot stop this development anymore, not even in our circles. Almost all of our families have an Internet connection to be used as a resource in schools and business life. Consequently, therein lies the danger that it gets used too much and in the wrong way. Therefore, this book is intended to be a guide for the proper use of modern media and to warn against the misuse of it. The title is well chosen as it clearly implies that we are in media land. There are many available devices which have good uses; nevertheless, there undoubtedly are also many traps and dangers.

Therefore, the authors take us by the hand in our journey through modern media land. They do that in a very appealing way. In eight chapters they provide a lot of information about many topics related to modern media. Repeatedly, they do this using attitude keywords such as temperance, consistency, reflection, and faithfulness. In a tender but honest way, they do not shy away from the practical dangers of appealing and alluring sins which have such devastating consequences. Therefore, each chapter starts with a real-life scenarios which can easily be recognized by parents and educators in raising our children and youth.

At the end of each chapter are questions for discussions. The vocabulary used by the authors should not keep us from reading this book because it is “to the point” and easy to follow. Most importantly, time and again we read the question, “What does the Bible say?” Based on specific Bible texts, the authors want to guide us in an honest and biblical way through media land and point us to a proper lifestyle. They realize that not everything is said when only warnings are given. “A Christian is characterized by watchfulness and resilience. Therefore, it is not enough only to point young people to the dangers of the web. It is important that we also demonstrate how to use modern media in a positive way. In this way, we can demonstrate to teenagers how we live as a Christian in a digital world.”

We were pleased to read that the authors realize that even with having everything in place to warn, inform, and protect, we still need heart-renewing grace. The hope for our day and age, for our youth and families, lies not in man, not in filters, but in the Lord who continues to gather His people until the last one has been added to His kingdom. Daniel and his friends also lived in the world but by grace did not want to be of the world. We read that Daniel had an inner room where he sought strength in God. He realized, like Jehosaphat, that in us there is no strength “against this great company,” but his eyes were upon the Lord. Daniel also knew that in order to fight this battle we have to use the means available to us. We do not battle against flesh and blood but against many spiritual enemies.

Finally, the authors see this book as “a small introduction to media attitudes and media wisdom.” We wholeheartedly agree with their wish that “our children see us living the life of a true pilgrim” and receive the desire to become such a true pilgrim themselves. Therefore, we cannot endorse the use of social media, and encourage all to stay away from social media such as Instagram and Snapshot because of the many dangers and waste of time associated with the use of social media.

Yet, we would like to see this book in the hands of our families and office bearers to build awareness. May the Lord use it to open many eyes for the manifold dangers inherent to the modern media. By nature, our own hearts are so connected to these dangers that we need the grace that is found in Him who still has a willing people in the day of His power. Such people may delight in God’s commandments. Do we recognize ourselves as being one of these people?

The book is available from local modern media committees or church book rooms.

—The Synodical Modern Media Committee

Rev. E. Hakvoort, Chairman

Elder John Van Zweden, Secretary