On Christian Fellowships and Computers On Christian fellowships and computers...
(From Webster's dictionary)
---> computer com-put-er \kem-'py:ut-er\ n, often attrib (1646) :one that computes; specif :a programmable electronic device that can store, retrieve, and process data
(From http://www.macos.apple.com/macos/releases/rhapsody/letter.html - the red highlights are mine) Apple's New OS Strategy & Roadmap: The 5 Key Points Complementary OS Strategy
Apple plans to implement an OS strategy that offers complementary product lines moving forward--Mac OS and Apple's next generation OS, Rhapsody. Mac OS will continue to deliver market leading Internet and multimedia capabilities; Rhapsody will introduce next generation OS technologies and provide a platform for breakthrough applications that leapfrog competitive OS offerings.
Now, I'll put some money on the fact that you're probably right now thinking: "Wow, you quoted an Apple press release, AND Webster's dictionary. So what exactly is this Deep Thought going to lead into? What does this have to do with Christian fellowships?"
I had been working on this Deep Thought for actually quite some time, on and off, much more the latter unfortunately. But recently, like most people who are into high-tech, I was quite amazed when I heard the news that Apple had purchased NeXT and was going to have a strategy based around that. I ruminated about that for a while, and then the connection to this nascent Deep Thought hit me. Onward!
I proudly proclaim that I am a PC person. I run two operating systems on my computer: Microsoft Windows 95 and Linux. I also use Macintoshes and various UNIX workstations quite often in the course of my studies and my work.
But my proudness for my PC is nothing compared to my fervor to my faith: I am a Christian. Now, this year, I am in Fellowship in Christ at Stanford. Last year, I was mostly in InterVarsity, another fellowship here on campus. (I think the specific reasons about why I made the switch are tangential to the main point of this discussion. If I haven't talked to you about it yet, and you are interested please feel free to e-mail, call, or talk to me personally.)
Recently, there've been an increase in a sense of awareness of us being united in Christ, together as one campus. I consider that a good thing. While we've managed to avoid outright division, there wasn't really much of a togetherness. For a long time, I felt a sense of that myself - not really knowing fellow Christians outside of the groups I was in myself. Now, we're starting to get together, having "prayer walks" in the quad and other activities. I think that this needs to continue. At the same time, now I realize that keeping our own separate identities and differences is important as well. Read on...
Let's talk about absolute and relative things. The only absolute when it comes to a computer, as Webster succinctly puts it, is to "store, retrieve, and process data." Specifically, back in the 1930's, a guy named Turing came up with the basic mathematical nature of a computer, called a Turing machine. As long as a computing machine supports the basic operations of a Turing machine, it can do any possible computation in theory, and it can't be said to work "wrong". (take note CS109 people! =) )
I resent so-called "holy computer wars." PC vs. Macintosh vs. UNIX vs. Amiga vs. BeBox vs... - to me, it is all rubbish. Each computer type serves a slightly different segment of the computer market. Someone who is interested in doing heavy-duty scientific computing has a different need than someone interested in getting a fix of Warcraft II. Choosing a computer type is a personal decision, and you must ask yourself: what is your anticipated computing goals and activities?
Likewise, the only absolute in life itself is God and His unchanging Word, in the form of the Bible. Certainly, a fellowship may not change the Scripture itself, to do so would of course be heresy. But if a fellowship passes this litmus test of adhering to God's Word and having a grounding in that, no aspect of it can be called wrong or bad in any sense.
So what separates different entities? The "interpretation part", or the part that's "relative". One of Pastor Harold's Friday night messages in FiCS certainly has a distinct nature, different, than say a typical IV large group, just like using Windows 95 is different from typing commands into the UNIX shell.
The point is that there is no absolute that computer X is best for everything, because it would be impossible! Likewise, each fellowship has its own unique style and way of operating, each geared towards different personal and spiritual needs and preferences. It is impossible to quantify any doctrinally-sound fellowship, or even any part of it, like we can quantify the real numbers, because these aspects are innately tied to you, the believer or seeker. So, personally, when I decided to go with FiCS, it was not because I felt IV was "wrong" or "worse" than FiCS in ANY sense, it was because I thought that FiCS would better serve MY needs.
In both worlds, there is room in the market or campus for different computers or fellowships, and in fact, it is absolutely necessary to have a range of options to accomodate diverse needs.
Thus, we should not get hung up on those differences. We should appreciate them. But we should not merely stay within our own spheres. If Macs could not communicate or share data with PCs (or vice versa), there would be chaos, and the value of computers themselves would be reduced. Instead, in the computer world, we are able to have methods and standard, such as those making up the Internet, so different computers can work with each other, thereby spreading the utility of computers as a whole.
Such is the same thing in the Christian community here. We all adhere to one God, and we should leverage that, and exploit our commonality instead of being divided by small details, thereby increasing God's presence here as a whole. I thank God that He has blessed us with these inter-fellowship activities and I pray it may continue.
Of course, one should not extend this fellowship/computer analogy too far: There's nothing wrong I think with having/using more than one type of computer/OS. Sure, if you have the money, you could get a Macintosh, a PC, and a UNIX box, and have the best of all worlds: use or not use them as much as you see fit. Computer hardware and software won't get lonely and miss you, if you don't boot a machine up for a while.
On the other hand, one thing that struck me during IV's Frosh Conference which I attended, was to pick one fellowship and stick with it. Whatever the group, a fellowship's strength comes from the combined devotion and committment of all its members. A superficial involvement will compromise the spiritual unity of all.
Choosing a fellowship is an intensely personal and important decision. Shop around closely, and once you find one, stay involved. Above all, pursue righteousness relentlessly.
"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of
yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with
sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given
you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members
do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one
body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts,
according to the grace given us..."
- Romans 12:3-6 (NIV)
Multiple operating systems and computer types. They just complement each other towards one ultimate goal: to compute, as Webster's proclaims simply.
Multiple fellowships, complementing each other as well. One God. And one ultimate goal: to glorify Him in our lives and studies, and to make known the good news of the Gospel and the eternal life and salvation that only lies with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanks for listening.
Deep thought of 13 January 1997.