Monday, September 24, 2007

How Pietism Deceives Christians

Bob Dewaay at Critical Issues Commentary has produced another excellent article that, like the Horton piece I commended to you in my previous post, also casts its eye with a broad scope on the evangelical church. The article, How Pietism Deceives Christians, describes how pietism, "a practice designed to lead to an experience that purports to give one an elite or special status compared to ordinary Christians" is found in some of the largest movements within evangelicalism today, including Purpose-Driven, Latter Rain, and the Emergent Church, and has a long history of influence in the church. DeWaay's article shows that Paul strongly wrote against the use of pietistic practices as a means of spiritual maturity, and instead pointed to the grace of God that comes to us through the cross of Christ.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Does Justification Still Matter? by Michael Horton

Michael Horton has written a brilliant analysis showing why justification still matters though much of modern evangelicalism ignores the critical relationship of justification to sanctification. Highly recommended!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

T-U-L-I-P and L-I-L-I-E-S

Over at his blog, David Koyzis challenged readers to update the famous reformed acronym T-U-L-I-P, still keeping the acronym as the name of a flower (HT: Jollyblogger). I think he meant it as merely a fun exercise, but I decided to give it a serious turn.

You'll recall that the famous T-U-L-I-P is as follows:

Total depravity
Unconditional election
Limited atonement
Irresistible grace
Perseverance of the saints

Here's my update, L-I-L-I-E-S:

L-- Loved by the Father before the foundation of the world

I - Incapacitated by sin

L - Lovingly justified by the cross of Christ

I - Irresistibly drawn by the Spirit

E - Elected by grace alone

S - Sovereignly preserved and sanctified

What do you think? Are the main points of reformed theology covered in my acronym? Might it be easier to remember than TULIP?

Anyone else want to give it a try? You may post an entry in the comments section.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Discerning What is Truth, Part 2

Objective Truth Exists
In Discerning What is Truth, Pt 1 , I was essentially saying that the starting point for discerning truth is to believe, in answer to Pilate's famous question, "What is truth?", that such a thing as objective truth actually exists and can be discerned by rational, thinking human beings. We must abandon all hope of finding truth if we believe that it cannot be found because it is only in the eyes of the beholder. I think however, that no one actually lives as if there is no objective truth whatsoever-- for we accept as objectively true certain basic facts about our lives (I am alive and breathing, I live in such and such place, etc.), and we decide to accept as true other things we believe in. In this way we build a view of life that is based upon things we call true. Christian truth however, is more elusive, because it is spiritually discerned. It is rational and not irrational, but it is also supra-rational, for Christian truth is not apprehensible by reason alone, but comes by revelation.

Truth Under Attack
As I said in my post, The Age of Tolerance Calls for Bold Proclamation of Truth, we are living in a time when truth is under attack. I suppose truth has always been under attack, but I find it troubling that many in the Christian community seem to be contributing to the growing lack of discernment among Christians by promoting a message that seems to say tolerance and civility are more primary goals for Christians than defense of biblical doctrine.

Called to Preach and Defend Sound Doctrine
I don't think that the Bible separates these concerns (truth and civility). In Ephesians 4 we read that as we are being equipped by those called to lead and teach us "in the work of the ministry and building up the body of Christ", the goal is that we "all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Eph 4:11-16)". Now how does Paul say that we avoid being "children" in faith who are easily swayed by "every wind of doctrine"?

He says that
speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Eph 4:15).

As to civility, Peter, writing at a time when Christians were persecuted, wrote that Christians must "always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame (1 Peter 3:16-17).

So the manner in which we defend our beliefs before those who question us is to be gentle and respectful and is to reflect the fact that in our hearts we honor Christ as holy (1 Peter 3:15).

Elsewhere in the New Testament, Paul makes the teaching of sound doctrine one of the key requirements for an overseer (leader) in the church. The following passages are examples:

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions (1 Timothy 1:3-7).

Teach and urge these things (the church practices he has commanded in 1 Timothy 5). If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain (1 Tim 6:2-5).

For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine(Titus 1:5-2:1).

We see from the above passages that while the Christian is called to be gentle and respectful as opposed to arrogant and quick-tempered, he is nonetheless called to boldly defend the faith, both by adhering to sound doctrine and rebuking those who teach false or unsound doctrine.

How Politically Incorrect of You, Paul
Notice how politically incorrect Paul is, as he agrees with what the Cretan prophet said of his own, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." Paul concurs with the testimony of the Cretan prophet and goes on to say that because some of these Cretan teachers "are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers", and are "upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach", that "they must be silenced". How? He counsels Titus to "rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth." I wonder if, on the basis of such language, Paul too might be labeled an uncivil "attack dog" by David Aikman.

Now, I most often agree with Dan Edelen, over at his fine blog, Cerulean Sanctum. In a recent post titled Same As It Ever Was, Same As It Ever Was…, Dan challenged Christians involved in the Arminian-Calvinist debate to cease their online bickering and attend to (apparently more worthy and urgent) tasks of service. In reading Dan's post, I do feel convicted that I could be more involved in directly ministering to needy people. So in this, I heartily concur with what seems to be the point of his article.

But the problem though, and I could see this most clearly from the comments his post generated, is that the entire Arminian-Calvinism debate is too easily dismissed as being somehow irrelevant to the real business of loving our neighbor. This would be an entirely wrong conclusion to come to, whether or not it is what Mr. Edelen's post was indeed implying.

As we have seen from the above sampling of New Testament passages, the teaching and defense of sound doctrine is required of leaders in the church. Why is it necessary? Because false teaching is both soul-endangering and destructive to the body of Christ. One of the Deceiver's great strategies is to introduce and promote subtle heresies within the doctrine of the church. Most American Christian evangelicals would readily recognize Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientology as false religions. But do these same Christians also discern the deceptions of the "health and wealth" gospel? Do we recognize false teachings within Roman Catholicism? Do we notice the liberal churches declaring that one can be a practicing homosexual and also a member in good standing of their congregations? Do we know how to biblically define true spirituality and true worship, or is our definition of these things based on our own opinions? Most of all, are we prepared to take a stand for the authority of Scripture in all of life, to present biblically rational arguments to prove our interpretations of Scripture, and to rebuke unsound doctrine?

Are we prepared to take a stand for the authority of Scripture in all of life, to present biblically rational arguments to prove our interpretations of Scripture, and to rebuke unsound doctrine?

The great apostle Paul was able to argue from Scripture in order to prove that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 17:2-3). He called Christian workers following in his footsteps to this same task: "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)."

If one then may be approved by God and unashamed in their handling of the word of truth, then the possibility exists too that we may wrongly handle the word of truth and therefore not win God's approval. Such teaching bring shame and reproach to the cause of Christ.

Whose Information Can We Trust?
We live in the Information Age and the flow of data and information proliferates rapidly, especially on the World Wide Web via the Internet, as new sites are born each day and as the technology expands and develops. The new technology has democratized who may become a communicator-- it has become easier than ever to publish your own website or blog.

This explosion of information makes the discernment of truth, especially among Christians, all the more critical. Whose voice can be listened to and trusted? If anyone ought to be able to speak profound truth to a world that desperately needs to hear it, it is the Christian, the one who has received by grace a revelatory message that is meant to impact the world. But for our message of truth to ring out clearly and effectively, it must be authoritative. Where does our authority come from? Does it come from speaking a message that is popular, or that "works"? Does the relevance of the Christian message (the gospel of Jesus Christ) derive from its ability to meet the deepest needs of the human soul?

The Authority of the Christian Message
Truly our message is one that meets the deepest needs of the soul in a very profound way. But our authority comes not from us-- the skill with which we transmit or package the message-- nor does it come from the utilitarian aspects of the message. Yes, Christianity "works" because it is true, but we follow and preach Christ not because following His principles will help us realize our "best life now". Rather we follow Him because by divine revelation we have come to see and know that Jesus is the only One who can save us from our sins, which have separated us from God. The whole world is commanded to repent and believe the good news and the truth that Jesus Christ saves sinners.

Evangelical Christianity has often gotten this basic gospel message right. But it has also often added to the message, trying to make it more relevant and palatable, or repackaging it to meet the so-called felt needs of its target audience. Thus the gospel message becomes gradually distorted by modern day preachers/teachers. This is the strategy of the enemy-- not blatantly to lead us away from truth by obvious deception, but to subtly promote lies and error that cause us to slowly drift away from the true gospel, one blind step at a time. So, as the New Testament and Paul especially so often admonishes, we must be discerning and wise, that we may preserve the purity of the gospel message.

The Purpose of "Discernment Ministries"
Blog ministries such as Jordan's View, and many discernment ministries (or countercult apologetics), often with sites on the web, have arisen that address the need for discerning truth. These ministries provide a wealth of information to help people identify trends in society and in the church that may be diverting people from the truths of the gospel. Some of these ministries may also try to define the fundamental truths of Christian faith, so that one may identify erroneous teaching., though not a discernment ministry per say, is a site that, by emphasizing the monergistic (Reformed) view of the Christian faith, argues that the reformed, monergistic view of Christianity is historic, biblical and much needed today to protect against error and help bring about revival. Other "countercult" ministries specialize in providing detailed information about specific movements (e.g., Emerging Church, contemplative spirituality) and/or about cults.

Importance of the Arminian/Calvinist Debate- Theology affects all of life

Now, as Dan Edelen seems to be saying in his article and others too have pointed out, not everyone involved in the Arminian/Calvinism debate is necessarily driven by right motives. Personally I consider that debate to function under the category of discernment ministry, because I believe Calvinists are more biblically correct and that the errors and influence of Arminianism need correction. As I have stated in my writing about Arminianism vs Reformed theology, I think that there are very important, practical ramifications to the theology one holds, whether Arminian or Reformed. Everyone has a theology, expressed by their actions. The question is whether our theology is one we have examined and tested under the light of the truth of Scripture or one which remains unexamined. Examined or not, our theology will have a powerful impact on how we live, and that's why I think it's so important to get it right.

But in discernment ministries of all types, there may be those driven by ego and the need to win arguments, whose goal in criticizing is to be seen and heard rather than to edify. While such abuse is unfortunate, it does not negate the need and responsibility of Christians to defend sound doctrine and rebuke bad doctrine. Discernment ministries have helped address this need of the body, yet it is important too that every individual Christian be, as our Lord said, "wise as serpents and innocent as doves." We are fighting a battle with a spiritual Enemy who is incredibly cunning, and also we ought to expect persecution and hatred to come our way from this world. Among the other spiritual weapons we are called to don, we arm ourselves with the belt of truth, and with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, as we wage war with the truth of God's word as our authority and divine power (Ephesians 6:14,17, 2 Corinthians 10:4-6). We know too that in the end we are assured of victory, for the Word of God is Truth, and our Lord Jesus is the Lord of all Truth, who will reign in truth and righteousness when He returns to earth. Then the light of truth will overcome the darkness of error.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

When Christians Sin- The Call to Integrity

As one who views blogging as ministry, I recognize that everything I do-- both "on-blog" and "off-blog"-- affects the quality of my relationship with God, and in turn, this affects how much positive fruit my life is bearing-- on the blog and off. Since I write about the truths of Christianity and exhort others to consider and live by these truths, I must make sure that I am living by these truths. There must be consistency between what I write about on this blog, and how I live my life when I'm not blogging. This is what it means to have integrity.

"For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7)."

Success in the world's eyes is usually measured by outward things, but God sees the heart and is mostly concerned with character-- how I treat others and whether my conduct reflects one who belongs to a holy God is of the utmost importance. If I want Jordan's View and my life to be something that will truly make an eternal impact, I must learn to walk with this kind of integrity: my behavior and attitudes ought to reflect Christ at all times and in all places. But is this possible?

I am quite sure I have never claimed on this blog to be anything more than a humble recipient of God's abundant grace through Jesus Christ, which alone has power to forgive sinners, reconcile them to God and transform them into saints. Yet I must also confess that in a certain area of my life I have dishonored God by "secret" sins.

These sins of course are not hidden from God, but can be hidden (to a certain degree) from others. My sins have been in the area of sex, an area of weakness before I became a Christian that has continued to be an area in which I have been prone to sin. I'm too ashamed to go into detail about the particulars of these sins (and I'm not sure it would be edifying anyway). I will say that I haven't had an extramarital affair, but that these sins nonetheless constitute unfaithfulness to the Lord and to the vows I made to my wife, and for that I am truly and deeply sorry.

I have already confessed the specific sins in this area to God, to my pastors and to certain friends. My wife too is aware of my sins and has been incredibly gracious. I know enough theology to recognize that God's love and grace through Christ are greater than all my sin, and that as I confess my sins to Him, God is faithful and just to forgive me my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Praise God for this.

However I know also that confession that never continues on into repentance, turning radically away from the sins it has confessed and replacing them with biblically right actions, is ultimately not true confession. In other words, the one confessing must intend also to repent, to "go and sin no more", otherwise confession is a hollow and hypocritical exercise.

"Physician, heal yourself", goes the old saying, which basically means, if you say you are capable of healing others, prove it by first healing yourself. But its meaning can also be: if you are going to go around trying to help others, first show that your remedies work in your own life. This applies to me as a Christian blogger-- if the Christian principles and truths I expound upon in this blog are not radically changing me into a more visibly Christ-like person, how can I hope to persuade others that Christianity is real and true and right? Of course, the failure of Christians like myself to fully and consistently live out their faith does not necessarily prove Christianity false-- rather, it shows that sin is a very stubborn reality in human beings, even after conversion to Christ (a truth the Bible explicitly teaches, see Romans 7, or 1 John 1:8). But on the other hand, when Christians sin-- when media headlines show prominent Christians divorcing, committing adultery, engaging in pornography, misusing or stealing church funds, and other sins-- the name of Christ and His glory are both dishonored. This may give non-believers an excuse for avoiding consideration of the truth claims of Christianity ("look at Mr. Pastor who had an affair, left his wife, kids and church behind and has now run off with his assistant to start a new church-- see, these Christians are just like everyone else-- so why should I become a Christian?").

This is a great shame to the church, because it is also unnecessary-- for the power of God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are available to me and to all Christians, that we may live lives that bear good fruit and bring glory to His name. But with the reality being that Christians will never be absolutely sin-less, we Christians perhaps should practice being more transparent about our on-going struggles with sin. Then, if and when our sins become exposed, great scandal will not ensue, and their exposure won't make us look so hypocritical.

The problem arises when Christianity is presented as a being the miraculous deliverance from all sin into a life of on-going victory and prosperity. In this portrayal, sin, sickness, trials, suffering and other kinds of problems are not supposed to affect the believer in Christ, and the believer no longer really a sinner who struggles with sin. If such is really the Christian life, then when a Christian is found to be sinning it seems to the world like there's a huge gap between how we have presented ourselves and what our lives are truly like (in other words, it seems like hypocrisy, and perhaps often is).

But the "sin-free" portrait of the Christian life is neither accurate nor biblical. All Christians sin, and will continue to do so until we meet Christ face-to-face. Even for believers, there continues to be a "law of sin that dwells in my members"(Romans 7:23), which means, not that we must sin (1 Cor 10:13), but that the possibility and temptation to sin is always present within us (Romans 7:21). Now one of the hopes of the Christian is that God's transforming power is gradually squeezing sin out of our lives, as we learn to think with the mind of Christ, and to value the things that are eternal over the things of this world.

Through the scriptures the believer in Christ is given great confidence in the outcome. We learn that the struggle with sin as well as the trials and sufferings undergone in this life are only temporary. We are promised that "for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). We understand then that God's sovereign purpose is being worked out in our lives in all things (Ephesians 1:11)-- including even our struggles with sin (which do not take God by surprise).

And with this eternal perspective we learn to how to endure in all the circumstances of life, including the most painful trials. "So we (Christians) do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

In regard to sin, the Christian also is comforted and encouraged by the truth that He is both forgiven and justified by the cross of Christ. Depending solely upon God's empowering grace, the Christian knows that he or she is slowly progressing forward in becoming like Christ (aka, the process of sanctification). But if we understand God's grace to be a license for sin, we have fallen into the Devil's deception. For though God has poured out his abundant grace to us through Jesus Christ, grace more than enough to pay for all sins (Romans 5:20-21), this grace is not to be abused. Paul wrote, "Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2). To my great shame I admit that sometimes I have sinned in the presumption that God would forgive me. This is definitely an abuse of God's grace and a testing of the Lord that just added to the sinfulness of my actions.

I want to leave behind such shameful ways. I want this moving forward in holiness and bringing glory to the name of Christ to be the witness my entire life proclaims. By holding on to certain habitual sins I have been expressing mistrust in God and his goodness, showing that my heart still grips certain idols. But today I must remember that when God calls something sin, it can never, ever be good for me, no matter how much temporary pleasure one might find in it or how I may try to rationalize why I need this sin. The things that God has provided, on the other hand, are always good, and good for me (James 1:17). May I with God's help destroy all idols in my heart.

Let's face it, change is very hard. Becoming a Christian does not normally produce instantaneous transformation in ones' thinking, lifestyle and habits. Some have testified to being instantly delivered from a cigarette, alcohol or drug addiction. They are the exceptions, however. New Testament Christianity is all about lifelong change that occurs from the inside out as we replace deeply ingrained sinful patterns of thinking and behavior with new, godly ways of thinking and behaving. So change does indeed come, but only as I act on my responsibility to renew my mind by God's word and to daily abide in Christ. The battle with sin has not been made easy for us; it is a fight on a spiritual plane and requires spiritual strategies and power to win. The Bible exhorts us over and over again to understand the true nature of this battle and to fight it with all the weapons given by God, that we may be victorious in it.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2)

"So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good...

... you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:1-2, 9-12)."

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-13)

My friends, brothers and sisters in Christ. Please hold me in your prayers as I re-commit myself to fighting the good fight of faith and to believing and trusting in God's good promises, that the deceitful, unfruitful ways of sin may be rooted out completely from my life, and that my life may bear increasingly good fruit, to the glory of God alone.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Recognize This Celebrity?

Hint: She's a singer, actress, pop star, dancer and cultural icon. She looks familiar, doesn't she?... OK, so she doesn't really exist. The image you're viewing is a "morph" image that combines the faces of Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

In other words, she's a Morph Thing!

Below, are her morphed "parents". In other words, the two images below, themselves pairs of combined celebrity faces, were morphed together to produce the image above. With all four faces morphed together, you get a very interesting face that actually looks quite real and attractive.

Madonna's Face Combined with Gwen Stefani:

Madonna's Face Combined with Gwen Stefani -

Britney Spears' Face Combined with Christina Aguilera:

Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera Faces Combined Together -

Here's more of the morphs I made:

Antonio Banderas' Face Combined with Denzel Washington:

Antonio Banderes and Denzel Washington Faces Combined Together -

Brad Pitt's Face Combined with Tom Cruise:

Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise Faces Combined Together -

George Bush's Face Combined with Prince Charles:

Prince Charles's Face Combined with George Bush -

Or how about this very strange morph? Elvis Presley's Face Combined with Ann Margaret:

Elvis Presley and Ann Margret Faces Combined Together -

Now, is this another example of "Web 2.0"? I'm not sure. It sure is another way of wasting time. But fun nonetheless. Check out Morph Thing, the online face morpher, and try out your own morphs. You can even upload your own images to experiment with.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Web 2.0 Revolution

It seems that almost every day new web sites are coming out with functions much more dynamic than yesterday's static web sites. These new sites use ever-evolving technological innovations such as Ajax programming to create powerful, intuitive and even user-configurable sites. Such sites have earned the name "Web 2.0", not only because of the new technologies they utilize, but also because they are the product of ongoing collaboration between their developers and the people who use them. The Web 2.0 conception sees web communication as no longer just a unidirectional monologue (from speaker to listener) but as a multi-directional dialog. Through technology, every participant has opportunity to become a communicator, as well as receiver, of information. Thus the web becomes a giant collaboration among many.

I am finding it quite exciting and interesting to discover, explore and begin to use some of these Web 2.0 sites, despite the fact that I don't always fully understand them conceptually or technologically. But you don't have to know exactly how they work in order to take advantage of them. In fact, the best of these sites are designed to be extremely user-friendly, this being a high value in Web 2.0 thinking. Since, as mentioned earlier, new applications are continually being developed, the following list provides a very brief survey of Web 2.0 applications.

Start (Home) Pages
One of the sites I recently discovered is, a site that reminds me of the Firefox browser (itself a product of Web 2.0 innovations) in terms of its high intuitiveness and configurability. Netvibes aims to be a place where you can set up your own web "universe". I have already begun using it as a home base on the Internet, gathering together in one place my contacts, calendar, to-do list, blog feeds, news feeds, podcasts, etc. Time Magazine recently selected Netvibes as one of their top 50 websites.

Of course, this is not a new concept. Many sites, such as My Yahoo or iGoogle, have aimed to become the preferred portal to the web for their audiences. Yet while both My Yahoo and especially iGoogle (with its many, often user-designed widgets) have implemented new ideas for personalizing home pages, sites like Netvibes take the innovations to the next level. Thus Netvibes and the similar Pageflakes are probably the top Web 2.0 choices right now for creating customized start pages.

Social Networking

Responding to invitations from friends, I recently joined three social network web sites: LinkedIn, Facebook and Plaxo Pulse. LinkedIn and Plaxo Pulse both seem geared toward those wanting to link to others professionally, while Facebook seems more a networking tool for friends. All three sites seem are very "Web 2.0" in terms of purpose-- trying to connect people via Internet-- and also in regard to ease of use. Being new to these networks, I can't really give an opinion as to which of them is best-- their functions probably overlap, if using all three. Another popular site along these lines, especially for a younger crowd, is

Social Bookmarking
A phenomenon related to social networking is that of social bookmarking, in which users create online lists of Internet resources they like or have found useful and share them with others. Sites such as, Simpy, and Furl have become popular networks of this kind. More recently Diigo, Ma.gnolia, Netvouz, and StumbleUpon have also joined this growing web market. You can learn more about social bookmarking in this helpful Wikipedia article. Wikipedia itself is another great example of Web 2.0 in action-- an on-line encyclopedia collaboratively maintained and expanded by its readers.

Office "2.0"
Do you use programs such as Microsoft Word or Excel to create documents or spreadsheets? What if you could create, collaborate on, access and share such documents on the web? Innovative sites such as Google Documents and Spreadsheets,, Writeboard,, and provide free online software that makes it possible to create spreadsheets and documents compatible with Microsoft Office, even if you don't own Microsoft products. Best of all, you can upload your created documents to the web to share with others or access from any computer with Internet. Recently, Google acquired a company called Jotspot, a Wiki-type site that enables online collaborative projects. This site will soon be integrated with Google's Documents and Spreadsheets. Microsoft has responded to the challenge posed by such Web 2.0 sites with Microsoft Live, which they describe as "services [which] allow you to create a professional online presence without the expense of buying a server, setting up a complicated infrastructure, and hiring technical staff to maintain it."

There are so many more Web 2.0 sites in multiple categories. The following is a mere sampling:

More Web 2.0
City Guides & Reviews
Judy's Book

Digital Storage and Remote Access

Email and Communication

Feed Management

Photos, Digital Images and Sharing

Mobile Technology


Online Desktop

Podcast Services

Video Sharing

And of course, this blog itself is part of the wonderful world of Web 2.0.

Utilizing Web 2.0 wisely
I feel I would be remiss without admonishing (myself, as well as readers) to use the Web wisely. All the technological innovation of Web 2.0 is meant to make modern life easier and more productive, and certainly can be a tremendous asset in this regard. But, as with anything good, there is a danger of the Web becoming an idol in our lives. An idol is anything we allow, by the value and time we spend upon it, to become a kind of "god" to us, something which usurps relationship with the true God. The Web can easily become a totally absorbing and distracting place in which to live, and tracking the endless barrage of information becomes an exhausting addiction, even when the information in itself is good and helpful.

Christians recognize the reality of indwelling sin, which means that the pull of the world and sin are still present. So if you are Christian, please bear this in mind as you explore the world of Web 2.0. And if you are not a Christian, I would suggest that you consider the idea that if God is real He must have a claim on all human life. No activity in this world will ever bring us the true satisfaction and abiding joy that comes from being in relationship with our Creator. And no human activity or philosophy can solve the sin problem which separates us from Him. Visit my Gospel Presentations section for more about this.

For Discussion
What are your favorite "Web 2.0" sites? Do you ever feel that you've become addicted to the spending time on the Web?

Further reading:
50 Best Websites, selected by Time magazine

Web 2.0 by Wikipedia

Review of the Year's Best Web 2.0 explanations

What exactly does Web 2.0 mean?

Best Web 2.0 Sites July 2007 (top 10 from Real World Software Development)

2007 Web 2.0 Awards

2007: Web 2.0 Companies I Couldn’t Live Without

The Best Web 2.0 Software of 2006

Top 100 Web Apps (included are many Web 2.0-type sites)

Top 100 Web 2.0 Sites

The Best of Web 2.0

Brave New Web: 20 Top Web 2.0 sites complete web 2.0 directory

Ajax Projects (Web 2.0 sites)