Dying Newspapers and Design

There’s a lot of talk out there about the fate of newspapers, how we get our news, and things like that. I go to Drudge for my first pass at news, then to the NY Times. Why read the Times? Not because I like it or agree with it, I don’t. Their coverage is awful and their inherent anti-Jesus bias shines through all the time. The reason I read their stuff is simply because I find their site the easiest to use and the most like what I want an online paper to look like.

Every other news site that I look at suffers from horrible design and an ugly interface. I occasionally look at the Washington Post, but it’s an awful site. Bad colors, links all over the place in an illogical order, and bad flash content. The Washington Times is worse, with too much static content, bad pictures and overwhelming adds. The Wall Street Journal is dark, heavy and hard to navigate. Some of the London papers are ok and the Financial Times is ok if you can get past the color scheme.

But the NY Times has a simple, clean design. The stories are grouped logically by section and the whole homepage looks like a paper, with the pictures in the middle acting as the fold of a printed newspaper. I know where everything is and it stays there. The pictures and photo essays are superb and I love looking at them. I hate their politics and their point of view, but it’s usable. That’s the only reason I read it.

If these papers want to flourish online, they need to invest some serious time and money in design. If they get clean designs and usable sites, they will have a chance to flourish online. I don’t know about the printed versions surviving, but maybe the e-plastic reader or some other form of digital ink will save them in time.

A Drive to Kilmarnock

This past weekend we drove to a town called Kilmarnock which sits in a region of Virginia called the Northern Neck, on the Chesapeake Bay. It is something that I’ve wanted to do for three years but have been prevented from doing for one reason or another.

The drive over was beautiful and very typical of Virginia. By that I mean rolling hills, trees, farms, small towns and lots and lots of old churches with their attendant graveyards. Why is it that our modern churches never have graveyards? I understand that property is at a premium for most churches and perhaps a graveyard would be “wasted” when it could be a parking lot, but I think we would do well to re-establish the practice of Christian burial in a church graveyard.

Most of these old, rural towns have a United Methodist parish, a Baptist church or two, and sometimes an Episcopal parish. It is truly heartbreaking to see these gorgeous old buildings most of which are in the hands of heretics. Just imagine working and praying to build a parish, teach, preach and serve. You go down to your grave when your alloted span is done only to have the entire thing fall into the hands of the enemy within a century or so.

The churches that we saw were mainly built of brick. I imagined what life would be like if they were inhabited by preachers with evangelical fervor and sound doctrine. What would it be like to have our rural areas dotted with churches that were sacramental and reformed? Instead we have these sad monuments to a bygone age inhabited by the opponents of the truth.

Kilmarnock itself is not much to shout about, but if you drive down the roads that lead to the Bay, you find mansions of breathtaking size, all of them new. Apparently there is a lot of old money in Kilmarnock, or else folks in D.C. and Richmond who weekend down there. These homes are unbelievable, sitting right on the Bay with no neighbors to speak of. Trust me, these folks aren’t working in town. It never ceases to amaze me how no matter where you go in this country there are loads of rich people (or massively indebted people).

We ate lunch in the parking lot of the local Episcopal parish which is gorgeous. It looked like a small version of Truro in Fairfax. I looked it up on the web and of course it is in the revisionist camp and will probably vanish within a generation.

The entire drive led me to think about the AMiA and ACNA in general with regard to church planting. For obvious reasons the AMiA has focused most of its church planting activities on cities and urban centers. I favor this and think AMiA should have a 50-state strategy of hitting key urban areas. My question is how do the rural areas get served in any new evangelization? In some sense it is much easier to plant churches in urban areas because you have so many more people to potentially draw from, whereas in a small town there are only a limited number of people.

So do entire swaths of the country stay unserved by a Medieval Protestant alternative to unbelief? Can we reach small towns as well as urban areas? How many guys would we need in the pipeline of ministerial training in order to reach these places? What kind of resources would it require? I imagine that in the old days most of these churches rose from within the ethnic communities that were pioneering these new towns, but that pattern is gone now. What is the new method of reaching the rural parts of America with a liturgical, Bible-centered church?

Who in the world is Gog?

Who in the world is Gog? I find myself asking that question as I read through Ezekiel again. The passage in question is of course Ezekiel 38-39. The prophet says:

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him and say, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech…”

This same person is referred to again in Revelation where John says:

“And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.”

As you might imagine, the interpretations for who Gog and Magog are span a wide array of choices. Let me start with St. Augustine who writes in City of God:

The peoples John calls Gog and Magog are not to be thought of as some definite barbarians dwelling in a certain part of the earth, such as the Getae and Massagetae (as some have imagined on account of the initial letters), or any other foreign tribes beyond the pale of the Roman Empire.

Let me here interrupt with some footnotes to this from the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, which discuss the Getae and Massagetae:

Scythian Goths who were spread from the Balkans to east of the Caspian Sea and whom some believe were the displaced tribes of Israel. See also Herotodus 1.212ff.

Ambrose identified Gog with the Goths. He wrote this as Emperor Gratian was preparing to confront the Goths in A.D. 378.

Augustine continues:

John clearly indicates that they are to be everywhere in the world, “nations that are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog.”

Oecumenius in his Commentary on the Apocalypse writes:

These are certain nations that shall lead the nations at the time of the consummation. These nations do not at present exist, or they are certain nations which do at present exist but that are called different names by the divine Scripture. These, therefore, will fight with that God-hated Satan against the servants of Christ.

Calvary Chapel Weirdness

A few weeks ago I listened in to the Calvary Chapel Network on the radio as I was driving around. Despite disagreeing with them on many things, I usually enjoy listening to them practice verse by verse exposition of the Bible. But on this day I heard a couple of weird things that tell me that maybe it’s been a long time since I paid attention to their preachers and what they think.

First, I heard a guy saying that being vegetarian would be the best diet for us. The context was talking about God’s law and how God wants the best for us. Somehow, and I’m not sure how, he reasoned that vegetarianism would be the highest form of diet for a Christian. I think he was basing this on Adam’s diet before the Fall or something. He wasn’t saying that you have to be vegetarian, but that it would be the best possible state if you could handle it. I found this bizarre and assumed the guy was in California somewhere.

Next, I heard another preacher say that he believes that when Jesus breathed on the Apostles and said, “receive the Holy Spirit” they were born again. I find that to be wrong for a couple reasons:
[1] The Bible does not teach this.
[2] Entrance into the covenant people of God (Israel) was via circumcision. Of course I wouldn’t expect a Calvary Chapel guy to really agree with this, because they don’t baptize infants and have no good framework with which to understand circumcision.

This got me to thinking about circumcision and “getting in” to the Old Testament Church. Why would Jesus tell Nicodemus that he must be born again if he was already in the covenant by circumcision? Someone helpfully pointed out to me that “…Jesus is not talking about individual regeneration in John 3. Rather, he is talking about the need for a new Israel, a new humanity. Nicodemus needs to follow Jesus into the new world through death and resurrection. Being baptized will unite him with the disciples of Jesus, with those who are following Jesus into a new world.”

See this post for more on the topic.