On Dinosaurs and Dictaphones

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Stan Ott, a long-time member here at Leidy’s church, is a dinosaur. He told me so himself. That means my statement is not an ad hominem smear nor is it some sort of malicious gossip. 

Perhaps I should give you some context for that statement. When Stan graduated from law school and began work, it was common practice for lawyers to dictate letters and other written documents via a Dictaphone. Secretaries would then take the information off the Dictaphone and put it in proper typed format. 

Stan still follows that procedure. Since “the rise of the machines,” that is, personal computers, however, very few lawyers daily dictate documents. Those who do practice dictation are regarded as dinosaurs. Hence, Stan’s statement to me that he is a dinosaur. 

I guess we can all be glad we’re not in the Dictaphone production business. Or, for that matter, in the typewriter production business.  

Did you know that it was Henry Ford who invented suburban living? And fast food. And gas stations. And your local Wawa! All those things flowed from Henry’s ability to mass produce Ford automobiles over one hundred years ago. His cars allowed folk to live farther away from their jobs and commute to work on a regular basis. The cars needed places to refuel and, in due time, places where they could be repaired. All the folks on the road needed to have places to eat that provided quick service and food that was reliably safe to eat.  

No, you’re right, Henry Ford didn’t really invent all that. He simply put in place the mechanism which wrought a transformation of society that no one could have anticipated. The same is true with the digitalized age in which we live. Our culture has been transformed in ways no one could have imagined merely 20 years ago. Nonetheless, there still are some dinosaurs roaming around! 

I would like to make some observations about this.  

First, the future often is much different than we thought it would be. Usually the future bears little resemblance to what contemporary prophets – whether secular or religious – declared it would be. One need only think of The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich and The Late, Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. 

In 1968 Ehrlich wrote, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.Just in case you’re wondering, he was wrong! 

Hal Lindsey’s 1970 book stated, “If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place.” He referred to events connected to the second coming of Jesus. In case you’re wondering, that was not a correct deduction, by now even the “or so” part of it is ruled out.  

Second, we underestimate ourselves, that is, human beings. We are made in the image of God and have unmeasured potential. Who could have predicted that you could put all that information in an iPhone! We don’t know what discovery or innovation or revolutionary invention lies just around the bend. Think fracking and North Dakota, to say nothing of PA.  

Third, we overestimate ourselves, that is, human beings. We forget we’re made in the image of God and are not gods ourselves! Because we’re so accustomed to sorting through and ordering things in the natural sphere – whether it be Ford automobiles or iPhones – we presume the same is true in all other spheres. 

In that sense, we don’t really “create” or “invent” anything, we simply gain deeper insight into the laws God set in place from the outset and learn new applications of those laws.

Fourth, we forget God the Creator. All our innovations, all our inventions, all our changes, must be in conformity with the laws He established from time He spoke the universe into existence. The automobile and the iPhone both work well only so long as they work in conformity with the laws of God. In that sense, we don’t really “create” or “invent” anything, we simply gain deeper insight into the laws God set in place from the outset and learn new applications of those laws. All our ingenuity and creativity will not allow us to make a four-sided triangle. Nor will we ever be able to change the numerical value of Pi, that is, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter of the same circle.  It will always be 3.14159. 

Fifth, this is just as true in the moral and spiritual sphere as it is in the natural sphere. Psalm 119:90-91 declares this so in the natural sphere: You [God] established the earth and it stands. They stand this day according to Your ordinances, for all things are your servants. That passage includes Pi and all the other constants of physics. 

You find the same thing in the moral realm. Here is verse 10 of Psalm 96, that great missionary Psalm:

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns; indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity.”

Here, the moral sphere is in view particularly, as it speaks of judgment. That judgment will be carried out with equity, that is, in absolute fairness in accordance with the moral laws in place since God spoke the universe into existence.  

Sixth, the difference between the natural sphere and the moral/spiritual sphere is that violation of laws in the natural sphere results in immediate negative consequences, or judgment. In the moral realm such is not the case. Why? Because God is slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness! He wants us to seek Him and is willing to overlook our times of ignorance and rebellion [see Acts 17:27-30] as He calls us to repentance. He can do this because of Jesus, whom He raised from the dead. He can justly forgive ignorance and rebellion because of what Christ has done, but He calls us to repentance for our ignorance and rebellion. That’s the gospel truth. Look to Christ and be saved! 

To maintain biblical standards of morality is not to be a dinosaur, it is to be in agreement with the One who will hold each person and family and state and nation accountable to His moral law. 

Seventh, all the moral changes we see in the world around us are not real changes in the moral order. They are evidence of the patience and forbearance of God. We need to know this and tell this truth to others. A judgment of equity lies ahead for each one of us. To maintain biblical standards of morality is not to be a dinosaur, it is to be in agreement with the One who will hold each person and family and state and nation accountable to His moral law. 

I’m out of space. I must send a text message to the iPhone of that dinosaur Stan Ott and set up our next time of intercession at Elder Prayer. 

In the Joy of the Lord,

John H.C. Niederhaus