For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Voice Recognition and The Gospel

I consider myself to be fairly articulate.  I speak for a living (technically "preach").  I have a degree in communication. I took voice and articulation classes. I spent several years working in Christian radio.  I know that, like everyone, I let my grammar and diction slip now and then.  But overall, I'd say I speak pretty clearly most of the time.  

Especially when I'm trying.  When I'm trying to be sure I'm understood.  Like when speaking into my phone's voice recognition software to send a text message, or post online.  I try to be clear.  But sometimes...

It's my fault for naming my youngest Kenaniah.  I don't expect the software company to have made plans for a name like that, even though it's quite Biblical.  But I tried three different times to send a text to my wife one day about taking our son to his baseball game.

I thought the message was simple: Are you going to take Kenaniah to his game?  The first attempt came out typed like this: Are you going to take in and I add to his game?  So I tried again: Are you going to take can I add to his game?  Finally, what I thought was my most clear attempt: Are you going to take in and it was getting?  It seemed to get worse as I went. 
Again.  It's my fault with the name and all.  Folks couldn't hope to have programmed the software to recognize that.  But other times, I'm simply mystified.  The software seems to have an aversion to all things theological.  I have a habit of "tweeting" lines from old hymns.  Today I tried some lines from an Anne Steele hymn which said this: The blessings of Thy grace impart, And make me live to Thee.  Now I know "thees" and "thous" might be a problem, but this is what my phone typed when I spoke those words: The blessings of bike race in part, And make me live TV.   

Really? Bike race in part really makes more sense than Thy grace impart?  And it really thinks I want to be a live TV?  Of course the software doesn't think at all.  It just "hears" and spits out what it thinks it heard.  But again, this is based on programming algorithms designed to "make sense" of what it hears.  And those are put in by programmers based on what they expect to be said.  And it seems that bike races are more likely to be texted about than God's grace.

I know it shouldn't surprise me.  The world as a whole doesn't grasp the grace of God, doesn't think it terms of His blessings and a desire to live for Him.  And it is just cheap computer/phone software. But the whole thing got me to thinking. What if this is how we really sound to the world? What if when we speak of God's grace imparting blessings, it makes about as much sense to people as a "bike race in part"?

Do they have the context, the background software, to make sense of what we're saying?  Sometimes I think we believe we are still in this idyllic "Christian" nation that has all the background information and Biblical foundations to work with.  And increasingly, folks don't.  The worldview of our current culture and the worldview of the Bible are perhaps further apart than they've ever been in this country.  Not that these haven't been at odds all along; not that other places on the globe are unaware of a biblical worldview; but in this nation it seems that what at one time was at least an awareness of a biblical worldview has long since disappeared from the public realm. 

What difference does it make?  Well, it makes communication of the gospel a bit more difficult for starters.  Maybe not more difficult, since speaking the truth of God to a sinful world has always been tough.  But it's going to take more concerted effort on our part.  We're speaking a foreign language to many.  Speak about reality TV shows, speak about Oprah, speak about evolution and environmentalism, and folks will get it.  But speak about sin and righteousness and atonement and God's sovereignty and we might as well be talking about being a live TV.

We need to set the background, lay the foundation. Which, by the way, is why our view of Genesis is so important.  If that foundational book is not to be trusted, the rest will fall as well.  But that's another post altogether.  Now, where was I?  Oh yes, laying a foundation.  "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" won't cut it anymore (if it ever did!).  We need to begin with the holiness of God, the sinfulness of men, the rightness of His justice and wrath because of the gulf between those things, and then the beautiful light of the cross which bridges the gap.  Even then, we're going to have to watch our words, define ourselves, make sure we're operating on the same wavelength.  As I said, it takes effort. 

Anyway, since our primary goal as the Church is to glorify God and proclaim His good news, I just thought this was something to think about.  Now, if you'll excuse me I'm going to have to go and actually figure out how to use the little digital key pad on my phone to get these messages sent. 


Gregg Metcalf said...

You are too funny! That was a great post. I am glad I don't have any software or hardware that I have to worry about my diction. It is bad enough have the occasion wrestling match with autospell.

Scott said...

Oh, auto spell has a field day with our kid's names as well. Thanks goodness we can "add to dictionary" on most of them!