The title of this post, and the article below is John Mark Reynolds. It’s really great, and I wanted to post the whole thing.

I agree with him. Social networking, as big as a proponent of it as I am, it does not replace being with a person in the flesh. It can help us stay connected with each other, plan events and share information, but nothing is as great as sitting down with someone in person and sharing life.

Las Vegas, Virtual Reality, and Plain Old Reality

I just returned from the Godblog Conference in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is a great place to discuss the world of virtual reality, since the Strip is a three dimensional attempt at a virtual world. Of course, what happens there does not stay there, since one brings one’s soul back home from Vegas. You can still see the sky in Las Vegas, concrete is just as hard, and the eyes of the casino workers look sad behind all the face makeup. Virtual reality cannot keep out reality.

The same things is true of the Net. Adopt any “avatar” you wish, but you are still you. Hide behavior carefully, but (as I well know) what you do will still matter. It hurts when people attack in virtual reality and it feels good when they praise your work.

Virtual reality is dependent on plain old reality, so it cannot escape harming or helping the souls on line. Because it so dependent on the world of concrete, neon, electricity, and physical bodies, it will never replace them. People are not just minds, but minds in bodies. To really know me (all of me), you have to know my whole self which includes my physical self.

As I have gotten to know certain people on line through their blogs, it increased my desire to know them.

You cannot understand Hugh Hewitt until you see him laugh. He laughs hard, but never stops thinking except when he is listening. It is a rare trait in a man who talks for a living to see his focus on what someone else is saying. You cannot hear it, you have to see it.

Al Mohler is naturally noble. His kingly manner is not stuffy or affected, it proceeds with him as he moves. He is everywhere he is.

Joe Carter delivers a joke with Bob Hope’s dead pan. Joe looks as if he should be the sheriff of an Old West town, he has that energetic slouch of a gun fighter. . . potential energy that does not wish to be bothered, but could actually act at a whisper of trouble.

Matt Anderson is intense at every moment as if he may have to leap up to save the West at any moment, Eric Jones has a thoughtful manner, Abraham Piper has a face that shouts his every mood, while Joshua Sowin is more guarded, but always looking about for the sub-text of the moment.

The A-Team blog members defy their virtual names by being gentle folk, both Roger and Amy remind one of more civilized days. People who have only read La Shawn Barber certainly miss the Athena flash of her eyes. The women of Intellectuelle are intensely rational, but appear to be enjoying it immensely.

I would not have missed late night, breakfast, mid-conference talks with these folk and many others. I can see them when I read them now.

All of which brings brings me to an important lesson: there are no complete conversations without being together: soul and body.

In a virtual world, we need more than Facebook friends.

Not Just Facebook Friends

It is good to socially network. The Net is a great help there.

I love having Facebook friends as it means I can keep up with what everyone is doing, but it is not as good as being there with them. I am glad to see how some alum are doing, but I miss having them around. Facebook reminds me to pray for Tim, Colin, Brian, Josh, Alisa, Jimmy, Sarah, Andrew, Katie, Meredith, Micah, Jenn, or Tom (to pick just a few from recent days), but it is not nearly as good as having class with them.

To you, if you have read this far, these names are a list. Because I spent years with them, they are real to me. I miss them when they are gone and “virtual” friendship is a poor substitute.

They have changed, I am sure, over the years, but my image of them has not. That makes me sad. I wish I could see them again and refresh my mental picture. Part of who they are now is what they have become in soul and body. I can guess much from their on-line information, but it is not as rich as being there.

This is obvious, but easy to forget. It is now simpler to multi-task with a virtual friend, rather than go to the bother of going to see a real friend . . . who will demand that I pay attention and not do five other things while talking to him.

Hope, the fairest flower in all of Christendom, wishes my whole attention, but then kissing her is better than looking at her picture on Facebook.

I can talk to my Dad on the phone, read his email (which he sends me six times due to his mailing program), but it is not as good as hearing him “live.” He booms and chuckles in a way that nobody else does.

Virtual contact (phones and Facebook) can sustain me only so long. God made us to want to be with each other. He takes this so seriously that though God sent a perfect Story, He loved us enough to come and live that Story out in front of us.

Incarnation, Not Just A Message from God

For God so loved the world, that He came Himself and did not just send us an invitation to chat on line.

Often when I talk to skeptics, this is a point they miss. God did not just hear about our pain, or sympathize with it, God experienced our pain. He took on Himself all the doubts and confusions that have ever been. He heard people, experienced rejection, and did not use His divine power to avoid our infernal rage. He took it face to face . . .and His Spirit is still with us abiding in our midst.

Christianity is not our journey to God, but God’s coming to us. His Kingdom is here now not just abstractly, but because His Spirit is here. He does not just watch from the sky, but experiences the pain of His beloved children. God shows up. He talks and He listens. He acts and He waits for us to respond.

Nor was this “being there” confined to the spirit. In the Incarnation, God put skin on to be with us in every way. Someday Jesus Christ will return, fully God and fully man, to be our King. He will not be here in Spirit only, but in physical fact.

We will be able to see Him with our physical eyes!

If God shows up, shouldn’t I?

Showing Up in Every Area of Life

I must be with my kids to parent them.

I must be with my friends to be friends.

I must be with my students to teach them.

I must be with my wife to love her.

God help me, but often I am too distracted to be with immortal souls. It is as if I am getting ready to be with people, by talking about them or writing about them, but run out of time to be with them. I am like the stupid business man who earns money for his family, but is never with his family while they spend it.

This week I will work hard to be there. I am incarnate and I will not try to hide from it!