Rev. VanBaren is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

“Theologically Correct?”

An article in the Grand Rapids Press, February 27, 2002, reports on “Implanting an I.D.” A short lead-in statement is made: “The makers of VeriChip say they have checked to make sure it doesn’t match the biblical ‘mark of the beast.’ ” The subhead states further, “New biochip holds implications for security, privacy.”

The news report states:

A Florida technology company is preparing to seek government approval for a computer ID chip that would be implanted inside the body and could be used to store everything from secret codes to sensitive medical information.

…The company also is developing another implant that would work in conjunction with the VeriChip to allow satellite tracking of an individual’s every movement. The tracker is already attracting interest across the globe for tasks like foiling kidnappings, the company says.

Applied Digital, based in Palm Beach, Fla., says it soon will begin the process of getting Food and Drug Administration approval for the VeriChip, and intends to limit its marketing to companies that ensure its human use is voluntary.

“The line in the sand that we draw is that the use of the VeriChip would always be voluntarily (sic),” said Keith Bolton, chief technology officer and a vice president at applied Digital. “We would never provide it to a company that intended to coerce people to use it.”

…The makers of the chip also foresee it being used to help emergency workers, for instance, diagnose a lost Alzheimer’s patient or access an unconscious patient’s medical history.

Getting the implant would go something like this:

A person or company buys the chip for about $200 and Applied Digital encodes it with the desired information. The person seeking the implant takes the tiny device—about the size of a grain of rice, to their doctor, who can insert it with a large needle-like instrument.

The doctor monitors the device for several weeks to make sure it doesn’t move and that no infection develops.

The device has no power supply. Rather, it contains a millimeter-long magnetic coil that is activated when a scanning device is run across the skin above it. A tiny transmitter on the chip sends out the data.

Without a scanner, the chip cannot be read. Applied Digital plans to give away chip readers to hospitals and ambulance companies, in hopes they’ll become standard equipment.

So: what’s the big concern? There appears to be at least two: (1) the question of privacy, and (2) the question of the “mark of the beast” in Revelation (13:16-18). The Press article states,

Applied Digital Solutions’ new VeriChip is another sign that Sept. 11 has catapulted the effort to secure America into a realm with uncharted possibilities—and also new fears for privacy.

“The problem is that you always have to think about what the device will be used for tomorrow,” said Lee Tien, a senior attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocacy group.

“It’s what we call function creep. At first a device is used for applications we all agree are good but then it slowly is used for more than it was intended.”

What of the religious concerns?

Theologian and author Terry Cook said he worries the identification chip could be the “mark of the beast,” an identifying mark that all people will be forced to wear just before the end times, according to the Bible.

Applied Digital has consulted theologians and appeared on the religious TV program the “700 Club” to assure viewers the chip didn’t fit the biblical description of the mark because it is under the skin and hidden from view.

All of the above raises some interesting questions. The idea of a “function creep” represents one of these. This device is presented as being useful in various situations. If a person is kidnapped, the police could find his location. One with Alzheimer’s could, if lost, be quickly found. One who is unconscious could have his “chip” read concerning medical conditions which might be present. But there is that troubling “function creep.” What if the government demands that all of its citizens have this chip? What if the government insists on placing on one’s chip his religious connections (possibly identifying also then extremist Muslims)? What if the government makes demands of its citizens which the Christian could not meet (we must obey God rather than man)? What if all of this information is encoded in this chip the size of a grain of rice? It’s “function creep.”

But, someone might insist, the government surely will defend our privacy and not make demands such as those “what if’s” above. But has not “function creep” become evident in many areas? What of our Social Security numbers? First, only the actual worker was required to have one—to make sure wages were correctly reported. Before long, the non-working wives of the workers were also required to have a number. And soon also the newly born infant needed such a number soon after birth. It’s “function creep.”

That “function creep” is seen in our phone system. Not only can there be immediate identification of in-coming calls, but each call is recorded on a computer—where it was placed, how long it lasted, etc. And the computer which sends out one’s e-mail has the computer identified, the destination recorded, so that such computers can later provide valuable assistance if a criminal employs this technology. It’s “function creep.”

Now cameras can be mounted almost anywhere to take continuous recordings of events in the area. It has many useful advantages. It can also register our every action—for future prosecution when necessary. One can easily imagine that such cameras would be placed in the churches as well, to record who attend there. It’s “function creep.”

But can this “grain of rice” chip be the number of the beast? The company making this chip insists that this is impossible. Revelation 13 states that this mark is visible—on the right hand or the forehead. The “grain of rice” chip is underneath the skin and invisible. This, of course, is foolish reasoning. The “mark,” though presented as visible and a number, is nevertheless mentioned in the book of Revelation, which is filled with symbols (of which the number 666 is one). Revelation surely emphasizes a method of instant identification of every individual—so that without this identification method, he can neither buy nor sell. And together with all of the other marvelous inventions of the past 100 years, clearly the time is at hand in whichRevelation 13 will be fulfilled. And the above article is another sign of how close the end of this age truly is.

Christians As Taliban

Taliban? We have heard of these on the daily news accounts. But, Christians as Taliban? World magazine, January 19, 2002, has an article by Gene Edward Veith, in which the claim is made that this will be part of a campaign against the currently popular president in order to whittle down that popularity. The article states:

How will the Democrats campaign against a president whose approval ratings are in the upper 80s? The answer: Steal the war issue from the Republicans by scapegoating the “religious right,” presenting conservative Christians as the moral equivalent of the Taliban.

In Newsweek’s New Year’s issue, Howard Fineman reports that “Democrats are planning a daring assault on the most critical turf in politics: the cultural mainstream…. The GOP is out of the mainstream, some Democrats will argue next year, because it’s too dependent upon an intolerant ‘religious right.’ ” As Marvin Olasky notes on page 38, Democrats will use expressions like “reproductive tolerance” to attack pro-life Christians.

“This is an incendiary battle plan,” even Mr. Fineman says, “essentially comparing the GOP right with the Taliban.” The ploy is “designed to draw an outraged response from the president. Then Democrats would have Bush just where they wanted him: in a fire fight at home.”

The Democratic PR machine is denying Mr. Fineman’s report, but liberal columnists and pundits are already sounding the theme. Thus, those whose theology motivates them to try to save innocent lives are portrayed as being the same as those whose theology motivates them to kill innocent lives. Those who call for good music are lumped with those who want to abolish music altogether. A religion that has brought freedom wherever it goes is branded as the same as a religion that has brought tyranny. Christians exercising their constitutional liberty to express their convictions in the public square are identified as terrorists.

…The new hostility to orthodox Christianity goes beyond just wanting to keep moral considerations out of public policy. It aims at the theological content of Christianity, the very substance of the faith: that salvation comes through Jesus Christ.

What galls the new anti-Christian bigots is evangelism. Even the private conviction that one has been saved by Christ implies that there is something wrong with all of the other ways by which people try to save themselves. The first state of overt persecution would be “anti-proselytizing laws,” which already exist in several countries (including, in particular, Islamic countries).

In the same issue of Newsweek, religion editor Kenneth Woodward defines the kind of religious expression that the cultural elite will allow. “Mere tolerance of other religions is not enough,” he says. “Even the acceptance of other religions as valid paths to God is insufficient”! He says that religious people must “develop a deep understanding and appreciation of at least one other religion” in addition to their own….

So—you know where we fit if this is the explanation of “Christian Taliban.” One can be certain that, whatever the approach, there will be increasing attempts to silence the Christian “message” about the one way of salvation: Jesus Christ our Lord. Nor is it inconceivable that a required “rice grain” chip would contain also this information. Would it be possible, perhaps, that the Christian would not be required to deny his Christianity—as long as he is willing to recognize and study a second religion as also a legitimate way of salvation? That an encoded message in the implanted chip about this would enable one to buy or sell—and without that message, one would be “left out in the cold”?