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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sunspots 575

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: Bible scholar Ken Schenck on what the Bible says about wealth.

E. Stephen Burnett has written two "duh!" posts, about truths Christians need to be reminded of: our non-Christian neighbors don't get God's law, and they don't even understand God's grace in a rudimentary way.

Christianity Today on Pascal's wager. (The wager was about whether it makes sense to be a Christian believer, even if, say, Christian teaching about heaven is false.)

Computing: Gizmo's Freeware points to a site that will tell you how hard it would be to crack a password.

The Environment: (or something) Listverse discusses the 10 loneliest things in the world.

Food: Listverse reports on 10 strange soda (aka soft drink) flavors.

Health: National Public Radio reports on whether or not women need to have menstrual periods.

Politics: (and health)  National Public Radio reports that a ten billion dollar program which was supposed to speed up getting treatment visits for veterans has actually made things worse. Oh, dear.

Science: Wired on why insect stings really hurt.

Listverse reports on 10 bizarre-sounding proposals by scientists, most of which were suggested as ways to alleviate Global Climate Change.

NPR reports on research designed to find out why we gossip.

Sports: FiveThirtyEight reports that women get concussions from participating in sports at higher rates than men do.

Image source (public domain)  

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 71

All other philosophies say the things that plainly seem to be true; only this philosophy has again and again said the thing that does not seem to be true, but is true. Alone of all creeds it is convincing where it is not attractive; . . . Theosophists for instance will preach an obviously attractive idea like reincarnation; but if we wait for its logical results, they are spiritual superciliousness and the cruelty of caste. For if a man is a beggar by his own pre-natal sins, people will tend to despise the beggar. But Christianity preaches an obviously unattractive idea, such as original sin; but when we wait for its results, they are pathos and brotherhood, and a thunder of laughter and pity; for only with original sin we can at once pity the beggar and distrust the king. . . . Orthodoxy makes us jump by the sudden brink of hell; it is only afterwards that we realize that jumping was an athletic exercise highly beneficial to our health.

Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sunspots 574

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

The Arts: Listverse reports on 10 amazing objects made from ice -- some small, some quite large.

Christianity: Philosopher Alvin Plantinga on why science does not rule out miracles.

Sojourners reports that Southern Baptists, Jews, Sikhs, and Hari Krishna worshipers have come out against a zoning ruling that a mosque couldn't be built.

Computing: Gizmo's Freeware points to a free web-based video studio.

Wired says that ransomware -- making a computer or network unusable, then demanding money to reverse this -- is becoming the most common type of Internet attack. The article discusses ways to avoid this.

Politics: Some reactions from important Christians to Mr. Trump: Sojourners reports on a "called to resist bigotry" statement, signed by sixty important religious leaders. The report includes a long excerpt from an article by Russell Moore, an important official of the Southern Baptist Convention, who signed the statement. Here's the Moore article.

Science: Listverse tells us about 10 organisms (not all are animals!) that may be as or more intelligent than we are.

Sports: Congratulations to Tim Duncan. His team, the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association, did not win the championship this year. (They have in the past.) But Duncan has won more games with the same team than any player in the history of the NBA.

Image source (public domain)  

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 70

Now, when society is in a rather futile fuss about the subjection of women, will no one say how much every man owes to the tyranny and privilege of women, to the fact that they alone rule education until education becomes futile: for a boy is only sent to be taught at school when it is too late to teach him anything. The real thing has been done already, and thank God it is nearly always done by women. Every man is womanized, merely by being born. They talk of the masculine woman; but every man is a feminised man.

For I remember with certainty this fixed psychological fact; that the very time when I was most under a woman’s authority, I was most full of flame and adventure. Exactly because when my mother said that ants bit they did bite, and because snow did come in winter (as she said); therefore the whole world was to me a fairyland of wonderful fulfillments, and it was like living in some Hebraic age, when prophecy after prophecy came true. I went out as a child into the garden, and it was a terrible place to me, precisely because I had a clue to it: if I had held no clue it would not have been terrible, but tame. A mere unmeaning wilderness is not even impressive. But the garden of childhood was fascinating, exactly because everything had a fixed meaning which could be found out in its turn.

Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Sunspots 573

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: A resource on the history of the Biblical canon.

Wired on how to make passwords more secure.

Health: Wired reports on the dangers of driving over the speed limit, or of setting the speed limit higher.
Politics: National Public Radio has a commentary on how the news media failed to cover Donald Trump properly.

FiveThirtyEight weighs in on how and why Trump won the Republican nomination.

FiveThirtyEight also reports that Trump supporters have higher incomes than the public at large, which is contrary to what has often been said, or implied.

Science: Listverse reports on animals that decorate themselves, or their surroundings.

Listverse also reports on 10 small isolated villages where health conditions rare elsewhere are common.

Wired reports that the simple little hydra may be potentially immortal, and explains why.
Image source (public domain)  

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 69

Note: This post doesn't have anything to do with Mother's Day, at least not on purpose. Sorry.

If a shade arose from the under world, and stared at Piccadilly, that shade would not quite understand the idea of an ordinary closed carriage. He would suppose that the coachman on the box was a triumphant conqueror, dragging behind him a kicking and imprisoned captive. So, if we see spiritual facts for the first time, we may mistake who is uppermost.

I have now said enough to show (to any one to whom such an explanation is essential) that I have in the ordinary arena of apologetics, a ground of belief. In pure records of experiment (if these be taken democratically without contempt or favour) there is evidence first, that miracles happen, and second that the nobler miracles belong to our tradition. But I will not pretend that this curt discussion is my real reason for accepting Christianity instead of taking the moral good of Christianity as I should take it out of Confucianism. I have another far more solid and central ground for submitting to it as a faith, instead of merely picking up hints from it as a scheme. And that is this: that the Christian Church in its practical relation to my soul is a living teacher, not a dead one. It not only certainly taught me yesterday, but will almost certainly teach me tomorrow. Once I saw suddenly the meaning of the shape of the mitre. One fine morning I saw why windows were pointed; some fine morning I may see why priests were shaven. Plato has told you a truth; but Plato is dead. Shakespeare has startled you with an image; but Shakespeare will not startle you with any more. But imagine what it would be to live with such men still living, to know that Plato might break out with an original lecture tomorrow, or that at any moment Shakespeare might shatter everything with a single song. The man who lives in contact with what he believes to be a living Church is a man always expecting to meet Plato and Shakespeare tomorrow at breakfast. He is always expecting to see some truth that he has never seen before. There is one only other parallel to this position; and that is the parallel of the life in which we all began. When your father told you, walking about the garden, that bees stung or that roses smelt sweet, you did not talk of taking the best of out of his philosophy. When the bees stung you, you did not call it an entertaining coincidence. When the rose smelt sweet you did not say “My father is a rude, barbaric symbol, enshrining (perhaps unconsciously) the deep delicate truths that flowers smell.” No: you believed your father, because you had found him to be a living fountain of facts, a thing that really knew more than you; a thing that would tell you truth tomorrow, as well as today.

Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Why the Bible is God's word.

The Bible is God’s word

Why do I say that? Here are some reasons:

The Bible is accurate. No one has ever shown that a location, an event, or a person mentioned in the Bible, that God intended to be taken as factual, is portrayed falsely. People have tried to disprove its accuracy, but have failed.

The Bible includes predictions that came true, about the coming of Christ, and his death, and other events. If these had been faked (written after the facts) they would almost certainly have been clearer.

The Bible doesn’t gloss over some stuff that we might not like, or that don’t seem appropriate (Like Judges 11, or parts of Psalm 35 or 54).

The Bible speaks to different cultures. Parts of the Old Testament spoke to people living about 3,000 years ago. The New Testament speaks to people living nearly 2,000 years after it was written.

People have had their lives transformed through reading the Bible. The Gideons tell us stories of that every time they come to our church. I knew a man who became a believer through reading a Gideon Bible. He recently passed away, after having been a good pastor for many years.

The Bible can stir emotions. Reading about Christ’s suffering, or the majesty of God’s creation, or the unnamed heroes of faith in the last part of Hebrews 11, brings about feelings in me. Other passages speak to other people.

The Bible points out man’s biggest problem, sin. (See the story of the Fall, Cain and Abel, and much more.) The Bible also points out the solution: Romans 3:23 for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; 24 being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God sent to be an atoning sacrifice, [text note – or propitiation] through faith in his blood ...

The Bible presents a sensible worldview: There’s a supernatural beginning to the universe, humanity messing up our world, the futility of trying to pay the penalty of sin by human action, successful payment of the price of sin by an unimaginable sacrifice, a valid promise of purpose and joy in life, accompanied by God the Holy Spirit, and a to-be-filled promise of eternal life to come.

The Bible gives us two great commandments, a sturdy foundation for any ethical or legal system.

All this is evidence that the Bible is supernatural – God’s word. To further emphasize that, the Bible depends on itself. Heres the result of a search for the phrase “it is written” in the Bible. It occurs 80 times.

For related reading, from an articulate Bible scholar, see this article.
For my own thoughts on the claim that the King James Bible is the only valid translation, see here.
For my thoughts on whether it is possible to just read the Bible, without interpreting it, see here.
In the paragraph about predictions, I indicated that at least some prophecy was not very clear -- it was difficult or impossible to know what was meant, until after the event prophesied. See here for biblical examples.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Sunspots 572

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity Today reports that only about one-third of Protestant pastors in the US believe in a literal rapture before a literal tribulation.

Cal Thomas, conservative, Christian, and syndicated columnist, on why Christians should not depend on politics to fix our problems.

Computing: Gizmo's Freeware reports, briefly, on a free substitute for Office.

The Environment: From Wired: “Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants.” But, in a special case, widening highways seems to have helped traffic flow.

Food: Relevant reports that someone has invented a pizza box made out of pizza.

Health: National Public Radio and other sources report that you can get the same surgery for considerably different prices in different places in the US.

History: A viking longship, powered by sail and oars, has set sail from Norway to North America, according to the History Blog.

An airconditioning system has been found in a tower in Kuwait, dating to about the 7th century, according to the History Blog.

Listverse discusses 10 cases where Muslims, Jews, and Christians protected each other.

Listverse describes 10 bizarre insect predators. The post includes videos of some of these creatures.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Equipment and character for following Christ

Our Tools and Power - we have been given enough equipment to follow Christ
Ephesians 1:19b the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might 20a which he worked in Christ, when he raised him from the dead

Luke 12:11a “… don’t be anxious how or what you will answer, or what you will say; 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that same hour what you must say.”

Colossians 1:9 For this cause, we also, since the day we heard this, don’t cease praying and making requests for you, that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 that you may walk worthily of the Lord, to please him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God,

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23a gentleness, and self-control. (These fruits are tools for following Christ -- see below.)

1 Peter 4:10 As each has received a gift, employ it in serving one another, as good managers of the grace of God in its various forms. 11b … that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having the utility belt of truth buckled around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having fitted your feet with the preparation of the Good News of peace, 16 above all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;

Our Character: When I ask, “Tell me the first word that comes to your mind when I say Christian,” not one time has someone suggested the word love. – Philip Yancey, Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News?
But: 1 John 4:8 He who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, for God is love.

Thanks for reading. Be equipped!

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 68

The sceptic always takes one of the two positions; either an ordinary man need not be believed, or an extraordinary event must not be believed. For I hope we may dismiss the argument against wonders attempted in the mere recapitulation of frauds, of swindling mediums or trick miracles. That is not an argument at all, good or bad. A false ghost disproves the reality of ghosts exactly as much as a forged banknote disproves the existence of the Bank of England—if anything, it proves its existence.

Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Sunspots 571

Christianity: Like many of us, the author of an article in Relevant is troubled by the idea of eternity in hell, for some people. But he decides that God knows more than we do.

Health: NPR reports that Utah has declared pornography a health hazard, and indicates why.

Literature: Listverse describes 10 attempts at punctuation marks that didn't catch on.

Politics: Relevant warns us not to confuse America with God's Kingdom. Some Christians have done that.

Surprise! FiveThirtyEight finds that politicians, as a whole (both parties, in both Congress and the Presidency) keep most of their promises.

Science: Wired reports on the difficulties of using modern genetic techniques on marijuana plants.

Science News discusses the "Goldilocks Zone" -- conditions on a planet, necessary for life as we know it.

Sports: Oksana Chusovitina has qualified for the Olympic gymnastics team from Uzbekistan. She is 41 years old. Good for her!

UK astronaut Tim Peake was the official starter of the London Marathon, and finished the 2016 marathon, while in the International Space Station, according to NPR. However, US Astronaut Sunita Williams ran the first Marathon in the ISS, competing, and finishing, the 2007 Boston Marathon. (She also competed, and finished, on earth, in the 2008 Boston Marathon.)

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 67

Suppose we were investigating whether angry men really saw a red mist before their eyes. Suppose sixty excellent householders swore that when angry they had seen this crimson cloud: surely it would be absurd to answer “Oh, but you admit you were angry at the time.” They might reasonably rejoin (in a stentorian chorus), “How the blazes could we discover, without being angry, whether angry people see red?” So the saints and ascetics might rationally reply, “Suppose that the question is whether believers can see visions—even then, if you are interested in visions it is no point to object to believers.” You are still arguing in a circle-in that old mad circle with which this book began.
The question of whether miracles ever occur is a question of common sense and of ordinary historical imagination: not of any final physical experiment. One may here surely dismiss that quite brainless piece of pedantry which talks about the need for “scientific conditions” in connection with alleged spiritual phenomena. If we are asking whether a dead soul can communicate with a living it is ludicrous to insist that it shall be under conditions in which no two living souls in their senses would seriously communicate with each other. The fact that ghosts prefer darkness no more disproves the existence of ghosts than the fact that lovers prefer darkness disproves the existence of love. If you choose to say, “I will believe that Miss Brown called her fiancé a periwinkle or, any other endearing term, if she will repeat the word before seventeen psychologists,” then I shall reply, “Very well, if those are your conditions, you will never get the truth, for she certainly will not say it.” It is just as unscientific as it is unphilosophical to be surprised that in an unsympathetic atmosphere certain extraordinary sympathies do not arise. It is as if I said that I could not tell if there was a fog because the air was not clear enough; or as if I insisted on perfect sunlight in order to see a solar eclipse.

Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The New Testament teaches that Christians should be stewards of the environment.

Psalm 19:1-4 and Romans 1:20 tell us that observing and learning about nature are part of God’s revelation to humans. If that is so, isn’t that a reason to try to preserve nature as well as we can?

The Bible is one of the ways that God reveals Himself to us. Christians believe that the Bible should be translated into the language people are most familiar with, so that that revelation may be as clear as possible. Similarly, it would seem that God’s revelation through nature should be as clear as possible. A person is more likely to see God in a beautiful clear stream than in a polluted river, or in a clear sky than in a smog-filled atmosphere. Seeing bison herds roam freely in Western North America, or immense flocks of passenger pigeons, gave people a glimpse of aspects of God’s power and majesty that they can’t get now. Helping to preserve nature in as good a condition as we can is one way to bring people to a saving knowledge of Christ. Not the most direct way, and perhaps not the most effective, but it is still a way to do this.
Colossians 1:15-20 says, of Christ, that “in Him all things are held together.” That passage also says that He is working to reconcile all things to Himself, and that He is working to make peace through the blood of the cross. As Christians, we believe that it is our duty to be His instruments in reconciling sinners to Christ, and to help Him in the ministry of making peace. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 tells us that: 18 But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation.

(Hebrews 1:3 also tells us that Christ is holding all things together.)  
Christians believe they should participate in Christ’s work of reconciliation. Shouldn’t they also participate in His work of holding all things together, including endangered species, ecosystems and biological communities?

What do you think? (See here for Old Testament teaching on environmental stewardship. There is lots of it!)

Thanks for reading. This post was modified from this one.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sunspots 570

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

The Arts: (And science) Wired reports on the creation of some 3-D virus trading cards. You read that correctly.

Christianity: Ken Schenck on the command to not steal.

Christianity Today reports on a church in Texas that has attacked predatory lenders, and mostly won.

Computing: Relevant has an essay on the effect of pornography on society, and how some non-Christians are trying to stop wide-spread use of pornography. " culture offers an accessible, instant kind of sex but in the end leaves you with no sex at all. God offers sex that requires self-sacrifice and covenant, and it brings far more than just sex."

Gizmo's Freeware on the best video player for Android information appliances.

Gizmo's also notes a free tool that gives you all kinds of specifications of your Windows computer. (My motherboard is currently running at from 55-60 degrees C, for example.)

The Environment: (Or something) Wired has an article on the many ways that space under elevated highways is being used.

Science: Wired reports on a woman who "has no episodic memories—none of those impressionistic recollections that feel a bit like scenes from a movie, always filmed from your perspective."

Wired also reports on a quadriplegic who, with help from a brain implant, is able to control some of his movements by thinking about doing them.

Listverse describes 10 carnivorous plants and fungi that you probably didn't know about. Some of them are pretty gross.

Listverse also describes 10 amazing moth facts. Some of them are pretty gross, too. All are interesting.

From Discover: Fairy wrens teach their chicks a "password" while they are in the egg, which helps the parents to not feed brood parasites.

Image source (public domain)