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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sunspots 522

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:
Christianity: A review of Lauren Winner's book, Wearing God, by Relevant. Winner discusses some interesting Biblical metaphors for God in the interview, and the book. Not just Father, or Lord.

Relevant also tells us 5 ways that viewing pornography ruins a marriage.

Computing: National Public Radio reports on how good a job (or not) various traffic and map apps really do.


Health: Wired has some suggestions for making the development of effective antibiotics more attractive to drug companies.

Politics: Benjamin L. Corey believes he knows what a truly Bible-based nation would look like. Maybe not like you think.

Science:  Wired tells us about a woman who has deliberately let 200,000 bedbugs bite her.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by Gilbert K. Chesterton, 23

Grave moderns told us that we must not even say “poor fellow,” of a man who had blown his brains out, since he was an enviable person, and had only blown them out because of their exceptional excellence. Mr. William Archer even suggested that in the golden age there would be penny-in-the-slot machines, by which a man could kill himself for a penny. In all this I found myself utterly hostile to many who called themselves liberal and humane. Not only is suicide a sin, it is the sin. It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world. His act is worse (symbolically considered) than any rape or dynamite outrage. For it destroys all buildings: it insults all women. The thief is satisfied with diamonds; but the suicide is not: that is his crime. He cannot be bribed, even by the blazing stones of the Celestial City. The thief compliments the things he steals, if not the owner of them. But the suicide insults everything on earth by not stealing it. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer. When a man hangs himself on a tree, the leaves might fall off in anger and the birds fly away in fury: for each has received a personal affront. Of course there may be pathetic emotional excuses for the act. There often are for rape, and there almost always are for dynamite. But if it comes to clear ideas and the intelligent meaning of things, then there is much more rational and philosophic truth in the burial at the crossroads and the stake driven through the body, than in Mr. Archer’s suicidal automatic machines. There is a meaning in burying the suicide apart. The man’s crime is different from other crimes—for it makes even crimes impossible.
Obviously a suicide is the opposite of a martyr. A martyr is a man who cares so much for something outside him, that he forgets his own personal life. A suicide is a man who cares so little for anything outside him, that he wants to see the last of everything. One wants something to begin: the other wants everything to end. In other words, the martyr is noble, exactly because (however he renounces the world or execrates all humanity) he confesses this ultimate link with life; he sets his heart outside himself: he dies that something may live. The suicide is ignoble because he has not this link with being: he is a mere destroyer; spiritually, he destroys the universe. And then I remembered the stake and the crossroads, and the queer fact that Christianity had shown this weird harshness to the suicide. For Christianity had shown a wild encouragement of the martyr. Historic Christianity was accused, not entirely without reason, of carrying martyrdom and asceticism to a point, desolate and pessimistic. The early Christian martyrs talked of death with a horrible happiness. They blasphemed the beautiful duties of the body: they smelt the grave afar off like a field of flowers. All this has seemed to many the very poetry of pessimism. Yet there is the stake at the crossroads to show what Christianity thought of the pessimist. This was the first of the long train of enigmas with which Christianity entered the discussion. And there went with it a peculiarity of which I shall have to speak more markedly, as a note of all Christian notions, but which distinctly began in this one. The Christian attitude to the martyr and the suicide was not what is so often affirmed in modern morals. It was not a matter of degree. It was not that a line must be drawn somewhere, and that the self-slayer in exaltation fell within the line, the self-slayer in sadness just beyond it. The Christian feeling evidently was not merely that the suicide was carrying martyrdom too far. The Christian feeling was furiously for one and furiously against the other: these two things that looked so much alike were at opposite ends of heaven and hell. One man flung away his life; he was so good that his dry bones could heal cities in pestilence. Another man flung away life; he was so bad that his bones would pollute his brethren’s. I am not saying this fierceness was right; but why was it so fierce?

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, 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 15, 2015

22 questions from the "Holy Club" of the Wesleys, John and Charles

John Wesley, with his brother, Charles, founded the Holy Club at Oxford University, which was the forerunner of the Methodist Church. (See here for more on the Holy Club.)

One feature of the group was the use of accountability questions. I have been unable to determine whether what follows is an actual list, or closely based on a list -- if it were, it would be public domain -- from the early days of the Holy Club, but here is a list of such questions:

These are 22 questions, probably quite similar to, or identical with, the questions that members of John Wesley’s “Holy Club” asked themselves every day in their private devotions, over 200 years ago.
1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
3. Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence?
4. Can I be trusted?
5. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
6. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
7. Did the Bible live in me today?
8. Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
9. Am I enjoying prayer?
10. When did I last speak to someone else about my faith?
11. Do I pray about the money I spend?
12. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
13. Do I disobey God in anything?
14. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
15. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
16. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy, or distrustful?
17. How do I spend my spare time?
18. Am I proud?
19. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
20. Do I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard anyone? If so, what am I doing about it?
21. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
22. Is Christ real to me?

Thank you for reading. I heard of this list a couple of weeks ago, and have been using it since.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Poster on giving God glory, based on The Imitation of Christ

Imitation of Christ, on glory 

Based on The Imitation of Christ, a work by Thomas à Kempis, 15th century, hence public domain.

"Truly all human glory, all temporal honor, all worldly exultation, compared to Your eternal glory, is but vanity and folly. O God, my Truth and my Mercy, Blessed Trinity, to You alone be all praise, honor, power, and glory for ever and for ever. Amen." Indeed.

Thanks for looking. I used Coolors to generate the color scheme used in this poster.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sunspots 521

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

The Arts: Left Behind is going to be available through Netflix. E. Stephen Burnett does not recommend it, from any source.

Christianity: The New English Translation of the Bible, which can be downloaded free, in various formats. It is not public domain.

A Christianity Today columnist has begun wearing the same outfit to work all week. (In this case, the columnist is a female.)

Computing: Metaflop is a web site that lets you create your own fonts by modifying a pre-existing one.

Wired says that Coolors is a web site that lets you create your own color palettes, easily. It works. I plan to post a poster, with colors selected from that site, tomorrow.

Gizmo's Freeware has a Free Windows Desktop Software Security list, annotated.

The History Blog tells us about the first selfie, taken in 1839.

Christianity Today reviews a book that claims that Christians, historically, have embraced advancements in medicine, and should continue to do so.

Politics: Benjamin L. Corey gives statistics on how much (or little) Christians actually give that goes to help the poor, and says that his support of government assistance isn't because he is a socialist, but because, if the church isn't coming anywhere close to meeting needs, then government should, by default.

Time reports on a baby, conceived in vitro, with mitochondria, taken from the mother, and inserted into the egg.

National Public Radio reports on miscarriages. They are more common than you think, and the most common cause is a chromosomal abnormality. In other words, miscarriage prevents births of severely abnormal babies.

Wired on why, and how, cats purr.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by Gilbert K. Chesterton, 22

For our Titanic purposes of faith and revolution, what we need is not the cold acceptance of the world as a compromise, but some way in which we can heartily hate and heartily love it. We do not want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent. We have to feel the universe at once as an ogre’s castle, to be stormed, and yet as our own cottage, to which we can return at evening. No one doubts that an ordinary man can get on with this world: but we demand not strength enough to get on with it, but strength enough to get it on. Can he hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing? Can he look up at its colossal good without once feeling acquiescence? Can he look up at its colossal evil without once feeling despair? Can he, in short, be at once not only a pessimist and an optimist, but a fanatical pessimist and a fanatical optimist? Is he enough of a pagan to die for the world, and enough of a Christian to die to it? In this combination, I maintain, it is the rational optimist who fails, the irrational optimist who succeeds. He is ready to smash the whole universe for the sake of itself.

I did not pick out this material to post because of Mother's Day.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, 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 08, 2015

Creating DNA sequences has gotten easier, and some people think we need to be careful.

National Public Radio reports on a new technique for making sequences of DNA to order, apparently relatively quickly and easily, if you have the right equipment and know what you are doing. The report, and the company itself, use the term DNA printing. It isn't printing, in the usual sense. The only item on the company's web site seems to be a video, nearly 6 minutes long, about a CNN reporter, who had his DNA "hacked" by the company, as a demonstration of what they think they can do.

The CEO/chief scientist of the company, Cambrian Genetics, said a number of interesting things in the CNN report. I will mention two:

The ability to safely insert a DNA sequence into an adult, or any other cell, has not appeared yet.

Austen Heinz implied strongly that, when we can safely do this, we will have an ethical obligation to fix their DNA. That's worth an argument, I think.

The NPR report says: "But Heinz envisions a day when mass-produced DNA can genetically engineer people — or let anyone use DNA like computer code to design their own organisms." Again, that last part seems to be worth an argument.

I know -- we have been selecting organisms for different characteristics for centuries -- think dogs, for one example. So what's the big deal? Well maybe there isn't one. But consider: a terrorist might be able to produce an organism designed to destroy wiring, or pass on disease, or attack people. A lone geek might produce an organism which does something obnoxious, like digging holes in people's lawns, and is also resistant to poisons and disease, or is difficult to kill with traps or guns. Designing one's own organisms might lead to a lot of animal suffering by the products, if they were poorly designed, and, organisms being quite complex, poor design should occur all too often.

When dogs, or cows, were selected for some particular characteristics, it took a long time, maybe more than one human generation. There was time to assess the result. It also took a lot of effort. Usually, more than one person, or tribe, or family, was involved. There was at least a little consideration and discussion. If this technology becomes widely available, there are serious potential dangers.

See here for a report on different techniques, but which raises similar issues.

And all long-term exercises of power, especially in breeding, must mean the power of early generations over later ones. - C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man. HarperOne, 2015 paperback edition, p. 57. (Originally published in 1943)

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Sunspots 520

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

Christianity: (and politics) Christianity Today has an essay on the Indiana so-called religious freedom law, The essay points out some serious exaggerations by at least two sides in the argument over the law, and gives some good advice to Christians on the future of same-sex relationships in the US.

The 22 questions that John Wesley wanted Christians to ask themselves every day. (Public domain, and available from several other sites.)
Computing: Gizmo's Freeware recommends a web site that compares anti-virus software.
Ethics: A New York Times columnist writes about a "Moral Bucket List." He says that there are two kinds of virtues, "the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues," and we reward the first kind, but they really don't matter as much as the "eulogy virtues."
Politics: An essay on "taking the county back." The author says that Jesus didn't, and Israel, at that time, had really been taken from the Jews, in many senses.
Science: Wired tells us that honeybees aren't going to go away, but about 4,000 other species of bees are in danger.
Wired also reports on a creature known as the disco clam -- it produces flashes of light. The report has a couple of brief videos.
Sports: FiveThirtyEight presents an argument that Women's NCAA basketball is better than men's basketball.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

R. A. Torrey on how to lose the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

If there is one dread that comes to me more frequently than any other, it is that of losing the power of God. Oh, the agony of having known God’s power, of having been used of Him, and then of having that power withdrawn, to be laid aside as far as any real usefulness is concerned. Men may still praise you, but God can’t use you. To see a perishing world around you and to know there is no power in your words to save. Would not to die be better than that? . . . I see so many men from whom God has departed, men once eminently used of God, I walk with fear and trembling, and cry unto Him daily to keep me from the things that would make the withdrawal of his power necessary. But what those things are I think he has made plain to me, and I have tried in the words here written to make them plain to both you and myself. To sum them up they are these:
1) the surrender of our separation
2) sin
3) self-indulgence
4) greed for money
5) pride
6) the neglect of prayer
7) the neglect of the Word.
Shall we not, by God’s grace, from this time be on our guard against these things, and thus make sure of the continuance of God’s power in our life and service until that glad day comes when we can say with Paul: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day, “ (2 Tim. 4:7, 8.) or better yet with Jesus, “I have glorified thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which thou hast given me to do.” (John. 17:4, R. V.)

-Modified slightly from The Baptism of the Holy Spirit by R. A. Torrey. (public domain) Available here, and elsewhere.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by Gilbert K. Chesterton, 21

The evil of the pessimist is, then, not that he chastises gods and men, but that he does not love what he chastises—he has not this primary and supernatural loyalty to things. What is the evil of the man commonly called an optimist? Obviously, it is felt that the optimist, wishing to defend the honour of this world, will defend the indefensible. He is the jingo of the universe; he will say, “My cosmos, right or wrong.” He will be less inclined to the reform of things; more inclined to a sort of front-bench official answer to all attacks, soothing every one with assurances. He will not wash the world, but whitewash the world.

Some stupid people started the idea that because women obviously back up their own people through everything, therefore women are blind and do not see anything. They can hardly have known any women. The same women who are ready to defend their men through thick and thin are (in their personal intercourse with the man) almost morbidly lucid about the thinness of his excuses or the thickness of his head. A man’s friend likes him but leaves him as he is: his wife loves him and is always trying to turn him into somebody else. Women who are utter mystics in their creed are utter cynics in their criticism. Thackeray expressed this well when he made Pendennis’ mother, who worshipped her son as a god, yet assume that he would go wrong as a man. She underrated his virtue, though she overrated his value. The devotee is entirely free to criticize; the fanatic can safely be a sceptic. Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, 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.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

R. A. Torrey on the baptism with the Holy Spirit

“How the Baptism of the Holy Spirit can be Obtained” (From The Baptism with the Holy Spirit, 1895, by R. A. Torrey. Public domain. The book is available here, and from other sources.) Torrey believed that the baptism with the Holy Spirit was meant for all Christians. The following is a summary of a chapter of Torrey's book.

There are seven steps to obtaining the baptism of the Holy Spirit. All seven are stated or implied in Acts 2: 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. . . .”
1 Repent. That is, change your mind about Christ, by accepting Him as Savior and Lord.
2. Repent. That is, change your mind about sin, by putting away every sin, however trivial it may seem.
3. Be baptized. Torrey points out that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus right after His baptism. (Luke 3: 21 Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus also had been baptized, and was praying. The sky was opened, 22a and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form like a dove on him) Torrey says that the experience of the household of Cornelius was exceptional, and that they were baptized with water immediately after they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
4. Obedience. “Total Surrender to the will of God.”
5. “Intense desire for the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.” Torrey quotes Luke 11:13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” This desire must be for God’s glory, not ours, and must be a desire for a more effective ministry.
6. Ask God for a definite blessing – the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
7. Believe that you have obtained this baptism. Just as we aren’t saved by feelings, but can claim salvation on the authority of the Bible, Torrey says that we can claim the baptism of the Holy Spirit, if we have met the conditions, on the authority of God’s word.