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Thursday, August 31, 2006

I Like the New Blogger Beta (added to)

The Google company owns Blogger. Many of us out here in cyberspace use this program for our blogs. Blogger is an on-line program for creating and managing blog posts. One of its advantages is that it is free. Another is that, being on-line, you can use any computer with web access to post. Recently, one of the bloggers I subscribe to said that she was going to change her blog. Soon after, Blogger asked me, when I logged in to the site, if I would like to switch to the new version. Thinking that Grasshopper had done so, and that if it was good enough for her, it would be for me, I said yes. (Actually, she hasn't changed over yet. Oh, well.)

So what does the new version do for me (and for you, the hypothetical reader)?

Several things I have noticed. Probably some I haven't. This page gives a summary of the new features.

1) I can now enter labels for each post. This one has only one such, namely "Blogging." What's a label? A label is a category. If you, the reader, want to, you can click on the label, and you should quickly see the other posts I have marked with the same label. (Other blogging software has similar capability, and has for a long time.) That's great!

There's a downside -- I have posted roughly 500 posts, and there isn't any easy way to go back and label all the previous ones. I've labelled some of them, but not nearly all. Sorry.

2) There's a lot less need to fiddle with the internal workings of the HTML. There's a page for me where I can just drag and drop to establish the locations of various common features of a blog. I can change fonts and colors easily. In fact, I just changed my default text font to Verdana, which, I believe, is more legible on screen than Arial. Sorry, both of you faithful readers, if all these changes are making you dizzy!

3) I used to rely on another web site to generate my blogroll/list of the subscriptions I want to mention. I no longer have to do that. Blogger does that for me, and does it more easily. I can also name it anything I want to.

4) I can now choose whether to edit drafts (not yet posted musings), posts, or a mixture of the two, and there is more flexibility in getting to earlier posts. In fact, as I recall, I was not able to access more than the last 300 posts at all, in the previous version.

5) The archives now work better. If you really want to know what I was posting about in, say, July 2005, click on the little triangle beside the 2005. The months of 2005 drop down. Then click on the little triangle beside the July. There you are.

6) I can see (you can't) in my list of published posts, how many comments (if any) each received. This is helpful in, for example, deciding whether to delete a post entirely.

7) Added August 31, 2006: I have finally discovered that I no longer have to dig into the past to find the URLs of my old posts, when I want to link to them. The Edit Posts option includes a View, as well as Edit. If I View the post, the URL appears up there in a status bar (or something like that).

It's great! Now if I could just figure out what I should post, and when to write it . . .

Thanks for reading! Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Choice and 20th Century physics, 1

I continue a series of musings on the question, "does anything at all really happen by chance?" This post is the third on that subject. The first two consider what the Bible has to say on the subject. (Here's the second, which has a link to the first, or, better, click on the "choice" label at the bottom of this post.)

Modern physics seems to say that almost everything that happens to sub-atomic particles is due to chance.

This belief is known as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. (I have posted previously about Werner Heisenberg.) This principle states that it is impossible to determine both the position and speed* of sub-atomic particles precisely. Some positions are more likely than others, and, if you know what you are doing, you can produce a graphed curve describing the likelihood that the particle will have each possible position, but the exact position is uncertain. A similar statement could be made about the speed. As a result, electron positions cannot be known, but are described as wavefunctions, or orbitals. They are often shown as blobs or clouds in chemistry texts.

Does this mean that everything at the sub-atomic level is due to chance? As I see it, not necessarily. It means that nothing at the sub-atomic level can be predicted absolutely by physicists, except as a statement of the probability that certain things will happen, something like predicting that there will be a 30% chance of rain. Unlike (we suppose) weather prediction, which will get better and better as we learn more about what causes weather events, and are better at detecting these causes, prediction at the sub-atomic level has fundamental limits -- it isn't ever going to get any better, if the theory is correct. Just because something can't be predicted doesn't necessarily mean that it's actually random, however.

Einstein was notoriously uncomfortable with this idea. He is said to have quipped (probably in German, not English) "God does not play at dice." (do a Google search on this phrase -- in quotation marks -- if interested.)

Some have speculated that this sub-atomic (quantum) uncertainty is a physical basis for free will. That may be so, but there are at least a couple of problems with this idea. First, just because physicists can't predict something doesn't mean that God doesn't control it. (God must at least allow sub-atomic events, but I suppose it is possible that He really does let some or all of them happen at random. It is also possible that every sub-atomic event is directed and controlled by God.) Second, it is not clear that chance events on the sub-atomic level could be responsible for the brain activity that leads to choices. The sub-atomic, after all, is orders of magnitude smaller than a nerve cell. To have such events change the action of nerve cells, at least one of which would be expected to do something if an individual chooses, would be roughly as if random impacts from dust particles in the air changed the direction of a moving car.

I'll probably have more to say about this later.

Thanks for reading.

*It's really not the speed, or even the velocity, but the momentum, but I'm trying not to be too technical here.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sunspots 71

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

I am not making this up: The Mars Society is looking for volunteers for a simulated mission to Mars.

FastStone Image Viewer says it is an ad-free, spy-ware free program for home computer users, that will, among other things, re-size, remove red-eye, and access EXIF (camera and date) information. Thanks to Sprittibee for the tip on this. Her tip also has tutorial information on placing a photo in a blog.

A post on the pitfalls of fantastic literature for Christians, discussing Harry Potter and Frank Peretti.

From Katherine, a link to something called a Word Cloud, which will scan a web page and return a graphic, consisting of words used on the page, with more common words larger. You might use this on a tee shirt, for example. There is an option to ignore words such as and and the. I appear to use several words about equally, including book, Christian, diary, God, old, soul, and sunspots.

From Cornell University, "What is a planet?" which discusses the controversy over whether or not Pluto is.

Over at Speculative Faith, Bryan Davis argues that Jesus, Himself, set the example by using fantastic stories.

This week's Christian Carnival is here. (For information on locating these Carnivals, see here.)

When I don't tell where I found an item above, I either found it myself, or was probably pointed to it by the Librarian's Internet Index, SciTech Daily, or Arts and Letters Daily. All of these sources are great.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Monday, August 28, 2006

How important is a doctrine of origins to Christians?

When I started thinking about this topic, the initial reaction was: "of some importance, but not primary importance." One reason I thought this is that there is little in the New Testament about origins, except as it relates to the person of Christ. (I'm thinking of John 1, for example. All Bible links are to the ESV) The Sermon on the Mount doesn't mention origins directly, and I'm not sure there are any indirect references. The discourse Jesus gave in John 14-17 doesn't, either. Neither does Peter's sermon at Pentecost. Paul's sermon on Mars' Hill does include this part of Acts 17:24: "The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth . . .," but there is little or nothing about origins in Paul's writings. (Peter does mention the subject.) There seems to be much more in the New Testament about, say, how to treat the poor, or how Christianity is not about following man-made rules, than about origins. So it must not be very important.

However, I decided to look at two of the historically important creeds. I had forgotten that both the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed begin by saying that the believer believes in a God who created*. The Nicene Creed begins like this: I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. So, in the sense that two of the historic Christian creeds begin with it, origins is fundamental.

That being the case, maybe the late Henry Morris really wasn't far off when he wrote about the most important verse in the Bible. (Genesis 1:1) Here's another article, saying much the same thing.

Why do Morris, and others, think like this? They think so because they see, correctly in my view, that the Bible teaches that God caused things to be the way they are. Things are not here by purposeless chance, or just because that's the way they had to be. If God did create, then God has authority (He's the author!) over His creation. There is a purpose for our existence, and there are purposes for our individual lives. Without this basic truth, Christianity, and almost all other religions, for that matter, make little or no sense.

I believe that most people would say that not only does Christianity (and some other religions) deny it, but common sense (whatever that is) rejects the idea of a purposeless universe, here solely by chance.

Well, if God's creation is an important doctrine, what about the age of the earth? Is a belief in a recent creation important? Some certainly think so. (See here for an example.)

Others, including Bible scholars who are vigorous in their defense of the integrity of scripture, believe that the Old Testament does not necessarily teach that the universe, the earth, and humans all originated only a few thousand years ago. This is not the place for a discussion of the various interpretations and conclusions, and, if it was, no doubt some readers would disagree with my discussion. Perhaps they would be right. But I note that neither the Nicene or Apostle's Creeds, nor Paul, in Acts 17, give any indication about the date of origins. Genesis 1 gives some indication, but the other scriptural texts referred to in this post (with the possible exception of 2 Peter 3) do not. A date must be inferred, based on other scriptures, and on assumptions as to how they are meant**. It is not given directly. The opening statement of the Bible directly says that God created. So do other Biblical texts.

I conclude, for what it's worth, that the most important doctrine for Christians is a proper view of the person and work of Jesus Christ. A belief that there is a purposeful God who created the universe, and did it in such a way that we have an earth, and human beings, including you and me, is almost as important. The two beliefs make full sense only in the light of each other. I don't see that belief in a recent creation is required by scripture, but I understand that others think it is.

*The Westminster Confession is a much longer document than either of the Creeds mentioned above. It has a section on Creation.
Both the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed speak as if God the Father was the Creator. John 1, Colossians 1:15-20, and other passages, make clear that God the Son was deeply involved, perhaps even the main agent of creation. No doubt God the Holy Spirit was involved, also (Perhaps Genesis 1:2 refers to the Holy Spirit).

**I changed these two sentences on August 30, 2006. I hope I made them clearer. I originally said that no scripture gives any indication of the date of origins. That is not true. I also added the link to 2 Peter 3.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Diary of an Old Soul, Aug 27 - Sept 2

27. For our imagination is, in small,
And with the making-difference that must be,
Mirror of God's creating mirror; all
That shows itself therein, that formeth he,
And there is Christ, no bodiless vanity,
Though, face to face, the mighty perfectness
With glory blurs the dim-reflected less.

28. I clasp thy feet, O father of the living!
Thou wilt not let my fluttering hopes be more,
Or lovelier, or greater, than thy giving!
Surely thy ships will bring to my poor shore,
Of gold and peacocks such a shining store
As will laugh all the dreams to holy scorn,
Of love and sorrow that were ever born.

29. Sometimes it seems pure natural to trust,
And trust right largely, grandly, infinitely,
Daring the splendour of the giver's part;
At other times, the whole earth is but dust,
The sky is dust, yea, dust the human heart;
Then art thou nowhere, there is no room for thee
In the great dust-heap of eternity.

30. But why should it be possible to mistrust--
Nor possible only, but its opposite hard?
Why should not man believe because he must--
By sight's compulsion? Why should he be scarred
With conflict? worn with doubting fine and long?--
No man is fit for heaven's musician throng
Who has not tuned an instrument all shook and jarred.

31. Therefore, O Lord, when all things common seem,
When all is dust, and self the centre clod,
When grandeur is a hopeless, foolish dream,
And anxious care more reasonable than God,--
Out of the ashes I will call to thee--
In spite of dead distrust call earnestly:--
Oh thou who livest, call, then answer dying me.

September 1. We are a shadow and a shining, we!
One moment nothing seems but what we see,
Nor aught to rule but common circumstance--
Nought is to seek but praise, to shun but chance;
A moment more, and God is all in all,
And not a sparrow from its nest can fall
But from the ground its chirp goes up into his hall.

2. I know at least which is the better mood.
When on a heap of cares I sit and brood,
Like Job upon his ashes, sorely vext,
I feel a lower thing than when I stood
The world's true heir, fearless as, on its stalk,
A lily meeting Jesus in his walk:
I am not all mood--I can judge betwixt.

The above is excerpted from George MacDonald's A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul (Public Domain, 1880). For further information see this post. These are the entries for/from August 27 - September 2.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Proverbs and other stuff

I've made these up, I think. You're welcome to use them. If you made them up, or know some other source, let me know, please.

1) Always try to park so you don't have to back up. It's safer.

2) Everybody works harder than everybody else. If you don't believe it, just ask them.

3) Never say "I'll never forget . . . ." None of us are guaranteed to remember even our own names for all of our lives. (Try not to forget that!)

4) If asked "How are you?" the proper answer is "Better than I deserve." But for the grace of God, we'd all be dead and eternally lost.

Have you got one (or more)?

While watching the WNBA playoffs, I heard a remark I wish I had made: Sue Bird, point guard for the Seattle Storm, had had an injury to her nose in the previous game. She thought it was broken (it has been broken twice) but it wasn't. Nonetheless, she wore a mostly transparent mask. (Richard Hamilton, of the Detroit Pistons, wore one when his team won a championship, for similar reasons.) Doris Burke, calling the game for ESPN, said that Bird had a "twisted beak." (Bird, and the Storm, lost to the Los Angeles Sparks, who advanced in the playoffs.) Burke has called both men's and women's college and professional basketball games.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A Blessing for a fellow Believer

2 Thessalonians 1:11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (ASV)

(Source: Blueletter Bible)

If this is for you, great!

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sunspots 70

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

Thanks to Elliot for a link to a post which puts forth a theological/historical reason why evangelicals can't write well. (He blames it on Zwingli.)

(Don't try this at home!) Scientific American on the explosive that was to have been brought aboard airplanes in liquid form.

Un-proofread transcript of an interview with materialistic philosopher Daniel Dennett. Video of the interview is here, if you prefer to see and hear, rather than read.

There's evidence that autism may be the result of a delay in neuronal development.

I am not making this up: Wired has an article on a Christian sex-toy shop for married couples. I didn't read the entire article, but it begins by saying that you won't see anything explicit without being fairly warned. I saw nothing even close to X-rated on the first page of the article.

This week's Christian Carnival is here. (For information on locating these Carnivals, see here)

When I don't tell where I found an item above, I either found it directly, or was probably pointed to it by the Librarian's Internet Index, SciTech Daily, or Arts and Letters Daily. All of these sources are great.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Child of the Prophecy, by Juliet Marillier

This post is on the third book of Juliet Marillier's Sevenwaters Trilogy, Child of the Prophecy (New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2002). The previous post, on the second book, is here.

Again, Marillier displays her talent for placing characters in extended moral dilemmas. The first book had Sorcha, sister to six brothers, required to keep silent for years, in order to rescue the brothers from an enchantment placed on them by their stepmother, Oonagh. Sorcha finally succeeded. This book has Sorcha's granddaughter, Fainne, threatened by Oonagh, who is her other grandmother (I won't explain that in this brief post!). Oonagh threatens that she will torture and kill Fainne's father, Ciarán, physically and emotionally, if Fainne doesn't do her will, and she seems fully capable and willing to carry out this torture, even though Ciarán is her son. So Fainne, a teenager, believes, at first, that she has no other choice. Eventually, she sees that she does. Her great-uncle, Conor, a Druid priest, tells her, about another, but related matter, that there is always a choice.

Marillier says that she is herself a Druid. (The books of this series are set in the Ireland of the Middle Ages, where there were Druids.) As I mentioned, in posting about another, later series (see here, and especially here) by her, she does show some remarkable sympathy for Christianity. Not so much in this series, or in this book. No character of any importance is said to be a Christian. The longest statement about Christianity is:

I did not understand the Christian way. My studies suggested to me it was somewhat lacking in respect for the things that are: for the power of earth and sun, the force of water and the purity of air. Those are the cornerstones of the old faith, for without them, without the knowledge of moon and stars, without the understanding of all existences, how could one make any sense of things at all? We are a part of those wonders, tied to them as a newborn child is tied to its mother; if we do not know them, we do not know ourselves. (p. 537)

Unfortunately, too much of this is true now, and, perhaps, was in the Middle Ages, as well. Nature worship, whether Druid or pagan, isn't the cure for human ills -- Christ's death and resurrection is -- but belief in the efficacy of that resurrection should be compatible with respect and love for the world that the Word brought into being, and now sustains.

Two themes in the book are the importance of choices, and unselfish devotion as an ideal. Fainne's Aunt Liadan and her Uncle are portrayed as devoted to each other, trusting each other, in a way that is in harmony with 1 Corinthians 13. The love of Fainne and her father are another example of commendable love. Fainne confronts another of her great-uncles, Finbar, with his withdrawal from events. (Finbar was rescued from being a swan, but not completely -- one of his arms is a swan's wing.) In the end, he chooses to take part.

The entire series, over three generations, is about some small islands. They are represented as the heart of things. The series ends with the final destruction of Oonagh, and the return of the islands to their natural state, with Fainne and her new husband as guardians, not owners.

Like the other books in the series, this one is written entirely from the viewpoint of the main character, Fainne. Like the other books, there are supernatural elements, fairies and older beings, and supernatural abilities in humans, such as the ability to transform into an animal, to cast spells, to converse at a distance by telepathy, and to see the future. Fainne and various relatives have one or more of these abilities.

This is a powerful series, presenting, over and over, characters facing real moral choices. It also presents clear distinctions between good and evil. I wish Marillier wrote as a Christian, not a Druid, but am certainly glad that I have read this series for the second time.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Escape from the Twisted Planet

A friend suggested that I read Escape from the Twisted Planet (Waco, TX: Word Publishers, 1967) by Harold L. Myra. (published previously as No Man in Eden) This is, I guess, Christian Speculative Fiction.

So what was it about, and what's my opinion?

The book takes the fall even further than Out of the Silent Planet, and its sequels (also known as the Space Trilogy) by C. S. Lewis. Lewis supposed that the rest of the solar system hadn't fallen, but earth had. Myra supposes that the earth, and its surroundings, are made of anti-matter, as the result of the Fall, but the rest of the universe is matter. Lewis's protagonist, Ransom, goes to Mars, and meets unfallen beings, and Venus, and is present at the time when its Adam and Eve meet their temptation, and their tempter. Myra's main character goes to the rest of the universe, that made of matter, by a miracle (transforming David Koehler, his companions, and their vessel into matter) performed by Christ, but the book starts with unfallen humanoids from far away in space visiting the earth, presumably through a similar miracle.

The humanoids living in matter-space are all unfallen, and eternal. Each planet has an original pair, and their offspring people that planet, and, eventually, others nearby. (Myra doesn't answer the equivalent to "Where did Seth get his wife?," but the answer would supposedly be the same, namely a sister.)

A feature that Lewis doesn't write about, at least not to describe it, is hell. Koehler goes to what is evidently hell, somewhere in the physical universe. That, and other features, make this book, shall I say, more aggressively Christian than Lewis's works. David, who does not start the book as a Christian, becomes one through his encounters, and there is quite a bit of Bible study in the book, with quotes from what he is studying, or learning, or is reminded of. A personal relationship with Christ is emphasized often.

Lewis had demon-possessed humans on earth, and on Venus. Myra has them on earth, although not so explicitly as Lewis did. Both this book and Lewis' last one, That Hideous Strength, have a strained relationship between spouses, one believing and one, until the end, not so.

Myra's book includes a scientific project to go back in time and listen to the actual words of Jesus. I found this as not exactly necessary to the main ideas, and not very plausible. Another feature that is definitely different is that Koehler tries to tempt some of the unfallen beings in the matter galaxies. He does not succeed, and he doesn't keep on and on and on, as was the temptation "Eve" had in Lewis's Perelandra.

Koehler spent a lot of time traveling, for various reasons, in places away from earth -- too much time, it seems to me. Ransom spent some time in the bowels of Venus in Perelandra, but not as much time, although I thought Lewis may have left him there a little long.

Myra's book is less dated than Lewis's were. (Lewis wrote as if there were canals on Mars, with water in them.) As far as we know, it is possible that there are (to us) anti-matter galaxies out there.

is too aggressively Christian, in my opinion, to appeal to non-Christians. It is faith fiction on other worlds. I doubt that many non-Christians would read through it. Many have read the Space Trilogy, and, if I had to recommend Myra or Lewis, I would go with Lewis, for believers and non-believers alike. Myra's book does clearly expose the starkness of the choice of supernatural masters that is before us. It is worth a read, and I thank the friend for recommending it, but is isn't as good as the classic Space Trilogy (or as, say, George MacDonald's fantasy).

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Diary of an Old Soul, Aug 20 - 26

20. If I have to forget thee, do thou see
It be a good, not bad forgetfulness;
That all its mellow, truthful air be free
From dusty noes, and soft with many a yes;
That as thy breath my life, my life may be
Man's breath. So when thou com'st at hour unknown,
Thou shalt find nothing in me but thine own.

21. Thou being in me, in my deepest me,
Through all the time I do not think of thee,
Shall I not grow at last so true within
As to forget thee and yet never sin?
Shall I not walk the loud world's busy way,
Yet in thy palace-porch sit all the day?
Not conscious think of thee, yet never from thee stray?

22. Forget!--Oh, must it be?--Would it were rather
That every sense was so filled with my father
That not in anything could I forget him,
But deepest, highest must in all things set him!--
Yet if thou think in me, God, what great matter
Though my poor thought to former break and latter--
As now my best thoughts; break, before thee foiled, and scatter!

23. Some way there must be of my not forgetting,
And thither thou art leading me, my God.
The child that, weary of his mother's petting,
Runs out the moment that his feet are shod,
May see her face in every flower he sees,
And she, although beyond the window sitting,
Be nearer him than when he sat upon her knees.

24. What if, when I at last, at the long last,
Shall see thy face, my Lord, my life's delight,
It should not be the face that hath been glassed
In poor imagination's mirror slight!
Will my soul sink, and shall I stand aghast,
Beggared of hope, my heart a conscious blight,
Amazed and lost--death's bitterness come and not passed?

25. Ah, no! for from thy heart the love will press,
And shining from thy perfect human face,
Will sink into me like the father's kiss;
And deepening wide the gulf of consciousness
Beyond imagination's lowest abyss,
Will, with the potency of creative grace,
Lord it throughout the larger thinking place.

26. Thus God-possessed, new born, ah, not for long
Should I the sight behold, beatified,
Know it creating in me, feel the throng
Of speechless hopes out-throbbing like a tide,
And my heart rushing, borne aloft the flood,
To offer at his feet its living blood--
Ere, glory-hid, the other face I spied

The above is excerpted from George MacDonald's A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul (Public Domain, 1880). For further information see this post. These are the entries for/from August 20 - 26.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Edward O.Wilson on Free Will

Edward O. Wilson is an important biologist, one of the world's experts on ants, and the author of Sociobiology and several other significant works (One won the Pulitzer Prize). He is an avowed materialist and humanist.

Here's what he had to say on whether or not free will exists, in a recent interview :

Edward O. Wilson: ...but I'll just give you my take on it... in terms of our ability to make personal decisions independently and combined with our own inability to predict what, except in narrow categories of behavior, can predict what we're going to be doing from one day to the next... recognizing that any event, small or large, can change the direction of our thinking, even the way we think... means that we have what is thought of intuitively at the level of consciousness -- full consciousness --- intuitively, as free will. But if you go down to the level of brain physiology and hereditary propensities and individual history... if you knew reliably what their environment was going to be then you could probably predict a lot of what their behavior would be in a contingency analysis... given certain circumstances... so you start taking it away and little bit and once you get down to the level of those tens of billions of neurons and how they're going to wink on and wink out and decay and so on, you can see this maybe becomes maybe a philosophers [sic] dream of determinism but even then there is random element almost down to the quantum level...

I guess that means he thinks we have free will, but maybe not as free as we often think.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Speed of Dark

The Speed of Dark, by Elizabeth Moon, won the 2003 Nebula award (for best science fiction novel) which was well deserved. It is not your average science fiction book. In a sentence, what it is about is an autistic man, trying to decide whether to take an experimental surgical treatment that may "cure" his autism. The title comes from the protagonist's musings on the speed of light. If there is a speed of light, why not a speed of dark? The question comes several times, in various ways, throughout the book.

Lou is convinced that autism is not from God:
One of the people at the rehab center where I spent so many hours as a child used to say that disabilities were God's way of giving people a chance to show their faith. . . .
I do not understand God that way. I do not think God makes bad things happen just so that people can grow spiritually. Bad parents do that, my mother said. Bad parents make things hard and painful for their children and then say it was to help them grow. Growing and living are hard enough already; children do not neet things to be harder. I think this is true even for normal children. I have watched little children learning to walk; they all struggle and fall down many times. Their faces show that it is not easy. It would be stupid to tie bricks on them to make it harder. If that is true for learning to walk, then I think it is true for other growing and learning as well.
God is supposed to be the good parent, the Father. So I think God would not make things harder than they are. I do not think I am autistic because God thought my parents needed a challenge or I needed a challenge. I think it is like if I were a baby and a rock fell on me and broke my leg. Whatever caused it was an accident. God did not prevent the accident, but He did not cause it, either. Elizabeth Moon, The Speed of Dark . (New York: Ballentine, 2003) p. 176.

Although he does not put it in exactly those terms, he seems to believe that the evil in the world is the result of the Fall.

The science fiction part is mostly that a treatment is available, and that, furthermore, babies born autistic are routinely fixed at or near the time of birth. Thus, there are not many autistic people in the world, and there have been some great advances in helping them. Lou Arrendale lives a life that, in many ways, is normal. He and a group of other autistic persons are well paid for their ability to perceive patterns that "normal" people cannot. None of them, however, have what might be called a normal social life, and they are bound by hangups that normal people do not usually face, especially their desire for routine. It is clear that Lou, at least, is highly intelligent. He is also highly introspective -- he is constantly thinking about what things mean, and what people mean. Although he doesn't have close friends, he does belong to a fencing group -- his ability to perceive patterns helps him in this sport -- and attends church, probably an Episcopal church, regularly.

There are some other futuristic touches, but minor, in the story. Criminals can be prevented from further violence by a chip in their brains, and computers are more advanced than they are now.

Lou is challenged, as disabled people unfortunately may be, by two people, in particular. One of them is jealous of Lou's accomplishments, and blames him for his own failures. The other is offended by the special accomodations made for Lou and his fellow autistic employees on the job. Both of these people attempt some horrible things.

What if I could be "cured" of some disease of the brain, and/or the personality? Would I take such treatment, if I knew that, even if it worked, it might well change me profoundly? I don't know. This is a tough question.

One experience that helps Lou in making his decision, which decision I won't give away, is hearing a sermon on the paralytic at the pool, and reflecting on it. Jesus asks him if he wants to be healed. Lou considers that aspect -- he wants to do what God wants him to do. Like most of us, he isn't always sure what that is.

This book is one that I can recommend to almost anyone, whether or not they usually read fantastic literature. It isn't very fantastic. I'm not sure it would be classified as Christian fiction, but it does take God into account. I expect to purchase my own copy.

For what it's worth, I'm now using the Beta version of the new Blogger. Thanks for reading.

Added August 19, 2007: I have now posted on Moon's Paksenarrion series, and expect to post on more of her work soon. If you are interested, click on the "Elizabeth Moon" tag at the end of this post.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sunspots 69

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

Ken Schenck, yet again (this topic won't go away) on women in ministry. Schenck is a professor of religion, and he is in favor of females in ministry, and summarizes the scriptural evidence for his position.

I've finally entered the 21st century, more or less. I just went to a Myspace page. (Until now, I've avoided such) It happens to be the page of George MacDonald, 19th century author . . .

Mike has had an apocalyptic dream , somewhat like those of Daniel and John.

This week's Christian Carnival is here. (For information on locating these Carnivals, see here) (I'm on hiatus, so did not have an entry)

When I don't tell where I found an item above, I either found it directly, or was probably pointed to it by the Librarian's Internet Index, SciTech Daily, or Arts and Letters Daily. All of these sources are great.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Diary of an Old Soul, August 13 - 19

13. Thou art the truth, the life. Thou, Lord, wilt see
To every question that perplexes me.
I am thy being; and my dignity
Is written with my name down in thy book;
Thou wilt care for it. Never shall I think
Of anything that thou mightst overlook:--
In faith-born triumph at thy feet I sink.

14. Thou carest more for that which I call mine,
In same sort--better manner than I could,
Even if I knew creation's ends divine,
Rousing in me this vague desire of good.
Thou art more to me than my desires' whole brood;
Thou art the only person, and I cry
Unto the father I of this my I.

15. Thou who inspirest prayer, then bend'st thine ear;
It, crying with love's grand respect to hear!
I cannot give myself to thee aright--
With the triumphant uttermost of gift;
That cannot be till I am full of light--
To perfect deed a perfect will must lift:--
Inspire, possess, compel me, first of every might.

16. I do not wonder men can ill believe
Who make poor claims upon thee, perfect Lord;
Then most I trust when most I would receive.
I wonder not that such do pray and grieve--
The God they think, to be God is not fit.
Then only in thy glory I seem to sit,
When my heart claims from thine an infinite accord.

17. More life I need ere I myself can be.
Sometimes, when the eternal tide ebbs low,
A moment weary of my life I grow--
Weary of my existence' self, I mean,
Not of its plodding, not its wind and snow
Then to thy knee trusting I turn, and lean:
Thou will'st I live, and I do will with thee.

18. Dost thou mean sometimes that we should forget thee,
Dropping the veil of things 'twixt thee and us?--
Ah, not that we should lose thee and regret thee!
But that, we turning from our windows thus,
The frost-fixed God should vanish from the pane,
Sun-melted, and a moment, Father, let thee
Look like thyself straight into heart and brain.

19. For sometimes when I am busy among men,
With heart and brain an open thoroughfare
For faces, words, and thoughts other than mine,
And a pause comes at length--oh, sudden then,
Back throbs the tide with rush exultant rare;
And for a gentle moment I divine
Thy dawning presence flush my tremulous air.

The above is excerpted from George MacDonald's A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul (Public Domain, 1880). For further information see this post. These are the entries for/from August 13 - 19.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Sunspots 68

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

From last week's Christian Carnival, a short, but scriptural and pertinent, entry on holding the tongue. Another one (by a woman) on undressed women in church. Parableman discusses arguments for and against various models of origins, based on the amount of time God might have taken to create things.

A Complete Guide to Digital Cameras and Photography (On-line shortcourse ).

A thorough attempt at answering "What Makes Christian Speculative Fiction 'Christian', Anyway?"

First Thoughts on Christian Writing, from Mike. (He points out that bloggers are writers!)

A Jewish contributor to Slate, who hasn't really read the Old Testament before, is reading through it. (The link is to the 4th post. There will probably be later ones.)

A gallery of photos of crop circles, from Wired. Some of them are amazing!

This week's Christian Carnival is here. (For information on locating these Carnivals, see here)

When I don't tell where I found an item above, I either found it directly, or was probably pointed to it by the Librarian's Internet Index, SciTech Daily, or Arts and Letters Daily. All of these sources are great.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Diary of an Old Soul, August 6 - 12

6. O Father, thou art my eternity.
Not on the clasp of consciousness--on thee
My life depends; and I can well afford
All to forget, so thou remember, Lord.
In thee I rest; in sleep thou dost me fold;
In thee I labour; still in thee, grow old;
And dying, shall I not in thee, my Life, be bold?

7. In holy things may be unholy greed.
Thou giv'st a glimpse of many a lovely thing,
Not to be stored for use in any mind,
But only for the present spiritual need.
The holiest bread, if hoarded, soon will breed
The mammon-moth, the having-pride, I find.
'Tis momently thy heart gives out heart-quickening.

8. It is thyself, and neither this nor that,
Nor anything, told, taught, or dreamed of thee,
That keeps us live. The holy maid who sat
Low at thy feet, choosing the better part,
Rising, bore with her--what a memory!
Yet, brooding only on that treasure, she
Had soon been roused by conscious loss of heart.

9. I am a fool when I would stop and think,
And lest I lose my thoughts, from duty shrink.
It is but avarice in another shape.
'Tis as the vine-branch were to hoard the grape,
Nor trust the living root beneath the sod.
What trouble is that child to thee, my God,
Who sips thy gracious cup, and will not drink!

10. True, faithful action only is the life,
The grapes for which we feel the pruning knife.
Thoughts are but leaves; they fall and feed the ground.
The holy seasons, swift and slow, go round;
The ministering leaves return, fresh, large, and rife--
But fresher, larger, more thoughts to the brain:--
Farewell, my dove!--come back, hope-laden, through the rain.

11. Well may this body poorer, feebler grow!
It is undressing for its last sweet bed;
But why should the soul, which death shall never know,
Authority, and power, and memory shed?
It is that love with absolute faith would wed;
God takes the inmost garments off his child,
To have him in his arms, naked and undefiled.

12. Thou art my knowledge and my memory,
No less than my real, deeper life, my love.
I will not fool, degrade myself to trust
In less than that which maketh me say Me,
In less than that causing itself to be.
Then art within me, behind, beneath, above--
I will be thine because I may and must.

The above is excerpted from George MacDonald's A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul (Public Domain, 1880). For further information see this post. These are the entries for/from August 6-12.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sunspots 67

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

Being a Person: Why Personhood is Not Enough, from the evangelical outpost, argues that it is not necessary for, say, people in a coma to possess personhood for them to deserve protection from being killed. Lots of comments!

If you want to be able to tell one dinosaur from another, the Dino Directory, from the Natural History Museum, is for you.

A blog, new to me, entitled Speculative Faith, which is a multi-author blog dedicated to Christian Speculative Fiction (whatever that is).

NoScript, a free Firefox browser extension that blocks all, or nearly all scripts, some of which may be dangerous or annoying. That's the good news. Bad news -- you have to tell it to run scripts for each page you trust, the first time you go to that page (such as Bloglines) but after that, it works automatically.

A post, named, rather inappropriately, "icons and the emerging church," details some reasons for Christians to blog.

Fliedermaus, one of my Flickr contacts, has been travelling out west. She has some fabulous photos of the Tetons and Bryce Canyon, among other sights. Click on one of her sets, to the right. You do not need to be a member to see her photos.

Bonnie has some carry-on luggage to recommend.

The blue of the sky proves that atoms exist. Oh, by the way, the sky really isn't blue -- it's violet . . .

The Musipedia looks interesting. Apparently you can search for music by entering musical notes, or even by humming (? I don't want to wake anyone up here, so I haven't tried that . . .).

This week's Christian Carnival is here. (For information on locating these Carnivals, see here)

When I don't tell where I found an item above, I either found it directly, or was probably pointed to it by the Librarian's Internet Index, SciTech Daily, or Arts and Letters Daily. All of these sources are great.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)