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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Does anything ever happen by chance? Nancey Murphy 2

For Isaac Newton and other architects of the modern scientific worldview, the "laws of nature" were a direct expression of God's will -- God's control of all physical processes. However, today they are generally granted a status independent of God, not only by those who deny the very existence of God, but also by many Christians, who seem to suppose that God, like a U. S. senator, must obey the laws once they are "on the books." Consequently, for modern thinkers, deism has been the most natural view of divine action: God creates in the beginning -- and lays down the laws governing all changes after that -- then takes a rest for the duration.
Not all modern theologians have opted for this deistic account, but in many cases the only difference has been in their additional claim that God sustains the universe in its existence. Those who have wanted (or who have believed Christianity needed) a more robust view of God's continued participation in the created order have been forced to think in terms of intervention: God occasionally acts to bring about a state of affairs different from that which would have occurred naturally. . . . It is an ironic bit of history: the laws that once served as an account of God's universal governance of nature have become a competing force, constraining the action of their very creator. Nancey Murphy, "Divine Action in the Natural Order: Buridan's Ass and Schrödinger's Cat," pp. 325 - 357 in Chaos and Complexity: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, edited by Robert John Russell, Nancey Murphy and Arthur R. Peacocke. Vatican City State: Vatican Observatory Publications, 1997. Quote is from p. 325.

Murphy goes on to say, and I agree, that any description of how God acts must include not just unfolding rules, created in the beginning, along with (presumably) the elements, but must allow for God to act specially. One reason for this, she says, is that we get to know a person by observing their actions. God's actions tell us about Him. Another is to allow for answers to supplicating in prayer. If God never does things specially, why should prayer be encouraged in the New Testament? Third, says Murphy, if God doesn't act specially in some circumstances, then God is responsible for all evil, too, because it must be the unfolding of the way He made things. There must also, she says, be room in such a description for extraordinary acts. (She avoids using "miracle" for these, but, to many of us, that is what she means.)

My previous post on Murphy and chance is here.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 29, 2006

More on homosexuality

Homosexuality is an issue that is often on the front burner.

It seems to me that Christians often err on this subject, in two different ways. One of them is to think that homosexual activity is the worst sin, or the only sin, and to hate people who do such things. The other is to think that there is nothing wrong with homosexual activity. The Bible does not support either position.

Conservative Christians are generally opposed to homosexual activity on scriptural grounds. However, there are only a few scriptural references: Genesis 2:18-24; 19:1-5, 12; Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Hosea 1-3; Matthew 19:4-6; Romans 1:24-27; I Corinthians 6:9-20; Ephesians 5:3, 21-33, I Timothy 1:10; Revelation 19:6-8, Jude 1:7. There is controversy over the meaning of some of these.

Critics state that Genesis 19 is about gang rape, not homosexuality (see previous post, which discusses Sodom and homosexuality, and points out that the Bible, itself, seems not to say that homosexuality was the primary sin of the inhabitants of Sodom); that the passages in Leviticus and Romans aren't relevant for today's practices, because they condemn unnatural acts by heterosexuals, while today's homosexuals are doing what is natural for them; that I Corinthians and I Timothy are against pederasty, not the homosexuality of today.

There is probably some relevance to some or all of these arguments, but I believe that there is, nonetheless, a strong biblical argument against homosexual activity. It is mostly not direct, from the texts cited above (although they are part of the evidence) but comes from the overwhelming scriptural portrayal of heterosexual fidelity as God's ideal for humans, as shown consistently from the earliest parts of Genesis to the portrayal of the church as the bride of Christ in Revelation.

Some biblical ideas which are related come from Gilbert Bilezikian, "Understanding Homosexuality: Part I, Biblical and Theological Understanding," in Understanding Homosexuality, edited by Bilezikian and others. (Center for Applied Christian Ethics of Wheaton College: Wheaton, IL, 1995) Bilezikian proposes that the idea of punishment by stoning for homosexual acts between males (but points out that there were about 20 other offenses that carried the same penalty); the distinctive nature of the church; the Biblical principle that sexual activity isn't necessary for complete personhood; and that sexual activity pertains to heterosexual union, all are important parts of the biblical understanding of homosexuality, and lead to the conclusion that overt homosexual behavior is sinful.

Other authors, in the same book, believe that there is no one cause for male homosexuality, and that scientific findings that homosexuality is influenced by hormones, chromosomes or genes have not been sufficiently replicated. The evidence suggests that at least some homosexuals can change to become heterosexual.

My FAQ on homosexuality is as follows:
1. Is homosexuality wrong? Yes and no. Based on scripture, it seems to me that homosexual activity is wrong. I don't see that homosexual tendencies are wrong, any more than heterosexual ones. If I am attracted to someone other than my wife, because I have heterosexual tendencies, and act on it, that's wrong. (Acting on it doesn't mean just adultery or fornication--deliberately exposing myself to pornography, or lusting after movie stars, etc., are ways of acting on heterosexual tendency, and acting sinfully.) It isn't wrong to have heterosexual tendencies, so why should it be wrong to have homosexual tendencies?

2. Can homosexual humans become happy heterosexuals? At least some of the time. Always? I'm not sure.

3. Is homosexual tendency inherited? It would be amazing if it weren't at least partly inherited, since all sorts of other behavior is influenced by heredity, and there is some evidence for this with homosexuality. Does that excuse homosexual activity? I would argue that it does not, any more than being pre-disposed to heterosexuality excuses rape or adultery.

(Added May 26, 2009: Recent evidence seems to indicate that homosexual preference in humans is significantly influenced by exposure to hormones in the womb. There are brain differences, physical and chemical, between homosexuals and heterosexuals.

4. Can homosexuals form long-lasting same-sex relationships? Apparently. However, especially with males, this usually doesn't happen. (Most unfortunately, it often doesn't happen with heterosexual marriage relationships in the U. S., either, but that's another sad story.) Are such relationships identical to stable Christian heterosexual marriages, in God's sight? I don't think so. They aren't God's plan. It would be theoretically possible to have a long-lasting sexual relationship with a dog, but the fact that it's long-lasting doesn't make it right.

5. Isn't having homosexual tendencies, but not being able to act on them without sinning, unfair? My faith tells me that God is not ever unfair. He may demand more of some than others, at least in certain aspects of their lives. All of us are born with lots of tendencies that we must control in order to live Christian lives. It isn't just homosexuals that are called to celibacy -- some heterosexuals are. All heterosexuals are, until they are married.

6. What should be the Christian attitude toward homosexuals? Practicing homosexuals, like practicing gossips, gluttons or thieves, are sinners. We should love them, but not love their sin. Overt sinners should not be leaders in churches, certainly not pastors.

7. Do non-humans form homosexual relationships? There is some same-sex copulation, or other seemingly sexual activity, in non-human vertebrates, but, so far as I know, there are no animals, other than humans, that have an exclusively homosexual class or group, nor in which there are long-lasting homosexual relationships. I believe that the existence of such individuals in humans is one of the effects of the Fall, and, like other disorders in humans, was not God's original plan. (Note added May 26, 2009: There is evidence, in sheep, that some males are sexually attracted to other males, and not to females. This may mean that there is an exclusively homosexual class in male sheep, and, perhaps, in other non-human animals.)

8. Is homosexuality the biggest threat to marriage in North America? No. If there were no homosexuals at all, marriage would still be under continuing and violent attack from its real worst enemy, namely that a woman and a man don't make Jesus Christ Lord of their relationship. Homosexuality is, of course, one threat to marriage, as God planned it.

9. Is homosexual activity the worst sin? No. Perhaps it isn't even the worst sexual sin. See this list of curses, in the Bible, for sinful activity. Four such were curses for sexual misconduct, and they didn't include homosexual activity. That does not, of course, make homosexual activity acceptable for Christians.

* * * * *

Update, March 8, 2007. Stanton F. Jones, of Wheaton, has posted a position paper on homosexuality (.PDF file) here.

* * * *

I edited this somewhat on May 4, 2009. There were no substantial changes, other than adding items 8 and 9 to the FAQ.

* * * *

I added two dated notes above on May 26, 2009.

Thanks for reading.

Does anything ever happen by chance? Nancey Murphy

A long time ago now, Julana commented on one of my posts, asking if anything ever really happened by chance. That is a deeply profound question. One reason it is so profound is because it can be re-phrased as "How does God act? Does He control everything?"

Nancey Murphy has answered the last part of the previous question, as follows:

To say that each sub-atomic event is solely an act of God would be a version of occasionalism, with all the attendant theological difficulties mentioned above: it exacerbates the problem of evil; it also comes close to pantheism, and conflicts with what I take to be an important aspect of the doctrine of creation -- that what God creates has a measure of independent existence relative to God, notwithstanding the fact that God keeps all things in existence. To put the point another way, if God were completely in control of each event, there would be no-thing for God to keep in existence. To create something, even so lowly a thing as an electron, is to grant it some measure of independence and a nature of its own, including inherent powers to do some things rather than others. "Divine Action in the Natural Order: Buridan's Ass and Schrödinger's Cat," pp. 325 - 357 in Chaos and Complexity: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, edited by Robert John Russell, Nancey Murphy and Arthur R. Peacocke. Vatican City State: Vatican Observatory Publications, 1997. Quote is from pp. 340-41. (The hyphen in "nothing" was in the original, as was the emphasis on that word.)

Wow! Electrons with independence?

Thanks, Julana. To see my last post on this subject, go here.

Thanks, readers. I expect to post more on Murphy's view of these matters later.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sunspots 75

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

Politics: Joe Carter pens an "Open Letter to the Religious Right." (By most standards, he's one of them.) Sample: As a matter of political liberty I believe it is important that we support such issues as prayer in schools and public displays of religious symbols. But I can’t imagine that on the Day of Judgment I’ll hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant…you have faithfully fought to keep the Ten Commandments in the courthouse.” More likely we’ll all be asked why we didn’t spend more time concerned about our neighbors in Darfur or fighting the pandemic of AIDS. Perhaps we should rethink our priorities and put the first things first. A Christianity Today article on finding Biblical principles relating to the immigration debate. This isn't really very political, but it's interesting -- some doodles, and other art work, by U. S. Presidents.

Science: Tarantula spiders can spin silk with their feet!

From the Scientific American blog: How airplanes really fly, explained, more than once.

Literature: Slate has published John Keats' poem "To Autumn," with a little background, from a letter by Keats.

Christianity: A blog post, mostly a book review, that claims that most children are being deprived of contact with nature in anything like the wild, and that this is important to their spiritual growth. 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)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bringing Fictional Characters to Life

One of my daughters gave me her copy of Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke, to read. I was glad to read it, as I had enjoyed The Thief Lord, and others had, too.

I'm not going to dwell on the plot of Inkheart, except to say that it involves bringing fictional characters to life, or sending real people into a work of fiction. Here's a link to a post on the book by another blogger that does go into the plot.

When I finished the book, I thought about which, if any, fictional characters I'd like to bring to life, or which fictional universe I'd like to be sent into. I thought of Gandalf, from the Lord of the Rings, or Ogion or Ged, the quiet wizards from the Earthsea books by Ursula K. Le Guin. It would be nice to have a powerful wizard around, even a gruff and seldom-spoken one, I thought. But that wouldn't work. What would Ogion think of computers and cars? What would Gandalf do with air pollution and income taxes? These wizards wouldn't fit. I would have trouble following Gandalf or Ogion around, and would probably be pretty useless at traveling through Moria or taking care of goats.

I also thought about real people. What about bringing back Lewis and Clark, or Sacagawea? What about Will Rogers, or Henrietta Leavitt? What about George Washington Carver or Marie Curie? They wouldn't fit, either. And I wouldn't fit into their time or place, any more than they would into mine. I wouldn't know the language, or the customs, or how to make a living, or take care of an illness.

What about biblical characters? What about Paul, or Lydia, Dorcas or Peter? King David or Rahab? Clearly, they wouldn't fit, either. I expect that Paul or Peter, and maybe some of the others, might raise a ruckus over the way things are in the world in general, or in my church, or even in my own life. I guess I'd better leave them in the Bible, where they belong.

Finally, what about Jesus? Would He fit? Well, being God, He ought to, I guess. But I'm afraid He might throw out the moneychangers, or call some religious people white-painted tombstones, or do something equally outrageous, and make people unhappy.

Whoops--I forgot--I'm supposed to show the personality of Jesus in this world of the 21st Century. He's supposed to already be here, in my world, my neighborhood, my church, and my own life, and really so, not in my imagination (or yours). I hope sincerely that He is.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Diary of an Old Soul, Sept. 24 - 30

24. I would dig, Master, in no field but thine,
Would build my house only upon thy rock,
Yet am but a dull day, with a sea-sheen!
Why should I wonder then that they should mock,
Who, in the limbo of things heard and seen,
Hither and thither blowing, lose the shine
Of every light that hangs in the firmament divine.

25. Lord, loosen in me the hold of visible things;
Help me to walk by faith and not by sight;
I would, through thickest veils and coverings,
See into the chambers of the living light.
Lord, in the land of things that swell and seem,
Help me to walk by the other light supreme,
Which shows thy facts behind man's vaguely hinting dream.

26. I see a little child whose eager hands
Search the thick stream that drains the crowded street
For possible things hid in its current slow.
Near by, behind him, a great palace stands,
Where kings might welcome nobles to their feet.
Soft sounds, sweet scents, fair sights there only go--
There the child's father lives, but the child does not know.

27. On, eager, hungry, busy-seeking child,
Rise up, turn round, run in, run up the stair.
Far in a chamber from rude noise exiled,
Thy father sits, pondering how thou dost fare.
The mighty man will clasp thee to his breast:
Will kiss thee, stroke the tangles of thy hair,
And lap thee warm in fold on fold of lovely rest.

28. The prince of this world came, and nothing found
In thee, O master; but, ah, woe is me!
He cannot pass me, on other business bound,
But, spying in me things familiar, he
Casts over me the shadow of his flight,
And straight I moan in darkness--and the fight
Begins afresh betwixt the world and thee.

29. In my own heart, O master, in my thought,
Betwixt the woolly sheep and hairy goat
Not clearly I distinguish; but I think
Thou knowest that I fight upon thy side.
The how I am ashamed of; for I shrink
From many a blow--am borne on the battle-tide,
When I should rush to the front, and take thy foe by the throat.

30. The enemy still hath many things in me;
Yea, many an evil nest with open hole
Gapes out to him, at which he enters free.
But, like the impact of a burning coal,
His presence mere straight rouses the garrison,
And all are up in arms, and down on knee,
Fighting and praying till the foe is gone.

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 September 24 through 30.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Scientists need to hear the gospel, too.

Christ didn't come to straighten us out about how old the earth is. He said very little about that subject. He said a lot about sin, and love, and He loved us enough to die as a perfect sacrifice for our sin. Everybody needs that, whether they acknowledge it or not, whether they know it or not. Scientists need it, too.

David Heddle, whose blog is probably considerably more widely read than this one -- if not, it deserves to be -- recently posted on his problems with the Intelligent Design movement. I share them. The entire post is well worth reading, and I recommend it highly. He says, in part:

I would say to the ID movement:
  1. If you're about science, then do science.
  2. If you're about politics, then do politics.
  3. If you're about promoting theism, then promote theism.
But if you are really about (3), then don't deny it and say you are about (1) but for some reason you are compelled to hire multitudes of lawyers and use the methods of (2).

He also writes that believing scientists, especially scientists in training, or who have recently finished their training, and are looking for positions, have been forced to be even quieter about their beliefs than in past times, because of the controversy generated by the ID movement. Where once you might have been able to say, in class, or in an interview, that you have some questions about origins, and are not sure there are scientific explanations for every aspect of origins, now you might try to avoid saying such things, knowing that, if you do, you are likely to be grilled about putting stickers in textbooks, or pushing the teaching of design in public schools as an alternative theory.

Although I am a long way from my training, and from looking for a position, my view is that Heddle is correct about this.

Pushing ID as it has been pushed may have done something even worse. It may have stopped some people's ears to the gospel, especially those of scientists. (Pushing young-earth creationism has also done that, I believe, but there isn't presently a YEC movement trying to change the texts in the public schools.) Science sees itself as threatened. Christianity has become associated with politics, as Heddle says. Scientists, like people in other professions, are not likely to listen to views from those they see as trying to cut away the very foundations of their profession.

I'm afraid that the ID movement has silenced believing scientists who might have been examples in the classroom and the laboratory, and has also turned people away from the real heart of Christianity -- Christ's solution to the sin problem. That's too bad.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The problem with dying

". . . Do you know what the worst bit about dying is?"
"Tell me, Gran."
"You never get to see how it all turns out."
- Jasper Fforde, Lost in a Good Book: A Thursday Next Novel (New York: Viking, 2002) p. 136. Thursday Next, talking to her grandmother.

Some other miscellaneous quotes:

"I'll tell you what love is," I told her. "It is blind devotion, unquestioning self-humilation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the whole world, giving up your whole heart and soul to the smiter!" - Jasper Fforde, Lost in a Good Book: A Thursday Next Novel (New York: Viking, 2002) p. 350. Thursday Next talking to Miss Havisham (from Great Expectations by Dickens).

"Isn't it odd how much fatter a book gets when you've read it several times?" Mo had said when, on Meggie's last birthday, they were looking at all her dear old books again. "As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells . . . and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower . . . both strange and familiar." Inkspell, by Cornelia Funke (translated from the German by Anthea Bell) New York: Scholastic, 2005, p. 47

When you don't have anything new to say, and what you've been saying in the past no longer has much plausibility, you have three choices. You can shut up. For conservative commentators, this is inconceivable, not to mention financially ruinous. You can re-examine your premises. This is not the conservative style. Or you can pump up the volume. - Timothy Noah, "Coulterized Conservatives," Slate, September 6, 2006 (The same thing could be said about lots of people, of all sorts of persuasions)

There are three types of people: those who count precisely and those who don't. Edward B. Burger & Michael Starbird, Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz: Making Light of Weighty Ideas. New York: Norton, 2005. Quote is from p. 79.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Report on a life-changing experience

I went to chapel at Southern Wesleyan University today. Since I retired from there, over a year ago, I haven't been to chapel but twice, counting today. (I used to go regularly.) The women's basketball team (the link currently leads to last year's roster) was scheduled to report on their trip to the Czech Republic, and I wanted to hear the report. I'm glad I went.

Ten of the Lady Warriors, and their coach, went to the Czech Republic for 11 days, participating in a Sports event for the mission work of The Wesleyan Church. What does basketball have to do with missions? Sport? Let's put it this way. A number of years ago, when the first Wesleyan mission couple went there, the man was asked to coach a semi-pro football team (American style, not soccer). He's still doing it. It turns out that that was a great way to reach young men for Christ. The sports ministry has grown, to the point where it seemed advisable to have a major event, bringing in teams from four Wesleyan colleges to play other teams, meet with them one-on-one, hold clinics for kids, and engage in other activities. By all accounts, the young people (and their coaches) did what they came to do -- present the claims of Jesus Christ.

Probably more important than that, it was a life-changing experience for the young women. Some of them had never been on a plane, and none of them had ever been to Europe. They had to raise $1700 each, as did the coach, and all of them were able to do it. They shared one electrical outlet and one hair wand. One girl's luggage never came, but the others shared their clothes.

I was especially struck by what three of the ladies said. One of them, who came to SWU three years ago, mostly to play basketball, kicked it off by telling about the trip. It was obvious that she had been changed by going, and it was obvious that she was a much more mature Christian for it. A second said that she, too, just came to SWU because she could get a basketball scholarship. She said that she had never been in church, or opened a Bible, until she became a student. She, too, was clearly growing in grace. A third, as part of her prepared testimony while abroad, told, publicly, for the first time, and then to chapel, how she had had an alcoholic father who was physically and emotionally abusive, and how that had burdened her throughout her school career, but that God had healed her father, and enabled her to forgive him. There weren't many dry eyes. I doubt that there were many in Brno, either, even with translation.

Christian colleges generally have sports teams. I won't say that they are always worth it, or that everyone who comes to play ends up a model citizen, but then sometimes people who come to study for the ministry don't, either. It costs money to hire coaches, build and maintain gyms and athletic fields, and offer scholarships. But, on balance, it's more than worth it. Athletics motivates some people as nothing else, and exposure to a Christian environment can be transforming. I remember, for example, a student who came to SWU to play basketball and major in science. He did. He met his wife there. She was youth pastor of a church when they were first married. Now he is senior pastor of a church, and God is blessing their work. Another one I know of had been kicked out of a public university, and off its basketball team, for drinking. He found out about SWU's coach, and asked him for a chance. His first year after college was spent helping out the sports ministry in the Czech Republic. He married a young lady who was on a one-year missions trip to Germany at the same time he was in Europe. They both raised their support for their year in Europe. They are now co-pastors of a church, and he is the Missions Director for the South Carolina District of The Wesleyan Church.

May God bless the coaches and athletic teams of SWU and similar schools.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sunspots 74

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

This photo from Botany Photo of the Day. Read the description to see what plant part the spherical objects are. I think you'll be surprised.

This photo from Earth Science Photo of the day (not the Botany Photo of the Day-- see above), which gives photographic proof of photosynthesis.

Eris (formerly named Xena) has been designated a dwarf planet (not a planet) in our Solar System. The name is for the Greek goddess of discord, according to this article. Eris has a satellite, named Dysnomia, which is named for the Greek goddess of lawlessness. (Did they have gods, or goddesses, for everything?) Pluto is also now officially a dwarf planet.

Chimpanzees have learned to cross roads cautiously, and may minimize the risk by doing so cooperatively.

The Smithsonian Photography Initiative not only offers access to millions of marvelous photographs, but allows you to create "sequences" of images that you have found interesting, for others to examine.

A great piece by Carl Zimmer on why some E. coli are so dangerous to us. Also, an article about a report that says that using manure as fertilizer is safer than the current scare would have you believe.

Eliot's Q and A on Canada , for non-Canadians, which is hilarious.

A sermon from our pastor, a few days ago, in which he said that Christians who don't act like Christ are violating the commandment about taking God's name in vain. (You won't find the sermon on the web.)

Characteristics of Christian Prayer.

I knew Duke University basketball was taken seriously, but didn't realize it was this serious.

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)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Do I earnestly seek God?

63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands. (ESV)

This was part of my One-Year Bible Reading for today, and it was so good that I decided I didn't have anything better to post. I hope I really mean those sentiments. Again today, I am grateful to the publishers of the English Standard Version for the One-Year Bible Reading RSS feed, and for allowing quotation of their publication, provided attributed properly.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 18, 2006

More on authority

I was struck by a recent experience I had with Flickr, the Internet photography posting site. Like over a million other people, I am a member. Anyone can join, and it's free. Flickr is not only a photography site, but, for many members, a social network. I'm one who uses it both ways.

There are Groups in Flickr. For example, there is one for photos of leaves, and another for gnarly trees. Membership is usually open to anyone, although some groups require invitation. Groups are administered by volunteers, usually the founder of the Group. (Anyone can found a Group.) Most Groups have requirements, such as only adding two photos a day, or not adding photos that don't belong in the Group's content area. Some Groups require members to comment on photos added by others. I belong to a few such Groups.

A few days ago, a discussion arose among one Group with a requirement for commenting on two other photos for every one you add to the Group. Some people occasionally ignore such requirements, sometimes by oversight, sometimes deliberately. An administrator said that he had asked a member to comment, as he was supposed to, once, twice, and a third time, with no compliance. The non-compliant member responded that the administrator was being "rude." I didn't think so, and most members didn't. That person was prevented, at least temporarily, from posting any further photos to that Group.

How did the administrator get that authority? He (or she) got it from the founder of the Group, who established the rules, and made the Group possible. There's a lesson in that. God has authority, because He is the author, the Founder. Genesis 1:1 begins the Bible by making that clear. That's the most important question about origins. Not how old the earth is, or whether Noah's flood was world-wide, or whether God designed the eye, but Who? And Genesis 1:1 tells us Who.

I discovered another person who had not been following the same rule. It developed that he is an administrator of the Group. I decided that, in that case, it was time to withdraw, and I did.

God is just, and fair, and abides by His own rules. We don't know what all of them are, but He does, and He obeys them. See here for a previous post on authority.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Diary of an Old Soul, Sept. 17 - 23

17. There let the dogs yelp, let them growl and leap;
It is no matter--I will go to sleep.
Like a spent cloud pass pain and grief and fear,
Out from behind it unchanged love shines clear.--
Oh, save me, Christ!--I know not what I am,
I was thy stupid, self-willed, greedy lamb,
Would be thy honest and obedient sheep.

18. Why is it that so often I return
From social converse with a spirit worn,
A lack, a disappointment--even a sting
Of shame, as for some low, unworthy thing?--
Because I have not, careful, first of all,
Set my door open wide, back to the wall,
Ere I at others' doors did knock and call.

19. Yet more and more of me thou dost demand;
My faith and hope in God alone shall stand,
The life of law--not trust the rain and sun
To draw the golden harvest o'er the land.
I must not say--"This too will pass and die,"
"The wind will change," "Round will the seasons run."
Law is the body of will, of conscious harmony.

20. Who trusts a law, might worship a god of wood;
Half his soul slumbers, if it be not dead.
He is a live thing shut in chaos crude,
Hemmed in with dragons--a remorseless head
Still hanging over its uplifted eyes.
No; God is all in all, and nowhere dies--
The present heart and thinking will of good.

21. Law is our schoolmaster. Our master, Christ,
Lived under all our laws, yet always prayed--
So walked the water when the storm was highest.--
Law is Thy father's; thou hast it obeyed,
And it thereby subject to thee hast made--
To rule it, master, for thy brethren's sakes:--
Well may he guide the law by whom law's maker makes.

22. Death haunts our souls with dissolution's strife;
Soaks them with unrest; makes our every breath
A throe, not action; from God's purest gift
Wipes off the bloom; and on the harp of faith
Its fretted strings doth slacken still and shift:
Life everywhere, perfect, and always life,
Is sole redemption from this haunting death.

23. God, thou from death dost lift me. As I rise,
Its Lethe from my garment drips and flows.
Ere long I shall be safe in upper air,
With thee, my life--with thee, my answered prayer
Where thou art God in every wind that blows,
And self alone, and ever, softly dies,
There shall my being blossom, and I know it fair.

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 September 17 through 23.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Where does authority come from?

In her opinion on the practice of eavesdropping on communications without seeking a FISA warrant, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor noted that James Madison wrote that: "The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."
and famously went on to say that:
We must first note that the Office of the Chief Executive has itself been created, with its powers, by the Constitution. There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all “inherent powers” must derive from that Constitution.

If possible, let us forget the politics of the matter, or the validity of applying what Madison wrote to this issue. (The ruling, ordering that this practice be stopped, has, of course, has been appealed, and the parties have agreed to let it continue until a higher court rules on the appeal.) I wish to consider the question of where authority comes from.

The Free Dictionary says that the word, authority, is derived from a word having to do with being an author, or creating. The Judge, above, says that the authority of the President of the US comes from the Constitution. But the Constitution, itself, says that "We the people of the United States . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." So it would appear that the authority of the President ultimately comes from the citizens, past and present.

Jesus made some radical statements about His authority, such as:
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (Matthew 9:6, ESV)

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, ESV) and, most radically:

17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18, ESV)

How was He able to make such statements? Simple. He was the author. As Colossians 1:15-17 says: 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (ESV)

Under the U. S. system of government, the President must answer to the Constitution, and to the people, because the people author the Constitution. He derives his authority from it, and them. Christ derives His authority from the fact of His creation.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Do Intelligent Design advocates publish scientific articles?

The Panda's Thumb is producing an in-depth, chapter by chapter criticism, almost entirely negative, of a new book by Jonathan Wells, entitled The Politically Correct Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Wells is a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute, the most important organization which advocates Intelligent Design (ID). The Panda's Thumb is the most important anti-ID blog. The fact that it's so anti- must be taken into account. However, whenever I have checked their facts, they have been correct. I'd like to muse about two of these postings.

One post analyzes the claim (which I have seen made by ID advocates) "ID can't be published because editors of refereed* journals won't accept articles supporting it, and ID can't be accepted as science because it can't be published." The analysis presents evidence falsifying that claim. Apparently there has been little or no recent scientific work supporting ID. I checked on one of the related claims of the Panda's Thumb post, namely that a journal apparently intended as a vehicle for publishing ID has not published regularly. That claim is correct. That journal, Progress in Complexity, Information and Design, has William Dembski, one of the leading theoreticians of the ID movement, as editor, and the description on its web page suggests that it is designed to be a vehicle for publishing articles on ID. The last issue has a date of July, 2005, and although the website of the periodical says that it is a quarterly, only one issue was published in 2004, and one in 2005. Apparently there aren't very many people working on research in the area, or they haven't found much that is publishable.

It is my own believe that ID is not mainly scientific, but philosophic. It does have theological overtones, as well. This doesn't make it wrong, but makes it difficult or impossible to prove (or disprove) by experiment.

In a later post from the Panda's Thumb, on the same book, it is stated that Wells is a follower of Sun Myung Moon, hence not a traditional Christian. The Wikipedia article on Wells backs that up. (The Wikipedia is not infallible, but anyone can contribute to it, and articles can be disputed. The article on Wells isn't under dispute.) Although it is sometimes claimed that ID is not religious in nature, there are many of its supporters who think that it is related to Christianity. (For example, see this page, by the Florida Baptist Witness, which features several articles on the subject.)

Thanks for reading.

*A refereed journal is one that uses not only an editor, but anonymous (to the author) referees to evaluate a submission before it is published. Referees are supposed to be persons who have done research closely related to the submission. They may suggest changes, or suggest that an article is not worth publishing. Usually at least two referees are used. In science, and probably in other fields, publications in periodicals that are refereed are considered to be the most credible.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sunspots 73

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

A blog post about the keynote address of Francis Collins, long-time director of the human genome project, and a Christian, at the annual convention of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), an organization of Christian scientists. Collins was strongly influenced to become a Christian by C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. The speech is posted on the ASA web site.
The ASA main page is now offering a free on-line reprint, in .PDF form, of Daniel Wonderly's book, Neglect of Geologic Data:Sedimentary Strata Compared with Young-Earth Creationist Writings.

The Reference Library (book review) section of the latest issue of Analog includes a review of Rick Sutcliffe's The General. Says the reviewer, after pointing out the flavor of the book, which is probably aimed at the Christian Bookseller's Association market: "Yet you don’t have to share his beliefs to enjoy the story. It works well as multigenerational dynastic intrigue." I haven't read any Sutcliffe.

I am not making this up. There's a Demon Possession Handbook for Human Services Workers available free as a .PDF file. I'm not completely sure what to make of it. It claims that a lot of bad things people do are the result of intermittent demon possession. Maybe so.

In Wired, a great tongue-in-cheek article on blogging. Also, Antonio Vivaldi is still composing. (He's probably well on the way to decomposition by now. Sorry!)

Also from Wired, a chart of deaths in the U. S. for 1995-2005, inclusive, shows that during that period (which included the Oklahoma City bombing) we were more likely to have been killed by police officers than by terrorists.

"For one thing, [Christ's] instructions look like they're beyond us. For another, they are. The reason is that many of us are out of shape, spiritually speaking." - from this article in Christianity Today.

An Encyclical by Pope John Paul II, Centesimus annus, issued May 1, 1991, in which he addressed, among other things, issues of environmental stewardship (section 37).

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)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Biggest Mistakes in the War on Terror

I know. Today is September 12th, not 11th.

The biggest mistake in the so-called War on Terror is one that many in the U. S. have made. What is it? It is conflating a war fought by the U. S. with a holy war, fought by God. It is saying "We are right, and therefore God is on our side. Let us fight, and win!" I'm not talking about President Bush here, although he may have done this, too. I'm talking about too many of my fellow Christians.

Here's Joshua 5:13-15:
13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 14 And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” 15 And the commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. (ESV)

Joshua asked if the commander of God's army was on his side. The response began with "No." Joshua, properly, worshiped. The proper question was "Am I on God's side?" The most important question is whether we are on His side. There were people, back in 2000, and early 2001, proclaiming that the U. S. was a rotten, sinful place, deserving of God's judgment. As if, in other words, it was not on God's side. Some of these same people then spoke as if going to war against somebody or other was a God-given mandate, as if we were. Maybe, maybe not. I don't know how the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will turn out. I do know how God wants the conflict in the souls of the U. S. to turn out. He wants us to turn to Him, and worship, whether we are under attack, attacking someone else, or at peace. We can't assume that God is on our side. That's the biggest mistake we can make, whether there's a War on Terror, or not. We need to get on God's side.

Compared to the first, the second is minor. It's partisanship. Being retired, I was able to watch quite a bit of the hearings related to the report of the 9/11 Commission on CSPAN. Over and over, our congresspersons asked the co-chairs of this Commission "How was it possible for you to work together on this?" The answer was that the Commission had made a deliberate (and, no doubt, difficult) choice, to avoid partisanship in its deliberations and its findings. Clearly, Congress seemed to envy that. Also clearly, on homeland security and many other issues, working together across party lines is a rarity in Congress, and the White House doesn't seem to have done much to encourage it, over the last couple of years. There was quite a bit of non-partisan unity after September 11, 2001. There is little now. I don't think anyone is better off for that lack. The 9/11 Commission gives Congress, and the administration, low or failing grades on their action on many of the Commission's recommendations, and an A on only one of them.

I hope I'm on God's side. I hope, if I were in political power, I could set aside party politics and work for the good of the country.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Shocked -- Detroit Shocked, that is

The Detroit Shock won the WNBA championship on Saturday, September 9th. I got to watch most of the game. It was a good game, and either team could have won up until the last 90 seconds or so, when Katie Smith put in a shot that put her team ahead for good. It was Smith's first championship, as a pro, or in college. She has played all 10 seasons that the WNBA has been in existence, and is one of the ten players selected to the All-Decade team.

Smith certainly wasn't the whole game. It was a team effort by both clubs, and Smith scored less than her co-guard, Deanna Nolan.

It's harder for women to make a career in sport than it is for a man. One reason is that there are fewer opportunities. Major league baseball has 25 players per roster, plus an extensive farm system, and while those down on the farm aren't getting rich, there are a lot of jobs available for men. Then there's pro American football, with even larger rosters. There are minor league men's basketball teams. There's also hockey, with quite a few positions available. There's much less available for women.

One reason for this, of course, is that there is less demand to watch female team sports than male team sports. Why? I'm not sure. Some of it, possibly, is that sport is a form of warfare, and most battles in human history have used young males as cannon fodder, so we do the same in sport. It is true that, generally, male athletes are larger, and can hit, throw, and kick harder, and jump higher, than women. Maybe that's part of the reason. Women in tennis seem to do roughly as well as men, in terms of pay, and in terms of the fame and financial rewards bestowed by society. Women golfers don't do quite as well, but Annika Sorenstam and Michele Wie, at least, are probably better known by far than any WNBA player, and perhaps as well known as their male counterparts, except, of course, for Tiger Woods. (See here for an article on sports attendance.)

Another reason that a career in sports is difficult for women is that they get pregnant, and men don't (duh!). One of the Sacramento Monarchs, DeMya Walker, got hit pretty hard during the game, and the commentator remarked that he didn't think that was as bad as having had a C-section. I don't think so, not to mention the previous pregnancy and the following recovery and care of the little one. Her daughter was born on April 11, less than five months before the final game. It's amazing that she was playing at all, but she was a starter for Sacramento, and played well.

I'd like to mention one other player, Yolanda Griffith of the Monarchs, also a member of the All-Decade team, who is 36 years old, and has a 17-year old daughter. This may have been her last game. The biography furnished by her team says that she supported herself and her daughter, while in college, by repossessing autos. Griffith, and most of the other players in the WNBA, have worked very hard to make it in athletics. They deserve more adulation, and are better role models, than the overpaid spoiled brats who are sometimes found on men's teams.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Diary of an Old Soul, Sept 10 - 16

10. Ever seem to fail in utterance*.
Sometimes amid the swift melodious dance
Of fluttering words--as if it had not been,
The thought has melted, vanished into night;
Sometimes I say a thing I did not mean,
And lo! 'tis better, by thy ordered chance,
Than what eluded me, floating too feathery light.

11. If thou wouldst have me speak, Lord, give me speech.
So many cries are uttered now-a-days,
That scarce a song, however clear and true,
Will thread the jostling tumult safe, and reach
The ears of men buz-filled with poor denays:
Barb thou my words with light, make my song new,
And men will hear, or when I sing or preach.

12. Can anything go wrong with me? I ask--
And the same moment, at a sudden pain,
Stand trembling. Up from the great river's brim
Comes a cold breath; the farther bank is dim;
The heaven is black with clouds and coming rain;
High soaring faith is grown a heavy task,
And all is wrong with weary heart and brain.

13. "Things do go wrong. I know grief, pain, and fear.
I see them lord it sore and wide around."
From her fair twilight answers Truth, star-crowned,
"Things wrong are needful where wrong things abound.
Things go not wrong; but Pain, with dog and spear,
False faith from human hearts will hunt and hound.
The earth shall quake 'neath them that trust the solid ground."

14. Things go not wrong when sudden I fall prone,
But when I snatch my upheld hand from thine,
And, proud or careless, think to walk alone.
Then things go wrong, when I, poor, silly sheep,
To shelves and pits from the good pasture creep;
Not when the shepherd leaves the ninety and nine,
And to the mountains goes, after the foolish one.

15. Lo! now thy swift dogs, over stone and bush,
After me, straying sheep, loud barking, rush.
There's Fear, and Shame, and Empty-heart, and Lack,
And Lost-love, and a thousand at their back!
I see thee not, but know thou hound'st them on,
And I am lost indeed--escape is none.
See! there they come, down streaming on my track!

16. I rise and run, staggering--double and run.--
But whither?--whither?--whither for escape?
The sea lies all about this long-necked cape--
There come the dogs, straight for me every one--
Me, live despair, live centre of alarms!--
Ah! lo! 'twixt me and all his barking harms,
The shepherd, lo!--I run--fall folded in his arms.

*I'm not quite sure what this line is about. It isn't obviously connected to the September 9th entry.

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 September 10 through 16.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Honoring three women

I have been to three funerals in a little over a week. I'm honoring the deceased here briefly. Their memories deserve more.

One of them was my wife's first cousin. She died from breast cancer, which she had battled for several years. One thing that stuck out, on one of our visits, is that she was very concerned about the things she might have said to those caring for her, nurses and family. We, and others, told her not to worry about it, but she did, anyway. People can say things they wish they hadn't, and normally wouldn't, when in extreme pain, or when medicated, and she had had both of these. This indicated to us that her spirit was tender and open to the Holy Spirit's promptings. I hope mine is.

Another was my wife's aunt. She was a widow for nearly twenty years. She was always concerned for her large family, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I need to be, too.

The third was in charge of the dining room at the college I have retired from. That's never an easy position, but she handled it with grace and diligence. The food was good, too. (We have now gone, like many colleges, to a contracted organization that takes care of feeding students and others.) When I first came on campus, over four decades ago, she and her husband invited me for my first Sunday meal in the area. I was young, and single, and I lived on campus and ate with the students. Some of us started throwing ice cubes at each other, which we thought was harmless fun. It could have caused problems, though. She took me aside once, and asked me to watch out for such behavior. I'm sure she knew full well that I was one of the participants.
She was a woman of prayer, and she was participating in a plan to read the Bible through in a year, almost to her dying day.

I'm going to die, too. So are you. I'm sure someone can find something good to say about me. I'm also sure it won't be the whole story. Will others look back on my life, and say that I lived for others? That I lived for God? That I tried to have a kind, friendly attitude toward everyone, even when I was in pain, or on medication? I hope so.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 08, 2006

What does science tell us about God? (repost)

God can be seen in nature, according to both the Old and the New Testaments*.

What does science tell us about God? Here's a list. It's not complete, and it's tentative:
1) It tells us that God is immense, and extremely powerful.
The sheer size of the universe tells us that. (God is, in some way, prior to, and above and beyond the universe)
So does the activity of the sun. It converts about 4 million metric tons of mass into energy per second.
We don't know yet whether there is life on other planets. If there isn't, and the entire universe has only one planet with living things, that doesn't mean that the rest of the universe is, somehow, a waste. God's resources weren't diminished by creating the universe, however and whenever that may have happened.
(We don't know how large the universe is. It may be infinite, or it may merely be very large.)

2) It tells us that God is a God of order and regularity.
Scientific observations, or, for that matter, casual observations, wouldn't be of much use without this regularity. Consider, for example, the periodic table. For another, consider the orbits of the various bodies in the solar system. For yet another, consider yourself. You probably have a few trillion cells. Each of them is descended from a single cell. With few exceptions, all of our cells have the same DNA as the first one.

3) It tells us that God is a God of infinite creative ability.
Estimates of the number of species now alive, or that have ever been alive, are only estimates. Best estimates of the number of species currently in existence on earth are between one and two million. Adding in species which have become extinct, and species yet to be discovered, the number may be as much as ten times that large, or even larger.
As Psalm 104:24 puts it: O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.
Apparently, God loves variety.

Science doesn't tell us, but the bible does--the same God, capable of infinite creation, and limitless in power, is concerned about single individual humans, and even birds. (John 3:16, John 4:3-26; Luke 12:6)

*See Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20

Taken from a post of January 19, 2005.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

St. Augustine and Kent Hovind

Entries in two recent Christian Carnivals have praised the science materials produced by Kent Hovind's organization. Another post, also part of a Christian Carnival, has argued that this isn't wise. So has a second, also part of a Christian Carnival. I don't think so, either.

I'm going to make some general observations about these three posts, and Dr. Hovind. I have four issues with posts of this type (that is, using Hovind to argue that young-earth creationism is true).
Claiming that young-earth creationism is the only valid Christian belief is a mistake. This is true whether it's Hovind, me, or anyone else. Christians disagree on origins! This post says that requiring belief in young-earth creationism for church membership would have excluded "Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Charles Hodge, Benjamin Warfield, Gleason Archer, Francis Schaeffer."
To name only one other Christian view of origins, Intelligent Design has gotten a lot of attention over the last decade, and many Christians have embraced it enthusiastically. However, it isn't the same thing as young-earth creationism, which shows that there is more than one Christian view. (Here's a web page, identifying six different views of origins, five held by at least some Christians, and attempting to point out their strengths and weaknesses in a fair manner.)

Hovind does not present convincing evidence. I can't say that none of his evidence is convincing, since I haven't seen it all, but I examined "articles" on his web site. You can see what I found, and why I say that his evidence is not convincing, in the last part of this post. Here's a web page, pointing out a number of problems with Hovind's work.

Hovind does not have scientific credentials. There is a Wikipedia article about him, which describes his educational history in some detail. The facts presented there indicate that Hovind's doctorate is from an institution of questionable academic reputation, and is not in science. This has not been disputed. (Anyone can contribute to the Wikipedia. Articles may be disputed. When they are, Wikipedia shows this. Here's an example of an article which is partly in dispute. Presumably, if the article was seriously incorrect, Hovind or a staffer would have disputed it.)

The truth is the truth, whether presented by scientists or non-scientists, but Hovind seems to be presenting himself as if he did have scientific credentials when he doesn't, and that looks like deception.

Hovind is in some legal trouble, and is rather far out politically. (See the same Wikipedia article for details, which are not in dispute.) Even one of the posters who seemed to believe that his stuff was the greatest ever commented that he was a little far out in some areas. Again, this doesn't make what he says false, and could be the result of persecution, but it could also mean that he has been doing some things with his taxes that he shouldn't have.
All this, of course, does not prove that young-earth creationism is false. It may be false, and it may be true. I wish to concern myself here only with Dr. Hovind. It seems to me (and I am certainly not alone) that Dr. Hovind's work offers no reliable support for young-earth creationism. Using it, therefore, not only does not help the cause of young-earth creationism, but gives it an unnecessary black eye. It is as if, say, Bill Clinton were invoked as a spokesman for the sanctity of marriage, George Bush for pacifism, or Barry Bonds for drug-free athletics. Answers in Genesis, one of the most important young-earth creationist organizations, has criticized Hovind*.
As to St. Augustine, he had something to say about being careful about origins apologetics:
Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.” St. Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis. vol. 1, Ancient Christian Writers., vol. 41. Translated and annotated by John Hammond Taylor, S.J. New York: Paulist Press, 1982. My source was here.

Thanks for reading.

*  *  *  *  *

Addendum, September 10, 2010:

*Answers in Genesis has modified their criticism of the website, based on changes in it. See here for their republication of their criticism, with modification included. I don't believe that the original article criticizing Hovind remains on the web, but my impression is that they have republished it, with a disclaimer. My impression, based on some examination of the Hovind web site on this date, is that at least some of the uses of invalid arguments for young-earth creationism have been corrected. This, of course, neither proves or disproves young-earth creationism.

Kent Hovind has been imprisoned for tax evasion. See the Wikipedia article on him.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sunspots 72

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

Bonnie, at Intellectuelle, writes more about evangelicalism. Bless her, she's really an optimist: "I long to see a Christianity that can put forth various understandings of non-essential doctrines as found in different denominations yet also be open, theologically and practically, to what each can learn from the others. I’d like to see Christian churches retain the good of past traditions while abandoning the errors, in true reformation." Wow! So would I!
Bonnie has apparently quit, really quit, blogging on her own blog this time. I already miss her work. Hers was the first non-instutional feed I subscribed to.

Chimpanzees are able to teach skills to other chimps, and the information can be passed on to another set of chimp learners.

Firefox 2 Beta is available. Among the improvements -- a built in spell checker in a browser. I just tried it in a web-based e-mail message. It quickly put a red line under "thiss." You can right-click for possible correct spellings, and add new words. It also puts up some guesses when you start entering something in the search box. Looks good.

A rant about the upcoming "Left Behind" video game.

Brady has been hiking to the waterfalls in upstate South Carolina. His list, with some photos, is here.

Joe Carter's re-post on "Industrialized Sex ."

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)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Commandments in the Sermon on the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount (link to ESV, all scripture quoted below from ESV, which allows use in blogs, with proper attribution), Matthew 5-7, has a lot of the teachings of Jesus. Inspired partly by a sermon I heard, I decided to look at those three chapters for commands. I already knew that Jesus amplified two of the Ten Commandments profoundly in 5:21-28. I found these 14 new commandments:

5:15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (From the context, He seems to have been talking about perfection in love, including loving your enemies. Surely He was not talking about, say, perfection in house painting or balancing a checkbook.)

3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

9 Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.

10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

7:1 Judge not, that you be not judged

7 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

As Matthew put it: 7:28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching,

They should have been. So should we. Perhaps I missed some more, but these are enough to point toward a radical life, a life that needs supernatural help to live.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Diary of an Old Soul, Sept 3 - 9

3. Such differing moods can scarce to one belong;
Shall the same fountain sweet and bitter yield?
Shall what bore late the dust-mood, think and brood
Till it bring forth the great believing mood?
Or that which bore the grand mood, bald and peeled,
Sit down to croon the shabby sensual song,
To hug itself, and sink from wrong to meaner wrong?

4. In the low mood, the mere man acts alone,
Moved by impulses which, if from within,
Yet far outside the centre man begin;
But in the grand mood, every softest tone
Comes from the living God at very heart--
From thee who infinite core of being art,
Thee who didst call our names ere ever we could sin.

5. There is a coward sparing in the heart,
Offspring of penury and low-born fear:--
Prayer must take heed nor overdo its part,
Asking too much of him with open ear!
Sinners must wait, not seek the very best,
Cry out for peace, and be of middling cheer:--
False heart! thou cheatest God, and dost thy life molest.

6. Thou hungerest not, thou thirstest not enough.
Thou art a temporizing thing, mean heart.
Down-drawn, thou pick'st up straws and wretched stuff,
Stooping as if the world's floor were the chart
Of the long way thy lazy feet must tread.
Thou dreamest of the crown hung o'er thy head--
But that is safe--thou gatherest hairs and fluff!

7. Man's highest action is to reach up higher,
Stir up himself to take hold of his sire.
Then best I love you, dearest, when I go
And cry to love's life I may love you so
As to content the yearning, making love,
That perfects strength divine in weakness' fire,
And from the broken pots calls out the silver dove.

8. Poor am I, God knows, poor as withered leaf;
Poorer or richer than, I dare not ask.
To love aright, for me were hopeless task,
Eternities too high to comprehend.
But shall I tear my heart in hopeless grief,
Or rise and climb, and run and kneel, and bend,
And drink the primal love--so love in chief?

9. Then love shall wake and be its own high life.
Then shall I know 'tis I that love indeed--
Ready, without a moment's questioning strife,
To be forgot, like bursting water-bead,
For the high good of the eternal dear;
All hope, all claim, resting, with spirit clear,
Upon the living love that every love doth breed.

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 September 3 - 9.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin

I found (thanks to a Google alert) a web page which is a study guide to Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed. The study guide seems to cover the work quite well, and also gives quite a bit of background, such as a discussion of feminism. Just one quibble -- the author doesn't spell Le Guin correctly! (Feminism isn't a major theme of this book.)

The Dispossessed (New York: Avon, 1974) should be one of the works that lives on long after Le Guin is dead. Although Le Guin says that she is a Taoist, not a Christian, I found one aspect of the book inspiring. I was teaching physics while on sabbatical, and was having a struggle. (I'm not a card-carrying physicist, although I like it, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools was satisfied that my credentials in the field qualified me to teach it, at two colleges. My doctorate was in genetics and zoology.) Shevek, the hero of the book (and a male) decided that what he had visited another planet for wasn't what some of the people there wanted him to do, but that he was there to "do physics." (p. 222) I took it that I had visited another college to do physics, too, and, God being my helper, I would and did.

In that same book, and in that same chapter, Le Guin's hero sets to work and does physics, and invents the ansible, a device for instantaneous communication across light-years of distance. (You have to get an ansible to that far location before you can use it to communicate from there, of course.) Le Guin had already used the ansible in some other fiction. A number of other science fiction authors have used the device, even the name, since Le Guin introduced it, including Orson Scott Card.

When Shevek realizes what he has done, he thinks: "And it is strange, exceedingly strange, to know that one's life has been fulfilled." (p. 226)

Shevek did physics in spite of politics and other pressures.

The book is by no means a physics text. Le Guin uses it to examine the meaning and necessity of government, as well as human relationships, and a political movement, anarchy, which attempts to have no government, no hierarchy. There are symbols, such as walls, and two planets, with vastly different physical conditions, and vastly different political structures, all of which make the book interesting on a number of levels. There are literary devices. But, aside from that, it's a good story, well written, about a good man.

* * * * *

On February 7th, 2008, I added links to some Wikipedia articles. I also posted on The Left Hand of Darkness, another of Le Guin's novels.

Friday, September 01, 2006

John Pettigrew on Origins

John Pettigrew has written an interesting post on origins -- how things started. Here's his summary of the advantages of his position:

Unlike the Creationist, we do not have to suggest that Creation lies to us about how it was made and the journey it has taken.
Unlike the predestinationist, we do not have to suggest that God controls every event within Creation, leaving no true freedom for any creature.
Unlike the ID advocate, we do not have to suggest that Creation wandered from the path God desired, or was incapable itself of following that path.
Unlike the materialist, we do not have to claim that there is no divine control of Creation.

Interested? So what does he believe? Read on.

Here's my take on what he believes. Pettigrew believes that Creation was made without everything being completely determined -- there was some room for random events, in his belief.

He believes that assertions that only a Designer could have created such and such are false. (He does believe in a creative God, with omnipotent power, which He has limited somewhat in order to allow for chance, and for choices by some of His creatures.) He believes that the Design was in the universe as it began, not in intervention from time to time. (He does believe in miracles, but claims that when they occur, they are to demonstrate God's power.)

As might be expected, there are some interesting comments.

I found Pettigrew's position interesting and intriguing, and believe that there is Biblical support for at least some of it.

Thanks for reading.