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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Susan Palwick on giving to "beggars"

Susan Palwick has written a great post on giving to individuals you don't know who ask you for money. Sometimes you should, she says, sometimes you shouldn't. She does give some guidelines.

One aspect of her post that particularly gripped me (and her) is that a former drug addict told her that he wouldn't be alive if people hadn't given him money without asking what he was going to do with it.

Thanks for reading.

Sunspots 123

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

Humor: (also sports) Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts quarterback, on how to hold the clipboard.

There is an organization devoted to the question of what happens to that missing other sock.

Science: Google Earth now includes the sky. I hope you can use this -- I can't, probably because of my firewall settings.

There has been some doubt about studies, suggesting that peppered moths were selected for camouflage color by bird predation, although I'm not sure why, as almost every scientist, including young-earth creationists, accepts the reality of natural selection, at least in such minor changes. Apparently, the original experiments have been updated, and natural selection still works.

The lower Jordan River is badly polluted.

Sports: Time, on the low number of female coaches of women's college sports.

Baseball and Economics, in Books and Culture.

Computing: USB goes bananas -- see photos of USB sushi, a USB Barbie doll, and more. Really.

Christianity: Bonnie, on the relationship between love and demand.

This week's Christian Carnival is here. For information on these Carnivals, go here.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Star Wars.

I have discovered an essay on the similarities (and they are striking) between Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter. It also discusses C. S. Lewis's comments on Paradise Lost.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Charge to Keep I Have, by Charles Wesley

This year is the 300th anniversary of Charles Wesley's birth.

Here is a hymn, which I have heard sung, sometimes at a ministerial ordination service, from over 100 by Wesley, posted by the Cyberhymnal:

A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.

To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill:
O may it all my powers engage
To do my Master’s will!

Arm me with jealous care,
As in Thy sight to live;
And O Thy servant, Lord, prepare
A strict account to give!

Help me to watch and pray,
And on Thyself rely,
Assured, if I my trust betray,
I shall for ever die.

(1762, hence public domain. My source is here. That source says that the hymn was based on Matthew Henry's commentary on Leviticus.) Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Travel hiatus

We expect to be traveling soon, and request prayer for our trip.

I don't expect to post again, except for, probably, hymns by Charles Wesley on Sundays, and "Sunspots" on Wednesdays, for about two weeks. It's possible that I can't even post on Sunday and Wednesday.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

elbogz on the capacity of Noah's ark

Elbogz, one of my most faithful commenters, mistakenly left a long comment on this post, when he meant to leave it on this one. His comment was related to the question of whether dinosaurs are still alive or not. I have decided to copy his comment, without change (except to add asterisks) as a post, using a different color to indicate quotation:

The young earth creationist arguments are as useful to the church as the argument about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

I disagree with your statement Just because young-earth creationists claim something is true doesn't make it false.”

I’ve yet to read anything from a young earth creationist that is even remotely true*; and that to me, that is the true sin. When have to lie about the world in order to believe in God, then what?

The kids in the church now sing, “Behemoth” was a dinosaur and realize one day these children will read a real science book are realize the church lied to them, and walk away. Look at the recent statistics published that show a mass exodus of children from the church when they reach college.

Noah’s ark is always the biggest lie of all. Let’s assume for the sake of my rant here, that what the young earth creationist say is true. The ark contained 15,500 “kinds” of animals**, (including dinosaurs) and the average size was that of a sheep. The ark contained one window, and 8 people. Each person would have to feed 1938 animals a day. They were tough biblical people that worked 16 hours a day. They would have to feed 121 animals an hour or about one animal every 30 seconds. Sheep eat about 25 pounds of hay a day so each person would have to lift and move 1.5 tons of hay per hour.

Oh, wait, there is the poop. Now most of us don’t have a couple of sheep to observe, but lets take 2 large dogs. Now if we scoop up the poop of those two large dogs, and then throw it off the ark, and assume a sheep poops about 5 pounds a day, then each person has to shovel about 9690 pounds of poop a day, carry it up to the one window and throw it out.

Perhaps they left the poop on the Ark. Here is my scientific experiment on the poop problem. Take 2 large dogs. Scoop the poop of those 2 dogs for one year. Take the poop inside your home and live with it. You are allowed to open one window.

Now that said and done, why, oh why do we do this dance? It all leads to confusion and leads us away from God.

*It is clear, from this and other comments he (?) has made, that elbogz had a crisis of faith, and that young-earth creationism was part of this. I suppose that what he meant to say here is that all the claims of young-earth creationism are false. I hope he would agree that, if, for example, a young-earth creationist said that Jupiter was the largest planet, or that Jesus is God, these wouldn't be false.

**In a subsequent comment, elbogz says that he found this number in a book by Henry Morris. I believe he found the suggestion of a sheep as equivalent to the average size in Morris, also.

I post this, not because I would have said it, but in fairness to elbogz, and also because I do plan to produce a post myself on questions about Noah's flood. I have a number of them, which, in my opinion, point out weaknesses in all the Biblical interpretations of this event. Perhaps next time. The comment quoted above qualifies as a question, too.

Thanks, elbogz! Thank you for reading.

Sunspots 122

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

Elliot has posted a story about preaching to bears.

The New Liberal Bible and the New Conservative Bible have been released.

A poet has written about having a crush on the UPS man.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved second helpings at the table. (Except for some at-risk groups)

Crows (one species, anyway) can use one tool to manipulate another. (From New Scientist)

Also from New Scientist, some monkeys can do simple arithmetic.

Some weeds have become resistant to Roundup, the most widely used agricultural weedkiller. Natural selection, again.

(or something) A former Southern Baptist leader is calling for the use of imprecatory prayer (praying that God will punish someone) against an activist organization.

Free Speculative Fiction On-line has links to a number of such stories available on-line, some new (including one by Gene Wolfe) and some not so new (including seven by Cordwainer Smith).

J. K. Rowling says that she is a Christian.

This week's Christian Carnival is here. For information on these Carnivals, go here.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Are dinosaurs still alive?

In his book, The Trouble with Physics, Lee Smolin tells how he met some "members of a Bible college" in an airport, and they told him that they had been to Africa, in part to find evidence that dinosaurs still exist. Smolin asked why they were so hard to find, if they exist, especially since they are large, and some of them seem to have lived in herds. The response was that they hide in caves for most of the day, and are supposed to sort of pull dirt across the entrance from the inside to prevent discovery. (New York: Houghton, pp. 25-26) Smolin was illustrating a similar phenomenon in physics, that is, some claims for a particular theory "are just rationalizations." Smolin had a hard time believing this whole idea, especially the idea about the dinosaurs hiding themselves by pulling dirt across cave entrances. Smolin is a physicist, not a geologist, biologist, or paleontologist. According to him, the Bible college persons brought up the subject that led the conversation to dinosaurs.

What about dinosaurs?

I did a Google search for the words, dinosaurs, caves, Africa, and found, sure enough, several web pages that claim that dinosaurs exist there now. Most or all of these pages are by young-earth creationists, who are either attempting to discredit mainstream science by showing that dinosaurs, which supposedly became extinct more than 60 million years ago, are not extinct at all, arguing that Noah's ark carried dinosaurs on it, or both.

Just because young-earth creationists claim something is true doesn't make it false. Are those who make such claims on to something? My response is that I doubt it, but I'm not absolutely sure.

This page has a section on "dinosaurs in the Bible," which refers to Job 40:15-19, which uses the word "behemoth," in some versions. (See here for the King James translation of this passage. The New King James also uses this word, but there's a note, saying that we don't know what animal is meant.) I have done some serious study on the matter of plants in the Bible, and, for most of the names used, we don't seem to really know what plant was meant. I suspect that the same is true for "behemoth."

I was a little surprised that the page didn't refer to "leviathan," apparently another large animal, which is mentioned in four passages in the King James Bible, namely Job 41, Psalm 74:14, Psalm 104:26, and Isaiah 27:1. Leviathan is/was apparently an ocean creature of some kind.

This page cites three articles, from mainstream science journals, indicating that dinosaur soft tissue has been discovered. If so, that is remarkable, if dinosaurs have been extinct for so long. I haven't seen these articles, nor checked to see if they have been supported or discredited by further work.

OK, let's get logical, and examine various possibilities.

Dinosaurs never existed at all.
This is difficult to believe, because of the fossil evidence.

or Dinosaurs existed.

In which case, they became extinct at some time in the past . . .

If that's true, why? There are three possibilities.

1) The earth is very old, and mainstream science, which claims that dinosaurs became extinct a long time ago, is correct.
2) Dinosaurs (and presumably many other forms of prehistoric life) were destroyed before the creation events described in the six days of Genesis 1. This would be consistent with gap theory. It is probably consistent with mainstream science, also.
3) Dinosaurs were rescued from Noah's flood, but have become extinct since, probably because conditions on earth changed*.

or they didn't.

The evidence cited on the web pages proclaiming that they still live is correct, and some dinosaurs still exist. Perhaps the Loch Ness monster exists, and is one.

*Dinosaurs would have taken up a lot of room on the ark, if there were very many species of them, plus the room needed for their food. Genesis 6 says that Noah was to take a male and a female of each animal, and doesn't mention anything about eggs being brought aboard. If somehow the dinosaurs were represented by eggs, rather than young dinosaurs, where did the eggs come from? As the KJV puts it (Genesis 6:20) the animals were to "come unto thee." (to Noah) (I cleaned up some grammar in this paragraph on August 23, 2007. I also mistakenly re-published this as a draft, not a post, after that.)

Thanks for reading.

Liar's Oath by Elizabeth Moon

Liar's Oath (New York: Baen, 1992, and as part of The Legacy of Gird, also by Baen, 1996) is the fifth book in Elizabeth Moon's sword and sorcery epic. It is a prequel to her The Deed of Paksenarrion, following Surrender None in time sequence.

Liar's Oath is about Luap, a man with an aristocratic, mage-born father, who has helped Gird in his peasant revolt.

It begins with the story of Gird's sacrificial death, from Luap's standpoint. (That story is also told in Surrender None.)

After Gird's death, government falls to the Marshals. Luap never becomes a Marshal, but is equivalent to them, as the government's Archivist. He hasn't manifested any magical powers, but Gird has warned him against doing so, and against seeking any rulership for himself.

Paksenarrion, and the Duke that she elevated to a just and good kingship, in The Deed, appear in Liar's Oath, even though they lived several generations after Luap. The reason is that, as Liar's Oath progresses, Luap gradually comes to do magic, to seek power, and to live longer than he normally would. The first two of these are violations of his oath to Gird. Luap leads the mage-born to a location far from Fin Panir, the home of the government founded by Gird. He travels to this location partly by elven magic. While there, he assumes the role of the leader of the mage-born, becoming, in all but name, a king.

The third evil, seeking to live longer, is an evil that saps one of his young followers. Aris is a young mage-born, who has the gift of healing. Without either of them realizing it, Luap's extended life is slowly destroying Aris's healing ability. It is also, as an evil, destroying the bond that has bound the black elves, evil cousins of the good elves that inhabit much of Moon's subcreation, and much like those of Tolkien. The black elves have been bound into rocks near where Luap's regime exists. Eventually, Luap is called before a dwarf, an elf, and a gnome (gnomes are keepers of law) and told that he and the mage-born must leave. Luap becomes a sort of warning spirit, keeping people away from the area, which is now inhabited by the black elves.

During the withdrawal from the kingdom that Luap has established, Moon makes clear that Luap has fallen spiritually:
"You've made the right start," Seri said. "Now you might try asking the gods." Luap winced. He had not, he realized, really asked the gods anything for a long time. p. 842, Chapter 31. Seri, lifelong companion to Aris, becomes, with him, the first of the paladins, warriors with magical powers, called by the gods, to protect against injustice. Paksenarrion is the last such paladin described in Moon's books.

Paksenarrion and her King appear to Luap, finally, and his burden of guardianship is lifted.

This was an interesting book, but I didn't feel that all the ends were tied. One glaring reason that I felt this way is a passage in The Deed of Paksenarrion:
Ardhiel shook his head. "Sir Marshal, I am sorry that this is not a mystery I can solve for you. Only I agree with Sir Amberion, that this is not a place of evil. Whatever happened here, happened for good." (p. 632, describing the hall that is the center of what had been Luap's realm.) Ardhiel is an elf. That doesn't seem to square with Liar's Oath.

Moon is sensitive to moral matters, and they play a prominent role in her books. As in the other books in this series, I was troubled and somewhat confused by the apparent polytheism of her subcreation.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

All Praise to Our Redeeming Lord

This year is the 300th anniversary of Charles Wesley's birth.

Here is a hymn that is new to me, from over 100 posted by the Cyberhymnal:

All praise to our redeeming Lord,
Who joins us by His grace;
And bids us, each to each restored,
Together seek His face.

He bids us build each other up;
And, gathered into one,
To our high calling’s glorious hope,
We hand in hand go on.

The gift which He on one bestows,
We all delight to prove;
The grace through every vessel flows,
In purest streams of love.

E’en now we think and speak the same,
And cordially agree;
Concentered all, through Jesus’ Name,
In perfect harmony.

We all partake the joy of one;
The common peace we feel;
A peace to sensual minds unknown,
A joy unspeakable.

And if our fellowship below
In Jesus be so sweet,
What height of rapture shall we know
When round His throne we meet!

(1747, hence public domain. My source is here.)

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Surrender None, by Elizabeth Moon

I have posted previously on Elizabeth Moon's The Deed of Paksenarrion. (See also here)

Moon subsequently wrote two prequels. The Legacy of Gird (New York: Baen, 1996) includes both of them, Surrender None (1990) and Liar's Oath (1992). As indicated in the previous post, the religious framework of Moon's fantastic world is complex, and I don't claim to understand it. This book tells us about the earthly life of a man who became a deity (or saint ?) in Moon's sub-creation.

Gird is the patron saint, more or less, of an order of soldiers who fight for justice and good. Throughout most of The Deed, Paksenarrion calls on Gird, to give her moral strength for various problems she faces, and she is usually answered, by Gird, or some other supernatural power.

Gird begins his adult life when scarcely a teenager. He joins the local ruler's army, and takes training. However, before he has been a soldier for very long, he sees his ruler cruelly punish one of his contemporaries, and runs away. He joins, and becomes the leader, of peasants fighting against oppression.

This rebellion is against the Aarean aristocrats who rule the land. Some of these, but not many, are good and just. Most are not. There are taxes and fees for everything. These aristocrats are foreigners, who came to the land from another one. They are referred to as mageborn. Many of them can perform various deeds of magic, which include making light, putting subordinates under a spell, and manipulating natural objects, even a small river. Gird has ideas for organization, hygiene, agriculture and strategy. He is a great leader. He, and Moon, are concerned with housing, food supply and latrine placement, which are usually not considered much, if any, in sword and sorcery novels. Gird's army includes some females, including his own daughter. The system of bartons (small local groups of farmer-soldiers that train together) granges (larger groups) and Marshalls, found in the order of Gird in The Deed, all have their origin in Surrender None.

Gird doesn't know everything, of course. He spends several months with the goblins, a dwarf-like (Moon's subcreation also has dwarves, similar to Tolkien's) race living mostly underground. They teach Gird strategy, and, especially, law. They believe in the importance of just law, and Gird sees that, if the Aareans are replaced, something better must come after their rule.

Like Paksenarrion, Gird feels some sort of divine call. Also like Paksenarrion, he gets a horse, which, it is obvious, is not just a horse.

Luap is introduced in the first of these prequels. He is a bastard of an Aarean, cast out to live among the ordinary peasants. He has considerable knowledge of court ways, and, unlike most peasants, can write and calculate. He becomes indispensable to Gird, and to his movement, serving as its Archivist.

I looked for a Christ-figure in this book, not really sure I would find one. Gird becomes one, in that he dies, under the power of some spirit/god/something, so that the enmity between the peasants and the mage-born, may be destroyed, at least temporarily. Here's part of the critical passage from the book, as Gird, in some kind of trance or vision, speaks to a mob:

The words were strange to mouth and ear, but he knew what they meant, and so, somehow, did his hearers. Peace, joy, justice, love, each without loss of the others, engaged in some intricate and ceremonial dance. More and more the dark cloud lifted, as if his words were sunlight burning it away. Yet they were not his words, as he well knew. Out of his mouth, through his mind, had come Alyanya's peace, the high Lord's justice, Sertig's power of Making, and Adyan's naming: these powers loosed scoured the fear away. Chapter 32, pp. 424-5.

After this defusing of a mob, about to severely injure or kill a mage-born child, simply because he is mageborn, Gird dies. His death is not from illness, but from being spent to eradicate evil in others. Although the enmity between the mage-born and ordinary people is temporarily quenched, it is not eradicated.

See this post for a more general discussion of Christ-figures, and what makes a novel Christian.

I found this part of Moon's prequel to be interesting and well-written, with considerable attention to moral issues, like The Deed. As in The Deed, Moon's many gods, or god-like beings, are confusing.

My post on the sequel to this book, Liar's Oath, is here.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Biblical morals in Elizabeth Moon's The Deed of Paksenarrion

I have previously posted on Elizabeth Moon's work, writing that moral choices are important in her fiction. Here are two passages that illustrate that, in addition to those mentioned in my earlier posts, with relevant scripture:

The Duke nodded, his face grim. "I expect so. I wonder if he was her agent from the beginning." "Surely not. The Marshal wouldn't have missed that." The Duke looked at Paks, a clear question. She answered. "No, my lord, he wouldn't have missed it if Venner had been committed to her then. But Achrya gains adherents in subtle ways. At first he may not have realized what he was doing --" "The Duke flushed. "Arranging a massacre? How could he not? "I didn't mean that, my lord. Earlier. We don't know -- perhaps he had cheated someone, or told a minor lie: I have heard that she makes much of that. Or he may have been told lies, about you, that justified him to himself, in the beginning. By the time he realized whose service he had joined, it would have been too late." "Are you saying it was not his fault?" "No, my lord. Unless he was spelled the entire time, he was responsible for his decisions. I meant that he may not have intended any evil when he joined the Company . . . may in fact have slipped into evil bit by bit. . . ." Elizabeth Moon, The Deed of Paksenarrion (New York: Baen, 1992) p. 782, Chapter Ten. This part of The Deed was originally published as Oath of Gold, by the same publisher, in 1989. Duke Phelan, Paksenarrion, and the Duke's captains are discussing the revelation that the Duke's steward, Venner, has been in service to an evil spider goddess for many years.

James 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (ESV)

"She was always ready to take offense at anything, and she'd hold a grudge until it died of old age. She's a skilled fighter, and honest, and works hard -- all good. But I've heard more harsh things about her, from my sergeants, than about the rest of your recruit year put together. She wasn't bad -- not the way i could complain of -- but she'd not a generous bone in her, and she'd a way of talking that kept everyone miserable. . . . And she has the most dangerous of beliefs: that things are unfair for her. The High Lord knows things are unfair. But they're unfair for us all. That's the way the world is." p.814, Chapter Thirteen, of the same book.

Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (ESV) Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; (ESV)

I am not saying that Moon and the Bible are equivalent. Indeed not. But biblical principles often come through in Moon's writing.

See here for my most recent post on Moon's writing.

Thanks for reading.

* * * *

In a post dated Feb 25, 2009 (Ash Wednesday) Moon indicates that she planned to attend her church's service that evening, and is in the church choir.

* * * * *

On April 2, 2009, E Stephen Burnett wrote an essay, asking questions about how far a Christian author could go in writing fiction which has a God who is significantly different from the Christian God, and whether a Christian could legitimately create a fictional character who is in defiance of God. I posted tentative answers to these questions, which are related to the subject of the post above, on April 12, 2009.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Important post updated

I'm not sure any of my posts are really important, but "Young-Earth Creationism vs. Intelligent Design" may come close. It has quotes from both YEC and ID authors, important ones, criticizing the other camp.

I have revised and updated this post, if you are interested.

Thanks for reading.

Sunspots 121

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

Does your local elementary school have enough money to buy pipe cleaners?

(or maybe science) An extremely dedicated invertebrate zoologist shows us her very tattooed back. (Above the waist) If you want to see more "science tattoos" go here .

Wired annotates the chemical content of a self-tanning lotion.

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate on the Democrats giving the Attorney General of the US more power to eavesdrop on communication: "The image of Democrats hypocritically berating the attorney general with fingers crossed behind their backs is ultimately no less appalling than an attorney general swearing to uphold the Constitution with fingers crossed behind his own."

Charles Colson and Anne Morse of Christianity Today on the length of the US Presidential campaign, and related matters.

A Wesleyan blogger has some proposals for a Wesleyan approach to the so-called War on Terror. I think that they are also a Christian approach.

(sort of) Mirtika on what is art, and why.

Mirtika also has pointed out the importance of short stories to fantastic literature.

Bonnie is back to writing about sex. This time she has written about how the reaction of some feminists to pornography parallels Christian mores.

This week's Christian Carnival is here. For information on these Carnivals, go here .

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

All Wise, All Good, Almighty Lord

This year is the 300th anniversary of Charles Wesley's birth.

Here is a hymn that is new to me, from over 100, written by Wesley, posted by the Cyberhymnal:

All wise, all good, almighty Lord,
Jesus, by highest Heav’n adored,
Ere time its course began;
How did Thy glorious mercy stoop,
To take Thy fallen children up,
When Thou Thyself wert man?

Th’eternal God from Heav’n came down;
The King of glory dropped His crown
And veiled His majesty;
Emptied of all but love He came,
Jesus, I call Thee by the Name,
Thy pity bore for me.

O holy Child, still let Thy birth
Bring peace to us poor worms of earth,
And praise to God on high!
Come, Thou who didst my flesh assume;
Now to the abject sinner come,
And in a manger lie.

Didst Thou not in person join
The natures human and divine,
That God and man might be
Henceforth inseparably one?
Haste then and make Thy nature known
Incarnated in me.

In my weak, sinful flesh appear,
O God, be manifested here,
Peace, righteousness and joy;
Thy kingdom, Lord, set up within
My faithful heart; and all my sin,
The devil’s work, destroy.

I long Thy coming to confess,
The mystic power of godliness,
The life divine to prove:
The fulness of Thy life to know,
Redeemed from all my sins below,
And perfected in love.

O Christ, my Hope, make known to me
The great, the glorious mystery
The hidden life impart;
Come, Thou Desire of nations, come,
Formed in a spotless virgin’s womb,
A pure, believing heart.

Come quickly, dearest Lord, that I
May own, tho’ Antichrist deny,
Thy incarnation’s power:
May cry, a witness to my Lord,
“Come in my flesh is Christ the Word,
And I can sin no more!”

(1745, hence public domain. My source is here.)

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Douglas Gresham's Jack's Life

Douglas Gresham is a stepson of C. S. Lewis. He has written a biography, Jack's Life: The Life Story of C. S. Lewis. (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2005) It's not the best biography of Lewis, but it's short (167 pages) and a good introduction for someone wanting a quick review of the life of Lewis. There is a DVD conversation with Gresham included, at least in the hardback edition.

I didn't learn much that I didn't already know. One thing I didn't know was that Gresham's mother, Joy Davidman, influenced Lewis in writing Till We Have Faces. (She was also an author.)

Gresham emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of Lewis. He believes that Lewis was protected during World War I (he served in the army, and was the only one of his unit to survive) and that God used the War to get Lewis into university. Lewis was poor in mathematics, and failed an entrance exam including that subject twice. After the war, Oxford waived the requirement for veterans.

Gresham, who spent ten years with Lewis, some of them with Lewis as a single parent (Joy died of cancer) says that Lewis was the best Christian he ever has known, by which he means that Lewis came closer to being Christ-like in the nitty-gritty of daily life.

Gresham says "Jack told me, 'first be sure that you know exactly what you want to say. Then be sure you say exactly that.'" (p. 1)

Good advice. I haven't always done that.

We are expecting company for a few days, and I don't expect to post for a week or so, except for a hymn by Charles Wesley, and a Sunspots.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Sunspots 120

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

(or Christianity) An article from The Master's Seminar Journal, entitled "Jesus, evangelical scholars, and the age of the earth," presenting evidence that Jesus believed in a young earth.

Slate points out, rightly, that the report that Oscar the Cat can determine which patients are dying is anecdotal, not scientific.

A man in a "minimally conscious state" has been stimulated by electrodes, and recovered consciousness, including being able to talk.

"5 Reasons Why I Think Christian Schools/Parents Should Teach Evolution"

A college volleyball player reflects on the achievements, or something, of Barry Bonds, and others.

Article, critical of J. K. Rowling's religious beliefs, but specifying why the author is critical, and full of spoilers, so don't read it if you haven't read the seventh and last book.

Article in Christianity Today, with this title "Harry Potter 7 is Matthew 6." Don't read it if you haven't read the seventh and last book.

Elliot on how some important writers of fantastic fiction converted to Christianity as adults. (C. S. Lewis, Susan Palwick, Zenna Henderson, Cordwainer Smith, and Elizabeth Moon are in this category. All but Henderson became Anglicans/Episcopalians. Henderson became a Methodist.)

Bonnie is not writing on sex this time (at least not directly) but on virtue.

This week's Christian Carnival is here. For information on these Carnivals, go here.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Monday, August 06, 2007

A new gene, within the past 100 years

The Panda's Thumb presents a summary of the evidence that a new gene (probably more than one) has arisen within the past century, in HIV. (That's the AIDS virus.)

This should not be a surprise to anyone. However, according to the blog post I cited in the previous paragraph, Michael Behe's book, The Edge of Evolution, has this statement, about that same virus: "There is no new molecular machinery." It must, therefore, be a surprise to Behe. I have not yet read Behe's new book. His previous book, Darwin's Black Box, is one of the pillars of the Intelligent Design movement. In it, Behe claimed that some biological phenomena were so complex that they could not have been developed over time by natural selection, but would have required a Designer. The Panda's Thumb has produced explanations, relying only on natural selection, for all of the phenomena Behe wrote about.

I believe that God designed natural selection.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

All Glory to God

This year is the 300th anniversary of Charles Wesley's birth.

Here is a hymn that is new to me, from over 100 posted by the Cyberhymnal:

All glory to God, and peace upon earth,
Be published abroad at Jesus’ birth;
The forfeited favor of Heaven we find
Restored in the Savior and Friend of mankind.

Then let us behold Messias the Lord,
By prophets foretold, by angels adored;
Our God’s incarnation with angels proclaim,
And publish salvation in Jesus’ Name.

Our newly born King by faith we have seen
And joyfully sing His goodness to men,
That all men may wonder at what we impart,
And thankfully ponder His love in their heart.

What moved the Most High so greatly to stoop,
He comes from the sky our souls to lift up;
That sinners forgiven, might sinless return
To God and to Heaven; their Maker is born.

Immanuel’s love let sinners confess,
Who comes from above, to bring us His peace;
Let every believer His mercy adore,
And praise Him forever, when time is no more.

(1745, hence public domain. My source is here.)

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Last Guardian of Everness, by John C. Wright

John C. Wright is a Christian writer of fantastic literature. By Christian, I don't mean that he tries to convert his readers, as some do -- which is OK, I guess -- but that he has a Christian world view. C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, and other writers of fantastic literature have had similar world views. (See this post for more about Wright. He didn't used to have a Christian world view.)

Wright is a good writer, I'm sure. He has quite a few books published, and one of them was a Nebula award nominee, which is high praise, indeed. However, I was somewhat less than enchanted by this book. Maybe he had an off day, or I had an off week, or maybe he is better at science fiction than fantasy.

The Guardians of Everness are engaged in a battle against evil, but the dimensions of that battle were unclear to me. Much of the story took place in dreams. The good side consisted of a Russian immigrant to the US, who didn't speak the best English, and, amazingly, got a job as a park ranger, although he didn't seem very qualified; his wife, a cute little woman who can be flighty and strange; the three generations of Waylock men, two of whom only do anything significant when they are dreaming, and one of whom doesn't believe in what the family is supposed to be doing, namely guarding the world against evil. I couldn't identify with any of these characters. There were all kinds of beings on the side of evil, including some from various kinds of mythology, including Irish and Norse, and apparently several others. I got confused by all of these.

Wright is worth a try, but I'm not sure I'll try this series again. I'll try Orphans of Chaos, the Nebula award nominee.

Thanks for reading, even though I (or you) may be having an off day.

Friday, August 03, 2007

John C. Wright on C. S. Lewis

John C. Wright (go here for his LiveJournal blog, and here for a page on his writings) is described, in the Wikipedia article on him, as "acclaimed," and the article says that Publisher's Weekly went so far as to call him the most important writer of fantastic fiction to appear so far in this century. One of his novels, Orphans of Chaos, was a nominee for a Nebula award for 2005. (It didn't win -- Camouflage, by long-time author Joe Haldeman, took that honor.)

What drew my attention to Wright was an essay on the literary quality of the space trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength, by C. S. Lewis. I thank Claw of the Conciliator for posting on Wright's essay. Lewis, I suppose, is currently best known as the author of the Narnia books. If you aren't familiar with his other works, including Mere Christianity -- apologetic, one of several such by Lewis -- and Till We Have Faces (more or less historical fiction), you should be. I won't name any of his works on literature, which were also pretty good.

Lewis, himself, wrote about science fiction writing. Several such essays were collected into Of Other Worlds, edited by Walter Hooper. So it's only fair that others write about Lewis, and Wright isn't the first, and won't be the last.

Wright's conclusion is that Lewis's trilogy is pretty good literature, although not of the first rank. I agree with that conclusion. (Wright, like most, puts Tolkien, Lewis's friend, ahead of him in literary merit.)

I was particularly intrigued by this statement about the space trilogy from Wright: "When I was a reader who disagreed with the message, I [reread] them for their artistic merit alone. One need not be a Christian to appreciate these books." The Wikipedia article says that Wright, like Lewis, started as an atheist, but became a Christian in adulthood. I look forward to reading some of Wright's work. Thanks, Claw of the Conciliator!

I don't think that there is a necessary connection between being a Christian and being attracted to, or authoring, fantastic literature. Many Christians (and others) are repelled by it, and certainly wouldn't write it. But I am pleased that there are now, and have been, prominent authors of such fiction who were believers.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Psalm 136 on God's creation

Psalm 136:4 to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
5 to him who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
7 to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever; (ESV)

I was struck by this passage during my daily Bible reading recently. There were two ideas, in particular. The first is that verse 6 says that God made the heavens (and presumably everything else -- this is poetry, after all) by understanding.

The second idea is that the Psalmist seems to think that God's love was the motivation for creation. (It was also the motivation for a lot of other things. The Psalm has 26 verses, and they all end with the same phrase, "for his steadfast love endures forever.")

The 26th verse closes in a most fitting manner:
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Sunspots 119

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

The Onion has a video about the supposed release of Time magazine's list of the 299,000,000 least influential people in the US.

William Saletan, in Slate, disagrees strongly with the reporting of a recent story on obesity:
"And the gist of this study is that obesity did not spread through the sampled population like a virus or any other materially transmitted malady. It spread culturally, individual to individual, through the relaxation of standards of personal discipline."

Henry Neufeld is unhappy with a statement about Ken Ham, of "Answers in Genesis." (The statement makes it sound like Ham is very rare -- an intelligent Christian. Neufeld says that they aren't so rare. And goes on from there.) See also a subsequent post, here.

Birth control has been proposed as a means of cutting populations of urban pigeons.

Slate on part of the history of "Christian Rock", as the article puts it. A little (or a lot) disturbing.

Get your blog's (or other website's) movie rating -- is it G, PG, R, or something else? (This one is PG)

A Christianity Today writer finds Christianity in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Another author, in the same periodical, disagrees.

The story of Robertson McQuilkin, who was president of Columbia International University, but resigned to care for his wife, who had Alzheimer's. See also here.

This week's Christian Carnival is here. For information on these Carnivals, go here .

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)