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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sunspots 132

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

Seen on a tee-shirt: "I'd put something clever here, but you wouldn't get it."

This is an old article, but I hadn't seen it: ABC TV on US torture techniques. Waterboarding was administered to CIA officers, who asked for relief after an average of 14 seconds. Bad information was given by some prisoners, and formed the basis for US action. Some prisoners have died under torture.

Slate on how to tell the difference between Haydn and Mozart.

Somebody or other puts out a Daily Bible Verse feed, which you can add to various types of blogs/MySpace pages, etc.

I just found Keith P. Graham's suggested "Laws of Science Fiction Writing," apparently posted in 2005. Interesting and provocative! It includes some laws for fantasy, too.

A well-written review of a book on how Christians are perceived by young adults in the U. S. (Not very well).

Bonnie clarifies hypocrisy .

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

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass is an upcoming movie, based on a book by Philip Pullman.

There is apparently an e-mail campaign, aimed at telling Christians not to see this movie. I have received such e-mails a couple of times, and will probably receive them again.

Here's my response:
Thanks for sending this on to me. I haven't seen the movie, but I know something about fantastic literature, and this author is, indeed, an outspoken atheist, and the movie (or movies -- it's a series of books) may be militantly atheistic. The book, although interesting and well-written, is anti-God, and anti-church.

There is a bigger problem. Most of the time, our modern media act as if God didn't exist (except for the so frequent "Oh, my God!" expressions). News programs and newspapers tell us about terrible disasters, seldom saying a word about praying for the victims. The accomplishments of athletes are praised, but the source of their God-given abilities is seldom mentioned. (No doubt people more knowledgeable than I could say something about popular music of many kinds right about here, but I won't.) Dramatic TV programs and movies tell us about what's important in fictional people's lives, and it's very seldom even close to a genuine belief in God. My wife and I saw a movie last week, which we found hilarious and enjoyable, and it was so inoffensive that it is rated PG-13. Christianity Today said that it was a family-oriented movie, and it is. But I don't remember a character who said a word about religious belief of any kind, Christian or otherwise, or about going to church.

It seems to me that this pervasive ignoring of the things of God is much more dangerous than occasional blatant atheism. We usually see blatant atheism, recognize it, and react to it, whereas, if we aren't careful, we absorb the attitude that God is non-existent or irrelevant from the world around us, including, of course, the media. We become practicing atheists.

Thanks for reading.

* * * * *

See here for another post on this topic.

See here for yet another such post, linking to material by Pullman, showing that he is, indeed, a militant atheist, and also showing that Pullman has actually undercut mainstream atheism, and that his sort of belief was predicted by C. S. Lewis, over sixty years ago.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

How Happy Are They Servants, Lord, by Charles Wesley

This year is the 300th anniversary of Charles Wesley's birth. Wesley wrote many hymns. One that I have never heard is "How Happy Are Thy Servants, Lord." These are the words, posted by the Cyberhymnal:

How happy are Thy servants, Lord,
Who thus remember Thee!
What tongue can tell our sweet accord,
Our perfect harmony?

Who Thy mysterious supper share,
Here at Thy table fed,
Many, and yet but one we are,
One undivided bread.

One with the living bread divine
Which now by faith we eat,
Our hearts and minds and spirits join,
And all in Jesus meet.

So dear the tie where souls agree
In Jesus’ dying love!
Then only can it closer be,
When all are joined above.

These words were published in 1745, hence are public domain.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

County size in California vs. South Carolina

A little geography, gentle reader.

Much has been made of the recent fires in San Diego County and other California counties, and I certainly have no desire to complain about such coverage -- we have family members living there. However, perhaps some South Carolina readers, and other readers from the eastern US, may not realize that counties are not the same sorts of things in all parts of the US.

San Diego County
has a large geographic area, namely 4,526 square miles/11,721 square kilometers. In contrast, the combined area of Pickens, Oconee, Greenville, Laurens, Abbeville, Greenwood, and Anderson counties of South Carolina is 4,436 square miles. San Diego County is not the largest county in the US, or in California. Counties in the western US tend to be larger. Although the population of San Diego County is nearly 3,000,000, which is the third largest population of any county in the US, much of the large area is relatively unpopulated. Many of the fires in that county are in such relatively unpopulated areas.

Some are warning that development of such areas is asking for trouble -- fires have apparently been part of the chaparral ecosystem for a long time, and the recently developed areas, left to themselves, would mostly be chaparral.

Just as the southeastern part of the US is subject to coastal hurricanes, and some parts of the US are at risk for earthquakes, some of the US is at risk for wildfires. There doesn't seem to be much that we can do about this. We live in a fallen world, and we humans are in tension with the communities where we live and move, and this tension will, if anything, become larger as we expect to own more and more possessions, and as there are more and more of us.

God help us all!

Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Does God Exist? Tests of this hypothesis

I have recently read Does God Exist: The Debate between Theists and Atheists, by J. P. Moreland (a theist) Kai Neilsen (an atheist) and others. (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1993) The book is a record of such a debate, between these two, at the University of Mississippi, with various remarks by others. Although the book is not for the faint-hearted, as it delves into philosophy quite a bit, it is not written for philosophers, but, as the debate, was conducted so that intelligent persons (some university students and professors qualify) can follow the arguments.

Neither Neilsen nor Moreland claimed to have won decisively. My personal belief is that this is a matter for faith, although a believer can certainly find evidence for the existence of God. (I suppose that an atheist would find evidence for His non-existence, too.)

One part of the book is a brief chapter "The Choice of a Lifetime," (pp. 287-291) by Peter Kreeft.

Kreeft challenges readers to test the question of God's existence. He offers these four tests:
1) Test the lives of other people. "Find out what difference atheism or theism makes to people's lives, especially converts to both positions." (288)

2) Try to be an atheist for a day (or a Christian for a day), that is, if you are a Christian, try to be an atheist, or vice versa. Kreeft makes some suggestions on that. At first, I was mystified by this, but know that sometimes I am certainly tempted to doubt.

3) Think about Pascal's wager.

4) Pray. Kreeft suggests that an atheist ask God for help in seeking the truth of this most important question.

Interesting. Kreeft sounds like he has already made up his mind, and is a Christian, but others haven't.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Does God Exist?

I recently read "Language, Being, God, and the Three Stages of Theistic Evidence," a chapter by Dallas Willard, in Does God Exist: The Debate between Theists & Atheists, by J. P. Moreland (a Christian) and Kai Nielsen (an atheist) with contributions by others. (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1993) Much of the book was a debate between the principal authors, at the University of Mississippi.

Willard's chapter is on pages 196-217. It is understandable, and well written, although Willard is an expert in philosophy, and uses this discipline throughout his contribution.

Willard doesn't claim that he has a knock-down argument for the existence of God, but he does say that it is a valid one, and he claims that the arguments for the non-existence of God are weak, at best.

Willard begins by saying that philosophically, there is a physical world, and that anything present in the physical world depends on something previous. If you go back far enough, there must have been something before the physical world itself. The Big Bang, he says, is not really an explanation -- it's an occurrence, which, like everything else, requires something previous. Some atheists endow the Big Bang with almost mystical properties. Willard says that this supports the first part of his argument.

Second, Willard says that order must come only from pre-existing order. However, he does not encourage arguments such as that sometimes made from the existence of intricate biological entities such as the eye.

Thirdly, Willard says that there must be a power acting in human affairs, hence, a God.

I repeat, Willard understands that he has not presented a knock-down argument for God, but he seems to have presented philosophical arguments that cast grave doubt on the philosophical arguments for atheism.

A convinced unbeliever doesn't usually want to pay attention to the evidence for belief. Sometimes such evidence is presently poorly, or material which isn't evidence is treated as if it were. I don't think Willard has done either of these.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sunspots 131

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

Fossil remains of a new, really big dinosaur have been discovered.

There are attacks by troops of Rhesus monkeys in India.

Slate on what waterboarding is, why it should be illegal, and why the administration hasn't renounced it.

A new interview with Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling, which considers the question of her faith.

Elizabeth Moon has a LiveJournal account. She has recently written on mercenaries (she is a former marine, and has written many fantastic novels about various aspects of warfare).

More on divorce from Christianity Today.

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

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pray for Southern California, USA

Pray for Southern California, USA

This is Mt. San Miguel, in San Diego County, California, taken today.

This photo was taken by a relative who lives in San Diego County. It isn't the best quality ever, but it makes a point. You can get some idea of the height of those flames from the distance -- he was perhaps 4 miles/6 km away when he took the photo. (May have used the zoom function.) Radio stations, and public safety, have towers on this mountain. At least some of these have stopped functioning. Our relative may be evacuating soon.

People in Southern California need prayer. The Santa Ana winds are supposed to gust up to over 30 mph/40 kph today. The humidity is less than 5%. Over 250,000 people have been evacuated in San Diego County alone. Many roads are closed, because of the fires.

There are other fires in Southern California, too.

Thanks to another relative, for suggesting that I post this, and ask for prayer.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

How Happy Every Child of Grace, by Charles Wesley

This year is the 300th anniversary of Charles Wesley's birth. Wesley wrote many hymns. One that I have never heard is "How Happy Every Child of Grace." I like the words. Here they are, as posted by the Cyberhymnal:

How happy every child of grace,
Who knows his sins forgiven!
“This earth,” he cries, “is not my place,
I seek my place in Heaven—
A country far from mortal sight,
Which yet by faith I see,
The land of rest, the saints’ delight,
The heaven prepared for me.”

O what a blessèd hope is ours!
While here on earth we stay,
We more than taste the heavenly powers,
And antedate that day.
We feel the resurrection near,
Our life in Christ concealed,
And with His glorious presence here
Our earthen vessels filled.

O would He more of heaven bestow,
And let the vessels break,
And let our ransomed spirits go
To grasp the God we seek;
In rapturous awe on Him to gaze,
Who bought the sight for me;
And shout and wonder at His grace
Through all eternity!

These words were published in 1745, hence are public domain.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Polaris, by Jack McDevitt

I recently read Polaris, by Jack McDevitt. (This is McDevitt's web page.) Polaris was published in 2004 by Ace Books, of New York. McDevitt won the Nebula award for Seeker, a book with the same setting, and main characters, but later in time in McDevitt's sub-creation.

I don't usually give away the plots of books, but, in this case, I'm going to.

The Polaris was a spaceship, and it was used for a flight of a few important people. The purpose of the flight was to view the collision of a star with another object, from as close as safely possible. The Polaris was found, after the collision, but no passengers (nor the pilot) were ever found, in spite of a thorough search.

Alex Benedict, dealer in artifacts of various kinds, and his associate, Chase Kolpath (Chase is female) obtain some material from the Polaris, and become interested in what happened, 60 years after the disappearance. To cut to the chase (sorry!) they find out that the people aboard the Polaris are still alive.

There is an important ethical dilemma in this book. More than one, in fact. One is whether people who are convinced that overpopulation is a potential disaster have the right to take drastic action to prevent it. Another is whether, if a way to prolong human life tenfold is found, it is right to withhold that knowledge. Another is whether it is right to punish criminals with a "mindwipe," which involves removing their memories, and most of their personality, as opposed to sentencing them to death, or to life in prison. And the last one, which is raised in this, and two other of McDevitt's books about Alex Benedict (one of them may not have Chase Kolpath) is whether it's right to look for artifacts of the past for profit, as opposed to letting them be. (If there was no profit motive, would anyone ever look? Would any artifacts at all be preserved for the public? Should they be?) The answers to all of these questions are difficult, and McDevitt offers no easy answers.

McDevitt is a good writer. There is some real science in the book, and the characters seem real enough, too (even the avatars -- computer-generated constructs, based on what is known of an absent person, or a dead one). Much of the book is a murder mystery, or an attempted murder mystery. Someone has been trying to kill Benedict and Kolpath. Who is it, and why?

Even though Rimway, the planet Benedict and Kolpath are based on, is distant from earth, and it is a few millenia in our future, there is some minor recognition of God. ("God willing," for example, on page 119)

Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Seeker, by Jack McDevitt

"Margolia is a world of gleaming cities and impossible architecture. Its citizens enjoy a life of absolute leisure. (How they'd stand it isn't explained.)" Jack McDevitt, Seeker. New York: Ace, 2006, p. 108.

Seeker won the Nebula award for 2006. I try to read all the Nebula award books. As usual, I'll try to avoid giving away the plot, but muse a bit about some aspects of the book.

This is McDevitt's web page. It includes chapter 14 of the book.

The front cover quotes Stephen King, on McDevitt: "The logical heir to Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke." In other words, King believes that the most important part of McDevitt's stories is the science. I generally prefer Ursula K. Le Guin's writing, where the most important part of the stories is the people. Clarke invented the synchronous orbiting relay satellite, fictionally. However, let's not forget that Le Guin, in spite of her concern for her characters, invented the ansible, also fictionally. Both are concerned with communication. McDevitt's people are OK. They are more than just cardboard. The protagonist in Seeker is Chase Kolpath, a former space pilot. She is now the assistant to Alex Benedict, who finds, or trades, valuable artifacts. I haven't read the previous books in this series, A Talent for War and Polaris, but I believe the first of these is written as a memoir by Alex. The second and third are written as if by Chase. She is more than a Watson to Alex's Holmes -- she has many of the adventures, and some of the ideas.

There are lots of possible artifacts in Chase's world, since it's about 9,000 years in our future, and humans are living on hundreds of planets. Rimway is the name of her planet. It has almost no crime. Criminals have their brains wiped -- their personality is mostly destroyed, and they are given, as it were, another start in life. Most everyone has an AI, an artificial intelligence, to deal with routine matters, even some non-routine ones. Simulated people take many of the service roles, such as restaurant waiters.

One question I always have, when entering such a world, is "how does the author treat religion?" McDevitt almost totally ignores it, but does include this:
It was a religious ceremony. A priest requested the blessings of the Almighty on the happy couple, and led them in their vows. The best man produced the ring, Adam slipped it on her finger, she waltzed into his arms, and they kissed. p. 77.

Who is getting married isn't important here. McDevitt does assume that there will be some religion, probably Christianity, even in the far future, and that it will have some importance in the lives of at least some people. That's more than many science fiction authors have done.

The quote also shows a weakness in McDevitt's work. Much of what people do and are, their customs and habits, read as if they haven't changed in hundreds of lightyears and thousands of years. That strikes me as very unrealistic. Surely the marriage ceremony would have changed a lot in that time! I know -- if McDevitt had changed everything as much as it's probably going to change, the plot would have gotten lost in all of those societal changes. And it's unrealistic to expect any author to be able to extrapolate changes in every aspect of how we eat, entertain ourselves, how we are named, etc., into the future.

God also appears in this famous quote (famous in the sense that it has been remembered for millennia, in McDevitt's fictional world):
We are leaving this world forever, and we intend to go so far that not even God will be able to find us.
p. 133.

One technological extrapolation is avatars -- it is possible to take what is known about someone, even someone long dead, and produce a projected 3-D view of that person. The projection is able to converse, with ideas more or less like the original person would have, depending on how much is known about the original.

How do we treat the relics of our past? We plunder them, we hoard them, we exhibit them in museums, we profit from them, we show them off without understanding them, we casually trash them. That is a central theme of this book, and it is well worth thinking about.

McDevitt is a good read. I had a hard time putting the book down by the time I got to about page 250 (out of 373). There were two previous Chase Kolpath books, A Talent for War and Polaris. I hope to read them.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sunspots 130

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

The terrorists must have followed us home, creating a massive art installation in Chicago.

A physician, writing in Slate, claims that we shouldn't be so obsessed with cleanliness, and, in fact, should ingest more excrement for our health's sake. (warning -- a common four-letter word for excrement is used several times in the article).

Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize. Although he apparently deserves it, for his work on raising awareness of the coming climate change, a UK judge has ruled that there should be reservations about using An Inconvenient Truth in schools, because he was making a case, not always completely backed by scientific evidence. For example, it is not clear that Hurricane Katrina was directly due to increased global warming.

Factcheck assesses claims made by the President, by candidates for President, and probably others. It seems to want the truth from both US political parties, and points out when it wasn't forthcoming. The same seems to be true of PolitiFact.

Henry Neufeld proposes his anti-terrorism policy.

(Actually, Art, in this case) New discoveries about the Mona Lisa, by da Vinci.

An article in Christianity Today on the reasons that the Bible allows for divorce, based on a study of the original language, and its cultural context.

Bonnie argues that the church must teach about proper sexual relationships, not just about improper ones.

Rebecca argues that KJV-onlyism is not truly compatible with a Bible-based doctrine.

An article, written for the "average Christian," on "The Spiritual Value of Wilderness ."

I normally include a link to the current Christian Carnival, but, so far, I haven't discovered the latest one.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"The Inner Life of the Cell" video

"The Inner Life of the Cell" video, which, as I understand it, was created at Harvard, is available freely on the Internet, here, lasts perhaps 3 minutes, and is certainly well worth watching. It shows various animations of life processes involving molecules and cells, with no narration at all. Even if you don't know what process is being shown, it is an awesome piece of work, and gives some idea of the tremendous complexity and beauty of molecular and cellular structure. According to my sources, some people have used in devotional presentations. The sponsor, the Howard Hughes Medical Foundation, is not a religious organization.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy watching.

Stephen Hawking's singularity at the beginning

When people start using terms like singularity, my brain generally goes into neutral.

Stephen Hawking, one of the most famous scientists of our time (he holds the same professorial chair that Isaac Newton did, and appeared, as a holographic simulation of himself, on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager) wrote A Brief History of Time, a best-selling book (there are those who claim that not many who own the book have actually read and understood it!). In that book, he claimed, as I understood him, that the universe sort of started up by itself -- without a singularity, a special event, at the beginning.

I have recently read a chapter, "In Defense of Rational Theism," by William Lane Craig, in Does God Exist: The Debate between Theists & Atheists (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. J. P. Moreland and Kai Nielsen are given as senior authors. The chapter is pp. 139-161). As part of this chapter, Craig, a philosopher, criticizes Hawking's idea that there was no** singularity at the beginning of time. He states that Hawking was on questionable ground on two points, which, he says, are among Hawking's assumptions, not his facts:
1) He assumes that there must have been (be?) multiple universes*, in fact, all possible universes, but we only know about the one we are in now. Craig says that the reason for this particular part of Hawking's metaphysics is that quantum physics would suppose that there was indeterminacy in the universe to begin with, but it collapsed to one particular state, and this collapse -- which is related to the Big Bang, would have required some sort of observer, which, says Craig, quoting Hawking, "smacks of divine intervention," (p. 147 of Craig) which Hawking wanted to deny.

*Philip Pullman used this idea in his His Dark Materials series.
**On October 17th, I changed "of a" to "that there was no," after suddenly realizing that I had written the opposite of what I had wanted to say. Sigh. Thanks, Steve, for your comment. Without it, I wouldn't have noticed this.

2) Craig says that Hawking misused mathematics in his model, specifically that he uses imaginary numbers inappropriately.

I am not equipped to evaluate Craig's claims, but, at least in part, they make sense. Hawking starts out, apparently, by not believing that there is a supernatural God who began the universe. So it is no wonder that he comes out "proving" this! Hebrews 11:3 says that we understand God's work in creation by faith. Hawking seems to have a different sort of faith. (See also this post.)

Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Three by Sharon Shinn

Sharon Shinn is a writer of fantastic literature, who always has an element of romance (in the sense of a man and woman falling in love) in her novels. Although she has never won the highest awards given in the field, she's good enough to enjoy. Let's put it this way -- my wife, who almost never likes fantastic literature, has enjoyed one of Shinn's books, Summers at Castle Auburn. She also enjoyed, as I did, a trio of so-called Young Adult books by Shinn. These books are The Truth-Teller's Tale (2005), The Safe-Keeper's Secret (2004) and The Dream-Maker's Magic (2006). There is a fourth story, "Wintermoon Wish," with the same premises and setting. That story is in the anthology Firebirds Rising.

As usual, I won't give away the plot, but I will muse briefly about some of the aspects of these books.

All three involve young teenagers growing up. These are more female than male, but male characters are important. One of the books features twin girls, and one has a main character whose mother treats her as if she were a boy -- she isn't. (Shinn's story explains the reasons.)

The world of these books has magic in it. In particular, there are Safe-Keepers, Truth-Tellers, and Dream-Makers. Safe-Keepers are safe listeners for secrets. They don't tell even the most awful things, unless telling would be all right with the originator of the secret, or that person has died. They may pass secrets on to other Safe-Keepers, especially if they are afraid that they will die soon.

Truth-Tellers, on the contrary, always tell the truth, and this includes things that they don't have personal knowledge of. For example, you could ask a Truth-Teller who committed a crime, and he or she would usually respond by naming the guilty party. Truth-Tellers, of course, aren't always popular. Like Safe-Keepers, there may be more than one such person in the kingdom at once. Both Truth-Tellers and Safe-Keepers gradually come to realize their specialness, and those around them do, too, as they grow up.

One of Shinn's nice touches is inventing a tree that goes with each of these. Kirrenberry trees are for Safe-Keepers. They make no noise. Their leaves don't rustle, and, if you make a whistle out of a twig from such a tree, it won't make any music. Chatterleaf trees are noisy, and they are often planted at the homes of Truth-Tellers. Their leaves, of course, are noisy.

There is only one Dream-Maker in the kingdom at a time, and Dream-Making is difficult. Only people who have endured great suffering become Dream-Makers, and being Dream-Maker is an emotional burden. Their special gift is to make some people's wishes come true. They don't control this. Wishes of people who have told the Dream-Maker what their wish is may come true. If so, it is some time after the contact with the Dream-Maker.

The three books, as I say, all take place in the same setting. They are also related, in that characters from one book may be mentioned a little in another one, but the books may be read independently.

There is little or no religion in the books, except for rituals associated with mid-winter and mid-summer. However, both my wife and I were struck by the fact that Jesus Christ is Truth-Teller, Safe-Keeper, and Dream-Maker. Sometimes the Truth that He tells is uncomfortable and unwelcome. We can confess anything we have done to Him without fear. He makes some of our dreams come true.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

O Love Divine, What Hast Thou Done, by Charles Wesley

This year is the 300th anniversary of Charles Wesley's birth. Wesley wrote many hymns. One that I have seldom heard is "O Love Divine, What Hast Thou Done." It has great words. These are the words posted by the Cyberhymnal:

O Love divine, what hast thou done!
The immortal God hath died for me!
The Father’s co-eternal Son
Bore all my sins upon the tree.
Th’immortal God for me hath died:
My Lord, my Love, is crucified!

Is crucified for me and you,
To bring us rebels back to God.
Believe, believe the record true,
Ye all are bought with Jesus’ blood.
Pardon for all flows from His side:
My Lord, my Love, is crucified!

Behold and love, ye that pass by,
The bleeding Prince of life and peace!
Come, sinners, see your Savior die,
And say, “Was ever grief like His?”
Come, feel with me His blood applied:
My Lord, my Love, is crucified!

Then let us sit beneath His cross,
And gladly catch the healing stream:
All things for Him account but loss,
And give up all our hearts to Him:
Of nothing think or speak beside,
My Lord, my Love, is crucified!

These words were published in 1742, hence are public domain.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sunspots 129

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


According to the Wikipedia, goldenrod (which is blooming everywhere in the area where we live) causes little or no hay fever, because its pollen is so "heavy and sticky" that it doesn't blow around very much.

From Montana State Univ., a web site to help in identifying all the butterflies and moths in North America.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to three mouse geneticists .

(or something) How Wal-Mart is getting people to buy compact flourescent light bulbs.

(actually, art) Slate on small children and elephants painting, and on what art is.

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

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Soldiers of Christ, Arise by Charles Wesley

This year is the 300th anniversary of Charles Wesley's birth. Wesley wrote many hymns. One that I have seldom heard is "Soldiers of Christ, Arise." These are the words posted by the Cyberhymnal:

Soldiers of Christ, arise, and put your armor on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies through His eternal Son.
Strong in the Lord of hosts, and in His mighty power,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror.

Stand then in His great might, with all His strength endued,
But take, to arm you for the fight, the panoply of God;
That, having all things done, and all your conflicts passed,
Ye may o’ercome through Christ alone and stand entire at last.

Stand then against your foes, in close and firm array;
Legions of wily fiends oppose throughout the evil day.
But meet the sons of night, and mock their vain design,
Armed in the arms of heavenly light, of righteousness divine.

Leave no unguarded place, no weakness of the soul,
Take every virtue, every grace, and fortify the whole;
Indissolubly joined, to battle all proceed;
But arm yourselves with all the mind that was in Christ, your Head.

But, above all, lay hold on faith’s victorious shield;
Armed with that adamant and gold, be sure to win the field:
If faith surround your heart, Satan shall be subdued,
Repelled his every fiery dart, and quenched with Jesu’s blood.

Jesus hath died for you! What can His love withstand?
Believe, hold fast your shield, and who shall pluck you from His hand?
Believe that Jesus reigns; all power to Him is giv’n:
Believe, till freed from sin’s remains; believe yourselves to Heav’n.

To keep your armor bright, attend with constant care,
Still walking in your Captain’s sight, and watching unto prayer.
Ready for all alarms, steadfastly set your face,
And always exercise your arms, and use your every grace.

Pray without ceasing, pray, your Captain gives the word;
His summons cheerfully obey and call upon the Lord;
To God your every want in instant prayer display,
Pray always; pray and never faint; pray, without ceasing, pray!

In fellowship alone, to God with faith draw near;
Approach His courts, besiege His throne with all the powers of prayer:
Go to His temple, go, nor from His altar move;
Let every house His worship know, and every heart His love.

To God your spirits dart, your souls in words declare,
Or groan, to Him Who reads the heart, the unutterable prayer:
His mercy now implore, and now show forth His praise,
In shouts, or silent awe, adore His miracles of grace.

Pour out your souls to God, and bow them with your knees,
And spread your hearts and hands abroad, and pray for Zion’s peace;
Your guides and brethren bear for ever on your mind;
Extend the arms of mighty prayer, ingrasping* all mankind.

From strength to strength go on, wrestle and fight and pray,
Tread all the powers of darkness down and win the well fought day.
Still let the Spirit cry in all His soldiers, “Come!”
Till Christ the Lord descends from high and takes the conquerors home.

These words were written by Wesley in about 1741.

*This word is new to me. I assume that it means what you would suppose that it did -- surrounding and containing.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Sunspots 128

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

Humor: The Onion on fig newton ads.

The Onion on a remarkable development in Vice President Dick Cheney's attitude.

Science: (or something) I read, in the latest American Bible Society Record, that there are new languages appearing. They mentioned two: a new combination of Arabic and French, and a Polish-related street gang language. Bible translations are being prepared in both of these, and many others.

"California State University Professor Mike Orkin points out that if a person drives ten miles to buy a [lottery] ticket, he or she is about sixteen times more likely to get killed in a car crash on the way than to win the jackpot." Sean B. Carroll, The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution . New York: Norton, 2006. pp.41-2

Politics: An "Issue Tracker" from the Washington Post. The web page lists 17 major party presidential candidates, and has links to press coverage on the issues. If, for example, you want to know how Sam Brownback and the budget have been covered, or made the news, you can click on Brownback, then on the Economy and Budget issue category. If, on the other hand, you want to know who has received news coverage because of their stand on the environment, you move the mouse over Environment, and see that, currently, Duncan Hunter has received no news coverage about that, and Hilary Clinton has seen the most. The page, it says, can be added to your own web page or MySpace page. You can go to the candidate's official web sites (which usually, or always) have something about their positions on various issues, by clicking on this related page.

Can you name more than four members of the U. S. President's Cabinet? (Apparently even the White House webmaster can't name all of them . . .) I got four of them.

Computing: C-Net on how the bad people use information on social networks like MySpace, FaceBook, or LinkedIn to attack corporations, or even governments. This phenomenon is known as Spear Phishing.

Christianity: On the use of words for "up" and "down" in the book of Jonah. This week's Christian Carnival is here. For information on these Carnivals, go here.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)