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Friday, January 30, 2009

A Biblical Case for an Old Earth, by David Snoke, part 10

I have published a series of posts on David Snoke's A Biblical Case for an Old Earth (Grand Rapids, Mi: Baker Books, 2006). The latest post is here.

In his eighth chapter, Snoke considers the Flood.

He begins by discussing miracles. Real miracles, he says, leave traces (sometimes large traces) in the real world. For example, A blind man healed by Jesus could really see, after the miracle. This relates to the Flood, in that, if there was a world-wide deluge, there should be world-wide traces. He is not convinced that such evidence is present, in spite of the work of so-called flood geologists. (Snoke is not alone. Many other Bible-believing Christian scientists don't find such evidence, either.)

Snoke has a great sentence:
The entire program of flood geology is to argue that science as we know it supports their interpretation of the Bible, not to propose unknown laws of physics that no one could guess at unless they were needed to cover up inconvenient facts. (160)

Snoke supposes that there was a flood that covered the entire earth, including the tallest mountains. He then says that, for the results to be consistent with the biblical story of Noah, and with the scientific evidence, there must have been a lot of miracles, involving the migration of the animals; keeping all the needed animals and their food on an ark of limited space; feeding carnivorous animals on the ark; caring for all those animals by just eight people; heat disposal -- the number of animals in that space must have generated lots of heat, enough to kill some of them, and Noah and his family; survival of animals from extreme climates, or unique habitats, such as tide pools, on the ark; the appearance and disappearance of enough water to cover the earth that much; that the earth's crust did not sink under that much water; that plants and trees survived flooding for that length of time; survival of freshwater fish in salt water (or the reverse); survival of small invertebrates under the water (or caring for anthills, worms, nematodes, etc., on the ark); fossil sorting after the flood; and trees remaining upright during the flood. An amazing list. Snoke concludes that it just didn't happen that way, not because God couldn't have done it, but because the Bible doesn't indicate that any of these things happened.

Says Snoke:
Just as young-earth advocates read in an entire re-creation of the world in the curse of Genesis 3, flood geology reads in another entire re-creation, not mentioned in Scripture, after the flood. Flood geology has God creating the world not once, but three times, without any direct Scriptural evidence, and in contradiction to the statement in Genesis 2:1 that the entire creation was completed by the seventh day. (165)

Snoke, who takes the Bible very seriously, presents evidence, which I'll leave to the reader of his book -- you need to read this for yourself -- that the Bible is consistent with the flood being local, not world-wide. He also thinks that there is no scientific evidence for a world-wide flood.

Thanks for reading. Read Snoke.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lilith, by George MacDonald

Lilith, by George MacDonald, is in the public domain, having been originally published in 1895. It is a fine book of fantastic literature, still very much readable, although a bit dated. (Too many exclamation points for modern tastes, for one thing.)

The entire book is available from Project Gutenberg, and there is a plot summary in the book's Wikipedia article. I wish to briefly state the major theme.

The major theme of the book is that you cannot truly be yourself, until you are willing to give up yourself. In this, the book is an example of Matthew 10:39 "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (ESV, Jesus speaking)

MacDonald (and, I think, Jesus) is speaking on two levels here. First, you can't really accomplish anything worthwhile in life without making Jesus Christ Lord of that life. It's tempting to think you can, but you won't. Second, of course, is the heavenly reward for the believer. Two of MacDonald's characters spend most of the book trying to live for self. Mr. Vane (I don't think the name is an accident -- he is unsettled, subject, as it were, to the direction of the wind.) the protagonist, wants to do good, but tries to do it on his own, and the result is that his heart's love dies, and he doesn't accomplish much, if any, of what he had tried to do. Besides that, he has misled a group of children who depended on him for leadership. Lilith (from a legend, Adam's first wife, before Eve) who is still alive after all these years, makes no pretense of doing good. She is almost entirely selfish. But she knows, deep down, that she needs to yield herself to the ministrations of Adam, Eve, and Mara (sorrow) their daughter. Finally, she does.*

There are many plot twists, and I don't think I've given away too much, for anyone who wants to read this book.

*It is likely, as the Wikipedia article on the book suggests, that MacDonald is arguing for Christian universalism -- everyone, even Satan, will eventually be redeemed. MacDonald was not orthodox in this, of course, but, other than that, he is.

Thanks for reading. Read MacDonald. I have quoted from the book a few times in previous posts. To see these, click on "Lilith" in the tags following.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sunspots 196

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

A Reasonable Imagination has some advice, from (fictitious) publishers, to St. Augustine on the manuscript of his Confessions, and for C. S. Lewis on the manuscript of his Miracles: A Preliminary Study. Unfortunately, it rings true.

We still don't know everything. Surprise! Carl Zimmer writes about "vaults," tiny cell parts (organelles) that seem to be found in most living things. We don't know what they do. They may have some relationship to cancer. Zimmer has another post about vaults here. There is a brief Wikipedia entry on the subject.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a trial of embryonic stem cells in paraplegic humans, says Wired. The cell line used was one of those approved by President Bush in August, 2001

An article about Anthony McGill, who played clarinet (with some other luminaries!) for the inauguration of President Obama.

Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength continues her thorough study on prophecies in the gospels, and their fulfillment.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mozart

W. Amadeus Mozart was born on this date in 1756.

Here's a video of a boy's choir singing the Gloria from one of his masses. Glory to God, indeed!

Monday, January 26, 2009

George MacDonald on the only way to eradicate evil

Nothing will ever close that wound," he answered, with a sigh. "It must eat into her heart! Annihilation itself is no death to evil. Only good where evil was, is evil dead. An evil thing must live with its evil until it chooses to be good. That alone is the slaying of evil." George MacDonald, Lilith (public domain, 1895) Chapter XXX (Adam, or Mr. Raven, to Vane, the main character.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

God's Intelligent Design

Proverbs 3:19 The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
by understanding he established the heavens; (Quotations from the ESV)

Jeremiah 10:12 It is he who made the earth by his power,
who established the world by his wisdom,
and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.

Jeremiah 51:15 has exactly the same wording as Jeremiah 10:12.

These passages are not written as scientific descriptions, nor even, probably, as historical descriptions, but they are faith statements. The authors believed that God purposely brought about the way things are, and that only an infinitely wise and understanding God could have done it. In other words, these writers believed in an intelligent Designer. I do, too. (However, I have indicated, elsewhere, my problems with the Intelligent Design movement, if you care to read about them.)

Thanks for reading. Praise the Creator!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Knowledge and Understanding

"That is one of the pet falsehoods of your world! Is man's greatest knowledge more than a little? or is it therefore dangerous? The fancy that knowledge is in itself a great thing, would make any degree of knowledge more dangerous than any amount of ignorance. To know all things would not be greatness." George MacDonald, Lilith (public domain, 1895) Chapter XXVIII

The fact is, no man understands anything; when he knows he does not understand, that is his first tottering step--not toward understanding, but toward the capability of one day understanding. George MacDonald, Lilith (public domain, 1895) Chapter XXX

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thoreau on fairies

I took a walk on Spaulding’s Farm the other afternoon. I saw the setting sun lighting up the opposite side of a stately pine wood. Its golden rays straggled into the aisles of the wood as into some noble hall. I was impressed as if some ancient and altogether admirable and shining family had settled there in that part of the land called Concord, unknown to me,—to whom the sun was servant,—who had not gone into society in the village,—who had not been called on. I saw their park, their pleasure ground, beyond through the wood, in Spaulding’s cranberry-meadow. The pines furnished them with gables as they grew. Their house was not obvious to vision; the trees grew through it. I do not know whether I heard the sounds of a suppressed hilarity or not. They seemed to recline on the sunbeams. They have sons and daughters. They are quite well. The farmer’s cart-path, which leads directly through their hall, does not in the least put them out,—as the muddy bottom of a pool is sometimes seen through the reflected skies. They never heard of Spaulding, and do not know that he is their neighbor,—notwithstanding I heard him whistle as he drove his team through the house. Nothing can equal the serenity of their lives. Their coat of arms is simply a lichen. I saw it painted on the pines and oaks. Their attics were in the tops of the trees. They are of no politics. There was no noise of labor. I did not perceive that they were weaving or spinning. Yet I did detect, when the wind lulled and hearing was done away, the finest imaginable sweet musical hum,—as of a distant hive in May, which perchance was the sound of their thinking. They had no idle thoughts, and no one without could see their work, for their industry was not as in knots and excrescences embayed.
- "Walking," by Henry David Thoreau. Chapter XIII of Matthews, Brander, ed. The Oxford Book of American Essays. 1914. Public Domain.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sunspots 195

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

Seen on a billboard in Oconee County, South Carolina:

One-Flush Plumbing
One flush beats a full house

Carl Zimmer on some recent evidence that there may be life on Mars.

Wired has an article, with photos and videos, of various animals (including birds, and both land and water mammals) that use tools.

A map of the US, showing all the mottoes of the states.

Jan, on whether "Christian music" is dying, and on whether or not that would be a good thing.

A Sports Illustrated columnist honors Tony Dungy, NFL coach who just announced his retirement, by saying that the author has never known a more decent man in the business. The article also says that Dungy didn't let coaching define his life -- he drove his kids to school. (Dungy is a Christian, although the article doesn't come out and say that directly.)

Weekend Fisher has done some serious study of the prophecies (or prophesys, as she puts it) of the New Testament. The results of her study, in a table, are here.

Henry Neufeld considers the question of how God spoke about scientific matters in the Bible.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

God's best, President Obama!

Congratulations, President Obama! God help you. You will need it.

I have previously posted on what the New Testament says about what the Christian's attitude toward government should be, and also on the Old Testament. Basically, we should pray for those in authority, and, with very rare exceptions, submit to them.

God help us all.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Following God by faith, not sight

Then the great old, young, beautiful princess turned to Curdie.

'Now, Curdie, are you ready?' she said.

'Yes, ma'am,' answered Curdie.

'You do not know what for.'

'You do, ma'am. That is enough.'

'You could not have given me a better answer, or done more to
prepare yourself, Curdie,' she returned, with one of her radiant
smiles. 'Do you think you will know me again?'

'I think so. But how can I tell what you may look like next?'

The Princess and Curdie, 1883, Public Domain, Chapter 7. (Available from Project Gutenberg)

The Princess and Curdie is a pretty good story, as story, but MacDonald's writing is also full of gems like the above, which stand alone. As in several of MacDonald's fantastic writings, there is a very old wise woman, who, at least partly, stands for God, who appears to us in all sorts of guises.

Thanks for reading. Read MacDonald.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mrs. Hunter's Happy Death, part 2

J. Wood's account of her life and death makes clear that Mrs. Hunter did not so much "study" the Bible. Rather she partook of it, she savored it, and she ingested it, as if it were food and promised nourishment she could find nowhere else. . . . Her deep and abiding concern was how she herself could get on those pagers, how she could make the story of her own life conform to the stories she encountered there. (p. 133)

In my experience, people die the way they live. There are exceptions, of course . . . But most people's dying words -- the words of their final days and weeks and months -- have been bred into them by years and years of practice and repetition. (p. 141. Quotes from Mrs. Hunter's Happy Death: Lessons on Living from People Preparing to Die. New York: Doubleday, 2006, by John Fanestil. The book has its own web site.

Fanestil deals with Kübler-Ross's concept of the stages of dying. But, he says, her scheme is based on fear and denial of death, which is not the way everyone approaches that last transition. Specifically, Mrs. Hunter did not, and we shouldn't. (176-7)

Fanestil, quoting one of his own sermons, delivered in a home for the aged and infirm, points out that almost anyone with any mental capacity at all can believe, and think about, and act like the two main commandments given by Christ: love God, and love your neighbor. (182)

Fanestil and his father went to England, and tried to find out more about Mrs. Hunter. Apparently she was pretty well off, and it is likely that one of her siblings knew John Wesley well. (Possibly Mrs. Hunter did, too.) Wesley said "our people die well." Evidently they did. They died well because they lived well -- they lived holy lives dedicated to a relationship with God. Fanestil is not the only author to research this topic, but he is probably the first to concentrate on Mrs. Hunter.

The first part of this two-part series is here.

Thanks for reading. Read Fanestil.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mrs. Hunter's Happy Death

Mrs. Hunter and her peers in the late eighteenth century did not consider questions of religious belief unimportant, but their primary concern was not that they get things right intellectually. For them the life of faith was more about the heart than it was about the head. So Mary Clulow -- not yet married and just a few months past her eighteenth birthday -- saw clearly what should be her life's principal ambition: to love God with her whole heart. (77)

Mary Clulow Hunter, an exemplary Methodist, was extraordinarily busy in "working out her own salvation." She was busy at worship and prayer, busy at reading the Bible, busy at doing good. She did not perceive her life to be divided into spheres -- "private" and "public," "work" and "play," "personal" and "social" -- as so many modern people are inclined to do. The whole of her life was consumed with her search for holiness, or "purity of heart." She perceived her every act -- from "attending to her little ones" to "visiting persons in the sick-ward," from "domestic duties" to her dedicated times of prayer -- as a part of this single, overriding concern. For Mrs. Hunter the life of faith was by no means confined to church -- to the contrary, she saw opportunities to exercise holiness at every turn and every avenue of life. She dedicated her daily living to fulfilling the most familiar phrase from Jesus' most familiar prayer: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (79) (Both quotes from Mrs. Hunter's Happy Death: Lessons on Living from People Preparing to Die. New York: Doubleday, 2006, by John Fanestil. The book has its own web site.)

Fanestil, until recently a twenty first century Methodist preacher, has written a fine book. The first half of it details some examples of "happy death" from his own experience, which he intersperses with the account of the life and death of Mrs. Hunter, who was twenty-six at the time of her death, in 1801. He makes clear that her life and death were typical, not exceptional, for the Methodists of her time. The second half is entitled "Lessons on Living from People Preparing to Die." The lessons are predictable enough -- prayer, Bible reading, taking up the cross, recognizing God's presence, praising God, loving one's neighbors, and similar portions of seeking God through our lives. In an appendix, the entire account of Mrs. Hunter's life and death, largely taken from her own journal, and edited by a J. Wood, is set forth.

Fanestil's people are diverse -- male and female, young and older, dying from various things.

The author spends a little time on doctrine, explaining something of the long-standing arguments between Arminians and Calvinists, but the book is, like Mrs. Hunter's life, about far more than that, and about something simpler than that.

Mrs. Hunter passed away on January 17, 1801.

Thanks for reading. Get this book, and read it, if you can.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sounder, by William H. Armstrong

I finally got around to reading Sounder, about a boy, an African-American sharecropper, his family, his dog, and learning to read. I won't give away any all of the plot, but here's a quotation that struck me as worth noting.
"Why are you so feared for me to go?" he would ask, for now he was old enough to argue with his mother. "In Bible stories everybody's always goin' on a long journey. Abraham goes on a long journey. Jacob goes into a strange land where his uncle lives, and he don't know where he lives, but he finds him easy. Joseph goes on the longest journey of all and has more troubles, but the Lord watches over him. And in Bible-story journeys, ain't no journey hopeless. Everybody finds what they suppose to find." William H. Armstrong, Sounder. New York: Harper & Row, 1969. p. 77.

Thanks for reading. Read Sounder. The book won a well-deserved Newbery award, and was also made into a movie.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On the deposition of fossil pollen

. . . considering that millions of fossils have been carefully catalogued with respect to location in the geological column during the past two hundred years, flood geologists can only point to a few possible examples of fossils that do not fit the well-established patterns of distribution. Rather than the very rare exception, flood geologists should expect and would predict out-of-place fossils to be the rule rather than the exception. R. Joel Duff, "Flood Geology's Abominable Mystery," Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 60:166-177, p. 175, September, 2008. The "Abominable Mystery" has to do with the deposition of fossil pollen.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sunspots 194

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

(or politics, perhaps) Wired reports on our nation's first inaugural address, which was surprisingly science-oriented.

He Lives has an introduction to church history.

Ken Schenck continues his series on the Bible as Christian Scripture.

Jan continues her excellent series on Leadership vs. Servanthood, by defining her terms.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Noah's flood? Was there rain before it?

I have recently been pointed to a fairly old article on the Canopy Theory, entitled "Does the Canopy Theory Hold Water?" from Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, December, 1985. The purpose of the article is to examine the theory that most, or all, of the water that appeared at the time of Noah's Flood was because of a canopy of water vapor that was over the earth before the flood. The author, Thomas Key, argues pretty convincingly that this could not have worked.

I was struck by this statement in his article:

What about the assertion that there was no rain or snow prior to the Flood, and that the only way that plants were watered was by mist (Gen. 2:6) and rivers (Gen. 2: 10)? The references in Genesis do not limit the watering of plants only to a single mist or even to a series of mists and by a river or rivers. Genesis 2:10-14 describes four large rivers in existence before the numerous and complex events of the Sixth Day. These huge rivers obviously could not have come from a mere mist that occurred once or even many times. Rivers come from rains and melted snows. They also come from underground streams. However, underground streams also come from rains and melted snows. The four large rivers in Eden, which went over "The whole land of Ethiopa" [sic] (Gen. 2:13) to Assyria (Gen, 2:14) and included the Euphrates (Gen. 2:14) would have required rains, rains, and more rains over an extended period of time. No mere mist will ever do as an adequate explanation for these vast rivers, and certainly not a mere mist that occurred only a few hours or literal days before.

In other words, it must have rained before the flood. I checked, and found no statement in the early part of Genesis that says that Noah and his contemporaries had never experienced rain, although I have heard people say that they didn't.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Leap of Faith, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Somebody or other on-line suggested that Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's Leap of Faith is a good read for younger readers, and is also excellent about the subject of the title, namely believing in God.

Whoever you are, you were right. For what it's worth, the book's Amazon page currently has five reviews, all of them giving it five stars.

As usual, I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but I will say a couple of things about the book, namely that sixth grader Abigail is put in Catholic school, against her will, and comes to love it, and, eventually, to believe in God for forgiveness. Bradley has written it from the Catholic viewpoint, but the book should appeal to all Christians. She has described an authentic conversion experience, from the viewpoint of the main character, without making it sappy or preachy.

One of the things I like most about Leap of Faith is that it has been marketed to the general public, not to a Christian sub-culture.

Thanks for reading. Read Leap of Faith!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Worthy of our trust - Psalm 146

Psalm 146:1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2 I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

3 Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
4 When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.

5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

10 The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord! (ESV)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Information theory and genetics

I am no expert in information theory. A scientist who says that he is such an expert has recently dealt with claims that genetic mutations and other genetic changes cannot add information to the previously existing genome, and says that such processes can, indeed, add information.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Miracles in Jonah

It strikes me that there are a lot of miracles in the four short chapters of the book of Jonah. I'm probably missing some, but I'll include a few.

1. God hurled a great wind on the sea (1:4) which soon led to the sailors on Jonah's escape boat throwing him overboard. ("Hurled" is the word used in the ESV)

One of my objectives in studying these miracles was to see if there was any evidence that some of God's special interventions in the story were long-standing, previously prepared. I am not any sort of Hebrew scholar, but a feature of the Blueletter Bible shows that the Hebrew word, tuwl, translated as "hurled" in the ESV is the same word used in verse 5 of Jonah 1 to describe throwing over the cargo, and in verse 15 of the same chapter to describe throwing Jonah overboard. This word use does not seem to suggest anything other than that that God reacted to Jonah's action in running away by sending this storm. God certainly could have moved at some time in the past to make this storm possible, but the word use sounds like immediate action in the present.

2. Jonah volunteered to be thrown overboard! That is amazing, in a man who was running away from God in disobedience.

3. The sailors worshipped God.

4. God had appointed (manah) a fish to swallow Jonah. Not only to swallow him, but to preserve his life for some or all of three days, including at least one entire day, and to vomit him up on land when Jonah repented (at least temporatily) of his hatred for the Ninevites, and agreed to follow God's plan for him. This word is used four times in Jonah. Once for the fish, once for the (5.) gourd plant that shaded Jonah, once for the (6.) worm that ate the gourd, and once for the (7.) east wind that made sitting in the desert watching what would happen (or not!) to Nineveh so uncomfortable for Jonah.

*(this paragraph was added after this post was first published.) Although there is no definite evidence to support the idea that God used a pre-existing water animal, gourd, or worm, He may have done so. Manah has a lot of uses. As you can see from the link in the previous sentence, that word is used in 2 Chronicles 5:6 as "number" for the animals that were sacrificed at the dedication of the temple built by Solomon. Surely those were pre-existing beasts! In Psalm 147:4, the psalmist says that God "numbers" the stars, using the same word. These stars must be stars already in existence.

The Bible does not use the word "whale" to describe this creature, in any version that I am aware of, although we can't rule that out, either. Was this creature a specially created being, or was it just one of a species that was found in the sea in this area, specially used by God? We don't know. See here for the Wikipedia's comments on the fish in the book of Jonah. I suppose it would be possible for the beast to have been an ordinary one, but when we consider that Jonah needed Oxygen for an extended period, there must have been some miraculous work at play.

Did this really happen? Well, Jesus apparently thought so, as he used the story of Jonah as a symbol of his own death and resurrection! (Matthew 12:38-41)

8. The people of Nineveh repented of their evil ways! This is the biggest miracle of the book, more important than the fish, the storm, the gourd, the worm. Jesus also took this seriously, warning some of his listeners that, even though they were Jews, the Ninevites in the time of Jonah would be treated better at the last judgment, because they did repent, while some of Christ's contemporaries persisted in the evil ways, and in rejecting Him. (Luke 11:29-32)

Was there another miracle, if and when Jonah realized that the Ninevites deserved a real chance, or did Jonah go off, bitterly disappointed that God had not destroyed them? We don't know. I guess that that's Jonah's story, not ours.

I found no firm evidence for anything other than God's special miraculous work in these miracles.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Being poor can be a blessing

Things come to the poor that can't get in at the door of the rich. Their money somehow blocks it up. It is a great privilege to be poor, Peter - one that no man ever coveted, and but a very few have sought to retain, but one that yet many have learned to prize. You must not mistake, however, and imagine it a virtue; it is but a privilege, and one also that, like other privileges, may be terribly misused. Had you been rich, my Peter, you would not have been so good as some rich men I know.

The Princess and Curdie, 1883, Public Domain, Chapter 7. (Available from Project Gutenberg)
The Princess and Curdie is a pretty good story, as story, but MacDonald's writing is also full of gems like the above, which stand alone.

Thanks for reading. Read MacDonald.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Sunspots 193

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

(or something) An appeal of his conviction on tax fraud, by Kent Hovind, who has called himself Dr. Dino, has been denied. (See also here for another post by me on Hovind.)

Christianity Today on performing Handel's Messiah in China.

An essay in Slate on why there are so few African-American football coaches in major colleges.

Ken Schenck on the Bible as Christian Scripture.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Some things should be preserved and defended

When Curdie got up opposite the mighty rock, which sparkled all over with crystals, he found a narrow bridge, defended by gates and portcullis and towers with loopholes. But the gates stood wide open, and were dropping from their great hinges; the portcullis was eaten away with rust, and clung to the grooves evidently immovable; while the loopholed towers had neither floor nor roof, and their tops were fast filling up their interiors. Curdie thought it a pity, if only for their old story, that they should be thus neglected. But everybody in the city regarded these signs of decay as the best proof of the prosperity of the place. Commerce and self-interest, they said, had got the better of violence, and the troubles of the past were whelmed in the riches that flowed in at their open gates.

Indeed, there was one sect of philosophers in it which taught that it would be better to forget all the past history of the city, were it not that its former imperfections taught its present inhabitants how superior they and their times were, and enabled them to glory over their ancestors. There were even certain quacks in the city who advertised pills for enabling people to think well of themselves, and some few bought of them, but most laughed, and said, with evident truth, that they did not require them. Indeed, the general theme of discourse when they met was, how much wiser they were than their fathers.

The Princess and Curdie, 1883, Public Domain, Chapter 13. (Available from Project Gutenberg)

The Princess and Curdie is a pretty good story, as story, but MacDonald's writing is also full of gems like the above, which stand alone.

Thanks for reading. Read MacDonald.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Doors in Revelation

Revelation 3:8 “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. (All scripture quotations from the English Standard Version)

20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

4:1 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”

These are the only uses of the word, door, in Revelation. They all seem to speak of opportunity, of possibility, and of choice. Good words for early in a year.

Thanks for reading.

P. S. Happy Birthday, Tolkien!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

George MacDonald on what a mountain is

A mountain is a strange and awful thing. . . . I will try to tell you what they are. They are portions of the heart of the earth that have escaped from the dungeon down below, and rushed up and out. For the heart of the earth is a great wallowing mass, not of blood, as in the hearts of men and animals, but of glowing hot, melted metals and stones. And as our hearts keep us alive, so that great lump of heat keeps the earth alive: it is a huge power of buried sunlight - that is what it is. George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie, 1883, Public Domain, Chapter 1. Available from Project Gutenberg.

MacDonald was a writer of Christian fiction and other works, and his fantasies (such as the work quoted here) have stood the test of time pretty well. Clearly, a century and a quarter ago, he had a pretty good idea of the fundamentals of geology.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 02, 2009

George MacDonald on being taken in

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. One of the latter sort comes at length to know at once whether a thing is true the moment it comes before him; one of the former class grows more and more afraid of being taken in, so afraid of it that he takes himself in altogether, and comes at length to believe in nothing but his dinner: to be sure of a thing with him is to have it between his teeth.
George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie, 1883, Public Domain, Chapter 2. (Available from Project Gutenberg)

The Princess and Curdie is a pretty good story, as story, but MacDonald's writing is also full of gems like the above, which stand alone.

Thanks for reading. Read MacDonald.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Badness comes because we don't try to be good, from George MacDonald

Remember, then, that whoever does not mean good is always in danger of harm.
. . .

'What wrong were you doing all day, Curdie? It is better to come to the point, you know,' said the old lady, and her voice was gentler even than before.

'I was doing the wrong of never wanting or trying to be better. And now I see that I have been letting things go as they would for a long time. Whatever came into my head I did, and whatever didn't come into my head I didn't do. I never sent anything away, and never looked out for anything to come. I haven't been attending to my mother - or my father either. And now I think of it, I know I have often seen them looking troubled, and I have never asked them what was the matter. And now I see, too, that I did not ask because I suspected it had something to do with me and my behaviour, and didn't want to hear the truth. And I know I have been grumbling at my work, and doing a hundred other things that are wrong.'

'You have got it, Curdie,' said the old lady, in a voice that sounded almost as if she had been crying. 'When people don't care to be better they must be doing everything wrong.

George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie, 1883, Public Domain, Chapter 3. (Available from Project Gutenberg)

The Princess and Curdie is a pretty good story, as story, but MacDonald's writing is also full of gems like the above, which stand alone.

Thanks for reading. Read MacDonald.