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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sunspots 294

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

Science: CNN, and others, report that the genomes of  chocolate and strawberries have been sequenced.

Christianity:  Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength has reflections on Christmas past.

Image source (public domain)

Monday, December 27, 2010


I recently saw the Disney cartoon feature, Tangled, which is loosely based on the story of Rapunzel. Here's the Wikipedia article on the movie. Here's the Christianity Today review. I liked it, as did my wife, oldest daughter and her husband and children, who are six and two years old. It appeals to all ages, although some children might be frightened by some parts (our older grandson didn't want to watch some scenes).

I shall try not to give away much of the plot, but will say a couple of things.

First, Rapunzel asks an important question, namely, what if the dream I've had for 18 years comes true and doesn't satisfy? Yes. Nothing really satisfies but a relationship with Christ as savior and Lord.

Second, there was sacrifice, or sacrifice offered, by the two main characters. Rapunzel offered to re-submit to the tyranny of the witch who had captured her, if she could just save Eugene's life. Eugene, on the other hand, refused to let her do it, going so far as to cut off Rapunzel's magical hair so that she could not save him. Commendable. Of course, they all (or nearly all) lived happily ever after in the end.

Thanks for reading. See Tangled.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christ didn't come as a baby (again!)

Christ didn't come as a baby. He came as an embryo, or fetus, didn't He? I posted on that several years ago, and have received a number of interesting comments.

Here's that post.

Thanks for reading! God's best to you, whoever you are.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wayfarer, by R. J. Anderson

I recently posted on Knife (also known as Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter) by R. J. Anderson. Anderson, herself, was kind enough to comment on that post. To summarize, Knife is a short fantasy novel, designed for, and marketed to, "Young Adult" readers, about a small group of faeries, and their interactions with a human living in a house close to the oak tree that the faeries inhabit. The location seems to be rural England, and the time seems to be approximately the present. The book is well written, and the properties of the faeries, and their characters, are well done. The book has a Christian world view, although it is not obtrusive at all. It was published by a secular publisher, HarperCollins, in 2010, under its HarperTeen label.

Wayfarer follows Knife, with the same characters and location. It can be read by itself, but a reader would be better informed by reading Knife first. I won't give away any more of the plot than I need to, but I do wish to muse about a few aspects of the book. The title describes the mission of Linden, a young faery, who is ordered to travel out in the world, to try to find other groups of faeries.

Let me mention a few aspects of the book, all related to its Christian world view.

First, The Christian world-view is more obvious than in the first one. A human teenager is one of the main characters. He is the child of missionary parents (as is Anderson). But Timothy is not sure that he wants to believe as his parents do. Timothy, and Linden are befriended by a couple who have prayed for, and supported, Timothy's parents. They demonstrate intelligent, genuine, quiet Christian love in a way that cannot be dismissed.

There is more explicit prayer to the Gardener, the faery's name for God.

Timothy uses Bible verses to communicate with Linden.

Second, there is an explicit statement of how the relationship between humans and faeries is supposed to be: ". . . the Great Gardener created us to help humans." (p. 293)

Third, it is clear that not all Christians in the book act as they should. Timothy begins the book staying in a boarding school, which is supposed to be Christian. But the other boys seem to have their minds on worldly things. That is one of the reasons Timothy doubts his faith. But there are others. He has seen unspecified conflicts between Christianity and science. One thing I appreciated about Anderson's book is that a minor character, the husband of the couple who helped Timothy and Linden, says that some Christians act out of ignorance, especially in the realm of science and the Bible. He was a college science professor himself, before retirement. The exact nature of the conflict is not spelled out. Anderson, whatever her own beliefs, does not say that one has to believe in a young earth in order to be a faithful Christian. That's good, because there are many faithful Christians who don't so believe.

The book is not exactly a Christian book -- it's more a good novel with a Christian world view, and worth reading. Anderson's third book, Arrow, is to be published next month.

Thanks for reading this.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sunspots 293

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

Science:  Wired reports that active volcanoes have been found on Titan, the largest moom of Saturn. (Animated illustration included.)

Politics: On the history of US taxes, under Presidents Kennedy (when taxes for the rich were REALLY high) and Reagan, from NPR. (The entire broadcast segment includes a statement from Reagan's budget director that the Bush tax cuts will not produce jobs, but that part is not in the textual transcript.)

More from NPR, on how the military won't support a promising type of therapy for brain-damaged troops. Sigh.

The Arts: The Dawn Treader isn't particularly sailing toward the East in the film. It should be.
Image source (public domain)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lessons from the Wise Men

1) God can give us guidance, if we seek it. He guided the wise men through a celestial object of some sort, through a dream, and through the advice of Old Testament scholars.

2) God can work through people we don't expect Him to use -- the wise men don't seem to have been Jews.

3) Christ is worth sacrificing possessions for.

4) Christ is worth going out of our way for.

5) Christ is worth worshiping.

6) We have to be careful of adding to what the Bible says: There is no Biblical evidence that there were three wise men, their names are not given, and, even though Matthew says that they came from the East, tradition says that one was from Africa, one from Asia, and one from Europe. Probably not. The Bible doesn't give a number, or names. (See Wikipedia article on the wise men.)

7) There is no Biblical evidence that the Magi and the shepherds saw each other, and it seems likely that they didn't.

8) Although prophecy is difficult to understand, even in hindsight, it does get fulfilled. See Micah 5, where the prophecy quoted to the wise men, about the location of the birth of the Messiah, comes from. The chapter included prophecy against the Assyrians, and about the restoration of Israel. (For more on the difficulty of understanding prophecy, see point 3 of this post. In spite of that difficulty, the scholars Herod consulted were able to find the meaning in the prophecy in Micah -- Christ would be born in Bethlehem.)

9) Christ's birth in Bethlehem, to an earthly father who was descended from David, is also a fulfillment of prophecy (2 Samuel 7:12, for one place). Fulfillment of prophecy is one of the evidences for the authenticity of the Bible.

10) Not everyone who says they are following Christ really is. Herod, of course, didn't want to worship Him at all. See Matthew 2:16-18.

Thanks for reading, and a blessed Christmas to you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, by R. J. Anderson

I recently read Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter (UK title: Knife) by R. J. Anderson. (Anderson, if it matters, is a woman, mother of young sons.) I shall refer to the book as Knife, since that's the title that the author seems to prefer, and the word is also the name of the protagonist. There is no Wikipedia article on Anderson, or the book. Here is a review. Anderson has answered some questions about the book, and the series of three that it begins, in her blog.

I discovered the book through a post by Anderson in the Speculative Faith blog. Anderson tells more about herself, and her writing, in that post.

Now to my post: the book is well written, and seems to have been written from a Christian world-view, but that world-view is not at all intrusive. The library where I got the book has it classified as for older children.

I'll start with the setting. Bryony is a faery, apparently in the UK. She is looking out a window in the tree she lives in, and sees a young human boy, climbing the tree. He sees her, too.

The small group of faeries, all female, live in a centuries-old hollow oak. She is the youngest of the group. They have lost most of their magic, and they are afraid to go outside the oak's bark. They don't seem to do anything for each other out of generosity, or love, just as a re-payment for some work done for them, or for other favors. Hunters and gatherers have to go out, to collect food and other raw materials. Bryony becomes a Hunter, by edict of the Queen. Her weapons are primitive, and not always effective, mostly because the faeries have no supply of steel. There is a human house, not too far, or too close, to the oak. Bryony goes there, and is able to enter the house, and to take a small knife-blade from a woodcarving set. She asks the Queen to name her Knife.

I will not give away the plot any further, except to say that Knife eventually learns much of what has made her group of faeries so small, unable to reproduce except by leaving an egg behind when they die, and so fearful.

Christian world-view? The faeries have a deity, The Gardener, and breathe prayers to him (?) when in great need. In spite of what I said about their seeming selfishness, above, there is a lot of unselfish sacrifice in the book, and by more than one faery. And the book ends with acknowledgments, and finally, this quotation:
Alike pervaded by His eye,
All parts of His dominion lie;
This world of ours, and worlds unseen,
And thin the boundary between.

She attributes that stanza to Josiah Conder. It is  from Conder's hymn, "The Lord Is King," which is public domain. Indeed, He is.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sunspots 292

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

Science:  Thinking about your ancestry enhances intellectual performance. Interesting.

Politics: National Public Radio on the history of the income tax. Among other items: President Reagan favored increases in taxes, at times.

Religion: A post on interpretations of the nakedness (or not) of Adam and Eve, throughout history.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Legalism": Christian attitudes toward reading fiction

E. Stephen Burnett deals with important issues related to Christianity and fantastic literature. Now that another Harry Potter movie is out, he has written about what he calls "fiction legalists." Here's his first part, here's the second, and here's the third, and last.

Burnett is reacting, in part, to statements like this one, on a website for homeschoolers, which seems to argue that there is no such thing as good fiction, especially for children. There have been other voices, from Christians, condemning the Harry Potter books and movies, which, although not perfect, can be an influence for good, even for Christianity.

I have posted previously on faith fiction, and tried to answer the question "What must be Christian about a Christian novel?" In particular, I have mused on that question, in relation to the Harry Potter books.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Six years on Flickr

Still on hiatus: Six years on Flickr
The graphic above was posted on December 10th, on Flickr, the photography site/social network. I have been a member for six years, and being one has taught me a lot (not enough) about photography. (So have good suggestions from my wife.) I have posted over 1500 photos, mostly of nature subjects, and they have been viewed over 1,500,000 times so far.

The graphic is a link to a Flickr graphic, which can serve, if anyone is interested, as an entry to our Flickr photos, some taken by my wife. No password is needed. I have not been active recently, due to an illness in the family.

Thanks for reading, and looking.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Reality beyond reality

He woke in a dream of the wood, he thought dazedly, raising his head. No true oak grew that shade of gold, though that gold was what the eye looked for in the golden oak. No true grass felt so silken, no true shadow hid a swath of such dark velvet across it. No true leaves burned that tender and fiery green in the morning light. Patricia A. McKillip, The Book of Atrix Wolfe, p. 135. New York: Ace, 1996.

Those three days were the happiest he had ever known. For he understood everything he did himself, and all that everything was doing round about him. He saw what the rushes were, and why the blossom came out at the side, and why it was russet-coloured, and why the pitch was white, and the skin green. And he said to himself, "If I were a rush now, that's just how I should make a point of growing." And he knew how the heather felt with its cold roots, and its head of purple bells; and the wise-looking cottongrass, which the old woman called her sheep, and the white beard of which she spun into thread. And he knew what she spun it for: namely, to weave it into lovely white cloth of which to make nightgowns for all the good people that were like to die; for one with one of these nightgowns upon him never died, but was laid in a beautiful white bed, and the door was closed upon him, and no noise came near him, and he lay there, dreaming lovely cool dreams, till the world had turned round, and was ready for him to get up again and do something. George MacDonald "The Carasoyn," Chapter VII, "The Moss Vineyard," (one version is known as "The Fairy Fleet") public domain.

Many works of fantastic literature suppose that there is a reality beyond, or behind, or underlying, what we usually perceive. The heroine has to go back in time, or the wizard has to go into a trance, or on a long journey, or see the world in ways others cannot see, or enter into some alternate spiritual state, in order to be restored, or to find help or answers. Being too concerned about alternate realities may be dangerous, of course, especially if it draws us away from what we should be doing and thinking about in this real world. But there is an alternate reality -- see 2 Kings 6:8-23, and
1 Corinthians 2:6 We speak wisdom, however, among those who are full grown; yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the wisdom that has been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this world has known. For had they known it, they wouldn’t have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written,
“Things which an eye didn’t see, and an ear didn’t hear,
    which didn’t enter into the heart of man,
these God has prepared for those who love him.” (WEB)

As far as I know, McKillip is not a Christian. George MacDonald was. Both of them did a good job in describing an alternate reality in terms that we, from this one, can understand.

Thanks for reading. I guess this post is in the real world.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Sunspots 291

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

Science:  Wired reports that there may be a large, dark, planet out beyond Pluto.

Wired also reports that mathematical simulation has shown how caves can get so large, so quickly.

Computing: Gizmo's Freeware has an article on the best free computer games.

Christianity: Katherine has posted a compilation of some of the Biblical references to ice, snow and frost.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Prophecy about Babylon

I don't usually post about prophecy, mostly because I don't think it's very straightforward. I base this on prophecy in the Old Testament, which, apparently has been fulfilled. Often, such prophecy must have been very difficult, or impossible, to understand for those who heard it. (See point 3 of this post for more on this point.)

But my daily Bible reading for October 26th included the following verse, which seems straightforward enough:
Jeremiah 50:39 “Therefore wild beasts shall dwell with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall dwell in her. She shall never again have people, nor be inhabited for all generations. (ESV. The quotation continues into the next verses.)

The WEB renders that verse thus: Therefore the wild animals of the desert with the wolves shall dwell there, and the ostriches shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more inhabited forever; neither shall it be lived in from generation to generation. Verse 35, and the whole chapter, indicates that this is talking about Babylon.

Saddam Hussein tried to bring Babylon back to life. (See Wikipedia article, which, among other things, indicates the man's megalomania.) The article agrees with the prophecy, in that there is no indication that Babylon has been inhabited, for many centuries. The article does say that there are international efforts to restore Babylon, and that it is now opened for tourism.

Perhaps, then, Hussein was overthrown partly because of his desire to bring Babylon back to the glory it had many centuries ago.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Michael Behe, a leader of Intelligent Design, believes in an old earth

An author from the Biologos foundation continues an examination of the most recent book by Michael Behe, who also wrote Darwin's Black Box, which gave scientific credibility to the Intelligent Design movement, and was designated book of the year by Christianity Today, about 15 years ago. (I once used Black Box as the text in a senior seminar.)

Most or all of the statements in that early book, suggesting that natural selection couldn't have worked to bring about some cellular mechanism, have now been discredited scientifically. In other words, credible mechanisms for development of these features by natural selection over time have been found.

In this part of the review, the author, Darrell Falk, points out that Behe, unlike some of the other important figures in ID, continues to believe in development of new species, and larger groups of organisms, through common descent, and an old earth. He just believes that occasional Divine intervention was necessary to bring about cellular mechanisms now in existence.

I personally don't believe that it is possible to scientifically prove (or disprove) such Divine intervention. I'm not alone.
For a post by me, showing that ID and Young-Earth Creationism are mostly not the same thing, see here.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

You don't have to enter weird letter sequences to comment

Thanks to a tip from Keetha Broyles, who gets far more comments than I, and therefore should know about spam comments, I have turned off the spam-blocking feature that required my few commenters (thanks!) to enter strange sequences of letters. I don't like doing that on other people's blogs, although I understand the reasons for it very well, and I didn't like imposing that on people who wanted to comment. Well, now, no more trying to figure out exactly what those letters are, and typing them in, on this blog.

Why is that? Because, as Keetha points out, Blogger/Blogspot has a spam blocking feature of its own, which blocks nearly all spam automatically.

Anyone using Blogger/Blogspot for their own blog, who wants to learn more, should go to their Dashboard, and click on the link describing the feature.

I am sorry to report that, in fooling around with this new feature, I managed to permanently delete a dozen or so comments, at least half of which were my own. Oh, well. Lesson learned.

Thanks for reading, and commenting.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Sunspots 290

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

Science:  National Public Radio's Robert Krulwich reports that humans can't walk in a straight line without some visual goal to aim for, and discusses why this is so.

NPR also has a report on why the personalities of siblings are so different.

Computing: Gizmo's Freeware on how to cancel a print job that is hung in your computer.

Image source (public domain)