procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Monday, July 30, 2007

scientists and evolution (and the gospel?)

With the New College Lecture Series coming up, I came across this quote from John Suppe when reflecting on his own conversion (he's a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, noted professor of geology at Princeton University, outstanding scholar in the area of plate tectonics), in the talk by Henry F. Schaefer III on Science and Christianity.

"Some non-scientist Christians, when they meet a scientist, feel called on to debate evolution.
That is definitely the wrong thing to do.
If you know scientists and the kinds of problems they have in their lives: pride, selfish ambition, jealousy; that's exactly the kind of thing Jesus talked about, and which he came to resolve (by His death on the cross).
Science is full of people with very strong egos who get into conflicts with each other........The gospel is the same for scientists as for anyone.
Evolution is basically a red herring. If scientists are looking for meaning in their lives, it won't be found in evolution."

this may seem a little redundant, but with my work with Science Students at the UNSW, evolution seems to be a topic they seem to think will somehow convert the heathen to Christianity (or to Creationism?).

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Guidance MYC

another week away, another dozen less blogservers (that's a contraction of bloggers and observers i think)

so yeah, week away at MidYearConference, the topic being guidance.

my biggest take-home point was the no-bulls-eye, plan-a idea.

grimmo acknowledged that he nicked it from someone else (the new director of MTS), who in turn nicked it from someone, which just goes to show it's a good example.

that is, we all have this belief that God's got this plan-a in store for each and every one of us; Mr/Mrs Right, the perfect, fulfilling job, the ministry where we will be of best service etc.

however the guidance we are given by God is that we are free to serve by means of the wisdom he gives us, and the Holy Spirit he sends to work in our hearts to conform us to live by his wisdom.

this means we aren't to fear making the wrong decision, so long as we are making it for godly reasons, and regarding the wise counsel of Christian brothers and sisters.

in this respect (and this is my favourite line from the whole week), the little decisions are the big decisions, whilst the big decisions are infact the little decisions!

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Four Ways To Live

I've heard of 2WTL, some have even suggested there may be 3, but my recent reading of things such as Luther v Melancthon, as well as hearing sermons from the sermon on the mount in Matthew's biography of Jesus, plus my recent work on eschatology and restoration, has led me to a 4th way to live.

Now, I'm not trying to suggest there isn't two ways to live, either under, or against God's rule, that every person needs to either accept, or continue to reject Jesus as God's appointed King. I'm just trying to add a few shades in this fairly black or white picture.
For some explanation, the crown with a J means accepting Jesus as King. The little drawing of a round thing is my attempt at a 2D globe, symbolising accepting the God-given role of caring for this world, it's inhabitants, as per Genesis 1, which in this stylised description, would also include the so-called "golden rule" of loving one's neighbour as oneself (one's self?).

This is partly trying to think through the place of works in the Christian, as well as the non-Christian.

  1. The top one is obviously the person that God desires we all be - firstly, accepting God's rule, and because of the great gift of forgiveness in Jesus, being spurred on to good works.

  2. In the middle, on the left, we see the type of "Christian" that non-Christians always hold up as the reason they wouldn't want to become a Christian. The type of person that knocked Jesus off the top spot (behind Mohammed) of the most influential people, simply because his followers can't take him that seriously, coz they don't do what he says!

  3. On the right then, is perhaps the group Paul refers to in Romans chapter 2, "For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law." This is the group many of my non-Christian friends would fall into. They are great people. Really nice. As infallible as a fallen human can be (please excuse the oxmoron). And, all this, despite not knowing God, not living for eternity, compelled by naught, but their love for their fellow creature.

  4. At the bottom, perhaps rightly so, is the group who both reject God, and live in all ways despite his desires for this world. The people who say, "it doesn't count if you don't get caught."

Now, the third group i've mentioned, doesn't get too much of a mention in the New Testament. The latter gets a fair turn in the OT; Jesus' focus seems to be railing agaist the Pharisees for their impenitent hearts, and arrogance due to their nationality and position. The epistles are directed towards the 2nd (Jewish) and 4th (Gentile) groups.

We have good precedents, then, in talking to the 2nd and 4th groups, and a clear goal, in the 1st. I think, however, we find it hard to know what to say to the 3rd. To the "good person". To the honourable, kind, caring, selfless, genuine person.
Who happens to be a non-Christian.

Man, I need to start writing some short, witty posts. Just go to and have a look through the videos of the day (especially the Pasha Bulka Transformer, and the iPhone isn't bad either!).

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Friday, July 06, 2007

i'm back, with Asaph

1/ apologies for the lack of blogging in the last week (sorry mum and mark)
i've been quite busy, and then i took a week off in the blue mountains. i'm sure byron will oblige with a couple of points for anyone able to guess the lookout point for this photo!
2/ still reading through the Psalms, i've arrived at the offerings of a chap called Asaph. he starts off book three, with psalms 73-83, as well as 50, and possibly that recorded in 1 Chronicles 16, after the Ark of the covenant was brought back to Jerusalem.
he also got the great job of banging the cymbals on the way (along with Heman!), to warn people not to grab it like Uzzah did.

the thing that interested me especially was the progression from 73-83.
please do read on if this interests you!

  • 73 starts of saying he's worried by the prosperity of the wicked, but realises that his strength is in the Lord,
    v25-26 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
    My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

  • 74 therefore returns to the honour, not of his own self, but of God,
    v21-22 Let not the downtrodden turn back in shame;
    let the poor and needy praise your name.
    Arise, O God, defend your cause;
    remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!

  • 75 is "according to Do Not Destroy"; Israel looks in pretty bad shape, and their enemies may well be closing in, it seems a desperate reminder that they are God's chosen people, and their enemies are not,
    v8-9 For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup
    with foaming wine, well mixed,
    and he pours out from it,
    and all the wicked of the earth
    shall drain it down to the dregs.
    But I will declare it forever;
    I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.

  • 76 is a reminder of God's worthiness, of the unworthiness of all others, and after effusive praises,
    v11-12 Make your vows to the Lord your God and perform them;
    let all around him bring gifts
    to him who is to be feared,
    who cuts off the spirit of princes,
    who is to be feared by the kings of the earth.

  • 77 is a time when things have, it seems, hit rock-bottom,
    v2-3 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
    in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
    my soul refuses to be comforted.
    When I remember God, I moan;
    when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah

  • 78 then recounts the entire history of God's covenantal relationship with his people, remembering his fidelity despite his people's continual provocation,
    v5-8 He established a testimony in Jacob
    and appointed a law in Israel,
    which he commanded our fathers
    to teach to their children,
    that the next generation might know them,
    the children yet unborn,
    and arise and tell them to their children,
    so that they should set their hope in God
    and not forget the works of God,
    but keep his commandments;
    and that they should not be like their fathers,
    a stubborn and rebellious generation,
    a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
    whose spirit was not faithful to God.

  • 79, now that God's character has been firmly established, is the plea to him, to redeem them, like in Ps74,
    v9 Help us, O God of our salvation,
    for the glory of your name;
    deliver us, and atone for our sins,
    for your name's sake!

  • 80, similarly, pleads for redemption,
    v7-8 Restore us, O God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved!
    You brought a vine out of Egypt;
    you drove out the nations and planted it.

  • 81, and it seems it's not working. The problem isn't with God, the problem lies in his people,
    v13 Oh, that my people would listen to me,
    that Israel would walk in my ways!

  • 82 (a favourite with JW's!) compares the God of Israel to the other (false) gods, and illuminates the way those who follow other gods end up treating others (assuming the English punctuation is accurate),
    v2-3 How long will you judge unjustly
    and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
    Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
    maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

  • 83 wraps up this big eleven with a final plea for God to take action, to no longer be silent,
    v17-18 Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever;
    let them perish in disgrace,
    that they may know that you alone,
    whose name is the Lord,
    are the Most High over all the earth.

    i've been trying to think through Asaph's role as David's Psalmist, thinking how it may've worked, what he would be instructing his Psalmist, "quick, the Philistines are coming! write a Psalm we can sing to God reminding him of the covenant."
    "well that obviously didn't work. how about one telling him that it's not about us, but him!"

    i don't know if that's quite how it would have worked, how much artistic license the King's Psalmist would have, how much direction etc.

    but it is interesting seeing the progression, from 73's, "help us God, you're really good," to the incredulity at God's inactivity in 74, then remembering who he really is in 75-76; a big, all-in plea in 77, and then a reminder to God of his covenantal promises (c/f Exodus 2:23-25?) in 78.
    the final five seem quite despondent, although they do seem to recognise the root problem - namely their own sin.

    i guess in some ways it goes to show that even over a lifetime of relating to the God of the Universe, there are always going to be the same elements of sin, of asking, "where is God now?" and of singing his praises.

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