May 12 - May 14, 2002
Tuesday 14th May, 2002
Two New Christian Blogs
One of the fascinating contemporary
debates concerns the relationship between religion and science. As a
journalist I have in the past borrowed huge scientific tomes from the
library, hoping that I might educate myself sufficiently in order to enter
the debate. But somehow I have trouble twisting my brain around all the
So it is exciting to welcome David Heddle
and his new blog
He Lives. In an email to me David writes: “I intend my blog to be
musings of a Reformed slant from a Calvinistic nuclear physicist.”
Here’s one of his postings:
Is it odd to be a physicist and a Christian?
Maybe, but not compared with some other disciplines. The public university
where I taught for about 11 years had a faculty of around 140. Of those, I
was aware of perhaps six Christians. All of these were in the hard sciences.
Furthermore, there was little outright animosity toward or scorn of
Christianity in the hard sciences (although more so in biology than in
physics). For truly antagonistic attitudes toward Christianity, one had to
look at the social sciences, especially to the philosophy and religious
studies faculty. For example, one campus “philosopher” had this utterly
fatuous “demonstration” he would perform every year in an introductory
class: he would kick a Bible across the floor. (As far as I know, he never
kicked a Koran – unwittingly the only thing he actually demonstrated was a
good but probably subconscious grasp of Christian “intolerance” and the
“peaceful” nature of Islam.)
He does say: “This blog will not be
devoted to a reconciliation of science and Christianity. That is an
overcrowded field….However it is inevitable that at times I will discuss
I hope so.
Another interesting new blog is
Esler Fried, from missionary organisation worker Ted Esler. Here is how
he describes his hopes:
My passion is for the North American church to be mobilized to share the
love of Christ worldwide, to all peoples. It is ever more obvious to me that
few Christians share my zeal. However, I am not, of course,
alone in this pursuit. Further, the post-modern world is looking on and we
of the faith community should be ready to engage them in conversation. So, I
am hoping that this blog will be a place where I can spout off about such
topics and how they affect Global Christians. I would also invite the
secular world to join this blog. I will try to be respectful, and would ask
that you do the same
Early postings are “Belief.Net’s Jihad
against Missionaries” and "Globalisation and Religion”. He makes an
interesting point in the latter posting - why do most of the books on
globalisation that were published before recent events contain so little on
the role of religion?
Certainly the world of Christian blogging
is growing in both quantity and quality.
Beating the Odds
Eric Olsen at the Tres Producers blog
common sense to the
analysis of Oxford University professor of philosophy Richard Swinburne
that through probability theory we can show there’s a 97% chance that the
resurrection of Jesus is true.
I'm afraid attaching concrete figures like "97%" to the probability of the
resurrection of Christ is meaningless at best since the computation still
ultimately derives from assertions of pure belief. On this matter I take the
Bible at its word that God can only be comprehended with faculties that lie
beyond the powers of reason; and logically, either Christ was resurrected or
he wasn't: 100% or 0%, there is no in between. Like
Christ is either alive or dead: He isn't 97% anything.
Monday 13th May, 2002
My Book – Now Online
When I started writing my book Living
Water to Light the Journey I intended it mainly as a guide for parents
who were concerned that their kids did not understand traditional virtues
like honesty and courage. But then I decided to add material on
spirituality, and after that I included a lot about my own personal journey
- via Buddhism - to Christianity.
So, in some respects, the book heads off
in various directions, and each chapter is fairly self-contained. But there
is also a common theme - how can we live in a world without God, without His
spiritual nurturing and His ethical guidance?
The book was published in 1999 and is now
out of print. With my publisher's permission I have decided to place it on
What you will read here is essentially the
same content as in the original book, although I have up-dated certain
parts, as well as adding hyperlinks and some illustrations. I have also
deleted a few (very few) bits I now wish I'd never included!
It's going to take me a few weeks to get
it all on the site. I’ve just put up
Chapter 7 and
Chapter 8. More will follow, as time
Banks, Elephants and Religion – New
(Slightly Confusing) Imagery for Our Times
I have little problem in thinking of our
banks as elephants—great, lumbering, thick-skinned behemoths. But the boss
of ANZ, one of Australia’s banking giants, had different imagery in mind in
a recent speech reported in The Age (not available online).
John McFarlane told an Australia-Israel
Chamber of Commerce luncheon that religion is like an elephant – “we know
what it is, but it has a mystique you can’t describe in any tangible way.”
And he said that modern businesses should
get religion – in an elephantine kind of way. That is, they should try to
acquire a religious kind of mystique (like an elephant). He said that
America’s General Electric had a religious mystique about it. He wasn’t sure
if ANZ had.
Heal Your Church Website
One of the pleasures of my self-appointed
role as Steward of the Christian BlogList is learning about so many
interesting blogs. Today I would commend Dean Peters’
Heal Your Church Website, which is intended as a resource for church
workers who are operating websites. It is packed with advice. Much is quite
technical, but all is very clearly written. Here’s a recent (non-technical)
"Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like
a man beating the air." – 1Cor. 9:26
Imagine running a marathon, or stepping into a boxing ring blindfolded?
Unless you are used to being visually impaired to the degree of legal
blindness, this would be a pretty stupid thing to do. Yet this is exactly
what I see happening with so many church websites today. They, like many
under-funded endeavours, have felt the pressure to present a web presence,
but without the benefit of careful planning.
If you want to see what a good church
website can look like, check out Dean’s own church,
Redland Baptist in Maryland.
“How to Write Letters about Religious
The Sydney Morning Herald has
published a surprisingly sympathetic selection of
readers’ letters in response to Thursday’s
article by Sydney Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen, in which he accused
the church of abandoning the truth and seeking instead to become useful.
One of the letters was an amusing “guide
to writing letters in response to religious issues”:
any Christian mentions ''the truth", loudly insist that there is no such
thing and it's all a matter of interpretation. Never mind that such a stance
is logically nonsense and that no-one actually lives their lives as though
this were the case - proclaiming post-modern relativism enables you to sound
tolerant and avoid engaging with the real issues.
2. Use the
word ''tolerant" a lot. This used to mean that you could disagree with a
person's opinion while maintaining respect for them and recognising their
right to speak. Now it means we have to pretend that all opinions are
equally valid, and anyone who doesn't think so has no right to speak at all.
discussing social issues, insist that while scientists, doctors, politicians
and, of course, you have a right to speak about the issues, Christians
don't. Repeat: ''This is not the business of religion." Maintain the fiction
that God can be kept in a box and taken out only when convenient. Don't let
anyone suspect God is vitally involved in every aspect of life.
that past mistakes or wrongdoings by individual Christians or churches mean
that the entire faith has forfeited its right to have any opinions at all.
The child abuse cover-up should be of use here for years to come.
5. Do not
seek to check the validity of any claims made by Christians. Biblical
illiteracy is to be encouraged, so that terms such as ''speaking the truth
in love" (Ephesians 4) will make no sense to you and you can remain
comfortable about criticising them.
The writer of that letter should start a blog!
Sunday 12th May, 2002
Last Things for Israel?
The latest edition of First Things
has arrived. It’s one of my favourite journals. Unfortunately, for me here
in Australia, the latest edition is April. It comes by sea mail. April has
been up on the
First Things website for a little while. American subscribers have
probably finished reading May already and will soon receive June. I probably
won’t renew my subscription, opting to read it online instead.
April contains a provocative and somewhat
depressing article by Richard John Neuhaus, “After
Israel”, in which he quotes a supporter of Israel:
There appear to be only two possible outcomes to this conflict. Israel may
eventually choose to . . . exterminate or expel Palestinians from Israel and
the West Bank. Or the endless bloodshed will produce an accelerating exodus
of Israeli Jews to America and other more peaceful and affluent places,
eventually leading to a collapse of the Jewish state.
About eight years ago we got new
neighbours, a young couple I’ll call Dave and Jane. We invited them around
for coffee, and in the course of conversation we learned that the house they
had moved from was nearby and was very similar to their new one. So why on
earth had they moved?
It transpired that a local crime boss
(apparently we have such people in Melbourne) had moved to the house next to
theirs. He built a high fence around the property, in defiance of local
building regulations. He carried out other illegal construction. It seemed
he had a team of lawyers to keep the Council at bay.
He hosted noisy parties, with large cars
parked illegally around the street. Occasionally party revellers would fire
guns into the air. (And all this was in a fairly upmarket neighbourhood.)
Once when Dave went to remonstrate over a particular problem the man pushed
him against a fence and then punched him in the face.
Dave called the police, who urged him to
press charges—they wanted to get this man—while warning Dave that the man
was dangerous. Friends said Dave should hire layers to force the man to pull
down his illegal fence. Dave and Jane were planning a family. They decided
to drop the matter and to move, even if it meant selling their house at a
loss. They didn’t want to raise kids next door to a crazed neighbour.
Is it not possible that increasing numbers
of Israelis are also going to decide to move? The First Things
article suggests they might.
PS (#1): An amusing postscript. By
coincidence, a good friend of my wife’s, a Korean lady who spoke little
English, also lived in Dave’s street, in a rental house on the other side of
the crime boss (she, in contrast, to Dave, had no idea of his identity;
neither did we at that time). One day she accidentally locked herself out of
the house, and with her husband not due home for many hours, she desperately
phoned my wife.
My wife urged her to try to use her
limited English to explain to a neighbour her predicament, and to ask for
help. She did, innocently knocking on the crime boss’s door. Later she
phoned my wife: “You can’t believe how helpful my neighbour was. It was like
magic. He knew right away how to get one of my windows open and get inside.”
She baked him a cake to say thank you, and reported that he accepted it with
a very bemused look on his face.
PS (#2): Richard John Neuhaus wrote his
article on Israel before the latest hostilities. But his final paragraph
As too many people are eager to remind us, Israel is doing bad things to the
Palestinians. And, as too many fail to say, Palestinians are doing bad
things to Israelis, and it is not always easy to sort out which is action
and which reaction, which is aggression and which defence. There should be
no difficulty, however, in sorting out the difference between the one party
that has the declared purpose of destroying or expelling the other party,
and the other party that wants only to live in security and peace. This, I
think, we know for sure: there could be a real peace process and a real
peace if the Arabs believably accepted a sovereign Jewish state in their
midst. This, sadly, does not seem to be in the offing.