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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 concepts.


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 science.”


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.


-posted 9:05am



Beating the Odds

Eric Olsen at the Tres Producers blog brings some 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.


Eric writes:


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 Schrödinger’s cat, Christ is either alive or dead: He isn't 97% anything.


-posted 8:00am



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 my website.


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 allows.


posted 1:35pm



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) posting:


"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.


-posted 10:20am



“How to Write Letters about Religious Issues”

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”:


1.       When 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.


3.       When 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.


4.       Suggest 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!


-posted 8:50am



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 remains resonant:


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.


-posted 4:50pm