Friday, September 29, 2006

Saturday's Mini Codices

Here is today's installment. Enjoy!

  • The Degree Confluence project is fascinating! It aims to to visit each of the latitude and longitude integer degree intersections in the world, and to take pictures at each location.

  • Librovox now has audio recordings ofThe Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain and The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells available for download

  • Those music enthusiasts aquainted with the DMOZ project (Directory Mozilla, a community-maintained web directory) will love MusicMoz, which is a music-related directory which utilizes a similar concept. It has some really neat features!

  • Ever wondered what Asian Classical Music sounds like? is a project dedicated to getting some old out of print recordings online.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Worship With Lips Only

I strongly believe that humans have an innate inclination towards worship (even athiests). We are simply wired that way. Mankind has always been very religious. Perhaps one may not worship the God of the Bible, but everyone is worshiping something or someone. Bob Dylan put it quite poetically:

"You may be a construction worker working on a home,
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome,
You might own guns and you might even own tanks,
You might be somebody's landlord, you might even own banks

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody."

Due to the inclination towards worship that is innate, a heart that is void of worship of God will gravitate toward worshiping something or someone else. Sometimes that will be evident in very obvious pagan idolatry. However, I think most of the time it isn't that simple. Since we are surrounded in Christian culture, we as humans like to let our hearts run to worship other things while appearing to give homeage to God. Scripture anticipated that, not merely because of a prophetic sense, but also because this 'worship of lips only' which hides idolatry was very prevelant in the Bible times.

In Matthew 15:8-9, we find the strong words of Jesus when he rebukes the Pharisees by quoting from Isaiah: "This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.

I think there are at least several things packed into that short statemet:

1. "This people" points to a special community, not just anyone. The prophet Isaiah says of this people "Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity". But they are not token pagans, they were given a very special opportunity to know God through His revelation to them. And because of this unique status, there is an expectation and knowledge of true worship.

2. Honor is given, and in many respects this lips-only honor is probably indistinguishable from true honor and worship.

3. What is outside doesn't necessarily accurately reflect what is inside the heart.

4. The following verse (v9) says "In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men", which is considerably less optimistic towards hypocrates than the "they have their reward" assesment of Matthew 6. This implies that worshiping with lips only is useless before God.

5. The hearts spoken of here are not absent of worship, but are rather busy worshiping something other than God.

I think the fundamental concept here, in regard to the status of the heart, is that Jesus is indicating that the ones he speaks of are dominated by desires (or 'affections' in older English) which do not match their outward piety (hence speaking of their heart as being positionally 'far' from God). In other words, they participate in worship of the true God outwardly, but inwardly a different altar and a different "god" is being bowed to and longed for. That is an insult to God in the highest regard (a God whom we know as being a jealous God).

Now, here comes the tough part, application. God requires of me to both inwardly and outwardly worship Him. Psalm 29:2 - "Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness." That is what God expects of me. But how do I get there? Saying the right formula or doing the right things is one thing. But the "heart" (center of our being) is a much more complicated thing. How do we tame our hearts which have tendencies to persue anything except for God? I believe that is only possible by the working of the Spirit of God and the sanctification He works in and through believers.

Sometimes we do mundane chores and we technically "do" them, but our heart is so disinclined from them that we have no inward involvement in them. Sadly, I must admit that my worship of God is not exempt from that sort of "double minded" emptiness. Even in private it is so easy to utter a prayer with so little feeling that my heart (and maybe even part of my mind) is wandering somewhere else.

I think the centrality of worship and our human inclination to worship something should lead Christians to think very carefully about this and also examine our hearts to see whether we are worshiping God with our lips only. In conclusion I also want to say that sometimes we sit so smuggly and look at the Pharisees in almost a clinical sort of way, removing ourselves from their mindset (or at least pretending to be far removed from their mindset). It is so easy to compare everyone to the Pharisees (except ourselves that is). One Mennonite book (which I have never read) has a title that really hits hard and is refreshingly honest: "We Are The Pharisees". If I scoff at the Pharisees and turn out to be really no different in so many ways, am we being Pharisaical?

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

More Hours In A Day?

I've been reading Brothers Karamazov for a long time, a VERY long time. It mainly has to do with the fact that I'm also reading a lot of other things simultaneously, but Brothers Karamazov is also a very long book!! (my copy is over 1000 pages)

After having read it for a few months at least, I've come to the realization that it is going to take me quite a bit longer to complete it. I figure that If I dedicate one hour per evening every day, it will still take me almost a month to complete it. Yikes! There is no way I'd keep up that sort of pace. Either I need to train myself to read faster or I need to find a way to stretch out more hours per day. This is just one of those books that you need to dedicate many huge blocks of time to complete. Oh the joy of being a Bibliophile :)

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Saturday's Mini Codices

Here is today's installment:

Thursday, September 21, 2006

How To Handle Ethics in Exceptional Cases

I've been listening to Covenant Theological Serminary's course podcast on Ethics, and I've began to take an interest in a certain area of ethics specifically dealing with how one handles conflicting values (the lecture title is Resolving Moral Conflicts, by the way). The example was brought up was whether it was appropriate to use deception (forgery) and lying in order to save Jews during the Holocaust. This, essentially, is a clash of values. In such a rare situation, our values regarding being honest seem to conflict with our values regarding preserving human life.

The professor's lecture covered a number of ways that Christians try to resolve the sort of a dilema. There are many different ways that people try to find this resolution. I want to list and review a few that come to mind (a few of these were mentioned in the lecture).

1. One way which people try to find resolution is by the "tragic" metod. They believe that sometimes we are forced to do something evil/sinful due to lack of other options. In those cases, it is supposed, we must choose the lesser evil. I believe this is not an option as it goes against the grain of the Bible's message on morality, righteousness, and temptation (see I Cor 10:13 on the presence of a way of escape). For people that hold this view, there are essentially two ways to deal with culpibility. Either the person who choses the lesser evil is excused by God because He has so to speak judged that evil on a curve or he/she is held responsible for that choice even though there was no potential "righteous" course of action. Neither of those options are very attractive Biblically or philisophically.

2. Then there is the hierarcial view, which says when faced with an ethical dillema, we must chose the highest absolute. So, the theory goes, if loving ones neighbour is a higher absolute than "Thou shalt not lie", then the higher absolute would win out. From what I understand, Norman Geisler's position can essentially be boiled down to this. The problem with this view is that it seems to lack coherence. If so-called "absolutes" are placed in a hierarchy, then only one of them is truly absolute. An absolute ceases to be an absolute when it can be superceeded by any thing or condition.

These two views are views that some Christians take, although they seem to be lacking/wrong to some extent. They are not quite as bad as "the end justifies the means", but they do have the tendency to lead to a shakey ground for ethics. The lecturer makes a good point in saying that we shouldn't let exceptional cases undermine the bulk of our ethical process, but I do believe we do need to be able to resolve this dilemma of the exceptional cases somehow. What do we do when two absolute values seem to conflict? Is it even possible that we could be stuck between two ethical values? Or is this conflict just a cop-out that people use when faced with having to do with something distasteful?

Would you lie to save a life or stop an atrocity? How can that be reconcilled with obeying God's commandment? Or what about if we have made a vow to do something that is wrong. What do we do, break a vow or do some other wrong connected to fulfilling the vow? I guess this deals with whether we can add additional clauses to the law in emergency situations (ie. add the clause to "You shall not lie" which would allow for lieing in order to protect humans from murders, etc.). Can the law be superceeded in certain exceptional cases if our motivations are rightly focused on justice, mercy, and faithfulness? Perhaps an implicit part of the "absolute" of "You shall not lie" is that there may be some very exceptional cases of distress in which the law does not simply apply. God's intent of "You shall not lie" was that we be faithful in our speech, but what right does a murder have to expect faithfulness of speech when he will use true information to kill? If one can justify killing in self-defence, how can we not justify lying in order to protect a person from a murderer? These are some thoughts that were presented in the lecture. He also presented some Biblical precidents which demonstrate lying, or at least concealment of the truth in exceptional cases where there is a murdererous intent involved (God instructs Samuel to conceal information from a murderous Saul through a cover story in I Samuel, Rahab the Harlot, the Hebrew midwives in Exodus, etc.) The lecturer did mention that Augustine and John Murray (and probably other theologians) exclude the possibility of lying even in exceptional cases.

If we are to exclude exceptional cases, then which ones merit exclusion? And on what basis? That is another complication! Then there is also the matter of what other implications are tied to the lie. What if the lie involves the denial of our Jesus Christ and our relationship with him? The lecturer suggests in that case it could never be justified, as it would involve a denial of the faith.

I think I may have bit off more than I can chew in terms of coming up with a coherent and durable explanation to this.. but I'm trying to do some fresh unhindered unassuming thinking about this. I'm finding it very complicated to have any sort of flexible explanation of how to deal with exceptional cases in ethics. Are there valid exceptional cases that may evade the written form of the law, or is this just a slippery rope that leads to highly situationalised and flismy ethics?

The professor suggests that John Frame's Christian epistimology called "triperspectivalism" can be applied here. It seems pretty good, though probably doesn't resolve everything. It splits up the resolution of moral conflicts into several perspectives that each must be weighed. They are:

1. Existential perspective. Are we sincerely searching for the will of God? Make sure our hearts are right.
2. Normative perspective. The whole teaching of scripture that we bring to bear on the subject, not isolated texts. What is God's purpose, hermenutical process, etc.
3. Situational perspective. All the relevant facts to properly characterise the case. This removes many perplexities that show up in 'moral conflicts', because a great many of them are just due to misunderstandings of the situation.

Hmmm.. I need to think about this some more. But I'm very interested in this. Many other parts of the Ethics lecture seemed sort of dull to me, but this really got me thinking! Does anyone have any thoughts to share? Could you shed some light on this topic?

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

English Instructions At Their Best!

Some time ago a co-worker bought me some Oolong tea while he was in China. The instructions are just wonderful.

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Anyone Out There?

Am I really that boring as of late?

There has been an eerie echo here as of late. I haven't had one single comment on any of my last 10 posts!!! That is nearly a month!

I'm unable even to solicit comments even by making a post that explicitly solicits comments.

I've been crafting a theory about this. I suspect my profound insights and clever reasoning has scared away some of the more feeble minded readers (ie. all of them).

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Who Said That?

"Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity" - ???

"God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners." - ???

"All gods are homemade, and it is we who pull their strings, and so, give them the power to pull ours." - ???

"An armed society is a polite society" - ???

"I never saw a contradiction between the ideas that sustain me and the ideas of that symbol, of that extraordinary figure, Jesus Christ." - ???

"The answer is never the answer. What's really interesting is the mystery. If you seek the mystery instead of the answer, you'll always be seeking. I've never seen anybody really find the answer -- they think they have, so they stop thinking." - ???

These quotes are each by different individuals. Write your guesses in the comment section. And no cheating!!! ('cheating' includes googling the answer :>)


Saturday's Mini Codices

Today's interesting snippets..

  • I'm curious about what "Extracts from Adam's Diary" by Mark Twain is like. The full computer-generated audio book is available at Project Gutenburg.

  • According to Christianity Today, it seems that Reformed theology is in a resurgence stage right now.

  • Now I don't feel bad for having avoiding Spinach all my life.

  • Sermon Cloud looks interesting. I've never seen any preachers I've heard of on there, but the concept caught my eye.

  • Ochuck posted an interesting quote from Christianity today on how only a minority of the world's languages have a translation of the Old Testament, but that is slowly changing.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Saturday's Mini Codices

Here's today's fix:


Friday, September 08, 2006

Review: Albert Camus and the Minister

"Albert Camus & the Minister" by Howard Mumma (ISBN: 1557252467)

I'm no stranger to reviewing books. I normally find it easy to write a brief one or two assesment of a book. But my feelings about "Albert Camus and the Minister" by Howard Mumma are very complex and I struggle to write a descent review of this book.

The first 90 pages which cover a growing friendship between Camus and Mumma is clearly the most interesting part of the book. The rest is a collection of life experiences that were meaningful to Mumma. These experiences are not dull, but I found them to be a bit disconnected from the first 90 pages. One of the most entertaining points of this book is where Camus asks for baptism, but Mumma rejects it on the grounds that (A) Camus had already been baptised as an infant and (B) he wasn't willing to join the church or make it a public event. He ends up regreting that stand a bit, especially on reflecting on the fact that it was his final meeting with Camus. It was also neat to read about Camus' enthusiasm in studying the Bible.

Mumma holds a view of the Bible which relegates The Fall to allegorical tale and he certainly doesn't have an evangelical view of the inspiration of scripture. While coming from that platform might have made agreement with Camus a bit easier, I believe Mumma would have had some more meaningful answers to Camus' questions if he actually had a view of the Bible which validates using it as an authorative source. In some senses, from a thoroughly evangelical Christian prespective, Mumma wasn't offering Camus something much better than he already had. Sure, Mumma presented some God talk, but did he present the gospel to Camus as something that is "true truth" not just "religious truth"?

I sympathise with the views of other reviewers on Amazon who are quite critical of this book. While I hope and trust Mumma has recorded things accurately, there are a few things which make me wonder. First, some of his recollections (he admits plainly that they are recollections and may not be 100% accurate) portray the conversations as rather simplistic--with most of the dialogs turning out to be more "gentle" and successful from Mumma's perspective than one would expect when an Existentialist and a Christian minister would get together. Second, I don't know enough about Camus to verify it, but some other reviewers bring up interesting comments that Mumma seems to have gotten some of Camus' biographical details wrong. Third, Camus seeking truth is quite believable, but requesting adult baptism? That seems a bit far fetched. As another reviewer noted, it is notable that the accuracy of first 90 pages of the books can not be verified. This problem is further compounded by the fact that Mumma shares that Camus was secretive about it--he requested specifically that his inquiries be kept secret (this make this book a betrayal of sorts).

I will not go to the length to say I think Mumma invented the dialogs (as some reviewers have suggested), but I think I reader should approach it with some caution and be prepared to accept that at the very least some of the dialogs may not have been recorded completely accurately.

So, if you have been following me so far, you should find that my response to this book is both positive and negative. I don't regret having read it, though. The first 90 pages are interesting even if we are to suppose that they are totally fictional. This book might be worth getting if the reviews so far intruige you. I'll just advise you that you shouldn't expect Mumma to be an evangelical nor should you expect any of the recollections in this book to be easily verifiable.

I'm left wondering what would be the outcome if Camus had spent this time with an evangelical (such as Francis Schaeffer or OS Guinness) instead of one who has accepted most of the doctrinal positions of the "liberal" movement.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Skeptical, Questioning Man of Faith

Is it possible to be skeptical and questioning and have remarkable faith in God?

This is something I've been pondering as I'm making way through the book of Genesis.

Both the New and Old Testaments describe Abraham/Abram as one who was faithful, and whose faith was accounted to him for righteousness. But, at the same token, Abraham had doubts and posed questions. Abraham questioned whether God's promises to him could really be true given the realities he was facing (Gen.15:3). And not only did he struggle with putting faith in seemingly impossible promises, further he asked for assurance regarding God's promise to him (Gen.15:8). You can tell that being childless put his faith to the test and caused him to really examine whether he could trust God's promises.

Abraham certainly seems to have been an intense individual. In the narratives of Genesis 12-15 we see a lot of different facets of his character. He showed prudence in his dealings with the king of Sodom. He showed great statesmanship in resolving the issue with his servants and Lot's servants, and also in rescuing Lot. He also showed a lack of courage and faith in using trickery to try to protect his life in Egypt.

There was something remarkable about Abraham. It wasn't that he was without doubts or had a perfect trust in God. He very much struggled as chapter 15 makes clear. But Abraham was remarkable and unusual in a different sort of way. This should be very obvious when we remember that Melchizedek appeared out of "nowhere" with wine and bread to bless Abraham and say:

"Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” (Genesis 14:19-20)

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Wednesday's Mini Codices

Here is today's installment of interesting snippets:

  • Marcus Vorwaller's Best Tool For The Job is a very thoughtful and well-written blog covering a number of practical subjects. I suspect we don't agree much on religion (he's a Mormon, or at least was back in 2004), but his recent posts on conversation and web based applications are very well done.

  • Did you know that John Stott has a Bird Watching book?

  • Have you ever seen a Summary of a Christian Perspective on Computer Science?

  • I'm not the only "Nenadov" on the WWW. There also is:

    • My brother Dennis has a die design & detailing business.
    • Nenadov Blog (a guy with the first name 'Nenad')

    • My uncle Robert Nenadov is a chiropractor

    • My cousin Kathleen wrote a book

    • There's a Nenadov page about some Nenadovs who settled in Philadelphia. I don't know if I'm related to them

    • My Uncle Barney is a real estate and mortgage specialist

    • Sanja Nenadov is aneditor for some Croatian school newspaper

    • My cousin PJ/Petar's sermons are online

    • Ana Nenadov is some sort of student

    • Dejan Nenadov is a comic book artist

    • Lazar Nenadov is in management for the United Strongman Series. And "Mrs. Nenadov" is their "Press Officer". Now I know where I got my muscles from :>

    • Dalibor Nenadov is a financial advisor in Michigan

    • Dan Nenadov plays volleyball for Nipissing University

    • Maja Nenadov Beck is a doctor and writes a lot of articles about things such as clinical oncology

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Who Will Be Saved? - According to George Bush.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Saturday's Mini Codices

From now on Ι'm going to share a list of interesting things every Wednesday and Saturday. Think of something roughly similar to Tim Challies "A La Carte".

I've already posted Wednesday's installment, now here are the featured blips on the radar screen for Saturday..

  • The Way Back Machine is very useful when you want to see what a web site looked like or what content it had back in time. It is accessible from the front page.

  • Check out the blog of Douglas Groothuis. Doug left some feedback on my blog one day, and shortly after I was looking at the Philosophy section in Chapters and I found his book "On Jesus" there. I thought that was cool!

  • If you haven't discovered it yet, you should listen to the Men of Whom The World Was Not Worthy series on by John Piper. It covers John Owen, Charles Spurgeon, John Newton, etc.

  • For those interested in 1930's films, has Rogues Tavern, The Man Who Knew Too Μuch, Shadows Over Shanghai, and Chinatown After Dark

  • For bloggers that use blogging software that doesn't natively support category tags, there is a web-based technorati tag generator.

  • A mockumentary is a fictitious and satirical documentary.

  • I'm seriously considering reading's scan of "Mistakes of modern infidels : or, Evidences of Christianity : comprising a complete refutation of Colonel Ingersoll's so-called Mistakes of Moses, and of objections of Voltaire, Paine, and others against Christianity". For more information, see the summary. It does look interesting!! Besides the interesting subject matter, it is also interesting in that it was published in Detroit and dedicated to someone from London, Ontario!

  •'s scan of "The wars of religion in France, 1559-1576; the Huguenots, Catherine de Medici and Philip II" also looks interesting. Samuel Froehlich (who founded the ACC) was a descendant of Huguenots who fled France.

  • If you haven't noticed, a lot of todays blips are from It's really a fine project that has a plethora of stuff!!

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