Monday, April 30, 2007

Luther on the Psalms

An exerpt from Martin Luther's preface to the Psalter: "The psalter ought to be a precious and beloved book, if for no other reason than this: it promises Christ's death and Resurrection so clearly--and pictures His kingdom and the conditions and nature of all Christendom--that it might well be called a little Bible. In it is comprehended most beautifully and briefly everything that is in the entire Bible...Thus the psalter lays before us not only their [the authors of the Psalms] words instead of their deeds, but their very hearts and the inmost treasure of their souls, so we can look down to the foundation and source of their words and deeds. We can look into their hearts and see what kind of thoughts they had, how their hearts were disposed, and how they acted in all kinds of situations, in danger and need...A human heart is like a ship on a wild sea, driven by the storm winds from the four corners of the world. Here it is stuck with fear and worry about impending disaster; there comes grief and sadness because of present evil. Here breathes a breeze of hope and anticipated happiness; there blows security and joy in present blessings...What is the greatest thing in the psalter but this earnest speaking amid these storm winds of every kind? Where does on find finer words of joy than in the psalms of praise and thanksgiving? There you look into the hearts of all the saints, as into fair and pleasant gardens; yes, as into heaven itself. Then you see what fine and pleasant flowers of the heart spring up from all sorts of fair and happy thoughts toward God, because of His blessings. On the other hand, where do you find deeper, more sorrowful, more pitful words of sadness than in the psalms of lamentation? There you look into the hearts of all the saints as into death; yes, as into hell itself. How gloomy and dark it is there, with all kinds of troubled forebodings about the wrath of God. So, too, when they speak of when they speak of fear and hope, they use such words that no painter could so depict for you fear or hope, and no Cicero or any other orator so portray them."

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Friday, April 27, 2007

An Extreme Form of Play?

You may wonder about the title here, but read on and it will become apparent why I chose it.

It can be genuinely difficult to account for human suffering within the Christian worldview. I definately believe that the Christian worldview has the only truly satisfactory answer to the problem of suffering and pain, but we can't evade
the fact that it still remains a struggle to accept. Sometimes we give pat answers, but they tend to shrivel away when the first real hardship comes along. When we look at it Biblically, we find that the solution is ultimately personal. There are theological and philosophical answers that we should consider, but we need to experientially work through our doubts in the way that Job did. Otherwise, it seems we are just looking for a "silver bullet" to end suffering and pain.

It is interesting to look at esoteric "eastern" religions and the way they deal with suffering. When we analyize them, we have to be careful to view their individual statements in light of their overarching worldview, since their worldview is so substantially different. It is easy for us (Western Christians) to largely misunderstand what they are saying, because we have some fundamental assumptions that are so radically different than theirs.

In "The Joyous Cosmology", lecturer Alan Watts says "Pain and suffering are simply extreme forms of play, and there isn't anything in the whole world to be afraid of because it doesn't happen to anyone! There isn't any substantial ego at all." To him, there isn't even enough of an distinguishable concept of "ego" or "I" to categorize suffering as wrong or protestable. And, to him, this makes the question of personal suffering as irrelevant. He supposes that this "self" is just a comedy of sorts, or a "double-take" as Watts puts it. In this view, pain is the necessary counterpart of non-pain and can't be understood in a very personal way.

What Alan Watts says may be seem very estoteric, but it isn't that far off from the prevailing mindset is of our culture, albiet non-directly. They still don't "jive" with Alan's direct and non-comprimising terminology (and may even deny such a connection). Very few would outright accept his total rejection of the idea of "ego". First of all, they still hold (to some degree of consistensy) to Judeo-Christian notions of "personality". Secondly, if anything modern society is more egotistic than every before. But ultimately the worldview of perhaps the majority of people in the west rest on premises similar to those of Watts. The thought of Alan Watts is essentially consistent relativism applied to being as a whole, not just fractured segments of reality (which would probably be what most relativists do).

The ultimate conclusion that this view takes is different than the Christian answer, though it may show some surface similarities. It could be summed up in this: If pain and non-pain are just two sides of the same coin and individuality is really just a "grand delusion", then pain and suffering should be accepted as a mere increase intensity in the way things should be. Or in Watts' words, an "extreme form of play".

While Christianity is sympathetic to the need to contextualize pain/suffering as part of a greater picture, something beyond individuality, at this point we must disagree with "eastern religionists" and rather assert that pain/suffering is an abnormality and something that can be consistently lamented. I say this with caution and reservation. When I say it is "abnormal" I am not diminishing God's sovereignty. He controls all things, including pain and suffering. He has decreed it. It did not escape His attention. But, what I am saying is this: Firstly, it is possible to have well-being without human pain and suffering. This is not a case of "ying and yan". The way things are right now is due to the Fall. Secondly, man does have a distinguishable personality or "ego". Formed in God's image, man is a person, a distinguishable being, and so we can coherently speak of him as "suffering" in a personal way.

Ironically enough, while blaming God for our suffering is not proper, the very concept of blaming God for suffering finds its roots in Christianity! That is not to say that Christianity suggests we should blame God, but rather that Christianity provides sufficient framework for assessing suffering in the area of morality. Christianity provides us with the categories to see suffering and pain as abnormal. "Eastern" religion and philosophical teachings, whether that of Alan Watts or others, don't. It isn't that they say "pain is gain" (which could be said to be true sometimes), but rather that their belief system erases the distinction between pain and gain. The truth is, this system leaves the suffering "high and dry". They rightly say that being an isolated and seperate ego can be alienating. But the alienation they point out pales in consideration to the alienation experienced in their system-when the "ego" is seen as an illusion, one is an undetermined part of an undeliniated "everything".

We can sincerely and rightly lament suffering and sigh under the stress of pain. We are also called to be patient with it even when it is not relieved right away (James 5:7). It is not an "extreme form of play" in the charade of existence. We are not to just passively accept suffering and resign to it. Though that is part of it, it is not the whole picture. There are also things for us to do (James 5:13). We are personal beings, not simply cogs in a a machine. We suffer, and what is inside of our skin is distinguishable from what is outside. Others hear our cries for relief, and ultimately God does. We can consistently dislike pain and suffering; it is not an inseperatable part of reality. There is a distinction between evil and good, between pain and non-pain. Pain is abnormal and hard. For the Christian, accepting it and dealing with it shouldn't mean ambivalence towards it, but rather the acknowledgement that though it is abnormal, its hurt pales in comparison to the healing we will one day experience (Romans 8:18). God's grace gets us through it now (2 Corinthians 1:5), but even that can't be compared with what is to come.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Blasts From The Past

This blog has been in operation since November 30, 2005. Here links to a few selected posts from 2005/2006. Many of these posts get lost in the grip of obscurity, so I thought I do something to bring them back :)


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fascination with the Miraculous/Moralistic

In his article, "Fascinations that Lead Away From the Cross..", Michael Horton discusses three things that he sees as potentially distracting us from the clear and simple message of the Cross.

The three things he covers are:

1. Fascination with the miraculous
2. Fascination with the moralistic
3. Fascination with the mysterious

This got me thinking, what is of greater importance to me: The simple (and seemingly foolish) message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, or the more socially acceptable and attractive things, such as: miracles, good morals, and mysteries? It seems that much of Modern Christianity is hyping the later category for all it is worth and ignoring the former one. Moralism and a hunger for miracles may "charge us up" and leave us with that fuzzy feeling, but focusing on them leaves us with a shakey foundation for our faith. While miracles, morals, and mysteries all are part of Christianity, ultimately the Cross needs to be the focal point of our faith as Christians.

What follows are a few short exerpts from the first two points that I found very true and helpful.

(on the miraculous)

"As in our Lord's day, few today who seek miracles are interested in that to which signs point. 'A wicked generation seeks for signs,' Jesus said, followed by Paul's reminder that his fellow Jews were so busy looking for miraculous wonders that they stumbled over the Gospel of Christ crucified. Seeking direct experiences with God without the mediation of Scripture, preaching, and sacraments..we trip over the weakness of the cross....Satan had offered Jesus a crown without a cross, so even Jesus' own brothers, impressed with his success as a miracle-worker, anxiously offered a tour of the major cities. Similarly, James and John wanted to call down fire on their enemies, and their mother came to Jesus to ask him to allow her sons to sit on his left and right hand in his kingdom. Everyone was planning for glory, but Jesus was planning for the cross. Triumphalism ignores the cross, and when the hour of trial (sin, failure, loss of popularity, shame, and abuse) comes, we, like the disciples, flee for cover instead of sharing in Christ's suffering."

(on the moralistic)

"Sadly, [many Christians] tend to read (and preach) the Bible moralistically: that is, either as positive tips for better living or as scolding for not being what one should be. Thus, the key biblical characters become heroes to imitate rather than figures in a redemptive-historical plot centering around Jesus Christ. Jesus told the Pharisees that in spite of their ostensive devotion to the Scriptures, they did not really understand what they were reading, since he (Jesus) is the point of all of Scripture.....The preoccupation with moralism finds the preaching of the cross 'foolishness'......When sin and grace are replaced with therapeutic, ethical, political, and pragmatic concerns, it is a sure sign that we too have stumbled over the Rock of offense."


Kryptonite in Serbia?

Slashdot has referenced a BBC article about Kryptonite being discovered in Serbian. Weird! Maybe Superman was a Serb too?


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Neither Here Nor There

Here is today's installment:
  • For those interested, John Frame has an article on Capital Punishment from a Christian perspective. If you haven't been to the John Frame / Vern Pothress website, you are really missing a lot!
  • Thunderbird 2.0 has been released. Thunderbird is a popular mail program from the Mozilla project that also releases the Firefox web browser.
  • This is a hillarious guide on how to win in paper/rock/scizors
  • Joost looks really neat. Who needs cable TV? It is currently invite-only online TV network. And its free! Do any current users want to send one of their invites over to me?
  • This shows some advise on how to "fight the urge to plurge"
  • If you've ever wondered what computer hardware and operating systems Michael Dell, the CEO of Dell, uses, check this out

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Review of "Wikinomics"

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams (Portfolio Hardcover, 2006)

This book intends to show how new collaborative technologies are changing the way things work in business. It stresses the point that people and corporations need to adapt or be left behind. It speaks about things like the Open Source movement and how Web 2.0 requires some new perspectives on business and success. It contrasts archaic ways of doing business with the new "open" ways that are powering current developments in the market. It covers many case studies about businesses that have shown remarkable ability to adopt and embrace this new collaboration.

I found myself part way through this book with very negative feelings about it. It all seemed rather hype-driven to me. The authors talk very optimistically about the new "Golden Era" of Wikinomics and collaboration. It is loaded with platitudes and strange usage of words such as "huckstering", "ecosystems", "consultantese", "successism", etc. It seemed to be a large pile of "purple prose". I also found some technically inaccurate statements, such as the part about XML and tagging. There is also some questionable usage of the term "open source", even to the point where the book at one point states that Microsoft is adopting open source. I don't remember the exact words, but that is basically what they implied. That is not true. Microsoft is, in reality, trying to appear more transparent about what they are doing and are releasing some source code. From what I understand, the Windows source code has always been available to whoever is willing to sign a draconian contractual agreement. But that is not open source. Open source involves releasing source code on some very specific terms, which mere distribution of sources doesn't necessarily satisfy. Even Microsoft marketing moguls know enough to distinguish between this and "open source". They "share" source, but don't consider it "open". While generally the author's portrayal of the open source movement is pretty good, at a few critical points the authors show misunderstandings about what "open source" actually is.

Now that I've finished the book, I must say that those criticisms still apply. However, my perspective on the book has evened out a bit. I am now more appreciative of what the authors have produced. I do really think it is a valuable work for those who want to find out why applying old business techniques to the Internet will not work. What is needed are new strategies to accomidate changes that have been in the works for many years now. One can not depend on secrecy, "locking things down", and tying in the customer in order to succeed in today's environment. Competition and the necessity of rapid development requires that many minds, inside and outside of particular firms, need to collaborate to accomplish things that one firm's employees could not. By fostering openness and community innovation, large companies can leverage this community in ways that their own staff never could and they can focus on other areas which are more important to their core business. This applies to various extents to both sheer production and knowledge-based markets such as scientific research. As the open source movement has proven, the values of openness and sharing have really pervaded the current culture. People want to be able to "tweak" and "mix" the things they use. In order to succeed, businesses must start to actively seek out opportunities to collaborate, to contribute to the community and also reap the benefits of community contribution. If the only way a business can succeed is by what it hides from its customers and how it restricts its customers, it is doomed to failure. Companies need to embrace openness and find ways they can leverage these changes to accomidate win-win situations. These are just a few of the points that the authors make very forcefully.

There is much that is valuable in this book for technologists and business people. As I've mentioned, there are some annoying aspects about this book, but now seeing the book as a whole I conclude that the good outweighs the bad. I find it plausible to assume that some of the "errors" may have been moreso miscommunications than outright errors and are perhaps not very serious blunders in light of the entire scope of the book. This is a book worth getting if you have a stake in developing, marketing, or even using technology. The authors wisely broaden their presentation of the new "Wikinomics" to include all sorts of disciplines and industries. I'd particularly recommend this book to decision makers in companies that are struggling with the old mindset of "locking things down in order to stay competitive".

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Shooting

It deeply saddens me to hear about the Virginia Tech shooting. The Virginia Tech campus is located in Blacksburgh, Virginia. 32 people were killed. Sadly, our ears are so saturated with news that we can so easily hear news like that, and think to ourselves "What else is new?" Even if we make a big deal of it now, we are likely to forget about it soon, once other distractions come along. It is easy to not catch the full import of what is happening because we live in a media-saturated world and also have been desensitized to violence. However, this is no run-of-the-mill shooting, it is said to be the worst one in U.S. history. One wonders whether the fact that this happened on a day remembering the holocaust has any significance.

Cho Seung-Hui, a 23 English major, committed suicide after killing over 30 people, some students and some professors. From what I can gather, he left behind a note, his previous behavior was clearly violent and problematic, and he seems to have been planning this shooting spree for a while. He is also said to have been heavily armed, and apparently was well-trained in this sort of thing, firing over 100 rounds. Also, apparently "Ismail Ax" was written in red ink on one of his arms when he died. The term "Ismail Ax" remains rather mysterious, but the phrase "Ishmael's ax" is found in a published work titled "Ishmael: In the Depths" by Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth. The book is available in its full text on Project Gutenberg.

Amid this carnage and chaos, there is an amazing story of a 76 year old holocaust survivor named Liviu Librescu. He was also a professor at Virginia Tech. He heroically acted and saved students lives, taking bullets to save his students.

Here are three sources which give some details about Cho:

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Thinking Back

This past Sunday I shared my testimony at Grace Baptist Church of Essex.

As a Christian, I found that looking back and writing about God's grace and His working in my life is a really helpful thing. It is so easy to forget where I've been and what has transpired in my life. Not because it isn't remarkable, but simply because our human attention span is so short.

The fast pace of modern life makes it easy to shove aside the past. If we do ever consider it, often it is just with a sort of fuzzy "sentimentalism". The good old days. Those were the days. We set them aside and let them rust. We don't see their relation to the present.

In this day and age, I feel that we need to make a special effort to relate the past to the present. Not just when we are thinking about our testimony, but in many aspects of our life. And not just our past, but our past seen as being a part in the flow of history.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Neither Here Nor There

In this installment..


Friday, April 13, 2007

Review of "Long Way Gone" by Ishmael Beah

Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Solider by Ishmael Beah (Douglas & McIntyre, 2007)

It seems that many people in the West, including myself, are largely unaware of what has transpired in Sierra Leone. This is a touching account told by a skilled storyteller. Lighthearted content, such as the author's musical tastes, is skillfully mixed with the grim realities of being a 12 year old solider in Sierra Leone. He portrays his involvement in the civil war in a fashion that is very compelling. The account is personal but also very maturely composed.

Ishmael was thrust into this war when rebels killed his family. He then proceeds to slaughter and fight, and eventually discovers that revenge can be an endless cycle only leading to chaos and ugliness. After many adventures which seem unfit for a 12 year old, he was chosen to go to New York to speak at a UN children's conference. He is totally awestruck about New York and puzzled by the white things falling from the air. He then returns to Sierra Leone to more chaos, and then eventually moves to the U.S.

The countless kids who get drawn into the war either by force, necessity, or familial revenge are all deeply impacted by the things they experience. It is hard to imagine what sort of horrible scars this sort of experiences leaves in the life of a 12 year old. And as if the emotional trauma wasn't enough, the author also documents the heavy use of drugs such as cocaine.

There aren't really any sort of explicit religious, spiritual, philosophical, or theological statements in the book. Implicit in the book is a tension between pessimism and optimistic humanism. There are passing references to Muslim clerics and the religious practices of other people, but religion is not a central theme and there are no personal reflections that are obviously religious. The book leaves a few seemingly unfinished trains of thought. I sort of wish the author would have filled in a few of the blanks, but it did add a bit to the intruige.

Ishmael has not only profound experiences to share, but also a great amount of talent as a writer. This is a memorable book. I highly recommend reading it.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Carnage in Darfur

This article is about how Google earth will be featuring views of the chaos in Darfur, Sudan. The L.A. Times is also carrying a story about this. Google is assisted in this endeavour by the the US Holocaust Memorial.

The actions of the Janjaweed in Sudan certainly qualify as genocide. These armed Arabic militants are responsible for the killing of some 300,000 people. Beyond that, 2 million people have been displaced.

If you are interested, there are some photos of the Janjaweed at The First Post

(Note: More info is available at ushmm website)

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tim O'Reilly Weighs In

Tim O'Reilly posted some initial thoughts on what a Blogger code of conduct might look like. If you are a Blogger, I suggest you look through them. I wouldn't say that I unreservedly support every single thing he says, but it looks like a pretty good effort. With some work, I'm sure it will be a very handy set of guidelines.

You should read the article if you want details, but here are the major headings that Tim presented:
  1. Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog.
  2. Label your tolerance level for abusive comments..
  3. Consider eliminating anonymous comments.
  4. Ignore the trolls.
  5. Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary who can do so.
  6. If you know someone who is behaving badly, tell them so.
  7. Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person.
As I've already mentioned, time would only tell how widely this sort of a code would be adapted. However, I do think it would be a good start for bloggers who are in fact concerned about these sort of things.

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Neither Here Nor There

I want to take this opportunity to..

1. Introduce some new additions to my "blogroll":2. Direct my readers to the recent buzz that individuals are proposing a blogger code of conduct (HT: Slashdot). This is mainly due to some recent threats that a blogger received. The code of ethics sounds like a good idea, regardless of how effective it would be. I may share some further thoughts on it later..

Monday, April 09, 2007

Rwanda and Sierre Leone

Tim Challies just posted an interesting review on "The Bishop of Rwanda".

The bloody chaos that has reigned in places such as Sierra Leone and Rwanda really displays the depth of depravity and filth that lies in the deepest parts of the human heart. It seems unimaginable that humans could resort to such things, but history has proven that the human heart is fully capable of such evil. A moving depiction of what happened in Rwanda is given in the movie Hotel Rwanda

Tim's review of that book caught my eye because I'm currently reading A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. It is the memoir of a young man who is now in the U.S.A., but fought a solider in Sierra Leone's civil war as a 12 year old. I plan to blog a review of it when I am done.

I think we here in the West need to be better informed of what has happened historically in Africa. I've probably spent more time reading about Africa than your average person, but I still feel quite ignorant, particuarly about places like Rwanda. It is of great value to read books from all sort of perspectives on places like Sierre Leone and Rwanda. Also, being aquainted with what has transpired there will cause us to be more mindful of the plight of many African countries, hopefully helping us to do more to help. The civil wars of Africa remind us how fragile life is and how depraved a society can get, a fact that sometimes can be lost when we live lives that are very isolated and posh.

More than anything, the violence that transpired in Africa points to the fact that Africa, as well as North America, needs the genuine gospel, not Westernized culture, another political gimic, or a new-and-improved peace strategy. And they need understanding and sympathy from us, too.

Of course, you can't really know what it would be like to be in a civil war in Africa until you've been through it, or at least have been really close to someone who has been through it. But reading is a small start in the right direction.

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A Review of "Truth with Love" by Brian A. Folis

Truth with Love: The Apologetics of Francis Schaeffer by Brian A. Folis (Crossway Books, 2006)

Having read nine of Francis Schaeffer's books and listened to some L'Abri tapes, this book was naturally attractive to me. I was further impressed by the sharp cover design and the great endorsements it has received. I must say that the book met my high expectations. This is one of the most engaging and dynamic books I've read in quite some time.

The book seems to be wrapped up in three main pursuits: 1) Outlining Schaeffer's approach, 2) Outlining and responding to critiques of Schaeffer and 3) Reflecting on Schaeffer's methods and suggesting how to adapt them to our present day.

For the first two pursuits, the author does a fantastic job on outlining the thought of Calvin and later Reformed theologians on apologetics and reason. This was very important so that the reader will be better equipped to understand where Schaeffer (and his detractors) are coming from. He then proceeds to outline Schaeffer's approach, and afterwards he has some frank and helpful interaction with Schaeffer's critics. As this book states, Schaeffer has been criticized for being too rationalistic, not rational enough, too presuppositional, and not presuppositional enough. The author fairly represents these critiques and provides some very convincing responses. Many critiques of Schaffer's work involve ignorance of the full range of Schaeffer's work. Others involved taking for granted (or ignoring) what Schaeffer's mission and purpose really was. The clear lesson is that you can't understand someone if you do not understand the whole range of his work.

Many of the critiques reviewed seem to be clearly wrong and baseless, such as those from Clark Pinnock. The author still deals with them sensitively. However, the author shows a remarkable deal of care in regard to the controversy with Van Til. The author is clear that Schaeffer is not strictly speaking a presuppositionalist. Further, he shows that Schaeffer was eclectic, drawing both on Princeton evidentialism and Van Tilian presuppositionalism, though strictly speaking, he was not a follower of either. Schaeffer was not intent on producing an apologetical system. He was primarily an evangelist at heart and he saw apologetics as means to an end and presuppositions, not as axioms, but as verifiable (or falsifiable) basic ideas. This put him at odds with Van Til, though they both respected each other a great deal.

A discussion of Schaeffer's apologetic that focused only on the controversies with other Christians would be quite useless, though I must say the author did a fine job of that part of the book. To Schaeffer, apologetics is ultimately about evangelism. His ministry ultimately revolved around community, prayer, and the final apologetic--love. Hence, "the final apologetic" is the heading of the concluding chapter, which brings us to the last pursuit of the book. I must say that this section is packed with a few too many semi-related things, and is sort of overwhelming, but I don't want to detract from its value! This section is perhaps the most compelling part of the book. I found it to contain excellent thoughts and helpful advise. It is ultimately concerned with reflecting on things of utmost importance to Schaeffer such as love, community, prayer, etc. It also discusses the relevance of Schaeffer's approach in our day, the progression from modernism to post-modernism, the emerging movement, etc. However, it is ultimately concerned with how we can apply and revise what we learn from Schaeffer so it has an impact today.

There is so much written by and about Francis Schaeffer that it is hard to believe that this book could provide something meaningful, let alone valuable. But Brian Follis has done a fine job, and I believe he has accomplished just that! I highly recommend that you get this book and read it if you have any sort of interest in the apologetics of Francis Schaeffer. And if you don't already have that interest, who knows? This book may spark a new interest in you!

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Mars Hill Audio Journal

For those of you who haven't looked into it yet, I recommend that you check out Mars Hill Audio Journal. It is an audio journal delivered in a variety of formats, including cd, cassette, and mp3 download.

The journal "is committed to assisting Christians who desire to move from thoughtless consumption of contemporary culture to a vantage point of thoughtful engagement".

Some of the interesting features this journal has had include:
  • Leland Ryken, on what makes a classic and how we should read one
  • Douglas Groothuis, on The Soul in Cyberspace
  • Nicholas Wolterstorff, on Abraham Kuyper (1837-1927), the French Revolution, worldviews, and "sphere sovereignty"
  • Ben Witherington, III, on why The Da Vinci Code's implausible account of history seems credible to many people
  • Paul Berman, on the links between Islamism and other totalitarian utopias
  • Edward Ericson, Jr., on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's beginnings and legacy
  • Leon Kass, on how various biotechnologies promise to fulfill certain legitimate human desires in illegitimate ways
  • Murray Milner, Jr., on American teenagers, schools, and the culture of consumptio
  • David Wells, on the contrast between classic and postmodern spirituality
  • Ted Libbey, on the intricate, theologically inspired structure of Bach's B Minor Mass
  • Paul Woodruff, on recovering the virtue of reverence
  • David Wells, on how Western culture has eclipsed fundamental assumptions about human nature and God
  • Nigel Cameron, on the lack of ethical reflection in public policy on technology
  • Johnny Cash, on faith, vocation, the Incarnation, and the Last Supper
  • Hadley Arkes on the rise of a new jurisprudence in Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade
  • Alister McGrath, on the doctrine of Creation and the tasks of culture
  • Paulina Borsook, on how Silicon Valley enshrines libertarian values
  • Gene Edward Veith, on communicating truth to a cynical age

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Saturday's Mini Codices

Here is today's installment:
  • Tim Challies has a great post titled There Appeared to Him an Angel about Jesus's darkest hour

  • Desiring God has a number of resources on The Greatest Event in History

  • Audible, an audiobook store, has a free trial which allows for the download of two free audiobooks. They have their own proprietary format, which I don't like (I wouldn't pay for anything besides a plain format like ogg or mp3), but they also support an iTunes format which isn't ideal but good enough for free :) My two free downloads are "Wikinomics: How Mass Colaboration Changes Everything" and "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Solider"

  • YouTube has just announced that it is unleashing Citizen's Tube, their political vlog. I watched the little video they have introducing it, and it looks neat!

  • Usenet is a major part of the Internet which predates the popularity of the Web, and yet the vast majority of Internet users nowadays don't even know what it is. It allows the reading and posting of "news" in what is called "newsgroups". There are thousands of these newsgroups arranged by topic. It really was a neat community, and still is, but it is hampered by some of the same problems that you experience with e-mail, ie. spam. Someone took the recipies from the newsgroup alt.gourmand and put them together in a nice electronic cookbook. It can be downloaded from here in the Winhelp format.

  • My cousin Nick Vujicic's website has been redesigned. It looks great!

  • I can imagine that puttyclip would be very useful to those who use the terminal application called "Putty" for using SSH

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Vista Adoption Slow

According to this Slashdot post, most online US adults (87%) know about Windows Vista, but only 12% plan to upgrade in the next year.

I think that a lot of the negative press that Vista is causing this. Especially damning are the policies that the likes of Intel and the U.S. Department of Transporation have had in regard to their employees installing Vista. Also, the history of Microsoft operating systems has often shown that early adoption isn't always good. "Always wait a service pack or two" is pretty good advise.

In my estimation, if Vista wasn't being pre-installed on new computer systems, it would have a VERY tough time catching on. Fortunately for Microsoft, for many people the decision to use Windows Vista is not a conscious choice, it is imposed on them by their purchase of a computer.

As for me..I prefer to use an operating system whose success is not largely derived from the fact the user has had no other choice.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Are You Weeping?

Francis Schaeffer was an American pastor who was called to work for the Lord in a unique way. He want to Switzerland in the 1950's and eventually formed a mission called "L'Abri". That mission's work was a living demonstration to many people that the infinite-personal triune God of Scripture exists. Many young people, who were brushed aside by their Christian teachers, parents, etc., found in L'Abri a place where they would be listened to. A place where they could hear something beyond the "patt answers" they were used to hearing. A place where they were treated with dignity due to every human, even if they weren't "all together". And the hundreds of people who visited L'Abri heard the Biblical gospel faithfully presented.

Francis was remarkable in a number of ways. One of things that really stood out was this: He was very intellectual. But he never treated Christian apologetics as a mere intellectual exercise. His goal was not to form an apologetical system or win debates, but rather to reach out to people. He had immense care for the people he talked to. He listened to them and he made great effort to relate to them. He wept for the youth who put their hopes in drugs, eastern religion, etc. during the 1960's. If you watch a video where he is teaching a lecture or relating a story, there is no hiding it. He face shows it all. As he talks about his conversations with youths whose hopes have been shattered, you can see the pain that he felt for them. It literally choked him up. When he told of despair, he wasn't talking about statistics but about real living people made in the image of God. To Schaeffer there were no "little" or "insignificant" people.

One individual recounts his college encounter with Francis Schaeffer: "He was a small man—barely five feet in his knickers, knee socks, and ballooning white shirts. For two weeks, first as a freshman and then again as a senior, I sat in my assigned seat at Wheaton College's chapel and heard him cry. He was the evangelical conscience at the end of the 20th century, weeping over a world that most of his peers dismissed as not worth saving, except to rescue a few souls in the doomed planet's waning hours. While Hal Lindsey was disseminating an exit strategy in The Late Great Planet Earth, Francis Schaeffer was trying to understand and care for people still trapped on the planet in The God Who Is There."

If we want to be evangelists, apologists, and ambassdors for Christ, we need to think long and hard as to whether we love the unsaved enough. If we love them, why aren't we weeping over them? If their fate can't even bring a tear to our eye, how can we in all seriousness feel the urgency to help them? The other difficulty is that we can get so disturbed by sin that we become ANGRY instead of being COMPASSIONATE. Righteous anger has its proper place, but most of them time it seems to be unproductive anger, often anger that gets us into trouble or leads us to treat others poorly. We see all sorts of perversions and sin around us. It greatly troubles us, and it should! But do we ever truly weep for the people? Do we ever feel sorrow for individuals instead of merely getting angry about where our country is headed in an abstract sort of way?

Jeremiah was known as the "weeping prophet". Anyone who could write a book named "Lamentations" knows something of weeping. Jesus wept, and not only for people's sin but for the sorrow of death, etc. Many men of God throughout history (not just Francis Schaeffer) have lamented and weeped for the sins (and the fate) of the people around them. This has forced me to stop and think. Do I have this sort of compassion? I think the conservative evangelical Christian church is often doing more shouting than weeping right now. Here's a thought: If our advocacy of "Christian values" within the political and cultural arenas is so focused on general rhetoric against abstract "groups" that we can't think of and weep over SPECIFIC individuals who are tasting the bitter despair caused by their sin, we are way off base. Our "fight" for Christian values will never be credible until we posses a compassionate sorrow for those who are serving sin. And by that I mean the real sorrow which comes from one who has empathy, not a proud mocking sort of disgust.

It is one thing to frown upon other people's sin, but it is another thing entirely to compassionately feel (as much as is possible) the weight of another person's sin.

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