Abednego: July 2005 Archives

Light posting from me

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Just a heads-up: Expect fairly light posting from me for a while as I'm currently at a scientific research conference through late next week, and the schedule is pretty packed. Then the following week I'll be backpacking the entire week. I do hope to post another Edwards post in the next few days, though.

But Jeremy has lots of good stuff he's posting lately, so it looks like there will be no shortage of good things to read.

I spent some time yesterday afternoon reading Jonathan Edwards' sermon "The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming It", from Ephesians 5:16. It was preached in December, 1734, but seems tremendously applicable to today. Here, I want to summarize some of Edwards' main points, and in one or two subsequent posts I'll address some side issues it brings up.

Edwards' text for the sermon is part of Ephesians 5:16, which in the translation he used says "redeeming the time" (the NIV has "make the most of every opportunity"). He begins by pointing out that we ought to set a high value on time, and be very careful not to lose or waste it, because it is very precious. His first section moves on to explain why time is precious.

Who is Roberts? A link

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I wasn't going to say anything about the Roberts Supreme Court nomination, since it's mostly outside my area of expertise. But I thought this post at the Volokh Conspiracy, Who is John Roberts? Who Knows? was particularly insightful. It seems like it partly explains why he was nominated. I'll be interested to hear whether people think Randy Barnett is correct about this.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had a radio commentary yesterday which made some rather alarming suggestions. You can get the transcript here.

Here are some excerpts from the introduction:

Men and women within the Roman Catholic faith are still hoping that the church can change to more accurately reflect the World in which we live. This week-end, for example, an international conference will be held in Ottawa to support women's equality in religions. WOW, or Women's Ordination Worldwide, is fighting for the ordination of women in all Christian Churches. It says it wants to open a global debate on the issue. ... Bob Ferguson is a retired professor from the Royal Military College. He believes that Catholics are unlikely ever to see changes in policy on birth control or on the question of married or female priests. In fact, he says change won't come until the churches are forced to comply with the same human rights legislation that affects the rest of society.

The rest of the commentary is from Ferguson, who goes on to argue that churches should be forced to comply. Here are some further excerpts:

I wanted to point out an interesting article at the Baltimore Sun on legalizing prostitution. The author makes a fairly good case, at least from a utilitarian point of view, that prostitution should be allowed simply because fighting it is a waste of time:

...Legalizing prostitution would not be a moral endorsement of paid sex, any more than the First Amendment is a moral endorsement of supermarket tabloids. It would just be a recognition of the right of adults to make their own choices about sins of the flesh - and of the eternal futility of trying to stop them.

Before he continues his crackdown, Mayor Daley might reflect on the wisdom of one mayor of New Orleans. "You can make prostitution illegal in Louisiana," he said, "but you can't make it unpopular."

The hat tip for this goes to Gadfly's Muse, who argues, in part:

Since I've been writing about the disappearance of hell (here and here), I thought Pyromaniac's Monday menagerie post today was interesting -- he covers a Confucian exhibit he visited, "The Ten Courts of Hell", which graphically illustrates some Confucian teachings on their idea of hell (or perhaps more accurately a sort of purgatory). He writes this about the exhibit:

Here is where several generations of Singaporean parents have brought their children to scare them straight.

As an aside, it's worth pointing out that this isn't why I think hell and God's holiness and judgment are an important part of understanding the Christian message. Rather, as I argued in the comments on the last post, I think we need to understand the punishment we deserve from God, so that we can properly understand what he has done in sending Jesus Christ to die for our sins. And we need also need to understand what we deserve so that we will turn to Christ for salvation, rather than relying on ourselves or thinking we'll earn our own way to heaven.

I wrote the other day about the disappearance of hell from much of Christian thought and preaching. It's being replaced by a more "loving" notion of God, rather than a God who is "judgmental". I think this is unfortunate, and we need, instead, to maintain a Biblical and balanced view of God. We are not to take a single one of God's attributes in isolation. God's love needs to be understood in view of his justice and holiness, for example, and God's judgments need to be seen in view of his other attributes, as well.

This is the second post in a series on the subject. Here, I want to point out an article by D. A. Carson on Distorting the Love of God which I recommend. (Hat tip to Macht in the comments on the last post). He points out that there are different aspects of God's love, and if we focus on just one aspect, we lose sight of what God's love really means. He also argues that God's love, when properly understood, is a difficult doctrine. It's worth reading in its entirety, but here are some particularly good points:

Recently, one of my church leaders read Jonathan Edwards' Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God at a Fourth of July service at my church. By way of introduction, it was pointed out that this used to be commonly read in schools as part of American History or English, but this is falling by the wayside. The sermon is certainly a sobering one, and one I think everyone should read, even if they disagree.

Around the same time, I had a discussion with someone who said essentially that Edwards was too "fire and brimstone". My response was to argue that, as far as I can tell, Edwards' theology is Biblical theology. Granted, in that sermon he uses some graphic imagery. But the Bible itself speaks seriously about sin and punishment, and, at times, uses very graphical language.

I don't intend to blog primarily about evolution, etc. But this poll is too interesting not to point out, no matter what your views are on the topic. Here are a couple of interesting bits:

...a new national survey shows that almost two-thirds of U.S. adults (64%) agree with the basic tenet of creationism, that "human beings were created directly by God."

At the same time, approximately one-fifth (22%) of adults believe "human beings evolved from earlier species" (evolution) and 10 percent subscribe to the theory that "human beings are so complex that they required a powerful force or intelligent being to help create them" (intelligent design). Moreover, a majority (55%) believe that all three of these theories should be taught in public schools, while 23 percent support teaching creationism only, 12 percent evolution only, and four percent intelligent design only.

This part is also interesting:

Scripting/indexing help

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I'm working on a project to index a bunch of sermons for my church. I'm hoping I might be able to get some advice from some readers with experience on databases and/or scripting.

Evolution and the Pope

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There often seems to be some confusion about what the Roman Catholic church thinks about evolution, so it was with some interest that I read yesterday's editorial in the New York Times by Christoph Schönborn, a Roman Catholic cardinal and the archbishop of Vienna. Here's the introduction:

Ever since 1996, when Pope John Paul II said that evolution (a term he did not define) was "more than just a hypothesis," defenders of neo-Darwinian dogma have often invoked the supposed acceptance - or at least acquiescence - of the Roman Catholic Church when they defend their theory as somehow compatible with Christian faith.

But this is not true. The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things.

Schönborn goes on to quote Pope John Paul II fairly extensively, including this bit:

"All the observations concerning the development of life lead to a similar conclusion. The evolution of living beings, of which science seeks to determine the stages and to discern the mechanism, presents an internal finality which arouses admiration. This finality which directs beings in a direction for which they are not responsible or in charge, obliges one to suppose a Mind which is its inventor, its creator."

The editorial makes pretty clear that neither Pope John Paul II, nor the current Pope, see purely naturalistic evolution as a viable option. Apparently, in his famous "more than just a hypothesis" statement, John Paul II was pointing to evolution as a means (or mechanism) , not the cause. In other words, although evolution might have been how life got here in its present form, even if it was the "how", God was behind it as the "inventor".

Intro: Abednego

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First off, I want to thank Jeremy for inviting me to blog here. I've been an avid reader of this blog for quite some time and I'm honored that he's asked me to join in. I look forward to sharpening my wits by engaging in discussion with the regular readers here.

You'll be able to get a good idea of my interests as you see what I write about, so I won't go into that here. However, I will say that I'm a Christian, from a church that is generally Reformed, doctrinally. I didn't grow up as a Christian, however. In fact, I grew up thinking the Bible is basically baloney, and only later realized I'd been mistaken. Hopefully this helps me understand where people are coming from when they disagree with me, but I'll let you be the judge of that.

Some of my posts may stray into the philosophy of science to some extent, but I have to admit right off the bat that I'm not a philosopher, so if we get into any detailed philosophical discussions in the comments, I may have to plead ignorance occasionally to terminology and ask you to explain in plain English. I'll make an effort to do the same in my own posts.

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