Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Christian Year

This is from John Keble, one of the men from the Oxford Movement. This is a poem he wrote for the second Sunday in Advent. Enjoy.

And when these things begin to pass, then look up, and lift up your
heads; for your redemption draweth night. St. Luke xxi. 28.

Not till the freezing blast is still,
Till freely leaps the sparkling rill,
And gales sweep soft from summer skies,
As o'er a sleeping infant's eyes
A mother's kiss; ere calls like these,
No sunny gleam awakes the trees,
Nor dare the tender flowerets show
Their bosoms to th' uncertain glow.

Why then, in sad and wintry time,
Her heavens all dark with doubt and crime,
Why lifts the Church her drooping head,
As though her evil hour were fled?
Is she less wise than leaves of spring,
Or birds that cower with folded wing?
What sees she in this lowering sky
To tempt her meditative eye?

She has a charm, a word of fire,
A pledge of love that cannot tire;
By tempests, earthquakes, and by wars,
By rushing waves and falling stars,
By every sign her Lord foretold,
She sees the world is waxing old,
And through that last and direst storm
Descries by faith her Saviour's form.

Not surer does each tender gem,
Set in the fig-tree's polish'd stem,
Foreshow the summer season bland,
Than these dread signs Thy mighty hand:
But, oh, frail hearts, and spirits dark!
The season's flight unwarn'd we mark,
But miss the Judge behind the door,
For all the light of sacred lore:

Yet is He there; beneath our eaves
Each sound His wakeful ear receives:
Hush, idle words, and thoughts of ill,
Your Lord is listening: peace, be still.
Christ watches by a Christian's hearth,
Be silent, "vain deluding mirth,"
Till in thine alter'd voice be known
Somewhat of Resignation's tone.

But chiefly ye should lift your gaze
Above the world's uncertain haze,
And look with calm unwavering eye
On the bright fields beyond the sky,
Ye, who your Lord's commission bear
His way of mercy to prepare:
Angels He calls ye: be your strife
To lead on earth an Angel's life.

Think not of rest; though dreams be sweet,
Start up, and ply your heavenward feet.
Is not God's oath upon your head,
Ne'er to sink back on slothful bed,
Never again your loans untie,
Nor let your torches waste and die,
Till, when the shadows thickest fall,
Ye hear your Master's midnight call?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What's the point?

Ok, I have a confession to make. It my spare time (which is not very much just at the moment) I've been watching "The Vampire Diaries". I don't know if it is just a Twilight knock off or not, but this is what I don't get: the vampires are "good". I think the trend started with Angel from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"--you know, the soft, good natured, sensitive guy who just happened to suck human blood to stay alive. Then came "Interview with a Vampire" and who can't sympathize with Brad Pitt? Then Twilight came out, and vampires could stand in the sun and be beautiful instead of be burnt. And in the Vampire Diaries, as in Twilight, the "good" vampires are "vegetarian", that is, they eat animal blood instead of human blood to stay alive. They sleep in beds, not coffins. They don't drink human blood. They can eat garlic and stand in the sun... like I said in the title: What is the point? What is the point of having a vampire show if the vampires are not actually vampires? I feel like we need a little Bram Stoker's "Dracula" to remind us that vampires are supposed to be terrifying creatures of the night who prey on human life without remorse or pity. They are supposed to inspire terror, not teenage angst! Argh...

Ok, rant done. Of course, the simply solution is: ignore Twilight hype and stay away from bad TV. Point taken.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Machiavelli, Power and the Princess Bride

Augustine once famously pictured the state as a lawless pirate. Like a pirate, governments use coercive force to get their own way. Unlike a pirate, the state is powerful enough to do so without any bad consequences. Except for divine grace, the evil effects of the state would overwhelm mankind. Thankfully, divine grace intercedes and makes governments tolerable.
When Machiavelli wrote The Prince in 1513, he basically agreed with Augustine and took the theory one step further. Governments, according to Machiavelli, are entirely based upon power. All states are pirates. Especially the “good” ones. The trick is to appear to be good and virtuous on the outside, but be bad and manipulating on the inside. In fact, the more vicious you are in reality, the more important it is for you to appear pious and peace loving. Once you’ve fooled the majority of people, they will happily support you. Furthermore, even if you are pious and peace loving, you ought to learn how to be savage and dishonourable in order to survive. Thus, Machiavelli redefines virtue for the modern world: Virtue is the combination of abilities that allows you to survive. It has nothing to do with being good or moral, only with using force well. Machiavelli also points out that all the states which have survived have in fact already been doing this, whether they realized it or not. If you unmask even the most virtuous state, he says, you’ll find... a pirate––ruthless, corrupt, and power hungry.
This empirical observation has been oft repeated in books of political theory ever since. Yet one contemporary book powerfully challenges the Machiavellian thesis. William Goldman’s The Princess Bride (1973) contends that Machiavelli did not probe deep enough into the heart of humanity. In Goldman’s novel we are presented with the cruel Dread Pirate Roberts. He is a man who never allows prisoners to survive. He can out-fence and out-wrestle the greatest fighters on earth, showing his mastery of coercive force, and he can “go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line” and live to tell the tale, demonstrating his adeptness at manipulation and intrigue. Truly, this is a depiction of corrupt humanity in all its bloody glory. Yet, when the Dread Pirate Roberts is unmasked, the reader is shocked to discover that beneath the rapacious exterior lies the love-stuck, virtuous Wesley who gently whispers “As You Wish.”
Is this the death of Machiavelli? The virtuous state conceals the swashbuckling pirate, it is true. But is that the end of the story? Perhaps beneath the savage mask of piratey coercion lies the softly beating heart of True Love. Thus do we find layer upon layer.
With the empirically demonstrated link between the drop in number of pirates and the increase in global average temperature (see graph below), it is an environmental imperative that we do all that is within our power to encourage further political involvement, especially amongst apathetic Canadians. More politics means more pirates. More pirates means cooler global climes. We can save the planet and, thanks to the Goldman thesis, rest secure that the increase in piratical political activists will be under-girded by love. Huzzah!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Of Cosmic Miracles

I've been trying something new lately.

Autumn is coming here in Vancouver, and you can feel it. No really, you can! It drops down from the sky and smacks you in the face and stays with you for hours as your body heat slowly dries up the damp. In short, the rain is back.

We've been spoiled this summer with an excessively sunny season. It has been hot, dry, and cloudless nearly all summer. It was so bad that trees were dying because these BC folks have forgotten (as you do when you live in a rain forest) that if there is no rain you actually have to water trees to keep them alive.

Anyways, the rain is back, and people are complaining. So I've been trying something new. Every time someone looks annoyed and mentions "it's raining again..." I let a glazed, dreamy expression settle over my face with a half-smile, as if I'm remembering how my first crush made me feel when he smiled at me. Then I mumble "Yeah, isn't it great?" Typically I get a really weird look in response, wondering whatever could I mean, that this cold, wet, and gloomy reality is back. If they ask a question, they are in for it...

"It's a freaking cosmic miracle!" I explain "The very thing we need for life, liquid water, which is only liquid within fantastically small temperature ranges, is FALLING FROM THE SKY!... This is like better than money, or BBQed pork (for all you Lamb readers out there), or gold, or... or... pretty much anything! (although actually, beer would be pretty cool falling from the sky, though everything would be pretty sticky...). Pure water is falling from the sky for free! Do you know how rare this is? It's awesome!"

By this time, they are usually smiling quizically and saying "I've never thought of it that way" and they walk off with hopefully a little more gratitude in their hearts for the miracle they have just witnessed.

Random act of kindness for the day: check!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

School begins again...

I always feel like September is a time for new birth. New life. It is the real New Year in the student calendar. It is a time to recommit to devoting oneself to study. You make promises about how much you'll accomplish, and hope that you'll last just a little longer than last year before breaking them.
Everyone comes back from the summer, rested, renewed, and excited. New people come, and you always know that there will be new friends and old friends, and joyful meetings and boring repetitions of answers to the same three questions over and over and over again.
New paper, new books, and sharp pencils. Everything is made new.

Did I mention that I love September and the start of school?

This year, I am looking forward to a couple of things in particular. I am in a seminar that will be amazing. On political thought. I've spent the last couple weeks immersed in Aristotle's Politics and it was been amazing.

I am also looking forward to Anglican communion and mid-day prayers at the college. I think the loss of my daily communal prayer time has been one of the greatest losses of my summer. The structure of prayer is vital for my undisciplined self, and those daily refocussings help me to get out of myself. Especially the communion liturgy.
I always thought that liturgy would be boring, but I find that coming to the same words when you can be in such different places is a great gift. Some weeks I am bored, others I am distraught and stressed, others I am joyful. But the words remain the same, and so each week is like seeing it from a different perspective. Then, after, we go for lunch and talk about theology, politics, personal lives, the Anglican church, and whatever else.

I'm glad that school is starting again. Please, remind me of this in early November.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Torture and the Brave New World

I remember reading Frank Herbert's "Dune" series, and being somewhat morbidly impressed by the "pain box" which could cause unbearable pain without leaving any mark. Now, this has become a reality. The Silent Guardian has been produced to impose unbelievable pain by slightly microwaving pain nerves at exactly their most sensitive frequency. Can this really be considered by police forces?
The maker insists that there is no permanent damage, and that no one will stand more than a second of the agony. The plans for this, the very thought of it should be banished from the human mind. In today's world, the only apparent rule for torture is "don't leave a mark". This inflicts unbearable pain, and yet the person will never be able to "show" it later. Even worse, it is not limited to one particular spot on the body, but can encapsulate the entire body in agony, like being dipped in a pot of boiling oil, but without death to bring relief.

Of all the demonic inventions, I have yet to see anything that can equal this in its potential for injustice, cruelty, and hate.

At the moment, the beam is not held for long, and it seems that a little movement from the beam's path relieves the burning feeling. But it is just to use such a thing? What if (when?) it is abused? It could, indeed, save lives. But at what cost?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Just When You Thought...

Just when you thought the Christian film industry couldn't sink any lower, comes The Bike King and the Ten Commandments. Possibly the worst Christian film of all time, and that's just from seeing the trailer. Although, I must admit, the broken-record, CD-pooping God Tree is intriguing, and I actually quite like the anaconda Satan ("You can call me... the Prince of Darkness") those are more bonuses of irony, not of directorial intent.

Check it out.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Edmonton Adventures

I've come home for two weeks, only to be encountered by mystery here.

My second day home, we got an envelope in the mail. "A. Thorne" was all that was on the front, and it was not mailed but dropped off. It was thick in the middle. We opened it to see if we could find further identification inside since none of us know anyone by that name. Inside was a folded piece of paper filled with a slightly off white powder. Written on the paper was "See Message Above - From A. Thorne"

We did what most sane people would do if they found a package of white powder in the mail - we phoned the cops. They were going to send a car out, but since we were leaving the house, we said we'd drop it off. We brought it to the police station and after filling out the proper forms, etc. we took off.

Later that night we got a phone call from the police saying they had analyzed the powder. It was general mill flour.

The next day we got another envelope addressed to the "Household at 12..... Ave". Opening it up we were told that we were now subscribed to a website on astro-physics, which would cost us 1280 AstroMarks. Weird.

My mom started phoning the neighbours to see if they had gotten weird mail, and it turns out our next door neighbour's 14 year-old son was bored and playing practical jokes. He thought the flour would make a mess when we opened it, and so would be funny. The website was fake, and so would be funny.

He got quite a talking to from his parents, and came over to apologize looking pretty upset. I felt bad. It makes me wonder what kind of world we live in, when a practical joke immediately gets police involvement. Then again, what do you do when you find white powder in your mail box?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I've just been reading in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology as he tries to pull apart why "Theistic Evolution" is wrong. First, he completely screws up its definition, including general evolution but with interventions along the way. (This would be progressive creationism). Then he ridicules them for their inconsistency with Genesis ("And God said 'Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds' and after three hundred eighty-seven million four hundred nintey-two thousand eight hundred seventy-one attempts, God finally made a mouse that worked"). What kind of uninformed junk is this? All it does is show his own ignorance of both the genre and intention of the author(s) of Genesis and his own ignorance of Darwinian theory. Even worse is later when he starts pointing out the issues with Darwinian theory. Especially the classic micro-macro distinction. THERE ISN'T ONE!!! If you observe micro distinctions, those are the same thing that lead to the so-called "macro" evolutions. Even back in 1953, one of the guys who coined the third (and rather ignored) term of "megaevolution" (Simpson) said "At present I am inclined to think that all three of these somewhat monstrous terminological innovations have served whatever purpose they may have had and that clarity may now be improved by abandoning them." The only difference between them is time frame. Yes, yes, I hear you saying "but macroevolution is one species to another, and microevolution is within a species." Fine. Define a species for me then. "Why," says you "it is a reproductionally isolated family of animals". Great! Good definition! Unfortunately it is often impossible to tell if certain species can be crossed or not, and often (especially with plants) there is a range between 0% and 100% success rate in cross-breeding species. So if a plant has only a 3% chance of breeding (but can be crossed) with another plant, is it a separate species? Especially if compared to another plant with which it has a 90% success rate. All the same species? Not likely. There is also the problem of birds whose mating song changes. Physically they can reproduce, but because the song is different, the females won't mate. Different species? Technically, yes. Physically, no. The science books go with the technical answer.
Here's the deal: no one can define what exactly a species is because it is a false delineation, and like other distinctions we like to make (fruit/vegetable, animal/plant, living/non-living) nature just loves throwing things in that don't fit. Darwin didn't believe in "species" as a hard and fast delineation, and a comparison of numbers of species in any animal or plant encyclopedia will always disagree. So give it up!

Woo, ok, done ranting. Sorry. Got a little carried away there. I just can't stand smart people using their excellent brains to screw over people who don't have the chance to study at Harvard and Cambridge, etc.

I wonder if Grudem thinks the sun moves around the earth, as the Bible "clearly teaches"....

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


... Don't put it off today!

Seriously though, I should be working on my thesis. But it is that mid-afternoon lull when my mind is not very sharp, and trying to introduce the issues that plate tectonics brings into theodicy is just not working well. I also sat in on an interesting round table discussion today: "Agonies and Ecstasies: Women in the Church, Academy, and Society". Suddenly, I've been inundated with feminist thought and I'm not sure what to do about it. Part of me wants to stay away from the whole debate and just go on with what I'm doing without trying to look to close at it. Maybe I'd rather not know.
On ther other hand, it feels a good deal like it did right before I got into the science/religion debate... standing on the edge of a huge and tangled issue, not sure if I want to get involved, but realizing that I'll probably find it immensely fascinating and hugely frustrating.

Do I want to go there? Don't know yet.

Well, back to work.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I've been thesising for two weeks now. I'm not quite sure if I like it or hate it. It is nice in terms of the amount of focus on just this one area. There are no little assignments, no reading logs, no distractions. Yet, that almost makes everything a distraction. I've put myself on quite a definite schedule -- two weeks per chapter. I've finished chapter 1 within the time frame, though there are a couple of flow issues that need editing. Yet, I feel too close to the material to properly interact with it at this point. I'm scattered, trying to figure out how to talk about several different issues that are very close to each other, without actually repeating myself, and yet allowing the argument to build over the pages. Instead of one cohesive argument, it feels kind of like herding cats. Each cat is a part of the argument, but it has its own mind and only wants to serve its own particular interests. Argh! How do you make this come together?

One chapter at a time. Keep the later chapters in mind, but don't try and write them now. Let them wait. How do I make this chapter flow? I'm not sure. The last third is fine, but there is repetition amongst the first two sections...

Hmm... sorry folks, I'm getting carried away with my "inside thoughts", and using this as a stream of consciousness which I am sure you are not interested in. Instead, listen to this:

If you get an e-mail warning you about the dangers of eating processed pork due to the swine flu, feel free to ignore it, it's just spam. (hehe...)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Seeing yourself though another's eyes

I just had a moment of clarity.

I've been reading a variety of material for my thesis on evolutionary theodicy, and one of the articles was Wesley J. Wildman's in the book Physics and Cosmology. Basically, he holds that people (like me) who hold to a good, personal, and omnipotent Creator are self-deluded, optimistic folk who ignore the fundamental realities of the world we live in. The violence inherent in nature, the dog-eat-dog world, and the lack of divine intervention should undermine any confidence in such a God. However, after reading his well-written article, I find myself still convinced of the truth of my "wildly-optimistic", but caring, God. Even in the face of the reality of the world. Perhaps (as I argue in my thesis), partly because of it, and because of my commitment to the words of Scripture as faithfully portraying God.

Then, I started reading Kenneth Miller's Finding Darwin's God, where he describes how Henry Morris holds to a Young Earth Creationist scheme in the face of all available evidence to the contrary because of his committment to Scripture. To my mind, it looks ludicrous, and fails to understand even the basics of biblical interpretation. To Wildman, however, I look as ludicrous as Morris does to me. Optimistic, fundamentalist, and unable to face the facts of life.

My only defence comes in the form of holding that science and religion hold separate arenas of inquiry into truth. Observing nature can no more tell us the ethical nature of God or the world than smelling can tell us the colour of an object. Perhaps I am wildly optimistic to believe in a caring, personal God. But that God has interacted with us in history, in the person of Jesus Christ. This is something a ground-of-being god could and would not do. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

Still, it is somewhat discomforting to see myself reflected in someone like Morris. Brings me back to the "everyone is logical in their own mind"... it is just a matter of understanding them before condemning them. Though, I still completely disagree with YEC, just for the record.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Beginning of Resurrection

My last post was made just before Good Friday. This post is now after Easter. And that, it seems, has made all the difference.

I've been offered a TA position in Old Testament, which will be a lot of fun. I've also worked out a plan to work with the history professor that I wanted to work with so badly, and in a way that will give me much better feedback on the places I need work. And, just moments ago, my new thesis proposal was approved without reservation. (A quick note to all you kids out there: if you can't beat them with brevity, overwhelm them with length and details. A 12,000 word proposal for a 40,000 word thesis gets approved apparently.)

In fact, quite ironically, one of the committee called the new one "much tighter" than my original 3,500 word proposal. Unbelievable!

Apart from that I'm only waiting on Cambridge, but that is largely irrelevant, since I won't be going in October anyways. It's been a tough lent, but worth the wait.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Well, the first of my "waiting list" is answered. I was turned down for the history TA position. I feel bad, and sad, and I'm not quite finished pouting yet, but the process of applying for this has gotten me into some really interesting material that I wouldn't have otherwise read:
-Works on Historiography (Bebbington, etc.)
-The Communist Manifesto
I'm also finding that it is hard to be disappointed with people rather than God. God has a ready ear and you can say all that you want to to him. That is not always the case with people.

In some ways, the church calendar this year is perfect. All this waiting, and then, great disappointment (and more to come, I'm sure! I still have many more on my list.)
I don't quite have the faith yet to look for the resurrection... I'm not quite ready. Perhaps I'll go fishing. But I'll keep an eye on the shore.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Still Waiting

I think I'm finally getting what Lent is actually about. The rack-like tension of waiting. My culture has taught me to want to have instant gratification. Our instant e-mails mean we get answers nearly as soon as we ask the question. Now, however, I am waiting. And the answers are not coming. And that is not a bad thing. It is shaping me, like the burning blade being shaped and forged under the blacksmith's harsh hammer strokes. There is no easy way to do it.

Unfortunately, instead of waiting throughout Lent for the death and resurrection of Jesus, I have been waiting for answers in my own little world. Some days I remember to transfer my thought and my waiting to the greater story, but mostly I don't. That, however, will be my goal for this last week - to wait for the story of the passion week to be played out. To wait for the passion, the death, the resurrection.

To live again the story of how my faith came to be.

(The clock is the chronophage clock at Cambridge - the time devourer)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Preview: Next Lent

So, at lunch today with the Anglicans, I decided what I would do for next year's lent: eschatological vegetarianism. I mean, if you are going to go vegetarian for lent, you might as well go eschatological as well...

What? 'What does it mean' you ask?
Well, the eschatological vegetarianism is a recognition that we exist in the already but not yet kingdom of God where the continual inbreaking of the Trinitarian God in Sabbath calls us towards a sacramentally ontological paradigm of existence while recognizing that the outpouring of shalom from that eschatological reality involves the entire cosmos in its redemption scheme.

Got it? Good.

Spread the word.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Merry Christmas!! .. I mean, Easter?!

So, we are a little confused about the seasons here in Vancouver. Apparently, the Powers that be thought a really good April Fools joke would be to cover the whole city in snow... again. So I'm sitting in the relative warmth and safety of Regent watching the white stuff come down all around me. Still amused at the native Vancouverite inability to deal with the stuff. It looks like buses are still running, since it hasn't yet piled up on the roads, but if this keeps up, the whole city is liable to grind to a halt.

How much snow in a winter does it take for these BCers to realize that it snows in Canada and they should be prepared? Then again, why am I here if it is snowing in April? I thought moving here was supposed to avoid this kind of silliness. Apparently not.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sex Lectures

My 95 year-old landlady came to the Regent "sex lecture".

Recipe for disaster? Nope. She did brilliantly, and was even used as a object lesson on how just how recent many of the changes in modern views on sexuality are--the ones talked about in the lecture have all happened within her life time. (She met Sarah just before the lecture started)

It was also interesting to hear her perspectives on things as we sat for coffee in the atrium afterwards. She's seen these changes from the inside, and has both an important affirmation of some of the changes that have occurred, and a wise critique.

I wasn't sure how she would respond to the lecture, but she responded with her typical thoughtfulness, graciousness, humour, and deep interaction. If I could grow old with half her grace, I would count myself lucky.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Everything is rushing in... and I am still waiting...

I am frustrated. I feel like I have no time for doing my assignments left, and at the same time I feel utterly frozen in time. It's like being on a medieval rack, while neither being able to move forward or accomplish things I need to.

What am I waiting for?
-Thesis proposal submitting and approval
-Word from Cambridge
-Acceptance of an abstract for a conference paper
-Three TA positions I've applied for

These things will absolutely shape the next year for me. I know what will happen for the next two weeks - after that, it all depends on these things. I can't hurry it up, nor can I enjoy the time leading to it, since that is filled with doing assignments that feel like eating chalk. The assignments are not bad, I'm just already looking past them. I don't even care about the actual answer, I just want to know one way or the other. I've been left in limbo with Cambridge since October...

Maybe I need to take a page from my father's book: be all here, now. Or maybe that was Jesus: "who of you, by worrying, can turn one hair black or white?" "each day's evil is enough".

So, I'll put my blinders on and get to work: Hebrew, another history gobbet, and my cosmic fall paper. It's all I can do.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I should be working

I'm sitting in the Regent library, completely unable to concentrate.


Typically when I want to get down to work, I can. But my thoughts today are flying out of control. I'm in an awkward phase of waiting... waiting on things that I can not control in the least - my applications (both for TA positions and for PhD admittance) and for my supervisor to look over my new thesis proposal (my original one was rejected by the thesis proposal committee last week). I've rewritten it, and sent it to my supervisor, but because it is reading week, I haven't heard anything back.

I don't like waiting. I like working. Give me something that I can get down to - that I can change and work on. But being left in suspense with literally weeks ahead promising little change and no answers is hard. I've been told that Graduate school is often an endurance race. Due to the heavy work load, I hardly ever feel like that is the case - more like a sprint for the finish. Today, however, things are moving as slow as molasses, and the one thing that I can work on is entirely unappealing. Regardless, I must buckle down and plod on, setting everything else aside to finish a paper I'm only tangentially interested in. If I can only get this one done...

... I can get started on the next one!

Where does it end?

May your road, dear reader,
be clear and enticing,
both calling and inviting you forward,
into the newness that is now.

Monday, February 23, 2009


So, I was looking in Irenaeus (an early Church Father) for the answer to my questions about creation, evolution, and everything. Instead, I find that he probably started the "Left Behind" series.
Check this out:
For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded.
And for this reason the Scripture says: “Thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their adornment. And God brought to a conclusion upon the sixth day the works that He had made; and God rested upon the seventh day from all His works.” This is an account of the things formerly created, as also it is a prophecy of what is to come. For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years; and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year.

How crazy is that! Ol' LaHaye wasn't so original now was he?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy 200th Darwin!

You may not realize it, but this is a very historically important year for the science of biology. Today (Feb 12th) is Charles Darwin’s birthday. He was born in 1809, and in November of 1859 he published the famous (and infamous) Origin of Species, making this year a tidy double anniversary. With all the rising excitement surrounding these celebrations we can expect the usual claims and counterclaims about the great scientist. On one hand, expect to see the young earth creationist faction denouncing Darwin as demonically inspired (Henry Morris has said “Satan himself is the originator of the concept of evolution”). On the other hand, there is no doubt that Darwin’s contemporary ‘high priests’ will want to use Darwin as the figurehead for the advancement of materialistic atheism — touting him as the saviour who “made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”

The reality is that Darwin would not have supported either program. He was not trying to overthrow Christianity in favour of atheism because in fact, Darwin was never an atheist. In a letter he wrote three years before his death, Darwin stated “In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.— I think that generally (& more and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.” Equally in his Autobiography Darwin states that in regards to his religious belief he “deserve[s] to be called a Theist” due to his recognition of intelligence in the architecture of the universe. On the other hand, the myth of his deathbed recantation is also false, as has been confirmed by Darwin’s son Francis.
Darwin was religiously a moderate man. Yet as recently as this summer, big time multimedia has been attacking him once again, associating his views with atheism, racism and support of eugenics. In a kind of “strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter” logic, Ben Stein’s movie Expelled quotes the following from Darwin:
With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick, thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. Hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

What Expelled misses (and I can only think that it was intentionally done) is the very next paragraph where Darwin explicitly states that he does not support the idea of eugenics. In reference to humans he says:
Nor could we check our sympathy, if so urged by hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil.

Darwin was a good man, and a great scientist. Not only did he not support eugenics, he opposed racism, was staunchly against slavery, and would have been appalled at “social Darwinism”. He was a prototypical Victorian gentleman, whose letters and books were filled with equal measures of humour and wit. But why take my word for it? Why not take a moment to get to know the man yourself? As the world celebrates his 200th birthday, crack open Origin of Species or read some of his letters, and look past the ugly rhetoric to discover the real Charles Darwin.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Food for thought.

I went to my professor's house last night. To cook steak. Apparently the English have no idea what to do with it. I realized that must be the case when I suggested we use the BBQ and I got a blank stare and a "Whatever for?" in response.

After that, I decided to take full control of that part of the meal. I even brought my own (cast iron) frying pan. I also made pasta and brought all my own materials, just in case. I asked the prof. to take care of the vegetables. When I got there, she had five different dishes on the go, and salad. When we finished cooking and sat down to the meal, her kids were exclaiming "We haven't had a meal like this since Christmas!"

There was an abundance of food, laughter, and stories. My special steak marinade was a happy success, and even the daughter who had had a tooth out earlier in the morning bravely ate a good chunk of it. I think my favorite part of the meal was when the daughters asked their mandatory "guest questions". One was "Would you rather go to school/work naked, or be squished by an elephant?" It took me about 2 seconds to decide on the elephant.

The warmth and humor of the meal followed by an ultra-intense game of Dutch-Blitz was wonderful. It made me miss home. Family is such a great thing, and despite all the craziness that normally surrounds them, I wouldn't give mine up for anything. The memories of laughing, eating, teasing, and (invariably with my family) talking about fecal matter will always remain precious.

Thanks Mom and Dad.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It has been too long!

Hello dear reader,

I am sorry I have not posted in a long time. I will try to do better in the future. I have been coping with lots lately:

a full grad school course load
publishing a paper
writing a thesis proposal
applications to Ph.D. programs
getting in shape
teaching a course at my church on Genesis

It is this last one I'd like to write about. I just finished my second class with these dear people. They are so brave and smart I am ashamed to be teaching the class! They are understanding in moments what it took me months to get. And they are learning this incredibly challenging material with grace and courage. My course undermines great deals of their presuppositions about Scripture, and is really shaking them, and they are responding so well. Today we looked at the Ancient Near Eastern mythologies and compared them to Genesis. It was criminal how much I threw at them, and they took it in stride. I am so proud of them!
I've never realized this before, but I think teaching might be more for the teacher than for the student.

Well, I'm going to go to bed, with the cat purring beside me, the stars twinkling over the mountains outside, and the sound of opera drifting up the stairs outside my room!

Good night!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

We have been immersed in fog here for just about a week. Sometimes, it is so thick you cannot see half a block. At the moment, I can tress about a block away, but after that, all is consumed. Out of the fog though, the haunting sound of fog horns sounding in the bay is almost continuous. I know of no sound that arouses such a longing for the sea and it induces such a wanderlust that I can hardly concentrate on my work.

My work. I have been reading through "Origin of Species" as well as through Darwin's correspondence with a Harvard biologist named Asa Gray. I am now into my 75th letter between them. It is a strange thing to read into their close friendship. These were often personal letters, not meant to be shared. But now I have been involved in Darwin's life and contacts sufficiently that even personal references are familiar and I don't have to go looking to see who "so and so" is. Maybe all this reading of England the descriptions of Cambridge are adding to the feelings of wanderlust. I had such a wonderful time there this summer, and could easily return. And now that I am studying Darwin there is so much more I would ask! All these questions come to mind, and the only reason I did not entirely miss out on what was happening was because Denis Lamoureux had prepared me and told me what to watch for.

Oh wow! I think I've just felt my first earthquake here! Suddenly everything was subtly vibrating, like a big truck was going by. But I am in a quiet neighbourhood, and that does not really happen here. It lasted about 15 seconds. And then everything is back to normal - fog horns, and traffic. I'll check later and let you know - I think it is too early to tell for sure and nothing will be on the web yet.

Until next time!