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In American culture, including the academy, there are actually very few unique objections to Christianity. It is helpful to understand six basic ones and recognize when someone is proclaiming a variation and then understand a humble but solid response.

Tim Keller, the author and pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City labels these objections as ‘defeaters.’ As academics of faith, I suggest we have a certain responsibility to be able to competently discuss these defeaters with both our students and colleagues.

The Things We Can't Talk About

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
I Corinthians 13:12

Have you ever thought about how, even though we live in a free country, there are many things that we just can’t talk about?

I’m not just talking about “religion and politics” or politically correct speech, though those are certainly a large part of it. There are many things that we cannot or should not reveal about ourselves or discuss with others.

Some health ailments, we are taught, have taboos associated with them, so don’t discuss them, even if you are concerned about the health of someone who obviously has one. Are you considering looking for a new job? Better keep quiet or be very careful. Family history should be “kept in the family.” Trade secrets are just that, secret. And so on.


My laptop is dying a slow death. The optical drive (CD/DVD) doesn’t work, it starts up about half the time and takes forever the other half, it runs too hot, and today I discovered that the built-in webcam no longer ‘exists’ as far as the computer is concerned.

It is old enough and I’ve made enough upgrades that HP doesn’t want to touch it. I scoured the web most of the afternoon looking for help on the webcam issue because I need it for a project. Found a users forum where two people have the same problem with the same machine and no solutions.

Ministry Ideas

Even though it is only June, I am starting to begin to maybe think about what the faculty ministry here will look like in the fall. What will we do? How can we engage ‘lurkers’ in our fellowship who are on our list, but otherwise seem to be ‘silent partners?’ How can we effectively and with sensitivity seek out other faculty who may be interested in fellowship or even in asking questions about issues of faith in a safe environment? How often will we gather? Will we attempt any ‘major’ events? How can we stand up for Christ on campus in a winsome way that seeks reconciliation?

More fundamental questions are: Where and how is God already moving on campus and how is He inviting us to participate? How can we be more faithful and fervent in prayer (one of my greatest weaknesses)?

I am inviting suggestions and comments, preferably from other faculty, both in the States and around the world. What has worked for you and what hasn’t? If you know why, please share that also! Let’s make this post a forum for sharing ideas among the worldwide body of Christian faculty.


Dependence and Preparedness

On my front porch, I have a barn swallow nest. I wrote about it a few weeks ago here. The swallows have recently hatched another clutch of four shown in the picture to the left. Tonight as I watched the chicks waiting to be fed by their parents, I realized some parallels.

The chicks are always hungry. They are waiting urgently for food. If they think that food is coming, they stretch forward with all of their energy, crying for attention with mouths wide open. They are unable to get their own food and must wait for it to be hand (beak?)-delivered. The parents put the food directly into their mouths in a manner akin to a lion tamer putting his head inside the mouth of the great feline. It is up to the parents to make sure that all are fed enough.


{Note:  Computer problems nixed last night’s post. My apologies.}

What is a perfect life?

This weekend we are all over at my sister’s for various family events. It is a busy, rocking household under normal conditions, but with grandparents, cousins and other relations all present, “plan” is even more of a four letter word.

The living room is strewn with toys and clean-up consists of shoving the mess into a corner to reduce tripping and breakage. There is a known set of activities, but the logistics change without notice, like cloud formations on a windy day.

Syllogism of Sin

To sin is to put anything above God.

God is the self-existing one.

Therefore, He is Life and the source of life.

Therefore, to sin is to put something else above the source of life.

This puts a barrier between the one who sins and the source of life.

To be cut off from life and the source of life results in death.

Therefore, it makes sense that the wages of sin is death, as the Bible claims.


Opportunities in Interruption

Last night I had a hard time getting to sleep. Just as I’d drift off, something would wake me:  the storm that passed through (Thank you, LORD!!!), my charging phone chirping as the power flickered, etc., leading me to unwillingly greet 4 am.

I know many folks who when they have trouble getting to sleep, see it as an opportunity from God to pray, and I admire that, and wish I’d think of that more often. Usually, I’m working too hard trying to get back to sleep to think of it though.

Makes me wonder how many other times I miss an opportunity to pray because I’m trying too hard to accomplish what I’m “supposed” to be doing in spite of interruptions and obstacles.


The Walls Have Ears (and the Net Has Eyes)

It’s amazing what you can learn about a person on the web—even about folks who have never touched a computer are there, waiting to be discovered.

I was talking with a student today when he commented how he liked this blog. I do not advertise this blog to my students. He, like many web savvy students today, make a habit of doing web searches on their instructors to see what they can learn about them, much the way a prospective employer will do for a job applicant.

Dynamics of Life

There is a mirage in life bigger than the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and more enticing than the ‘water’ over hot pavement. It’s called satisfaction.

When we are having a great time, we never want it to end.

When we are eating great food, we never want to get full.

Father's Day

In his sermon today, my pastor gave some interesting statistics (I do not know his source and it is really late, so I apologize for not fact checking the source):
                33% of children in the US have no consistent/any father present
                If a father is present and spiritually active, then the chances of their children being spiritually active in their lives are 75%.
                If a father is absent and/or not spiritually active (didn’t catch the exact qualifications here), then there is only a 15% the offspring will be spiritually active.
                These stats are independent of the spiritual activity of the mother.

Pray for the fathers in this nation.


Vibrant Dance Revisited: Faith: Able or Willing?

I spent most of the posts back in November summarizing the Vibrant Dance Symposium on Faith and Science that occurred here in Austin back in October. One of the speakers was Alister McGrath, the British scientist and theologian, who, though unable to travel to the symposium sent a video presentation.

While an overall excellent presentation, he did make a point I wanted to visit at a later date. Turns out that’s today. At one point, McGrath argued that some people (mostly scientists) are trapped within reason, and unable to make the leap to faith.

I largely disagree with that statement philosophically. They are presupposing a purely naturalistic universe—but they do demonstrate faith in daily life, but it is faith based on reason, not blind faith.

"Before and After"

“To err is human…” Alexander Pope

I just watched a 1996 Meryl Streep/Liam Neeson movie, Before and After. The Netflix summary describes it as, “Carolyn and Ben Ryan (Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson) see their tranquil life turned upside down when their son Jacob's (Edward Furlong) young girlfriend is murdered. Soon, all fingers begin to point in Jacob's direction, as he was the last to see her alive. When Jacob disappears, the Ryans must deal with the growing speculation about their son's involvement and the backlash surrounding the tragedy. The film is based on Rosellen Brown's 1992 novel.”

Without giving spoilers, how would you react if you made a serious mistake? What if you suspect someone you love of making a serious mistake? What are your options? What would you do? If a tragedy happens in your small town, how do you respond to the families at its center?

Do I Know You

Great Bible Study tonight on John 10 at Hill House!

Two scenarios:
1)      You are hosting a seminar speaker and while walking down the hall with them, you see, coming towards you a colleague from another department with a joint appointment whom you know but rarely see. You start to introduce your guest and realize that your colleague’s name has completely left you. Awkward for all involved.
2)      You are at an international conference. Coming down the hall is the founder of your field, whom you met once 30 years ago when a first year grad student. You start to introduce yourself to them, but they interrupt, call you by name, saying, “I remember meeting you at the Helsinki conference in ‘82. I’m impressed with your work so far and am looking forward to your talk tomorrow at 3:20.” You feel like you have ‘arrived,’ and the talk you were bored about giving now has significance.


In light of several high profile instances of laptops containing being lost or stolen in recent years, and due to recent losses of university laptops, my school is implementing mandatory encryption of all laptops that contain sensitive university data on them, whether they are personal or university owned. I think this is a wise idea and isn’t a bad one for every laptop owner to consider.

Dad and I were discussing this today. The chief disadvantage is that sometimes it is helpful to swap hard drives on computers for testing/diagnosis, file transfers and other legitimate actions. However, the ease of hard drive swapping is exactly why encryption is being implemented—to lock a hard drive down if someone is trying to access it by attaching it to another computer and bypassing user authentication.

HWJV: How Would Jesus Vote?

At grave risk of breaking my rule to be apartisan in this blog, I feel compelled to comment on the issue of Christians in politics.

Growing up in Texas, at least post-Reagan, it has been commonly viewed among evangelicals here that you can’t be a Christian and Democrat or a Christian and politically liberal. I had a roommate in grad school who grew up in Pennsylvania believing you couldn’t be a Christian and a Republican. Obviously, what we have here is the heart of Christian unity.

Future Shock

Today I was talking with a friend who is soon to return to her native country after a year at Texas. While here, she had some experiences that led her to becoming a Christian. One of the things we discussed was culture shock, and how much worse it usually is returning home than leaving, a phenomenon known as “reverse culture shock.”

"Drug Problem"

Today in church, a duo sang the following Bellamy Brothers song from their 2007 project, "Jesus is Coming." It is rather humorous with a strong heart of truth. I’ll let the words tell the story.

I hear people talkin’ about going “cold turkey”
Dryin’ out, checkin’ into Betty Ford
But I just can’t relate to all those strange addictions
Cuz my drug problem never went ignored

Working Together

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.                                Ecclesiastes 4:12

It is cliché to say that times are tough. It is also true. Some of the more dire prognosticators foretell of economic collapse globally and complete devaluation of the dollar. Money only has the value we give it and it is a means of converting our effort, skills, toil, expertise and investments into a portable and broadly acceptable format in exchanges for products or services offered by others. That is all money is.

When money has no value, OR when we are unable to convert our personal resources into money, that is the definition of economic hard times at its most fundamental level. Therefore, we are obligated to find other means of using our personal resources (skills, talents, gifts, strengths, passions) to obtain things we need/want for life.

Who's In Control?

In our modern, highly technologically advanced age, it is easy to assume self sufficiency and the ability to make our wishes come true. There is an attitude in this age that if an idea sounds good or works on paper, then it should work in real life.

While some humans have always been tempted by such thoughts throughout history (mostly the young, the powerful, the rich), in today’s America and the developed world, it is easier for more people to think this more successfully more of the time, and all the more so as we have moved into climate controlled urban areas that provide readymade food, water, sanitation and other creature comforts.

There’s just one problem.

What is Fair?

This spring term I had two nearly identical academic integrity cases. Two sets of partners turned in nearly identical lab reports, with attempts to hide it by changing fonts and other cosmetics. My default penalty for such situations is a zero for both parties. However, in each case, it turned out that one student had let their partner have access to their report with good intentions, and the partner stole the work, claiming it as their own.

Muddle Choice Test

Someone once said something to the effect that “For the believer in Christ, this world is the most of Hell they’ll ever see. For the unbeliever, this world is the most of Heaven they will ever see.”

That sounds like a pretty easy T/F question, A or B. Simple. However, to us educators, test making is an art. A ‘well-designed’ multiple choice question will have a variety of plausible answers. If you make this common mistake, you will get “A,” this other mistake will be “C,” and so on, such that only the student who really understands the material will pick the right answer. Neither guessing nor partial understanding will help. Students tend to hate this kind of question because they feel like they are being tricked, when really the instructor wants to see how well you really understand the material. On the occasion when I’ve done this technique and had the time, I would set up the key so that these partial answers would receive partial credit, and the closer you got to the right answer, the more points received. However, few take the time to go to this extra step because it does take a LOT more effort, and I only did either occasionally.

Some people perceive this is how God has stacked the deck against them.