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"This Space Intentionally Left Blank"

Ever notice signs or other messages that seem nonsensical? Some, like the title of the post are printed on forms so you know that all pages/text are present and not missing. Some, like the sign (behind the main building of my university ) on the left, seem to indicate someone just wasn’t paying attention to their work.

Many things in life have the appearance of wisdom but are foolish and many things have the appearance of foolishness yet do have significance.

Culinary Apologetic

Most of us enjoy food. But did you ever stop and think how unique our food selections are? Most animals live on a rather limited palate. In fact, some animals require extremely specific food sources. If that one source disappears, the entire population starves. But not us. Not only can we eat a wide variety of foods, but we are able to combine and manipulate food items to create amazing and tasty concoctions. This is remarkable when you think about it.

Personal Finance

With all of the hullabaloo in Washington over the debt ceiling, it reminds me of yet another area where our educational system fails our students, and ultimately our country. For the most part, we don’t teach students how money works.

We assume that money is merely an application of math, but it is a system just like Euclidian math, or grammar or stoichiometry are systems for doing tasks. Unless you take an elective or are a banking/finance or related major, you are not exposed to how our monetary system works, how wealth is created and destroyed, how the different areas of the economy have constructive and destructive interference patterns just like light or waves, and so on.

The Consolation Prize of Heaven

“On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
John 11:17-26

Based on the above context, how do you read Christ’s question at the end of the passage?

One possible interpretation is illustrated by the following story. A woman loses her husband of many years. As she is grieving, Jesus appears, puts His arms around her shoulders comfortingly and says, “My daughter, I am so sorry for your loss. To help, I will introduce you to another man, who will please you so greatly that you will completely forget about the husband you have lost.”

If My People, Part 3: Conditions

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
II Chronicles 7:14

Micah 6:8 says simply, “He has shown thee, O Man, what is good and what the Lord desires of thee:  but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”

As poetic as that verse is, it is hard sometimes to put feet on it—to see how that works in daily life. The 2 Chronicles verse in some ways is a parallel passage, and expands Micah 6:8 into four principle tasks.

If My People, Part 2: Now What?

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
II Chronicles 7:14

Yesterday, I explained the primary reason why it is problematic for Christians to claim the above verse, namely that it is a promise explicitly given to the nation of Israel after the dedication of Solomon’s temple, and the context of the verse strongly implies a physical nation with real estate, something that the Church simply does not have (with the possible exception of Vatican City).

But, as Christians (literally, ‘those like Christ’), don’t we have more reason to claim that we are called by His Name than Israel (literally ‘strives with God’)? Yes, but we are not a nation, nor a “kingdom of this world.” Furthermore, as Christians, we are literally under a new covenant with God, and the Chronicles verse is made to those under the old. As St. Paul indicates (in Galatians, I think), why would we seek promises from the old covenant when the new is so much better?

Where does that leave us? Do we have any recourse when faced with natural disasters, war, political crises and the like?

"If My People..."

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
II Chronicles 7:14

This is an oft quoted verse by Christians, claiming a promise from God for the restoration and healing of our country, the United States of America. As far as that goes, it isn’t a terrible thing. But it is often done out of ignorance or glibly, and that is a problem.

First, we quote it out of context, and that is always a dangerous thing. Who is speaking? Obviously God, but under what circumstances and to whom? Read this larger segment:

Getting the Story

Vacation was nice. I visited friends in Colorado, Oklahoma and some time with family here in Texas. While in Colorado, I spent some time in Fort Collins just before the biannual conference of all Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru) staff. I was able to visit with dear friends from both undergrad and grad days who are now working, as it turns out, with Cru’s faculty ministry, Faculty Commons.

On staff member with whom I chatted at a FC picnic was Steve Sternberg, who works at SMU. He told me how he has learned to hear people’s stories, and gave me permission to share it here.

“Two Roads Diverged in a Wood…”

{Note:  Today will be the last post for about a week while I take a few days to recharge. Feel free to peruse previous posts until then!}

Back in January, I did an episodic version of my essay, “What is Science?” It is my primer on the history and philosophy of science—the how and why we do science the way we do. It also covers, very briefly, the nature and types of proof, and how scientific proof is not universally appropriate in all fields of science, and how confusion can easily arise over the issue.

In other posts, the difference between philosophical and methodological naturalism has been examined.

Next week, the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) will be discussing the adoption of various supplemental materials in science courses to update the textbooks to reflect changes in the state public school achievement exams.


My subdivision is in a semirural area with hayfields, pastures and brush all around. Most of Texas is in a severe drought right now, and the ground is beyond parched. There are cracks in my back yard that are several inches wide and nearly a foot deep. It’s dry.

Today, a tractor harvesting hay in a nearby field somehow sparked a fire, that with the high wind, sent the flames within a few hundred yards of our homes.

The Beginning of a Bad Joke, or What the West Needs to Remember?

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks

A rabbi, a Chinese communist and a pastor walked into a bar…

This is what first comes to mind when reading this article by a British rabbi. In “China is reversing the decline and fall of Christianity,” Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks shares research by Chinese social scientists that what made the West rise to such astonishing heights was not our guns, our politics, or our economics, but something that led to all of these—our Christianity. In fact, two western authors have reported that as of two years ago there are more Christians in China than Communist Party members and the numbers are growing.

Requirements for a Faculty Ministry 2: Evangelism

Like prayer, evangelism is a touchy subject for faculty, probably more so. In the academy, Christianity is viewed as out of date, intolerant, and pushy. This is primarily because of the exclusive truth claims it makes. Evangelism as traditionally understood and performed exacerbates nearly all of the issues our colleagues have with our faith.

How dare we say that Jesus is the only way! How dare we even consider telling others that they should convert from their own worldview! It is a beautiful expression of their culture and individuality. How dare we declare that certain activities are unacceptable and even sinful. Morality is outdated. Ethics are the new standards and if my personal choices do not directly harm you, then what right do you have to tell me they are wrong?

"All Good Things..."

Today was bittersweet. It was the last launch of a US Space Shuttle, the opening scene of the last act of one of the greatest chapters of human exploration and American innovation. I remember the first launch of Columbia on April 12, 1981. I have a poster of the liftoff. It was two weeks after President Reagan survived an assassination attempt, four months after the Iranian hostages were released, and the United States was in the middle of one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression. Times were hard. In the midst of this stress, the successful launch of the first space shuttle was a much needed encouragement for our nation. It literally lifted our spirits, and restored national pride.

The above probably seems overly sentimental and nostalgic to some, especially those too young to remember it. But it is true. I was just becoming aware of the world outside of home and school, and it wasn’t a pretty picture. There are a number of correlations to today’s headlines, and instead of finding new inspiration, we are closing some down.

Requirements for a Faculty Ministry 1: Prayer

Today I was talking with a campus minister who works with our faculty group. He mentioned that his organization is going to focus this next year on prayer and evangelism in the various faculty ministries around the country.

Prayer is somewhat of a touchy subject for me. I have been blessed with several spiritual gifts, but prayer is not one of them. In other words, prayer doesn’t come easily to me and it isn’t the first thing I think of typically when I have a problem. However, that does not excuse me from doing it, and it is therefore a discipline I must challenge myself to develop. It is well and good for those with ‘the gift of prayer,’ and I ask any of you with it to lift university faculty up in prayer to the Lord fervently, faithfully, and frequently. (Preaching may be one of my gifts—three points all starting with the same letter—I’m golden!)

For the rest of us, which is probably a majority, we still have a responsibility to pray.

Integrity Among Educators

A relative, who is a retired educator, sent this link to today’s post by a blogger with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It covers a breaking scandal in the Atlanta public school district where, from the superintendent on down, there was a culture of corruption to cheat on the state-mandated standardized tests, including intimidating teachers who failed to do what it took to raise scores or who objected to the unethical practices.

Higher Ed is not immune to these types of pressures, especially in the current economy. Believe it or not, many schools have funding models where students who fail classes cost the university money and the higher the graduation rate, the better the financial picture. On the surface, this sounds like a good idea. However, reality can be very different.

Which is Responsible for More Evil, the Church or Atheism?

The last several days have been inspired by comments on the Greta Christina blog post that inspired February’s “Unlikely Bedfellows” post here on TSR. In some of her responses to readers’ comments, she discusses various arguments for and against both faith and atheism. While I passionately disagree with much of what she says and supports, I respect her stated desire to have rational discussion on the merits of different worldviews.

She takes issue with certain classic Christian arguments about atheism, such as more evil has been committed by atheists than the Church, and responds that it is the other way around.

As I thought about the topic, I realized it is a pathetic argument from either direction.


Yesterday, I wrote about another interpretation of data showing that some regions of the brain seem to be responsible for religious experiences. The problem with my interpretation, an atheist would say, is that there is no evidence that such regions are a hardwired means for a spiritual God to interact with physical people.

I argue that there is also no evidence that it isn’t a plausible explanation. Hold on, let me explain.

If there is a supernatural dimension to existence, what would we expect evidence of that to look like?

That is a critical question. If we don’t know what to look for in terms of falsifiable data, then not finding it is not proof against it.


Chances are you are reading this on some type of electronic device:  desktop computer, laptop, smart phone, PDA, tablet, kindle, nook, maybe even a giant plasma screen in downtown Tokyo (I can dream).

Electronic devices really only need a processor, memory storage and power supply/regulation. However, they wouldn’t be much use to us, because we don’t speak in ones and zeroes. In order for electronic devices to be suited for human use, HIDs, or Human Interface Devices are required. These may be keyboards, mice, screens, touch screens, or other input/output device. With HID’s we can work with electronic devices to do innumerable tasks, including writing and reading blogs.

Now, just because these are HID’s doesn’t mean that humans are the only ones who can then interact with the electronics. A cat can walk across the keyboard and input characters. (How many cats laying on keyboards does it take to produce a graduate thesis in probabilistic philosophy?)

A few years ago, researchers discovered certain areas of the brain, that when electrically stimulated, caused the subject to have ‘religious experiences.’ Aha! Proof that even religion is mechanistic, biochemical, evolutionarily derived phenomena.

That is one possibility, but it is not the only one. Another is that those areas of the brain were created as GID’s, or God Interface Devices, and the researchers are cats walking across His keyboard. It is logical that if there is a spiritual realm, and there is a spiritual Creator that desires to interact with His physical Creation, this Deity would hardwire a means for doing so.

Is that the only other explanation? I don’t know. I suppose we could come up with a third alternative (or more), but the important point is that a naturalistic explanation isn’t the only possible one.

There is a big, immediate objection on the lips of most every atheist reading this. Come back tomorrow to discuss it.


One D--- Thing After Another

Character is not made in a crisis it is only exhibited.”                      Robert Freeman

The title comes from an old family expression. Not that our clan coined it, but it seems to be a common generational experience. A similar one from a former coworker is “It’s never easy and it’s always something.”

Silly me offered to replace a part on a friend’s car while she was out of town. Another friend who’s much better with cars volunteered to help. Good thing. With much difficulty, we got the part replaced, but discovered the water pump had a puncture in it, which probably caused the problem we were fixing. We just finished the job we were doing, put water in and I drove it back to let it sit until the car’s owner decides what to do next.

Power defines “power” as (bold added): 
1 a (1) : ability to act or produce an effect (2) : ability to get extra-base hits (3) : capacity for being acted upon or undergoing an effect b : legal or official authority, capacity, or right
2 a : possession of control, authority, or influence over others b : one having such power; specifically : a sovereign state c : a controlling group : establishment —often used in the phrase the powers that be d archaic : a force of armed men e chiefly dialect : a large number or quantity
3 a : physical might b : mental or moral efficacy c : political control or influence
4 plural : an order of angels — see celestial hierarchy
5 a : the number of times as indicated by an exponent that a number occurs as a factor in a product <5 to the third power is 125>; also : the product itself <8 is a power of 2> b : cardinal number 2
6 a : a source or means of supplying energy; especially : electricity b : motive power c : the time rate at which work is done or energy emitted or transferred
8 : 1scope 3
9 : the probability of rejecting the null hypothesis in a statistical test when a particular alternative hypothesis happens to be true

In short, human power is the ability to impact the lives of others.