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Book Launch and Signing

On several occasions, I’ve written about the volume produced by the UT Christian Faculty Network, The Truth That Makes Them Free, a collection of essays written by UT faculty sharing their spiritual journeys. It was finally published this past fall.

We are finally having a launch party and book-signing event for it. Please come and tell others!

Date:                     Thursday, March 1, 2012
Time:                     5-7 p.m.
Location:              Hill House Austin
                             2104 Nueces
                             Austin, TX 78705
Phone:                 (512) 542-0035
Contact:               Professor Don G. Davis, Jr., Emeritus
Parking:                There is a parking lot adjacent to Hill House, on the north side
Service:                Wine and heavy hors d’oeuvres
Admission:           Free
Books:                  Will be available on site ($10; $5 for students)
Signers:                 A significant number of the contributors will be on hand to sign copies

The volume is on its second printing already. Join us for this celebration.


Wise As Doves

When I was a college freshman here at UT, they had a Freshman Convocation where many of the bigwigs on campus spoke to an auditorium full of us college greenhorns about the history, prestige, culture, and so on of this fine institution.

Afterwards, we were able to mingle with them on stage, visit, network, and the like. I took full advantage of it and chatted with several. When I met the President of the university, I had some nebulous notion of evangelical boldness and asked him something about whether or where he went to church on Sunday mornings.

He was noticeably taken aback and uncomfortable with this rather direct approach from a pipsqueak. He hemmed and hawed a moment before admitting that he probably played more golf than he should on Sunday morning.

Lessons from Hitchens

Atheist Christopher Hitchens died two and a half months ago, and like so many deaths, it is a big news item briefly, then life moves on, and most people forget the person and their impact. Therefore, I do not feel it is a bad thing to pull out of my electronic file cabinet this article reminding Christians what we should learn from Hitchens’ approach to life.

The author, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., argued five lessons, and I will add a sixth that is implied, and is probably the most important lesson for those desiring to be intellectual Christians, that is, Christians who desire to think clearly about how our faith interacts in the real world with real world problems.

1)      “Hitchens understood the power of ideas, and he never left a field of intellectual combat without giving his best.”

Clothing Optional

“And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.” Genesis 2:25

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands…” Revelation 7:9

“’Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride, has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure’—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” Revelation 19:7

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” Revelation 22:14

The above parallel never occurred to me before tonight. We often talk about heaven being Eden restored—a new heaven and a new earth and all of that. Genesis makes a big deal about our nakedness being a symbol of our innocence and freedom from shame, yet strangely, Revelation doesn’t mention a restoration to innocent nakedness, and makes several references to our being clothed in robes. Ponder this for a minute.

There are several significant things to unpack here.

Religious Freedom

I’ve been saving this op-ed from The Economist for a few weeks for various reasons. I probably should have included it as additional material in my recent post regarding an Ayaan Hirsi Ali article on a similar subject, but in retrospect repetition is a valuable tool in learning, and this is particularly true for unpleasant topics.

We need to take our Lord seriously when He promises something, and He promised persecution and trouble. It doesn’t help when our own human nature invites it, but that doesn’t mean that persecution is any less real. The Economist article discusses how Christianity is not only thriving but expanding rapidly among people in Africa and actually across the world of Islam, and those converts are paying the price in blood that Jesus paid.

The Western Domino Effect

A staff member told me about a colleague who was running a special ad hoc lab course for our extension services. This instructor is from a very different culture, and my staff member was commenting about how that influenced her approach to unforeseen difficulties. She would just roll with them like it was no big deal and even normal.

The staff member and I were laughing about how many Americans in the same situation, ourselves included, would get frustrated over such hassles. It is surprising to see how much we expect our lives to run according to plan, like clockwork. It is simply ingrained in us that if we prepare properly, our plans will come to fruition, in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary in real life.

We are so used to our technological marvels working to give us control of our environments that we expect to have control in most or all areas. We are caught off guard and even feel personally insulted when gaps appear in our plans. My staff member quipped that it is as if we have a giant set of dominoes set up to fall and one suddenly turns out to be spaced just a little too far away from the next, and we ‘know’ we’ve set them properly.

Collegiate Day of Prayer

This Thursday, February 23, is the National Collegiate Day of Prayer. It is a 100 year old tradition of praying for and over our colleges and universities. Many churches and student groups are participating. Many people will be fasting from sundown Wednesday to sundown Thursday.

With many economic prognosticators claiming higher ed and student loans are the next economic bubbles to burst, and the spiritual climate on so many of these campuses, it is well worth your time to go before the Lord at length on this day.

Our universities are the gathering places for world leaders, past, present, and particularly, future. How can we not go before the God of all Nations and intercede on behalf of the saints in classes with the pillars of this world’s system?

As a faculty member, I can say with grave certainty, we are in need of prayer. Pray for us.

On any given week, there are readers from at least 15 countries. All of these nations have some of their citizens at many of these campuses, who will one day return and impact their homeland. Pray, therefore, for your fellow countrymen, that they may find the fruit of the Gospel growing in their hearts because of their time here.



Land of the Dying

Over the years I’ve heard social commentators discuss our culture of death, how we are obsessed with death, and yet more terrified of it than nearly any other culture, and Christians are not exempt. I have to agree in large part with them.

Funerals used to be fairly simple affairs, but today they are a huge business, and the variety of ‘options’ one can select from is, well, remarkable, given the guest of honor is completely oblivious to them. One has to ask if it really helps those left behind.

We hide ‘public executions’ inside the prisons because they are considered poor taste, yet movies like “Faces of Death” show the most dramatic and disturbing life-endings caught on film, and many enjoy violent movies with a visceral desire to see the bad guys offed. (I have to confess I fall into this category more than I’d like to admit, cracking my own glass house.)

One reason our medicine is so advanced is because of our obsession with prolonging life and its quality. This is not inherently wrong, and indeed can be very Biblical, but like any ‘good’ thing, our motivations are revealing.

We worship the young, partly out of our fear of growing old, being less able to function, and closer to the grave.

So, it was with a pleasurable revelation on many levels that a guest bluegrass/Gospel band in church today played a song with the following chorus:

“I am leaving the land of the dying
To lay hold on eternal life
And the moment you see I’ve departed,
You’ll know I’ve safely arrived.”

It is worth a few minutes to meditate on these words.




Words and language
Sentences and paragraphs
Thoughts and attitudes
Action and transformation

Communication binds a culture together and frees individuals from isolation.
Words lift heavy hearts, condemn the proud and guilty, motivate the apathetic, slow the impulsive.
The mastery of language, its style and structure, inspired the adage “the pen is mightier than the sword.”
We treasure, revere, the words that move us.

Ideas flutter helplessly in the mind without the enfolding, invigorating medium of clear speech.
Few are the literary lodestars born blademasters of wordplay.

Full immersion into the depths of literature intubates the mind with the pure oxygen of eloquence.
Inhale deeply, O thou short of breath!
Exhale the overflow of your spirit!

Let apathy never deprive our children full passage of their potential to move hearts through command of their native tongue.

Get ‘em to read!
Teach ‘em to write!


A Word Most Underappreciated

Deem: /dēm/  Regard or consider in a specified way.

Redeem: /rē DĒM/  To regard anew, to redefine, to reassign value, to buy back, to recover

In the Eden of Genesis 1 and 2, we were deemed, above all else of Creation, to be very good. Our worth was defined and declared by the very God who spoke into being galaxies bathed in the light of manifold maelstroms of nuclear fusion, the very smallest atoms igniting with the holiest of fire to form the stars of unimaginable size and power. And that declared worth was of a caliber exceeding these marvels.

In the Eden of Genesis 3, a single choice dismantled to naught the declaration of the Most High. We, valued above the wonders we have yet to imagine, made ourselves antithetical to our potential. We fell in ignorant greed. We had not yet grasped the true glory of our position before we casually tossed it aside for a veneered imitation with slightly brighter paint. Our ignorance did not protect us from the consequences of our actions because we chose to ignore that of which we were cognizant—a single command, almost trivial in its burden, until it was disobeyed.

Religion in Politics

I suppose it is a strange idea, but tonight’s post is a review of a review. A colleague, Dr. Robert Jensen, recently wrote a review, “Prophetic politics: Charting a healthy role for religion in public life,” which is a review of Walter Brueggemann, The Practice of Prophetic Imagination: Preaching an Emancipatory Word (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012). My comments will make a lot more sense if you can take the time to read Bob’s article.

The first thing that surprised me was the extent to which Bob and I actually agreed. He and I come from very different political perspectives, and somewhat different views of Christianity, and have had a rough patch or two, largely due to my mouth more than his, I’m ashamed to say. His graciousness went a long way towards smoothing things out. So this convergence was a very pleasant surprise.

I thought one critical point that was missed, possibly also by Brueggemann, is that polemics often trumps the "first principles" that one's faith might otherwise inform a voter. I'll offer two examples, one each from traditional liberal and conservative platforms.

The Songs of Creation

Originally, this was going to be a Lagniappe item as I sometimes do. But as I watched it again with one of my students, I decided it was worth a full post. Louie Giglio is a well-known evangelist who likes to find cool things in science that seem to support Scripture. While he is clearly not a scientist, this is a particularly interesting and cool synthesis of whale song, pulsar signals, and a praise song.

What I like about this is how it shows a dimension of Creation that is just now accessible to us as creatures. God promises in Scripture that His wonders are beyond even the conception of our imagination. Honestly, I questioned this given the fertility of our imaginations through literature such as fantasy and science fiction that bring truly fantastic things to life.

Then, we discover something like this. All of a sudden, I am very curious and excited to see what manifold dimensions of wonder He awaits to reveal to us. We have all of eternity. He promises it will be worthwhile. I’m starting to believe it.


Your Very Own Piece of the Gates of Hell

“Infidel” author and self-acknowledged Islam-born atheist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali recently wrote on Christian persecution in the Muslim world. Found on the Daily Beast website, Ali’s article may seem surprising. However, one of the reasons she has achieved such a high reputation globally is that her analysis seems to cut all ways. Her interest is for true tolerance—if we are going to advocate for religious freedom, it needs to be for everybody.

Ali coins the term “Christophobia” in response to the current politically correct war on Islamophobia in the West. She agrees that discrimination against Muslims is wrong, but asks why governments and the media are subsequently turning a blind eye to the intense persecution of the Church across the Muslim world. She proceeds to cite case after case in one nation after another where Christians are being murdered, raped, kidnapped, and so on by Muslim gangs and/or national governments.

Her stories are worth grieving over as brothers and sisters live and die in fear around the world, while we sit royally in our insulated, generally secure homes, worshiping openly in our churches. Such persecution is yet one more sin and atrocity in this fallen world calling for our collective attention, prayer and action.

Hitting Close to Home

{Programming note:  This Saturday I will again be the monthly speaker at the Austin chapter of Reasons to Believe. The topic is “What is Science?” (an exploration of the questions we ask, the history of science, the scientific method and the nature of proof). The meeting is from 10-noon with donuts and coffee at 9:30.

Location:  Hill Country Bible Church, near the UT Campus, 405 W. 22nd Street.
Corner of San Antonio and W. 22nd. They have torn up the paid parking lots west of the church. There may be street parking (metered), or you can try using the parking lot 1 block west at 22nd and Nueces, which belongs to the Scientologists, though they are usually gracious about it, especially at that time of week.}

I discovered an acquaintance is also a blogger, and a recent post is very convicting. It’s about being late and the lies we believe to justify it. Of course, in some cultures, timeliness just isn’t even considered, everyone understands it and they get along fine. But here, we are ruled by time and money, and being late wastes both.

I do struggle with running late, and it is largely because I try to cram too much stuff in before I need to be somewhere, and often don’t leave enough time for delays (traffic, forgetting something (which tends to happen more often when you are running late!), or other issue). As Levi points out, you are either late or you are not, by how little or much is irrelevant.

Too Much

A colleague and I commiserated at lunch today how the academy has fully transformed from a gathering of scholars discovering, discussing and disseminating knowledge to an overclocked motorized gerbil’s wheel.

A common joke among my staff is “we could get so much done if there weren’t any students.”

It is good at times like these to remember encouragement from God:

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

“In vain do you rise early and seek your beds late, toiling for your food—for the Lord gives to His beloved sleep.” Psalm 127:2