Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Da Vinci Revised?

Let me address a few points that have come up in the comments:

1. History is told from an author's point of view, but it does not follow from this that we have no objective knowledge of history, or that there simply is no truth about the past. It is possible to be wrong about historical claims, and it is possible that some accounts of history are better (more accurate) than others. I'm suggesting that Brown, in as much as he tries to play historian, does a poor job.

2. Fiction writers should enjoy artistic license. But when a writer refers to real places or historical events, they should be accurate. I am open to hearing examples of reputable authors who similarly mangle their research. Brown, in my mind, falls dangerously close to being in the same camp as James Frey. Is it unethical for an author to lie (dramatically) about the facts of his own life? If so, then how is Brown's case different? If a WWII movie came out that denied the holocaust, claiming it was a giant hoax, what would you think?

3. I agree that The Da Vinci Code is a great opportunity for believers to have stimulating conversations with those who may be confused or intrigued by its ideas. Some may even begin exploring Christianity as a result. I'm all for this. I have both read the book and seen the movie, and have had some great dialogues.

4. Can we know what Leonardo "meant" in his art or writings? Not with 100% certainty, but some theories are certainly more plausible than others. I wouldn't presume to say my opinion is equal in worth to that of an art historian. Some of the "theories" proposed in the book are laughable. Here are a few art bloopers found in Brown's book.
Monday, May 29, 2006

War of the World(view)s

This post, and especially it's title, may elicit sighs and rolling eyes from some of my friends, but I think the point is important: most conflicts come down to opposing worldviews. Iraq and the War on Terror are quintessential examples of this. The battle over evolution and intelligent design is another.

The EVO-ID conflict isn't merely about worldviews -- politics, ego, and ignorance occupy prominent seats at the table. However, for some of us, it is our very understanding of reality that is at stake.

Stephen Jay Gould, the brilliant and winsome Harvard paleontologist, saw this as well. In his Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, he wrote:

creationism is a mere stalking horse or subsidiary issue in a political program that would ban abortion, erase the political and social gains of women
by reducing the vital concept of family to an outmoded paternalism, and
reinstitute all the jingoism and distrust of learning that prepares a nation for demagoguery.

Now, I think Gould is wrong in his characterization of creationism, but I think he is right in saying that the issue isn't simply evolution. Both sides recognize that more is at stake, and they are correct.

Now, I'm all for good science. I'm not afraid of good science. If good science says that common descent appears true, so be it. For me the real question is, what caused those changes? I find it incredulous that the innumerable modifications needed for evolution could have happened by chance. That is faith. Also, if it was strictly by chance, then we must also say that human beings might never have come to exist. Does that idea square with the Christian worldview? I just can't see how.

Mankind, contrary to many Darwinian thinkers, is not an accident, nor are we simply another species. We are God's crowning glory of creation. We occupy a privileged position in the universe, and we bear the very Imago Dei. This is all very difficult, if not impossible, to harmonize with a naturalistic story of evolution.

Friday, May 26, 2006

In All That's Fair

As I've been preparing to lead worship at my church this Sunday, I've been so inspired and refreshed by some of these great hymns and songs. Here are a few excerpts:

Well the eagle flies and the rivers run,
I look through the night
and I can see the rising sun,
And everywhere I go I see you,
and everywhere I go I see you.

This is my Father's world,
the birds their carols raise
The morning light, the lily white,
declare their Maker's praise.
This is my Father's world, He shines in all that's fair
In the rustling grass I can hear him pass, He speaks to me everywhere
All creatures of our God and King,
Lift up your voice and with us sing . . .
Thou burning sun with golden beam, Thou silver moon with softer gleam
O praise Him! Alleluia!
(Here's an English translation of St. Francis' Canticle of Brother Sun.)
Thursday, May 25, 2006

New Search Feature

Have you noticed the cool search feature at the top of this page? You can search my blog! Just what you always wanted. Also, if you don't have Bloglines yet, you should get it, and subscribe to my blog.

Stupid Enough

Do you feel threatened by the Da Vinci Code? Many Christians do. What does this say about us? What does it say about the state of American cultural education?

Dan Brown is doing something that appears unprecedented. He has published a book containing sloppy research and even intentionally falsified information, and it is sweeping the world. How can he do this? Because America (and perhaps the rest of the world) is finally stupid enough to buy it. Yes, we have finally achieved critical obtusity. Congratulations!

You may ask, "Can you give some examples?" I could, but that is beyond the scope of this blog post. You can always comment or email me for more.

On a lighter note, the chickpea is neither a chick nor a pea -- discuss.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Anybody out there?

Why do I hunger for comments?
Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Impotent Prayers?

Recent research concerning the effects of prayer on health (specifically, recovery from bypass surgery) concluded that prayer had no significant effect. Is this a blow to the Christian faith?

Absolutely not. In fact, it is exactly what we should expect. I won't go into detail on why this idea turns my stomach, but I will say this: prayer has no causal power. If you don't know what I mean, or you think I'm a heretic, then leave a comment.

Richard Swinburne, Emeritus Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion at Oxford, has an excellent piece explaining why this study was misguided from the outset. If you don't want to read the whole thing, skip to the last section (4 paragraphs) for a lucid analogy that drives the point home.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Pascal Abused

I confess that I've never read the original "God-shaped vacuum" quotation before today. Thanks to Doug Groothuis (pronounced 'growtice') for setting me straight. Here's the quote:
"What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself." (Pensees, 148/428).
Monday, May 15, 2006

Me & God: A Winning Team

Well, I've recovered nicely from my bout of cynicism evident in my previous post.

To build on earlier meditations, I've been considering the idea of what it means to do life with God. Perhaps in part it means investing myself in pursuits that are inherently cooperative with Him. Almost anything could fall into this sphere. I'd exclude things that make teamwork with God more difficult -- selling used cars, telemarketing, being a professional torturer, etc.

Similarly, whatever we happen to find ourselves doing, we can try to do it synergistically with God. So, we're selling our home. We can do it in the flesh, or we can trust God to carry part of the load. This isn't "God helps those . . ." What I mean is, we typically approach things in the flesh -- obsessively attending to every detail in order to manipulate the situation in our favor, and fretting endlessly about the outcome. What if we spent half the time preparing, and half the time praying? Even better, what if we spent all our time praying as we prepared?
Sunday, May 14, 2006

Deal with the Real

We're selling our home. As we scrambled to prepare for the open house, it occurred to me how much this experience is like dating, or any other kinds of self-presentation.

Romance is grounded in illusion. No one would ever get married if they knew everything about their potential partner. Similarly, home-buying is a farce. You try to make your home look better than it is -- trying to fool unsuspecting buyers into a contract.

Why can't we just be honest? Why do we desperately cling to and hunger for the fantasy of the perfect (fill in the blank)? If dating, or real estate, or job interviews were based strictly on complete disclosure, they would grind to a halt. Is it the emotional thrill of romantic mirages that keep our eyes half open?

Perhaps I'm selling (pardon the pun) the aesthetic dimension of this experience short. Maybe I'm being too cold and rationalistic.

I once learned that there are three selves: the false self, the ideal self, and the real self. The false self is the person you portray to everyone else. The ideal self is the person you think you ought to be. The real self is, well, you -- as you truly are. Why can't we deal with the real?

The next time you go to a wedding, remember that what you see is not two real selves standing at the altar, but two false selves on the eve of a rude awakening.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Philosopher Action Figures

Check this out for a laugh. Again, even if you don't know these guys, it's still kind of funny.
Monday, May 08, 2006

Blogging for Bacon

I've found a good reason for blogging. I'm not a huge fan of Francis Bacon, but he had a few good things to say:

"Reading maketh a full man, conversation a ready man, and writing an exact man."

I suppose that blogging, if done thoughtfully and carefully, helps develop our minds and communication skills.

(5/9/06 -- Apparently, not exact enough. Thanks to Abe for correcting my spelling. See, my communication skills are improvng already!)
Sunday, May 07, 2006

Theologian Humor

This is funny even if you have no idea who these guys are.

Hats for the Headless

I often feel this way when I'm trying to communicate something to someone -- whether it's the gospel, or philosophy, or some crazy musing about a banana.

Headless Town
Shel Silverstein
Selling hats in Headless Town --
Special sale, so gather 'round.
Short brim, wide brim, white or brown,
Hats for sale -- in Headless Town.
Selling hats in Headless Town --
Stetson, bonnet, cap, or crown,
Isn't there one soul around
Who needs a hat in Headless Town?
Selling hats in Headless Town
Sure can get a fella down,
But there's a way
If there's a will
(I once sold shoes
In Footlessville.)
Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Three Kinds of Things. . .

Are there three kinds of things in the world?

The first is that which God has created,
The second is that which man has created apart from God,
The third is that which God and man create together.

God (G) -- bananas, mountains, and stars
Man alone (M) -- cubicles, twinkies, and atom bombs
Together (T) -- coffee, gardens, and children

Other examples?

Heaven in Earth

Consider this a follow-up to "Banana Ephiphany."

It took me forever to find the context of this oft-repeated line from one of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poems.
"Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries"

It comes from the seventh book of a long poem entitled, Aurora Leigh.

This excerpt is equally brilliant:
Why else do these things move him, leaf or stone?
The bird's not moved, that pecks at a spring-shoot;
Nor yet the horse, before a quarry, a-graze:
But man, the two-fold creature, apprehends
The two-fold manner, in and outwardly,
And nothing in the world comes single to him.

Browning saw what few of us could -- the other-worldly nature of common things. Perhaps because she spent her life so close to the grave, she was permitted a glimpse of the next world and its eternal quality.

Who Should We Invade Next?

Sad, but laugh-out-loud funny. Click here. Notice the names of countries have been changed on the map to mock these poor people's dearth of geographical knowledge.