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Best Dog Ever (November 5, 2017) - Not long after we moved into our first house my wife and I got a dog.  Riley was a free puppy found via a classified ad in the local newspaper.  He was a German Shepherd-Rottweiler mix and a very sturdy mutt.  The puppy grew into a confident dog, who was protective without being aggressive, and… Continue reading Best Dog Ever
Don’t Feed the Trolls (October 21, 2017) - That inflammatory news blurb in your Facebook feed that’s got your dander up?  Or the one some acquaintances are circulating that’s got you thinking they’ve lost their minds?  Hold up a bit.  There’s this recent column in The Atlantic: “We’ve since learned that Russian trolls organized anti-immigrant rallies in two states, and posed online as… Continue reading Don’t Feed the Trolls
Our Bias Can Cost Us (September 30, 2017) - Our ability to deceive ourselves seems to be quite resilient.  There is this thing called “confirmation bias” where we search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that validates what we already think.  And researchers in Europe recently found the following: We tend to pay more attention to information that confirms our own… Continue reading Our Bias Can Cost Us
The Reflection in our Smartphones (August 27, 2017) - In Metamorphoses, the Roman poet Ovid tells an old story about Narcissus, a young man who rejected the advances of Echo, a nymph.  The unhappy suitor then wastes away to nothing but her voice. As it happens, Narcissus appears to have left quite a trail of broken hearts.  The goddess Nemesis heard the complaint of another… Continue reading The Reflection in our Smartphones
The Power of Distraction (July 14, 2017) - So much for multi-tasking with a smartphone.  Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have found the following: ...that it didn’t matter whether a person’s smartphone was turned on or off, or whether it was lying face up or face down on a desk. Having a smartphone within sight or within easy reach reduces… Continue reading The Power of Distraction
Smartphone Apps and Your Conflicts (July 2, 2017) - Reconciliation is supposed to be a defining characteristic of Christian community.  But the social media and messaging apps that smartphones weld into everyday life might actually get in the way. The previous post highlighted a CBS News report* detailing how app developers attempt to deliberately manipulate the way our brains work.  The goal is to keep… Continue reading Smartphone Apps and Your Conflicts
High Anxiety (or, The Race to The Bottom of The Brainstem) (June 17, 2017) - Which of you, by being anxious, can add one moment to his lifespan?  –Matthew 6:27, World English Bible. But we seem to think we can worry ourselves into more likes on our Facebook pages. There is an experiment that is worth the attempt.  Disconnect from all social media and electronic devices for a full day… Continue reading High Anxiety (or, The Race to The Bottom of The Brainstem)
God and Time (June 10, 2017) - As a follow-up to my somewhat befuddled post on Open Theism here’s a YouTube clip of John C. Polkinghorne discussing the nature of time. The clip is part of the Closer to Truth PBS series (US, Corporation for Public Broadcasting).  Polkinghorne* is a theoretical physicist and an Anglican priest. He appears to view God’s interaction with… Continue reading God and Time
Blood on the Floor (May 29, 2017) - A couple of years ago my wife and I read The Gifts of Imperfection* together.  The book resonated with me.  Since then other bits by the author, Brene Brown, have tended to get my attention.  Here’s a video clip from Brown talking about forgiveness. Why the church should be more like a midwife than an… Continue reading Blood on the Floor
Faith as Allegiance (April 15, 2017) - When I was introduced to faith as allegiance last summer it was like a strobe going off inside my head.  It provided some much needed illumination to clarify some pretty muddled thinking.  I got to the idea through reading about Greco-Roman history via both modern and ancient authors. I’m currently reading Salvation by Allegiance Alone:… Continue reading Faith as Allegiance
Backyard gene editing risks creating a monster | New Scientist (March 20, 2017) - While we were all being distracted by cat videos and meaningless tweets by celebrities and politicians: “Biohackers have already signalled their intention to use CRISPR, which poses a big problem for the authorities.”  Source: Backyard gene editing risks creating a monster | New Scientist, 15 March 2017.” The US Food and Drug Administration is allowing… Continue reading Backyard gene editing risks creating a monster | New Scientist
Open Theism and the Nature of Time (March 1, 2017) - I am clearly in over my head. Several years ago, a leader in a local church introduced me to Open Theism.  The theology  appears grounded in the idea that the future is open and subject to chance and choice.  God knows all there is to know about what is settled reality but can only know… Continue reading Open Theism and the Nature of Time
An Idolatry of Politics (February 14, 2017) - We are seriously doing this? People working in ministry, music, and nonprofit advocacy are facing pressure for their political beliefs. Source: These Conservative Christians Are Opposed to Trump—and Suffering the Consequences – The Atlantic On the one hand, employees have a responsibility to exercise some sort of reasonable care and compartmentalize political activities from an… Continue reading An Idolatry of Politics
PublicDomainPictures.Net Size Matters (February 5, 2017) - During our years in a former church my wife and I heard repeated admonitions from the leadership to greet visitors.  Then a couple years ago we found ourselves visiting churches looking for a new church community.  Now we were the newcomers.  In some of the communities I noticed obvious personal connections between congregants that were… Continue reading Size Matters
Bedouin Tent, Syrian Desert A Caution for Visionaries (December 28, 2016) - This will never do. Or such was likely the first thought of an old desert tribesman on seeing the line of petitioners winding through the encampment.  The line ended at the tent of his son-in-law. The younger man had done well for himself.  When they parted he was an exile.  He returned now as the… Continue reading A Caution for Visionaries
Thoughts on Packard and Hope’s “Church Refugees” (December 18, 2016) - I recently finished Church Refugees, authored by sociologists Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope.  It is a book about the exit from American churches of the talented and committed.  The book challenges preconceptions about the dynamics of this exodus.  Packard and Hope discovered something during their research that was rather different from what they expected to… Continue reading Thoughts on Packard and Hope’s “Church Refugees”
Mark Buchanan on Reconciliation (November 12, 2016) - Reconciliation is what Christianity is supposed to be about.  Just over a year ago I posted about shredding the toxic lists we keep of the wrongs others have done. Here’s another view of it.  I just listened to a podcast by Claire Perini and Mark Buchanan at Regent College in Vancouver, BC.  They unpack what… Continue reading Mark Buchanan on Reconciliation
What Political Behavior on Facebook Might Actually Reveal (November 7, 2016) - Politics has taken on a whole new corrosive aspect: Turning friends into foes on social media is a new kind of political statement.   Source: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton supporters are unfriending each other on Facebook – MarketWatch Stuff seems to leak out in our behavior online that says things about us we did not… Continue reading What Political Behavior on Facebook Might Actually Reveal
How Twitter Is Changing Modern Warfare – The Atlantic (October 26, 2016) - Here’s an eye-opening article from The Atlantic on the weaponization of social media: Most of us did not associate Twitter with terrorism until the Islamic State stormed into Mosul. We have given similarly scant thought to what might happen if the wondrous tools of the 21st century are ever paired with the scale and intensity… Continue reading How Twitter Is Changing Modern Warfare – The Atlantic
Not in Front of the Children (October 18, 2016) - We are often more concerned with the appearance of our personal behavior than the actual substance.  So we hold grudges and carry on our personal warfare with each other out of sight.  Or so we think.  Not so fast, suggests this article from The Atlantic.  It discusses the effect of parental conflict on children: “They… Continue reading Not in Front of the Children
Silicon Valley Dystopia (October 9, 2016) - “The new road to serfdom — actually, it’s more like a hyperloop — runs right through Silicon Valley.” via Silicon Valley has our backs This post by Nicholas Carr at Rough Type references a recent New Yorker profile of venture capitalist Sam Altman.  I share Carr’s skepticism and the profile is worth reading.  If I… Continue reading Silicon Valley Dystopia
(Lost in) Permanent Translation (September 23, 2016) - The non-profit publisher Crossway is releasing what they are describing as a “permanent” English biblical translation.  I am having some difficulty with what I think I hear them saying: “Beginning in the summer of 2016, the text of the ESV Bible will remain unchanged—in the same way that the King James Version (KJV) has remained… Continue reading (Lost in) Permanent Translation
Thought Leaders (September 9, 2016) - I’ve watched a bit of TED and there’s been quite a lot of good stuff on it.  As I’ve noted previously, the format of TED successfully makes use of the shrunken attention spans of modern culture.  But the packaging that makes TED work also suggests its effectiveness has very little to do with the actual… Continue reading Thought Leaders
A Faith of Trust, Allegiance, and Loyalty (August 13, 2016) - Skeptics ridicule the truth of the Christian message because of the discontinuity they see between Christian belief and behavior. They may have a point. Modern Christianity seems grounded in cognitive experience, more or less anchored by formal theologies expressing ethics governing what we think and how we behave. The problem is that what we think… Continue reading A Faith of Trust, Allegiance, and Loyalty
Peaky Blindness (July 5, 2016) - In the course of our recent Netflix binging my wife and I started watching Peaky Blinders.  This is a BBC television series set in post-WWI Birmingham, England, and is centered around the activities of a street gang for which the series is named.  What the gang actually looked like is debated but the name is… Continue reading Peaky Blindness
Did Jesus Have a Wife? – The Atlantic (June 21, 2016) - Harvard historian Karen L. King ignited a controversy at a 2012 conference in Rome when she presented a papyrus fragment which appeared to refer to Jesus’ wife.   An article in the July/August 2016 Atlantic details a subsequent investigation into the fragment’s provenance: “A hotly contested, supposedly ancient manuscript suggests Christ was married. But believing… Continue reading Did Jesus Have a Wife? – The Atlantic
contributed to Flickr by Charles Nadeau The Wrong End of the Telescope (June 1, 2016) - I am really wondering how there could be such a thing as explicitly “Christian” economics.  I bumped into this question in a blog where the writer, Roger Olson, surveyed major strains of economic thought in the context of distributive justice and gave examples of prominent Christian proponents.  But what especially caught my eye was this… Continue reading The Wrong End of the Telescope
New Evidence on When Bible Was Written: Ancient Shopping Lists – The New York Times (May 15, 2016) - Researchers from the University of Tel Aviv have found the following: An analysis of handwriting on ancient pottery suggests that literacy may have been more widespread than previously known in the Holy Land around 600 B.C. Source: New Evidence on When Bible Was Written: Ancient Shopping Lists – The New York Times Analysis of writing… Continue reading New Evidence on When Bible Was Written: Ancient Shopping Lists – The New York Times
War in Heaven (May 1, 2016) - There is an odd bit of gangland slang that was popularized in the late 1980s where bystanders hit by stray bullets were referred to as “mushrooms.” They “popped up” in the line of fire.  At the time the actual incidence appeared to be relatively low[*] but there was justifiable public outrage over the apparent disregard… Continue reading War in Heaven
The Universe Looks Mighty Lonely (and we don’t like it). (April 3, 2016) - We like the idea that someone else is out there.  Someone intelligible to us.  The crowded, fictive universes of Star Wars and Star Trek are fun to imagine.  They are also easy to imagine, possibly in part be because of the influence of the mediocrity principle, which has been rattling about in modern cosmology for… Continue reading The Universe Looks Mighty Lonely (and we don’t like it).
Artificial Intelligence Is Just That – Artificial (March 24, 2016) - And since we’re on the subject of trolls: Microsoft’s teen chat bot Tay spewed racist comments on Twitter so the company shut her down after less than a day. Source: After racist tweets, Microsoft muzzles teen chat bot Tay – CNN Money “Tay” was apparently supposed to be a natural language learning AI.  Microsoft blame… Continue reading Artificial Intelligence Is Just That – Artificial
An Unsmiling Concentration on Self (March 13, 2016) - People have been debating cosmological and theological points for thousands of years (sometimes violently) but the Internet has introduced something new.  It has made it possible to argue in an extended way without face-to-face interaction, and to do so anonymously.  In the past pamphleteers and book authors sometimes published under pseudonyms because of the personal… Continue reading An Unsmiling Concentration on Self
A Little Less Greek (February 14, 2016) - On a recent foray into a used book store I stumbled over an excellent flyover of Roman history.  During my reading I was intrigued by the settlement of a political conflict in the Roman republic of the fourth and fifth centuries BC.  During that period a power struggle ensued between the hereditary aristocracy and the… Continue reading A Little Less Greek
Alexamenos Graffito Abusing Tacitus (January 9, 2016) - Lots of people throw around quotations attributed to ancient authors.  Last year I read the Annals and Histories by Tacitus.  Since then I’ve found writers who seem to have reason to beat up on him.  But not everyone who refers to ancient authors actually reads the works they use and abuse.  The early Christian writer… Continue reading Abusing Tacitus
Why reading and writing on paper can be better for your brain (December 6, 2015) - “Some tests show that reading from a hard copy allows better concentration, while taking longhand notes versus typing onto laptops increases conceptual understanding and retention See full article at: Why reading and writing on paper can be better for your brain | The Guardian   This seems to reinforce the idea  that the media we… Continue reading Why reading and writing on paper can be better for your brain
Archaeologists in Jerusalem Unveil Biblical-Era Seal From King Hezekiah (December 4, 2015) - Archaeologists in Jerusalem unveiled a rare 2,800-year-old clay imprint from a royal figure in the Book of Kings. See full article at: Archaeologists in Jerusalem Unveil Biblical-Era Seal From King Hezekiah – The Atlantic
The Wisdom of Jack (December 1, 2015) - There is this scene in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie where Jack Sparrow tells Will Turner his father was a pirate. Will experiences a bit of cognitive dissonance with the revelation.  This is not what he thought his father to be.  He reacts by drawing his sword and Jack responds by knocking Will… Continue reading The Wisdom of Jack
Shredding The Lists (November 1, 2015) - There is this difficult story in Matthew’s Gospel about a slave who owed a staggering sum of money – something probably in the neighborhood of sixteen years wages for a worker of the time. The king to whom the debt was owed put the ledger into the shredder and forgave the account. But the slave… Continue reading Shredding The Lists
Between The Lanterns (October 10, 2015) - This past summer my wife and I were camping by ourselves – our grown children had visited and left so we had a couple of nights alone. We like to sit by a campfire but unusually dry weather dictated a burn ban, which relegated us to sitting and reading by a pair of lanterns on… Continue reading Between The Lanterns
(Mis)reading the New Testament (and other ancient texts) (October 3, 2015) - Protestants have been dividing from one another pretty much continuously since Luther’s excommunication.  Before your next disagreement with another Christian I would like to suggest trying an experiment: Pick an issue over which Christians divide. It doesn’t matter which one. Pick a book of the New Testament that contains verses addressing your view of the… Continue reading (Mis)reading the New Testament (and other ancient texts)
Calling in the Romans (August 15, 2015) - In the middle third century a Church council assembled at Antioch and deposed the local bishop, Paul of Samosata. Paul appears to have taught that Christ was a mere man infused with the divine, a view at odds with the dominant consensus about Jesus’ pre-existence. Unfortunately for the council Paul held a government position and… Continue reading Calling in the Romans
Jewish Names in the Gospel Accounts, and Roman Historical Context (June 14, 2015) - Anyone thrashing about over the origins of New Testament texts and how we read them ought to pick up a copy of Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, by New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham. The book provides an analysis of oral tradition, first century personal names, and literary evidence relevant to the Gospel accounts. The analysis is… Continue reading Jewish Names in the Gospel Accounts, and Roman Historical Context
Eighteen Minutes (May 5, 2015) - Attention spans are getting shorter. A comment highlighting this appeared in an April segment on TED Talks, broadcast on CBS news magazine 60 Minutes.  During the segment interviewer Charlie Rose queried TED curator Chris Anderson about the eighteen-minute time limit imposed on the talks.  Anderson responded that, “’s a coffee break…you can listen to something… Continue reading Eighteen Minutes
Loss of Context (April 8, 2015) - Exploring the world in comfort. That’s the theme of a recent commercial for the European travel company, Viking River Cruises. Scenes of Europe flow by to violin strains and a poetic cadence: “Sailing through the heart of cities and landscapes with Viking, you’ll see things differently. You’ll get closer to iconic landmarks, to local life… Continue reading Loss of Context
Making Peace with Church (March 15, 2015) - I recently watched an online panel discussion, Making Peace with Church – Finding Grace and Authenticity in an Age of Skepticism . The event was sponsored by Regent College, in Vancouver, BC, and Christianity Today Magazine. It is well worth the time. The participants discussed what “church” actually means and why Christians need to be… Continue reading Making Peace with Church
Personal Relationships (below the surface of “church”) (January 24, 2015) - Lots of people are critiquing church and lots of people are leaving.  The critiques run the gamut from worship to doctrine to cultural relevancy.  In of itself this is nothing new. But something seems to be crystallizing in a growing number of formerly committed but still believing Christians described in an article by Thom Schultz… Continue reading Personal Relationships (below the surface of “church”)
Awe (and arrogance) (January 1, 2015) - In a post at Biologos Daniel Stork Banks sketches out a personal journey.  It starts with the sense of awe at the natural world he felt as a child growing up in a non-religious home, continues with encountering with young-earth creationism at university, and then onto engagement with theistic evolution. He notes sharing that sense… Continue reading Awe (and arrogance)
A High pH (November 21, 2014) - Once upon a time a ring from the wall telephone signified a crisis of some sort if it occurred outside of certain times. We just never thought to call anyone early in the morning, during dinner, or late at night. We stayed outside the boundaries of each other’s private spaces until such time as it… Continue reading A High pH
Enough for Troubled Guests (November 15, 2014) - My problem has never been believing that God is. It's been believing that he gives a flying chimpanzee turd about humanity in general and me in particular. Last night I went to a local church to see "We Are Not Troubled Guests." This is a one-man play by artist Scott Erickson in which he describes… Continue reading Enough for Troubled Guests
Writing Without Spaces (November 11, 2014) - I’ve been reading The Shallows, a book by Nicolas Carr in which he argues that the Internet and devices which provide access to it are essentially rewiring the way we think. What we’ve discovered in the last few decades is that the brain is very malleable and responsive to changes in how we interact with… Continue reading Writing Without Spaces