Monday, June 29, 2009

Regina Spektor's Laughing At

Regina Spektor has a new album called Far and it's fabulous. Her voice has even more range than before, and her nuance and control is stronger than ever. The song I'm most interested in, the one featured on her website front page, is Laughing At. The song basically declares that no one's laughing at God when bad things happen. It then also declares that God can be funny, even hilarious. I know that Spektor is a Russian Jew, but I have no idea of what her own views are of religion/spirituality. I have to admit that my favorite part of the song is when she rips on those who offer a god more like a Genie, Houdini, Jimminy Cricket or Santa Claus then the One who actually exists. In this she seems to intuitively know that these gods are just our selfish wishes externalized. God is not our cosmic bell hop, rushing to feed our glutinous appetites. But who/what is the god of Regina Spektor? Since her songs are pretty post-modern, what we get are the questions, but not the answers. I am curious though.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Catholic voice on living a sustainable life

A good friend of mine emailed me an essay written just today about being environmentally attuned, advocating eating locally through organic farmers, and looking at where our clothing is made before we buy it. A typical arugula eating lefty? Not in the least! The author is a traditional Catholic who recognizes that we live in an enchanted world, and that this means that everything natural is of value, because Yahweh, the God of the universe, is the Creator of it all. I look forward to seeing what else he has to say.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Who is Dennis Petersen, and what is Young Earth Creationism (YEC)?

Last week I asked an online friend, James Kidder, who runs a website called Science and Religion: A View from an Evolutionary Creationist/Theistic Evolutionist, if he knew who Dennis Petersen was. I was quite pleasantly surprised when he responded with a full essay on his blog with details including a review of the text in question from fellow YEC's (young earth creationists) that is surprisingly critical. Please check out his essay in response to my question and check out what else he has to say. His voice represents a much needed antidote to what is usually thought to be the "Christian" view on all issues scientific, and especially anything regarding evolution. Thankfully, as my sidebar attests, there are several Christian voices out there now that are doing yeoman work of showing that scientific literacy and Christian orthodoxy do not need to be mutually exclusive.

The combination of the YEC book, Jim's response, and the question concerning the Creation Museum that came up at church today makes me realize that an avenue of communication needs to be established within the theologically conservative community concerning what it means to be Christian in light of scientific advances, in particular as they relate to evolution and cosmology. My biggest concern is for those Christians who adhere to traditional orthodox Christianity, of which I'm one, but who have also rejected almost completely modern science when it comes to biology and cosmology, of which I'm not.

Many of my Christian friends are concerned to raise their children in the faith so that they will pass on that faith for many generations to come. I agree with that wholeheartedly. Yet part of what it seems to mean when the "faith" is described includes YEC belief. I understand the impulse. To take doctrine seriously and in detail is to go against the grain in almost every way. Our culture, whether secular or even Christian, is consumed with the desire to avoid anything that divides. We seem to be guided by a public theology that says, along with Rodney King, Can't we all just get along? Pragmatism rules the day. Relativism relagates anything distinctive and exclusive as irrelevant or even a threat. Thus the temptation is to avoid any controversy by avoiding anything precise, anything exact.

Here we find an irony that connects, in a healthy way, the disciplines of orthodox Christianity and the scientific enterprise. Both require precision and exactness. Both disdain flabby logic and rationales from emotionalism. They also share a common thread of questioning the assumptions of a stale orthodoxy that loses its vitality as the environment changes. They both deal with the details on the ground as they are. In both cases, the institutional forces usually strike out at these "heretics" in their midst, whether scientific or religious. They upset the norms as they have been understood for ages. It is my contention that to be an orthodox Christian does not neccessitiate being a Young Earth Creationist. In fact, to be faithful to the God who has revealed Himself through the word of Scripture and the final Word, Christ Himself, is to honor the achievements of scientsts, both Christian and non-Christian, who have made amazing discoveries of our natural world. The God of the universe, who is the Word Incarnate, and Who is Reason Incarnate, rules the universe according to His own nature. God is coherent. Thus the natural world is coherent. Thus even fallen human reason is capable of understanding aspects of this creation as it searches it out diligently.

I drive a car every day to work. The reason I am able to drive a car is that multiple people working in multiple places worked together to put that car together. So far it works enough for me to get where I want to go. But where did those people working together get the idea to put this car together so that I can drive it? The car was designed by engineers working with materials and formulas. (BTW, I'm not going where you think I'm going. I don't buy into ID) The materials and formulas are themselves the product of the scientific enterprise, which came out of the enlightenment, sometimes called the scientific revolution. Some of the people involved were Christian. Many were not. However, the modern industrial economy we experience is a direct result of their scientific and theoretical work in years past. We do all of what we do and live the way we do because of the work of men and women who labored in laboratories and worked on theorems that have borne fruit both intellectually and economically.

The "theory" of evolution is no different. It's a theory just like Einstein's theory of relativity. And it's had just as much practical effect. Einstein gave us nuclear power (and weapons) and a much deeper understanding of the universe. Sounds pretty practical to me. The theory of evolution, especially in light of modern genetics, has given us an incredible tool to be able to understand the natural processes of mammals, both human and many other. The practical impact of this of course is medicine. How we treat diseases is directly related to our evolutionary relationship to every other species on earth. I can't think of anything more practical than that.

In thinking about this, my thought is that I would like to see a paper written to Christian parents of children concerning their educational future. If you are a Christian parent, and you want your child to glorify God as fully as possible, then you should want your child to be as scientifically literate as possible. If you are are a Christian parent who wants to homeschool your child (a position I'm sympathetic to), please consider how your child's faith will be effected when they enter higher education. Many lose their faith because they see the scientific evidence and then think it means that Christianity must not be true.

Christianity and science are not enemies. In fact, the coherence of science, I believe, is predicated upon the nature of God, Who is coherent and is Reason Incarnate.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Here's a cool thunderstorm video from Monday night.

A new blog I just found by Gershom Gorenberg called southjerusalem

I was reading Foreign Policy's online magazine and saw that they had an article by Gershom Gorenberg and knew I needed to read what he had to write. My previous experience with Gorenberg was his masterful work, The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount. In his FP piece, he was laying out why Bibi Netanyahu needs to be careful in his upcoming speech this weekend in Tel Aviv concerning the settlement issue. In a nutshell, "natural growth" ain't what we think it is. Gershom's vision for an Israeli/Palestinian future is idealistic to be sure. But even if we acknowledge every past hurt, there has to be a time when we decide to move forward. I'll be honest, I'm not hopeful for the near future, but that doesn't mean we stop working for a better future with those willing to work with us. It may not be our generation that gets to enjoy the benefit of lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians (although I hope it is), but we can at least do the work of planting the seeds of peaceful coexistence between two peoples so different and yet so similar.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What is an oblique mitzvah?

An oblique mitzvah is a good work done, if you will, from a sideways glance. It's almost an inadvertent good deed. It's not quite intentional. An oblique mitzvah manages a moral act in the midst of an immoral situation; a situation I might add, that emanates from within. I think when we engage in oblique mitzvahs, we illustrate the goodness of God. The Creator's goodness is shown in a dirty, messy situation. The term came about when I picked up a call today at work and it turned out to be a telemarketer. Instead of hanging up, which is what I (and everyone else) normally do, I set the cordless phone on the counter and let the recorded voice continue its spiel. It's at that moment that I realized that by putting the phone aside without hanging up that I was keeping one phone line busy at that telemarketing company, and thus they were unable to make another call to someone else at that moment. The whole event lasted maybe a minute. It won't go down in the annals of human history as a transformative moment. It won't even go down in my own life's history as being a game changer. But, for one moment, I kept a company that's most likely a scam operation, from harassing someone else. That, my friends, is an oblique mitzvah.


I am grateful for faithful friends. I'm reminded that this is how God usually speaks to my deepest needs.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A good article from Christianity Today

Christianity Today has an article about the relationship between the radical fringe and the mainstream of the pro-life movement. The fringe, both on the left and the right, end up effecting the mainstream, again on the left and right, in such a way that they both speak what the other is unable or unwilling to say. Obviously, the violent expressions that both extremes occasionally act out cannot be sanctioned, but they do effectively express concerns that the center is usually unwilling to entertain. In any case, it's a delicate balance. Both the right and the left should consider what their respective voices at the fringes have to say without giving in to the violent impulses that too often drive their actions.