Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Books for Christmas

These are the two books I received for Christmas. I'm enjoying them very much. They may seem contradictory to each other but so what. They are both fun to read and both represent different kinds of creativity and insight. They are both "right" somehow.

Looking for God Knows What by Donald Miller - Stresses the importance of relationship in understanding who God is and What God wants.

James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls by Robert Eisenman - Uses clues from ancient non-canonical documents as well as canonical as a detective to discern the previously hidden role of James in the first century.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Dostoevsky Statue in Wiesbaden Aug 29, 1999

Kiril, Vitaly, and Nikolai

Playhouse in Wiesbaden

Me next to statue of Dostoevsky in this park in Wiesbaden where Dostoevsky came to gamble. I took a picture of my Russian friends next to the statue. But since I can't find it, that photo must have been taken with their camera.

That day, it was a Sunday, we started out just south of Bonn in the town of Bad Honnef. Because they wanted to see every possible thing, we stopped many places along the way to the Frankfurt airport, including this park in Wiesbaden. We had been to a Gravity conference. Vitaly is the most well travelled person I've ever known. He's a well known gravity physicist. I had met Kiril in London about 9 months earlier. It was the first time out of Russia for Nikolai. They were happy to find this statue and they were clearly and justifiably proud.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Good, Evil, Satan, and God

Have been trying to keep up with all that Richard Beck has written on his blog about the theodicy of Satan. Satan and the problem of evil are intimately tied together. I'd like to add that some of the gnostics moved in other directions to handle the problem of evil. In Philip, verse 9 it says:

"The light with the darkness, life with death, the right with the left are brothers one to another. It is not possible for them to be separated from one another."

This seems to indicate that one can't have the good without a bad. Isn't it true that to a certain extent we cannot experience pleasure without having a knowledge of what pain is? Perhaps Philip may be a wild eyed gnostic text but consider also Isa 45:7

"I form the light and create darkness,I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things."

And Lamentations 3:38 "Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?

But our story has a happy ending, for it also says just a few verses earlier (and this squares with Richard's earlier posts about the apocatastasis, the eventual restoration of all things and salvation for all):

31 For men are not cast off
by the Lord forever.

32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Chicken Casserole

1 cup sour cream
1 jar dried beef (also known as "chipped beef". Its paper thin, about 2" diameter.)
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
garlic powder
4 whole boned chicken breasts. (Sometimes we halve the breasts)

Line dish with beef. Wrap chicken breasts with bacon. ( Or you might use 1/2 piece bacon per 1/2 chicken breast as desired.) Mix well the soup and sour cream in a separate container and pour over the chicken. Season with garlic powder. Sometimes I save a few pieces of the thin beef and place on top. Cover and cook 3 hours at 275 F. Take cover off near the end to brown. I plan to take a picture the next time we make it.

To serve, place chicken breast on top of a bed of rice then spoon the mushroom/sour cream sauce over it. I like to season with a copius amount of pepper. It is already salty enough.

I think this has replaced turkey as our Thanksgiving meal.

Friday, November 10, 2006

We Are All Search Engines

Via reading Chris Gonzalez blog I discovered his link to Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast. An interesting blog it is. She mentions in an Oct 16 entry a U. Minn. campaign that suggests that We Are All Search Engines. What a thought!

That's me, I am a search engine.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


You gotta check out this entry on Loving over at Steve Bogner's Catholicism, Holiness and Spirituality.

So much is written about love… probably because it is so much easier to write about it than to actually do it. I’m not discounting the words that are written about love; but it’s a bit disheartening to see how prevalent the lack of love is in so many places these days.

Let’s build a wall to keep them out of our yard, our subdivision, ........ continues here.

I recently discovered his blog and now link to it.

Science, Faith and Society by Polanyi

In his 1963 preface to his 1946 book Science, Faith and Society, Michael Polanyi says many interesting things.

The creative life of such a community rests on a belief in the ever continuing possibility of revealing still hidden truths. In Science, Faith and Society, I interpreted this as a belief in a spiritual reality, which, being real, will bear surprising fruit indefinitely. To-day I should prefer to call it a belief in the reality of emergent meaning and truth.

He died in the 70's. Wow, wouldn't he have loved to see where science and technology are now.

Evidently he is reponsible in part for this idea of "emergence", something that I presently find fascinating, meaningful, and worthy of deeper investigation.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Fall colors at their peak

I had just pulled out of my driveway and facing the direction to go to work I snapped this picture. Just had a little sunshine that Nov. 1 Wednesday morning. The colors here and on the 20 minute drive to work were wonderful.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Contemplating the Genocide Museum of Vilnius and Moral Luck

Here I am, a few weeks ago, in one of the cells in a facility that once housed prisoners of the Soviet regime. If I had been born and raised in Vilnius, what would my life had been like? This facility was in operation until I was about forty years old. So it is not so farfetched for me to contemplate. What kind of prisoner would I have been? What kind of guard or administrator would I have been? It would have been a difficult job. The guards were punished if they were too easy and if they were too severe. I am thankful I was never in such a situation.

Richard Beck over at Experimental Theology has a great post that backs up his reasoning behind espousing Universalism. Why I am a Universalist Part 4: Moral Luck. He refers to one of my earlier comments there.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Museum of Genocide Victims

This is a basement cell in the Museum of Genocide Victims. It is where suspected opponents of the Soviet regime were taken for incarceration followed by torture and perhaps execution. The Lithuanians turned this building into a museum almost immediately after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Also along the hallway below, we saw a torture room where a prisoner had a dry spot the size of a frizbee to stand on surrounded by frozen water. They were left there for hours. Some would give in and lay down on the ice. Upstairs was the execution room. Grim.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Best Restaurant Ad in Vilnius

I was tempted to lunch here but it was a little early.

The Gaon of Vilna Museum

I tried to visit, but, alas, the museum was closed. The Gaon of Vilna was a famous rabbi of the 18th century who lived his life in Vilnius.

According to this site, some credit him with deriving "Cramer's Rule" for matrices. It says this is a matter of controversy.

Here is the official museum site, I think


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Potato Pancakes from Double Coffee

This was scrumptious. They called them potato pancakes but they were what we would call hash browns. They were greasy but great. What really made the dish was the garlic and capers wrapped in herring that you see on the top. When the lemon is squeezed on the topping it makes a wonderful dish. That is sour cream underneath the sprig of parsley to the left. You will note the wording on the plate is, for our convenience, in English. This was in the old town and the restaurant was Double Coffee.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Ausra Vartai - The Dawn Gate

This structure captivated me when I came upon it, a church with a room over a road. The picture to the left I found at the web site below. The one on the right is mine. I later found out it is called Ausra Vartai, the Dawn Gate, and is a famous place of pilgrimmage. You can just make out the arch in the bottom of the picture. A street passes under it. This was Sunday morning, Oct 1. This and other churches were packed.

It was built into the city wall in 1829 and houses a painting of the Virgin Mary. Other pictures and explanation are provided at the web site linked here.

Old Town Scenes

A Uniate church, ie. a Catholic Greek Church (not Greek Orthodox)

Their national cathedral. Original site of the pagan temple of Perkunas.

View from Hotel

The view from my hotel window. The foreground shows a modernized shopping area. Behind that and to the right is the old town and you see an old church. To the left in the background are old Soviet Communist era buildings undergoing repair. That summarizes Vilnius. It is a mixture of all three. They revere their cultural heritage and have preserved it well in their old town. Their is a lot of building going on. They seem to have made a fast transition to a market economy and appear to be a nation on the move.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Here in Vilnius

It is 7:30 am here in my hotel and the lobby computer is available. This place is an amazing mixture of the old, modern, and postmodern. From my hotel room I can view the "old town" section of Vilnius with its small streets and many old churches. Some of the vista from my room reveals buildings and architecture from the Soviet era. But, I can also view several shopping centers and new postmodern buildings which show that since being the first of the countries to break away from the Soviet Union in about 1990 Lithuania is open for business. It is meaningful that I can from here see the TV tower where about 13 people gave their lives to the cause of freedom in that year.

Yesterday I visited the Laser Research Center of Vilnius University. They have spun off several laser businesses from that department. They lead the world in certain aspects of Femtosecond Laser technology. I was impressed learn of their new Yb doped Lithium Niobate based laser that promises to allow these types of lasers to be much smaller. The world will be a better place when we can get smaller and cheaper femtosecond lasers.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Famous Lithuanians

The scholar Maria Gimbutas was from Lithuania.

Vilna Gaon was a famous rabbi of the 18 th century in Vilnius.

The Three Stooges' dad was from Kaunas and their mom was from Vilnius.

Other Americans of Lithuanian Heritage: Charles Bronson, Monica Lewinsky, Al Jolson.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Lithuania - Looking Forward to the Journey

Never dreamed I'd have a the opportunity to travel to Lithuania. On Friday I'm scheduled to travel to a NATO workshop in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The Lithuanian language is the language which is most like the original Indo-European tongue from which most European languages have descended. This includes the Romance, Germanic, Celtic, Slavic, Indo-Aryan language groups as well as a number of extinct ones like Hittite and Tocharian. Lithuanian along with Latvian and an extinct Prussian belong to the Baltic group. You might be surprized to learn that Lithuanian preserves a complexity similar to its cousin, Sanskrit, you know, the tongue in which so many Indian scriptures are preserved.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Depth of the Universe

From the Book of Thomas the Contender, an uneven, ascetic, definitely gnostic text from the Nag Hammadi library. (note: this is not the Gospel of Thomas)

The Saviour said, "Brother Thomas, while you still have time in the world, listen to me and I shall explain what you have been reflecting upon in your mind. Since it is said that you are my twin and my true friend, examine yourself and understand who you are, how you live, and what will become of you. Since you are called my brother, you should not be ignorant about yoursef. I know you understand some things, for already you understand that I am the knowledge of truth. While you are walking with me, though you are ignorant of other things, already you have obtained knowledge and you will be described as one who knows self. For whoever does not know self does not know anything, but whoever knows self already has acquired knowledge about the depth of the universe."

What strikes me here, and it may even be an accident of words used to translate, is that we must know ourselves in order to understand our universe. We cannot know the physical world alone and truly have knowledge about the depths of the universe.

This was called to mind as I was reading some marvelous posts by Richard Beck over at Experimental Theology.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Spiritual Meaning of our Animal Friends Part 2

"There is a profound, inescapable need for animals that is in all people everywhere, an urge for which no substitute exists."

"... animals are used in the growth and development of the human person."

"...animals have critical role in shaping personal identity and social consciousness."

" basic to the development of speech and thought"

" indispensible to our becoming human in the fullest sense"

"By identifying with a number of animals in turn, the child discovers a common ground with other beings..." .. "By pretending that animals speak to one another, he imposes on them a pseudo-humanity which ... is the glue of real kinship."

From the article by Paul Shepard "The Ark of the Mind" p54 of Parabola VIII #2, 1983.

I thought these quotes were interesting.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Tradition - What Good is It?

Hermit Greg made this marvelous quote in a discussion about the issue of using powerpoint in worship.

Not to know tradition is to be trapped in it, to be used by it, never to discover that it holds no knowledge of the ineffable God in itself. Tradition cannot be stepped outside of, but its workings can be learned, its gears and levers pried loose. The goal of becoming grounded in tradition is to learn to drive it so that it doesn’t drive us. To say as much is to show my Protestant colors, I know, and I also know it is to do so at the expense of my Restoration flag. So be it.

(Also see J. Wiser's blog post Laborious Powerpointus)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Spiritual Meaning of Our Animal Friends

For some time recently I have been contemplating the relation between humans and animals.

Why do we humans have a deep need for and feel a special closeness to animals? I feel this somewhat. But others close to me feel this to a much greater degree. I want to understand this.

Animals are critical to the spiritual formation of our children.

How do we communicate with children age 2 to 4? Isn't it true that we communicate with them by picture and stories of animals? Think of books written for that age group. Ones you've no doubt read many times - if you have children. We use animals to teach them and nurture them into being human.

What do we teach? We teach friendship and communicate certain other truths.

Don't we consider ourselves blessed in some way/aren't we excited/ aren't we enchanted when we have a chance encounter with a deer? A bald eagle? Or even a rabbit? We are transported or interrupted. Our consciousness is altered. We go to another place.

And sometimes, these moments seem more special to us if we have children along. We are so excited that we want them to experience this as well.

These thoughts derive from an article in Parabola: The Search for Meaning Vol 31 No. 2 Issue Theme: Absence and Longing Summer 2006. The particular article is Loneliness and Presence by Thomas Berry, p 80.

(The photo is our new dog we received a couple of months ago from a rescue facility which is closing. Tweetie has very low self esteem. She is very scared of me.)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

We are now empty nesters

Yesterday was our first day with both our sons gone. So we are now empty nesters. We knew our younger son was headed to Nashville for his freshman year at Lipscomb. Our older son who had stayed in town afther high school decided rather recently to transfer to the U. of Memphis. So there are big changes in our lives. The other big change in our lives is that we are part of a new church. So I've been looking to the future quite a bit recently. Its time to get out of the old ruts and into some new ones. From Amazon this week I received "The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church". There is a quote appropriate to my life changes in the front by Hans Kung.

A church which pitches its tents without constantly looking out for new horizons, which does not continually strike camp, is being untrue to its calling... [We must] play down our longing for certainty, accept what is risky, live by improvisation and experiment.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

At TVA's Buffalo Wind Farm

I trekked to TVA's Buffalo Wind Farm in Oliver Springs, TN a couple of weeks ago. These wind mills are tall and stately. They make a pleasant "Swoosh" sound. They are majestic.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Ground Source Heat Pumps

I've been reading lately about Ground Source Heat Pumps. When I bought our present house 16 years ago I accepted whatever systems the builder had installed. The next time, I'm saving energy and dollars with one of these systems. I would convert my present HVAC but we don't plan to be here but for 2 or 3 more years in this home.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism: Pt 3

The last chapter is "Metaphysical Holism and Divine Action". She begins with a nod to a 20th century philosopher by the name of Roy Wood Sellars. Sellars described the universe and its evolution as involving the march of ascending levels with the emergence of new properties at each level. He rejected "reductive materialism," the view that all of reality can be, in principle, reduced to the motion of atoms moving about and completely described and limited to physics calculations. Reality is thus reduced to the impersonal. All that we feel is reduced to and determined by the laws of how atoms bump and clump together. That is determinism and it dominated the Anglo-American philosophical world of the mid-twentieth century in which I grew up. He contended that there was too much emphasis on stuff and not enough on how things were organized. There are different causes and relationships and characteristics that apply to a succession of reality's levels. The levels that Sellars countenances are the inorganic, the organic, the mental or conscious, the social, the ethical, and the spiritual(1). He is a proponent of an idea known as emergence(2).

From here philosophers, biologists, physicists, and even new age authors (3) have proceeded to develop the nature of and implications of emergence.

With each step upward in the heirarchy of biological order, novel properties emerge that were not present at the simpler levels of organization. These emergent properties result from interactions between components. A molecule such as a protein has attributes not exhibited by any of its component atoms, and a cell is certainly much more than a bag of molecules(4).

From here Murphy proceeds to discuss the concept of supervenience. This concept, introduced in the seventies, refers to how action on a higher level specifies or controls activity on a lower level. For instance, in a biological cell it is the dynamic activities and processes in the cell that control the chemical reactions and positions of the individual molecules and cells. By analogy we can move up the ladder to higher and higher levels. For example, mental processes control or supervene the physical and electrical properties in a person's brain.

Nancy then makes the extrapolation then that if the highest level is God, then God supervenes the physical world. This allows natural laws to be in place and still functioning at all times and yet God, through supervenience, can act in the real world.

It is just a suggestion. She does not flesh the details out but suggests that this may have the potential to change the current polarization of religious dialogue. There is much work to be done.

Here, ten years since she wrote, religious thought, at least for most of the public, can still yet be easily be divided between two extremes, liberalism and fundamentalism. She hopes that the concept of emergence and postmodern philosophy and theories of language will allow thoughtful positions along a spectrum of these two extremes.

1. N. Murphy Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism, p 137, Trinity Press, Harrisburg, PA. 1996.

2. Wikipedia traces the idea of emergence to John Stuart Mill. See emergence.

3. Ken Wilber talks about this in his The Marriage of Sense and Soul. This book traces the idea of the hierachical view of reality back in to ancient wisdom sources.

2. ibid 139 (quoted from Neil A. Campbell, Biology, 2nd ed. (Redwood City: Benjamin/Cummins, 1990) ...Amazon has info on the 7th edition here.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism Pt2: Epistemological Holism

From chapter four of Murphy's book, I'm learning about epistemological holism. Rather than our knowledge being based upon a foundation of direct common sense experience and propositions that build on that, a postmodern view is that there is a web of beliefs which connect to each other in various ways. Coherence is an important concept here. How these beliefs fit together must be coherent. When a report of a new observation occurs, it is attached to the web in a way that least disturbs a person's web of belief. Let me give an example I've been thinking about lately. For instance, let us suppose a new piece of data ostensibly supporting climate change is reported. How does a climate change skeptic deal with that? By a variety of strategies including questioning the data, questioning the motives of the publisher, adjusting previous beliefs to make the new data fit, conjuring up another mechanism for the specific item reported, etc. At some point such a skeptic might realize that their belief system can no longer be made to coherently fit all the data and experience. When it is realized that a new adhoc hypothesis must be contrived in order to accomodate each new piece of information, then it is time to change.

Now on to the remaining chapters.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism

Am reading Nancey Murphey's Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism: How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set the Theological Agenda.

I am part way through it. I think she adequately describes how "the predominant materialist, atomist, reductionist, assumptions" that led to science were taken to extreme by both the fundamentalist as well as the materialist mind set, producing fundamentalism and liberalism. A third way is emerging. Am looking forward to its description in chapter 6 which "surveys changes in understandings of science that have deep metaphysical implications and thus consequences for an account of divine action as well." (p86)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Where do Christian Doctrines Come From?

I came across this quote in Nancey Murphy's book Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism. It is from a book by Shailer Matthews The Faith of Modernism and she says it was liberal Christianity's most well read book of the 1920's.

"We must discover when a doctrine arose, for what purpose it was organized, what religious attitude it expressed, what unifying social proactice or idea it used as a "pattern". From such a study the conclusion will be clear that while formulas are a part of our religion they are not to be identified with that religion. They spring from the effort of Christians in different situations to organize their lives and carry their daily burdens, perform their varying tasks, not only with prayer and sacrifice but in loyalty to the inherited attitudes and convictions of their group regarding God and Jesus Christ.

...A study of the origin and purpose of our doctrines shows how patterns have originated and served actual needs of a group."

Since shortly after adolescence, this sums up how I've always felt about doctrinal matters. I'd say doctrinal matters serve the needs of the group, generally. On the other hand, unfortunately, doctrinal matters can be exploited to serve the alpha males who are running things. (Even though they don't know it.)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Transformative Power of Travel

Traveling away from one's home for vacation or work or vocation can change a person's life.

What is it about travel that does that to a person?

1. Senses are heightened. Sights, smells and tastes are more intense. Memories are "burned" in more deeply.

2. When you are away, the usual cares and stresses of everyday life are gone. You are at attention.

3. Being in another culture helps you see things about yourself and your way of doing things that you take for granted, that you never even think about. It works two ways. It may cause you to confirm your existing way or it may suggest to you a better way.

4. The chance to be with people and share with them and develop new relationships always has assorted benefits.

4. In a different place and environment, one gets a chance to view things from a different perspective. One can rediscover one's self.

6. One always benefits from learning the history of a place and the manner of its people.

I write this based on my experience since I spent the summers of 1970 and 1971, between college terms, in Holland, Germany and Austria, doing church work. The people I met, both the ones native to those places, as well as other Americans, are still vivid in my memories.

I am not only talking about trips abroad. Traveling in northern New Mexico, when I first began working, created a new set of experiences and feelings. The annual trips we made from Arkansas to Michigan to see grandparents while growing up is a part of who I am and what I am. When I was young, even going into remote (to me) regions of the county to smaller country churches, provided me with some memories of a world that has largely vanished and memories for which I'm grateful.

Traveling is an opportunity for spiritual growth.

Here is something interesting which I just came across: 10 Tips for Spiritual Travel. I think all travel can be spiritual if you want it to be.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Singing is Therapy

Last night Dorothy and I joined a group of ten others to sing at a funeral in the Tennessee hills about an hour NE of our Knoxville home. We weren't good but we sang with enthusiasm. Tom, our leader, could have sung professionally. He's a Science Applications chemist who flies periodically to Russia to help with nuclear things. Me, I can pinch out the notes of the tenor part, usually. The man who had passed evidently was a good man, a colorful man, and a man well respected and loved. The mortuary was full. He was the father of a lady from a church where we used to attend. The minister had a relationship with the man and gave a loving tribute to him. That he felt intimacy, respect, and love was clear. I believe it gave we singers especial verve and resolve to sing the final two hymns with even more enthusiasm and meaning. And we did, especially the last one, It is Well with My Soul. It put me in a much better state of mind.

Singing is Good For You.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I Need Coffee

I went from Mark Frost's blog to Jeff Slater's blog to one of Jeff's links that speaks to my main addiction: coffee. If you are addicted also, you may want to check out I Need Coffee.

It contains history, recipes, jokes, poetry, coffee-praise etc. It has advice, like how to convert a popcorn popper into a hot air roaster.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fireworks on Independence Day Truman Arkansas 1963

The most thrilling and scary fireworks display I ever saw was on the fourth of July, 1963 in Truman, AR. Being from the town of Pocahontas of a neighboring county, we were there for a Little League baseball game to be played following the display. I was twelve and recall standing behind the fence parallel to the first base line and looking toward left center field where they were set up to begin.

Not long after the show began, something went wrong. There was an explosion on the ground. All control was lost. That explosion set off other fireworks on the ground and that continued for what seemed to me a long time, maybe fifteen minutes? The display was marvelous. It was continuous and chaotic and beautiful. No fireworks display has ever or ever will compare to that one. But, the whole time one was wondering about the safety of the guys who were at ground zero. If memory serves correctly, they got away, thankfully, with only singed hair on their arms. Eventually it played out and they sprayed water on the remains. It was still wet where my brother played in the outfield. I was a catcher and didn't make it out there.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Are You an Arminian?

I was asked in a religious conversation a few years ago if I was an Arminian. I had to go the internet to find out. Yes, according to the Wikipedia article on arminianism, the Churches of Christ tend to be Arminian. (As do Methodists, Anglicans, Free Will Baptists and others.) Upon reading the article, though, I tend to think in different categories than that. It seems to me we have free will to do what is right or wrong. In part that is because all my life, I have heard the doctrine of predestination, the understanding of which Arminius (a Dutchman - 1560-1609) sought to change, derogated many times from the pulpit in my lifetime. Sometimes the term Calvinism was used interchangeably for this. I did not know that there was a name, arminianism, for the competing doctrine. I guess we tend to call our own beliefs "the truth" and the beliefs of others with whom we disagree by some name ending in "ist" or "ism".

Here is something John Wesley said about it in answering the question "What is an Arminian?"

1. To say, "This man is an Arminian," has the same effect on many hearers, as to say, "This is a mad dog." It puts them into a fright at once: They run away from him with all speed and diligence; and will hardly stop, unless it be to throw a stone at the dreadful and mischievous animal.

I've always liked the sound of the word, probably because I once had a friend back in the 70's who was of Armenian heritage. This is one of those accidents of sound, Armenia and Arminius are not associated.

We have all kinds of beliefs and cultural predispositions that we are hardly aware of. I enjoy doing the mental archaeology the find out what and why these are.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Berlin Trip Part 7: Potsdam Scenes

To the right is Branderburger Strasse in Potsdam, Germany This was a short walk from the Dorint Hotel (where I stayed) down Voltaireweg and then Schopenhauer Strasse. These streets therefore are named after philosophers. Later I made it down Hegelallee. Took these on the evening of May 23.

Below is the Sanssouci Palace. Found a great web site that has a satellite view from above and I can see all these places I walked.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Generous Orthodoxy Discussion on Universalism

Over at Generous Orthodoxy there is a discussion about universalism. It is not from the perspective of the traditional Universalist/Unitarian standpoint, rather from and with a philosopher with evangelical roots.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Berlin Trip Part 6: Checkpoint Charlie

This is Checkpoint Charlie. From about 1961 to the end of 1989, the only legitimate way to pass back and forth between East and West Berlin was through this portal. The US GI picture lets a person know which way to freedom. There is an iron curtin soldier on the opposite side. It is a wonderful thing that the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie are no longer barriers to the free flow of thought and human beings.

Cathedral of Lund, Sweden

In April of 2005, Dorothy and I travelled to Lund, Sweden where I lectured and served as a "Faculty Opponent" for a Doctoral Candidate (and he was successful). Here's a picture of the Lund Cathedral. Dorothy is barely visible at the entrance. If I remember what was said about it, this structure was lucky to escape the destruction of churches associated with the reformation in Sweden.

The more cathedrals you see, the more you want to see and experience. In 1999 I took some Russian colleagues around Germany and Holland and the was one of the main things they wanted to see.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Da Vinci Code Movie - About our Ancestors

Well, we saw the Da Vinci Code last night. Because of reviews I was prepared for it to be less good than it was. I'd rate it 4 stars.

Of couse the story line is baloney. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. About 15 years ago, I read Holy Blood, Holy Grail; the book from which Brown got many of his ideas. Those guys evidently really believed what they wrote. If not, I don't know how they could sleep at night. There are so many holes in their arguments, it is amazing anyone could be taken in by it. They pile on subjunctive phrase after subjunctive phrase. If such and such happened then we might assume whatnot and therefore it could be possible that blah blah blah. Given this then perhaps ....

Let us suppose that Mary Magdalene really did bear Jesus' child and that the line continued. Why keep it a secret for so long? I can see maybe for a generation or two. Hegissipus talks about two of Jesus' kinsman who were known during the reign of Domitian. (As everyone knows, Jesus had a brother named Judas. They were his grandsons. Domitian questioned these two grandnephews of Jesus but decided they were no threat to him. See Peter Kirby's fine website on Early Christian Writings for more information about these relatives of the Lord.)

What secret would we like to make up and send to our descendants in 4000 AD? Its hard to get excited about anything like that. Give me a reason I should dedicate my life to such.

I read a book about 20 years ago called the Mountain of Names. The author claims that any person of English descent has a 95% chance of being descended from Alfred the Great. I believe he was a 9th century king. More recently, in a newspaper article, it was stated that virtually all Europeans can claim they are descended from Mohammad. He married off one of his daughters to some fella in Spain. A mathematical statistical model predicts our relationship. I don't have a problem with that. Though Jesus didn't have any children, his brothers likely had several. If they and a sufficient number of their descendants got out of Jerusalem in time before its decimation in about AD 70, then it is likely their line continued and that nearly all Caucasians and many Asians and Africans are descended from them. If that isn't the case then we can move it back a generation or two to Jesus uncles and aunts. For sure, virtually all of us descend from David, King of Israel.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Berlin Trip Part 5: Pergamon Museum

Visited the Pergamon Museum for 1 1/2 hours before closing time. Could have spent all day. They have a fantastic collection of things from the ancient world. It is a wonderful thing to see the actual items in person that I've seen in history and religious books all of my life. Yes, those things are real.

Assyrian Basrelief

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Berlin Trip Part 4: The Berlin Wall

One of the biggest and happiest surprizes of my life was the tearing down of the Berlin Wall around Christmas time 1989. It was a wonderful thing to have my picture taken beside these painted remnants of the wall.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Berlin Trip Part 3: Street Scenes

Looking west on Ku-dam Strasse, standing in front of Gedachniss Kirche. After the war, this street in what became West Berlin became the main shopping street in Berlin. I walked up and down it and saw many cafes, department stores, and even museums.

This was a caravan of volkswagons with giant Red Bull cans on top. After I snapped the picture, he walked up to the nearest vehicle and received a free can. They were passing them out to whomever would ask.

I recall feeling elated for the guy. Why is it we get so excited over getting a free $2 drink?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Berlin Trip Part 1: Kaiser Wilhem Memorial Church

I left Knoxville at 11:45 am Sunday May 21, flew all night, sleeping about 3 hours on the plane. Took a taxi, costing 40 eu (over $50), from Tegel airport in Berlin to the Dorint Hotel in Potsdam. After registering for my symposium, rather than going to bed, I asked a hotel clerk for directions to Kurfurstendamm Strasse. It is also known as Ku'dam.

The easier thing to do would have been to take a taxi there. But, I felt I needed a labor, or task, if you will. So, she wrote some notes for me with info on which bus and train to take to my destination. I felt discomfitted, nervous, and uncertain. I was afraid of making a fool of myself, afraid I'd mess up and get lost or something. I watched as the bus having the proper number came and passed me by. I was at the wrong stop on the opposite side of the road. Then, I crossed the street and waited another 20 minutes for the next one. I tried to pay the bus driver since I thought that was my instruction. He motioned for me to sit down. I then tried to put paper money into the automatic ticket dispenser. But it wouldn't work. Things were not going well. Thankfully a young man asked if he could help. I explained where I was hoping to go and he kindly assured me he'd show me what to do. When we arrived at the main train station of Potsdam, he showed me how to read the train schedule and showed me where to stand for the next train. Looking around, we didnt' see a ticket machine. He told me to climb on board anyway and to ask to buy a ticket if I was questioned. When he left, I went upstairs to the Reisezentrum (trip center) and bought an all day ticket. I preferred to have a ticket in hand rather than cause a possible problem. Later, while waiting for the train, an oriental man was asking people for help. I took him upstairs and showed him where he could buy a ticket. I climbed on board my train and two stops later was at my destination.

My first stop upon exiting the train station was the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedachtniss Kirche. This church, built in the late 19th century, was bombed and severely damage during WWII. It has been partially restored. Shrapnel wounds to the structure are apparent. The tower to one side in the left hand photo is a chapel where one can take a few moments to meditate, as I did. Musical programs are also presented there. I don't know why the background turned out pink. I must've accidentally set a weird setting on my camera.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Gone to Berlin

For my dedicated readers, all two of you if there are that many, I will be out of town till next week end.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Beauty of Truth

Len L. Hjalmarson whose blog is Next Reformation always has thoughtful things to say and says it so well. This is from his post on The Beauty of Truth.

Ultimately I think this relates to the incarnation itself, where Word and Spirit embrace. Word.. the logia, the rational dimension.. and Spirit.. the power, the energy, the life. When these two embrace, we have something qualitatively different than when they stand alone.

Isn’t it interesting that much of our Scripture is written in poetry, and nearly all the prophets are also poets?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

De-Pathologizing Doubt

Here's a great post from Richard Beck about having religious doubts and how acknowledging them can be a good thing. It is part 9 from a series of posts on the psychology of belief. They are really good.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Out of the Question ...Into the Mystery

Here are a few quotes from Leonard Sweet's book Out of the Question ...Into the Mystery. This book has had an immense effect on me.

"The way to save the world is not through more rules to live by, but through right relationships to live for." p 1

"We have much to learn about the truth of God that is revealed only through relationships." p 9

"Ultimate reality can be experienced only in relationships...Christianity is much more than a wisdom tradition or a moral system or a path leading to higher states of existence." p16

"Few were so careless of orthodox formulas as Jesus, and there is something more than a little precious in affecting a greater concern for orthodoxy than his" p 17 (he quotes this from C. K. Barrett from The Signs of an Apostle, the Cato Lecture p88)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Church Splits?

It appears that our church will be undergoing a split. I am 55 years old and have never seen such a thing first hand before. It appears to me that it is a matter of good people having honest but irreconcilable differences of opinion. I've always thought that many congregations in our fellowship separated over rather minor things and that breaking up and forming separate groups was always wrong. In this case, though, I think it may be best for all involved. Time will tell.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Church Singing

Anne Lamott describes church singing, when it's done right.

Then the singing enveloped me. It was furry and resonant, coming from everyone's heart. There was no sense of performance or judgement, only that the music was breath and food.

Its a pleasure to say in this instance "been there done that", one of life's great joys.

Traveling Mercies, Anchor Books 2000 edition page 48.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Cleveland Here I Come

I travel to Cleveland Monday for the 52nd International Instrumentation Symposium. Will give a tutorial on phosphor thermometry and other sensor applications, along with two of my colleagues. Its a great town. I've been to the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame already and NASA Glenn as well. This trip we'll get to visit a local brewery when the conference breaks for tours on Wednesday afternoon. Will be back Friday evening. Next trip: Berlin.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Unconscious Assumptions

Something else from A. N. Whitehead from the book Science and the Modern World (chapter II):

Each generation criticises the unconscious assumptions made by its parents. It may assent to them, but it brings them out in the open.

My generation of moderns will probably continue to duke it out over a liberal/conservative divide. It's my hope the younger crowd will move beyond this and get to the real business of saving the world.

And check this out too, its a list of ANW quotations.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

I didn't rig this

Intelligent Design and Alfred North Whitehead

ANW believes in evolution. The following comes from his Science and the Modern World, Chapter 6 - The Nineteenth Century .

The general principle is that in a new environment there is an evolution of the old entities into new forms.

and in the next paragraph

The main work, proceeding during this pause at the end of the nineteenth century, was the absorption of this doctrine (ANW's organic conception of evolution) as guiding the methodology of all branches of science. By a blindness which is almost judicial as being a penalty affixed to hasty, superficial thinking, many religious thinkers opposed the new doctrine;

But ANW is an anti-materialist. Continuing the sentence:

although, in truth, a thoroughgoing evolutionary philosophy is inconsistent with materialism. The aboriginal stuff, or material, from which a materialistic philosophy starts is incapable of evolution. This material is in itself the ultimate substance. Evolution, on the materialistic theory, is reduced to the role of being another word for the description of the changes of the external relations between portions of matter. There is nothing to evolve, because one set of external relations is as good as any other set of external relations. There can merely be change, purposeless and unprogressive.

Interesting. What would he say today about Intelligent Design? I think he defies common categories.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Science and the Modern World - Alfred North Whitehead

A few weeks ago I was rummaging around looking for a book when I discovered that I had a copy of Alfred North Whitehead's Science and the Modern World. This paperback book is so old it's list price was thirty five cent. Turns out, I bought it when in Memphis between '72 and '74 and had forgotten about it all these years.

I'm so happy I found it. I've been gravitating towards what he writes about. Not long before finding the book, I had even bought a book on process philosophy which he and Charles Hartshorne developed.

The book is full of marvelous insights. The language is wonderful.

The book is critical of scientism. It has a postmodern feel. From reading it you would not neccessariy know that he spent much of his life doing mathematics. He coauthored with Bertrand Russell (who adversely influenced me when I was younger) a massive tome the Principia Mathematica in which they take about 70 pages to prove that 1 is greater than 0, or some such thing.

By the time he wrote this book (published when he was about 64), he had crossed the channel and become a Harvard philosophy professor.

He criticizes a mechanical view of the universe. I recall that his old buddy Russell once said something about us being an accidental collocation of atoms, or something like that. Whitehead on the other hand recognizes that there is more. There is no light or color as a fact in external nature. There is merely motion of material. He says that these things are the offspring of the mind. Nature gets credit which should in truth be reserved for ourselves; the rose for its scent; the nightingale for his song; and the sun for his radiance. The poets are interely mistaken. They should address their lyrics to themselves, and should turn them into odes of self-congratulation on the excellency of the human mind. Nature is a dull affair, soundless, scentless, colourless; merely the hurrying of material, endlessly, meaninglessly.

The book is definitely postmodern, even though written in 1925.

I'll post more on this book. Gotta get to work now.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Creation, Wisdom and the Mystical

Striking quote by way of Gideon Strauss' blog. Check out his site, his neocalvinism links, and the New Pantagruel.

Creation not only exists, it also discharges truth. ... Wisdom requires a surrender, verging on the mystical, of a person to the glory of existence.

Gerhard Von Rad

Monday, April 17, 2006

I find this edifying

From an article by Len Hjalmarson and Rob McAlpine

"What are some of the facets of postmodern culture that offer a unique opportunity for the Gospel? Let's list them:

* recognition of the essentially spiritual nature of life
* openness and desire for community
* rejection of authority in position and acceptance of authority in relationship
* emphasis on participation over spectator mentality
* leadership by wisdom and example not knowledge or position
* emphasis on practical answers, "walk" over "talk"
* emphasis on journey and process over goal
* desire for experience over knowledge, the "subjective" and mystical dimension
* spontaneous order over rational structure, webs of connection and meaning
* recognition of truth in paradox, images and story "

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Spiritual Pollution

Check out Richard Beck's web site, Experimental Theology and Spiritual Pollution series on the role of Disgust in our moral and religious outlook.

from part I

Growing up in my small church in Erie, PA, I often heard that, as Christians, we were to "hate the sin but love the sinner." As a catchy aphorism, the formulation isn't bad. It nicely captures two treasured Christian commitments: Holiness and love. But as we observe Christendom, it seems that this formulation frequently fails us. That is, it seems to be very, very hard to balance a fierce commitment to holiness with a call to radically love a broken world. Churches that emphasize maintaining "holiness" seem culturally marginalized, fearful of the world and often despising the people participating in the larger culture. Some of these churches can seem downright hateful. By contrast, "relationship-oriented" churches seem soft on sin, tempering the ethical message of the gospel to "connect" or "reach" a variety of populations. And each church "type" seems suspicious or judgmental of the other.

In the following posts I'm going to suggest that this balance between holiness and love is hard to achieve when we structure facets of Kingdom living with the emotion and logic of what is called sociomoral disgust. Looking ahead, I'm going to argue that certian sins, such as sexual sins, and certain aspects of church life, such as worship and doctrine, are often structured by a contamination logic, a logic that activates a disgust psychology that creates interpersonal distance and irrational emotions.

Idea Progression- Bible - Gospel of Thomas

Quotes from Bible Gateway

Deut 30.

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

Romans 10

5Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: "The man who does these things will live by them." 6But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) 7"or 'Who will descend into the deep?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:

Luke 10

8"When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 9Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.' 10But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11'Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.'

Luke 17

20Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you."

Thomas (Layton's translation) - Peter Kirby's Early Christian Writings Site

(3) Jesus said, "If those who lead you (plur.) say to you, 'See, the kingdom is in heaven,' then the birds of heaven will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. But the kingdom is inside of you. And it is outside of you.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Early Morning Thoughts while Thinking about the Gospel of Judas

I have been fascinated by the gnostics for some time and I'm not really sure why. Well now that I think about it:

1. They are a mystery and mysteries, some of them anyway, beckon me to investigate.

I was excited when I first heard of the Gospel of Judas, hoping it would give us some juicy new knowledge. Alas, on the first read, I'm disappointed. There is not much in it that is new. It is a typical piece of Barbelo Gnosticism from the 2nd century. Further scrutiny may turn up a few things but we won't get any bombshells.

2. How could they believe such wild and depressing things?

I believe in the fundamental honesty of religious belief by people. Most people aside from a few televangelists, faith healers, and similar charlatans really do honestly believe what they do. The gnostic writers were writing what they honestly believed. I don't take them as folks who desired on purpose to be heretics. So where did they get such strange ideas? Bart Ehrman has a good explanation in Lost Christianities which I will relate some time in another post.

3. Maybe if I dig deeper I'll learn something.

Its been hard work but I believe I have derived some insights from the gnostics. To use a technical term, the signal-to-noise ratio is low.

4. Some things I've learned.

The belief of some gnostics that an evil god created the world as a mistake has, thankfully, gone by the wayside. The accompanying belief was that we should deny ourselves pleasure, that God's creation is not good, and that we should be life-denying ascetics. Well, you know, such a thing has been around right up to the present. I can recall lot's of sermons about how bad we are and how this life doesn't matter (pun intended), and how the only thing that we should think about and work on is getting to heaven.

It took another thousand years before people started climbing mountains and inventing science and starting a renaissance.

A student at a local preacher school was telling me about all their rules. (Conversation circa 1979). This fella was pretty well grounded and was confiding in me. He thought they went too far. His young children were definitely impressed. Evidently they were getting the point that pleasure is wrong and so they asked their Dad if riding a motorcycle was a sin.

Learning about the gnostics has been a useful way, by examining contrasts and similarities, to better understand my version of Christianity.

Then there are a few gems that are fun to ponder. There is something about cosmology in the verse below. Let's assume the Big Bang is true. Were not we all there together in that moment of creation? And didn't we come from the light?

Gospel of Thomas verse 50

Jesus said, "If they say to you (plur.), 'Where are you from?' say to them, 'It is from light that we have come - from the place where light, of its own accord alone, came into existence and [stood at rest]. And it has been shown forth in their image.' If they say to you, 'Is it you?' say 'We are its offspring, and we are the chosen of the living father.'

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Spectrum of Consciousness

In the opening to Ken Wilber's book The Spectrum of Consciousness, he quotes William James.

Our normal waking consciousness is but one special type of consciousness..... No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the question. . . At any rate, they forbid our premature closing of accounts with reality.

He's right. And one type of consciousness that I never experience anymore is when I was a child and when we would visit someone's house and play for hours. It was a timeless bliss that I remember. I wasn't thinking about 10 things at once. No worries at all. Purely in the moment. Purely focused and a being suffused with joy. Hadn't thought about that in a long time.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Physics and Consciousness

So little time and so much to do. What is discomforting, as a physicist, about my narrative below is that it is only an argument from analogy. What we'd really like to do is derive an equation that shows what conscious experience is and how it works. But we don't know how to do that. We are not even close. And no one really has any idea. People like David Chalmers acknowledge this and at least state the problem correctly. Understanding the brain is difficult enough. But even knowing the physiological correlates of consciousness do not tell us what it is. We may know something about how the electrical impulses move about as I lift my arm. But we have no idea how it is that I can do that. I can lift my arm, change my heart rate, and change my body chemistry. If I were a young man again, research in this area might be the path I'd take.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Physics and Emergence

I'm going to ramble along the lines of the conversation that Rob and I have been having in the responses to recent posts below. I'm not sure exactly what I'm gonna say but let's get started.

The way one is trained in both physics and engineering is by learning from simplified examples. Concepts are taught from the most basic, fundamental representation. Then the problems at the end of the chapter are just one or two steps of complexity above that. For instance, to learn kinetics, what happens when two objects collide that are going at different speeds and directions, we start with infinitely hard billiard balls that are perfect spheres and do not absorb energy from each other. There are other background assumptions we won't go into. There is no spin involved and no friction with the surface on which they sit. Everything is idealized. There is good reason for starting in this way. We must start first with the simple and get practice in order to learn the concepts and make sure we understand what we are doing.

There is a well known joke about this. A physicist was once asked to consult with a farm regarding a herd of cows that was not producing enought milk. After studying the problem and determining his solution, the physicist went to the blackboard to explain to his customer, saying "First, we assume a spherical cow..."

That's the end of the joke and everybody laughs.

But, when we get jobs and go out into the real world to solve real problems, all the easy things have been done. The equations get complicated. The machines we work with are not ideal spheres or cylinders and cannot be described by simple equations. Mathematical models are constructed. Data collected, the models are corrected and provided with "fudge factors" to make them work so they make the right predictions enough of the time to be useful.

The problems to be attacked in this way are many. But, we can only do simple machines and circuitry this way. And some simple fluid dynamic problems. Mechanical and fluid flow devices follow the rule's of Newton's mechanics. With electrical devices we use not only Maxwell's electromagnetic theory but quantum theory as well.

But, as great as physics and its subset of mechanical and electrical engineering is, it is pretty useless for telling us what a living cell is doing and what it will do. With such a complex, higher order system, new laws apply. I'm guessing emergence theory tells us that the with the higher complexity, new order and new phenomena have emerged which exert control over the lower. When we progress from single cell life to multicellular life, the next level, the new entity exerts control (supervene's) over it's cellular constituents. At some point in the appearance of life, consciousness appeared, that is, the ability to feel and experience. Now, it is the highest level.

postscript: I watched the special on the Gospel of Judas on the National Geographic channel last night. Enjoyed that. But, can't say that GJudas has anything new to tell us either about the real Jesus or the real Judas. Perhaps, it highlights that we really don't know that much about the latter.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Music and the Meaning of Life

It has always been a mystery to me why music is so important to me and to others. Music reaches way down deep.

I led congregtional singing twice Sunday. Dorothy and I drove 80 miles north of here to a small church in Speedwell, TN. for a morning service there. The scenery of the rolling hills with the mountains as backdrop was oh so beautiful and comforting. Tonight I led at the West End Church of Christ. Several commented that I'd sung some of their favorites. That was my good fortune to have picked what so many wanted. Some remarked that they liked it because I picked older songs that they knew. One person said a new song to him was one he learned in college. I reckon that was about 30 years ago for him.

Yes, music is something that goes way deep inside of us. What we hear becomes part of us and even who we are. The music of our youth helps to form our personal identity. When I was a teenager, I don't believe they used Led Zeppelin or the Who music to sell cars or as introduction to television shows. Back then they used something more appropriate to the buyer's age group.

I once read about a doctor in Vienna who treated spinal injury patients. He claimed that playing music that was popular during a person's puberty produce noticeable effects in healing. It got their juices going in a special way that music from other era's in their could not. I read that twenty or so years ago and don't know if anyone has followed up on that but it rings true with me. The Beatles hit the scence as I was going through puberty and they and the other bands of the British Music invasion of the sixties stir things up inside me in a way that other music doesn't.

I love all kinds of music. Recently, I bought a couple of Lone Ranger episodes on DVD from Cracker Barrell just so I could hear the background music, the William Tell Overture and other pieces. An older man at church gave me a CD of his favorite: Dixieland music. It is great. Each type of music takes one to a different time and place. One can be transported there to smell the smells experience the scene. Reggae music can change one's mood after the first few beats and induce feelings of relaxation and ease. I could ramble on about the different feelings produced by different musics. I love classical. There just is too much good music to keep up with these days. I don't dislike Rap. I just haven't had much exposure too it. Can't Touch This by M. C. Hammer was a work of genius I thought. Too much music and so little time.

Yep music is important and I'm not sure why. Don't know how it has evolutionary value or how it arose in our brains. Exploring that issue could be fruitful for understanding the mind body problem. Who knows?

Process Theology

Am exploring process theology by reading Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition by John B. Cobb, Jr. and David Ray Griffin. The book was published in 1976 and is oriented mostly toward the influence of Alfred North Whitehead. This is interesting on page 24:

We have had the view that the ultimate constituents of the world were like tiny billiard balls. Any changes brought about in the world involved only the rearrangement of externally related bits of matter. Since they did not permeate each other, no irreversible changes could be effected. If some combination of things is found to have unfortunate consequences, the combination can simply be undone, and things will be returned to the state they were in before. Ecology, as the study of the interrelationships of things, has taught us that this view is false. Interrelations are internal to things. Whitehead's thought is throughly ecological. It involves extending to the status of a universal truth Paul's insight that we're "members of one another."

This book is now thirty years old but is amazingly contemporary in its emphasis on relationship and emergence and other things.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Have been reading Everyman Revived: The Common Sense of Michael Polanyi by Drusilla Scott. Am finding out about the idea of emergence as it is applied to the development of life and evolution. Perhaps, I'll have to check, Ken Wilber was influenced by Polanyi's work and others cited, like Arthur Koestler. The latter is an author I've been meaning to read for years but have never gotten around to it.

On page 105, Drusilla quotes from Koestler's book The God That Failed in regard to K's communist upbringing

"My party education had equipped my mind with such elaborate shock absorbing buffers and elastic defences that everything seen and heard became automatically transformed to fit a pre-conceived pattern."

That describes a lot of us doesn't it?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Current Readings

1. The Amazing Law of Influence by King Duncan - a positive upbeat book about people influencing other people. My friend and boss invited me to hear this man at a local Methodist church recently and I like what I heard.

2. Mapping Postmodernism by Robert C. Greer - A survey of christian approaches to postmodernism by a former missionary. Pretty deep. Still soaking it in.

3. Restoring the First-century Church in the Twenty-first Century - Essays on the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, In Honor of Don Haymes, ed. by Warren Lewis and Hans Rollman. Lots of good stories here.

4. Evangelicalism and the Stone-Campbell Movement - ed. by William R. Baker Essays on whether or not SC churches are evangelical or not etc. I have never identified with evangelicals.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Stephan's Quintet - Galaxies in Collison

Explanation from Hubble Site. And Science Daily.

Jesus Parables

Back when I was a student at the University of Virginia, I heard a weekend lecture from a prof in the Religious Studies Department by the name of Dan Via. He discussed Jesus' parables from a literary perspective using the categories of Comedy and Tragedy. Subsequently I read his book The Parables and then one of his sources, Interpreting the Parables by A. M. Hunter. What I learned in the latter book has stayed with me all these years. I will follow with a post on it eventually.

This week I did some reading in Via's book for the first time in over twenty years. Now, I am just beginnng to understand some of it that I hadn't earlier. It approaches Jesus from an existential direction and it seems quite contemporary in some ways as it fits with my recent reading regarding postmodernism and foundationalism.

The very fact that Jesus compared the kingdom of God to ordinary, everyday people and activities suggests some kind of analogy between God and man. p. 104

he says regarding the parables,

Because of their aesthetic nature they are in certain ways more effective than propositional statements could be, and because of their realistic and dramatic subject matter they give a particular content to our understanding of our relationship with God and tie it to human experience. p. 65

And this statement has stayed with me all of these years,

It may be agreed that the biblical text transcends the author's self-understanding...the author of artistic works says more than he knows he is saying... p 39

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


"The way to save the world is not through more rules to live by, but through right relationships to live for.
Relationship is the soul of the universe. "(p 1)

Out of the Question ...Into the Mystery by Leonard Sweet

We need to move from Protestantism's propositional, fact-based, science-objective orientation to relationality. Life and reality: its all about relationship.

I say this even though I'm a research and development engineer, a nerd who's loved and lived science and technology all of his life.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Christian and Meditation

Meditation and christianity have long been partners, although it has not been at all prominent in Protestant tradition. I would like to learn more about it. Millions of people, of all religions, find value in the contemplative life.

Here's link to an interesting site devoted to a modern, er postmodern christianity and meditation and mysticism.

Ekstasis June 3 2005

Ekstasis Main

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A Campbellite selects a quote from a Campbell

"It is a law of our subject, proven time and time again, that where the orthodoxies of the world go apart, the mystic way unites. The orthodoxies are concerned primarily with the maintenance of a certain social order, within the pale of which the individual is to function; in the interest of which a certain "system of sentiments" must be instilled into every member; and in the defense of which all deviants are to be, one way or another, either reformed, deformed, or liquidated. The mystic way, on the other hand, plunges within, to those nerve centers that are in all members of the human race alike, and are at once the well springs and ultimate receptacles of life and all experiences of life."*

*from Joseph Campbell in The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology pp.448-9, Penguin Books, 1987 edition.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Kierkegaard Quote

from Soren Kirkegaard*

"First and foremost, no impatience . . . A direct attack only strengthens a person in his illusion, and at the same time embitters him. There is nothing that requires such gentle handling as an illusion, if one wishes to dispel it. If anything prompts the prospective captive to set his will in opposition, all is lost. . . [The indirect method. . . . loving and serving the truth, arranges everything. . . . and then shyly withdraws (for love is always shy), so as not to witness the admission which he makes to himself alone before God - that he has lived hitherto in an illusion."

I have been all these people: attacker, attacked, and the one under an illusion. Wish that years ago I had read this and taken to heart.

*from p. 93 of Mapping Postmodernism by Robert C. Greer, 2003 Intervarsity Press. His footnote is the following: Soren Kierkegaard, The Point of View of My Work as an Author, in The Modern Tradition: Backgrounds of Modern Literature, ed. Richard Ellmann and Charles Feidelson Jr. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1965), p. 751; cited in Taylor, Myth of Certainty, pp. 25-26

Friday, February 24, 2006


Am reading Mapping Postmodernism: a survey of Christian options by Robert C. Greer. Learned something new on the topic of inerrancy. I had thought that the general opinion was that it was only the original manuscripts that were inerrant and that our extant manuscripts and modern translations are admitted to have typos, misprints, and other problems. But Greer informs that there are some who believe that God has not left us in this situation; and that he has provided an error free version for our times as well, the King James Version. This does seem to be a more consistent position. If inerrancy means so much, what good is it that only the first readers of the original autographs had the only inerrant copy? But there are well known problems with the KJV that nearly everyone now acknowledges, in part due to the better textual evidence discovered since its publication. This is just one more reason why inerrancy is problematic.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Generous Orthodoxy

In Generous Orthodoxy on page 59 Bryan McLaren quotes a mentor of his as having said "Scratch the paint of a liberal and you'll find an alienated fundamentalist underneath." Coming from a fellowship, the churches of Christ, that fractured a religious body over having pianos in worship, I know what he is talking about. This is one example among many of particular doctrinal points that could get one into trouble. Such rule keeping and enforcement, I think, has produced a lot of liberals. Some of these are so liberal that they switched to the Baptists. Some went to seminary/grad school where they fanned out to cover the theological spectrum.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Meaning of Light

"Arthur Young has pointed out the simple but profound truth that we do not actually see light. Instead, we see by light and with light."

from The Unfolding Self by Ralph Metzner, p164, Origin Press 1998.

And Ralph cites the following in the endnotes on p. 291

"Light is not an objective thing that can be investigated as can an ordinary object. Even a tiny snow crystal, before it melts, can be photographed or seen by more than one person. But a photon, the ultimate unit of light, can be seen only once: its detection is its annihilation. Light is not seen; it is seeing." (Arthur Young, The Reflexive Universe, p. 10)

The meaning of light is of interest to me because I've made my living, beginning in grad school over thirty years ago, by pushing around and capturing light. The connection between the physical aspects and spiritual are fascinating.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Assumptions, Presuppositions and Sheep

Back in the 70's I read an obituary in Physics Today of a young physicist who had passed before his time. In the eulogy to the man, it was mentioned that he was so careful in making assumptions that if he saw a hillside with sheep grazing, he would only go so far as to say 'the side of each sheep that is in view is white'. As if to say that what is not seen could turn out to be another color. Now, that seems kind of ridiculous. But, in a laboratory, whether scientific or engineering, that kind of skepticism has its place.

We can't live our entire lives being skeptical like that but using this approach occasionally in disciplined way has value.

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