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User Journal

Journal Journal: Creation, Intelligent Design, and Biblical Inerrancy

(These comments are excerpted from an e-mail exchange I had with the Youth Minister at my church. Our church was preparing to have an open discussion with youth about the various Creation vs. Evolution debates going on in various school systems around the country.)

In general, I've never thought that engaging in Creation vs. Evolution arguments was a productive use of our time as Christians. It seems that most of the time, we alienate non-Christian by-standers, and do very little to change the minds of people on the other side.

I've read through the Case for a Creator site, and it didn't present anything convincing to me (I've heard the "Intelligent Design" arguments long ago).

Ultimately, I always come down to this: If God created everything, does it really matter if He chose to use a literal Genesis-style creation, or if He decided to use a mechanism similar to evolution? (This is why I always emphasize that the most important words in Genesis are the first four from 1:1, "In the beginning, God...".)

In my experience, the mechanism of creation doesn't matter to anyone except someone who gets upset over whether or not such questions demonstrate doubt about the Bible's credibility/infallibility. The Bible does not attempt to be a book of science, though it does address scientific issues at times. (Many Christians don't get this, and treat it like it is a book of science.) It doesn't attempt to be a book of philosophy, but you'll see many deep philosophical themes.

Accordingly, I feel that lining up the Bible against textbooks of science is a "bad move" (tm). (This is in spite of the fact that many of our current science textbooks are barely more adequate as books of science than the Bible...). In my opinion, it degrades what the Bible is, as doing so can appear to equate it with (and bring it down to) such texts. Likewise, science books never tried to be the Bible either, so trying to figure out how the Genesis flood could really happen as the Bible describes when there's no good explanation for "where the water went" is somewhat akin to grabbing "Gray's Anatomy," and emphasizing its failures to adequately explain complex human psychology.

Even worse, spending a great deal of energy coming up with complex explanations for how Biblical accounts can line up with known science usually focuses on minutiae of translation that make the explanations hard to accept on a logical basis, much less a scientific one.

I think this may be a useful debate to have, but I fear we (Christians) spend far too much time worrying about the "how," and lose track of the "Who." After all, isn't it the "Who" from Genesis 1:1 that's really important?


P.S. It will be interesting to see how Strobel will respond to the new hominid discovery off the southern coast of Indonesia

P.P.S. IMHO, the attack on NPR listed on the "Case for a Creator" site is pretty "out there," since the NPR stories seem to have accurately presented what's really going on (that Creationists have been pushing an "Intelligent Design" curriculum, not-so-cleverly disguised as "scientific analysis of Darwinian Evolution").


Journal Journal: iPod Shuffle

For Valentine's Day, I got a 1GB iPod Shuffle. I already owned a 4th Gen 20GB model, but daily trips to the gym made it a bit of a hassle coming in and out of the car.

I tried it out for the first time today at the gym. Very interesting. I don't have an armband yet, so I just stuck the thing in my pocket before heading into the gym. Last night, I built a playlist of similar BPM songs for running, and designated that playlist for "Autofill."

The most immediate reaction I had is that this thing is very light, enough so to forget that it's there. While running, I was able to feel the buttons through my pocket, so I was able to change volume and tracks without pulling it out of my pocket. Since my gym routine has me stopping on the treadmill periodically to do sets of crunches (and I try to turn the music off before walking around where people are swinging large heavy things like dumbbells), I was also able to start/stop the music without removing it from my pocket.

Sound quality is as good as the regular iPod (as far as I can tell while running in a noisy gym), but the simplified controls actually work to an advantage. While running, the thumb wheel on regular iPods works OK, but can sometimes be a problem with accidentally clicking when you're trying to raise or lower volume. The Shuffle is easier to use in that regard.

Relating to the lack of display, this appears to be a non-issue for me. For some time, I've noticed that when I'm running or working out, I would simply skip songs I didn't want to listen to that day.

With regard to capacity, I've only got 52 songs in this playlist, but it's 3.7 hours, which means I can go to the gym 4 days without hearing a repeat.

In summary, this looks like the perfect gym companion for me, and may be my "trip accessory of choice" the next time I head out of town. I won't need to mess with an external charging device; it'll stash conveniently with the lanyard; in the current config it'll hold roughly 120 songs as an iPod and 512MB of data as a thumb drive; under my shirt, it's much harder for someone to steal in the middle of a crowded airport or subway.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Dream Remembered

Today, a conversation in the office reminded me of a dream I had approx 10 years ago. My 14 year-old was about 3-4, and I dreamt he was climing on an I-beam at a high-rise construction site.

Being terrified of heights, I was crawling along the I-beam on my stomach, trying to get him. Unfortunately, he slipped and fell before I could get there, and I awoke with the terrifying memory of seeing his face clearly, growing ever smaller as he fell.

The guilt I felt over being too afraid to get to him quickly was intermixed with a sense of wishing I had jumped after him, and at least held him in my arms prior to our deaths.

Sometimes, being a parent really stinks.


Journal Journal: Homeschooling

For the past several days, I've been discussing the pros & cons of homeschooling versus a traditional public school education. At the outset, I should state that both my wife (who teaches in one of the larger public school systems in the US) and I are products of public education. Clearly, my views are going to be affected by that background.

First, there is the sense of, "This was good enough for me, so it oughta be good enough for my kids." I know that this thought has passed through my mind as I've thought over this, but I also am well aware that the educational system of today bears only a passing resemblence to the one that was in place in from 1967-1978. (I skipped 6th grade, so I only attended school for 11 years.)

But when I consider the possibility that the schools of today might NOT be as good as what I experienced, I stop and ask why that might be. Is it because we, as parents, aren't as (appropriately) involved as we used to be in our children's education? Have we either delegated all teaching (including morals and social values) to others, or have we gone to the other extreme of pushing our influence into the classroom at every opportunity (trying to turn the current teacher into my surrogate)? The extremes trouble me, and don't represent the participation that I recall my parents having as I grew up.

Second, there is the question of socialization. I have read most of the arguments on both sides about the social education that naturally occurs within a school. For instance, one might argue that my son doesn't need to go to school with a bully in order to learn how to deal with such personalities, and that isolating him from such behavior may allow him to mature without such influences, and not learn "inappropriate" behaviors. Likewise, you can suggest that by shielding my son from the bully, you are crippling him socially--preventing him from learning necessary socialization techniques that we adults use when dealing with others. Though I suspect that the former scenario is possible, I KNOW that the latter scenario is, because this was the case for me.

Lastly, there is a question of overly homogenous education. That is to say, is there a benefit to my children being exposed, even at an early age, to differing points of view, teaching styles, and even interpersonal styles for adults. Here, it becomes a question of the value of socialization with adults, and not with my son's peers.

For me, this is truly the key issue, and my feelings about it relate to a core value that I learned from my father, relating to religious truth: "If what we believe is really true, no amount of closer scrutiny will reveal it to be false. If anything, the scrutiny will reveal it to be true, and we'll have even greater faith in what we believe than before. On the other hand, if what we believe is false, and it's in danger of being revealed by scrutiny, are we 'blissful in our ignorance,' instead of being committed to the truth?"

From that core teaching, I thoughtfully listen when I hear a differing viewpoint on religion, politics, parenting, or even home-schooling. I hear what others present, try to remove some of the emotion from the equation, and assess the results as objectively as possible.

With regard to home-schooling, it translates into me being quite happy to have my son's teachers challenging things that I have taught them. Since I've taught my sons to question what they believe anyway, they respond to differing opinions by engaging the teacher (and me) in a debate about the subject, which in turn translates into deeper understanding. (Much deeper than the superficial learning that occurs from blindly memorizing the information.)

Am I afraid that they may discard those carefully formed "truths" that I have passed on to them, in favor of what they learn from the teacher? Not in the least! In fact, I'm anxious for them to prove me wrong, and educate me in the process (which they LOVE to do!). In this way, the knowledge that they gain as part of the educational process is far greater than what they could have ever achieved if they had simply parroted what they learned at my feet.

Have I carefully examined what I believe/know/think to determine that it's true? Of course! However, I'm not so arrogant as to believe that I have a monopoly on truth.

In summary, I think exposing my children to various teaching styles, differing viewpoints, and varied (and sometimes contrary) personalities has benefits that far outweigh the downsides to public education. For the downsides that remain, it behooves me as a parent to engage myself in the process sufficiently well enough to affect change where change is beneficial.

A good friend of mine once said, "We all want our children to grow up in a culturally rich and diverse environment, but to ultimately hold the same values and prejudices that we hold so dear." The dichotomy of this statement is amazing but true. I choose to push myself out of that, and encourage my sons to not be limited by the knowledge, values, beliefs, prejudices, and biases that I have. I choose to push them to being smarter, more moral, more faithful, less bigoted, and more unbiased than I.


P.S. In the case of my oldest son (16 year-old), some of these issues came to a head this semester, as we were confronted with the possibility of him having another class with a teacher that had demonstrated an apparent bias against him. My response was, "I don't always have the option of choosing who I work for, or who I work with. At some point, you're going to have to learn to deal with people who don't like you, and who you feel are out to get you. Learn from it. Deal with it. Get over it." So far, he seems to have learned far more from that class than any other in the current semester.


Journal Journal: Passion of the Christ

I saw "Passion of the Christ" this past week with several people from our church, and have been discussing it with friends and co-workers a great deal lately.

First, Mel Gibson has said he wanted people to be shocked when they saw this movie. I'm not sure how you could go and watch the entire thing, and not be. As someone who's been exposed to cross images and crucifixion language most of his life, I've wondered if I have "sanitized" the event or trivialized it to the point of it losing its meaning. As a result, I went into the thing prepared to have my senses assaulted, and half-wondering if it wasn't something long overdue.

Several people have asked me what my reaction has been, and the best thing I can compare this to is "Schindler's List" in terms of emotional impact. (I'm not trying to make a comparison between the two about which is a better movie.) I can't imagine walking out of a theater after seeing SL and not feeling shocked. Likewise, my feeling upon leaving the theater was one of somewhat numb shock.

Perhaps an analogy would express it better. Can you imagine someone selling rub-on fake tattoos of ID numbers designed to look like they were from a concentration camp? Now imagine your reaction to seeing someone wearing such tattoos after coming out of seeing SL.

This is roughly what I've been dealing with since viewing "Passion." When I see a cross around someone's neck (or even more so, a crucifix) or some of the crucifixion-nail jewelry, I have to fight this desire to say "How can you trivialize someone's suffering with ornamentation like that?" I know this isn't their intent, but that's the emotional reaction I've been dealing with.


Interestingly, the images that were most memorable to me seem to be non-violent ones, or artifacts of the violence. For example, in the scene when he's being scourged, for me the most powerful image is Mary and Mary Magdelene cleaning up his blood. It's as if they are (by their actions) saying, "We're not going to let these people clean up his blood. They've already taken too much from him."

It was similar to the scene where Jesus stumbles and falls carrying the cross, and Mary (his mother) has a flashback about him tripping and falling as a small boy. Her instinctive reaction is to go "make it better," just as she had done when he was little. (This was, for me, the most emotionally powerful moment in the movie.) However, it's clear that she can't fix this. Likewise, in the scourging scene, it's like she's reclaiming her son's blood, trying to save something, anything, that belongs to her... belongs to him. This is the blood, not of a man, but of her son. Blood of her blood.

Other violent artifacts that were memorable to me: the facial expression of Pilate's right-hand man; the image of the tip of a spike appearing through the bottom of the crossbeam, dripping blood; Mary's (his mother) shell-shocked response to most everything; the anguish of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane trying to accept what's happening, though he would prefer a different path.

Interestingly, one of the scenes I thought would come across as a bit hokey to some people, has been missed or misunderstood. Just before the earthquake, the camera zooms way out from a perspective hundreds of feet in the air. The camera blurs, and the drop of water that's falling to the ground actually initiates the earthquake. The obvious analogy is that it's a tear falling to the ground from heaven, but it seems to have been missed by many of my friends who watched it. Also, I really liked the ending, which was very understated and brief. Others have hated it, wishing that there had been a "more hopeful" closing, and feeling that without it, it was just depressing.

In sharp contrast to my reaction, some of my Catholic friends have identified more with the actual images of pain and physical suffering. I suspect part of this may be related to their comfort level with images that were (for me) shocking in both intensity and novelty (Southern Baptist churches are filled with cross symbols, but no crucifixes). We (Baptists) seem much more comfortable with an image of hope (an empty cross or the empty tomb) than one of pain and anguish (someone still on the cross). This may be why my mind has latched on to non-violent images more so than what professional reviewers have focused their attention on.

Lastly, I thought this was a reasonably accurate portrayal of what was, at that time, a relatively common form of punishment. What seems intolerably cruel to us today, was in fact somewhat standard fare for some parts of the Roman empire. While we may be guilty of suggesting that Jesus physical suffering was unique, the portrayal here was such that I felt that it wasn't the physical part that was unique: it was the spiritual disconnect that accompanied it (Jesus feeling ultimate separation from God in a way that he had never felt it before). As with other aspects of the movie, this may be something where my theological baggage colored my perception of the images, and gave them meaning or substance that they don't have for others.

I would not suggest that this movie is anything remotely close to "evangelical." Anyone who isn't very familiar with the four Gospels is going to come out of the theater with far more questions than answers, and will likely have a reaction along the lines of "What kind of God would allow this to happen?" or "Why did they hate this Jesus guy so much? All he talked about was love." It is an interesting discussion starter, and will give people of many different theological points of view some conversation points for the water cooler.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Intro/Bio

I suppose I should write a little about myself here, though for the life of me, I can't figure out why anyone would want to read it.

I was born in 1961, and have lived in the Midwestern US (KY) all my life. I currently manage custom development projects for a large (Fortune 100) HVAC controls company. It's a small team (I have only 4 direct reports), but we're able to learn new technologies quickly, and put together solutions from many different disciplines.

I've got an Associates Degree in Electrical Engineering Technology (generally, for people who want to fix things, as opposed to designing them), but have worked in Electronic Sales/Engineering, written software (C/C++) for life-safety systems, and written a fair amount about C++ and Delphi programming. As a programmer, I am almost completely self-taught.

In my younger days, I delivered singing telegrams, sold hi-fi equipment, worked as a DJ in an oldies club, and worked as a stage tech building sets for a local dinner theater. I still do a bit of entertaining from time to time, but generally restrict myself to church groups or community theater.


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