Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Mary Mackillop a saint?

Bishop Glenn Davies earns his keep:

The Pope has accepted, following a rigorous scientific analysis by a Catholic committee responsible for approving miracles, that two NSW women were healed of inoperable cancer by MacKillop.

"Who can prove that the reported miracles were actually the work of Mary McKillop?" Bishop Davies said.

"Did the persons healed pray to only Mary or did they also pray to God?

"Even if they prayed to Mary MacKillop, what evidence is there that it was Mary MacKillop's intercession that healed them? Furthermore, what evidence is there in the Bible that departed saints pray for us?"

Bishop Davies argued that nobody who had had their sins forgiven by God should be scared of referring to themselves as a saint. "It is a title that God has bestowed upon us through our union with Christ, and we should therefore own it with pride," he said.

All good stuff. Let's send these spurious saints packing!

Monday, 28 December 2009

Islam will continue to be a terrorist threat in the year to come

Islam will continue to be a terrorist threat in the year to come.

There's a careful explanation of why by Mark Durie, here.

Reading the whole Bible

I started a blog post and realized that I need to read the whole Bible to establish whatever it is I'm trying to establish.

So I've read up to Numbers 13 and looked at all of the Psalms, but now I need to go and move a refrigerator from Rhodes to Lidcombe.

Ah well, slow and steady.

UPDATE: Refrigerator moved.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

10 easy economic principles

From Ross Gittins in the Sydney Morning Herald, summarizing Harvard economist Greg Mankiw.

The first doctrine to be outrightly rejected in the history of the world

The serpent first questioned God's word by asking Eve if God had really said that they could not eat from the tree.

The serpent then goes on to outrightly reject God's word, which was a word on the doctrine of judgement:

But the serpent said, 'you will not surely die' - Genesis 3:4

(Thanks to Josh Etter for the concise reminder. This doctrine is the one I'm tempted to push just slightly to one side, most of the time, yet when I'm reminded of it, is the one that makes me flee to Christ time and again)

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas 2009: A Saviour, Jesus, is born.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them,

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,

“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

(Luke 2:1-21)

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Not taking a break from blogging

I'm always interested when my friends announce that they're taking a break from blogging, and sometimes I do it myself. But other times, I just stop. Is that bad?

I only actually started blogging so that I could tell a bunch of nutty types that they were nutters, on their blog, under my own name, so I've never really felt that this blog existed for any purpose other than my own self-indulgence. You may well have nobler reasons for blogging than this, and so feel that you should let people know if you are stopping. Me, more often than not, I just don't post for a bit. I figure that after a few weeks people work it out for themselves, by which time I am generally posting again.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

My goodness I'm tired

Actually that's not true, or I wouldn't be typing this. I'm trying to crawl back into the land of the living from the pit of chaos, and I began by cleaning the kitchen. The symptom that life is either completely out of control, or beginning to return to stability (and you have to choose between the either and the or) is that the kitchen is clean.

So now I'm trying to follow some good advice, picked up on the internet somewhere, and spend an hour on something important before I get on to anything else, even though it is nearly midday, so I must have been doing something before I got onto what I'm doing right now, and so must have disregarded the advice.

So the way I'm going to choose to spend the next hour is reading the gospel of Luke.

Join me if you want, click on the link and don't de-click until you're done.

UPDATE: You need to know that I typed this, then pfaffed in the kitchen for a bit, and then remembered some milk I left fermenting in the midday sun, so went out to the car, got the milk, and put it in the fridge, and now I'm back here sitting and about to open my Bible, except it occurred to me that I need to type the word 'ambulance' to myself as a reminder.

UPDATE 2: OK I've finished reading Luke's gospel, and I have to work out what to do next. I wouldn't have finished reading if it weren't for you, dear readers, because I would have convinced myself that something else was more important to do.

The main thing to say as a result of this first reading is that God is very good, he saves people, but if you don't believe this and trust him then you are certainly going to hell. So what a blessed escape Jesus provides, by his death and confirmed beyond doubt by his resurrection from the dead. Trust the resurrection!

UPDATE 3: Realized a friend could be coming around, phoned, confirmed, they'll be here soon, so got to move on to the housecleaning list.

UPDATE 4: Not really sure I needed to post all those updates, but there we are.

Friday, 18 December 2009

A pile of paper

A pile of paper.

A rainy day.

What more does a body need for comfort or happiness?

Deprived of the right to kill their baby

How awful is this:

A COUPLE are suing their doctor for failing to tell the mother she was at a high risk of having a child with Down syndrome.

When Bethany McDonnell was born at Wyong Hospital on July 26, 2007, her parents, Jean and Terrence McDonnell, were shocked to discover she had the congenital abnormality.

In what has been described as a highly unusual case, the McDonnells are suing their general practitioner, Sachin Choudhary, and the Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service, claiming that they were ''deprived of the opportunity to discontinue the pregnancy'' and would continue to ''suffer psychological injury and economic loss'' due to doctor's negligence.

But at least we can sue these parents for choosing to remain alive themselves. In so doing they are depriving us of a significantly higher quality of life, unimpeded by their decision to keep consuming oxygen that would otherwise be available to the rest of us.

(From here).

Thursday, 17 December 2009


This is a particularly classy version of the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah.

If you look at the back row of singers, third from the left is Brett Weymark, who conducts the choir I sing with.

How to pray

This is how Luther used the 10 commandments to pray:

I divide each commandment into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands.

That is, I think of each commandment as,

first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord God demands of me so earnestly.

Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving;

third, a confession;

and fourth, a prayer.

(Thanks to Justin Taylor)

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Read and weep

The kingdom of God belongs to the poor in spirit.


Having a bit of Greek will help, but work slowly through to the conclusion, here, and find blessing.

Daniel 7—a really bad dream.

The best way to understand Daniel 7 is as a really bad dream.

7:1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. 2 Daniel declared, [1] “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3 And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. 4 The first was like a lion and had eagles' wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. 5 And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ 6 After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.

Read and weep.

Even the comfort that the Lord Jesus offered, which you find in the same chapter was not enough for Daniel:

Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.

Monday, 14 December 2009

I read nothing of value there

I read nothing of value there for about 20 weeks, so I unsubscribed. It's saved about 20 minutes.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

The best and only post you will ever need on Bible teaching, and how to do it.

From Lionel.

If you don't have time to read the whole thing, don't feel you need to. Here's an executive summary:

# Pray
# Read the passage several times

A gold star by e-mail, if I can figure out how to do that, to any child in the classroom who can find the phrase '…Remember not to spend too much time on this' within two minutes of beginning to read. I want to see hands, anyone who calls out doesn't get a lolly, no phoning a friend or googling.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

My dad

When I was a teenager and starting to think political thoughts, my dad said of the Left, not unkindly, that they look good on paper.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Thou who wast rich

Yep, it's a good one.

1. Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love's sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love's sake becomes poor.

2. Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love's sake becamest man;
Stooping so low, but sinners raising
Heavenwards by thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love's sake becamest man.

3. Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
Make us what thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Ignore the poncy costumes and listen to the tune on youtube, here.

Piper ruined twitter

So I won't start using it, then.

Read about it, here.

Thanks Nathan.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

All quiet on the Eastern front.

Heading to Canberra, then Belmore, for AFES NTE, so things are going to be a bit quiet for a week or so.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Hey kids, look at this!

Very very cool.

An episode from The Jesus Storybook Bible, read by David Suchet.

Thanks to Justin Taylor.

Paris in the 1540s

I've been reading Calvin by Bruce Gordon. Here's an extract, quoting Eustache Knobelsdorf, a Catholic German student in Paris, who witnessed executions of Protestants in 1542:

I saw two burnt there. Their death inspired in me differing sentiments. If you had been there, you would have hoped for a less severe punishment of these poor unfortunates....The first was a very young man, not yet with a beard...he was the son of a cobbler. He was brought in front of the judges and condemned to have his tongue cut out and burned straight afterward. Without changing the expression of his face, the young man presented his tongue to the executioner's knife, sticking it out as far as he could. The executioner pulled it out even further with pincers, cut it off, and hit the sufferer several times on the tongue and threw it in the young man's face. Then he was put into a tipcart, which was driven to the place of execution, but, to see him, one would think that he was going to a feast....When the chain had been placed around his body, I could not describe to you with what equanimity of soul and with what expression in his features he endured the cries of elation and the insults of the crowd that were directed towards him. He did not make a sound, but from time to time he spat out the blood that was filling his mouth, and he lifted his eyes to heaven, as if he was waiting for some miraculous rescue. When his head was covered in sulphur, the executioner showed him the fire with a menacing air; but the young man, without being scared, let it be know, by a movement of his body, that he was giving himself willingly to be burned.

-Bruce Gordon, Calvin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), p. 182.

The Roman Catholic church in France didn't treat its heretics with kindness. It makes awful reading, but on the other hand, it is not a bad thing to be reminded of how unnatural it is for the government to leave us alone to believe the gospel.

"32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For,

“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
38 but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”

39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

(Hebrews 10:32-39)

Monday, 30 November 2009

Emissions Trading Scheme: Useless from whatever angle you look at it.

It doesn't matter if you're black, white, green, red or blue, the latest emission trading scheme will be bad for you. Unless you favour the idea of paying more tax. (There are arguments for that when the government has just spent a lot of money, but they don't relate to the environment so much as to paying off an economic deficit.)

Paul Sheehan quoting Terry McCrann:

The Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader this week joined hands to declare economic war on their own country. That, plain and simple, is what Kevin Rudd and now also Malcolm Turnbull's emissions trading scheme is … [What will it] do about climate change? Nothing. Zip. Nada. Absolute zero. But it will do an awful lot to our economy … For a PM to propose such a policy is economic treason. For an opposition leader not to lead the opposition to it is beyond stupid and a dereliction of his most basic duty …

From here.

Friday, 27 November 2009


No, I'm not going to tell you which daughter put this in her speech for homework.


Perth is the capital city of Western Australia, and is probably Australia’s sunniest capital. Most people who live in Perth live underground because it is cooler there. There are about 1.5 million people who live in Perth.

I guess this goes some way towards explaining WA's mining industry.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

You know that new atheist ad?

The one with the cute, gloriously happy and smiling kids, showing how you don't need to be religious to be happy?

Turns out they're from an evangelical Christian family.

Thanks Nathan.


Would you report Watergate like this?:

Security problems persist at a building complex in Foggy Bottom, Washington DC, following a burglary that reportedly caused the resignation of a leading political figure last night.

Watergate senior janitor Herb D Kowalski is calling for a thorough review of window latches, which he says are still “way too loose” two years after the burglary.

“I hear tell that politicians have gotten involved and that old Tricky Dick got fired,” he said.

“But that’s hardly the main issue, which is that those window latches are a disgrace. I said so when they put ‘em in, but did anyone listen?”

But that's how leaked e-mails about some scientific dirty tricks, used to prop up the idea of climate change 'consensus', are being talked about in some quarters.

(Thanks blog reader Em!)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Productivity in perspective

I follow and really appreciate Matt Perman's blog What's Best Next. I knew from reading his blog that he was a Christian, but hadn't worked out until today that he works as senior strategy director for John Piper at Desiring God.

Here he is being interviewed on another blog, and responding to three questions on productivity.

I love his answer to the third question, which is "In a nutshell, what is the most important and fundamental principle for being productive?":

I would actually say: realize that you don't have to be productive. By this I mean: your significance does not come from your productivity. It comes from Christ, who obeyed God perfectly on our behalf such that our significance and standing before God comes from him, not anything we do. Then, on that basis, we pursue good works (which is what productivity is) and do so eagerly, as it says in Titus 2:14.

When it comes to day-to-day application, the main principle is this: The key denominator of effectiveness is not intelligence or even hard work, as important as those are. It is the discipline to put first things first. You need to operate from a center of sound principles and organize and execute around priorities. This means that instead of prioritizing your schedule, you schedule your priorities.

Isn't that great? He grounds productivity in the gospel of our Lord Jesus, and rightly defines it as 'pursuing good works'.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Global warming conspiracy

People are rightly suspicious of conspiracy theories, but having followed the debate for a little while now, I wouldn't be surprised if something is about to come crashing down.

Andrew Bolt explains in one of several articles; this one is called The global warming conspiracy: its silencing of the sceptics.

If true, the headline is not overstated.

In other surprising news, Andrew Barry agrees with the Pope. ;-)

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Bethlehemian rhapsody

This is hilarious.

"Good try, little buddy", king[sic] Saul replied, "but we need someone real big to face this brute..."

"I see a little bitty shepherd, not a man..."

(Thanks Gus)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Sola Scriptura

It's a slogan that means 'Bible alone', and when a bunch of people in the sixteenth century wanted to attack Roman Catholicism and everything it stood for, this was one of the slogans they seized on to make their meaning clear.

[Quick switch into police tense, with thanks to Matt for pointing it out]

So you've got your Bible, and it's the sole authority in the life of the Christian, and it's saying that the sole (which means only) way to get right with God is to trust solely in Christ alone.

Then allegedly these Roman Catholic cardinals and popes run up, and attempt to bash the victim over the head with a hessian bag containing a number of heavy traditions. Then, according to witnesses, they're there demanding money from the victim and suddenly they're threatening him that if he doesn't pay up that he's going to get sent to purgatory.

So the victim, according to the witnesses, is telling them to leave in fairly strong language, and apparently they've taken the man, tied him to a stake and they're pouring fluid from a tin can onto him. Anyway he's screaming for help and these other previous victims of the Roman church run up, they're beating off these cardinals and they're telling the feller that you can just ignore these traditions. Because it's the Bible alone that a man's got to trust, and when he does trust the Bible, Bob's his uncle and God's his Father and it doesn't even matter if he gets burned at the stake, the Roman church can't do him any harm, because he's been saved by Christ alone, through grace alone, through faith alone.

Then they're running off shouting 'Soli Deo Gloria', having set the man free, and these cardinals and popes are running around screaming blue murder.

So we've arrived at the scene a bit late and we're keen to talk to anyone who has information about a man wearing a white pointy hat with a cross on it, and carrying a shepherd's crook. We've got a couple of witnesses telling us he's of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean appearance, and speaks with an Italian accent.

All of which is to say that 'Sola Scriptura' is an attack on false human traditions, and it's perverse, not to mention inverse, to take a blunt instrument like this and use it as an opportunity to defend the use of Bible commentaries and the study of church history. Not unlike using a blunderbuss in an attempt to take out a thimble sized target at 450 metres. The wrong thimble-sized target, when the target the blunderbuss was intended for is standing next to you wearing a white pointy hat and speaking with an Italian accent.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Dolly Parton!

Some nice people

I met two nice people at an afternoon get-together and they said they read my blog, but were not my facebook friends. Which in turn made me realize that it's been quite a while since I invited blog readers to step out and befriend me on facebook. Go on, you can do it! I tend to post music videos to facebook rather than my blog these days, so if you like Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Bela Bartok, Tom Waits, Mozart, Johnny Cash, JS Bach, the Beatles...then befriend me on fb and enjoy!

Friday, 13 November 2009

The Geneva Push

Some of the friends behind the Geneva Push, a church planting movement, asked me to mention their shiny new website. So I am. Go for it lads! May God bless your efforts to proclaim Christ crucified.

Pencil and paper

You need it as you're leaving the house, because if you're dying and you want to scribble a note to your loved ones, this is the only thing you would have to do it with.

PS and UPDATE: Not that I'm planning anything, I'm just saying.

What's Best Next

I originally started subscribing to Matt Perman's blog What's Best Next because it was one of a handful of blogs that I use to think about how I organize my somewhat disorganized life.

Here, for example, is his post on the basic principles of how to set up your desk (which in my case currently has sitting on it Matilda's Christmas wish list, a draft speech from her on why she should be school captain, some instructions for Fifi's mobile phone, and the lid of a bottle of juice I drank two days ago, among other things). And here's his "9 productivity principles in one paragraph" post.

So I was delighted and disoriented when I worked out that from time to time, he also blogs Christian stuff. Here, he gives two thumbs up to Don Carson's book The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians.

And his latest post explains how materialism means that moral accountability flies out the window.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Muslims in the army

A friend from Melbourne days has a blog on which he's discussed the risks of Muslims in the military:

The contents of a two-year old seminar presented by Major Nidal M. Hasan, the medico believed responsible for the Fort Hood massacre, were apparently recorded in the form of powerpoint slides.

These slides are in one sense nothing new. They review the basics of Islam: the pillars and core beliefs, the Koran, abrogation ('later verses abrogate former ie: peaceful verses no longer apply' – slide 35), the rewards for believers in paradise and punishments of hell for those who do not submit to Allah's will, defensive and agressive jihad. However, in addition, Major Hasan explains the implications of this theological material for the lived situation of Muslims in the US armed forces. He is saying that Muslims can experience problems in the military for two reasons.

One reason is the prohibition against Muslims killing other Muslims ('whoever kills a believer intentionally, his punishment is hell' – slide 12).

The other is the requirement that Muslims wage war against non-believers in both defensive jihad (slides 37-41) and aggressive jihad (slides 42-48). This command, he is saying, can be expected to be followed by devout, God-fearing Muslims ('Allah expects full loyalty' – slide 49), especially if they are persuaded that in so-doing they would be 'fighting against the injustices of the "infidels,"' (slide 48). His point is that if US Muslim soldiers can be persuaded that fighting against fellow-Muslims is an injustice, this could trigger a deadly attack against fellow US soldiers instead, e.g. by means of 'suicide bombing, etc' ('We love death more than you love life!' – slide 48).

As Mark says "It is a tragic irony that Major Hasan may well have acted in accordance with his own training material."

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Holy Joe Hockey?

Good letters in today's Sydney Morning Herald. responding to Joe Hockey's opinion piece. I particularly liked this one from Con Campbell, explaining very simply how to read the Old Testament:

I am a fan of President Bartlet of The West Wing. However, his tirade against a Christian radio host to which Joe Hockey points is not his finest moment. Bartlet - and Hockey, it seems - misunderstands what mainstream Christians think about the Bible, and what it says about itself. When they point to obsolete laws in the Old Testament and say, ''See, you can't take it literally,'' they don't understand how the Bible fits together.

There is a reason Christians call it the Old Testament: it is overshadowed by the New and its central figure, Jesus Christ. Jesus said the Hebrew Bible pointed to him, and was fulfilled in him. In fact, he gave his followers a new law: love God, love your neighbour. We follow the new law, which is why we don't stone people for working on the Sabbath, or sacrifice goats and sheep.

Here's a suggestion: don't read the Old Testament to try to work out which bits should be taken ''literally'' or not. Read it to see how it points to Jesus.

Reverend Con Campbell, Newtown

Also a nice one from Jon Guyer:

The God of Joe Hockey's faith is pleasantly tolerant, conveniently undemanding and predictably all-embracing (''God is good, but just be sure not to take Him too literally'', November 10). On the pretext of combating "literalism", Hockey reduces faith to a virtuous lifestyle and sweeps all the big existential questions (where Christians, Muslims and Jews tend to disagree) under the political rug.

I dare him to answer the question "Did Jesus literally die on the cross for the sins of the world?" - and then hold on to his ecumenical hat. By trying to please all faiths Hockey will end up pleasing none.

Jon Guyer, Croydon

Jon includes the gospel message, which always scores extra points in the letter-writing stakes.

Arthur Stace (Mr Eternity)

There's an article about Arthur Stace, the man who chalked 'Eternity' some 500 000 times in the streets of Sydney, in today's SMH.

He became a Christian at St Barnabas' Broadway.

It was several months after his initial conversion that Stace heard the evangelist the Reverend John Ridley preaching in Darlinghurst. Significantly, Ridley was not only a man of God but a decorated WWI veteran. He had been awarded the Military Cross for valour during the Battle of Bullecourt in 1917. When Ridley declared: ''I wish I could shout 'Eternity' through the streets of Sydney,'' the word resonated with Stace who, like Ridley, had faced his own mortality daily France. It was the genesis for his extraordinary 35-year mission in which he rose at dawn to walk the streets, anonymously chalking ''Eternity'' as he went.

Apparently, he was not as illiterate as he claimed:

He claimed that his ability to produce such beautiful copperplate was a mystery, demonstrating to journalists that he could barely write his own name.

With this in mind, it was surprising to find two postwar letters written by Stace on his service file. The first is dated August 15, 1927, and addressed to the Defence Department. Although it contains several grammatical errors, the handwriting is assured and elegant, raising questions about Stace's version of his childhood. It was written when he was living at Riley Street, Surry Hills.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

"Tear down this wall"

Ronald Reagan's words, worth quoting close to the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. (Watch on youtube)

His speechwriter at the time, Anthony R. Dolan, has an article about this in the Wall Street Journal of November 8:

Reagan had the carefully arrived at view that criminal regimes were different, that their whole way of looking at the world was inverted, that they saw acts of conciliation as weakness, and that rather than making nice in return they felt an inner compulsion to exploit this perceived weakness by engaging in more acts of aggression. All this confirmed the criminal mind's abiding conviction in its own omniscience and sovereignty, and its right to rule and victimize others.

Accordingly, Reagan spoke formally and repeatedly of deploying against criminal regimes the one weapon they fear more than military or economic sanction: the publicly-spoken truth about their moral absurdity, their ontological weakness. This was the sort of moral confrontation, as countless dissidents and resisters have noted, that makes these regimes conciliatory, precisely because it heartens those whom they fear most—their own oppressed people. Reagan's understanding that rhetorical confrontation causes geopolitical conciliation led in no small part to the wall's collapse 20 years ago today.

Here are Al Mohler's thoughts on the topic.

Ronald Reagan was regularly lampooned as not entirely with it, but he saw some things with great moral clarity.

Fiddling around in the sidebar

If you actually click through to my blog, as opposed to reading it on facebook or through an rss feed, you will see that I am always putting little bits and pieces into the sidebar, including a regular if idiosyncratic set of links to other blogs.

Now I've added something so that you can check recent comments. Stop by and have a look! See your comment up in sidebar lights!

I dropped comment moderation and word verification a while ago and this seems to have worked just fine. Silly stuff will still get deleted, but I haven't needed to do this for quite some time.

Our choir on ABC FM tomorrow, 11.05 am

The choir I've been singing with, the Sydney Philharmonia Symphony Choir, will be broadcast on ABC FM tomorrow at 11.05 am Sydney time for Remembrance day. Click on the link for the text to Beach Burial by Kenneth Slessor (music by Andrew Schultz) and texts to Donna Nobis Pacem (various including the Bible and Walt Whitman, music by Ralph Vaughan Williams).

You can listen to ABC FM online here, but I don't know if there will be a podcast available—will update if it happens, but I suspect not because of copyright issues on the Schultz.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Dirge for Two Veterans

The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish'd Sabbath,
On the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.

Lo, the moon ascending,
Up from the east the silvery round moon,
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon,
Immense and silent moon.

I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-key'd bugles,
All the channels of the city streets they are flooding,
As with voices and with tears.

I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.

For the son is brought with the father,
(In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell,
Two veterans son and father dropt together,
And the double grave awaits them.)

And nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive,
And the daylight o'er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.

In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin'd,
('Tis some mother's large transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)

O strong dead-march you please me!
O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

-Walt Whitman

(we sang this the other day)

Friday, 6 November 2009

Don't slam the door

Don't.slam.the door.

dot com.

dot au.

The site doesn't exist, but the sentiment exists. In my head. Following the progress of my six year old through the room. Into the bathroom. And out again.


Thursday, 5 November 2009

Not everyone likes Bob Dylan's latest Christmas album

This reviewer, for example:

Oh I get it...Bob Dylan wanted to put out an album of traditional Christmas Songs, as sung by a drunken Kermit-The-Frog. Well, not exactly. What I think he was intending to do here was a collection of Christmas Carols guaranteed to drive your in-laws out of your house before you have to watch them stuff their faces on your Christmas bounty....Well maybe it was Bob trying to get back at every living Christian, for forcing him to convert from Judaism to Christianity and then back to Judaism again. No, I've got it...What Bob was attempting is an Album of Christmas music that could be used to interrogate detainees at Guantanamo Bay, until they spill their guts and reveal every terrorist plot ever conceived of.

That's from the Amazon website, where as always, the mighty Bob's latest album has succeeded in dividing the assembled masses.

Leaving Geneva dead

Speaking of Calvin, he wasn't that unique, nor did he want to be:

We need to remind ourselves that the one truly unique theologian who entered Geneva in the sixteenth century, Michael Servetus, did not exit Geneva alive. Unique or individualized doctrinal formulation was not Calvin’s goal.

From Richard Muller, "Was Calvin a Calvinist? Or, Did Calvin (or Anyone Else in the Early Modern Era) Plant the “TULIP”?

Download that sucker here. Thanks to Mark Earngey.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Selling air conditioners

Asked Alan, who sells air conditioners, about this yesterday. It was 38 degrees or so.

But he says you need three hot days in a row before people will start buying, so looks like it's back to square one today.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Calvin—yeah, baby!

Ooh, ooh, I'm so excited!

I was in at Moore College yesterday and ducked into the bookshop to pick up Calvin by Bruce Gordon.

All the cool kids—you know, people like Colin Bale and Mark Thompson reckon this is the Calvin bio to get.

And I've got it!

Be still my beating heart. I must remember not to read this while I'm driving, or on my pushbike.

Suppressing climate debate

The religion that climate change has become finds ways to advance its cause—in this case, by suppressing dissent:

A CSIRO economist whose research criticising emissions trading schemes was banned from publication said last night he had been subjected to harassment by the senior agency management.

Clive Spash also accused the agency of hindering public debate and trampling on his civil liberties by preventing the research being published in British journal New Political Economy.

That's in today's Australian.

Is gambling a problem for you?

Michael Kellahan explains why he won't be watching a big horse race.

If my memory serves me correctly, back in year 9 of high school I won 26 cents on the Melbourne Cup, after a 5c wager.

It was more profitable doing the ice block run to the school canteen, for a small commission. Or walking across the spillway of the school dam as a sponsored dare.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Hell and CS Lewis

Speaking of hell, here's John Piper observing that CS Lewis gets this wrong.

Jesus makes it clear that hell is a place of horror:

We should ask: How did Jesus expect his audience to think and feel about the way he spoke of hell? The words he chose were not chosen to soften the horror by being accommodating to cultural sensibilities. He spoke of a “fiery furnace” (Matthew 13:42), and “weeping and gnashing teeth” (Luke 13:28), and “outer darkness” (Matthew 25:30), and “their worm [that] does not die” (Mark 9:48), and “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46), and “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43), and being “cut in pieces” (Matthew 24:51).

We must pray that our academic theologians would speak of hell as severely and terrifyingly as their Lord did.

No hell?

I read this post about hell and felt disturbed and concerned. The subsequent discussion has not completely reassured me, either.

I've done some posts on hell, and there are a bunch of links here.

Another doctrine that we are tempted to tone down and soft-pedal is the doctrine of sin. I remember in my first year of Bible college being starkly convicted by Peter Jensen's emphasis on our belief in sin and judgement as the only thing that would steel us for the ministry of gospel preaching to people who didn't want to be told about it.

UPDATE: link corrected, thanks Hon

Friday, 30 October 2009


This poem by Walt Whitman, Reconciliation, was set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams:

Word over all, beautiful as the sky!
Beautiful that war, and all its deeds of carnage, must in time be utterly lost;
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night, incessantly softly
wash again, and ever again, this soil'd world:
... For my enemy is dead--a man divine as myself is dead;
I look where he lies, white-faced and still, in the coffin--I draw near;
I bend down, and touch lightly with my lips the white face in the coffin.

If you want to hear our choir sing this (and the whole work by Vaughan Williams), then the details of the concert are here.

It's this Sunday at 5.

We're also premiering a new work by Australian composer Andrew Schultz, Beach Burial. Flutes that sound like incoming missiles!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Here's a way for the government to increase happiness

It comes from Ross Gittins:

Many people may doubt whether personal happiness is a matter governments should or could get involved in. Just how would governments go about increasing national happiness?

Well, one good way is to reduce egregious instances of unhappiness. And I'm pleased to see that the Productivity Commission, which you might have thought of as a leading advocate of economic growth as the cure to all ills, agrees with me - at least in relation to one great source of unhappiness: gambling.

According to the commission's draft report, Australians spend - that's to say, lose - about $18 billion a year on gambling. This is about as much as we spend on alcohol and represents about 3 per cent of consumer spending.

Yep; the suggestion is to reduce gambling. Excellent idea!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

When you put it all together and shake it up

Bill Mounce:

When you put it altogether and shake it up, the ESV felt (in line with its translation procedures) that “letter” was too difficult in v 27 and went with “written code.”

If you have even a teensy bit of understanding of New Testament Greek, Bill Mounce is going to help you with his weekly posts on Koinonia. Here's the latest.

You can work out whether his argument succeeds, but it helps understand why, time and again, the ESV footnotes make the ESV a translation worth preaching on.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Jonah 1 and the fear of the LORD

Have you ever noticed that Jonah 1 is chiastic? Start in verse 4 to pick it up

1:1 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”

3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.

*A* 4 But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.

*B* 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god.

*C* And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.

*D* 6 So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”

*E* 7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.

*F* 8 Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?”

*G*9 And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

*G’* 10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.

*F’* 11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.”

*E’* 13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.

*D’*14 Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.”

*C’* 15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.

*B’*16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.

*A’* 17 And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

That is to say, A corresponds to A', B corresponds to B', C corresponds to C', all the way through to G.

The effect of this structure is to make the fear of the LORD the centrepiece, and invite us to compare Jonah's faith with the faith of the pagan sailors, who really do fear God.

Isn't that great?

Fear God!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Friday, 23 October 2009

Obama attempts press censorship

It seems extraordinary for a leader to define a news organization as not a news organization, yet this is what has happened. Obama is not a man who likes criticism.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

This is so important

Here are the two most significant paragraphs in Peter Jensen's address to the gathered Anglicans in Sydney:

I do not doubt, therefore, that our commitment to conservative theology and to a high view of scripture is entirely correct. Only this will carry Christianity forward in a culture such as Australia in the next fifty years. However, I do see signs in our midst of a tension:

I think that some of us will more readily come to terms with culture for missionary
reasons, but not being as careful as we should be about the purity of doctrine, we will
lose the structure of the faith and become effectively Unitarian. The theological weakness will begin, I think, with an impoverished doctrine of sin. From this will come a semi-pelagian anthropology, an exemplarist soteriology and a humanistic Christology. It will probably develop two forms - a wet pietistic one which will still look for spiritual experience, and a dry intellectualist one which will embrace cultural respectability.


Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Spilt milk

Our friend Sarah's in the paper.

I AM still trying to work out how it happened. How did I buy all that milk and then not notice that it never made it to the fridge?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Spring cleaning

What a simply super idea.

So, once a year, you look around at the pigsty that your house has become.

You take action.

Biggest pile, out the door.

Next biggest pile, out the door too.

Keep going, keep going.

Then when you get to the pile with the Stradivarius and the old stamps, have a break.

Then come back next year, and do it again.

Don't do too much inbetween, and especially, don't buy anything.

The stuff that goes out the door, make sure that the charity of your choice gets first go at it.

"Hello, is this [charity of my choice]?"


"I put some stuff out the front of my house, including the violin that didn't get made by Stradivarius, but by his brother Nokov. Could you come and take it away by Monday please, except for what you don't want?"


Then you sells the rest on eBay, or the council comes by and removes what you couldn't.

You need never clean again, until next time, or until the Lord returns.

Monday, 19 October 2009

A new blog for ministry wives

Nicole Starling and two of her friends have started a new blog for ministry wives, In Tandem.

May our Lord prosper your work!

The art of losing

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

This is a beautiful, shocking poem. Read the whole, here.

by Elizabeth Bishop.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Atheists are fools

Good on you Chappo:

‘The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”’ (Psalm 14:1)

Psalm 14 knows nothing of political correctness. With disarming clarity it states that the person who claims that there is no God is a fool. I find this a wonderful relief. The atheists I have met always appear to be so sophisticated and clever. I am tempted to feel inferior in their presence and I have been encouraged to hear God’s assessment of them. They are fools.

That's John Chapman speaking in the latest Australian Church Record. Download it and you can find a great, short article by the man himself.

Let's people smuggle

Buried in the last few paragraphs of Miranda Devine's opinion piece in today's SMH is a great idea from Fred Nile:

If Rudd really wanted to show compassion he would back the audacious plan of the Christian Democrat Fred Nile and go into the people smuggling business.

Hosting a meeting yesterday at NSW Parliament House for Christians from Egypt, Iran and Iraq, the upper house MP said he was worried about the plight of Christians in the Middle East, who were desperate to come here and make good migrants. In Iraq, says the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, there are only 400,000 Christians left, down from 1.4 million in 1987. Australia has a special responsibility for the Iraqi people, and from a self-interested viewpoint, Christians are likely to settle more easily into a Christian country than Muslims.

"It's a desperate situation," said Nile. "They're being told 'convert or die'."

Seeing how free and easy the Government has become with boat people, Nile has hatched a plan to bring a boat of 2000 Christian asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia. He wants donations and he dares the Government to stop him.

So how about it?

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

A small victory for Roman Catholicism

Mark Thompson notes a small victory for Roman Catholicism:

But the word 'Catholic' literally means 'according to the whole'. The alternative to 'Catholic' in the early centuries was one or other of the schismatic groups — 'Donatist', 'Arian' etc. — which had broken from 'the whole'. (There is, of course, a tremendous public relations coup in the Roman Church labelling itself the 'Roman Catholic Church'.)

Old songs

Phillip Jensen's latest blog entry has a great twist.

You can either click here and read it, or look at the quote below, which ruins the surprise but saves you time:

But there is another lesson that we can learn from this advertisement. It is to have more confidence in our own Christian culture. So often we ape the world and its culture, instead of confidently asserting our own. Here is a song that if we were asked to sing in church, Christians would complain: ‘It is too old fashioned’, ‘does not communicate with the modern age’, ‘is musically very limited’, etc. Yet the world of big advertising budgets listens to that song and hears such a powerful communication possibility, that they make it central to their promotion.

This is what we'll be doing soon.


The Dutch did it

In 1983 Australia won the America's Cup.

I remember waking up early to watch this historic victory.

Now it turns out we lied to make it happen, and Alan Bond (who was behind the effort), was a crook in this matter as in many others.

4:1 Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. 2 And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. 3 But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.

4 Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

(Ecclesiastes 4)

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Sick leave

I'm on sick leave with erratic computer access for a week or so, so business on blog and facebook will be slow.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Jesus—all about advertising.

Or something like that.

I have a wee bit of a rant about it on the Sola Panel, here.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Krazy Kat goes a—wooing: Boxcar Blues

[Facebook readers—you gots to click through to see this classic]

2 min 21 sec. Worth it. Slide guitar by Tedd Smith.

Scripture in schools

The dispute over Scripture in schools continues in todays SMH. Hendry Wan got a good one in:

Cameron Sach, a teacher (Letters, September 30), says teachers are engaged in crusades to “instil” (read indoctrinate) ethical attitudes and behaviour in their students from 9am to 3pm, five days a week. If true, why is there a need to have another hour for a special ethics class? Thanks, Mr Sach, you have just made a brilliant argument for special religious education.

Hendry Wan, Matraville

And ths one was terrific as well:

Howard Packer says the education minister will require "the wisdom of Solomon" to sort out the dilemmas surrounding ethics programs and special religious education.

I agree, and I note that when that same King Solomon realised he needed help in ethics ("distinguishing between right and wrong", 1 Kings 3, 9), he sought his ethical wisdom not from the electorate, but from the Lord.

How apt. Apparently Solomon thought knowing the Lord rather than knowing an ethics syllabus was what enabled people to distinguish right and wrong.

Reverend Graeme Howells, Miranda

See more here.

I wrote another letter but it didn't get in. This is what I said:

Cameron Sach (Letters, Sep 30) spectacularly misses a point and shoots
an own goal in the process. I repeat, Scripture classes that I teach
involve almost no ethical instruction whatsoever. They are about
Jesus, his death and resurrection, and how to be rescued from your
sins. But if, as Cameron suggests, the teachers are crusading to
instil ethics 5 days a week, he merely reinforces how unnecessary an
extra hour of such instruction would be. What's left but to agree?

This is a significant battle for people in NSW. I am sure we will keep needing to fight this one, and as part of that we ought to be praying for our kids.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009


Matilda asked me to find some clarinet music for her on YouTube, so I did!

Isn't it beautiful?

It's Mozart's Concerto for Clarinet, 2nd movement.

Soloist Carelys Carreras, Cuba. Vienna Philharmonic Women's Orchestra

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Off to the doctor

The legs weren't broken, so how about a slow, careful walk along the road, right and up the hill, down the hill, up the hill, left and along for quite a bit to the traffic lights, across the road and left into the surgery.

I could catch a bus some of the way.

I've got to think!

This is wonderful

Poms v Italy.

Low light.


There are so many levels of brilliance involved here that we should just begin with the acknowledgement that it's twilight.

Fiona thinks I am cerebral

Is that right?

Why or why not?

How would you reliably test such a thing?

Comments welcome.

Waiter/Jewish joke

A waiter comes over to a table full of Jewish women and asks, "Is anything right?"

From Jim West.

Scripture in schools

My letter in today's SMH:

A number of letter writers seem to think scripture in schools is all about ethics. I have been helping teach school scripture for five years, and I can confidently say there is almost no ethical instruction involved. What we teach is that when we fail ethically - as we all do - forgiveness and change are possible through the power of the risen Lord Jesus. That is a far more potent message than any ethical instruction can give.

But if the community decides ethical instruction in schools is necessary, there is a problem. If that instruction is given at the same time as scripture, children in scripture classes will miss out on something people seem to think is important. That is hardly fair, as even someone with my limited command of ethics can see.

Reverend Gordon Cheng


See more letters here.

For sure there will be more letters on this tomorrow. So if you feel like writing, then write!

Monday, 28 September 2009


Monomathy is for losers:

The monomaths do not only swarm over a specialism, they also play dirty. In each new area that Posner picks—policy or science—the experts start to erect barricades. “Even in relatively soft fields, specialists tend to develop a specialised vocabulary which creates barriers to entry,” Posner says with his economic hat pulled down over his head. “Specialists want to fend off the generalists. They may also want to convince themselves that what they are doing is really very difficult and challenging. One of the ways they do that is to develop what they regard a rigorous methodology—often mathematical.

So get into it, dudes.

Funny things about atheists

They managed to close down Nathan's blog!

Nathan warned that his blog in new location might not preserve comment on the old blog, so purely for vanity's sake I'm posting here what I said in comments about the post that started the fuss, Five things that would make atheists seem nicer.

But first, and just in case Nathan's blog-move kills even the original post, let's see what he wrote in full:

I am trying really hard to cut down on generalising and bagging out “atheists” rather than specific people and streams of atheism.

They’re not all the same – and they aren’t all out to eat your babies. But atheists (general) keep giving me reason to think bad thoughts about them. Like the two who hijack this thread on Communicate Jesus.

Here are five tips for my atheist friends to help them seem nicer and more reasonable.

1. Stop being so smug.

2. Don’t assume every piece of Christian evangelism is directed at you – we want the undecideds, not the decided-uns.

3. Admit that the debate about God’s existence is complex – and that it can, depending on your presuppositions, be quite possible for intelligent and rational people to intelligently believe in an intervening deity who communicates through a book.

4. Admit that the scientific method – which by its nature relies on induction rather than deduction (starting with a hypothesis and testing it rather than observing facts and forming a hypothesis) – is as open to abuse as any religious belief, and is neither objective nor infallible.

5. Try to deal with the actual notions of God seriously believed in by millions of people rather than inventing strawmen (or spaghetti monsters) to dismiss the concepts of God – and deal with the Bible paying attention to context and the broader Christological narrative rather than quoting obscure Old Testament laws. By all means quote the laws when they are applied incorrectly by “Christians” – but understand how they’re meant to work before dealing with the Christians described in point 3.

Sound reasonable? Well, not according to the mouth-foamings of the atheists who bit back. It doesn't need a greatly developed sense of irony to find humour in atheists managing to prove what Nathan gently invites them to disprove.

Anyhow, Here's the comment I left on Nathan's thread, which had about 40 comments of general atheistic argy-bargy by the time I looked in:

G'day Nathan

This thread is quite funny, and considerably better than your previous efforts at baiting Nigerian scammers. Lousy ROI (Return On Investment) by comparison, wouldn't you say?

But I think you are wrongheaded. I note what you said about comments not moving to your new webhost, so I'll keep it short. This:

I am trying really hard to cut down on generalising and bagging out “atheists” rather than specific people and streams of atheism.

...is where you fail, to paraphrase Yoda, that great Jedi authority. It's just one of those polite and genteel hang-overs of a bygone era that finds no support whatsoever in Scripture.

Next time, start with "The fool has said in his heart, 'there is no God'" (Ps 14:1) This is far truer to the scant biblical testimony about atheism than trying the approach of reason, which gets...well, you've seen what it gets you. It gets you looking for a new webhost.

God bless, and congratulations on a very funny thread!

Atheism is not about reason, it's about a-theism (by definition), and deserves scorn rather than argument.

The sound of one hand typing

Due to the mystical sound of one hand typing (my recent bicycle accident has seen to that, at least for a few days), the most interesting stuff on my blog can currently be found by actually clicking through to http://ingmarhingwah.blogspot.com, and checking out the "Gordon's shared items" sidebar. You can even subscribe to this on RSS feed, I think (!), if you go here:


All sorts of interesting bits and pieces will continue to appear due to the mystical sound of one mouse clicking!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

The purpose of suffering

My girls get to do great memory verses at church. At the moment, Ruby and Lily are starting on Romans 8:28, which says

"28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

Blogging a bit unpredictable for the next few days due to wrist surgery today.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Norman Borlaug, the most significant man of the 20th century

Strictly from the point of view of the created order, I would say.

Norman E. Borlaug, the plant scientist who did more than anyone else in the 20th century to teach the world to feed itself and whose work was credited with saving hundreds of millions of lives, died Saturday night. He was 95 and lived in Dallas.

NY Times has an article. He died just over a week ago.

Sunday, 20 September 2009


A stern word from Mark Thompson:

I'm also rather tired of evangelicals attacking the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Like most who have thought about these things, I certainly recognise the difficulties with the term 'inerrancy'. I also understand and deplore the abuse of it in certain circles, particularly in the service of ecclesiastical politics. I'm prepared to admit that I am less than satisfied with some of the standard expositions of this concept and would like to see it presented with more rigour and careful nuance. But I remain committed to biblical inerrancy. The Bible is not only effective as an instrument in God's hand to accomplish his purposes, it speaks of things as they really are. For all the literary variety and the rich textures which stem from different authors in different situations and with different goals, it is still possible to speak of the Bible's own investment in the question of truth and truth understood in terms of a correspondence with reality. 'Utterly truthful' and 'absolutely reliable' might be better expressions because they are at least positive rather than negative and put the accent on biblical priorities. Yet the term 'inerrancy' is an ancient one, long predating the advent of modernism and even the Reformation. Too much is lost when it is denied or excluded.

From a couple of weeks ago.

Fell off a bike

Thursday, while talking on a mobile phone. Wrist has 8 breaks, so typing will be slow for a while.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Working near Muslims in the mean streets of Auburn

I love walking down the streets of Auburn, where you can get a massive slice of beef pizza for $3.50, and a haircut for $7.

But from a purely professional point of view, and for someone who works in the next-door suburb, this opinion piece is fascinating.

Miranda Devine is writing about an arrest last week:

The new Public Order and Riot Squad, formed after the Cronulla and Macquarie Fields riots, was called in, along with the Dog Squad and PolAir helicopter. This circus was all par for the course for police trying to perform routine law enforcement duties in south-western suburbs such as Auburn and Granville, where whole streets have become no-go zones.

Just three people were arrested that night - two men and a woman - and the alleged police assailant was released on bail the next day, after claiming he was defending his mother.

Then the complaints came thick and heavy from people outraged "culturally insensitive" police would dare execute a search warrant during Ramadan, a holy month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims fast until sunset. Do they think there should be one law for Ramadan observers and another for ''kefeirs''?

The Auburn raid, at 6pm last Tuesday, when Muslims were sitting down to break their fast, was planned simply to ensure "persons of interest" would actually be home. ''Race, religion, anything - that doesn't come into consideration in criminal investigations,'' Chief Superintendent Ken McKay, told reporters the next day.

The mean streets of Auburn? They don't feel mean when I'm walking around there, but maybe I should watch what razor the barber is using.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


"Profanity is the attempt of a feeble mind to express itself forcefully."

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Choir review

Here. I'd review the review as accurate but boring.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Lost child

"It had ears, eyes, fingers," she said of the traumatic loss two weeks ago. "It was a fully formed child. That's an image you don't lose. You can't just flush it away."

From today's SMH.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Mention of God

Now this is a good letter (today's SMH):

Christians have to do something to make their message known, if your article is anything to go by. It says the advertisements ''do not make explicit mention of God''. Yet the examples given are, ''Hey, thanks for the beach, Jesus'', ''Thank you, Jesus, for birds that look like they're wearing pants'' and ''Thank you, Jesus, for looking after my mum now that I can't.'' There are three explicit mentions of God right there.

Sandy McMillan, Wagga Wagga

Good on you Sandy. The letter is actually better than the advertising campaign it is supporting, having reached several hundred thousand people with the message of Jesus' divinity, at the cost of 10 minutes letter-writing. That's an excellent ROI!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Advertising Jesus

The SMH has a report on it here. It's not bad.

Paul Harrison, a senior lecturer in consumer behaviour at Deakin University's Deakin Business School, said Christians should not place too much faith in an advertising campaign to convert non-believers or entice lapsed Christians back to church.

He said the subtle messages were likely to confuse and the churches would be better off putting money into understanding why people were turning away from them and what could be done in response.

Well yes, it did occur to me that there might be a significant problem here. I reckon the best potential impact of these campaigns is brand awareness ("Hmm, there are Christians out there, if I ever wanted to find that out") and the worst potential impact is for those who aren't believers to realize how out of touch we are, and for the Christians to feel mildly embarrassed. So the best is not really that good, and the worst is reasonably bad.

Spend the money on feeding the poor I say.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

God takes back seat at weddings

Yesterday the SMH had a short report about the changing landscape of marriage and the number of children born out of wedlock. Some silly assertions were made amongst the observations:

These changes are easy to take for granted and yet they represent a significant re-ordering of moral priorities, according to demographer Bernard Salt.

"If you had said years ago that we would see many more people living together before marriage and double the number of kids being born out of wedlock, moralists would have seen it as proof of the decline of civilisation and the collapse of our moral fibre. But the reality is that the taboos we once thought immovable are completely flexible."

Salt believes such shifts show our maturity. "People are less preoccupied with sexuality and more concerned about discrimination, with sexism and racism and even with sustainability. Who cares if you're gay? Who cares if you live together without getting married?"

Two good letters from friends followed in today's SMH:

Bernard Salt's grasp on statistics is better than his grasp on logic and ethics ("God takes back seat at weddings", September 8). That the sexual taboos of the 1960s have proved "completely flexible" is an empirical assertion, not an ethical one. Whether it represents a "collapse of our moral fibre" or a growth in our collective "maturity", as Salt claims, cannot be established by statistics. To leap from what is to what ought to be is a cardinal sin in ethics, even if standard practice in demographics.

Jon Guyer, Croydon

Bernard Salt suggests the diminishing significance of marriage is a mark of Australia's maturity. Really? I think it is a mark of tragedy. Relationships have become dispensable and divorce is easy, but it is socially and economically costly, especially for the children.

Australians need to grow up and relearn what love, faithfulness and commitment mean. Perhaps a bit more substance in the celebrant services would not go astray.

Reverend Nigel Fortescue, Naremburn

Well said Jon and Nige.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Chinese workers in Sydney

The only way building contractors can build their buildings at the price they do is to cut costs.

So this injustice has been going on under our noses for quite some time.

It's not just the Chinese government who exploit the Chinese. We do it just as efficiently. In fact, probably better, or they wouldn't come.

Singing Verdi Requiem with 450 people

This is going to be a blast, even more for the hearers than the singers I would say.

If you want to hear our choir singing it this Friday, Saturday, or Sunday arvo at the Opera House, here are the details.

For me the most amazing part of hearing so many voices at once is not when you listen to them at full bore, but when every single person is singing yet you can hardly hear a sound. Softness and dread at full intensity.

Friday, 4 September 2009

World War II begins

George Orwell writes about it here

Invasion of Poland began this morning. Warsaw bombed. General mobilization proclaimed in England, ditto in France plus martial law.

Convert from Islam and be killed

Not only in Pakistan but also in the US, according to a report in CNN today.

The teenager, in a sworn affidavit, claims her father, Mohamed Bary, 47, was pressured by the mosque the family attends in Ohio to "deal with the situation." In the court filing, Rifqa Bary stated her father said, "If you have this Jesus in your heart, you are dead to me!" The teenager claims her father added, "I will kill you!"

Pray for this girl.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Celebrity Christians

We have them.

Carl Trueman writes:

Only the modern day equivalents of the Scottish Moderates of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries would grumble and complain that more people are spending more time hearing more sermons, reading more scripture and studying more classic Christian literature. But just because a movement has good effects does not mean that we should be blind to its shortcomings and potential pitfalls.

One striking and worrying aspect of the movement is how personality oriented it is. It is identified with certain big names, rather than creeds, confessions, denominations, or even local congregations.

If I had a personal pantheon of celebrities, Carl would be in there. But this article tells why I haven't, and you shouldn't.

Update: Yes, cafedave, I did mean to link to the article. An early morning glitch, now fixed! Thanks.

John Della Bosca

In our Bible study group at Uni we prayed last week for John Della Bosca. He was the minister for health here in NSW, now he's not. I'm not sure of the relationship between our prayers and his disappearance.

But here's Claire Smith's Christian perspective on what has happened:

Regrettably, Clif Evers is probably right that marital unfaithfulness is rampant, but that is where the logic in his argument ends (''Plenty of jobs going if all the unfaithful were to quit'', September 2). He does not want us to take the moral high ground in the Della Bosca affair because Della Bosca is not alone and because we should seek moral role models from those closer to home. But Dr Evers thinks we should be outraged if politicians start lying about something.

How is it possible to have an affair and not tell lies? And if a person will lie to their family, how can we be sure he will not lie to voters he has never met?

Unlike Dr Evers I believe politicians are and should be role models, but even on his reckoning there is much more morality at stake in this incident than simply being role models.

Claire Smith, Roseville

Friday, 28 August 2009


Frankly I couldn't care less about the fuss over whether social networking sites are taking up too much of people's lives.

But I am deeply stung—stung I tell you!—by this recent comment from one of my fb friends:

Gordon I've just been recommending people sign you as a friend for rare intellectual stimulation on Facebook. Now I find this!!!

OK, so it was in response to a Mr Men quiz that I took which ended up telling the world that "You are Mr Lazy...Your favorite activity is sleeping, so u dont get much done. You should try to do more things!"

So it may be that the quiz is right, and there is not that much use in befriending me for the purposes of intellectual stimulation.

But for the rest of you readers on facebook who are not yet my friends, sign me up! I will love you as deeply and sincerely as I love the other thousand or so who have already taken this step. No reasonable request left unfriended.

PS Also, after reading this, I thought World of Warcraft sounds pretty cool!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Reformed charismatics?

In this interview with John Woodhouse he picks away at the tension—really the contradiction—between claiming to be both reformed and charismatic.

Interview with John Woodhouse - Reformed Charismatics from Audio Advice on Vimeo.

Don't worry too much about that spooky voice-over asking the questions. It's not the Holy Spirit, it's only Phillip Jensen.

A rich fool

I talk about the identity of the rich fool at the Sola Panel, here.

Universities a morality free zone

So says this report in the SMH.

UNIVERSITIES are value-free zones and need to reassert the primary purpose of education, building the ethical and moral character of students, a Sydney vice-chancellor has said.

At an inaugural annual oration last night at Macquarie University, the university's vice-chancellor, Steven Schwartz, said he wanted a return to education's ''ancient roots''.

He said the rector of St Andrews University in 1867, the British philosopher John Stuart Mill, correctly identified the object of universities was "not to make skilful lawyers, or physicians, or engineers, but capable and cultivated human beings''.

To address this educational philosophy, all new Macquarie undergraduates would be required to study arts, humanities and science subjects as well as work in the community.

Right...to produce graduates with values, pump a couple of Arts subjects into them.

Hmm, that'll work...not! Sadly I can still remember lectures from uni days including unnecessarily sexually explicit Psychology lectures; Sociology lectures where it was insisted as an article of faith that "human nature is an idiot notion"; Philosophy tutorials where a philosophers' god that no-one believed in anyway was soundly disproved; and reading articles for essays which suggested new and interesting ways of diminishing professional responsibility. Benefit of these things for developing healthy values? Nil.

Benefit of attending campus Bible studies for thinking about how to treat others better? Priceless!

Actually the dopey things said in Psychology and Sociology subjects did provide some really good opportunities for evangelism, including running a couple of tutorials explaining the gospel.


You can't do it.

''They're suckers for irrelevancy,'' said Stanford's communication professor, Clifford Nass. ''Everything distracts them.''

The researchers found that people prone to juggling emails, web searches, text chats and videos performed worse than those who did one task at a time.

''We kept looking for what they're better at, and we didn't find it,'' said Eyal Ophir, the lead author. Social science has long held that people cannot process more than one string of information at a time, say the researchers, who wanted to find out how multi-taskers evaded that rule. Tests on 100 students show they are not exempt.

From today's SMH

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Preaching on sin and hell

Chad Brand, a theology lecturer at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, explains the temptation not to:

Of course, there are great temptations not to preach on sin(!) Brian McLaren tells us that this is not the way to reach Gen-Xers. Robert Schuller told us this was not the way to reach Boomers. Harry Fosdick told us this was not the way to reach Moderns. I am sure we could find such sentiments all through history, and the reason is that we do not like to be told that we are sinners, and so, preachers who preach on sin take the chance of alienating their congregations, or at least some members of their congregations. Here is the problem with that fear—at a certain level the task of preaching is precisely to alienate. We are to expose the sinfulness of the congregation by preaching the gospel, and such gospel preaching includes preaching on sin. If we are unwilling to do that, then we are, in A. W. Tozer’s words, “water-boys of the pulpit.” Let me explain what I do mean by alienation, and what I don’t mean by it.

The rest of the article is here. (via ACL).

Even here in Sydney, we are told from time to time that we must not preach sin and hell to, for example, depressed teenagers.

Pray that those who teach us theology, and we ourselves, would have a suitably and necessarily robust view of these doctrines, so that we can rightly explain the grace and goodness of God in Jesus Christ.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Sex offenders at your church

Over the years I have been part of churches where there have been specific individuals who (a) have, as far as I can judge these things, a genuine faith in Christ. (b) ought not to be left alone with children, as this puts the children at risk.

So you need the staff team and other congregational lay leaders to be vigilant, you need to lay down rules with the individual concerned, and you need to police those rules and review them regularly in a way that doesn't draw unnecessary attention to the person concerned.

You also need to live with the reality that some of the congregation members will be freaked out by this level of acceptance.

If the person has a criminal conviction, I would argue that they are best off attending the particular meeting at church where no children are regularly present (at our church, it begins at 7.45 am). This protects both the children and the person concerned.

[I posted this as a comment on Jim West's blog.]

Friday, 21 August 2009

Dr John Wyatt on sick babies

What should we do with sick babies?

...But an entirely contradictory view towards the abnormal or preterm baby is also widespread, although frequently unspoken. According to this perspective, however deeply we may be moved by the abnormal baby's plight, we have to realize that he or she is in reality one of `Nature's rejects', the unfortunate consequence of a complex biological process which is frighteningly fallible and prone to accidents. If Nature in her wisdom has decided that this particular baby has no viable future and should be discarded, who are we to use the panoply of modern intensive-care techniques to thwart her wishes? Why waste scarce financial resources and emotional energy on this individual? Far better to ensure that the baby does not survive, and suggest to the parents that they try to have another.

That's an extract from his book Matters of Life and Death, with a foreword by John Stott.

Read more here.

Dr Wyatt will be speaking in a few weeks at the New College lectures on September 8-10, on the subject "Bioethics And Future Hope". If you have an interest in the topic, this looks well worth getting along to.

Trevor Cairney blogs it here.

Australians in despair

This report in today's SMH says that we have been seriously underestimating our suicide rate.

Moving away from the gospel towards secularism and materialism leaves society generally, and individuals within that society, without hope. The suicide rate is one of the clearest and most uncontestable measures of that.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Feeling listless?

Here's one:

Mathematical Refutations of Folk Wisdom.


- - - -

1/2 bird in the hand not worth 1 in the bush

1/3 cat contains less than 3 lives

jigger of prevention = around 6.28 lbs. of cure at sea level

love you take − love you make < 0

2 heads far more cumbersome than one

From McSweeney's Internet Tendency.

I laughed >/= a lot.

A smart atheist

The views of atheist philosopher Michael Ruse are well worth spending a bit of time googling.

Here's a good, brief starting point, an article called "Why I think the new atheists are a bloody disaster."

Bit of Bible from the 3rd century

I get really excited over stuff like this.

Check the 3rd photo. P91 from the 3rd century, just over at Macquarie Uni.

Listen up you dunderheads who question the historical reliability of the Bible! This is a seriously significant part of the massive body of evidence.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Science isn't really all that scientific

I haven't met Dr Jim West and I know almost nothing about him. But a friend pointed out his blog the other day, so I began to read and enjoyed the experience of finding someone who writes like I think.

In one short evening

"In one short evening the labours of years are consumed. How unsearchable are the ways of God! . . . The Lord has laid me low that I may look more simply to him."

-William Carey, quoted here.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Usain Bolt

Is a good name for a sprinter.


Says David Dale:

Or is poor choice of cover images too shallow an explanation for the collapse of Australia's glossies and gossipies? Instead we might need to raise the C word as the possible problem here - as in Credibility. In March, New Idea ran a cover which purported to show Bec Hewitt with the "new man in her life". New Idea has since admitted that it made a huge mistake, and the man in the picture was actually Hewitt's brother.

I knew there was a reason I didn't read them!