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. 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!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Spell it how you say it

Which is most likely why Lily Violet (6) spells 'actually' as 'achely'.

Emissions Trading Legislation

It doesn't matter which side of the climate change debate you're on, the current legislation being debated in Parliament is a complete waste of time:

... few in Parliament are excited about the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill (2009) and its related 11 bills. The legislation is arcane. It is compromised. It will cost voters money. Compared with Rudd's rhetoric during the 2007 election, it is a cop-out. For those who are convinced that human activity is responsible for a dramatic shift in global climate, such as Garrett, the Labor Left and the Greens, this bill is a pointless exercise in bureaucratic churn. For those who are convinced that human activity is not necessarily responsible for a dramatic shift in global climate, such as half the Opposition, this bill is a pointless exercise in bureaucratic churn.

They are both right. This bill is a pointless exercise in bureaucratic churn. It is all about having a policy in place before the world climate convention in Copenhagen in December. The collateral benefit for Labor is that Malcolm Turnbull inherited an opposition that is anything but a coalition on this issue.

It was a listless debate because everything that matters will be decided overseas, by the US, the European Union, China and India. Australia's contribution, good and bad, represents about 1 per cent of the global phenomenon.

-Paul Sheehan in today's SMH.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

George Orwell gives six of the best

George's six words on writing well

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Rule six breaks rule two, wouldn't you say?

Still, the whole article is good. Tony Payne originally showed it to me.

Turn your computer off

Then unplug it, plug it in again, and turn it on.

Looks like good advice from this article, "Do computers get tired?"

Friday, 14 August 2009


Ah Studio! We'll meet again.

It won't be gaslight in the lane,

But just as gentle, only brighter.

And Jack on Aslan's back.

We'll sing His glory

Around those two: One Love-truth.

Old world will give one final 'crack!'

Our hearts could not be lighter.

Dom Julian, O.S.B.

Thursday, 13 August 2009


Ah! Sylvia...

Saint Saens, Violin Concerto No.3, 1st movement

(facebook friends click "View original post")

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


I never really tire of watching the finale...

Monday, 10 August 2009


The headline in the SMH screams Christian leaders plan anti-Islam conference".

I'm immediately worried. Has a Christian cleric declared a fatwa? Let's see.

From the article:

Mr Nile invited the leader of the Catch the Fire ministries, Pastor Danny Nalliah, to address the National Conference for all Concerned Christians on November 21 on the theme "Australia's Future and Global Jihad", an event Mr Nile said was about "strengthening Australia's Christian heritage".

Class assignment: rewrite this article on the basis of the information you have here, and give it your own headline.


"Christian leaders plan conference".

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Words of Matilda

First heard Tom Waits sing this live in Sydney 1979.

Wasted and wounded, it ain't what the moon did
I've got what I paid for now
see ya tomorrow, hey Frank, can I borrow
a couple of bucks from you, to go
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, you'll go waltzing
Matilda with me

I'm an innocent victim of a blinded alley
and I'm tired of all these soldiers here
no one speaks English, and everything's broken
and my Stacys are soaking wet
to go waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, you'll go waltzing Matilda with me

now the dogs are barking
and the taxi cab's parking
a lot they can do for me
I begged you to stab me
you tore my shirt open
and I'm down on my knees tonight
Old Bushmill's I staggered, you buried the dagger in
your silhouette window light to go
waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, you'll go waltzing
Matilda with me

now I lost my Saint Christopher now that I've kissed her and the one-armed bandit knows, and the maverick Chinamen, and the cold-blooded signs
and the girls down by the strip-tease shows go
waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, you'll go waltzing Matilda with me

no, I don't want your sympathy, the fugitives say that the streets aren't for dreaming now
manslaughter dragnets and the ghosts that sell memories
they want a piece of the action anyhow go
waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, you'll go waltzing Matilda with me

and you can ask any sailor, and the keys from the jailor
and the old men in wheelchairs know
that Matilda's the defendant, she killed about a hundred
and she follows wherever you may go
waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, you'll go waltzing
Matilda with me

and it's a battered old suitcase to a hotel someplace
and a wound that will never heal
no prima donna, the perfume is on
an old shirt that is stained with blood and whiskey
and goodnight to the street sweepers
the night watchman flame keepers
and goodnight to Matilda too

Tom Waits Waltzes Matilda

Time for some late melancholy

Tom Waits.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Ruby's dogs

In what seems quite a striking coincidence, Ruby sketched these doggies while visiting the dentist.

Would you like to receive an e-mail prayer letter?

As many of you blog-readers know I am working with the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students at the Cumberland Campus of Sydney Uni (better known to the students as 'Cumbo!'), with a group known as the Evangelical Christian Union.

So anyway.

Would you like to receive the Cumbo prayer letter by e-mail (if you aren't already)? Shoot me an e-mail at ggordonc AT

It's taken longer than I wanted to get all of this sorted out, so thank you to people who have been keen to get the prayer letter but haven't yet, and thanks especially to those who have already been praying and supporting the work in other ways.

Cause and effect

Got to be careful:

Statisticians also caution that strong correlations of data do not necessarily prove a cause-and-effect link.

For example, in the late 1940s, before there was a polio vaccine, public health experts in America noted that polio cases increased in step with the consumption of ice cream and soft drinks, according to David Alan Grier, a historian and statistician at George Washington University. Eliminating such treats was even recommended as part of an anti-polio diet. It turned out that polio outbreaks were most common in the hot months of summer, when people naturally ate more ice cream, showing only an association, Mr. Grier said.

-From this New York Times article by Steve Lohr on how statisticians are the Next Big Thing.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

If you really think 'x' is important, you'll...

spend more time on it?

Wouldn't really have thought so.

Take your brain (please! take it!):

Like your brain, the R&D department is part of a complex system that does a lot of important stuff. You can argue that the R&D department is the most important part of a company, not least because it couldn't survive long without it. I think the same thing about my brain--but I'd still be just as dead without my liver. You certainly can't prove anything about my effectiveness as a journalist by pointing out that it weighs less than my bones.

So how big should a "brain" be? Hard to say. But let's look at some companies that are generally recognized as pretty innovative, and their R&D as a percentage of revenue:

Apple: three cents out of every dollar

Google: ten cents out of every dollar

Intel: fifteen cents out of every dollar

Genzyme (innovative biotech startup!): sixteen cents of every dollar

US Government: three cents out of every dollar

The article's here, with links that back up those figures. By Megan McArdle.

Divorce dance

Well. The original wedding dance with Jill and Kevin is very sweet, granted.

But the follow-up is hilarious.

It is to laugh.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Graham Cole on atonement

Graham Cole lectured me in theology at Moore College, years ago.

He's written a book on Atonement, and you can find an interview with Graham on Justin Taylor's Theologica blogspot here.

If it's anything like Graham's book on the Holy Spirit, He Who gives Life (read it recently in prep for our Mid Year Conference), it will be well worth a read.

Says Graham:

Penal substitution provides a good example. It seems to me that following the biblical plotline, the first note struck is the Christus Victor one (i.e., the defeat of evil) in the protevangelium (first gospel) set out in Genesis 3:15. But how is the evil one defeated? The grounds of accusation need to be removed that stand against us, and the fear of death that is the devil’s tool needs to be addressed as well. The cross of Christ disarms the evil one by removing the grounds of accusation against us (Col 2). Christ died in our place (1 Peter 2)), experienced the righteous divine wrath that we deserve (Rom 5) and so, if we are in Christ, there is no condemnation (Rom 8). Because we stand clothed in Christ’s righteousness we will not face the divine judgment of the great white throne for our sins (Rev 20). Our names are in the Lamb’s book of life. The fear of death, which lies in judgment, is thereby addressed (Heb 2). Evangelicals in my view need to do more justice to the Christus Victor theme and in so doing find that penal substitution is integral or central to it.


Albrechtsen on a human rights act

Not a good idea to move power away from the legislature toward the (unelected) judiciary:

Let’s be clear. We are not talking about a campus campaign to save the whales. The introduction of a human rights act will alter the carefully calibrated balance of power in Australia between the legislature and the judiciary. And that single fact requires a detailed consideration of the consequences, not a T-shirt revolution.

The list of vaguely described rights in a charter will necessarily require judges to determine important social policy questions that we have traditionally entrusted to politicians to decide on our behalf, politicians who can be voted out of office if we disagree with them.

On matters of rights, where reasonable people can disagree, a handful of judges will decide the outcome. By any measure, that is a shift of power to judges away from the people.

From The Australian.