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