Friday, 31 July 2009

Is the internet a threat to general knowledge?

Well, was writing?

What has changed in the past generation is that the internet has come along, and the question stands: is it a threat to general knowledge? When I put that to John Lloyd, creator of “QI”, the subversive BBC quiz show presented by Stephen Fry, he gave a very QI answer, referring me to the story of the Egyptian god Thoth. I looked it up, and it was told by Plato. It goes like this: Thoth has invented writing and proudly offers it as a gift to the king of Egypt, declaring it “an elixir of memory and wisdom”. But the king is horrified, and tells him: “This invention will induce forgetfulness in the souls of those who have learned it, because they will not need to exercise their memories, being able to rely on what is written…rather than, from within, their own unaided powers to call things to mind. So it’s not a remedy for memory, but for reminding, that you have discovered. And as for wisdom, you are equipping your pupils with only a semblance of it, not with truth.”

-Brian Cathcart, Intelligent Life magazine, Summer, 2009

How to forgive others

A superb post on the Sola Panel from Jennie Baddeley, who hasn't blogged on for ages.

Her post is called The Nuts and Bolts of Forgiveness.

One of those useful things was the realization that my forgiveness is not of the same quality as God's forgiveness. God's free and extravagant forgiveness of our sins in Christ is the basis of our forgiveness of each other. We don't forgive because we are nice people or because pain doesn't bother us; we forgive because Jesus died on a cross for our wickedness and we needed God's forgiveness so desperately.

It's one of those uncommon posts that is worth rereading several times. Thanks, Jennie.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Rudd opposes gay marriage

There'll be a disproportionate amount of noise about this, but the Ruddmeister is right when he says:

As well as his private instructions, Mr Rudd issued a stern public message yesterday before the factional meetings.

He emphasised that Labor’s policy opposed gay marriage. The party considered marriage a union between man and a woman.

That's right, and not something that would be changed by reconsideration.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Dentist as tiger

This picture (by our middlest daughter, Ruby age 8) has been on the cupboard in the kitchen for about a month now:

Below it she added the caption "Dentists don't always do people, they sometimes do animals."

That's about all she had to say about it.

Harry Seidler

Polly in the SMH letters:

My father, Harry Seidler, was not a student at the Bauhaus – the institution closed when he was 10 (‘‘Distinguished already, as the last Seidler design’’, July 25-26). Nor was his architectural training in Europe, as Brian Zulaikha of the Australian Institute of Architects says. He studied with the emigre Bauhaus teachers Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer at Harvard and Josef Albers at Black Mountain College in the 1940s.

Polly Seidler, Darlinghurst

When discrimination laws become discriminatory

Peter Costello writes:

What happens when equal rights between men and women are so widely accepted mainstream Australia hardly thinks about it? Surely it is time to acknowledge that anti-discrimination statutes have done their job?

Not according to the Victorian Government. It harbours the view that discrimination has got sophisticated – so hard to find under current law – that we must widen the law to catch more of it.

Its Attorney-General has his sights set on men-only clubs (apparently it is OK to have female-only clubs and it is OK for men-only rules at gay venues). The Government has also put religion on notice it will come under closer scrutiny.

The whole article is here in today's SMH.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Nigerian Taliban strikes

RADICAL Islamists yesterday torched a police headquarters, a church and a Customs office in northern Nigeria, as the death toll in weekend religious clashes climbed to 150.

A BBC reporter counted 100 bodies, mostly of the Taliban-styled militants, near the police headquarters in Maiduguri, Borno state, where hundreds are fleeing their homes.

Nigerian police chief Ogbonna Onovo said earlier that five of his officers and 65 of the militants had been killed in the neighbouring states of Bauchi and Yobe.

The Australian.

Please pray for our Nigerian friends.

Monday, 27 July 2009

You've got to hide your love away

And now a number from the finest rock group of this age, or indeed of any age (as my friend Andy would say)

Here I stand head in hand
Turn my face to the wall
If she's gone I can't go on
Feelin' two-foot small

Everywhere people stare
Each and every day
I can see them laugh at me
And I hear them say

Hey you've got to hide your love away
Hey you've got to hide your love away

How can I even try
I can never win
Hearing them, seeing them
In the state I'm in

How could she say to me
Love will find a way
Gather round all you clowns
Let me hear you say

Hey you've got to hide your love away
Hey you've got to hide your love away

-The Beatles

Persecuted Christians in Islamic countries

Here's a good question. Why do the majority of American Christians remain so oblivious to the increasingly bitter fate of their fellow Christians in the Islamic world? These ancient communities -- many descended from the very earliest followers of Jesus himself -- are under growing siege.

True, and true of us too. Huffington Post, with thanks to Dan Phillips at Biblical Christianity.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Two more homeopathic lagers please

It is to laugh.

Thanks Lucy and some others.


beautiful...Sydney midwinter day.

Took the girls to the park. Ruby rode, Lily scooted, I read.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

1939: George Orwell's diaries

1. Gov.t advising all householders to lay in supply of non-perishable food. Leaflet on the subject to be issued shortly.

Add George Orwell to your RSS feed. A slow burn.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Crime in the countryside

Honour is due to Mr P. Kirsop for this quote:

"The lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside"

"Adventure of the Copper Beeches" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

I am afraid, my dear Watson

"I am afraid, my dear Watson, that most of your conclusions were erroneous. When I said that you stimulated me I meant, to be frank, that in noting your fallacies I was occasionally guided towards the truth. Not that you are entirely wrong in this instance."

-Sherlock Holmes on the value of reading liberal theologians.

Click through

Those of you who click through to this blog (as opposed to checking it via RSS or facebook or some other means) will notice that I've finally figured out which button to push to make the "Gordon's Shared Items" down the right hand side of the page more interesting and informative.

At the moment I'm trying to expand the number of blogs I glance at (who knows whether this will last past the end of my jet lag) so have a bit of a squiz and enjoy!

Who'll hear you when you scream?

Both Scott and Lee believe violence of the kind recently seen in South Australia is more common in the bush than the city. In the early 2000s, Lee and his colleagues analysed Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research data on crimes across NSW geographically and in terms of population density. "What we found was that, perhaps contrary to popular belief, levels of recorded violence per 100,000 people actually increased as population decreased."

From today's SMH.

Well exactly. Sherlock Holmes knew this; witness his increasing nervousness as he moved from the centre of London into the English countryside (probably not The Adventure of the Dancing Men, but something like it).

And any serious student of human nature could have told you this without recourse to statistics.

UPDATE: Mr Kirsop, I would not have found it without assistance.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Pragmatism—the next enemy

Mark Thompson gave an address recently. Of the five challenges he listed as facing Sydney Anglicans, the only one that really bothers me is this:

The second challenge is one that, quite frankly, I never expected us to face in this diocese. We, along with others, will need to guard our diocese’s long-standing commitment to rigorous theological education as the foundation upon which to build effective long-term gospel ministry. Pragmatism is not entirely evil, of course. There is a place for principled pragmatism. None of us wants to persist with methods or structures which are plainly not working. However, it is precisely the ‘principled’ part of principled pragmatism which is under renewed pressure just at the moment. Some are arguing that we need simply to get on with the work and if that means settling for less theological rigour then that is a price we must be prepared to pay. We can afford to trim the investment we have made in educating our gospel workers as thoroughly as possible. Not that I’m suggesting the way we’ve always done things has been perfect. However, a significant part of the current strength of our diocese is fifty years at least of serious commitment to theologically-driven decision making. I am suggesting that we must guard that commitment and do what we must to resist and help others to resist the current pressure to downplay the necessity of a thorough theological education. Without it we run the risk of undermining theologically-driven decision making in the future.

If we don't face this one down, we got problems.


Tim Black writes:

Panic-mongering by authorities about a pandemic is distorting the threat and distracting from real killers like malaria.

There have been 11,194 confirmed cases of swine flu in Australia during the past couple of months. The total number of people to have suffered swine-flu related deaths since is 24.

From the Australian, here.

Meanwhile the top story in the Herald.

One of the thoughts that's started to occur to me, when I read about things like swine flu panic, is why people don't fear hell more than they do? It can't be because they're thinking rationally.

Anyway. "Matilda, what's the best cure for swine flu?" (Answer: lots of oinkment.)

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Support Gordo at Cumbo, read Izaac's blog!

The 'support Gordo at Cumbo blog' is not dead yet, but it is in an artificial coma awaiting resuscitation. Apart from updating regularly, I reckon it needs a new name. "Support Gordo @ Cumbo" seemed fine when I was starting off, but now every time I look at it it feels unnecessarily Cheng-ocentric and not sufficiently Cumbocentric.

I've *got* to **think**!!

Any suggestions gratefully received.

Meanwhile, Izaac Cowling, currently a trainee working with us at Cumbo and doing a fabulous job, has started a blog. He is helping organize the Cumbo bit of next week's Mid Year Conference for various universities including Cumbo, Wollongong, UWS, UTS Kuringai, Christians in the Media...

Our topic this year is the Holy Spirit, and Phillip Jensen is the speaker. Izaac has a series of posts featuring things Mid Year Conference related, and you can find them here.

Phillip Jensen is the Dean of St Andrew's Cathedral here in Sydney, and wrote about the Holy Spirit on the Cathedral blog recently, here. This is not the first time he's spoken on the subject.

Check this sub-3 minute video of Phillip answering the question What does 'baptized by the Spirit' mean?

Photos of Sweden

Here's one. If you want to see more, befriend me on facebook and check the photos there!

David quotes someone

"A while ago at a conference I heard a prominent British evangelical, reflecting upon Bishop Tom Wright, note that one should not just observe who people stand with, but also who they will not be seen to support."

From David Ould. A good rule of thumb, insufficiently applied in Anglican circles.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Martin Hengel on the New Testament and its reliability

Interviewed here by John Dickson. Persevere! It's well worth the effort.

John writes of Hengel:

Let me say something about Professor Hengel’s huge scholarly contribution (which, curiously, is greater in the English-speaking world than in Germany). As I wandered around his library I came across a section containing his own authored and edited volumes, about 80 in all. I was reminded not only of how prolific he was but also how very significant. Few scholars can expect to write something others will describe as ‘landmark’. Hengel is a one man landscape. At a time when faddish scholars were downplaying the connections between Jesus and Judaism and playing up the connections between Christianity and ancient pagan religion, Hengel was busy clarifying our picture of first century Palestine and then trying to set Jesus and the Gospels within that secure context. He wrote a still-standard text on the rise of Jewish revolutionaries in the period (known as the Zealots). In his Judaism and Hellenism he carefully described the relationship between ancient Jews and the surrounding Greek culture. The significance of this last work cannot be overstated. It is now historically impossible to speak of a neat distinction between Greek and Jewish cultures in antiquity, and the once-common suggestion that our Greek Gospels could only contain a distant echo of an Aramaic-speaking Palestinian Jew is now historically untenable. The prominence of the Greek language among Jews even in Jerusalem makes it virtually certain that Jesus’ teachings were being retold in Greek immediately after his death, if not during his own lifetime.

Hengel died on July 2.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


We had the best holiday ever in Sweden, thanks for asking. Cousins Eva, Åsa (and Kjell) and Åke, Moster Karin, not to mention sister Ingrid and new brother-in-law Peter!

Photos will come. In the meantime, have a look at some of these, they are terrific. They were taken by my cousin Åke's daughter Lotta's husband Micah (figured that out?).

Here's an interesting thing I picked up. Sweden is a Lutheran country and after the Protestant Reformation they widened the windows of the churches. Why? Because you needed to get more light into the buildings so that the regular church members could read their Bibles for themselves. Ingrid told me that!

Izaac blogs

One of the most terrific things about working at Cumbo is the team there, who all love Jesus and are doing their best to let others know the truth about him.

Izaac is one of them, and he has started a blog recently. Check this recent entry on manhood and metaphors, with a great insight into the right use of Isaiah 40.

Monday, 13 July 2009


I know my Hebrew alphabet from aleph to taw. More or less.

So now it's time for a shower and a sleep.


Dying pays tsaveh qwoof raysh shin tav.

How hard could that be?

Hebrew and dry retching

I figure if you want to be a Bible teacher you have to have a go at learning Hebrew. I was sick when I first had a chance to do it and so had to pull out. But now that I've finished a bit of church history study, I'm going to have a proper go at it.

I'm using George Athas' and Ian Young's Elementary Biblical Hebrew: An Introductory Grammar and I am up to page 8. I particularly appreciate that the 16th of the 22 consonants, "'dyin", (although how 'aleph' is a consonant is like, come on) is described as a "dry retching sound".

Try it with me now, my friends.

Back from Sweden

and a bit tired, will try to stay awake until 4, or 6.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Codex Sinaiticus

Be amazed.

Here's the SMH report. The tech pages of the SMH are the best bit, they tend to drop the otherwise necessary ideological sneer and do some real reporting.

Fortfarande in Sverige

Still in Sweden for another few days.

Enjoying the hospitality of Åsa and Kjell, Eva, Ingrid and Peter. Tack så mycke!

Sunrise today: 3.34 am. Sunset: 10.02 pm. Hmm. Days are getting shorter.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Reading Shakespeare

From a bio of actor John Barrymore (holiday reading, along with Psalms 60-70!):

Barrymore was not a Shakespearean in the academic sense of the term. I do not know how many actors have been wholesale students of the Bard, but the general feeling persists that a person with the gift of portraying the great Will's characters must of necessity be such a scholar as to possess even an antiquarian knowledge of the source material for the masterworks of Stratford's first gentleman.

Garrick, as an upbuilder of Shakespearean enthusiasm, seems to have been in literary as well as dramatic tune with the finest lyre since the golden Greeks'. And, if we may descend the stairs, several flights of them, at a swift downward bound, we find in our own time that numerous hams of our boardinghouse acquaintance actually were excellent analysts of the folios, no matter how wretchedly they carried the spears on-stage or how bombastically they hurled the labored line. Many non-Shakespearean actors are familiar with the Avon classics. Eddie Foy, of comedy a king, actually knew Shakespeare's works, majoring in the tragedies, and could recite, word for word, any of the longer speeches.

It is true that Jack [Barrymore] had heard much of the Elizabethan text in his own richly endowed home. Likewise, he had seen numerous of the "greats" perform in the classic roles. But he himself pointed out that there was a difference between reading and viewing, and once told me that he never really had "perused the iambic perfections" until he played Richard.

Jack, during his later years, used to read aloud privately from various Shakespearean plays. There were two circumstances, two reasons actually, pertaining to these readings: first, my intention to keep him for a time off the streets and away from such Hollywood philanthropists as believed that fifths of straight brandy were a specific for his duodenal ulcer; and second, the exciting pleasure stirred by his first reading of several of Shakespeare's plays.

It so happened that neither of us had read King Lear. We had seen it, of course, yet neither had ever read it in toto.

"Cardinal", he said, "let us sit here in the Sistine Chapel of your home, before the auctioneer arrives with his gavel and his sheriff's authorization to seal you out, and see what we can exhume from King Lear's whiskered mind."

He was ill at this time, as one could plainly see, yet he acted that he was well. He put on his spectacles, a pair of ancient lenses borrowed from some woozy tourist at Earl Carroll's restaurant. One temple-bar was missing from the frame, but Jack had obstinately refused to consult an oculist or permit his friends to renew the mountings of these dilapidated windows.

"It has a lorgnette effect," he said. "Makes me feel like a dowager."

He seemed a bit "caved-in" this night, as I took King Lear down from the dusty shelf to give it to Barrymore. He snorted several times, a device used, I fully believe, to cover up his pain or deflect attention from his growing lapses of memory. I am confident that these tragic-comic snorts often were employed by him instead of groans.

He opened the volume, then began to read Lear. He entered the scenes without flourish or tumult. As he sat there, his jaws sagging at first, his hair stringing down in squaw-like disarray, his face stubbled with beard-hairs, and pale with loss of blood from a recent stomach hemorrhage, his heart heavy with long misfortune, he entered upon a performance the like of which I never before had seen, and never again shall see.

A great majesty came upon him. Rather, it came from within him, for there always existed in his nature a latent dignity of mind behind the scoffing shelter of his own public mien. One forgot the nondescript eyeglasses, the stringing-down hair, the slumped man on the couch. Indeed, his own ills, his own epic disasters of the last years may have enabled him the more readily to become Lear in immediate concept and projection. The tragic king now cried out in this room, and in Barrymore's reading one say this old monarch wearing, not the customary crown of straw, but one of thorn.

-Good Night, Sweet Prince: The Life and Times of John Barrymore by Gene Fowler, pp. 168-170 (New York: Pocket Books, 1947 [first edn. Viking Books, 1944])