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. 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, 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