Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Dirty political tricks

On a recent flight I watched the movie Our Brand is Crisis. It chronicles the inward and outward battles of a burned out American political consultant who is drawn into a presidential election campaign in Bolivia. It is inspired by a documentary of the same name about the real election in 2002. On the one hand the dirty tricks, cynicism, and immorality are depressing. On the other hand, I fear it is pretty close to the truth.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Science and theology resources in French

Next weekend I am part of an IFES meeting in Francophone Africa where Christian academics will be discussing the relationship between science and theology. I have been tracking down useful resources in French. Here are some of them.

Science et Foi (is like a French version of Biologos, covering similar topics, includes videos and blog articles.

Réseau des scientifiques évangéliques (like a French version of Christians in Science in the UK)

Faraday Papers have been been translated into French.

Test of Faith video (dubbed in French)

Benno van den Toren and Klaas Borm recently completed a relevant research project.
Two of the papers they have produced are
 A Contribution to the debate on science and faith by Christian students from Abidjan

On the Value of Action and Participatory Research for Intercultural Theology: Reflections in the Light of a Research Project on “Science and Religion in French-Speaking Africa

Here are the slides (in French) for two talks I have given previously in France.
Un scientifique porte un regard sur la Bible

La science nous libère-t-elle de la religion?
[This one may be of less interest to people outside of France as it engages with The Pantheon, Victor Hugo, and Les Miserables].

I welcome other recommendations.

Monday, September 3, 2018

When do institutions fail?

Living in stable and prosperous Western countries for decades I took institutions (governments, courts, banks, businesses, universities, churches, charities) for granted. However, over the past decade I have spent more time in the Majority world, where many institutions struggle to be effective because of corruption or lack of resources. Unfortunately, in the West now many institutions are under siege, starting to fall apart, or doing significant damage. Thus, I have gained a new appreciation for just important institutions are for human flourishing. In November, I been asked to give a talk to stimulate a discussion about this issue. Hence, I am thinking about the issue more. An article I found helpful and stimulating is this book review by Andy Crouch.
A question I have been thinking about is, When do institutions fail?
I believe there are two primary reasons. Often they become intertwined.

People within the institution use (abuse) it for their own personal gain (money, power, sex).

Preserving the institution becomes a primary goal in decision making.

Australia has recently seen powerful examples of both reasons.
The first was documented in the Royal_Commission_into_Misconduct_in the_Banking,_Superannuation_and_Financial_Services_Industry
Banks created perverse incentive schemes that employees used to enrich themselves at the expense of customers.

The second was documented in the Royal_Commission_into_Institutional_Responses_to Child_Sexual_Abuse. Churches (of many different denominations) covered up abuse for decades in order to protect the "reputation" of the institution.

Most institutions are started by people who have a vision of doing some good, whether it is providing a needed service, protecting the innocent, or providing a worthwhile product. However, the problems often begin in later generations when members of the institution are not so passionate or committed to that vision, and have more self-centred goals. Unfortunately, this is transition reflects some common features in the growth and evolution of large organisations.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Praise the Creator and Redeemer

Last month my wife and I visited First Presbyterian Church in Evanston, Illinois (North of Chicago). I attended there for 18 months in the late 80's when I was visiting Northwestern University while finishing my Ph.D. During this time I met my lovely wife. It was a trip down memory lane. At church we sang this song which I really liked.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Five key ideas about technological change

These are taken from a 1998 talk by Neil Postman, and recently featured in a recent Washington Post column, Is the Internet Evil?, by Christine Emba.
1. All technological change is a trade-off.
2. The advantages and disadvantages of a new technology are never distributed evenly.
3.  Embedded in every technology is a philosophy.
4. Technological change is not additive; it is ecological.
5. When a technology becomes mythic, it is always dangerous because it is then accepted as it is, and is therefore not easily susceptible to modification or control.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

What is arrogance?

The Bible talks a lot about pride, arrogance, and humility.
The Psalms lament the arrogance of the wicked.

The prophet Samuel warns King Saul (1 Samuel 15:23)
For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.

What is arrogance?
It is an attitude that affects how we relate to ourselves, to others, and to God.

Arrogance about myself says, ``My opinions, achievements, and behaviour are better than others.'' It is blind to our own limitations and failings.

Arrogance towards others says, ``I know you. I understand you. I know what you need. I have the solution. Join my program.''
``I understand this situation. Let me explain it to you.''

Theological arrogance says,
``I know the Bible. I understand this passage. I know what it means.''
`` My theology is right. Yours is wrong.''

Arrogance towards God says,
``I don't need you, God. I can save myself. I can function fine in life without you.''
``You really should act this way and not this way.''

Arrogance is the opposite of humility. But humility, does not preclude seeing our own value or having strong convictions about what is true and what is false.
Jesus embodied humility. His teaching illuminates it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Pele and the beautiful game

On a recent flight I enjoyed watching the movie Pele: Birth of a Legend. It does many things well: pays tribute to the greatest footballer of all time, chronicles his life as a child in poverty, shows the role of Ginga (a unique creative style of play) in Brazilian history and identity, highlights issues of racism and social class, shows the value and influence of families, illustrates the passion of football, ... 
It is a beautiful game!

I think some of the negative reviews are too harsh.  Albeit, my view of movies is certainly coloured if I watch them on a long flight, when I am somewhat bored and half brain dead.