Thursday, March 31, 2011

The idol of happiness

My dear wife sent me an interesting item  Hear Me Roar! (Musings on Women's History Month) by Mary Kassian on the Desiring God blog. It reviews how the feminist revolution offered to make women happier by giving them greater independence through freeing them from the shackles of marriage and family. Yet, it seems that American women are the most unhappy they have ever been! Kassian then reflects on a Biblical model for womanhood and concludes:

History proves that woman’s happiness is not found in pursuing the current cultural ideal. But that doesn’t mean it’s an elusive goal. My “woman’s history”—and the history of a multitude of sisters who have loved Christ—testifies to the fact that happiness (of the deep, lasting kind) can be found in pursuing the One to whom true womanhood points.  
Although I have some sympathy to this I am uneasy about this emphasis on happiness. It seems to be a utilitarian argument for following Christ: Women's goal should be to be happy. Being a feminist does not bring happiness. Feminism doesn't work. But, what will make women happy is following Christ. So women should give up on feminism and follow Christ. 

This emphasis on happiness probably comes from the United States Declaration of Independence. The second sentence of is:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Christ does offer joy and an abundant life. But he also promises persecution, suffering, sacrifice, and the "way of the Cross".

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The irony of relativism

In his book Contingency, Irony, and Solidarit,  the influential philosopher Richard Rorty suggests that "an attitude of irony" ought to replace "the rule of judgement". In particular, a person should not claim to know right and wrong but rather "admit the contingency of his or her most central beliefs and desires" and face the fact they do not "refer back to something beyond the reach of time and chance".
Our freedoms are not based on any universal truth but rather:
"based on nothing more profound than the historical facts which suggest that without the protection of something like the institutions of bourgeois liberal society, people will be less able to work out their private salvations, create their private self-images, reweave their webs of belief and desire in the light of whatever new people or books they happen to encounter."
I found the following response by Miroslav Volf rather apt (and amusing):
I reject exclusion because the prophets, evangelists, and apostles tell me that this is a wrong way to treat human beings, any human being, anywhere, and I am persuaded to have good reason to believe them. An ironic stance may be all that people desire who are spoiled by affluence, because it legitimises their narcissistic obssession with "creation their private self-images" and "reweaving their webs of belief and desire". But an ironic stance is clearly not what people suffering hunger, persecution and oppression can afford... ."exclusion" does not express a preference; it names an objective evil.
Exclusion and Embrace, page 68.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pelicans, the Bible, and the rise of Science

What on earth do the three have to do with each other?
In 2005 Peter Harrison gave a Christians in Science - St. Edmunds College lecture, The Bible and the Emergence of Modern Science, in Cambridge. The lecture involves some bold and original hypotheses. Hence, after the lecture there was a lively discussion by a distinguished group of scholars, from both science and the humanities. It all makes fascinating reading. Here is the abstract of the lecture:
The Bible played a significant role in the development of modern science. Most obviously, its contents were important because they could be read in ways that seemed either to conflict with or to confirm new scientific claims. More important, however, were changes to the way in which the Bible was interpreted during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The move away from allegorical readings of Scripture and the new focus on the historical or literal sense – a development promoted by humanist scholars and Protestant reformers – contributed to the collapse of the symbolic world of the Middle Ages and paved the way for new mathematical and taxonomic readings of nature. Biblical hermeneutics was thus of profound importance for those new ways of interpreting nature that we associate with the emergence of modern science.
An example of the incredibly complex and symbolic interpretation of nature in the Middle Ages was that of the pelican and in a common "natural history guidebook" known as a bestiary.

The Pelican Lectern in Norwich Cathedral. It was not destroyed in the Reformation because it was buried in the Bishop's garden. Ironically, it is used daily for the reading of Scripture in evensong.

Not so wrong

Job rebuked by his friends, by William Blake, from Illustrations of the Book of Job

I have been re-reading the book of Job and am struck that much of what Job's friends said was close to the truth. This should humble us because it shows how we can be quite confident that we or someone else is right but actually be wrong from God's perspective.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Non-conflict resolution

I have started reading Science, Creation and the Bible: Reconciling Rival Theories of Origins by Richard F. Carlson and Tremper Longman III, which I have been asked to review. It is helpful that they clearly state their goal at the beginning:
we hope to suggest a way to resolve the creation-evolution conflict and bring conciliation between scientific and spiritual truths that underlie faith. To that end we propose the following thesis:
The first two chapters of Genesis, which accurately present two accounts of creation in terms of ancient Hebrew scientific observations and their historical understanding, are neither historical nor scientific in the twenty-first-century literal sense. Instead, the underlying message of these chapters applies for all time and constitutes a complete statement of the worldview of the Hebrew people in the ancient Near East. They accurately understood the universe in terms of why God created it but not how in the modern scientific and historical sense. This worldview, markedly different from those of their pagan neighbors, articulates the principles underlying their understanding of the relation of God to the universe, their relation to the true God, and their relation to each other and to the created order.
Overall I have many sympathies to this point of view and their goals but I do already have concerns and questions. As many posts to this blog testify I see no conflict between science and Genesis. But, I do concede that many people claim there is a conflict. However, I worry that if our starting point is "there is a conflict, we have to resolve it" concedes too much ground and credence to:

  • poor Biblical hermeneutics [a "plain" reading of the text by a 21st century American or Queenslander gives the correct and only possible reading]
  • simplistic philosophy of science [scientism= science is the only way to access the truth] 
  • disputes of the validity of the findings of modern science by Christians with no or minimal scientific training
On the other hand, it is admirable that the authors are trying to address issues head on that are important to many of their American brethren. But I worry that referring to Genesis as a "Rival theory of origins" is casting the debate too much in the wrong terms and not doing justice to the text. Again, I think Barth shows us the way forward as described here.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Conference on the Academy and the Church

I am looking forward to the Third Annual Australasian Christian Conference for the Academy and the Church to be held at the end of June at the University of Queensland. The last two conferences have been great and hopefully this one will be even better!

The two plenary speakers will be Professor Walter Moberly (Durham) and Dr. Jonathan Burnside (Bristol).
I downloaded and read the first chapter of Moberly's The Theology of the Book of Genesis. It will be great to hear from him. Previously I posted about Burnside's new book God, Justice, and Society.

You can submit your abstracts online now.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The why question

"Science is wonderfully equipped to answer the question 'How?' but it gets terribly confused when you ask the question 'Why?'."
Erwin Chargaff  [distinguished biochemist]
Before Darwin, even educated people who had abandoned “Why” questions for rocks, streams and eclipses still implicitly accepted the legitimacy of the “Why” question where living creatures were concerned. Now only the scientifically illiterate do. But“only” conceals the unpalatable truth that we are still talking about an absolute majority.
        Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden 

Ego and bitter jealousy consume

Reading through the Book of Esther I was struck by this account of Haman's inflated ego and how it consumed him that there was one man who did not acknowledge his "greatness":
9And Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai. 10Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home, and he sent and brought his friends and his wife Zeresh. 11And Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king. 12Then Haman said, "Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepared. And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king. 13Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate."

The Arrogance of Haman, a tapestry by Jean Francois de Troy

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A publication emerges

My paper, Emergence, reductionism and the stratification of reality in science and theology has finally been published in the Scottish Journal of Theology.
I am used to publishing in scientific journals where the time lag between acceptance and appearance in print is usually months rather than years...

Here is the concluding paragraph:

Emergent phenomena and concepts in science raise questions about the presuppositions of much academic theology, which has forlornly tried to become more intellectually respectable by adopting Enlightenment methods, concepts and presuppositions. Emergence affirms those who consider theology (in the tradition of Barth, Torrance and McGrath) to be a legitimate discipline in its own right. It can and should dialogue with other disciplines, but should not be intimidated into changing its methods or content by intellectual imperialists from other disciplines. Furthermore, as Barth emphasised, theology can only claim to be ‘scientific’ if its content and methods are constrained by the object under study, the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

A political education

Yesterday I was encouraged to read a report Julia Gillard makes stand as a social conservative in The Australian that the Prime Minister of Australia, emphasized the importance of understanding the Bible,
Ms Gillard said it was important for people to understand their Bible stories "not because I'm an advocate of religion - clearly I'm not - but once again, what comes from the Bible has formed such an important part of our culture".
"It's impossible to understand Western literature without having that key of understanding the Bible stories and how Western literature builds on them and reflects them and deconstructs them and brings them back together," she said.
I liked this because it is consistent with my claim A secular education is an oxymoron. But then today I read in The Australian "Atheist Julia challenges mad monk Tony to a bible knowledge contest" which reports:
opposition MP Peter Slipper asked Ms Gillard why the proposed new national curriculum for schools made no mention of the Bible.
She strongly backed the draft curriculum, saying it promoted free thought and she wanted Australian children to develop skills in critical analysis so they made up their own minds about issues. "We live in a democracy which values free conscience and free thinking," Ms Gillard said.
"That's the kind of education I want for Australian children, and that's the kind of education the national curriculum is aimed at."
While the draft national curriculum does not mention the Bible, it does set out the teaching of culture as a "complex system of concepts, values, norms, beliefs and practices" and includes the "impact of beliefs and values" on society in human history.
This sounds like political double speak to me. Taking the two statements together it sounds like the Prime Minister supports a curriculum with which, by her own assessment,  it will be impossible for Australian students to understand Western literature!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Urban legends about science and religion

Occasionally I get asked about "chain emails" that make claims relevant to the relationship between science and Christianity. Here are two that I recently encountered.

1. A dialogue between an "atheist philosophy professor" and a student. [The full account is here]. It ends with the claim that the student was Albert Einstein and that he wrote a book "Science vs. God" in 1921.
The reported arguments in this email may be worth considering. However, there is no evidence that Einstein ever wrote  a book "God vs. Science"
or that the reported dialogue with the "atheist professor" actually happened.
Unfortunately, Einstein's name has been attached in an attempt to increase the credibility of the arguments. But, the arguments should be evaluated on their own merits. A careful analysis of Einstein's views on religion are in the book by Max Jammer.

2. NASA discovered a "missing day" in astronomical records and that this must be due to the day that the sun stood still in the Old Testament book of Joshua.
The text of the claim and a rebuttal of this urban myth is here.

Christians need a healthy dose of skepticism when encountering such claims.
The cartoon is from xkcd

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Earthquakes expose shaky foundations

The earthquake and tsunami in Lisbon, Portugal in 1755 shook the philosophical foundations of many.   It led Voltaire to write the novel Candide, a critique of Leibniz's Theodicy which claimed that we lived in "the best possible of all worlds". This optimism (in the sense that the world is optimal).
                                              The Ruins of Lisbon

Karl Barth also critiques the "optimism" of Leibniz at the end of volume 3.1 of Church Dogmatics. He points out there is a triangle of God, man, and the world and different people start in different corners to formulate their view of the world. Barth claims that Leibniz and his fellow "optimists" had great confidence in their ability to look at the world and claim that it was "self evident" that is was "perfect". In contrast, a Christian claims the world is good, because God has declared it to be so, and in quite a different sense.
This impotence in self-confidence is the real disease of the 18th century. For all that it was felt so deeply and proclaimed so loudly its confidence was vulnerable. An earthquake could set everything in a new and different light. And it is symbolical and symptomatic that of all possible disasters it was an earthquake which brought about this change. It was fatal for these eternal observers and spectators that they should suddenly feel shaking beneath them the earth on which they thought they could calmly make their observations. What were they, what was the significance of their interpretation, when they were no longer sure of themselves? 
Real certainty depends on whether the ground on which we see and think is solid or unstable. We have seen that the Christian affirmation of the justification of existence gains its certitude from the fact that those who utter it have themselves been so seized upon and transformed that they cannot do other than affirm this belief. They have been brought to the point of decision. They are not just spectators but sworn witnesses to the perfection of the created world. They have been reached and pierced by the self-declaration of their Creator. They have been sought and found and chosen and called by Him. At the heart of creation He Himself has come to them, and grasped them, and committed them to the verdict of His good-pleasure, so that their minds and lips can know no other. Confronting God, they must also confront the truth of all things. And this fact implies the freedom of their judgment in face of shattering disturbances which inevitably affect observation and reflection that are free only in appearance. In this sense, too, the Christian affirmation says something different from that of pure optimism.
Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 3.1: The Doctrine of Creation, p.  412

He then goes on to point out that Leibniz's problem was that his views were shaped by a generic God rather than using Christ as their starting point.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Truth and peace kiss

The Karl Barth Digital Library is a great resource [which thankfully my university subscribes to]. One great feature is that it provides a full translation of latin and greek phrases. 

For example, in his preface to volume 3.1 of Church Dogmatics: The Doctrine of Creation Karl Barth gives a long quote in Latin which I had no idea what it meant, but now do. He looks back wistfully to 1624 when the Theological faculty at Leyden could publish a commonly agreed dogmatics, with the stated goal

so that we might firmly establish the harmony of our faith and doctrine, and our mutual agreement concerning all the topics of holy Religion: having no doubt that when the Pastors of our Churches have considered this specimen of our common doctrine, so often desired by them, they will rejoice with us in the name of this Province, where, by the singular grace of God…in the lecterns of our Academy no less than in the pulpits of the congregations, they can now once more see that truth and peace, to use the words of the Royal Prophet David, have met together and kissed each other

Friday, March 18, 2011

Blood that binds and separates

The relationship of the church to cultures should be both transcendent and immanent. Christians should be in the world but not of the world. We are aliens and exiles but present ambassadors who become "all things for all men" and "work for the good of the city."

In concluding Chapter 1, Distance and Belonging, of Exclusion and Embrace, Miroslav Volf, suggests a "a confession-like text that expresses the need for ecumenical community in the struggle against the 'new tribalism'", following the format of the Barmen Declaration:
“You were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer males and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
All the churches of Jesus Christ, scattered in diverse cultures, have been redeemed for God by the blood of the Lamb to form one multicultural community of faith. The “blood” that binds them as brothers and sisters is more precious than the “blood,” the language, the customs, political allegiances, or economic interests that may separate them.
We reject the false doctrine, as though a church should place allegiance to the culture it inhabits and the nation to which it belongs above the commitment to brothers and sisters from other cultures and nations, servants of the one Jesus Christ, their common Lord, and members of God’s new community. 
Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, p. 54

When I read this I assumed it was a direct quote from the Barmen Declaration. It certainly sounded like it to me! I went back and read the whole Barmen Declaration so I could blog about it. But could not find the above text in it. Only then did I realise that Volf was writing from scratch.

I also found this interesting of the material in my post My Kingdom is not of this World, pointing out the enduring relevance of the Barmen Declaration to nationalistic movements (e.g., in the former Yugoslavia).
But, the main point should not be my own confusion and ramblings [which are probably only of interest to me!] but that the Cross of Christ defines true identity and community, uniting former enemies, while identifying with us in all our cultural and ethnic contexts.

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?

Proverbs 21:1 states "The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he wills."

This includes pagan kings!

Reading through the book of Ezra it is striking how things changed from chapter 4 where King Artaxerxes orders work to cease on the Temple [in response to "diplomatic cables" which I discussed in an earlier post] to Chapter 6 where King Darius not only allows the rebuilding but pays for it!

Tombs at Persepolis, Iran. Another great photo of the tombs of Darius 1, Artaxerxes 1, and Xerxes 1 is here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Transcendent vs. Immanent

Reading chapter 1 of Exclusion and Embrace, by Miroslav Volf there is a discussion of whether Abraham was transcendent or immanent? I found this hard to follow. Some of the discussions about the relative immanence and transcendence of God are also lost on me. But perhaps they should be because it seems the Tri-une God is both immanent and transcendent!
Such discussions also seem to be value laden, because they pre-suppose that one of these characteristics is a more desirable quality to have than the other.
What do they really mean?
I found the Wikipedia entries on Immanence and Transcendence helpful, but would welcome qualifications.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wikileaks in the 6th century B.C.

The secret USA diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks make fascinating reading. But, when it comes to local representatives of foreign powers assessing how local events conflict with vested national interests, perhaps nothing has changed. I was reading the book of Ezra this morning. Chapter 4 recounts how opponents to the rebuilding of Jerusalem wrote to King Artaxerxes, warning him of the dangers:
"To Artaxerxes the king: Your servants, the men of the province Beyond the River, send greeting. And now 12be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. 13Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired.
It is interesting that rebellion and wickedness seem to be equated. Morality seems to be defined by allegiance to the King, rather than to the Ruler of the universe. Furthermore, in the end it is all about money and ego...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A theology of car repair?

It sounds silly and it is. I just say it to make a point.
This week I was talking to a friend who made the helpful distinction between "A theology of music" and "Theological reflections on music." He considered that the former was actually not possible or appropriate but the latter was.
Theology is concerned with the knowledge of God. Scripture says very specific things about who God is, how he has acted in history, and how we should relate to him. But there are many topics about which it is silent or circumspect. Yet we are often not comfortable with this, particularly on subjects we are passionate about and want to argue that a definitive theology of topic X is possible.

I find it interesting that such a perspective of limited interaction seems to have been Karl Barth's perspective on the relationship between science and theology. This is something for which  I believe he is unfairly lambasted by those who consider integration of science and theology to be crucial.
Here is what Barth said in his Preface to Church Dogmatics 3.1, The Doctrine of Creation:

The theological principle which I accept without a rival has made it almost compulsory that I should first present the doctrine of the work of the Creator as such in the old-fashioned form of a radical exposition of the contents of the first two chapters of the Bible. ..... It will perhaps be asked in criticism why I have not tackled the obvious scientific question posed in this context. It was my original belief that this would be necessary, but I later saw that there can be no scientific problems, objections or aids in relation to what Holy Scripture and the Christian Church understand by the divine work of creation. Hence in the central portion of this book a good deal will be said about “naive” Hebrew “saga,” but nothing at all about apologetics and polemics, as might have been expected. The relevant task of dogmatics at this point has been found exclusively in repeating the “saga,” and I have found this task far finer and far more rewarding than all the dilettante entanglements in which I might otherwise have found myself. 
There is free scope for natural science beyond what theology describes as the work of the Creator. And theology can and must move freely where science which really is science, and not secretly a pagan Gnosis or religion, has its appointed limit. I am of the opinion, however, that future workers in the field of the Christian doctrine of creation will find many problems worth pondering in defining the point and manner of this twofold boundary.
So, theological reflections on science may be worthwhile but a theology of science or an integration of science and theology is moving away from the core mission of theology.

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's not just about the money

I recently heard a challenging talk by David Williams (CMS Australia) about the account in Luke 18 of Jesus' encounter with the rich young ruler. This occurs in the context of many status reversals in Luke 18 and 19; e.g., the pride will be humbled and the humble will be exalted.

Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." 23But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said,  "How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 

A few cultural insights I found gave the text a richer meaning and challenge.

In the affluent West we see possessions as belonging solely to us (and perhaps our spouse as well). In contrast, in other cultures, possessions belong to the extended family and sometimes even to the broader community. Hence, when Jesus challenged the man to give up his money he was also challenging him to separate from his family.

Jesus challenged the man's theology. He would have believed that his riches resulted from God blessing him due to his obedience.

Jesus challenged the man's sense of identity. In African culture, self identity comes from father, from land, and from tribe. Similarly, God's call to Abraham in Genesis 12 was to leave family, land, and nation. Yet God promised replacement blessings. Jesus does the same:

"Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God,30who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life."

Wealth breeds pride, independence, self-sufficiency, and autonomy.
Salvation is about being like the poor blind beggar and desperately casting ourselves at Jesus mercy.

The rich young man went away sorrowful, by James Tissot.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hubris battles humility

Am I proud? This morning I read through 2 Chronicles 32-33 and noticed the central role that conflict between humility and pride takes. I just love the hubris of the speech that the King Sennacherib of Assyria gives to intimidate the residents of Jerusalem:
13Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of other lands? Were the gods of the nations of those lands at all able to deliver their lands out of my hand14Who among all the gods of those nations that my fathers devoted to destruction was able to deliver his people from my hand, that your God should be able to deliver you from my hand15Now, therefore, do not let Hezekiah deceive you or mislead you in this fashion, and do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or from the hand of my fathers. How much less will your God deliver you out of my hand!'"
Of course, he is then humiliated by the LORD and Jerusalem is saved.
Destruction of Sennacherib, Peter Paul Rubens

Although, Hezekiah, the King of Judah, observes all this first hand he does not seem to learn from it, at least at first:
25But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. 26But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The bludgeon of "rationalism"

On Saturday I was part of a great discussion of Miroslav Wolf's Exclusion and Embrace. He emphasizes how "rationalism" and "argument" are icons and bruising weapons of modernism. I started to write a post "Am I ir-rational?" arguing that in much modern discourse it seems that the label or accusation of "irrationalism" is just thrown about to denigrate people who you do not agree with, rather than taking the time to carefully engage with their views.
However, I realised I had already written such a post, more than a year ago!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Unfulfilled expectations

The sermon at church this week was on Mark 8.
It was striking how many times Jesus stumped people's expectations about the way things should be. They had a "common sense" reading of the Old Testament and view of the Kingdom of God. The Jews were expecting a Messiah who would storm Jerusalem with overwhelming military force and rid them of Roman rule and external domination once for all. He would be royalty, not the child of a Galilean carpenter, who had been born in a stable.

Even Peter, one of Jesus' closest disciples, had similar expectations. He confessed Jesus as "The Christ, the Son of God" but then had the hubris to tell Jesus the way things should be!
 31 [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32   .... And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and seeing his disciples, [Jesus] rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."
 The painting is "Out of my sight, Satan" by James Tissot.

Later Jesus further shows the strange logic and economics of the Kingdom of God:
"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake  and the gospel’s will save it. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The economics of conflicted advice

The movie The Inside Job was highly recommended to me. It is an Academy Award winning documentary which considers the origins of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and particularly focuses on conflicts of interest, including of economists in universities who write academic papers and books, sympathetic to vested interests, but do not reveal in those publications that they have received large consulting fees from those interests.

Last year, the director of the movie, Charles Ferguson, wrote a compelling and challenging article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Larry Summers and the Subversion of Economics, which documents these conflicts of interest, and how they represent a serious problem for the university and government.

In Brisbane, the movie is currently showing at Palace Centro.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

More to milk than meets the eye

I thought this "sick science" experiment on Steve Spangler's science is really cool. I showed it to some of the kids at church to illustrate the following point.

Milk looks very simple; it is still and looks just like white water. But there is more to it than we can see. It actually contains proteins and fats, and these are all wriggling around like crazy. The soap and dyes reveal to us or at least give a hint of all this activity....
It is a bit like God. Just because we cannot see him with our eyes does not mean that He is not there or that He is not working quietly behind the scenes. But we need something to reveal him to us. Jesus is what does that...

IGNITE is an annual conference and expo on children's ministry in Brisbane. I am giving an elective on slides of my presentation from last year, Using science demonstrations to help teach kids about God.