Monday, September 30, 2013

Church in Antwerp, Belgium

Two weeks ago I was in Antwerp, Belgium for a scientific conference. On the sunday beforehand I was able to attend the Antwerp Christian Fellowship. This is a multi-ethnic English speaking congregation.

There was a very moving presentation about the ministry Cherut [Hebrew for liberty], that reaches out to prostitutes in the red light district. Many are victims of human trafficking. Cherut was founded by one of the women from the Fellowship.

I also enjoyed meeting one of the elders, who had done a Ph.D in theoretical physics at New York University. He had become a Christian during that time and was involved with Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. To me this was just another small living example of how following Jesus and being a scientist are not in conflict.

Inequality for all

Is the USA the land of opportunity for all? Economic inequality is at a record level.
I am looking forward to watching the documentary Inequality for all, featuring Berkeley economist Robert Reich.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Church in New York City

There are several modern myths that are promoted by the media and believed by many
-young people have abandoned the church
-you can't be a Christian and an intellectual
-large cities are bastions of secularism
-traditional Christian doctrines and liturgies are out of date and need to modernise
-mainline Protestant denominations are dying

Last sunday I had an experience that provides some counter examples against all these. I was invited to attend the morning worship service at All Angels Episcopal Church in New York City. It is located on the Upper West Side.

The traditional liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer was combined with classic church music and hymns, contemporary worship songs, and two rousing Gospel [African-American] numbers. The room was packed with maybe 200 people, ranging from young families to the elderly. The multi-ethnic diversity reflected that of NYC. About twenty of the people there were faculty at universities. About thirty were graduate students, many at Columbia and New York University. There was also an announcement about the forthcoming city-wide campaign, The Price of Life, against human trafficking.

Afterwards I had lunch with a group of graduate students from NYU and two staff from the  Graduate and Faculty Ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. We had an interesting discussion about the challenges of being a Christian and a graduate student, reminding me what a "pressure cooker" US graduate schools can be.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Revelation speaks to the Global South and North

I believe the message of the Bible transcends time and culture. I have just started reading through the book of Revelation and was struck by how the letters to the seven churches in the opening chapters are so relevant to the global church today, in all its diversity.
For example, to the suffering and poor church in the Global South [Smyrna]:

“‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander.... 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison,that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation.Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

While to the affluent and arrogant church in the Global North [Laodicea]:

17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Randomness does not preclude design

Previously I have posted about the misconception that if something appears to be random then it cannot have purpose.

Paul La Montagne recently pointed out to me that true randomness actually requires design. It is very hard to produce "random numbers". Mathematicians and computer scientists work very hard to design random number generators.

Hence, if we observe something that appears to be "random", i.e. has no underlying pattern or order we are not justified in claiming that it has not been designed. There could be a deep and profound and underlying order to it.