Thursday, February 23, 2006

 

Some random quotes . . . .

I didn't have any specific things to say today, so I thought I'd post some random quotes. Enjoy!

John Milton—"For Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them." Foreword of A True-born Englishman, M. P. Willcocks (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1947).

Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)—"Give me a small snug place almost entirely walled with books."

“Never covet another person’s gift, and never despise your own.” William L. Lane

“One way to express this is to say that in order to be a living reminder of the Lord, we must walk in his presence as Abraham did. To walk in the presence of the Lord means to move forward in life in such a way that all our desires, thoughts, and actions are constantly guided by him. When we walk in the Lord’s presence, everything we see, hear, touch, or taste reminds us of him. That is what is meant by a prayerful life. It is not a life in which we say many prayers, but a life in which nothing, absolutely nothing, is done, said, or understood independently of him who is the origin and purpose of our existence.” From The Living Reminder by Henri J. Nouwen.

“As Pascal says, faith is a gift of God. It is different from the proof of it. It is the kind of faith God himself places in the heart, of which the proof is often the instrument. Faith that makes us think of credo (I believe), rather than of scio (I know). He says of it, too, that it is the heart which is aware of God, and not reason. That is what faith is: God perceived intuitively by the heart, not by reason. . . . Faith does indeed tell us what the senses do not tell, but does not contradict their findings. It transcends but does not contradict them. Pascal repeats, ‘Faith is the gift of God.’” Malcolm Muggeridge in The End of Christendom, p. 6

Basil the Great—“Truth is always a quarry hard to hunt, and therefore we must look everywhere for its tracks.” (From On the Spirit 1.1).

St. Francis—“Preach always. If necessary, use words.”

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

 

How do these people survive?

Below are some stories that I have been assured are true, but some may well be urban legends. If these are true, please explain to me how the human gene pool continues to prosper. Here they are:

1. Recently, when I went to McDonald's I saw on the menu that you could have an order of 6, 9 or 12 Chicken McNuggets. I asked for a half dozen nuggets. "We don't have half dozen nuggets," said the teenager at the counter. "You don't?" I replied. "We only have six, nine, or twelve," was the reply. "So I can't order a half dozen nuggets, but I can order six?" "That's right." So I shook my head and ordered six McNuggets.

2. I was checking out at the local Wal-Mart with just a few items and the lady behind me put her things on the belt close to mine. I picked up one of those "dividers" that they keep by the cash register and placed it between our things so they wouldn't get mixed. After the girl had scanned all of my items, she picked up the "divider", looking it all over for the bar code so she could scan it. Not finding the bar code she said to me, "Do you know how much this is?" I said to her "I've changed my mind, I don't think I'll buy that today." She said "OK," and I paid her for the things and left. She had no clue to what had just happened.

3. A lady at work was seen putting a credit card into her floppy drive and pulling it out very quickly. When I inquired as to what she was doing, she said she was shopping on the Internet and they kept asking for a credit card number, so she was using the ATM "thingy."

4. My neighbor works in the operations department in the central office of a large bank. Employees in the field call him when they have problems with their computers. One night he got a call from a woman in one of the branch banks who had this question: "I've got smoke coming from the back of my terminal. Do you guys have a fire downtown?"

5. Police in Radnor, Pa., interrogated a suspect by placing a metal colander on his head and connecting it with wires to a photocopy machine. The message "He's lying" was placed in the copier, and police pressed the copy button each time they thought the suspect wasn't telling the truth. Believing the "lie detector" was working, the suspect confessed.

Life is tough. It's tougher if you're not too bright.

I hope you enjoyed the laugh.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

 

It's my birthday, and O'Charley's forgot the appetizer again!

Howdy!

In case you weren't aware, today is my birthday. Yep, I'm a Valentines baby! My mother's Valentine to the world, so to speak.

Anyway, having a birthday on a special holiday has its drawbacks. First, everyone buys you just one gift or card and says "This is for your birthday AND Valentines Day!" Second, try to go out to dinner on your birthday--everybody and their brother is out in the restaurants. Last year Lisa and I went to five different restaurants before we found one that wasn't full!

Speaking of restaurants, my family decided to take me to lunch today for my birthday. We went to O'Charley's (because I like it and the kids eat free!). Since it was a special occasion, I decided to order an appetizer (the Pepper Jack Cheese Wedges with marinara sauce!). Now, you have to understand that the only other appetizer experience I have had at O'Charley's involved the same appetizer. The only problem is that the appetizer never came. The waiter felt bad and gave us a coupon for a free appetizer. We went home happy. When we returned about a week later, however, the coupon wouldn't work. I don't know what happened, but it just didn't work. The poor waiter gave us a free entree for our problems.

Well, to make a long story even longer--today when my family took me to O'Charley's, I decided to tempt the appetizer gods by ordering one again. Guess what?

Yep!

It didn't come!

Lisa and I laughed out loud when our meals showed up and no appetizer was in sight.

Today, however, a manager type person was wandering around the restaurant. He stopped by our table and asked how our lunch tasted. My wife said, "Everything is great except for the appetizer we ordered. It never came!" She laughed, "In fact, this is the second time it has happened."

The much chagrined manager said, "I'm so sorry that this happened. I'll buy you an appetizer."

Within a few moments, there was the appetizer at no charge.

Of course, it was par for the course that on my birthday I'd have these problems.

It beats being stuck in the Charlotte airport. . .

Or getting lost in the mountains. . .

Or breaking down on the highway.

It was actually a good lunch and a good day.

It is my birthday, and I finally got my appetizer.

God is good. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don't.

God is STILL good.

Happy Valentines Day!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 10, 2006

 

C. S. Lewis on Naturalism

Today in philosophy class I lectured a bit on the Naturalists or materialists in the history of philosophy. We got up to the modern naturalists (folks like Carl Sagan who claim that "the universe is all that there is, was, or ever will be"), and I was reminded of Lewis' treatment of this idea that all of reality is summed up in Nature. Simply stated, this view holds that all events, all effects, i.e., "every finite thing or event must be (in principle) explicable in terms of the Total System. . . . For by Naturalism we mean the doctrine that only Nature--the whole interlocked system--exists. . . . [and] every thing and event would, if we knew enough, be explicable without remainder as a necessary product of the system." (Lewis, Miracles, p. 12) That is, nothing can happen that is not contained in the metaphysical box of Naturalism. Lewis continues by saying, "[I]f any one thing makes good a claim to be on its own, to be something more than an expression of the character of Nature as a whole--then we have abandoned Naturalism." (Lewis, Miracles, p. 12) Lewis then argues that the very basis of thought (i.e., logic) is something that is inexplicable by the system of Nature. Here is the relevant material:

All possible knowledge, then, depends on the validity of reasoning. If the feeling of certainty which we express by words like "must be" and "therefore" and "since" is a real perception of how things outside our own minds really "must" be, well and good. But if this certainty is merely a feeling in our own minds and not a genuine insight into realities beyond them--if it merely represents the way our minds happen to work--then we can have no knowledge. Unless human reasoning is valid no science can be true.

It follows that no account of the universe can be true unless that account leaves it possible for our thinking to be real insight. A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid, would be utterly out of court. For that theory would istelf have been reached by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, be itself demolished. It would have destroyed its own credentials. It would be an argument which proved that no argument was sound--a proof that there are no such things as proofs--which is nonsense.

Thus a strict materialism refutes itself for the reason given by Professor Haldane: "If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true . . . and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms." (Possible Worlds, p. 209)

But Naturalism, even if it is not purely materialistic, seems to me to involve the same difficulty, though in a somewhat less obvious form. It discredits our processes of reasoning or at least reduces their credit to such a humble level that it can no longer support Naturalism itself. (Lewis, Miracles, pp. 14-15)


Naturalism falls prey to its own system. For it to be true, then it has to be a product of the system. but if it is a product of its system then its truth claims are determined by the system. The truth claims of Naturalism are not objective but determined. If they are determined, in what way are they true? How can they be found out to be true?

Or, to think of it in another way--how can the Naturalist conceive of truth claims as true? Aren't all truth claims in the system merely determined by the system itself? How can a knower know them to be true or not? They simply are or are not depending on the collision of atoms or on the arrangement of the system. In fact, how can we talk about the "System" as an objective thing if there is no means by which to do so?

Ouch, my brain hurts. The bottom line here is that such a deterministic system as Naturalism ends up without any way to prove itself true. The very idea of Naturalism is simply the natural outcome of the mechanical system itself, but in order to discuss it we must assume a sense of objectivity and independence as thinkers that the System will not allow. See the problem?

Ah well, enough philosophy for today. The rest of the weekend beckons. Have a good one.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

 

A reprint . . .

This morning I was looking at some old posts on this blog, and this one caught my attention. I had originally called it "A frightening and sobering reality" (I think), but the message here resonated with me this morning. So, please pardon this reprint from May 2005.

This morning I was thinking about the “absence” of God. Some of the things I read gave me pause as I thought about the concept of God’s omnipresence. Those of us who claim to be Christians (or even Jews and Muslims, for that matter) typically claim that God is everywhere always. That is, he is right with us even when we don’t think he is, and worse, when we hope that he is not. He is there. I think Francis Schaeffer wrote a book entitled The God who is There. At any rate, I was thinking about all the times in my life when God was present (like he always is), but I tended to overlook that reality.

When I notice God there on the fringe of my experience (kind of hanging around like a brother who wants to be involved in everything you do), sometimes I respond with a sense of comfort (Oh good, he is there!). Other times I respond with fear (Oh no, did he see that!). Other times I am complacent (Oh, it’s just you, huh?). Still some times I am overwhelmed (Thank God you’re here!). I think of the Jews wandering in the wilderness and camped at Mt. Sinai. God showed up on the mountain, and they begged Moses to make it stop! “Don’t let God speak directly to us again, we can’t take it!” The acknowledgement of God’s presence frightened them, maybe it made them a bit uncomfortable. Maybe we respond to God in the same way. Annie Dillard addresses this problem when she says:

“It is difficult to undo our own damage, and to recall to our presence that which we have asked to leave. It is hard to desecrate a grove and change your mind. The very holy mountains are keeping mum. We doused the burning bush and cannot rekindle it; we are lighting matches in vain under every green tree.

“What have we been doing all these centuries but trying to call God back to the mountain, or, failing that, raise a peep out of anything that isn’t us? What is the difference between a cathedral and a physics lab? Are they not both saying: ‘Hello?’ We spy on whales and on interstellar radio objects; we starve ourselves and pray till we’re blue.” From Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard

Our fear of God’s omnipresence causes us to turn off a switch in our minds and souls that helps us to ignore this fascinating (and sometimes frightening) reality. We pretend he isn’t there. We even ignore his obvious appearances. We ignore the God of all, then we say that we didn’t know he was there. As A. W. Tozer notes:

“. . . If God is present at every point in space, if we cannot go where he is not, cannot even conceive of a place where he is not, why then has not that Presence become the one universally celebrated fact of the world? The patriarch Jacob, ‘in waste howling wilderness,’ gave the answer to that question. He saw a vision of God and cried out in wonder. ‘Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.’ Jacob had never been for one small division of a moment outside of the circle of that all-pervading Presence. But he knew it not. That was his trouble, and it is ours. People do not know if God is here. What a difference it would make if they knew.” From The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer

We “know it not” because we don’t like the reality that God’s omnipresence makes us face. That reality is this—when we fail and sin, he is there. When we succeed, he is there. When we need him, he is there. When we think we don’t need him, he is there. Even when we don’t want him to be, he is there.

One of my pet peeves is to hear a preacher talking about Jesus’ cry (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”) from the cross and say something like, “At that point, God turned his back on Jesus because he became sin for us.” Think of the ramifications of that idea—God, the omnipresence One, turning his back on his only unique Son. God, the merciful, overlooking the sacrifice his own Son Jesus is offering. Can you imagine it? God, forsaking his Son! It sounds ridiculous because it is. God did not “turn his back on Jesus” (look in the text of the Gospels, it does not say any such thing). No, God was watching the brutal fact of it all with tears in his eyes. He did not forsake Jesus, and he does not forsake humanity. He endures when we pretend he is absent, but he is there. He loves Jesus, even when Jesus became sin for us, God lovingly watched his Son. God lovingly watches you as well. Scary, ain’t it?

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

 

Seminary obsolete? I may soon be out of a job . . .

The following article by Michael Duduit is quoted from Preaching Now, volume 5, number 6. It has made me fearful for my job. After all, if they can sum up 3 years of seminary in one 700 page book, why do they need longwinded and boring professors like me? Read it and weep:

Who knew I was wasting three years?

All those years in seminary earning a Master of Divinity (not to mention the additional years on that silly Ph.D.) when now I learn that I could have bought one book and avoided all those term papers and exams.

I just read about a forthcoming book called The Portable Seminary, described as "A Master's Level Overview in One Volume." Even at 704 pages, it's going to have to be an overview from a pretty lofty elevation, given that I had single seminary classes with that much reading.

The publisher reports that this book is "Designed for anyone who wants an introduction to a seminary education but cannot afford the time or money to attend seminary, who lives where formal training is unavailable, or whose previous education is primarily secular." The publisher's catalog also says that it is "A user-friendly theological education without the time and expense of seminary."

Wow, who would have ever guessed you could skip through the hard work of preparation for ministry by reading one book? Personally, I am eagerly awaiting additional volumes such as The Portable Medical School and The Portable Law School, given that I don't have time or money to go to such places but am anxious to dabble in those noble professions. Maybe after that I'll pick up a copy of The Portable Engineering School and get a job designing airplanes and such.

Just so long as they're "user-friendly," of course. Who needs all that hard work, anyway?

Michael Duduit, Editor
michael@preaching.com
www.michaelduduit.com


This is an actual book that is actually being published. Bethany House Publishers has it listed with a July 2006 publicationn date. You can see more information about it on Amazon.com if interested.

All I can say is that I've missed my calling. I should write a book entitled Seminary for Dummies (Wayne, are you reading?) and cash in.

What's next? The Portable Brain Surgeon or the Portable Heart Surgeon?

Reading about this book made me think of Jethro Bodine off of the old "Beverly Hillbillies" TV show--"I don't know what I want to be Uncle Jed, but I'm either gonna be a fry cook or a brain surgeon."

I think that the publisher needs to add the following:

DISCLAIMER--Reading The Portable Seminary will NOT give you the equivalent of a Master of Divinity.


I'm at a loss for words! Someone write that down.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

 

One of my heroes--Sgt Alvin York

Some of you may not remember Sgt. York of the First World War, but being a good Tennessean, I learned to idolize this sharpshooting man from the mountains from an early age. What you may not know is that this man was not just a man of duty who served his country, he was also a man of faith who served God. Let me relate a story about this man to you (with thanks to the magazine America's First Freedom, February 2006 edition, from which I paraphrase this material).

Alvin York made a commitment to Jesus Christ on Jan. 1, 1915 and joined the Church of Christ in Christian Union (a fundamentalist group that had spun off from the Methodists during the Civil War). The church was not officialy pacifist, but they had broken with the Methodists over support for the War between the States. In June 1917, York received his draft notice. He had read the command "Thou shalt not kill" and had interpreted that to mean that war was wrong. He originally put in for a conscientious objector status but was denied because his church had no "official" position on the matter. So, Alvin York went to basic training.

In the spring of 1918, York reiterated his objection to killing in the war to an officer of the army. Major George Edward Buxton got word of York's objections and had York come to his office for a discussion of the Bible. Buxton pointed out some places in Scripture that seem to indicate the necessity of war. York left this discussion unsure of his next move. Buxton gave him a 10 day pass to go home and mull things over with the promise that if York returned and still believed that he shouldn't kill, then Buxton would assign him to a non-combat position.

York returned home and was urged by his church to remain a conscientious objector. York decided, however, to go into the mountains and spend some time alone with God to pray for guidance. After two days and one night alone, York came down from the mountain and told his church, "If some fellow was to come along and bust into your home and mistreat your wife and murder your children, would you just stand for that? You wouldn't fight?"

York returned to his unit and took a combat position with the 82nd Infantry. The rest is history. York almost singlehandedly brought in 128 German enlisted men and four officers. He killed 25 German soldiers in combat and knocked 35 machine gun nests out of commission. York believed that God had supernaturally enabled him to do this amazing feat. He believed that God had protected him in the fight and given him victory. Later, General Julian Lindsey asked York, "How did you accomplish this feat?"

York replied, "Sir it is not by man power. A higher power than man power guided and watched over me and told me what to do." The general put his hand on York's shoulder and said, "Son, you are right."

Here's another York quote--"Liberty and freedom and democracy are so very precious that you do not fight to win them once and then stop. . . . Liberty and freedom are prizes that are awarded only to those people who fight to win them and then keep on fighting eternally to hold them."

York's devotion to God led him to defend his country and others in a time of war. I wonder if my devotion to Christ would cause me to fight with equal zeal to see people released from the bondage of sin?

I sure hope so!

May God raise up more Alvin Yorks!

Thanks for reading!

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