Wednesday, 30 April 2008

The Sola Panel

It's up and running! The new Matthias Media blog, the Sola Panel, is up and running, and what's more is open for comments. Check it out, tell us what you think, then click on the blogroll links down the side and come back here!

Still don't know if I like the name, which I probably shouldn't say because I helped choose it.

From the blog:

We're planning to post just one new piece each day, which we think is enough for us to handle, and enough for you to read. Sometimes we'll stay on a particular topic for a while and knock it around between the Panellists. At other times (probably most of the time), we'll just do our own thing and post on different topics.

Oh, and did I mention you can leave comments?

Unlike this blog, the promise on that blog is that it will be:

*thoughtful (offering a considered, crafted piece of writing rather than a dashed-off and/or rabid paragraph in reaction to the latest thing)

*non-trivial (wouldn't feature pictures of the dog, or what the author saw at the movies last night)

*Bible-driven (in other words, it kept “What does the Bible say?” as the foundational question)

*unashamedly Reformed and Evangelical (didn't apologize for or seek to move on from classic Reformed Evangelical theology)

*ministry-hearted (focused me back on evangelism, people and the daily work of ministering God's word to others)

*proactive (didn't just react to the latest controversy, fad or someone else's blog, but drew me back to what was important)

*godly (in the way it dealt with issues, and in the way discussion and comments were handled)

*of a consistently high standard in all of the above!

And I will, of course, be over there as much as I can seeking to undermine as many of these fine objectives as is possible in one hit.


(except for the Bible and Reformed bit! Oh, alright, I'll try for godliness, but will need your prayers.)

Head on over, and you can even make a comment if you would like to.

If I was in the mood for commenting, I would say what a lousy word 'pro-active' is. But I'll just keep that thought to myself...

UPDATE: D'OH! I spoke too soon. Apparently comments don't work yet. OK, will get back to you. Thanks Adam.

UPDATE: No, the comments work. Karen at Matthias Media just tested it. So have another go! If you are still having trouble, e-mail her at (with an @ for the AT), as she would like to know.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Politeness and hell

Here's a sharp and pointy statement from Charles Spurgeon about politeness and hell, two subjects that I've been thinking about lately:

Men are perishing, and if it be unpolite to tell them so, it can only be so where the devil is the master of the ceremonies.

Out upon your soul-destroying politeness; the Lord give us a little honest love to souls, and this superficial gentility will soon vanish. I could with considerable refreshment to myself pour sarcasm after sarcasm upon religious cowardice. I would cheerfully sharpen my knife and dash it into the heart of this mean vice. There is nothing to be said in its favor.

It is not even humble; it is only pride of too beggarly a sort to own itself.

Well said, brother Spurgeon. The quote is from the Pyromaniacs blog, who in turn got it from an article titled "The War-Horse," published in the May 1866 issue of The Sword and the Trowel.

Too often both the content of our speaking and the manner of our speaking are conditioned by what people would like to hear, or what we believe they should hear on the basis of our personal observation; rather than what they need to hear based on what the Bible reveals.

The ideas of hell and judgement are the ones that are particularly likely to suffer when we forget to return to the Bible to shape and form the content of what we say.

Similarly, when we move away from Scripture's example, the manner in which we teach will invariably tend in the direction of a sort of florid blandness. Plain speaking always gets us into trouble, yet that's exactly what the Bible pushes us towards.

Writing letters to the papers

I'm still writing letters to the papers, not as much as I did and not with as great a level of success (the two are related, I'm sure). However it is something I remain committed to, as one useful way of getting the Christian message out. Via Justin Taylor's blog comes what I thought was an excellent blog post on writing letters to the editor from Douglas Groothuis.

Monday, 28 April 2008

All my worldly

In the latest Briefing #356 (so hot off the press that that link is still to #355!), Phillip Jensen writes about marriage prenuptial agreements:

...Surveys show that although [after divorce] the wife most commonly gets the house as well as her 'share' of the assets, within a few years she is worse off than the husband. It is much less lucrative for her to restart her career than for him to continue his. She generally has to sell the house and start eating into the capital.

So what would you agree to—a 50/50 or a 60/40 split? The old Book of Common Prayer was much simpler. The bridegroom promised "With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow". And the bride did not give him a ring and endow him with any worldly goods. There was no mention of a wedding ring for men.

Later prayer books have tried to express the mutuality of marriage in terms of both bride and groom giving wedding rings and making the promise "with all that I am and all that I have I honour you". It is a wonderfully vague and meaningless declaration of mutual love that avoids the reality of money altogether.

The modern marriage is a 'fifty-fifty' relationship. But marriage is built not on two halves becoming one, but on two wholes becoming one: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Gen 2:24). Once you have endowed your beloved with all your worldly goods, there is no room to split your assets. You do not have any. You have already endowed her with them all.

Ah, gone are the days when gentlemen promised total commitment! Little wonder we have to ask the question of what percentage of the assets each gets. Little wonder we are facing the question of splitting up at all.

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer embodied a far more muscular conception of Christianity than is normally on display today. And in the area of marriage, this showed itself in a right understanding of the gracious and total commitment that the man was expected to make as he initiated the relationship with his wife.

Calculate your lifespan!

Or not...

Job 14:1    “Man who is born of a woman
is few of days and full of trouble.
2 He comes out like a flower and withers;
he flees like a shadow and continues not.
3 And do you open your eyes on such a one
and bring me into judgment with you?
4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?
There is not one.
5 Since his days are determined,
and the number of his months is with you,
and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass,
6 look away from him and leave him alone,
that he may enjoy, like a hired hand, his day.

Psa. 39:4    “O LORD, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
5 Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
6 Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!

Better then to face death daily.

Sunday, 27 April 2008


A letter in the New Yorker:

Lizza finds it "ironic" that Hillary Clinton worked for George McGovern in his 1972 Presidential bid, because her campaign "wants to portray Obama as a twenty-first century McGovern—too soft, too naive, and destined to lose in November." But isn't that exactly the point? Anyone who remembers that campaign—and I worked on it, too—can't forget the awful drubbing that McGovern took in the general election/ Like her or not, Clinton does have a point. The Democrats keep nominating candidates who can't possibly win the general election. (It would be rather an endearing trait if the stakes weren't so high.) And who better to acknowledge that than someone who lived through the McGovern campaign?

Ruth Gretzinger
Ann Arbor, Mich.

The New Yorker is solidly Democrat, to the extent of complaining about the label 'Democrat' (it's 'Democratic') in their 'Comment'.

Abort or insure

So now you can abort your unborn child, or insure them, the choice is yours.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

George Steiner

Irony, or putting your body on the line for metaphysics?

"They had to move me to the biggest lecture hall in Cambridge," Steiner says. "And the students packed it." But a charismatic generalist with an interest in continental theorists was not all the dons' cup of tea. Things came to a head when he was summoned to an interview for an English faculty job in 1969. The two senior members of the faculty were sitting waiting, armed with a copy of an article he'd written. One of them, speaking "in a dry chirpy voice", said: "I would like to read a sentence to you. 'To shoot a man because you disagree with him about Hegel's dialectic is after all to honour the human spirit.' Did you write this sentence? And do you believe it?" Steiner replied: "Absolutely." That, he says, "was the end of the interview", and although his college came through for him with "fantastic generosity", he decided to go freelance, inheriting Edmund Wilson's berth at the New Yorker.

From here.

Friday, 25 April 2008

World Youth Day

Phillip Jensen on secularism, World Youth Day and why taxpayer funds should support the hosting of it. Well argued.

A bit more on accountability

Dan Phillips on the Pyromaniacs blog has some good thoughts on accountability.

I've argued elsewhere that I don't actually think we are accountable to anyone other than God.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Teaching Hell

I've had a big conversation about it here.

UPDATE: The link no longer works, but the original article is in the Briefing #267 (February 2001), entitled Shooting Fish in a Barrel.

Here's an extract:

This [the teenage years] is a time of acute sensitivity to emotional pressures. It is a cliché to say so. It would be too easy in preaching from the Bible to tap those despairing feelings, to confirm that self-hatred that is always just below the surface. The teenager’s imagination needs no help in picturing a hell-fire of savage physical torments. Nor does he need much convincing
that that must be his destiny.

As someone who works daily in ministry to teenagers, I am always extremely careful not to overstate the consequences and impact of God’s judgement of sin. I try to speak of it in the context of the goodness of God’s creation and his passionate love for human beings displayed in Christ. I do not dwell on the future pain and suffering of the lost—neither do the scriptures.

Of course, I do not conceal the truth, or hold out some powder-puff gospel; rather I try to appeal to what teenagers already know: that the world around them is a long way short of what it could be, and that the world inside them is very similar.

They don’t need convincing that God is mad with them. Aren’t all adults? That he loves them is a lot harder to believe. That there is no hope is obvious. Their music tells them that. That there is hope in Christ is not all easy to see.

In our anxiety not to water down the gospel, we may over-correct and offer a bleak message. For the young, the bleakness may outweigh any positive news we have. The self-loathing youngster may find no respite in our words if we are too glib. The girl with eating disorder already thinks she is unlovely. Why reinforce it? The boy regularly smoking marijuana is already prone to a low self-worth. Why confirm his negativity? When we focus on the loathsomeness of the individual like this we badly misrepresent the good news of Christ. Don’t we?

It seems to me that this is not a helpful approach. It is biblically unsubstantiated, and based on selective observations of what some human beings are like, some of the time. It is dangerous, because it leads us to fashion our teaching on the basis of something other than Scripture. (One of) my responses to the article is here.

Psst...wanna learn Engrish? I allowed to make that joke? Oh well, too late.

OK, anyway, here is an article from the New Yorker about how the Chinese are trying to teach as much English to the Chinese population as they can, before the Olympics.

From the article:

Linguists estimate the number of Chinese now studying or speaking English at between two hundred million and three hundred and fifty million, a figure that’s on the order of the population of the United States.


When rule-breaking represents a victory for grace. From Jean.

And while you're over at her blog, check out this most excellent use for an educational toy.

Kevin Rudd...the man; the mystery

Miranda Devine believes she's cracked it:

Brainstorming is supposed to be chaotic and competitive. But facilitators nip it in the bud, in favour of "capturing" slogans and pinning them to a whiteboard. Once that is done, participants are expected to vote, or in the unfortunate case of the productivity group, walk around with a piece of paper held up to their head.

But in a blinding flash the weekend did provide the key to the enigma that is Kevin Rudd. He is the quintessential management boffin, a career bureaucrat who talks "performance benchmarks" and promises to sack ministers who fall short. His speeches are full of the feel-good platitudes, pop psychology and symbolism of modern management gurus, who brought us such glowing corporate entities as Enron, "the smartest guys in the room".

"The quintessential management boffin". A theory worth revisiting.

"Victim's family hugs accused"

From this report in today's SMH.

The dead man was Hunuki Tamapeau, who died after an altercation with the accused. The report said:

Both families declined to comment on the verdict, but the case officer, Detective Sergeant Cameron Templeton, said of Mr Tamapeau's family: "They are simply the nicest family I have ever encountered.

"They are a deeply religious and loving family who have heard the evidence - who had prayed constantly throughout the trial for not only Mr Hopper, but his family the judge, jury, the legal counsels and police.

"I have never seen anything like this in my career as a police officer. The ability of people to accept and forgive," he said.

Before leaving the court, Mr Tamapeau's family joined hands in a room and held a collective prayer for Mr Hopper.

I don't know of any other religion in the world, apart from evangelical Christianity, that consistently shows its power in this way.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

An Inconvenient Untruth

Should you use fake photos to make the case that global warming is happening? Al Gore doesn't seem to mind.

I am thinking we might sell more Matthias Media products if we used this principle and mocked up some before-and-after Bible study shots. From Brian to Broughton!

Arthur Rubinstein

He was the George Best of piano players:

"Two major Beethoven sonatas, short pieces by Brahms and Schumann, and the great B minor Sonata of Chopin were added to it in less than two weeks. As before, and as would prove true for many years after, the processes of my means of approach to the music at hand were made up of a peculiar combination: a clear conception of the structure of a composition and complete empathy with the composer's intentions were always within my reach, but because of my lazy habits, I would neglect to pay attention to detail and to a finished and articulate performance of difficult passages that I hated to practice. I used to put the whole weight on the inner message of the music."

Doubtless his laziness was aided and abetted by his sheer precocity. The piano came so naturally and easily to him that he could get by with half an effort where lesser performers would have had to practice endlessly and still would have come up short. He also, notwithstanding all the depth of his love for music, had a somewhat cynical attitude toward audiences: "I learned . . . that a loud, smashing performance, even the worst from a musical standpoint, will always get an enthusiastic reception by the uninitiated, unmusical part of the audience, and I exploited this knowledge, I admit it with shame, in many concerts to come." Beyond that, he was as much a born playboy as a born pianist. He began having affairs, mostly with older women, when he was barely out of short pants, and he was always good for a party, a game of pool or poker, a boisterous conversation into the smallest hours of the morning.

From this book review.

He had a finger exercise that I am teaching the girls.

Duck Dodgers

In the 24th and a halfth ... thentury!!!

Power and prosperity

Zech. 2:1 And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand! 2 Then I said, “Where are you going?” And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length.” 3 And behold, the angel who talked with me came forward, and another angel came forward to meet him 4 and said to him, “Run, say to that young man, ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it. 5 And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the LORD, and I will be the glory in her midst.’”

When I think of the power and prosperity of a city, I very rarely think of God as being that city's defence and source of all that is good in her. That is a mistake! If the LORD is a wall of fire around a city, it is impregnable. It's a striking description of Jerusalem as it will be—the heavenly Jerusalem, of which all Christians are citizens.

The prophecy of Zechariah finds its fulfilment in the Revelation to John:

Rev. 21:22   And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

The reason Jerusalem is filled to overflowing is because the people of the nations have been drawn in to her by the light of the glory of God.

Pinball wizard

Pinball Wizard
( The Who )

Ever since I was a young boy
I've played the silver ball
From Soho down to Brighton
I must have played them all
But I ain't seen nothing like him
In any amusement hall
That deaf, dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball

He stands like a statue
Becomes part of the machine
Feeling all the bumpers
Always playing clean
He plays by intuition
The digit counters fall
That deaf, dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Confessions of a Reformission Rev

Reviewed by Nicole.

War in Iraq

An article from the Wall Street Journal on how the war in Iraq is going. The title of the article: "Let's surge some more".

The intro:

It is said that generals always fight the last war. But when David Petraeus came to town it was senators – on both sides of the aisle – who battled over the Iraq war of 2004-2006. That war has little in common with the war we are fighting today.

I may well have spent more time embedded with combat units in Iraq than any other journalist alive. I have seen this war – and our part in it – at its brutal worst. And I say the transformation over the last 14 months is little short of miraculous.

We should pray for peace there, and the establishment of a strong Christian witness.

Monday, 21 April 2008

American spellcheckers

Blogger has an automatic spellchecker which is not that useful to me. 'Spellchecker' is fair enough, I would have thought (and so does Bill Gates), but not according to blogger's automatic spell checker.

Also, its creeping US imperialism annoys me.

Behaviour. Behaviour. Behaviour.

Got it?

And programme.

Department of Immigration

Will the Federal government deal with dreadful stories like this, caused by the pfaffing around of intractable bureaucrats at the Dept of Immigration, and in no way discouraged by the immigration policies of the previous incumbents?

I sure hope so.

Time for a wee bat a' pooetry

A Red, Red Rose

O MY Luve 's like a red, red rose
That 's newly sprung in June:
O my Luve 's like the melodie
That's sweetly play'd in tune!

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry:

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only Luve,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile.

Robert Burns. 1759–1796. No 503 in The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900. (Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919.)

Aye! But he were nae English! He were Scots!

More on cohabitation

A friend sent me a note about cohabitation that I thought was worth reproducing here, with friend's identifying details removed (this person didn't want to offend some recently married people who had been in a long-term de-facto relationship; fair enough!)

I've heard 2 views explaining why the cohabitation before marriage usually fails:

1. the couple usually assume that their pre-married life is the norm and will continue. ie they are making a decision to marry on the basis that "we've enjoyed it thus far, so let's make it permanent" ie they are making a decision for the future assuming the past will continue. As opposed to making promises to commit "for better or WORSE". One view looks back, the other view is open to the future. (as Deryck Howell once anlaysed - most marriage vows these days can be reduced to the following "to date you've pleased me, and so today I'm formalising to let you continue to please me").

2. (from Zac Veron) - often girls assume that things "will be different when we are married, ie he'll stop drinking at the pub with mates etc" - whereas the husband often sees no change in the affairs....this leads to tension etc. Ie differing views on what they are committing to.

Each de facto couple thinks "but we're different" - and in God's grace, often they do have good marriages...which is what we should pray for each couple who do want to formalise their relationship.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

One for the sports fans out there

My choir is singing Berlioz's Romeo and Juliet on June 6 and 7.

Sometime I will find out if I can get discount tickets and will post details on this blog for those interested.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Brecht und Weill

Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear

And it shows them pearly white

Just a jackknife has old MacHeath, babe

And he keeps it … ah … out of sight.

Ya know when that shark bites, with his teeth, babe

Scarlet billows start to spread

Fancy gloves, though, wears old MacHeath, babe

So there’s nevah, nevah a trace of red.

Now on the sidewalk … uuh, huh … whoo … sunny mornin’ …

Lies a body just oozin' life …

And someone’s sneakin' ‘round the corner

Could that someone be Mack the Knife?

A-there's a tugboat … huh, huh, huh … down by the river don’tcha know

Where a cement bag’s just a'droopin' on down

Oh, that cement is just, it's there for the weight, dear

Five'll get ya ten old Macky’s back in town.

Now, d'ja hear ‘bout Louie Miller? He disappeared, babe

After drawin' out all his hard-earned cash

And now MacHeath spends just like a sailor

Could it be our boy's done somethin' rash?

Now … Jenny Diver … ho, ho … yeah … Sukey Tawdry

Ooh … Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown

Oh, the line forms on the right, babe

Now that Macky’s back in town.

Aah … I said Jenny Diver … whoa … Sukey Tawdry

Look out to Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown

Yes, that line forms on the right, babe

Now that Macky’s back in town …

Look out … old Macky is back!!

Hear Bobby Darin sing it here.

Cohabitation has an 85% failure rate

That statistic comes from this interview with Michael McManus on the subject of cohabitation before marriage. If the statistics are accurate, then it's no exaggeration at all to suggest that cohabitation before marriage is setting you up for relationship breakdown.

Here's a section of the interview:

LOPEZ: I’m stuck on the practical, forgive me. But you recommend that cohabitating couples move out before they get married. Is that ever realistic? Or do couples just laugh at the suggestion?

MCMANUS: Given the fact that cohabitating couples are 50 percent more likely to divorce than those who remained apart, there is no more important step that could increase the couple’s odds of a lifelong marriage than separating before the wedding. Is it practical? You bet! Is it likely? No. Not without a supportive couple mentoring the premarital couple who make arguments based on data and psychology that is persuasive. We have persuaded some couples to separate, and others to at least move into separate bedrooms and stop having sex until the wedding. That discipline increases each person’s self-respect and respect for their partner.

This really surprised me, though there is no good reason why it should have as it fits completely consistently with what you might expect if the Bible's advice is true.

In the past if I've married cohabiting couples (generally speaking, non-christians who had decided that they wanted to get married in a church building) I've mentioned that God's ideal is marriage and not cohabitation, but not made much more of it than that except to point to the statistics that indicate that marriages without cohabitation have a better chance of survival. It has generally been in the context of encouraging them that their decision to get married is a good one because it actually makes explicit what they are promising to do and removes any ambiguity from their situation.

Whether for good reasons or not I've wimped out on making any suggestions about actively moving out and ceasing cohabitation before marriage, on the flawed reasoning that it's not advice that non-Christians would be interested in hearing and it would make no difference anyway.

But this article has made me think again.

(Thanks to Craig for putting me on to this, and also Tim Challies).

Friday, 18 April 2008

Plastic bags safe for the moment

I've been hoarding them like nobody's business. They are so useful for lining bins, carrying things, and occasionally taking swimming with me so that I can shove them down the mouths of unsuspecting dolphins.

Thankfully, it is going to take a little longer before I have to pay for them.

Quite a good letter in the April 19 SMH about them:

Plastic bag ban carries real dangers to choice

Date: April 19 2008

The failure of the nation's environment ministers to reach a decision on banning or taxing plastic bags represents a rare victory for common sense.

We are supposed to be living in a free society. People's individual choice should only be overridden when there is a compelling public benefit.

The arguments for banning bags are as flimsy as the bags themselves.

According to a 2006 Productivity Commission report, plastic bags comprise only a tiny portion of litter (less than 2 per cent) and of landfill (again less than 2 per cent). Claims that plastic bags in the waterways kill large numbers of wildlife have been debunked. Green groups and other supporters of the ban have been repeatedly challenged to provide hard evidence for their claims of widespread damage to wildlife, and have failed to do so. All we get are anecdotes, emotive photos and invented numbers.

The public has been subjected to extensive "education campaigns" from governments, environmental groups and retailers. None of this has led to huge reductions in bag use. The reason, I believe, is quite simple. Most people do care about the environment. They have heard the campaigns and looked at their own behaviour. They have simply reached the conclusion that there is little wrong in their use of plastic bags. They derive significant benefit from them, often use them for multiple purposes and dispose of them responsibly.

People, by their behaviour, have made their choices clear. Environmental campaigners have no right to impose their own tastes and values on others.

As for governments, if they act, they will be in effect saying to you and me: "Sorry, but you got it wrong. You are either too stupid or immoral to have made the correct decision for yourselves. We are going to take from you the right to make your own choice."

Chris Maddigan, St Ives

Depression and medication

A story today about a man who suffers from bipolar disorder and has decided to go off his medication. He says "The question of medication is a really tricky one. It makes you normal, and while that shouldn't be seen as a bad thing, I have an issue with just being normal."

I suffer from periods of depression and might even benefit from medication, but have never felt I wanted to do it for just this reason. The decision to take medication is understandable and no doubt wise for many people, but in my case I feel that the highs and lows of my own mood are part of my human-ness, and I would be sad to lose that, hard as it is to bear at times.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

I'm back!

And I'm not...happy...

No, actually, things are good and waiting for the Thai Take-away to arrive.

Meanwhile, I hope that you were taken in by the illusion of continuing to work with the series on 'accountability' that I started here.

I'm about half way through Kate Grenville's The Secret River which was nominated for the Man Booker prize last year or so. What is the Man Booker prize? How does it differ from the Booker Prize? Or the Woman Booker prize? Or the Tim Booker prize? Or the Sir Booker prize? Do you have to be a man to get the Man Booker Prize? Do you have to be a woman to get the Woman booker prize? Would someone be surprized to get the Sir Booker Prize? Or merely surprised? It would be surprising to receive the Sir Booker prise, but at least it would be consistent.

Enquiring minds what to know.

And; what is the difference between an enquiring mind and an inquiring mind?

Inquiring minds want to know.

So. Now I am about to learn some Berlioz.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Posting while away

I have a few posts about accountability that I haven't posted here, but will appear over the next few days (God and Karen the editor willing) at the Matthias Media CHN site here.

By the way, those wondering when the new super duper CHN site will be revealed; the latest is that you have to wait another couple of weeks. We don't want to get too carried away with our revolutionary fervour here ;-), but sometime around May, it will all start to happen.

Away for a few days

We are off to Wollongong for a few days of holidays.

Back Thursday!

Sunday, 13 April 2008

More on Richard Lane

The ACL has the Richard Lane story on their website.

Not everyone will like what Richard Lane has done or be comfortable with the way he has done it. But we mustn't miss the issue of substance, which is how Anglican ministers should deal with unrepentant sin. From this angle, Richard Lane has done no more than his job would normally involve him in doing. Those who complain that Justice Michael Kirby isn't a member of Richard's parish would have a point if Justice Kirby hadn't chosen to broadcast (quite literally) the nature of his sin on ABC National Radio, which presumably can still be heard in the parish of Bellevue Hill.

Why full-time Christian teaching ministry really matters.

Time for another Knox quote.

Consideration of the character of the Christian religion shows there will always be a place for full-time ministry of the word of God. The Christian religion is a religion of faith in Christ the Lord. Faith is distinguished from superstition by being based on the truth and distinguished from rashness by bgeing based on the knowledge of the thruth. All this depends on true taching, for we are not born with a knowledge of the truth. Moreover, Christianity is a religion of personal relationship, that of fellowship. Fellowship only comes through hearing and responding to a word spoken. God relates himself to us speaking thorugh his word and we relate to him by responding to his word. So it is plain that a ministry which conveys and makes clear the truth about God and conveys God’s word to the mind and so to the conscience of the hearer is an essential characteristic of Christianity. If this ministry dies out then Christianity dies out.

The same conclusion may be arrived at from a slightly different approach. Jesus Christ is Lord but he can exercise no Lordship nor can obedience be the response of the Christian unless the mind of Christ is known and known relevantly to the circumstances of the Christian. This again requires a teaching ministry which understands the mind of Christ and how it applies to modern circumstance and which accompanies this teaching with exhortation and admonition, directed to the conscience of the hearer. A ministry of Christian teaching and preaching is a lifetime occupation because teaching cannot be discharged without preparation, and preparation requires time. For the Christian teacher to give himself to preparation, to the study of the word of God and its relevance, was never more needed than in the present generation.

-D. Broughton Knox, “What Must not change in a Changing Ministry”, Selected Works Vol II, pp 213-214.

This is such an important notion that it really is worth dwelling on. "If this ministry dies out then Christianity dies out." That's not rhetorical flourish from Broughton. It is simple statement of fact, arrived at by reflecting on the character of Scripture and by watching what happens in churches where this teaching ministry is lost, for one reason or another (but mainly because the teachers of the congregation stop being persuaded that it is important and manage to get themselves sidetracked).

Encourage your Bible teachers to keep doing it. Pray for them. If you are a Bible teacher, stick at it and let God be praised for the work you are doing. Don't let yourself get distracted! And if you are not a Bible teacher, but you understand how important the gospel is, then why not pray that God would lead you and gift you to be a teacher of his word; or that God will give you teachers that you yourself can be praying for and encouraging. If you are reading this late on a Sunday or early on a Monday, pray for your minister who at the moment is no doubt feeling a little tired and wondering if he is making any difference. (To the minister: Yes! You are making a difference! And thank you.)

Leaving Scientology

From the SMH, a former high-ranking scientologist talks about why he left what he now considers to be a cult.

He joined the church in Sydney in 1976. He rose through the ranks and became a full-time employee before being sent to work for the church in the United States, where he joined Sea Org, Scientology's elite inner core.

Sea Org members must sign a billion-year contract to the church (because they believe in an afterlife this condition is taken very seriously).

The man who spoke up still lives in fear of retribution.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Slim majority support Kirby

Each Saturday the SMH letters editor has a go at summarizing the week's doings (see here, scroll down to the bottom.) From the summary:

The other big topic this week was the dust-up between Justice Michael Kirby and the Reverend Richard Lane, which provided about one in every four letters over the past two days, with a slim majority supporting Kirby.

That's interesting isn't it. The impression you would get from the way the SMH reports it is that basically, any right-thinking person will support the gay cause. But maybe the readers aren't as persuaded as the journalists about the way they should be thinking. Given that Kirby was essentially handed a free kick, and that the readership of the SMH tends left, this is a somewhat revealing straw in the wind.

Back when the Australia republic debate was being reported, you'd have thought that the republican cause was a lay down misere, if you only read the SMH. We're still a constitutional monarchy. This reminds me a bit of that, for the same reason—the tone is so biased that if you were not careful, you would be completely misled from the reality.

Slim majority support

Friday, 11 April 2008

I'm dyin' here!

Me and a couple of others, apparently.

Anglican female bishop

Roger Herft is intending to consecrate Kay Goldsworthy as the first female Anglican bishop in Australia on May 22, 2008.

UPDATE: News now public.

My prediction is that this'll cause an irrevocable public split within the Anglican denomination in Australia.

UPDATE: ABC report here. Says Philip Aspinall: "Yes, there is a bit of a split, and sometimes it means that it's hard to get with each other on that matter, but on the whole we do get on and we talk to each other and pray together and all that sort of thing..."

A bit of a split? What is that?


Where does the Bible teach our accountability to each other?

Nowhere, I think.

We will certainly be accountable to God on the final day of judgement, the Bible is very clear on this.

But I can't think of a single verse which teaches that Christians are accountable to each other.

Verses which teach that we should encourage each other, confess our sins to each other (and so on) come close, but they are not the same.

The demanding of accountability to a human judge is more a feature of state rule (in which case it is legitimate) or Roman Catholicism (in which case it is not).

A sad story

Another heartbreaking DOCS story about how government policy separated a caring family from their child.

There are some situations where the policy of funding church agencies to do charitable work just makes a great deal more sense. This is one of them. A well-funded church agency like Anglicare would be less likely to make these sort of gross blunders.

Some responses to Richard Lane and Michael Kirby

Yesterday I mentioned Richard Lane's situation; today the letters page of the SMH was full of correspondence about it. Here are the letters supporting Richard:

Justice Kirby claims my colleague has turned a blind eye to the "central loving message of Jesus of the gospels". Christ speaks of forgiveness but also commands us to repent. Sometimes I find it hard to hear, but I still appreciate those who gently but firmly point out my own, very real sins.

The Reverend Sandy Grant, Wollongong

Herod did not appreciate John the Baptist calling him to repent of his sexual immorality either. Could the Herald's treatment of Richard Lane be the modern-day equivalent of seeing John's head on the plate?

Andrew Mitchell, Gladesville

Richard Lane deserves praise and not condemnation for pointing out the inconsistency between Christian teaching and homosexuality. The current popularity of a sin does not make it right, no matter how distinguished the person. If God is going to judge all of us because of our sin, then we should be thankful to anyone who risks public crucifixion by warning us about this truth, even if we do not want to hear it.

The Reverend Gordon Cheng, Kingsford

If Michael Kirby was in the surf and Richard Lane saw a shark approaching, would we not expect Lane to sound a warning?

Lucy Chik, Faulconbridge

Unsurprisingly, the letters against Richard were for the most part full of abusive, angry and sarcastic language, demonstrating better than anything else that those who call for tolerance have little understanding of its true meaning (that is, to put up with something even if you don't necessarily like it or agree with it).

A good reminder to keep praying. In the meantime, another friend got a letter in on another subject:

What is the point of an Olympic torch relay where the torch is hidden from the international community and the international community is hidden from the host nation?

Sophie Kunze, Penrith

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Piano recitals

I wish they were a bit more like this today.

From the article:

Golden-age pianists put a higher premium on bravura and spontaneity than on precise execution, and as a result many of them played far more wrong notes than would now be considered acceptable by critics and audiences. Nineteenth-century listeners had other priorities. When the British composer Charles Villiers Stanford heard Johannes Brahms play his Second Piano Concerto, he observed that the composer “took it for granted that the public knew he had written the right notes, and did not worry himself over such little trifles as hitting the wrong ones. . . . [T]hey did not disturb his hearers any more than himself.”

Daylight saving

Daylight saving started last Sunday. 4 days later, I just had one of those terrible moments where I thought I was an hour late.

Well done Kev

Kevin offers an opinion to the Chinese:

UNFAZED by the growing diplomatic unrest, Kevin Rudd has told the Chinese in their own language there are "significant" human rights problems in Tibet.

Speaking in Mandarin at Peking University yesterday, the Prime Minister said Australians were concerned about Tibet and that he would push the issue during talks with the Premier, Wen Jiabao, today and the President, Hu Jintao, on Saturday.

Mr Rudd, the first Western leader to speak Mandarin, said Australia recognised Chinese sovereignty over Tibet "but we also believe it is necessary to recognise there are significant human rights problems in Tibet".

From here.

Pray for Richard Lane

Richard Lane has done a brave thing, telling Justice Michael Kirby that he faces the judgement of God for continuing to call himself a Christian while living a homosexual lifestyle.

We should pray for him, and for Justice Kirby's repentance.

Someone doesn't like Herbert von Karajan

Norman Lebrecht, to be precise.

A Deutsche Gramophon tribute set by his widow, Eliette, reveals the conductor at both his worst and his best. The first disc opens with a doubly pasteurised Beethoven Pastoral, synthetic to a fault, followed by homogenised Debussy and Ravel and a Mahler Adagietto from which all pain has been anaesthetised – a travesty of Mahler. The second disc contains extracts of oratorio and opera, some of them transcendentally moving – an effulgent "Erbarme mich" from Bach's St Matthew Passion, a thrilling "Dies Irae" from Verdi's Requiem and clips from Wagner's Walküre. The bigger the forces, the better Karajan liked it.

If you listen to classical music, it is hard to avoid the man.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Google and abortion

Those who use Google as a search engine may be interested to know that they won't accept anti-abortion or 'religious' advertisements, but will accept advertisements for sites that attack Christianity. See report here.

From the report

The Christian Institute, a "non-denominational Christian charity", wanted to pay Google so that whenever the word "abortion" was typed into the popular search engine, its link would appear on the side of the screen.

The link would have read: "UK abortion law - news and views on abortion from the Christian Institute."

The Christian Institute is currently mounting legal action against Google over this policy.

There are alternative search engines you can use if you don't like Google's policy, such as Yahoo.

The Christian Institute website that Google won't advertise is here. The look like a mighty fine organization, and I notice that at the top of their links page is a link to Reform (who really could do with a website tidy-up) and an excellent Spurgeon website.

Non-theologians can ignore this bit

My view of English bishop NT Wright is that he's somewhat of a distraction.* So if you haven't heard of him, and don't really want to, just scroll right on past this post. Others disagree, and hold NT Wright in high esteem for just about everything. So it's interesting to see a self-confessed fan of his writing, and especially his last book Surprised by Hope get really worked up when the bishop turns the same tricksy rhetorical moves on some of this man's favoured views that the bishop usually turns on reformed evangelicals.

Remember, the man who is writing this, Doug Wilson, is an unabashed fan of both bishop and book, as you can discover for yourself if you read this quote in context on his blog. But doesn't Wilson get annoyed when Wright turns his verbal sleight of hand on one of the writer's political concerns (the page refs are to Wright's book, and for clarity I've italicized Wright's quotes):

The obligation that Wright has to deal with the substantive objections to his proposals cannot be done with a simple wave of the hand:

"I know, and such people often know in their bones, that wealth isn't a zero-sum game, but reading the collected works of F.A. Hayek in a comfortable chair in North America simply doesn't address the moral questions of the twenty-first century" (pp. 218-219).

What does the comfortable chair have to do with it? Suppose I read Hayek while standing uncomfortably on one foot, and asked Wright to address Hayek's arguments then? All I know from this statement is that Wright considers Hayek insufficient. That could easily be a reasonable position, depending. But why? Do we reject Hayek? Do we put his thought on a biblical foundation? Do we keep some parts and reject other parts? Why? By all means, let us discuss it. But if I were to write a book that maintained that fire fighting is best conducted when you don't hose down the blaze with gasoline, and someone else were to read that book in the comfort of a North American chair, the comfort of that chair and the urgency created by the blaze are not an argument for proceeding with the gasoline.

"Many conservative churches there still live by the belief that what's good for America is good for God -- with the result, for instance, that if their country needs to produce more acid rain in order to keep up car production, then God must be happy with it and anyone who talks about pollution or is disappointed that the president didn't sign the Kyoto protocol is somehow anti-Christian or is simply producing a 'baptized neosocialism,' as one reviewer accused me of" (p. 219).

Acid rain is yesterday's newspaper, so we don't hear much about it anymore. The accusation was made against American polluters, and it was quite the thing back in the day until it turned out that a bunch of the acid in the lakes was actually caused by leaves. Not only was it caused by leaves, it was caused by organic leaves. Even green organic leaves, which is hard to conceive of. These acidic and fraying leaves on the ground leeching acid into the water caused me, many years ago, to propose a sweeping environmental push to solve the pressing problem -- the North American Frayed Tree Agreement.

Stewardship of the environment (and of the economy) means that we as Christians have to learn not to panic every time the hennypennys of the liberal world get themselves whipped up into another froth over nothing. Creational stewardship does not mean joining the crusade against global warming six months after all the secularists have finally dropped it as the bogus science it was all along. And if Kyoto was actually about the environment, then why did the treaty allow the Third World countries, which are the worst when it comes to this kind of pollution, to continue their polluting practices merrily and unimpeded? Does Jesus actually want the president to sign an agreement that stipulates that our air be kept clean, thus ensuring that all the really dirty stuff will be pumped into Third World lungs? Seriously? Jesus demands this? I am a lousy Christian if I don't insist on making all the brown people live in the stinky part of the world, while we white Americanos get to live in the clean part? This is a really sweet deal for us reformer types. Staying away from Nazism is actually kind of comfy. Maybe we can talk them into hosting our landfills too -- tell 'em Jesus wants it that way.

Wilson's criticism is entertaining in parts, overblown in others, but I think he has a point both on Wright's use of rhetoric, and on his complete failure to deal well with a complex economic question.

*Interestingly, a friend who should know told me that in the German theological world Wright has made little impact. "The liberals disagree with him, and the evangelicals don't know about him".

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Standing in a queue

I stumbled (sorry) across a blog about standing in a queue, called I like the way the letters in the blog title line up in an orderly way.

The link takes you to one about how in a supermarket queue, long lines move faster.


A very bad man. He has been voted out in the Zimbabwe elections but is refusing to go. We must pray that he is removed peacefully and that the lives of Christians and others will be protected.

According to this report, 75% of Zimbabwe's population is Christian.

Here is a March 28 Prayer Update for Zimbabwe from SIM.

Heavenly Father, please protect your children in Zimbabwe from harm, and help them stand firm for justice and the gospel of grace. Amen.

Why Asians fill selective schools

When I studied at James Ruse Agricultural High School in the '70s, I was about the most Asian person in the school until a Wong joined the school in my year 11. Now the school is about 97% Asian (Chinese, Vietnamese being the main groups represented.

So I was interested in this article which suggests that

One day we'll probably find less of a correlation between race and academic performance, because the disparity is merely reflective of a cultural discipline associated with the specific circumstances of immigration.

He's really saying that kids from migrant families work hard because their parents and they feel such gratitude for the opportunities they now have, and want to take advantage of them to the full.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Hey Jude

The Fifth Beatle.

China protests

China cops a bit of public shaming over Tibet. Hopefully plenty more where that came from.

UPDATE: David Ould appears to be keeping track of this. There are now protests in France.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

The weasel

"Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals ... except the weasel."

—Homer J. Simpson

Australian Skeptics

I receive and read the skeptic, the journal of the Australian Skeptics, and a lot of fun it is too. Quite refreshing to read stuff working to maintain an evidence-based perspective on things like astrology, alternative medicine, creationism, climate-change and the like. But on more important matters, check this typo. The first issue of the skeptic was in 1981, and since then:

There have been many changes...certainly in the appearance of the magazine, but by far t he most important changes have been in the quality...

[bold mine]

-"Onward and Upward", Editorial, the skeptic, Autumn 2008, p.4

If you think something about that sentence doesn't smell quite right, you'd be right. OK I admit that the sentence continues"...of the articles". I suppose the next big hurdle to overcome will be in the proofreading department!

Small things, small things...

However Sir Guy Green's keynote address to the Australian Skeptics National Convention, from November 17-18 last year, is really good. He had a few words to say about the 'precautionary principle', regularly used by people in the environmental movement to make a case for whatever change (or lack of change) they are calling for. First he makes an observation about definition:

The precautionary principle is frequently referred to in discussions about environmental issues...but a threshold problem about applying the principle is that it is routinely referred to as if it had a single universally accepted meaning. But it does not. When it first gained currency the principle was generally understood to mean that where proposed activity might cause irreversible environmental harm, a lack of full scientific certainty is not a sufficient reason for not taking measures to guard against that harm.

"But," observes Sir Guy, "over the years some formulations make the principle applicable where harm is possible while others make it applicable where harm is probable—two very different tests." Indeed. Other formulations such as the Rio Declaration "introduce the notion of cost effectiveness."

Now this is all fine, so long as we're clear about which definition we happen to be using. But Sir Guy points to a more serious problem.

The form of the problem most commonly advanced by environmentalists is that no activity should be undertaken unless it can be demonstrated that that activity will not cause environmental harm. At first sight that appears to be a reasonably defensible proposition, but when it is analysed it, in fact, turns out that it is impossible to comply with. Until we know everything about everything in the universe it is a logical impossibility to prove a negative of that kind.

All pretty abstract. But Sir Guy gives the example of a mythical mountain goat, pseudonovibos spiralis listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as an endangered species, but by 2003 acknowledged not only to be extinct but in all likelihood, never to have existed.


But that did not result in it removing it from the list; instead the IUCN invoked 'the precautionary principle' which they concluded 'requires us to assume that the species did exist, and may still exist'

Which is a bit like saying you wouldn't dredge parts of the Loch Ness in Scotland because you're worried about the environmental impact on the monster's habitat.

Quite a useful and bendy principle, that one. Stop whatever you're doing everyone; you are adding to global warming and threatening the existence of polar bears! (Whose population, by the way, has been increasing over the last 40 or so years and is currently stable)

"How I raised myself from failure to success in selling"

By Frank Bettger, with a foreword by Dale Carnegie.

I have this book sitting beside my bed. I went through a phase about 15 years ago when I was quite interested in reading about sales, how to run organizations, how to communicate better, and how to make money. It was about the same time as my NT Wright phase, if I recall correctly.

Most of those books have long since found their way to our local Vinnies or, more likely, the second hand bookshops around Carlton, Victoria.

For some reason I never tossed this one. I like the cover, which has the title in a Times New Roman type font, although I wouldn't really know. It was written in 1949 and my edition is 1988.

Having never raised myself from failure to success in selling, I don't know if this is a good book or not. But apart from the cover, what prompted me to keep it was its plain and direct style (whereas NT Wright's The New Testament and the People of God is no longer on my shelves. I don't know if it ever was, actually, or if I just scummed a copy off a friend.)

It is full of hokey stories which remind me of a different era, where despite the effects of two world wars an optimistic modernism reigned supreme. Here's one:

A dismal failure at selling life insurance, I finally concluded that I was never cut out to be a salesman, and began answering want ads for a job as a shipping clerk. I realised, however, that no matter what work I tried to do, I had to overcome a strange fear-complex that possessed me, so I joined one of Dale Carnegie's courses in public speaking. One night, Mr. Carnegie stopped me in the middle of a talk.

"Mr. Bettger," he said. "Just a moment...just a moment. Are you interested in what you are saying?"

"Yes...of course I am." I replied.

"Well then," said Mr. Carnegie, "why don't you talk with a little enthusiasm? How do you expect your audience to be interested if you don't put some life and animation into what you say?"

Dale Carnegie then gave our class a stirring talk on the power of enthusiasm. He got so excited during the talk, he threw a chair up against the wall and broke off one of its legs.

Before I went to bed that night, I sat for an hour thinking. My thoughts went back to my baseball days at Johnston and New Haven. For the first time, I realised that the very fault which had threatened to wreck my career in baseball was now threatening to wreck my career as a salesman.

I love it.

You don't want to know this

During the night someone sneaked into our room, sucked all the air out of my body and replaced it with mucus.

You see? Not every blog update is a good update.

Watch and learn from my many mistakes, Grasshopper.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Climate Debate Daily

OK you climate-changerologists out there, whatever your opinion, you are going to find Climate Debate Daily a regularly useful trigger for your hobby horse. It is a 2 column, frequently updated page with links on the left under the heading 'call to action', and links on the right under the heading 'dissenting voices'. So for example, here's an article published in the last week from the sky-and-everything-else is falling brigade, talking about fast-melting glaciers; right next to it (whether by accident or design, I haven't yet worked out) is one purporting to dismiss any alarmism about the imminent collapse of the Wilkins ice-shelf as a scientific crock.

As a militant agnostic regarding matters climatic ("What's the weather going to be like tomorrow, everywhere?" "Dunno, and I don't think you do either") the Climate Debate Daily page will be of mild interest to me, and will help anyone else with a dog in the fight to stay somewhat up-to-date.

Theologically speaking, my main concern is that most of the current talk about the weather prompts both climate-change believers and unbelievers alike to think about the daily weather God gives without reference to the God who gives it. This is a garment-rending offence, and has been at least since Acts 14:14-18 was written. The key verse, spoken by Paul:

"Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

Even weather disrupted by the sinfulness of man (if indeed it has been disrupted) is an occasion for thankfulness to God. So the worst-case climate change scenario still leaves us daily offering thanks to God for his goodness through rain and sunlight.

At the river

Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?

-Robert Lowry.

Nominalism and Peter Jensen

Archbishop Peter Jensen's hour long chat with Richard Fidler on the ABC is worth listening to.

Plenty of personal snippets (Peter once worked for a year in the same law office as former PM John Howard), along with some reflections on nominalism as it was practised back then in the 1950s. PFJ hints that a part of the high church attendance figures had to do with parents sending their children along to Sunday School and then going off to play golf, as his parents did at the time.

I can well believe his theory of how nominalism looked, and confirm it from my experience of the tail-end of nominalism back in the 1970s. Fast forward to the present. When we were involved in Little Athletics for most of last year, you could go along to the sports oval in Lane Cove and see a thousand people (including adults) giving up a minimum of three hours to worship in the cathedral of track and field. Although it was the little kids that were doing the hard work, while the grown-ups stood around drinking coffee and chatting, or heading off to buy a nice greasy bacon and egg roll or some form of junk food.

A generation ago, the analogous scenario was being played out in our churches. A similar group of a thousand people would've been at some local church on a Sunday; mainly because they thought it was doing the kids some good and because everyone else did it.

You can't have everything

Where would you keep it?

Thursday, 3 April 2008

500 facebook friends

And I love each and every one of you, whatever your names are ;-)

Marry him

From The Atlantic Monthly March 2008, p. 83:

But then my married friends say things like, "Oh, you're so lucky, you don't have to negotiate with your husband about the cost of piano lessons" or "You're so lucky, you don't have anyone putting the kid in front of the TV and you can raise your son the way you want." I'll even hear things like, "You're so lucky, you don't have to have sex with someone you don't want to."

The lists go on, and each time, I say, "OK, if you're so unhappy, and if I'm so lucky, leave your husband! In fact, send him over here!"

Not one person has taken me up on this offer.

-Lori Gottlieb, "Marry Him".

More work

Another unplanned interruption!

The brain is whirring. I've got to think ! ...

I read a sci-fi story one time called Flowers for Algernon in which a man with an IQ of 60 went in for a psych experiment, did whatever treatment they were offering and his IQ zoomed up to 200. He wrote a research paper explaining everything that had gone on. Then the effect slowly wore away until he eventually went back to the limitations of his previous existence.

I've peaked a bit lower than that, but the tide is definitely receding about now.

Possible epitaph

I'd like to think that I'm the kind of guy who the neighbours and work colleagues will come on TV and say stuff like "He was polite, but mainly kept to himself and spent an awful lot of time on the internet."

(OK I confess, I saw that on Letterman last night. But I believe I've put my own spin on it.)

Stretching time

I have a hugely busy day today, and am just going to keep working until as late tonight as I possibly can. I hate the way a two minute admin job (which the time management gurus tell you that you should do immediately it comes up) stretches into ten, and reminds you of two other two minute tasks at the same time.

The time management gurus would also tell me to keep a diary and make a log of interruptions, ranking them 'A, B, C, D' in order of importance. You do this conscientiously for a week, and then make plans to minimize the 'C' and 'D' interruptions (eg making sure your stationery is ordered and stocked before you run out, ensuring you know where the torch is and that it's working, before next time there's a blackout). All of which I'm sure is a great idea, but would stretch the 10 minutes to 15 and I just can't bear that right now.

My last 'A' level interruption happened in the last 10 days and probably cost me 72 hours. But the reason it was an A level interruption meant that it just had to happen, in a near-ontological sense, and in a funny sort of way will probably repay itself handsomely in time saved and effectiveness of effort over the next several years. Obscure I know, but I don't have time to explain now and I am right up against a reasonably deadly deadline.

The A level interruption before then...hmm... might've been a hospital visit with a child with a temperature of 42 deg (C), a few years ago. Probably an A++ really, even though there was nothing they could do beyond what I'd already done.

Well, actually, Ruby's birthday dinner tonight with grandpa is probably also an A++ interruption to the day's and night's writing, but one that the whole family is going to love.


Fifi just got me to pay for something via PayPal. I now have a really dodgy looking e-mail that says in the subject line "Receipt for your Payment to floozyangel AT hotmail [etc.], and I am wondering if Fifi will believe my explanation.

Roman Catholic schools

Talked to a father at the parent teacher thing yesterday who was really annoyed about one of the Roman Catholic schools wanting to know if his daughter had been baptized and if they attended mass, before they would consider her as a student. "I mean, that's not the core stuff, is it? It's not just about ticking the right boxes!"

I agreed that it might not be the core stuff, but if they were making it a requirement for potential students, then maybe they did think it was the core stuff. We kept talking, but it looked for just a moment as if the thought had not occurred to him before.

Seats in the opera house

Remind me of the bus seats on the old Harris Park school specials. They are about the same vintage. Next time I'm singing there I am going to sneak in a fat blue texta and write my initials and those of a friend on the back of one of the seats. It will make me feel young again.

Nazis—a balancing view

I mean, they did a lot of bad things, and I'm no great supporter of eugenics. But postcodes! How convenient is that.

Go to hospital and starve

Uh-oh. 51 % of patients in NSW public hospitals are malnourished because the food the hospital is providing is worked out by administrators, without consultation with nutritionists or doctors.

An unrelated fragment, but a friend who is an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist told us some years ago that 80% of people admitted to hospital are dead within two years. I don't suppose not feeding the patients would help that statistic much.

Middle daughter turns 7

Our darling Ruby turns 7 today. A bit later we will all gather in the parental bedroom, sing happy birthday and have presents. Grandpa will come tonight. Noodles for dinner.

Ruby is in year one and is writing little essays. We had 3-way parent-teacher interviews with teacher, child and us talking for about 10 minutes about child's progress. So with 3 daughters it went interview-wait (I worked on my laptop inbetween, things are majorly busy)-interview-gym (while I walk home) - swim (I take 2 girls) - interview.

The teacher showed me Ruby's essay from Tuesday, a nearly 2 page pencilled description of our trip to Berrima for Gran's birthday. It took a "verey verey verey verey" long time to get there (those four 'vereys' took up most of one line). She talked about visiting the lolly shop in Berrima and buying chocolate.

Fifi knows all this already because she helps with reading on Tuesday mornings.

The ages 5-10, which all our girls are now, is a delightful time of life. Although I regularly tell our eldest that she was supposed to stay the same forever, I am thankful to God for all their lives at every age.

In other news, I think everyone is coming down with colds.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Speaking the truth in love.

This is a much misused phrase in some evangelical circles just at the moment, unfortunately used to buttress the idea that bland, polite and supposedly civil speech that leaves plenty of room for the opposing view (no matter how heretical, dangerous or frankly, dumb) should be the norm for Christian interaction. Politeness is useful, no doubt about it, and may well come out of a sense of love (though may equally conceal deep hatred, which is just one reason why it can never be set up as an ultimate virtue). I doubt blandness is ever useful, unless you're seeking for a polite way to kill an important discussion using boredom as your chosen weapon.

I mention all this because Nick Duke has a nuanced, careful and—yes, it has to be said—polite (It's a good 'polite' though) three part discussion of the misleading rule of thumb ‘In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity’ (where he argues among other things that this lovely-sounding expression is both too broad and too bland). In his discussion of 'speaking the truth in love', (in part III), he has this to say:

This is a refusal to let divisions be final; to be optimistic about change because of the direction of history. Words of truth are the God-ordained way that Christ will build his church (Ephesians 4:11-16) and are the direct expression of his rule in this world. Of course, it will be prayerful speech, for we know it is the Spirit of God that makes the externally clear Word of God, internally clear to the hearer. They will also be loving words for we are speaking to someone for whom Christ died. Yet failure to speak is not an option—for the church is ‘the pillar and buttress of truth’ (1 Timothy 3:15).

Speaking truth in love may take a range of forms: from the confrontation in Antioch (Galatians 2:11) to the tender fatherly words to a church (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). Both are truth in love and we must not allow love to be defined in such a way as to exclude ‘tough love’. Saying ‘Peace, Peace’ when there is no peace is profoundly unloving. Therefore, when using the categories above, we recognise teaching that will undermine the gospel, we must speak out.

We model ourselves on Jesus who weeps over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41) and desires to gather them as chicks (Matthew 23:37-39), yet in the same breath condemns the teachers of Israel as hypocrites, blind guides, fools and snakes. ‘How will you escape being condemned to hell?’ (Matthew 23:33). If we follow his example, we too will follow the path of the cross.

That last paragraph is a sharp and pointy reminder that loving words will not always be pleasant words, particularly where rank disobedience to the Lord Jesus is involved. Sharp and pointy also, because to use words as Jesus used in pressing the claims of truth is to invite the same fate. Not for nothing does he urge the taking up of our cross as his disciples.

Read the whole thing if you can. Part I is found here and includes an outline and a synopsis.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008


Here's a video of Kel Richards interviewing Phillip Jensen on the subject.

The debate is often cast in terms of women's rights. But there are times when women's rights are the exact opposite of what is going on. When the husband demands and insists that the wife has an abortion. When the child is aborted because she is female.

Phillip is an interesting and compelling interview subject, and well worth listening to on this topic. One of the best things about this particular interview is the reassurance, spoken of from about the 20 minute mark, of the forgiveness that is available for all things through the blood of Jesus Christ. It is a compassionate interview, and that is a rare thing in the public debate.

One of the great fears to be faced is the fear of condemnation not just by others, but by God himself. One of the best parts of the interview is how Phillip explains in practical terms how to deal with that fear when you visit a local church.

Tony and I speak

There's now an mp3 audio of Tony Payne and me chatting about preaching and other things. Right here. It's early days yet as far as our podcasting goes, and I still can't stand hearing myself speak, but I think we are going to have some good conversations.


This house is a mess and the doorbell doesn't even work!

Hmm, where to start.

Should I replace the battery or should I throw the doorbell out?

Perhaps I'll clean the kitchen while I think about it.

Teaching piano

I'm trying to teach my girls to play the piano. It's taken a while but at last I've been reminded about a fundamental thing, which is that you can't play piano until you can sing. Until you've got the sound in your head, sitting in front of a piano keyboard is just typing practice. Artur Rubinstein taught me that, in a couple of minutes on a documentary. But I keep forgetting.

So this morning Violet, Ruby and I were in the kitchen and I was asking Ruby to sing with me. 'C-D-C-D-C-D-Ceeeeee' Just those two notes. We pushed a bit on the repertoire from time to time to include A, B and E, but hey, easy does it.

This is as basic to playing the piano as learning Romans 1:1-17, and Romans 3:21-26 is basic to learning Christianity.

Learn it! Learn it in Greek, even if you don't understand it. Then take it apart piece by piece, think about it, pray about it, and reassemble it. One day you will wake up and see the Lord Jesus face to face, and understand in full what it is that you've remembered in part.

But be warned. If you do not, in the grace of God, understand it, then do not attempt to learn it. Return it to the shelf, because if you learn without understanding, it will return in fiery judgement on the last day to condemn.

Whereas any fool can learn to sing, and it's good fun too.


Looks like he's lost the vote in Zimbabwe.. I'm praying for Nozi and her family, that they will be kept safe in any upheaval that results.

Whether or not Mugabe faces justice in this life, he will certainly face it in the next.


As I keep saying to my girls, "Another!...beautiful Sydney Autumn day."

And the SMH reports that according to the weather bureau, it was the sunniest March on record.

Which was lovely.

Or perhaps, rightly understood, it should fill each one of us with fear and dread. Global warmening! Sydney warmening, anyway.