Thursday, June 30, 2005


Unsure if it comes with a secret decoder ring, but Great Britain's Dept. of Education is supplying students with "Know Islam" Kits:A British council has presented resource packs covering the basic teachings of Islam to primary schools across the London borough of Harrow in an effort to provide a better understanding of the Muslim faith, according to a local daily.

“The new resources will help school staff further develop their approach to high quality teaching of Islam — a religion that is far too often misunderstood,” the Harrow Times Monday, June 27, quoted as saying Councilor Navin Shah, leader of Harrow borough Council, which has become the first to fully fund the teaching of Islam in primary schools.

The resource packs include books, artifacts, CDs, videos and teaching aids covering the basic Muslim beliefs and practices through interactive class projects. Resources for secondary schools are also being developed and will be available to schools across the borough, according to the paper.

The packs for primary schools were produced by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), in partnership with the Department of Education and Skills.
Great! Most Brits don't know anything about Christianity, either. Can we start putting "Know Christ" kits together now?

Lee Eclov has some excellent thoughts on modern fallacies of preaching, and the value of exposing listeners not only to the point, but also how you got there:
Picture a wilderness. A pioneer carves out a path, chopping away brush, felling trees, marking the way to a new outpost. As years pass, that path is traveled a thousand times till it becomes a wide, paved road. From it, other trails branch off, leading to other new outposts. Trails intersect, becoming crossroads. More outposts become towns. More trails become roads. More links are made till what was once wilderness is civilized.

Preaching is the work of spiritually civilizing the minds of Christian disciples. Preaching—especially expository preaching—cuts truth trails in the minds of our listeners. Our task is not only to display God's "point," but to instill God's logic—how he gets to that point.

For example, we do not simply preach the conclusion of 1 Corinthians 13—that "the greatest of these is love"—but we move people through the dimensions and definitions of love in that great chapter. We show that Paul intended such love be not only at weddings but also at church meetings as well. In other words, we not only establish the outpost—"the greatest of these is love"—but the truth trail as well.

Preaching, ultimately, needs to be an attempt to map the mind of God as revealed in His word. Sometimes the purpose of a sermon may be no more than that, but as our goal is to be conformed to the image of Christ each new understanding brings us that much closer.

Friday, June 24, 2005


The press is all abuzz about Scientology as its poster boy Tom Cruise promotes his new movie and his new engagement (and his attacks on Brooke Shields). Here's a bit about Scientology's practices:
At first blush, Scientology resembles other New Age spiritual practices. The initiate starts with a process of "auditing," which is cross between an interview and confession employing a rudimentary lie detector. The idea is to learn about, target, and shed negative forces — the reactive mind — said to blunt potential. For a regular person, the first step might be a free stress test administered at a public booth in a shopping mall or Grand Central Station.

A Scientologist who is in the beginning stages of auditing — the stage Katie Holmes is reportedly in at this point — would be considered a "pre-clear." If she persists through these lower levels, which address career and other earthly struggles, she will reach the state of “clear.”

Once “clear,” Scientologists work on more otherworldly concerns through a series of levels starting with "Operating Thetan 1." It is only at this point that Scientologists can begin receiving knowledge of confidential teachings of Scientology. Cruise, said to be an OT6, and Travolta — reportedly OT7 — are well into this realm.

Among the secrets revealed to adherents who reach the OT3 level is the incident that led to the current evils of the Earth. In leaked documents now posted on the Internet, this incident started with a galactic shake-up 75 million years ago, when an alien ruler sent billions of subjects to this planet to solve an overpopulation problem. These "thetan" souls dispersed and invaded humans. Scientology is the means through which one's Body Thetans (BTs) are purged.


For some interesting--well, as long as "interesting" means freako scary--insight into Tom Cruise using Scientology as a dating service, see what happened to Scarlett Johanssen. And just where was Katie Holmes for those two weeks?

Yeah, all that's normal...

Thursday, June 23, 2005


Bombay University (I was just by there a couple of weeks ago) is banning mini skirts to stop rape:
An Indian university plans to ban women from wearing mini skirts, tight tops and shorts, saying this will help prevent rape.
Bombay University officials say they would prefer to see women students in a traditional salwar-kameez -- a loose tunic top worn over baggy trousers -- with no deep neckline.

"An attire should be such that it should not be offensive or cause distraction to fellow students and lecturers," Vice Chancellor Vijay Khole told reporters.

Students are unconvinced:
Students have criticised the proposal saying it is not the answer to preventing rape.

"We are not children who should be told what we can and cannot wear," said a 19-year-old management studies student, Alka Mehta. "Rape is not related to what the victim wears but what is in the mind of the rapist."

Yes, it's the rare college age male who will be convinced that no mini-skirts is a good idea. Of course, having students--male and female--attired in a non-distracting fashion is only sensible in a learning environment anyway.

North American churches have been voted out over Bishop Gene Robinson:
The American and Canadian Churches have been excluded from one of the Anglican Communion's top bodies after refusing to change their views on homosexuality.
The policy-making Anglican Consultative Council voted them out for three years over their willingness to ordain gay clergy and bless gay relationships.

The ordination in the US of openly-gay Gene Robinson as a bishop has been threatening to split the communion.

The North American Churches refused to back down at a meeting in Nottingham.

The Anglican Consultative Council - which is regarded as relatively liberal - voted by 30 to 28 to call upon the Churches to withdraw voluntarily from its meetings for three years.

So, what happens after the three years?

A new study has found that most U.S. doctors believe in God:
A survey examining religion in medicine found that most U.S. doctors believe in God and an afterlife — a surprising degree of spirituality in a science-based field, researchers say.

In the survey of 1,044 doctors nationwide, 76 percent said they believe in God, 59 percent said they believe in some sort of afterlife, and 55 percent said their religious beliefs influence how they practice medicine.

"We were surprised to find that physicians were as religious as they apparently are," said Dr. Farr Curlin, a researcher at the University of Chicago's MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics.

Not too surprising, I don't think.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


According to a headline writer of what is supposed to be an actual news story, "US radicals blow their tops over volcano movie as Darwinism debate rages". Who are these "US radicals"? Why anyone who might dare oppose Darwinian hegemony:
Culture wars raging in the United States are reaping new victims as monster-screen IMAX cinemas and top museums are dragged into the fierce debate over the origin of life.

Pressure from ultraconservative religious groups has prompted some theaters equipped with the high quality panoramic IMAX screens to cancel showings of several movies which refer to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Some politically powerful religious groups dismiss the theory, despite its widespread acceptance throughout the rest of the world.

Now if that's a value-free straight news story then I'll eat my much needed hat: "radicals" and "ultraconservative"? What about "secularists" and "ultraliberals"? No, no of course not. The Darwinists are squirming.

[Why, they must have had andy write that headline...]

Anglican leaders want to know how a homosexual can lead the American Episcopal Church:
Anglican leaders are set to hear why the American arm of the Church decided to ordain an openly gay bishop - a move that almost split the worldwide Church.
The Primate of the US Anglican Church, Frank Griswold, is to deliver a report on the ordination of Gene Robinson.

Last year the Windsor Report sought an explanation into how a person in a same sex relationship could lead Anglicans....

In March this year the US Anglican Church, in a move to halt a slide towards a formal split, said it would not appoint new bishops or bless same-sex relationships for at least one year.

There are enough Anglicans (and American Episcopalians) outraged over this that their fellowship will be irrevocably split.

Monday, June 20, 2005


Russell Shorto at the good ol' New York Times wonders What's Their Real Problem With Gay Marriage?. Subtitled "It's the Gay Part" the existence of the article is an interesting study in bicoastal liberalism. We could just as easily ask: Why Don't They Understand the Problem With "Gay" "Marriage"?

Shorto comes to a shocking discovery:
But as I learned spending time among the cultural conservatives who are leading the anti-gay-marriage charge, they have their own reasons for doing so, which are based on their reading of the Bible, their views about both homosexuality and the institution of marriage and the political force behind the issue.

We need an in-depth NYT Magazine article to tell us this? Again we have proof that organs such as the Times aren't impartial observers, but players who are writing to their audience largely composed of homosexual "marriage" supporters. Those who defend the institution of marriage as understood for millennia somehow become the obstructionist curiosities to be studied.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


Southern Baptist leader Bobby Welch says his denomination is in the doldrums:
The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s biggest Protestant denomination and the largest gathering of evangelical Christians in the world, is in the “doldrums” and faces a challenge to determine whether it is on the right path, its leader said Thursday.

The convention’s president, the Rev. Bobby Welch of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., also said that a resolution decrying immorality in American public schools was likely to be debated at next week’s annual gathering in Nashville, Tenn., but that it would be wrong for Southern Baptists to withdraw their children from public classrooms.

Certainly you're not hearing the same amount of buzz from the Baptist convention that you were a few years ago.

Archimedes is speaking again with the help of X-rays:
Archimedes' amazingly advanced ideas have been lost and found several times throughout the ages. Now scientists are employing modern technology—including X-ray fluorescence at SLAC's Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL)—to completely read the Archimedes Palimpsest, the only source for at least two previously unknown treatises thought out by Archimedes in the third century B.C....

The palimpsest is a 1,000-year-old parchment made of goatskin containing Archimedes' work as laboriously copied down by a 10th century scribe. Two centuries later, with parchment harder to come by, the ink was erased with a weak acid (like lemon juice) and scraped off with a pumice stone, and the parchment was written on again to make a prayer book.

One of the most intractable problems was seeing the original ink on four pages that had been painted over with Byzantine religious images, which turned out to be 20th century forgeries intended to increase the value of the prayer book.

An X-ray system recently showed it was possible to penetrate the paintings. At SSRL, the assembled team practically jumped with excitement as the original writing beneath one painting was unveiled on the computer screens. Archimedes' hidden text deals with floating bodies and the equilibrium of planes.

The successful use of this and similar technologies will help recover innumerable ancient texts, Biblical manuscripts included.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


George Crispin reviews Jonathan Wells' Icons of Evolution, and it looks like it's worth reading:
Marxism has been proven a mistake. Freud’s psychoanalysis didn’t work. Now there is an argument that the speed of light is not a constant. Science changes positions all the time but Darwinism doesn’t budge. Anyone questioning it is instantly classified as a nut case, or if a scientist, one who can forget about establishment funding. Why is this? The system normally works well and, and except for Darwinism, science has accommodated much. Maybe it is because the "Darwinian high priesthood" stands to lose too much that they are allowed to get away with it. Then again, maybe they enjoy browbeating Christians (which is foolish, plenty of Christians have accommodated Darwinian beliefs) and they have hung in for a long time.

Like much of the rest of discredited 19th Century dogma, Darwinism, too, is headed for the dustbin of history.

Monday, June 13, 2005


Scientiests have germinated a 2,000 year old date seed:
Israeli doctors and scientists have succeeded in germinating a date seed nearly 2,000 years old.

The seed, nicknamed Methuselah, was taken from an excavation at Masada, the cliff fortress where, in A.D. 73, 960 Jewish zealots died by their own hand, rather than surrender to a Roman assault. The point is to find out what was so exceptional about the original date palm of Judea, much praised in the Bible and the Koran for its shade, food, beauty and medicinal qualities, but long ago destroyed by the crusaders.

"The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree," says Psalm 92. "They shall still bring forth fruit in old age. They shall be fat and flourishing."

Well, we'll see. Dr. Sarah Sallon, who runs a project on medicinal plants of the Middle East, notes that the date palm in ancient times symbolized the tree of life. But Dr. Elaine Solowey, who germinated the seed and is growing it in quarantine, says plants grown from ancient seeds "usually keel over and die soon," having used most of their nutrients in remaining alive.

The plant is now 11.8 inches tall and has produced seven leaves, one of which was removed for DNA testing. Radiocarbon dating in Switzerland on a snip of the seed showed it to be 1,990 years old, plus or minus 50 years. So the date seed dates from 35 B.C. to A.D. 65, just before the famed Roman siege.

Three date seeds were taken from Level 34 of the Masada dig. They were found in a storeroom, and are presumably from dates eaten by the defenders, Dr. Sallon says.

Grow, baby, grow!

It's a good thing she didn't see this before I went to India:
Angry Hindu youths beat three American missionaries and tried to kidnap one as they held a bible studies class in Bombay, police said on Monday.

About 30 or 40 men attacked the three, part of a group of eight, on Saturday night because they thought the missionaries were trying to convert Hindus in the Indian financial capital.

The three were treated for bruises and cuts at a hospital but were not seriously injured, police said.

Not pretty, but I think generally if you're careful about what you're doing and where you're doing it things will be fine. I met with no hostility at all during my time in Hyderabad.

The initial movie trailer for The Da Vinci Code is out. The movie release is scheduled for May 19, 2006, Tom Hanks starring, Ron Howard directing.

Et tu, Opie?

With those rowdy non-evolutionist types making noise the National Academies is fighting back:
The National Academies, the flagship of U.S. science, said Friday it had set up a Web site to battle attempts to portray evolution as mere speculation about how life developed on Earth.

The Web site carries links to various reports on evolution, which some U.S. religious groups want to be taught in schools only if their own views of a divine creator get equal credence.

"The theory of evolution is one of science's most robust theories, and the National Academies have long supported the position that evolution be taught as a central element in any science education program," the Academies said in a statement.

And just who is this National Academies?
The National Academies is an independent organization that routinely provides guidance on scientific, medical and engineering questions to the federal government and other groups that may ask them.

And who is it that asked them, anyway?

Contra the NA, but the barbarians aren't at the gate: they're defending their hegemony.

Saturday, June 11, 2005


Gone are the days of the Bible being used to teach English in Moscow's schools. The Putin administration now is teaming with the Russian Orthodox Church to tighten the screws on Evangelicals:
Dozens of evangelical believers stood stunned on Tverskaya Ploshchad across from City Hall, their protest banners lying in police vans, their pastor being carted off to a holding cell.

"This time it was pretty," Yelena Purshaga said last Thursday. Her husband, Alexander Purshaga, is the pastor of the Emmanuel church.

"You should have seen the way it was yesterday," she said on June 2.

The church had sought -- and thought it received -- permission to hold a weeklong demonstration across from City Hall over the loss of land that it had hoped to use to build a house of worship.

Independent Christian groups are seen as impossible to manage and subversively Western by both a repressive government and a fearful state church. While those who seek religious liberty in Russia will suffer during these times, it is also the case that Christianity flourishes under just such circumstances.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Well, I'm back from my trip to India after about 20 hours in the air. India is 10 1/2 hours ahead of US Central time (daylight savings), and I had just gotten pretty well adjusted to the time schedule over there...just in time to leave and be completely thrown off here.

More about the trip soon, and maybe we can even try posting a few pictures.

A new theory has been proposed for the medical reasons for Jesus' death:
An Israeli researcher has challenged the popular belief that Jesus died of blood loss on the cross, saying he probably succumbed to a sometimes fatal disorder now associated with long-haul air travel.

Professor Benjamin Brenner wrote in The Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis that Jesus’ death, traditionally believed to have occurred 3 to 6 hours after crucifixion began, was probably caused by a blood clot that reached his lungs.

Such pulmonary embolisms, leading to sudden death, can stem from immobilization, multiple trauma and dehydration, said Brenner, a researcher at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.

“This fits well with Jesus’ condition and actually was in all likelihood the major cause of death by crucifixion,” he wrote in the article, based on religious and medical texts.

Of course, with so much trauma involved it's impossible to speak to the issue conclusively. All we can safely say is that what killed Jesus was crucifixion. More importantly, what killed Jesus was my sins.