Posted July 1, 2011 at 6:31PM in Christian Life.
Today, as I was working my way through my Scripture readings, I came across the tough chapter of Isaiah 6. In the passage, the prophet Isaiah tells of a vision in which he sees the Lord sitting on His throne (v. 1), surrounded by seraphim, praising God to one another (v. 2-3). Isaiah explains:
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away; and your sin atoned for.”
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” (v. 4-8, ESV)
Whenever I had heard this passage read prior to now in most churches, the reading of the passage stops here, with verse 8. The reading does not continue through the remainder of the chapter. In one case in particular, I can remember being asked to read from this chapter for a Scout Sunday at the church that hosted the troop in which I was a member six or seven years ago. Then, like the other times, the reading stopped abruptly with verse 8. (more…)
Posted June 25, 2011 at 2:31PM in Christian Life.
I haven’t posted here in awhile, but following a very inspirational evening on Wednesday night, June 22, I cannot resist making a very brief post. As many of you may know, I have recently accepted a full-time position working as Historian and Information Technology Specialist at Pamplin Historical Park. One of the perks of the historian component of that role is the ability to attend a number of events featuring a number of very notable historians of the War of Secession period. For instance, this weekend I am traveling to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where I will attend Peter Carmichael’s Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College. The Institute will feature historians such as Gary Gallagher, Joe Glatthaar, A. Wilson Greene (of Pamplin Park), and Carmichael himself.
This past Wednesday, Dr. James I. “Bud” Robertson, recently retired Virginia Tech history professor and noted “Stonewall” Jackson scholar, gave a keynote talk to a group of Tech alumni in our banquet room at Pamplin Historical Park. I was invited to attend to listen in on the talk, and to provide assistance with Dr. Robertson’s audio/visual needs. Dr. Robertson’s talk focused primarily on whetting the appetites of the audience for an upcoming book that he will soon have published, which highlights some of the “little known facts” of the Late Unpleasantness. The talk was brilliant, and very educational, however, when it came time for him to address questions from the audience, the questions asked — and his responses — caused my ears to really perk up. (more…)
Posted April 7, 2011 at 1:54PM in Technology.
Last night I downloaded the test candidate for the beta Fedora 15 netinstall CD. I ran the install overnight, and ran Fedora 15’s implementation of the new GNOME 3.0 desktop environment through its paces this morning.
This is a video I made near the end of the morning. The goal was to give a brief overview of the primary functions of the GNOME 3 environment, from launching applications and managing workspaces and favorite applications, to shutting down your computer.
Back when I was running GNOME 2 (notice the past tense!), I wasn’t sure that there was an better, faster way to get things done with a computer. Open source software continually amazes, and just when you start thinking that things can’t get any better, any faster, or any more efficient than they already are…they do! GNOME 3 is certainly not an exception to the rule, and I hope you’ll consider enjoying its benefits as your own needs for technology suggest appropriate.
In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, author and science historian Thomas S. Kuhn asserts that scientific study and research revolves around paradigms, or “universally recognized scientific achievements that for a time provide model problems and solutions to a community of practitioners.”1 His premise is that these paradigms hold true as a center for accepted fact and research for scientists until the paradigm’s potential to bear fruit is decimated, or until there are too many questions to answer and mysteries to solve to go on working within it. It is at these times that paradigm shifts or, to use the author’s terminology: “scientific revolutions” occur. During these revolutions, scientists construct new paradigms to entertain their research.
Kuhn’s attitude towards scientists and their work is often quite cynical. One is led to wonder at the fact that he willingly takes such an attitude, while at the same time being reliant on the profession he is criticizing to make a living. For instance, he asserts that the normal scientist “often suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive of [his] basic commitments.”2 Essentially, he is arguing that scientists side-step or ignore experimental evidence that is contrary to, or might lead them away from, the accepted paradigm. This is a very different attitude toward the scientific process than the scientists themselves like to promote. Kuhn suggests that the present scientific processes seem
an attempt to force nature into the preformed and relatively inflexible box that the [currently accepted] paradigm supplies. No part of the aim of normal science is to call forth new sorts of phenomena; indeed those that will not fit the box are often not seen at all. Nor do scientists normally aim to invent new theories, and they are often intolerant of those invented by others. Instead, normal-scientific research is directed to the articulation of those phenomena and theories that the paradigm already supplies.3
Finally, Kuhn warns that an attempt to understand certain facts about how the world operates from a science textbook will most certainly prove misleading, as “a concept of science drawn from them is no more likely to fit the enterprise that produced them than an image of a national culture drawn from a tourist brochure or a language text.”4
While I do not claim to be a scientist, or for that matter, to know much about scientific research, discovery, and theory, I cannot help but observe some similarities between Kuhn’s assertions about the hard sciences and my own experiences in the field of history. In the spirit of the liberal arts philosophy by which my undergraduate education has largely been influenced, I should like to present those observations.
If scientists form paradigms that facilitate the discovery of experimental results and the formation of theories that are convenient for study at a given time, historians conduct research and derive conclusions based on what is convenient to study and conclude at a given time. Certainly, the political, social, and religious atmosphere of the time period in question stands largely to influence what is determined “convenient” for the two respective fields. For instance, when the political climate shifts to favor environmentalism, scientific study will form paradigms that suggest that, without significant lifestyle changes, the human race will harm the earth, possibly so severely that it will contribute to its own destruction. In history, when the political and social climate focuses its attention significantly on issues of race and gender, the historian will conduct his work in such a way as to select sources and make assertions about how far society has progressed in those areas over time, and how far it has yet still to progress to reach the desired apex. Similarly, when society seeks to glorify militarism, the historian is likely to select sources and draw conclusions that proclaim the glory and aggressive bravery of years gone by.
If Kuhn argues that the scientist is selective of the experiments he conducts—and even the results he observes and reports, based on the paradigm within which he operates, the historian is likewise selective of the studies and research he conducts—and the findings he reports, based on the sociol-cultural environment in which he operates. Indeed, the historical record is so diverse that it is possible to make convincing arguments for virtually any notion about history one desires. During a time of war, there is evidence to justify almost any cause the historian desires. America was victorious during World War II, and so today students around the world are taught of the wartime atrocities committed by the losing nations, Japan and Germany, because America was victorious, and so it is popular to glorify the United States and her allies at the cost of the losing powers. If the Allied Powers had lost that conflict, it is doubtless that today schoolchildren around the world would learn of the undesirable conditions of the Japanese Relocation Camps, and the wartime atrocities of her own soldiers and nuclear weapons technology.
Before reading Kuhn, I might have been tempted to look on my own field with cynicism, while risking being convinced that the hard sciences are more solid and reliable. But, with Kuhn’s convincing assertions in mind, I am more aware than ever of the diversity of evidence available to both fields. If Kuhn is correct, and historians and scientists alike conduct their research, select evidence, and form conclusions based on what is convenient and popular, I wonder if their fields are not so different after all.
1Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (The University of Chicago Press: Chicago, Ill.), x.
Posted February 27, 2011 at 4:57PM in Christian Life.
I love the Word of God! It is the responsibility of those who have been elected by God to feast regularly on His Word. For me, this means striving to spend at least some amount of time each day intentionally seeking God through reading and praying over Scripture. Most days, I find that, by His never-ending, never-waning grace, God provides some morsel of Truth through that study that gives me food for thought and prayer through the day. Often, that Truth is a convicting one — exposing to me some area of my life that needs to either be purged in order to allow for a greater reliance on God, or to something that needs to be turned over to God, or given over to Him more fully.
While virtually every time I intentionally seek God through His Word is fruitful in some way, there are days when the “manna feast” is so abundant that I am awe-struck: completely dumb-founded by God’s glory, goodness, and the all-sufficiency of His Word as food for His people. Today was one of those days. There are those who are skeptical that the Word of God is all-sufficient, providing guidance and instruction for every aspect of the life of a Christian. However, I am convinced that the more a person, experiencing God’s spiritual regeneration, spends time with Him in prayer, and spends time in the study of Scripture, the more they become rightfully convinced of the contrary: For the Christian, Scripture is all-sufficient.
My time in the Word today has left me so full that I could not help seeking, with His help, to allow some of that fullness to overflow onto this page, in hopes that what will be shared might contribute to a similar abundance of comfort, joy, and fullness in Him in you as well.
My readings today seemed to emphasize two great Truths. I’ll focus on one of them today, in the interest of length, and Lord willing, offer some thoughts on the second tomorrow.
God’s faithfulness to His promises is uncompromising. He unreservedly seeks His best for His people, and His ability and willingness to protect them is unquestionable.
This reminder began as I read Proverbs 25, an awesome chapter of Solomon’s wisdom. In verses 21-22, we read, “If he that hateth thee be hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt lay coals upon his head, and the Lord shall recompense thee.”
As I read this, I was reminded of similar words from Paul in Romans 12. There is no doubt that Paul knew his Scripture! “Recompense no man evil for evil: procure things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as in you is, have peace with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him: if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with goodness.” (Romans 12:17-20)
Together, the consistency of these two passages reminded me that we are not to seek sufficiency in ourselves, but instead, to place all trust in God. Self-sufficiency would suggest that we should take vengeance ourselves on those who do us wrong, or on those who hate us. Self-sufficiency suggests that we cannot trust that anyone can handle our problems, or settle our score but us. Self-sufficiency leads us to hate and destroy others, rather than to love them.
God-sufficiency says instead: Let God handle the situation. Give place to God’s wrath (Romans 12:19). After all, He is the stronger, abler party, and His power to convict is much greater than any act of self-vengeance we might dream up. So, instead, we should respond to our enemies with love. We are to feed them when they are hungry, provide them drink when they thirst, and give them clothes when theirs are tattered (Luke 6:29; Matthew 5:40; Matthew 25:31-46). When we do this, we have the assurance, given us by Paul’s admonition in his letter to the Romans, and by Solomon’s words in the Proverb, that God will handle the vengeance Himself. Our love for our enemy, as evidenced by the fruits of generosity it produces, allows God to repay by “heap[ing] coals of fire on his head.” After all, vengeance is His (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19).
This theme came up again when I turned to my reading in the Psalms for the day. In Psalm 70, David is in trouble. He’s in a bad situation, and his enemies are troubling him. But, he refuses to place his trust in his own strength, and seek to be triumphant by his own power. Instead, he turns his trust to God, knowing that if his enemy is to be rightfully defeated, his defeat must come at God’s hands alone. Let’s read:
O God, haste thee to deliver me:
make haste to help me, O Lord.
Let them be confounded and put to shame,
that seek my soul:
let them be turned backward and put to rebuke,
that desire mine hurt.
Let them be turned back for a reward of their shame
who say, Aha, aha.
But let those that seek thee,
be joyful and glad in thee,
and let all that love thy salvation,
say always, God be praised.
Now I am poor and needy:
O God, make haste to me:
thou art my helper and my deliverer:
O Lord, make no tarrying.
We need not doubt that God will be faithful in His promises to protect and guard those He loves. For “we know that all things work together for the best unto them that love God, even to them that are called of his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Finally, I think one of the awesome things about the Old Testament Scriptures (and a good reason why we, under the New Covenant, should still spend time in the study of God’s work under the Old Covenant) is that the Old Testament is filled with examples of God’s faithfulness to His Word, His ability to fulfill His promises to His people, and His ability to defend them from the evil of their enemies. My reading in the Old Testament today was Joshua 21. Towards the end of the chapter, I was reminded, once again, of God’s all-fulfilling faithfulness to those He loves:
So the Lord gave unto Israel all the land, which he had sworn to give unto their fathers: and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. Also the Lord gave them rest round about according to all that he had sworn unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them: for the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. There failed nothing of all the good things, which the Lord had said unto the house of Israel, but all came to pass. (Joshua 21:43-45)
Brothers and sisters, don’t doubt the faithfulness of God. What He has said He will do, He will do. When He promises He will protect you from evil, with your trust, He will do it. Find rest in the fullness and sufficiency of His Word, and of these promises!
Posted February 8, 2011 at 6:39PM in Christian Life.
The oft-unrecognized and important distinction between two opposing forms of leadership
In the preface of his work, The Powers to Lead, author Joseph S. Nye, Jr. offers up the following definition of power: “Power is the ability to affect others to get the outcomes one wants.” I highlighted that statement when I read it, because it struck me, not in a positive way, but in a negative one. Such an outlook on power seems to necessitate such selfishness on the part of the beholder, an attitude that not only suggests that a powerful person must think himself right, but that he must want to make certain his righteousness so badly that he will “affect others,” manipulating them to give him what he desires most.
Humility has been a trait that I have actively sought in my friends, one that I greatly cherish in them, and something that I desire to see more greatly manifested in my own life. Nye’s work is effective in presenting an assessment of what makes a great earthly heroic leader. He suggests that to be a great earthly leader, one must maintain an effective balance of hard and soft power in order to manipulate subordinates to achieve the goals that are set before them – the goals of the leader. This seems a reasonable suggestion in a world filled with selfish desires and an over-abundance of people who seek, more than anything else, to fulfill some so-called American Dream of financial prosperity and physical gratification and comfort. Indeed, what better leader than one who can successfully manipulate followers into believing that his dream is their dream, that if they do things his way, their own desires will be satisfied, and that uncompromising service to his every whim will produce the greatest profit, the greatest pleasure, not only for the leader, but for each person who serves him as well.
These concerns and evaluations seem reasonable for current and aspiring worldly leaders, and, as Nye discusses, for worldly leaders such as Jim Jones who put up a facade, at least temporarily, that his aspirations were spiritual. However, as a Christian who has learned through my spiritual walk to devalue things of this world, it was inevitable that Nye’s book would challenge me to assess how worldly leadership compares and contrasts with spiritual or religious leadership. While Christians make much of the notion of servant leadership, or the idea of serving God and His creation and the people who comprise it as a way to point others to His service, as I read Nye’s book, my own cynical nature prompted me to question this notion, and to consider whether so-called servant leadership is simply a disguised form of the worldly leadership Nye discusses. (more…)
Posted October 5, 2010 at 6:50PM in Christian Life.
Well, it appears that the mischief has begun again. Many of you doubtless remember last year, when so many women got involved in a “game” in which they posted their bra colors on Facebook, for the whole world to see. Dyllan Shaw, a friend of mine, took the initiative and posted a note regarding this unfortunate activity. I’m going to do it this year.
Yes, things have gotten going again to raise so-called “awareness” about breast cancer. Women are apparently being encouraged to post what are apparently sexually explicit and suggestive status messages regarding the placement of their handbags. If only the suggestion that results from the wording used in these messages were so innocent!
Those of you so-called “christian” “ladies” who have done this — and you know who you are — I am ashamed of you, shocked, and appalled. You are better than this. You are above this. Please, start acting like it.
As a young man, I struggle daily to combat sin and to live a life that is pleasing to my Father. Your activity — no matter how innocent its real meaning might be — sends a false, suggestive meaning that does not edify your brothers or your sisters in Christ. If you truly want to raise breast cancer awareness, please do it with modesty, maturity, and decency. Lead (and live) by example. I plead with you in love as a brother who cares for you as a child of God — don’t provoke your brothers (or your sisters) to sin.
If you aren’t a harlot, please stop acting like one.
With love in Christ from a fellow stranger and pilgrim on the earth,
“Then said he to his disciples, It cannot be avoided, but that offences will come, but woe be to him by whom they come. It is better for him that a great millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were cast into the sea, then that he should offend one of these little ones.” (Luke 17:1-2)
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
”Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:9)
Brothers in Christ who value purity above pleasing men (and women) (Galatians 1:10), please feel free to repost this letter, edit it as you see fit, and sign it. It’s time to be Godly men and take a stand for what is right, no matter the cost. God bless.
Posted April 21, 2010 at 11:03AM in Christian Life.
I received the below from my mother yesterday afternoon. I hope that some others who may be reading this find it as beneficial as I have. Not all of it is necessarily True for how I believe God would have us to approach things, but much of it, I think, is consistent with the Christian worldview.
Posted April 16, 2010 at 11:20PM in Christian Life.
The last couple of weeks have brought great blessings from the Holy Spirit. Let me share some of them with you.
Several weeks ago, I made contact with the Lansings, who I’ve mentioned in several of my previous posts, for Christian accountability. I won’t write about specifics here, but one suggestion that I was given was that my presence on Facebook seems to have been a loophole for Satan in my life. I responded by voluntarily turning over my password to be reset by my friend Ben, who agreed not to let me back into Facebook until he felt comfortable that my presence there would bless God.
What has been incredible about my absence from Facebook has been that it has not only honored God by making it more difficult for Satan to succeed in tempting me in the one area, but it has also kept him out of a number of other areas of sin in my life that I was not even fully aware of when I was on Facebook before — but now they are exposed and Satan has been set on the run. The other great thing about taking a Facebook sabbatical is that I have learned how much time I had been spending there before. While certainly not all the time spent there could be considered time in service to the flesh, it is certainly true that a significant portion of it was. It has been nice to have the time freed up for study of the Word, Park projects, and yes, even some academic work. (more…)
Posted April 11, 2010 at 2:38PM in Politics.
Towards the end of my four years at the Governor’s School, when I began searching for colleges to attend, one of the significant reasons I ultimately chose Bridgewater College was because it was not only religiously affiliated, encouraging “Christian values,” but because it was a dry campus.
I spent a great deal of my early life living with an abusive alcoholic stepfather, and my mind had been trained to panic at the scent of beer and other alcoholic beverages. It was ingrained in me how harmful alcohol could be, and I vowed to be a tee-totaler when I grew up. I most certainly wanted to ensure that I could do my best to avoid the rowdy, violent, and debaucherous harlotries that come with most college parties.
When I came to Bridgewater, I was very disappointed, because, though it claimed to be a dry campus, it seemed that little was done to enforce those regulations. However, recent events have reminded me that, imperfect though it may be, an officially “dry campus” still does much to maintain a habitable, respectable campus community. (more…)