Weekly Meanderings

Weekly Meanderings July 28, 2012

Well, we had some time off from Weekly Meanderings when were in Iceland and Denmark, but they’re back …

… and again, thanks to RJS for monitoring the blog while we were gone, and I can’t thank her enough. She’s been attached to this blog for five years or more, contributes regularly, and has helped to establish the tone. And, thanks to Vose Seminary folks — Brian Harris and Michael O’Neil — and to the Tabor College Adelaide folks — Matt Gray, Stephen Spence, Aaron Chambers and Graham Buxton — for writing posts while we were gone.

So here we go again…

Alan Jacobs on the great Cappadocians: “A church is a community constituted by certain foundational beliefs, but among those beliefs a key one is that the word of the Lord must be obeyed. That is, there are practices that are intrinsic to Christian belief properly understood, and among those are the obligations to feed the hungry, heal the sick, tend to the widows and orphans in their distress, train up children in the way they should go, and be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Thus religion, in the Biblical sense, involves not just holding certain beliefs but acting on them, and the institutions the church creates to help us carry out those commandments are just as “religious” as worshipping congregations. From that it follows that “freedom of religion,” if it is to mean anything, must be extended just as fully to those institutions as to parish churches. Otherwise the church is crippled in its obedience. Which is bad for the church, but also, and more important, bad for the world — unless you happen to think that the State, and the State only, is the proper vehicle for charity and social service. My own view, in political and not specifically Christian terms, is that to yield such service wholly to the State — or to the State’s power to define and circumscribe such service — is a profound impoverishment of human community. And as you can see I have my Christian reasons for thinking this way also.”

I’m with Jodi Fondell: “Yes, it is a great tragedy that people who are evil, mentally unstable, or simply enjoy inflicting harm on others have guns and will use them in in appropriate ways to hurt innocent people. But I will never believe that further arming the American public is the solution to the gun violence in America. Tighter regulation of who can obtain a firearm, where it can stored, how it can be used, and the type of guns made available are steps in the right direction. How we deal with the flood of weapons that are already out there on the street is a mystery that I have no answer to. But I know getting more weapons out there will not help us to create a more peaceful and free society. It undermines our freedom to think that the more heavily armed we all are, the better off we’ll all be.”

A good short sketch of the differences between happiness and joy by Tyler Braun.

From Patrick Mitchel: “In our tradition when someone goes on retreat they go to experience and listen to God. The first way they do this is to fast. You have not stopped eating all weekend. A second characteristic of a retreat in our tradition is to spend many hours in prayer. You have hardly prayed at all except quickly to give thanks to God at meal times. And a third characteristic is to spend considerable time in silence, listening for what God is saying. You have never stopped talking.” [A blog, like a newspaper, is either relentless or non-existent, and the relentlessness is what Patrick is examining… thanks brother.]

O Tony, have I got some stories for you: one year I “managed” 85 baseball games! Love your story: “I’ve found coaching baseball to be a lot like the many years that I taught confirmation classes to adolescents. I have to teach them about the rhythms of this way of life — about where to move when the ball is hit here, versus when it’s hit there; about how to encourage your teammates; about how to call a pop-up and how to take a sign to bunt, steal, and take. A couple players on this year’s team even got a lesson in how to run the bases after a homerun.After each game, my fellow coaches and I gathered the boys in the outfield, where they each took a knee, away from parents and opponents. We gave out a couple game balls, talked about how the game went, and taught one bit of baseball vocabulary: Texas leaguer, diamond cutter, battery, can o’ corn.” Tony, I used to buy thousands of baseball cards and give kids quiz questions to help them learn the game, and those who answered questions got the cards. The winners were rarely the best players!

That guayabera looks comfortable. Got one?

Rich Mouw’s work on Kuyper turned into a cool mind map.

If there is anyone who would know if Regnerus’ work matches up to social-science standards, it is Christian Smith, and he gives Regnerus both a thumbs-up and finds in this whole debate political progressive intolerance.

Mickey Maudlin’s candid reflections on publishing Rob Bell’s Love Wins. (HT: LA) Rob Bell’s reflections (not on Maudlin) but on his own life’s trajectory.

Keith Veronese, on the history of the rapture: “We’ve all heard stories about the Rapture — when all the righteous people will be bodily lifted into Heaven, leaving everybody else to endure years of tribulation. It’s a popular idea, that appears in loads of books as well as movies. But where did this bizarre idea come from? It turns out the notion of the Rapture is pretty new — dating back less than 200 years. So who developed this doctrine, and how did it become so popular, almost overnight?” This person finds lots of indications of The Rapture already in the Old Testament.

Joseph Phillips on the need for better language for Christians: “The thing that I have noticed in all my coffee shop listening is that in the christian community our conversations are incredibly predictable. The language tends to be stale and detached from the concerns and questions of the “lost.” Pastors and Christians are in a language rut–this pastor included. We say the same Christian catch-phrases over and over ad nauseum. It borderlines absurdity. There is no life in our language. This is a travesty. Any Christian, especially a pastor, should be a teeming brook of awe-inspiring language that captures attention–not because of our pretension or expertise but because of our intimate relationship with the God that chose to reveal himself in words. To reduce the glorious message of Jesus and his Kingdom into predictable Christian slogans that resemble a car dealership’s model year-end blowout sale is a grievous sin. Language that would relegate the infinitely beautiful God-story into a stale set of bullet points breaks the heart of God and severely thwarts the mission of the church.”

Meanderings in the News:

Kids and fun and too much organization with Jeff Pearlman: “Kids are gifted with 18 years of childhood. That’s it — less than two decades before the cruel, dark, real word overtakes their bliss. Yes, I want mine to do well in school, and learn the virtues of compassion and empathy and hard work. But I also aspire for them to jump on our trampoline until their legs sag from exhaustion, and ride their bikes up and down the street until someone lets loose a loud whistle, and play tag next door in Ashley and Emily’s yard and chase down the ice cream man and watch in amazement as the pink petals fall from our cherry blossom tree. If they wind up at Yale, and they’re happy, I’ll be thrilled. If they wind up collecting garbage, and they’re happy, I’ll be thrilled, too. That’s my end game.”

The highest point on earth — not Mount Everest.

Australia and threats of extinction: “When it comes to mammal extinctions, Australia’s track record over the last 200 years has been abysmal. Since European settlement, nearly half of the world’s mammalian extinctions have occurred in Australia – 19 at last count. So, when faced with the additional threat of climate change, how do we turn this around and ensure the trend doesn’t continue? Learning from previous extinctions is a good place to start. A comparison between two Australian species, the recently extinct Christmas Island pipistrelle and the critically endangered but surviving orange-bellied parrot, provides some insight into the answer to this question. Namely, that acting quickly and decisively in response to evidence of rapid population decline is a key factor in determining the fate of endangered species.”

By then I hope the Cubs will win the World Series! George Dvorsky: “Many physicists now believe the universe will end by tearing itself apart — and now it appears that this could happen sooner than anyone expected. Originally, scientists predicted the Big Rip would happen in 20 to 22 billion years — but now it sounds as though we may not have that much time left. And the end of the universe could be much stranger than the graceful “heat death” we’ve all been looking forward to.” [Which means we’ve got a good 16 billion years or so.]

Jesse Bering, theory of mind, and the belief instinct: “So it would appear that having a theory of mind was so useful for our ancestors in explaining and predicting other people’s behaviors that it has completely flooded our evolved social brains. As a result, today we overshoot our mental-state attributions to things that are, in reality, completely mindless. And all of this leads us, rather inevitably, to a very important question: What if I were to tell you that God’s mental states, too, were all in your mind? That God, like a tiny speck floating at the edge of your cornea producing the image of a hazy, out-of-reach orb accompanying your every turn, was in fact a psychological illusion, a sort of evolved blemish etched onto the core cognitive substrate of your brain? It may feel as if there is something grander out there . . . watching, knowing, caring. Perhaps even judging. But, in fact, that’s just your overactive theory of mind. In reality, there is only the air you breathe. After all, once we scrub away all the theological bric-a-brac and pluck the exotic cross-cultural plumage of religious beliefs from all over the world, once we get under God’s skin, isn’t He really just another mind—one with emotions, beliefs, knowledge, understanding, and, perhaps above all else, intentions? Aren’t theologians really just playing the role of God’s translators, and isn’t every holy book ever written a detailed psychoanalysis of God? That strangely sticky sense that God “willfully” created us as individuals, “wants” us to behave in particular ways, “observes” and “knows” about our otherwise private actions, “communicates” messages to us in code through natural events, and “intends” to meet us after we die would have also been felt, in some form, by our Pleistocene ancestors.”

The Goat Man has been identified: “Officials said he wasn’t only in danger of being mistaken for prey by a hunter — he might have been attacked by one of his fellow goats. “They may get agitated. They’re territorial. They are, after all, wild animals. This person puts on a goat suit, he changes the game,” said Douglass, adding that wearing an animal costume in the wild is not strictly illegal. The sighting of the goat man occurred 40 miles north of Salt Lake City, when a hiker saw a herd of goats about 200 yards away, and thought one of them looked a bit weird. “I thought maybe it was injured,” the hiker, 33-year-old Coty Creighton told the AP Friday. After looking through his binoculars, he saw something very odd indeed: a man in fake horns and a cloth mask with eye holes, traipsing around with the four-legged ruminants. “I thought, ‘What is this guy doing?’ ” Creighton said. “He was actually on his hands and knees. He was climbing over rocks and bushes and pretty rough terrain on a steep hillside.” Creighton said the man pulled up his mask once in a while to check where he was going. Then, he spotted Creighton, staring at him from afar. “He just stopped in his tracks and froze,” he said. Creighton retreated behind a tree and started taking photos while goat man pulled his mask back on and scrambled to catch up with the other goats. “We were the only ones around for miles,” Creighton said. “It was real creepy.”

On using the Rorschach inkblot test.

Meanderings in Sports

My favorite lines about Ernie Els’ win in The Open: “Els had another hero in mind: His son, Ben, 9, who has autism. Whenever Ernie practices back in Jupiter, Fla., Ben is with his dad. He loves the sound of the ball whizzing off the club, and the trajectory it makes across the sky. Ben and his sister, 13-year-old Samantha, watched the golf with their mom, Ernie’s wife, Liezl, from the family’s London home Sunday. Els could picture them as he tried to win the claret jug for the second time. Ben gets excited when he watches his dad, thus Ernie’s goal, his swing thought as he stood over putts: Keep Ben excited. “Ben, he’s coming through now nicely,” Els said. “You guys should see him. He’s a wonderful boy now, a bright boy. We’re going to have a lot of fun.”

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