Showing posts from February, 2008

A New C.S. Lewis blog

Now this is cool--a large group of scholars have organized a blog devoted to C.S. Lewis. You can find it here. Here is a smaple post about the Narnia series:

Ever since they were published in the 1950s, C.S. Lewis's seven Chronicles of Narnia have puzzled readers. The puzzle has to do with the fact that the seven stories have no obvious unifying theme.

Three of the books seem to be clear Biblical allegories. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a retelling of the Gospel story. The Magician’s Nephew gives us a version of the creation account from the Book of Genesis. The Last Battle reimagines the end of the world and the final judgement, as told in the Book of Revelation.

But the other four Narnia Chronicles have no obvious scriptural foundation. Why does the Christ-like figure of Aslan enter the story among dancing trees in Prince Caspian? Why does he fly in a sunbeam in The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader'? Why is he mistaken for two lions in The Horse and His Boy? Why does h…

What We Used To Say About Torture

This is a poster from World War II, and apparantly reflects what used to be (until 2001) the official view of torture by this country.

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan--who has done a masterdul job showing that torture is un-American.

Human Genetic Diversity and You

Two very recent studies of genetic diversity have some very interesting implications.

First, a University of Michigan team has announced to results of the largest and most detailed worldwide study of human genetic variation, which offers new insights into early migrations out of Africa and across the globe. Here are highlights from that study:

The latest study characterizes more than 500,000 DNA markers in the human genome and examines variations across 29 populations on five continents.

"Our study is one of the first in a new wave of extremely high-resolution genome scans of population genetic variation," said Rosenberg, an assistant research professor at U-M's Life Sciences Institute and co-senior author of the study, to be published in the Feb. 21 edition of Nature.

"Now that we have the technology to look at thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of genetic markers, we can infer human population relationships and ancient migrations at a finer level of resolution…

15 Misconceptions About Evolution

The List Universe includes a quite useful list of 15 misconceptions about evolution. If you read many books or websites that argue against evolution, you are bound to find at least a handfull of these errors:

Biological evolution is descent with modification. This definition encompasses small-scale evolution (changes in gene frequency in a population from one generation to the next) and large-scale evolution (the descent of different species from a common ancestor over many generations). Evolution helps us to understand the history of life. While evolution is very widely accepted, many people hold to misconceptions about it. This list should help to dispel some of those myths.

15. Evolution is a theory about the origin of life

The theory of evolution primarily deals with the manner in which life has changed after its origin. While science is interested in the origins of life (for example the composition of the primeval sludge from which life might have come) but these are not issues cov…

The Bible and Slavery

As I have often mentioned on this blog, one of the challenges of resting an argument against same sex relationships on scripture is that even the most literal-minded of of the faithful ignore the Bible's statements on other issues--such as usury and slavery. This fact should give us pause--if we are willing to let reason and experience ignore these aspects of scripture, what is different about same sex relationships.

To drive this point home, Tobias Haller has found this gem from the Presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church defending slavery in 1861:

Here, therefore, lies the true aspect of the controversy, and it is evident that it can openly be settled by the Bible. For every Christian is bound to assent to the rule of the inspired Apostle, that "sin is the transgression of the law," namely the law laid down in the Scriptures by the authority of God -- the supreme "lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy." From his Word there can be no appeal. No rebellion…

Climate change After Bali

The Scientific American has a good assessment of where we are after the meetings on Climate change in Bali:

Last December’s agreement in Bali to launch a two-year negotiation on climate change was good news, a rare example of international cooperation in a world seemingly stuck in a spiral of conflict. Cynics might note that the only accomplishment was an agreement to talk some more, and their cynicism may yet be confirmed. Nevertheless, the growing understanding that serious climate-control measures are feasible at modest cost is welcome.

The arithmetic is becoming clearer. If the rich nations continue to grow in income and the poor ones systematically narrow the income gap with successful development, by 2050 the global economy might increase sixfold and global energy use roughly fourfold. Today’s anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are around 36 billion tons annually, of which 29 billion are the result of fossil-fuel combustion and industrial processes, and another seven bil…

Another Reflection on Lent

My wife and I are giving up alcohol for Lent. In my wife's typical efficient manner, we are also using this an opportunity to lose some weight (we both gained weight as a result of becoming parents), so we are on diet.

I am confident that I can lose some weight as a result of this diet--my aim is to lose at least ten pounds--but I am also aware that to keep this weight off, i will need to keep atleast some of the discipline of this diet--I need to keep the increased excercise routine, reduce my alchol intake, and well, yes, continue to eat less.

It strikes me that the increased spiritual discipline of Lent is much like a diet--taking Lent seriously does a great deal of good, but if we don't make a consistent commitment to our sppiritual life after Lent, we lose much of what we gained.

I tend to be pretty zealous about taking Lent seriously--I attend our church's Lenten education programs, read the Bible and a devotion every day and do quite a bit of other reading on faith.…

Religious Map of United States

This map shows which of eight major Christian denominations has a plurality in the United States, county by county. the map obviously does not capture the full story given the rich diversity of Christian denominations in the United States, but it does show much of the regionalization of the major denominations.

The map and analysis can be found here.

Hat Tip to my friend Jim.

Robin Williams' Top Ten Reason to Be an Episcopalian

The comedian Robin Williams is an Episcopalian, and he has created a funny "Top Ten" List of reasons to be an Episcopalian. I realize that this is old to many of you, but I just saw this today (on a T-shirt in the Cathedral Shoppe), and had to share. Here is the list:

10. No snake handling.

9. You can believe in dinosaurs.

8. Male and female, God created them; male and female, we ordain them.

7. You don't have to check your brains at the door.

6. Pew aerobics.

5. Church year is color coded!

4. Free wine on Sunday.

3. All of the pageantry, none of the guilt.

2. You don't have to know how to swim to get baptized.

And the number one reason for being an Episcopalian:

1. No matter what you believe, there's bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

Evolution Weekend

Happy Evolution Weekend. What's this all about? Well, about 800 congregations across the country, from many different denominations, are discussing evolution in church this weekend. The point, of course, is not to denouse Darwin and evolution, but rather to recognize that evolution and a Christian faith are compatible.

The official website of Evolution weekend is here.

Additional Resources:

A Catechism of Creation: An Episcopal Undertanding here.

Science, Evolution, and Creationism from the National Academy of Sciences.

My own 25 postings on evolution can be found here.

A Lenten Reflection on William Wilberforce

We have a tradition at Trinity of having members of the congregation prepare Lenten mediations on the readings for the 40 days of Lent. Today was my day, and here was my contribution:

Psalm 51: 1-10
Isaiah 58:1-9a
Matthew 9:10-17

Is not this the fast I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?

Last year, the United Kingdom celebrated the 200th anniversary of the end to the slave trade. The story of the hard fought battle was also celebrated last year in the movie Amazing Grace, which focused on the long struggle of William Wilberforce, a committed Christian and member of Parliament who made ending the slave trade his life’s ambition.

Given that I too am a former elected official, I have long found Wilberforce to be my inspiration. Aside from the fact that Wilberforce is one of the few (perhaps the only?) politician recognized in the Book of Common prayer with a day on the church calendar, what…

Nicholas Kristof on Evangelical Activism

Nicholas Kristof has a must-read op-ed on the nature of Evangelical activism around the world:

Liberals believe deeply in tolerance and over the last century have led the battles against prejudices of all kinds, but we have a blind spot about Christian evangelicals. They constitute one of the few minorities that, on the American coasts or university campuses, it remains fashionable to mock.

Scorning people for their faith is intrinsically repugnant, and in this case it also betrays a profound misunderstanding of how far evangelicals have moved over the last decade. Today, conservative Christian churches do superb work on poverty, AIDS, sex trafficking, climate change, prison abuses, malaria and genocide in Darfur.

Bleeding-heart liberals could accomplish far more if they reached out to build common cause with bleeding-heart conservatives. And the Democratic presidential candidate (particularly if it’s Mr. Obama, to whom evangelicals have been startlingly receptive) has a real chance this…