Tuesday, February 21, 2017

God's got a plan

I've  heard it; you've probably heard it: "God's got a plan for your life."

If this is not an essentially teleological observation, I expect that it is meant to encourage one to be in synch with who knows what to get who knows where.

The Wright talk on After you are Christian provides part of the answer.

The other part was set out in our sermon last Sunday. The speaker told us. Start. Get going, take a step and being prayerful, growing in wisdom and being attentive to the Spirit in the Word of God, God will work all things together for good...as we travel the ups and downs of life. Our Father will join us in our experiences to work in a path that we take together.

He didn't actually say all of that, but the first bit he did. The rest follows, of course.

Now what a relief that would be to a younger person, I would think, puzzling over the cute evangelical injunction implied in 'God has a plan for your life'. The plan is there; the NT is full of it. But for you, or me? Get on with it.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

capital Letters

For some reason the projected songs we sing at church are very oddly capitalised. I wonder if others have detected this. The second person pronoun is often capitalised in respect of God, but not always (particularly if it is 'thee'). Sometimes a common noun is capitalised if not the first in the line, but sometimes not.

It looks drippy. It looks uneducated.


This morning's sermon was somewhat special. It took the usual urging to give financially to a whole new level.

It started with 'vision'; in a proper way, not the hollow reflex of the business world. Then it went to generosity; about living in the light of our Saviour.

I liked that too. Generosity was used not merely about money, in fact, that was hardly mentioned. It was about a mental attitude. It was about the woman with two mites, in a way: a woman who was truly generous.

Then I let my eyes wonder over the front of our auditorium. I looked up. The gable light is divided by mullions that are obviously spaced just not quite evenly, and just not quite symmetrically about the apex line of the ceiling. To the right the backyard quality bare plywood covers for the baptismal pond, on bare pine frames. Nearby a 1950s style lectern pushed lazily against the pond casing, and in front of it a communion table from another era, in another style, just left there for no particular reason.

The lectern in use was a black and silver metal music stand. Unattractive, cheap. It was joined on stage by a trio of disorganised microphone stands. To the left at the rear was a non-descript blue tarpaulin flung over the drum kit. Another, quilted cover, partly covered the rarely used giant electric organ. The timber framed back of our wardrobe style piano faced us blankly.

Decoration was by way of two haphazardly placed living room sized vases with bunches of flowers completely out-scaled by the space, although nicely done in their own right. One on the banal plywood cover of the pond, the other on a tall stand, again styled incongruously with everything else in the space; as though we got it at a garage sale.

All this in contrast to the flash new million dollar extensions we've just completed.

A mess, haphazard; as though attention to surroundings is not church territory, putting the lie to the physicalness of God's creation. As though nothing has to be good, or considered or enjoyable; as though our space does not have to be a blessing to our guests, let alone ourselves.

Does this portray generosity; the light of our creator God who brought forth the world in love and creativity? Does it portray even basic care for the visual experience of the congregation or the atmosphere it produces?

No! The unspoken message was careless shabiness. Disdain for craft or joy. Disregard for the effort to deploy capabilty and resources with generosity. Not lavishly or to squander but generousity as an attitude pathed out of love and care.

It undid the sermon.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Beautiful Math

Note I sent to the author upon reading A Beautiful Math: 

Loving your book A Beautiful Math. I was hoping for a little more math than it has, but I've chased up a few of the papers you mention to get my math fix.

I was interested in your mention of Paley's watch. You pointed out that by comparison with natural processes a watch is quite simple. Merely a few springs and cogs, compared to the processes of nature.

But is this not the problem? We have an artefact sustained in significant (at least local) disequilibrium for no apparent reason; it has a specified function that is the result of a large number of coordinated dependency chains that are themselves in disequilibrium with their environment (e.g. production of brass requiring mining, refining, transport, smelting, etc, similarly for glass, paint and other components).

But, that aside; let's accept the simplicity of the watch. Compared to the complexity and interactions of the natural world, that surely raises the question that you in a question begging wave of the hand dismiss. If a simple ol' watch needs a designer, by induction, so does a more complex assembly of mutually dependent systems.

Of course, you dismiss this too, I guess because you prefer that reality is finally material and cognition, love and will are merely epiphenomena of stochastic material interactions, with no basic connection to Being. I differ on this and prefer to understand that fundamental to reality is mind (person); by implication, love, relationship and will are real: they have basic unconstructed connection to Being. I also think that this makes better sense of how people actually live.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

I'm a bad person

At church this morning, for the first time in my life (except of course at Randwick Baptist Church, but that was more of a circus for spooks than anything else back in the 80s) I had a visceral reaction to walk out of the sermon!

It happened this way.

The minister was conducting the service and our interim pastor was to give the sermon. As Chinese New Year has just passed we were treated to a bit of a show: choir that sang in both Cantonese and English (alternating verses), minister in a Chinese traditional shirt (nice touch).

It was explained that CNY was fundamentally a pagan celebration to get the 'gods' to be nice about the crops. So here we were, seeming to absorb a pagan practice without comment. It troubled me.

During the sermon it got worse.

The sermon was about stories we were involved in. CNY was a 'story', as was Australia Day (26th for those interested). We were then told how bad we were to Australian aborigines, how we'd invaded their land and done all sorts of wicked things.

We? Who did he mean? I don't do anything wicked to AAs. I pay them a lot of money via the tax system to in some cases subsidise their traditional life of child abuse, wife bashing and inter-tribal wars, augmented these days by alcohol. Maybe that's wicked, but that's down to successive governments just giving good money after bad, and not treating all equally: that is, get a job if you want money.

Maybe he had in mind the 'stolen generations' fiction. Probably given his age. But the accusation of cultural oppression, disregarding the great good that has come to AA as a result of the British settlement all those centuries ago, not to mention the work of missions, was appalling. That's when I felt the impetus to exit stage left.

Further we went to Nelson Mandela. Now he has said and done great things. But let's not forget the wicked things he's done too. The man has blood on his hands, and he wasn't jailed for being a peaceful freedom advocate, he was jailed for terrorist atrocities.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Creation (by Haydn)

I was amused to hear the announcer on ABC FM intro The Creation by Haydn, explaining that the problem for the librettist was that there was no story!

Unlike those who would have us believe that the creation account is (merely) a story, an arts person can see the blinding obvious: there's no story here folks, just facts; move along now.

Thus, of course, Haydn's librettist had to use his imagination to make a story out of the bare account he had to work from.