Friday, October 28, 2011

Series with Christopher Hitchens at American Jewish University

A number of videos I was looking at which related to God and science in one way or another.

I wasted a good part of the day looking at videos such as above.  Here are some of the ones I thought were pretty interesting.  What I still don't understand is how none of the prominent people say anything about the sheer impossibility of random mutations producing anything like the living world we see.  Berlinski is the best to point this out.  Most of the videos have other segments as well.  I also was surprised at Francis Collins' dismissal of intelligent design as, "what if it's wrong and it is just God of the gaps."

There is another set of videos with Hitchens about eternal questions, which I thought was good but haven't finished viewing.  I'll paste after.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Discussions with Atheists

What have I been up to?  I just finished this video on a debate with several atheists, including Richard Dawkins and several theists including William Craig in Mexico.  It is almost two hours long.

What I don't understand is how Dawkins keeps getting away with saying that the wonderful process of natural selection could produce the complexities we observe.  What is it exactly we are trying to get at in these debates?   Was this basically a debate about philosophy, then?

As usual, I find that atheists get quite rude in their language.  They cannot content themselves with making their argument.  Part of the argument is always that the opposing side is arrogant, condemning, hateful, lazy and stupid.  I had myself a little battle here this week, that went somewhat that way.  And the language gets ratchet up immediately once you disagree with Dawkins or natural selection.

In the video below there is a speaker Sean Stephenson, a very encouraging man.  He also made an extremely cogent comment toward the end of the debate above.  He also has a cute aside at Richard Dawkins in this talk below.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


While driving around today, I listened to CBC radio, 740 AM dial, as I usually do in the car when by myself.  I enjoyed this episode on mid-life quite a bit.  Rarely, does this subject get treated in a thoughtful manner although it is a rather jarring time of life, often Job-like, as the psychiatrist mentions.

The first comment on the website regarding the show asks: "What about women?"  It is a good question.  The program did not deal with women, at all.  But we can't have everything at once.  This was a good episode.  Perhaps, we can have another on women.

Having Christian faith would, of course, add a completely different dimension to this, yet.  I would not want to go through this without prayer and song, faith and faith community.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Richard Dawkins at Costco

Never have I paid any money for a book by Richard Dawkins.  Once someone lent me one of theirs but I only read several chapters.  Somehow he is not very readable; he drones on and on, though some of the information was essentially interesting to me.  I think there is a pedantic way of demonstrating that we are all pretty stupid, that somehow puts me to sleep.

Today, I looked a new book by Richard Dawkins at Costco. It pictured a man on the edge of a magnificent canyon, perhaps the Grand Canyon--quite breathtaking.  The title is, you have probably seen it, "The Magic of Reality.  How we know what's really true."  This, in spite of my limited reading of the man, seems to me to be vintage Richard Dawkins.  When we see a wonderful waterfall we don't have to fall down and worship a Creator, we can be just as awed at "Reality".   It's awesome, even without God, or something like that.  We have all heard him go on how stupid it is to believe in God, the spaghetti monster, blabla.  People must be cured of their idiotic mindset. The title is so very true to form.  Still we should be awestruck by the "magic" of reality.  Shouldn't he use a different word from "magic."

I opened the book and read two pages at random.  Often this random reading of some sentences indicates the overall quality of the book to me.  I generally know if I will like it or not.  What I found left me literally laughing out loud in the isle.  It took me some time to calm myself.  It was tremendous.

So I'll tell you what did I get:  "Was there a first human?  Well, no, there was no first human that we can say."  It is hard to explain says Dawkins but picture this:  "Take a photograph of yourself and then put one on top of your father and then on top of that of your grandfather and when you do this at length and your stack is about three miles long, you will have a picture of you ancestor of how ever many eons ago.  You can see this picture when you turn the page."  Well, of course, we have to turn the page to see our ancestor, the first human, though there is no such thing--it turns out it is a fish!!! Yikes!

Ok, we knew that Richard Dawkins thinks that somehow by some direct line of descend over a long period of time we turned from fishes into humans.  Even I can't say how God made fishes or humans, but we are supposed to get from this demonstration (for idiots) that there was no First human being.  Somehow, somewhere we became human, just like "a baby imperceptibly turns into a toddler".  You can't tell what day it ceased being a baby and what day it began being a toddler.

A FISH TURNING INTO A HUMAN BEING IS LIKE A BABY TURNING INTO A TODDLER!  Did I just read this?  This is the great famous, so very serious about his atheism, has to lecture the whole world about how stupid they are to believe in God, Richard Dawkins telling me this?

I could not contain myself.  You think we are fools but the most humble among us can see the ridiculousness of this.  It does not look good.  It reads like stand-up comedy to me.  But I know you are dead serious.  This makes it even more comic.

Thanks for the laugh.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Norman Nagel's podcasts

Under this heading you get all the podcasts produced at Issues, etc. with Norman Nagel.  Totally worth listening over and over, again.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Let's go shopping at CPH

Flannery's letters

As I said, after the fiction, I am getting around to the letters of Flannery O'Connor.

Today, I underlined this:

I don't think you should write something as long as a novel around anything that is not of the gravest concern to you and everybody else and for me this is always the conflict between a attraction for the Holy and the disbelief in it that we breathe in with the air of the times.  It's hard to believe always but more so in the world we live in now... I can't allow any of my characters, in a novel anyway, to stop in some halfway position.  This doubtless comes of a Catholic education and a Catholic sense of history--everything works toward its true end or away from it, everything is ultimately saved or lost. Haze is saved by virtue of having wise blood;  it's too wise for him ultimately to deny having wise blood;  it's too wise for him ultimately to deny Christ.  Wise blood has to be these people's means of grace--they have no sacraments.  The religion of the South is a do-it-yourself religion, something which I as a Catholic find painful and touching and grimly comic.  It's full of unconscious pride that lands them in all sorts of ridiculous religious predicaments.  They have nothing to correct their practical heresies and so they work them out dramatically.  If this were merely comic to me, it would be no good, but I accept the same fundamental doctrines of sin and redemption and judgment that they do.
... Haze knows what the choice is and the Misfit knows what the choice is--either throw away everything and follow Him or enjoy yourself by doing some meanness to somebody, and in the end there's no real pleasure in life, not even in meanness.  I can fancy a character like the Misfit being redeemable, but a character like Mr. Shiftlet as being unredeemable.  (letter to John Hawkes, Sept. 13, 1959)

It is the part about the "half-way" position which grabbed me, but also the "self-made" religion without sacraments.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Flannery, my new friend

If I've seemed a little distracted from my blog, it is due to travelling but also due to the reading of Flannery O'Connor.

I have finished all her fiction and am working on the "Occasional Prose" and "Letters."  Actually, it was Samuel Scoville who has kindly put me onto her, and for a change, my husband and I have been enjoying some American short stories and short novels.

Here is a great blog titled "If Flannery had a blog", with wonderful quotes and stories.  This is a great place to start to get an idea of what she is about.

Flannery O'Connor was a Roman Catholic writer with overtly religous themes.  She makes you think deeply to figure out what the story, life, and your life is about.  She also surprises you with dramatic turns of events, which are often shocking but revealing.

Sam likes to say that Flannery O'Connor showed him that religion can "smart and be smart".  He also thought that as  Lutheran I might have more in common with her than I would expect, which has turned out to be true. Thanks, Sam.

Monday, October 10, 2011

"Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide."

Such a wonderful hymn so simply and lovingly sung.  "Lord Jesus Christ with us abide."  It is contained in the new LSB, Lutheran Service Book, # 585.

Our preacher at the anniversary service this weekend in Medicine Hat referred to it.  We enjoyed a special gathering this weekend for a Lutheran congregation's 100th anniversary.  I love this hymn, but can't recall that we have ever sung it in a service.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


This is the second time in the past month that I have heard about and met people who were drawn to the Hare Krishna's through their shelters during the hippie years.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Catechism Seminar for Pastors and Evangelists in Africa

See Lutherans in Africa.

The Gospel is proved by the fact that it has survived in spite of so many enemies.

Becker, p. 178 and 179.

Luther was convinced that only the Holy Ghost, working through word and sacrament, can bring men to faith and an acceptance of the Christian gospel.  Therefore we would expect him to lay little stress on Christian evidences.  But the fact is that he does not reject this approach completely.  He says, for example, that the Bible is proved to be the Word of God by the fact that while the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans  and many others have tried to destroy it, it has nevertheless survived all its enemies.

Luther sees one of the strongest proofs for the truth of the gospel in the very opposition that it engenders.  The mark of true and divine promises is that they disagree with reason, and that reason does not want to accept them.  There is no more certain sign that something is of God that that it is against reason and above our way of thinking.  The gospel is a preaching which offends men--not only men of no consequence, but the holiest, the wisest the most pious and most powerful men on earth.  When the fury of the tyrants and the heretics and the scandal of the cross come to an end, it is a certain sign that the pure doctrine of the Word has been lost.

"Paul holds that if it is preached with undisturbed peace, this is a certain sign that it is not the gospel.  On the other hand, when the world sees that the preaching of the gospel is followed by great tumults, disturbances, offenses, divisions, etc, it considers this to be a certain sign that the gospel is a heretical and seditious doctrine.  Thus God puts on the devil's mask and the devil puts on God's and God wants to be recognized under the mask of the devil and the devil is to be rejected under the mask of God."

Thus it is evident that if our gospel were received peacefully, it would not be the true gospel.

In evaluating these arguments, however, we must note that these evidences are entirely Biblically based and oriented.  They are merely variations of the scriptural test of the fulfillment of prophecy  (Deuteronomy 18:21 f;  I Kings 22:28;  Isaiah 41:22f).  The Savior had said that his words would not pass away (Matthew 24:35).  The fact that the Bible has survived all the concerted attacks of the centuries fulfills this prediction.  Moreover, the Bible says that the unconverted man will always consider the gospel to be foolishness (I Corinthians 2:14).

From The Foolishness of God by Siegbert Becker (c) 1982 Northwestern Publishing House ( All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Confession and Absolution

While we were gone, we visited some friends in another city.  My friend is a new Lutheran and deeply appreciative of all that has been given to her in the pure gospel and good theology.  It was an incredibly pleasure to meet her in person and talk and worship together, a great gift from God for both of us.

I have found that new Lutherans are such an incredible source of inspiration and joy as they cling to Jesus with all that is in them.  My friend will not go one single Sunday without receiving the Lord's Supper.  She will not go one single Saturday without going to Confession and Absolution.  She wants grace and more grace and all she can receive after decades of starvation.

She invited me to go with her to Private Confession and Absolution, as I had said to her before that this never seems to come up in any sermons with any of my pastors and I'd never been availed myself of the practice, though I have frequently read about it in Luther and how incredibly important the practice was for him.

On occasion, over the years, I have also palpated the words for this in the catechism and in the hymnal and felt that this would be a good thing.  At times, pastors in other congregations who are my friends will talk about their own "Father's confessors", and their practice of going to Confession and Absolution.  It always moved me deeply to think that these shepherds have this practice for themselves.

So, I was ready and since we had talked about this in generalities before, I had actually hoped that something like this might transpire.  In my old age, I am not as easily terrified as when younger, so I looked forward to it, as long as the pastor was ok with it.  The pastor asked me some things about my home congregation and my own pastor, and we established some rapport.  etc.  We followed LSB, p. 292.  I cried a little bit, but oh well.

What do I think of it now? I think it is wholesome to spend some time thinking about, talking about, and confessing your own sins, since we much more readily want to rehash everybody else's.  It is good to spend some time on the commandments and the penitential psalms.  Secondly, it was a blessing to actually have someone who will be dedicated to listening to you.  This is really quite a gift.  We talk so much, but there is so much hot air and so much inconsequential noise that we don't often get to the bottom of things.  And then there is the most important thing, the absolution, this time with your own name in the same sentence as  God's.

It's not that I don't know that God forgives, and forgives even me, and I don't have peace as a result of this knowing, but God has given me the gift of a shepherd and a brother who will personally deliver this message to me.  This is something special that God also wants me to have.  And this is what Jesus sent out the apostles especially for:  to forgive sins.  (John 20)  We keep forgetting this.

I can see that this is also good for the pastor.  He will get to know his people this way and be able to preach more appropriately.

Issues, etc. has some interviews on the subject.  John Pless of Concordia Seminary, Ft. Wayne, also has posted a related paper titled:  "Your pastor is not your therapist."  Here is another paper on the subject.  Here is a good personal story on the subject.  I stole the gorgeous Rembrandt from the last link.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Well, now it's October and I should be finishing the Becker.  If you are interested you might like to have a look at my pictures, as I was able to enjoy a very interesting holiday with my husband looking up relatives, as well as Facebook friends.  We drove down the coast of Washington state and Oregon returning via seeing the mountains of the coastal region.

The reading material along the way consisted of reading the collected works of Flannery O'Connor, American novelist and short story writer.  She has been mentioned much among my Facebook friends and she has certainly been a great discovery for me and my husband.  She rounded out the American experience for us.  The theology behind the stories made for great food for thought and discussion along the way.

Mount Hood on the South Face

Mount Hood's North Side with Orchards


From the lighthouse at Cape Disappointment

Oregon coast with rain

Astoria, Oregon

Mount Rainier at Paradise

Mount St. Helens from the closest observatory