Do you need to be needed?

“[T]he proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift. We feed children in order that they may soon be able to feed themselves; we teach them in order that they may soon not need our teaching. Thus a heavy task is laid upon this Gift-love. It must work towards its own abdication. […]  A much higher love—a love which desires the good of the object as such, from whatever source that good comes—must step in and help or tame the instinct before it can make the abdication. And of course it often does. But where it does not, the ravenous need to be needed will gratify itself either by keeping its objects needy or by inventing for them imaginary needs. It will do this all the more ruthlessly because it thinks (in one sense truly) that it is a Gift-love and therefore regards itself as ‘unselfish.’”

—C. S. Lewis, in The Four Loves

On sleep

This month’s edition of the National Geographic magazine has an article on sleep. The author interviewed a William Dement, and asked him what he knew, after 50 years of research, about the reason we sleep. His response: “As far as I know, the only reason we need to sleep that is really, really solid is because we get sleepy.”

My aim isn’t to bash science and scientists, like some Christians are wont to do.  However, I can’t help but smile when the Creator confounds His creation. Here’s one way I think the Bible answers the journalist’s question: sleep is a reminder from God of our dependence on Him. He’s the One who never slumbers nor sleeps. We need to sleep; a lack of it would literally kill us.

I also find it interesting that in the new heavens and new earth there will be no night, from which it can be inferred that there’ll no longer be a need for sleep. Hmmm… that means I need to enjoy all my sleep in this life!

On patriotism

“[Patriotism] becomes militant only to protect what it loves. In any mind which has a pennyworth of imagination it produces a good attitude towards foreigners. How can I love my home without coming to realise that other men, no less rightly, love theirs? Once you have realised that the Frenchmen like café complet just as we like bacon and eggs—why, good luck to them and let them have it. The last thing we want is to make everywhere else just like our own home. It would not be home unless it were different.”

—C. S. Lewis, in The Four Loves

Nature doesn’t teach

Nature never taught me that there exists a God of glory and of infinite majesty. I had to learn that in other ways. But nature gave the word glory a meaning for me. I still do not know where else I could have found one. I do not see how the ‘fear’ of God could have ever meant anything to me but the lowest prudential efforts to be safe, if I had never seen certain ominous ravines and unapproachable crags. And if nature had never awakened certain longings in me, huge areas of what I can now mean by the ‘love’ of God would never, so far as I can see, have existed.

Of course the fact that a Christian can so use nature is not even the beginning of a proof that Christianity is true. Those suffering from Dark Gods can equally use her (I suppose) for their creed. That is precisely the point. Nature does not teach. A true philosophy may sometimes validate an experience of nature; an experience of nature cannot validate a philosophy. Nature will not verify any theological or metaphysical proposition […]; she will help to show what it means.

—C. S. Lewis, in The Four Loves

Faulty logic

A long while back, I mused on the use of the word ‘harvest’ in the New Testament. Well, as it turns out, I fell for the illegitimate totality transfer fallacy.

In studying the Bible, this happens when one takes one (among many) meanings of a Greek or Hebrew word and reads it into every occurrence of that word in the Bible, regardless of context.

It is actually quite easy to commit a logical fallacy…  Have a look at (or listen to) Logic and Fallacies: Thinking Clearly. My favourite, so to speak, is the slippery slope fallacy, in which an argument is made against a position by saying there will be a series of increasingly unacceptable events which will follow, for example:

  • If you pass legislation against abortion on demand then poor women will not be able to afford to keep their babies and we’ll have dangerous back-street abortions.
  • If I make an exception for you then I have to make an exception for everyone. (I’ve used this one many times, utterly convinced of its truth).

The other logical fallacies dealt with are:

  • fallacies of ambiguity;
  • the faulty dilemma (where two options are given by the speaker when in reality more exist);
  • the complex question (the one which, whatever your answer, you’re a fool, eg “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”);
  • Psychological and emotional arguments: appeal to force, appeal to pity, appeal to consequences;
  • Over-generalisations: character assassination, appeal to popularity, hasty generalisations;
  • Begging the question i.e. assuming what you want to prove;
  • Straw man i.e. attacking an argument that is different from, and usually weaker than an opponent’s position;
  • Genetic fallacy: Rejecting an idea because of where it comes from, e.g. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”;
  • Post hoc fallacy: Two events happen in parallel, and you assume one caused the other. (Non-Christians often accuse us of this in relation to answered prayer).

I kinda like it

So far on this blog, I’ve posted stuff I’ve done that has had no impact outside myself. Not this time. I’ve completed a redesign for my church website, a process filled with ups and downs. I more like than dislike the product of my labour, there’s something I just can’t put my finger on. That said, for sure it is a step up from the previous design I did in 2007.

Here’s how one page on the site looked today morning: Continue reading

God is…

Here’s a quote from Ricky Alcantar in the February 2010 Next webzine, quoting Herman Bavinck, as quoted by Wayne Grudem in Systematic Theology.

“Reading my systematic theology textbook this week I came across this list of the different ways Scripture describes God:

God is compared to a lion (Isa. 31:4), an eagle (Deut 32:11), a lamb (Isa. 53:7), a hen (Matt 23:27), the sun (Ps. 84:11), the morning star (Rev 22:16), a light (Ps 27:1), a torch (Rev 21:23), a fire (Heb. 12:29), a fountain (Ps 36:9), a rock (Deut. 32:34), a hiding place (Ps. 119:114), a tower (Prov. 18:10), a moth (Ps 39:11), a shadow (Ps 91:1), a shield (Ps 84:11), a temple (Rev 21:22)… God is called bridegroom (Isa. 61:10), husband (Isa. 54:5), father, (Deut 32:6), judge and king (Isa. 33:22), man of war (Ex. 15:3), builder and maker (Heb 11:10), shepherd (Ps 23:1), physician (Ex. 15:26)…

Why all the different images? Why all these descriptions of God?

Because he is infinite and we are not. Because with each picture he’s getting across to us as finite creatures just a small glimpse of who he really is.”

Or, Nelima quoting Ricky Alcantar quoting Wayne Grudem quoting Herman Bavinck!

What a difference 3 hours make…

I currently have lots and lots of free time, not out of any design of my own. It can be mind-numbingly boring so I have to be a little creative in finding stuff to do. Somehow, earlier today, I ended up on this page. I thought, “I can redesign that!”

Here below are before and after shots, taken on Firefox (Internet Explorer and Chrome were doing funny things I had no desire to fix 🙂 ). The result is a page that doesn’t look like it was designed in the 1990s Continue reading

A scholarly overview of the psalms

Did you know that the Psalms are the OT book most quoted in the NT, with psalm 110 leading the way.

The Psalter is divided into 5 books (probably alluding to the Pentateuch), each ending in a benediction and ‘Amen’. Book 5 ends in an extended benediction comprising chapters 146-150 (the Hallelujah psalms).

The superscriptions identify David as author of 73 psalms, found mostly in books 1 and 2. Other authors include the Sons of Korah (11 psalms), Asaph (12 psalms), Solomon (possibly two psalms), and Moses (one). ‘Orphan psalms’ do not identify the author.

Psalm 1 introduces the whole Psalter. This psalm presents two models for life: the righteous man and the wicked man. This dual polarity is found elsewhere in the Bible— in Proverbs, listening to Lady Wisdom or Lady Folly; or, in Jesus’ words, the narrow gate and the wide gate, building on sand or on the rock, good trees producing good fruit and bad trees producing bad fruit. In this way, in addition to providing guidance to worship, the Psalms contribute to the overall theme of Scripture. Continue reading