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Inspired and Profitable

It is such a joy to teach young people about the Word of God. God’s Word is our foundation for truth and life. Trying to increase the students’ understanding and memory of what was being taught, I came up with a diagram. Perhaps it will help you, too.

2 Tim 3-16

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Memory Lapse

I shared thoughts about 9/11 last year that I think still ring true. If you are interested, see “Has the World Really Changed?”

9/11 was not even mentioned at my school today. We went on as if it never happened. My students were not born until 2003. Two major hurricanes just hit back to back in the continental US. Political wrangling is more contentious than it has perhaps ever been in my lifetime. North Korea makes ever more credible threats with each passing year. Racial tension has again reared its ugly head in these United States. The economy is better and life is good. In other words, life has rendered us forgetful. No, that is a way of saying we have an excuse because some outside influence caused us to do what we would not have otherwise. No, we have either willfully forgotten or passively allowed forgetfulness. We don’t want to think about that event because it demands of us introspection about how we should react and will react. We would have to consider the continuation of dangers in the world which we know no solution for. Even more disturbing, we would have to consider that because of our on complicity we are part of the problem. Not me you say. I in no way caused 9/11. What have you done to make this a better, purer, kinder, stronger nation? Have you cried out to God for mercy? Have you sown peace and goodness in the land? Have you taken heed to God’s law and sought after His grace? I include myself. What have I done to remember the lessons of 9/11 that were never learned by this nation and forgotten by the few that did know them? I have much work to do in my personal life, but tomorrow I will convey the sense of what happened to my students who see it as textbook history, before their time. Allow your memory to lapse no more on this subject.

As to the memory of the events, I think that my daughter does them more justice than I am able just now. Here is what she said:

“My 8th grade English class was in the computer lab typing papers one Tuesday morning, when another teacher came in and told Mrs Ball (my teacher) to turn on the TV. Less than 10 minutes later, I watched in real time with shocked disbelief and trembling sadness as the Flight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center South Tower. Reports of the Pentagon being hit and speculation of other targets followed soon after. I saw the towers crumble. I saw the people running, covered in dust. I saw the NY police and firefighters. I saw the gaping hole in the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania. I saw the hysteria. I silently cried for those lost and prayed for our president.
The next day was so quiet. All planes were grounded.
In the following weeks however, the burst of nationalism was heard echoing across the country. “United We Stand!” “God bless America!” So many US flags appeared. So many people came together to grieve and hold each other up.
I still grieve. When I think of how easily we forget. When I consider the short lived community support. When I contemplate how quickly the crying out to God for help changed to reliance, expectation, and blame on the government.
September 11, 2001 ushered in a new era in our world. Ideas were shaken. Securities were questioned. Fear is the new normal.

So now what? Trust God.
The only way I have found to deal with truth and reality is to take all to Him who created it and me. Do I still feel the impact? Yes, but I don’t try to carry the burden.”

Loss of Faith

Having taught for 25 years, I have indeed seen many changes in public school. Some represent major cultural shifts while others reflect minor cycles of fad and fashion. One very curious change I have witnessed is a loss of faith in Science. Students used to almost universally confess that science and technology would eventually solve all of man’s problems. Disease will be defeated, genetic difficulties overcome, hunger eradicated, environmental problems will be historical artifacts of developing technologies, mysteries solved, a perpetual motion machine created that would solve all energy problemss, the galaxy traversed. Older minds may have written this off as so much blissful, youthful optimism and ignorance. Instead, I think that it was a product of a worldview that viewed science as the source and conduit of all truth. There were, of course, the rare skeptic that did not trust science or its message.

I see the opposite trend to be generally true today. It is the rare student that has an unflinching faith in Science, or anything for that matter, other than himself. Science and Technology have not solved all of our problems. Epidemics continue, hunger persists, climate change threatens, nuclear proliferation has rebooted, natural disasters terrorize, and people still don’t get along with each other. Unfulfilled expectations and personal discontent are on the rise. Science and technology are frequently viewed as the cause of environmental problems and stressed out living styles.

There could well be many sociological, cultural, and economic reasons for this shift, but I think that in a narrower sense of views about science as a human endeavor, both the blind faith in science and the skepticism of its merits arise from a basic misunderstanding of what the limits of science are. Science is neither the source and conduit of all truth nor the cause of the world’s most pressing problems. Science is a tool. As such it has limits. When I use my large ratchet as a hammer, I damage the tool and very poorly drive the pin I am trying to remove. In a similar way Science used in the wrong way brings harm to its prestige and to the understanding and application it is meant to drive. Science has at least 4 related limits.

Science may only be applied to things which are observable. This observation includes our 5 senses and any other remote sensing we may devise: camera, thermometer, radiation detector, ultrasound, etc. If only time, space, material, and energy exist as many insist, then this observability is not a limit. There is, however, evidence of more than the physical world (the source of beauty, information, purpose, emotions and will) and observability does not automatically exclude the spiritual realm. Scientists use inference (drawing conclusions) as a powerful tool, but it must be based on observation (quantitative data or measurement enable the observation to be unambiguous).

Science is also limited by the requirement of being testable. Scientists test hypotheses with controlled experiments to acquire a deeper understanding of the physical world. There are things that an experiment cannot test which nonetheless exist and effect our lives.

Scientific experiments must be repeatable. Other scientists must be able to use clearly set forth procedures and obtain the same results. If the results are different, some variable has not been controlled for or the experimenters were not careful enough in their observations. Therefore, scientists ask for procedures, data, and analyses from colleagues in order to determine if the conclusions are valid. The best way to do this is to repeat the experiment.

Finally, conclusions resulting from observations must be falsifiable. This does not mean that all evidence or conclusions will be falsified, but rather there must be the possibility of demonstrating that a conclusion is wrong. The essential function of Science is not to reveal truth but to eliminate falsehood. Based upon observation alone, one may never know for sure if something is true. But the ability to falsify wrong ideas narrows down what science accepts as true sufficiently to act upon it. This does not mean that there is no truth. It means that science does not have the ability to state truth in any absolute way. That must be done from other pursuits.

Many ideas are parading around, claiming to be scientific theories when they do not rise to the level of even a hypothesis, let alone a well substantiated hypothesis, that is, a theory. As an example, consider the issue of origins. How did we get here and how did it all begin? Can anyone who is living or has lived observe the beginning of the world? Since they cannot, can they possibly do an experiment on beginning a world? Is that experiment repeatable? If no experiment or observation by scientists may be done directly on the beginning of the world, then it is not a falsifiable idea. Therefore, though evidence may be given from subsequent events as to which version of origins is most likely, presuppositions are inevitably required in any discussion of origins. Another name for presuppositions, those assumptions made in order to begin a discussion or make inquiry, is beliefs. Any discussion of origins by definition is based on a worldview or belief system. It may be labeled religion or science, it does not matter, but it is essentially based on belief.

What this means for any discussion of origins is matching present evidence to the best presuppositional explanation. Does your belief about origins fit the evidence?

What this means about faith in or loss of faith in Science is a need to reconsider its value. Science is a valuable tool wielded by mechanics of varying training and skill, operating from differing worldviews. Retain a healthy skepticism that desires to understand what has been discovered and understood. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathe water. That is, don’t throw out the valuable tool of Science or the useful evidence it provides when you have to wade through false claims, poorly substantiated ‘theories’, intentionally falsified conclusions, or presuppositions that don’t match up with what you know to be true. Science is a useful tool.

Totality Awesome

We were made for something bigger explains John Piper. We want to see beauty, power, symmetry, the unexplainable, the amazing, because we were made to fellowship with God. So, because of our separation from Him, we seek the beauty of His works. And those of us who know Him want more of Hm even when our tendency is to run and hide sometimes.

Today’s solar eclipse has a perceived spiritual element to it that even the most seared of conscience recognize. It points us, not to some vague internal spirituality or external, non-personal energy field of the universe, but to the Designer, the Artist, the Author, Who writes with power upon the sky this day, and in reality, every day. We are so apt to make idols of God’s works, gods in our own image, but if we would turn these deep emotional high’s into occasions of praise of the Creator, then our knowledge of and joy in Him would be deepened. I wanted to see it all and give Him praise.

When we arrived in the vicinity Huckleberry Knob around 8 AM, several thousand people and several hundred tents having preceded us. We had to park about a 1/2 mile from the beginning of the 1 mile trail. It was an easy walk, but it felt more like arriving a crowded ballpark than a mountain top wilderness area. People were quiet and polite and moving around to fix breakfast or clean up. We all shared the same objective. The top of the knob was partitioned by personal space, each little group selecting a patch of grass to sit down in. Closest to the peak dozens of tripods held telescopes, cameras, and video cameras. Neighbors swapped shop talk about equipment, procedures, and arrival challenges. The long wait was light-hearted, with much visiting, snoozing, games, and rechecking equipment

The top of the knob had a cloud slowly swirling around it. It would build and then fade, but was not going away. My sons and I made a decision about 20 minutes after C1, which was obscured, to move out from under the clouds. With just over an hour until totality we ran down the one mile trail and the older son ran on to the car about 1/2 mile along the Skyway while we watched the equipment. We stopped once about 3 miles down the mountain to see about 1/2 solar coverage, but the cloud again obscured the scene after a few minutes. We finally stopped about 8 miles away from the top at Santeetlah Gap. There were perhaps a dozen people here and at least one who had exited the top of the mountain as we had. The crowd was less intense. A man nearby had an eclipse phone app; he turned up the volume so we could all anticipate the events. My youngest son and I maintained the telescope screen alignment in order to follow the progress to totality. I spread a sheet on the ground. As totality approached the dimming light caused me to think that my eyes were mal-adjusting to light. Insects began chirping as though near sunset. Shadow bands appeared faintly on the sheet at about one minute before C2. The temperature began dropping and dimming accelerated. We saw Bailey’s Beads caused by mountains on the Moon, but we did not see the diamond ring. 

Totality was simply awesome. The corona streamed out in light and dark bands to left and right at least one and one half sun diameters. My first reaction upon removing my eclipse glasses was that this did not look real but like it was airbrushed on the sky. My second thought was to want to sing the Doxology, which I did later, because here I was looking directly toward the Sun without eye protection and without damage, seeing one God’s wonders. It felt like a dim reminder of what Moses experienced when placed in the cleft of the rock seeing the afterglow of God’s glory. The corona’s silvery-white sheen with black streaks shown with an eerie, flame-like beauty. We could see stars all around the corona, including Venus to the right. My youngest son discerned a red star above the Sun. I will go back and see if that was Mars. The insects got quiet, the horizon we could see in various directions between mountains all showed of sunset colors.  The older son said afterwards that it was the fastest 2:36 of our lives. People around us exclaimed “awesome” and “wow” throughout totality as if refraining from voicing amazement was not possible.

The diamond ring came without warning at C4 as a bright flash we were unprepared to see. Rushing to put the eclipse glasses back on, I saw Bailey’s Beads again, followed by shadow bands. Insects came alive again. With each passing minute the light increased.

The show was not over but after about 10 minutes we realized that there were going to be thousands of cars coming off the mountain soon and tens of thousands coming out of every tributary road toward home. We grabbed our simple equipment hastily, including the sheet which was very damp with dew, and sped off down the road. On the 4-lane we met our first 30 minutes slowdown. We began to move again and assumed we had dodged the traffic bullet. We even stopped for about 5 minutes to watch C5.

But ease of travel was not to be this day. On US74 we ran into a slowdown for 2+ hours at an average speed of less than 10 mph. After passing a major intersection we sped onward only to be stopped for 2 1/2 hours on I-40 near Ridgecrest where a semi and trailer had plunged off of an embankment and was being winched back onto the road. Certainly getting the driver to the hospital was a priority, but I wonder why during a record traffic event the truck could not have been left until the next day. My sons were about to come out of their skin, so I urged them to walk forward to see what was holding us up. They estimated that they walked 4 miles. One remembered that we were low on fuel with no reasonable way to obtain any. He saw a pick-up truck with a gas can and asked if it had fuel. He asked the man how much he wanted for it and gave him $10 for the can and about one gallon of gas. The vehicle behind him gave them another gallon of gas. Without this quick thinking and generosity we almost certainly would have been part of the cause of traffic problems. Instead, we made it home without having to get gasonline. I decided while I waited that the eclipse/traffic combination was an analogy for much of life- 2 minutes of glory sandwiched between many hours of drudgery and difficulty. But if you accept that God gives joy in the glory and contentment in the mundane, you may enjoy life and see His hand at work in both. It took us 3 hours to get to the mountain from our home and 8 1/2 hours to get back home. Was it worth it? Yes, it was in my mind for what I saw and expereinced, with whom I experienced it, and from Who’s hand it was given.

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What have we gotten ourselves into?

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A light-footed jaunt

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Tent City

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The Art of Waiting

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An all too close flyby

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Let’s get serious

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Humble equpiment

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set-up

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Clouds are beautiful but this one is poorly timed

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I love mountain vegetation

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Ontario to Florida

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Adjacent blog

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OK!

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The color of a partial eclipse

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It takes all kinds and their pets

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Now its happening

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Check the secondary lens image

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Just don’t have the fancy equipment

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Almost there

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Totality!

New Rock

It’s a pity when life gets in the way of blogging (just kidding!). But I have so many thoughts and experiences from the summer that I could blog for quite some time. It is not likely to happen as I see more things happening soon, but that’s OK.

I did want to share a few thoughts and pictures. I don’t often suggest books for several reasons. I do more technical reading than reading for pleasure, and frankly many books don’t meet my high standard of what I would unreservedly pass on to those I call friends, or enemies for that matter since I want them to one day be friends. A book that I can enthusiastically suggest is “The Book That Made Your World, How the Bible Created the soul of Western Civilization” by Vishal Mangalwadi. Because of his culture and his faith he simultaneously looks at the West as an outsider and insider at the same time. I keep having the feeling that he is correcting much error from lies our culture has fed us about how we got to where we are. He uses personal experiences and copious quotes to show the deep imprint of the Bible on western culture. I think that you will hear more about it here once I am finished with it.

My friend, colleague, and climbing partner, CC, took me to two boulders I’d never been to before. In fact, he had only been there a few days before with another climbing buddy for the first time cleaning about ten problems, laying a thick base of branches in a wet spot, and clearing part of a large fallen tree. I was privileged to try out the new rock. I like to go back to old familiar routes, but there is a particular excitement about trying new routes, and particularly ones that haven’t been climbed before. I was definitely not climbing at the top of my game, only topping out on a V1 and 3 V2’s. I tried two V4 and got shut down. Both problems involved a gaston with my left hand that I could not stick. It has challenged me to train that weakness. On the second one I discovered that if I did a side pull with my right hand instead, I could top out to the left much easier. We both agreed that it would rate as a V2. I decided to name it “Easy Out”. The two pictures are of me on the right sidepull and the topout. We saw several Cardinal Flowers in the wet, rich spots by the creek. I definitely want to go back, and hopefully clean some problems on new rock myself. (Photo credit: CC with his phone)

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Lobelia cardinalis

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Taking it “Easy..”

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“Easy Out”

Sigh and Faith

One sentence from a comment on my last entry keeps coming back to me:

“A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.”        (G.K. Chesterton)

When I came across a small poem that I had written about a year ago and considered my daily struggles, it seemed an example of how I must doubt my sinful self and cling evermore so firmly to the saving truth that brings joy and confidence. This salvation is not a past tense thing, it is a continuous present tense thing:

A deep heavy sigh

To realize I’ve failed again

How can I reply

Other than repent of sin

Only live by faith

Letting God’s grace to shine through

Jesus first of all

In all life that I pursue

I read an article posted on Facebook (Someone reading this article is saying, “There was your first mistake.”) recently that was titled, “Want to be Smarter? Learn to Say “I Don’t Know” by Zat Rana. I think that the sense of the article is humility, which is a valuable virtue for all of life and particularly discussions of significant topics. Humility should rule all of our discussions and particularly those on profound and sublime subjects. He says early on, “Somehow, we have decided that it’s okay to hold beliefs based on blind affiliation rather than rigorous critical thought.” Far too much of that goes on, probably because assenting to ideas by affiliation is easier than researching a topic and coming to your own conclusions. Also, he says, “more often than not, the issue lies in our inability to humbly accept that we don’t and can’t know everything; that, often, we are wrong.”

So far I am tracking with him. But immediately he charges into his defense of his position with his first point: “The Irrationality of Certainty”. His most supporting thought is that “Certainty is an illusion, and there is no shame in being wrong because, by nature, our entire perception of the world is wrong.”  Now life truly is a balancing act, and we must hold many of our ideas lightly, but saying that there is nothing about which you can be certain, because it is an illusion, reduces all of life to relativism, which is illogical according the law of non-contradiction. Just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean it isn’t certain or that you can’t know it. There are things of substance that I can know for sure, not because I have all of the data, but because I know the One who does. There are absolutes and they can be known. There are many things I must hold lightly and be ready to be corrected and informed, but there are others I stake my life on.

His next sub-title is “The Disease of Blind Affiliation”. His contention is that “we form a connection to something that we fundamentally haven’t questioned.” In many scenarios of politics and tradition and even religious thinking, what he says is so very true, but don’t use this as an excuse not to make commitments about what is true. The agnostic view of the world and God is an excuse not to make a commitment that will require change and conviction. It reminds me of what the writer of Acts says about the Athenians concerning their questioning of Paul: “Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.” Act 17:21 This is how many avoid commitment to the truth: “…always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” II Timothy 3:7

“What is truth?” (John 18:38), Pilate asked Jesus. Was Pilate opened-minded? Was he seeking for truth? The evidence of the passage (John 18:29-19:18) is that he wanted to feel important, secure, popular, and in control, but he was not interested ultimately in what was true or right. His attempts to rescue Jesus were to avoid repercussions either from the crowd or some vague sense of a wrathful deity. Is it any different now? “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;  and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32-33), said Jesus. If you don’t start with God’s Word you certainly can’t continue in it. I urge you, dear reader, to dig into the Word of God and plead with God to reveal to you truth. It exists; it is unchanging; it is life changing; you can know with certainty; it will keep you humble.