There is a scene in The West Wing where President Jed Bartlett fires off round after round of ridicule as he pretends to apply Old Testament laws to his life. Should he put to death his staffer for working on the Sabbath, or get the police to take over? Should footballers wear gloves to avoid touching the pigskin ball? What price could he get if he sold his daughter as a slave? (more…)
I’ve written plenty of letters to our parliamentarians regarding particular policy issues, sometimes quite critical of positions they’ve taken. But have I taken time to thank them. Here’s my attempt at the end of the current term of our federal Parliament… (more…)
I love art. I have to say that because nobody believes I do when I speak on idolatry. It’s the same with music. I have to protest my love of music whenever I question something about the use of music in Christian life. My protestations matter little to those who have art or music as their idols. However, I hope that you, dear reader, will not dismiss my criticisms as the mere prejudice of a Philistine. I do love art. (more…)
This is the last Saturday post focusing on a past Briefing article on ethics, infertility and in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in anticipation of the subject of the next issue of The Briefing. To recapitulate, first, we grappled with Michael Hill’s question of how much (and whether) humans should meddle with God’s creation. Then Kirsten Birkett showed us what happens when science and technology, ethics and morality, and human rights rub up against one another. Then we watched Andrew Cameron deconstruct some of the rhetoric surrounding the 2002 debate in Australia about when life begins. This week, Megan Best navigates the minefield of cloning, stem cell research and Australian government policy to figure out how Christians should think about these things:
These Saturday posts are looking at past Briefing articles on ethics, infertility and in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in anticipation of the subject of the next issue of The Briefing. First, we grappled with Michael Hill’s question of how much (and whether) humans should meddle with God’s creation. Then Kirsten Birkett showed us what happens when science and technology, ethics and morality, and human rights rub up against one another. This week, Andrew Cameron deconstructs some of the rhetoric surrounding the 2002 debate in Australia about when life begins:
If you’ve just joined us, this next lot of Saturday posts will focus on the thorny landscape of ethics, infertility and in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in keeping with the subject of the next issue of The Briefing. Last week, Michael Hill worked through the question of how much (and whether) humans should meddle with God’s creation. This week, Kirsten Birkett looks at what happens when science and technology, ethics and morality, and human rights rub up against one another:
In the second instalment of a five-part series, we contemplate the extent of our significance in the universe.(Read part 1.)
We’ve been looking at Psalm 8, and we’ve discovered that stargazing helps us to see how insignificant we really are.
Just think about the size of space for a moment. Imagine you could get into the fastest jet on earth (last time I checked, this was the SR-71 Blackbird). Its official speed record is almost 2,500 miles per hour. Now imagine you could speed it up 100 times to 250,000 miles per hour. Then imagine that you could take it on a trip to space. It would take you an hour to get to the moon—that’s pretty reasonable! It would take you eight days to get to Mars, the closest planet to Earth. It would take you four months to get to the planet Saturn (remember, we’re travelling 100 times faster than the fastest jet ever built). It would take you a year and a half to get to the planet Pluto at the edge of our solar system. To get to the closest star to the sun, Proxima Centauri, it would take you 12,000 years. To get to the centre of our own Milky Way galaxy, it would take you 80 million years. To the next closest galaxy, Andromeda, it would take you seven billion years. To get to the edge of the visible universe, it would take you 40 million million years. And they think that the size of the non-visible universe is vastly huger than this: that would take you a million million million million, etc. years.
Note: this is the first instalment of a five-part series.
I’m a fan of space. I don’t actually know much about the details of astronomy or cosmology or astrophysics; I just think that the space is really cool.
If there are any real scientists reading this, I want to say thanks. I know that most of your work involves boring and tedious searching, collating and number crunching. Thanks for doing all that stuff so that I can see those fantastic pictures of nebulas on the internet and wonder at it all.
For example, I’m a fan of millisecond pulsars. A gigantic star, millions of light years away, explodes in a huge supernova. It creates a fireball ten million billion billion times bigger than Hiroshima. In its ashes, it leaves behind a neutron star made of dense atomic nuclei, squashed together at a density 10 trillion times greater than steel. A teaspoon full of neutron star weighs about the same as Sydney Harbour. Sometimes this neutron star will steal stuff from a nearby star and start spinning. Some neutron stars spin hundreds of times a second—a whole star rotating as fast as an idling car engine. Many of these super-dense, revving stars send out pulses of electromagnetic radiation, milliseconds apart. And we might be able to use these millisecond pulsars as standard cosmological clocks to help us detect gravitational waves, explore space-time bending, and understand more about the tiniest particles in the universe.
But apart from the wow factor, what’s the point of learning about space?
Christians are arguing about emotions and passionate outpourings. Some exalt in these experiences, and see in them the revival of true and authentic Christianity; others decry the emotional hysteria of easily manipulated crowds, and assert that rational, mature Christianity needs to rise above such gross displays of experientialism.
Sound familiar? It is a (rough) description of the mid-18th-century American context for Jonathan Edwards’s classic work A Treatise on the Religious Affections.
The Bible is full of horrifying and lurid images of what divine judgement will be like. So Psalm 21, for example, begins innocuously enough. If, like me, you are a Psalm skimmer-overer, you will have skimmed this one many times without noticing it properly, lying as it does in the rainshadow of the majestic Psalm 22 and the world-famous Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my Shepherd”). The Psalmist writes: