Category Archives: Faith

Love as Witness

First published May 2012 in the Minnesota Christian Examiner.

The recently released movie Blue Like Jazz is an interesting genre-challenging movie that will, or at least should, stir up some excellent conversation. Based on Don Miller’s semi-autobiographical book by the same title, it deals with Christian spirituality without being what would commonly be thought of as a Christian movie.

Some controversy surrounds the movie. It has an honesty and authenticity that connects with some and troubles others. It’s easy to understand why. Seeing uncomfortable or embarrassing church moments played out, or secular college campus life portrayed (albeit not condoned), are things you don’t expect from a “Christian movie”.

These were conscious decisions by Miller and director Steve Taylor. They, along with lead actor Marshall Altman, discussed this approach after a pre-screening of the movie at Macalester College in Saint Paul. Taylor spent some time describing some of the difficulties he encountered in making this movie. At one point, he emotionally described how some in the broader Christian movie industry had made statements and decisions that (it seemed to me) broke his heart. It was a sad moment.

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Doctors fail four-question test

I deeply hope I’m being snookered, but it seems not. In a Journal of Medical Ethics article entitled “After-birth abortion: why should babies live?” it is suggested that babies are not “actual persons” and do not have a “moral right to life”. (I saw this here, which referred to here. I looked up the links above myself.) The journal is by BMJ, whose tagline is “Helping doctors make better decisions.”

There’s so much here that could and should be discussed, but there’s a very simple root to all of this. For all of man’s knowledge, advancement, and technology, we cannot come to agreement concerning the Big Questions of existence, and because of this, we do terrible things.

Here’s what I mean. I think there are really only four Big Questions:

  1. What is life?
  2. What is mind?
  3. What is truth?
  4. What is evil?

This hideous journal article’s conclusion is hideous because of it’s answer to each of these, but especially (1). And I needn’t put words into their mouths:

“We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.”

Seriously think about this for a moment.

How does this apply to the one day old. One week old? One year old? Or the mentally disabled? Or the physically disabled? Or the aged dementia sufferer? Or the terminally ill? Or the deeply depressed? Or mood-swinging teen?

I’m tempted to say this is utterly untethered from any sense of morality, but it’s worse than that. It’s sneaks in its own poorly defined and unjustified moral code. What does their test even mean?

If a newborn senses some kind of awe or pleasure at it’s first encounter with light, does that count? Or is that not cogent enough to fulfill “attributing” or “value”?

Babies sense their surroundings and respond to them with a sense of preference. I’ve seen mama leave a room and the baby start to cry. I’ve seen the baby cry at the environment change at birth. When a newborn first smiles because of recognizing mama or papa, does that count? Are they not expressing something like “I like this,” containing both “I” and “like”? Is it lack of language the dooms them to non-personhood, as if knowing a noun changing their state of being? Surely not.

But these are only questions on their own terms: saying that some level of response to or interaction with environment defines life and mind. But arguing at that level is folly. It’s not enough. There is something else, deeper and more difficult which is below all this. Without having a baseline sense of what life really is, or what mind really is, these doctors are simply children playing with toys they don’t understand.

The authors appear to be coming from, or at least unintentionally employing, a reductionistic, naturalistic, mechanistic set of values, but those values themselves are to be questioned. In my opinion, they do a poor job of answering those four questions, and so cannot be counted on to provide meaningful guidance.

Core questions are important. Here we see implications of philosophy and metaphysics; real life actions depend on this stuff. In this case, these men have found it worth using the euphemism “after-birth abortion” for what used to be abhorred as “infanticide” because of their answers to core questions. But, those answers being poor, their conclusions are contemptible.

So then I went to Oshkosh

The EAA air show in Oshkosh in Wisconsin, that is. flyGarmin was going to be released to the public for the first time in conjunction with the beginning of the air show. Garmin had a Monday morning press conference announcing all sorts of stuff, and flyGarmin was on the list. I was pacing around the whole day like an expectant father. How’s the site doing now? How’s the site doing now? The image to the left is the display we had to show flyGarmin off to folks. I got to “work the booth” occassionally, and the feedback was fantastic. Folks would come up as though they were paid to be in an infomercial; “Tell me you’ve done something to make updating my databases easier” “Why yes we have!”

So I hung out in Oshkosh for a few days, gathering feedback, seeing the kinds of things people were showing off at the show.

On my last evening, I decided to run out and get a bite to eat for supper. I drove around downtown Oshkosh wondering what I should get, and then I saw this:

I was driving when I took that photo. Yes, it says zero MPH. And see how all of the P, R, N, D, 1, 2 lights are on? That’s called “limp mode.” It means the computer sees something wrong with your car, and the transmission has been essentially shut down. Yeah, hundreds of miles from home, the day before I’m finally heading back home, and the transmission had gone out.

And I really wanted to go home. I’d been away for days.

Well, I limped back to where I was staying. Emailed Helen… “pray please”. I searched the internet looking for ideas. I found some transmission shops nearby, so I could get there first thing in the morning.

The next morning, I went out and tried the “turn the ignition on-and-off five times fast” to get the computer error codes. No luck. I tried the “hold down trip reset while turning on the ignition” to get the error codes. No luck.

Then my car just started working perfectly fine. The engine light was still on, but I took it for a one mile drive, and then a 20 mile drive… all seemed fine. I met my last commitment and headed home. The trip home went perfectly; I got 29 MPG.

And the car has been fine ever since. The engine light even went off before I could hook up my code reader to see what had been going on. I took this as a Nehemiah 9:21 thing. :)

Thoughts about a meeting

We’re considering a change in our church that would change our church government to an “elder-based” system. The Bible doesn’t say a whole lot about how to organize a local church, but it seem pretty plain that elders were the group saddled with leadership. We currently have a fairly common set-up where leadership authority and responsibility are split between three “branches”.

We’ve been looking at this topic for a couple of years. A vote was planned for next Sunday. We had “one last” Question-Answer meeting last night. It was interesting.

Because of newly raised questions and concerns, we began the meeting noting that there would actually be no vote next Sunday. That was to me a sad way to start the meeting, but there we were.

The really valuable thing which came from the meeting was the clear message that the message hasn’t been clear enough. People want to know how moving to an elder-based system would be different. Much of what was being asked has already been worked through, but no materials reflecting that were provided, so I think it’s fair and right that folks want to “hold the horses” until they see some of the details and goals better.

But there were parts of the meeting that – I’m not sure how to say it – grieved me.

There were folks that don’t want to change things, which isn’t surprising or even bad. What was surprising were some of the reasons and arguments. No one had a Biblical challenge to the idea, such as saying they don’t believe it’s correct to pursue an elder-based system based on this or that Scriptural concept or passage.

The “arguments” offered stuck me as being exactly the kinds of things that an individual might express if they were presented the idea that they may not be following Scripture. (For those friends of mine who read this and are not Christian, this may all seem very odd, but there’s just a basic idea that if you’re a Christian, you generally give ascent to the concept that the Bible is authoritative and applicable.) Here is some of what I heard (paraphrased the best I can remember), and thoughts I had afterwards, or that I thought it would not be kind or appropriate to express at the moment. I’d already spoken far more in that meeting than I’d wanted to. Also, these are solely my thoughts, not representing anyone else. And I might be too grumpy. You are forewarned.

Continue reading Thoughts about a meeting

J. P. Moreland-a-palooza


A friend recently asked me what I thought of [J. P. Moreland][1]. Unbelievably, I had little to say. :)

I’ve come across Moreland’s arguments in various places, but I’d never heard or read anything directly from him. Well, I’ve been listening to a whole bunch of his [Veritas Forum lectures (free MP3s)][2]. Good stuff. I recommend giving him a listen, especially if you’re interested in philosophy, meaning, and various modern worldviews.

New Atheism?


Last Friday (I think) I heard a long interview of Christopher Hitchens concerning his latest book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. He is a well-spoken and witty man, but during the interview he failed to progress much further than anger and weak logic, all with a dogmatic yet inexplicably founded moral tone.

There’s a fairly recent editorial about Hitchens’ book (and the “new atheist” trend overall) by Peter Berkowitz on the Wall Street Journal’s [Opinion Journal][1] titled “[The New New Atheist][1]” that’s well worth a look.

From the editorial:

> They contend that from the advantage point of the 21st century, and thanks to the moral progress of mankind and the achievements of natural science, we can now know, with finality and certainty, that God does not exist and organized religion is a fraud. The disproportion between the bluster and bravado of their rhetoric and the limitations of their major arguments is astonishing. gets a facelift

And a whole lot more. :)


I’ve finally switched on a group of changes I’ve been thinking about and working on for a long time. We had a site up, but it was basically straight WordPress, which just didn’t work well for what we were looking for.

Well, it’s still WordPress, but with a much more customized approach.

I decided to separate out what we did on our server and what we leveraged from somewhere else. Now, instead of trying to do our own calendars or use a pay service, I’m using Google Calendar and a nice plug-in for WordPress (which I’ve hacked slightly to serve my purposes). How wonderful to be able to add an event by typing “send Ken a check every second Thursday of the month at 10:30am” and have the system understand it and add it.

I’ve pulled together what I think is a novel use of static pages and categories into a pretty unified navigation system. The overall design is tableless, and (last I checked) valid XHTML and CSS. The CSS is virtually hack free with the exception of a conditional CSS inclusion for older IE due to their hideous treatment of overflow:visible. I can remove that later if I want to do a bit of a rework; we’ll see. I think I’d like to add a pre-IE6-era css file for simple display for folks with very old browsers; I’ll be keeping an eye on traffic stats to see if it’s worthwhile.

We’ll be podcasting Sunday messages shortly; just a plug-in and some set up. I have the audio already. The hardest part will be tracking down titles, references, and descriptions. (But it won’t be that hard.) Video is being served from and stored at Google Video (their server space, their professionally maintained cross platform player).

I’ll post a more detailed technical rundown on that site with links and comments. Time will tell, but I think we’ve landed on something we can really do some good stuff with.

If you have comments on the new site, I’d love to hear them. Use the email address on the site, or the comments here.