Education Quotes

It is said that another evangelist told John Wesley: “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book learning, your Greek and Hebrew.” Wesley is said to have replied:

“Thank you sir. Your letter was superfluous, as I already knew the Lord has no need of my ‘book learning’ as you put it. However, although the Lord has not directed me to say so, on my own responsibility I would like to say, the Lord does not need your ignorance either.”

–Maybe a quote of John Wesley

When my sons complain that a good book is hard to read, I say, “Raking is easy, but all you get is leaves; digging is hard, but you might find diamonds.”

—John Piper, Future Grace

The wise prefers the good,
the fool prefers the pleasant.

—John Michael Talbot, “Smaller Than Small”

The young man of leadership caliber will work while others waste time, study while others snooze, pray while others daydream.

—J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership

Discipline in early life, which is prepared to make sacrifices in order to gain adequate preparation for the life-task, paves the way for high achievement.

—J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership

If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention, than to any other talent.

—Isaac Newton

We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.

—Benjamin Franklin

Grace and Peace

Give her physics

“Ah, the poor child! My Lord, we do wrong to keep our guests standing. Quick, some of you! Take them away. Give them food and wine and baths. Comfort the little girl. Give her lollipops, give her dolls, give her physics, give her all you can think of–possets and comfits and caraways and lullabies and toys. Don’t cry, little girl, or you won’t be good for anything when the feast comes.”

From C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair, chapter 8: “The House of Harfang”

A great thought for a child who has been out in the cold: “Give her physics.” However, C.S. Lewis’s grasp of English was obviously better than mine. I didn’t know this, but the word Lewis uses here is the plural of “physic” not “physics.” A physic is:

1 a: the art or practice of healing disease b: the practice or profession of medicine2: a medicinal agent or preparation (from the Merriam-Webster dictionary).

I still like to think that the giants in The Silver Chair knew that somehow a good dose of Newton and Einstein would be good for Jill and her companions.

Grace and Peace

Creation Care Skeptics

From Christianity Today: Dobson, Others Seek Ouster of NAE Vice President. Subtitle: Interim president Leith Anderson says he supports Richard Cizik’s work on creation care.

More than two dozen evangelical leaders are seeking the ouster of the Rev. Richard Cizik from the National Association of Evangelicals because of his “relentless campaign” against global warming.

In a March 1 letter to L. Roy Taylor, chairman of the NAE Board, Focus on the Family Chairman James Dobson and others said the NAE vice president’s activism on global warming is “a threat to the unity and integrity” of the organization.

“The issue that is dividing and demoralizing the NAE and its leaders is related to global warming,” wrote the leaders, none of whom are members of the association. “If he cannot be trusted to articulate the views of American evangelicals on environmental issues, then we respectfully suggest that he be encouraged to resign his position with the NAE.”

Perhaps the NAE needs to move cautiously, as there is obviously not great unity among Evangelicals on the issue of climate change. On the other hand, I applaud the fact that leaders such as Cizik are placing a much greater emphasis on “creation care” than has been the case up until now. How we care for the environment is an important issue, and many conservative leaders (religious or political) give lip service to “conservation” or “stewardship,” but support policies that lead to continued degradation of nature.

I liked the observation of Don at The Evangelical Ecologist:

Really, guys – there are lots of us Evangelicals out here, and we serve the God that created the whole universe with a word. I think we can handle more than one “great moral issue” at a time.

Grace and Peace

Even the skeptics are skeptical

I posted last week about the Discovery Channel “documentary” “The Lost Tomb of Jesus”. My one word summary was, “absurd.” Don’t lose sleep over this one; even the folks at Scientific American magazine (who are normally not very friendly to Christianity) are ripping this one apart.

Says Scholar Whose Work Was Used in the Upcoming Jesus Tomb Documentary: “I think it’s completely mishandled. I am angry.” — From Scientific American’s blog SciAm Observations.

Don’t let your faith be troubled by this one.

Human Rice

An article in Friday’s Washington Post has an article with the headline USDA Backs Production of Rice With Human Genes.

The Agriculture Department has given a preliminary green light for the first commercial production of a food crop engineered to contain human genes, reigniting fears that biomedically potent substances in high-tech plants could escape and turn up in other foods.

The plan, confirmed yesterday by the California biotechnology company leading the effort, calls for large-scale cultivation in Kansas of rice that produces human immune system proteins in its seeds.

The proteins are to be extracted for use as an anti-diarrhea medicine and might be added to health foods such as yogurt and granola bars.

This is not the first time human genes have been inserted into other species. For instance, by inserting the human gene for insulin into a bacteria, we can mass produce human insulin. On the surface, this seems like a very good thing. Before these genetically modified bacteria were created, human insulin was difficult and expensive to produce in sufficient quantities.

Gene Edward Veith argues that this is utilitarian thinking. Utilitarianism is the ethical system in which right and wrong is determined based on whether the outcome of an ethical decision is desirable or not. In utilitarianism, there is no outside determination of right or wrong, what we Christians would call ultimate truth. Veith instead turns to natural law, and concludes that this transfer of human DNA to a rice plant is unnatural, innately wrong, and downright evil. Here’s part of Veith’s argument, from his excellent Cranach blog:

Well, going by “natural law,” it doesn’t matter if it is safe or not! Even if it is perfectly safe and cures diarrhea, human rice is UNNATURAL. The reason why most people rightly recoil from such a thought is that mingling species like this is intrinsically perverse. It is INNATELY wrong.

“Unnatural” in this theological sense does not mean going against nature the way we do every day when we heat our houses in the cold or take medicine to fight off sickness. Those are legitimate examples of our human dominion over nature. No, blending the genetic code of humanity with the genetic code of a plant is a VIOLATION of nature.

Such genetic engineering–and, I would add, reproductive engineering–is where Christians must draw the line. Perhaps on these issues they could make common cause with environmentalists.

And, remember, it’s not a question of whether such products are harmful or whether they will do a world of good. That is to think like a utilitarian, whose judgment about right or wrong rejects absolutes in favor of whether or not something is “useful.” That thinking, which many Christians have bought into, goes squarely against Biblical truth.

I am convinced that utilitarianism is a terrible way to do ethics. This type of ethical thinking can to abortion, infanticide, genocide, sexual immorality, and anything else sinful human beings can justify as being beneficial for themselves or their society.

However, I find the “natural law” argument to be rather vague. We fly airplanes by application of the laws of nature. I’m communicating through the internet by application of the laws of nature. Likewise, we cut and splice DNA through an application of the laws of nature. DNA is not a magic substance; it is a chemical compound that obeys the laws of chemistry and physics. Where is the line between what is natural and what is unnatural?

Placing a human gene in a bacteria or rice plant doesn’t mean that we have made that organism human, or even partly human. Humans have about 25,000 genes. Rice plants have even more. The genetically modified rice plant is still a rice plant, and produces rice seeds, not something else. Whether from a biological or theological perspective, an organism is much more than just the sum of its parts.

I’ve viewed the technology behind transgenic organisms (a.k.a. genetically modified organisms) as somewhat like nuclear technology. Nuclear technology, for instance, is neither good nor evil. Good uses of nuclear technology are abundant: radiation therapy for cancer, use of radioisotopes to understand natural systems, power supply for probes to Pluto. Human beings can use these technologies for good, and we can use them for great evil.

What are the ethical principles we need for technologies such as what some call “human rice?” The ethical issues here are not as clear cut, in my mind, as they are in controversies such as embryonic stem cell research or human cloning, where embryos are discarded or destroyed. Clearly evil things can be done with the transformation of living organisms with human genes (or the transformation of humans with non-human genes). How do we decide where the line is?

Grace and Peace

Update 6 March 2007: Veith has a follow-up blog entry on Natural Law.

Knowing God – Chapter 5 Quotes

Chapter 5 of Knowing God is “God Incarnate“. One of the foundational truths of Christianity is the incarnation of Christ. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human at the same time.

It is from misbelief, or at least inadequate belief, about the incarnation that difficulties at other points in the gospel story usually spring. But once the incarnation is grasped as a reality, these other difficulties [miracles, the resurrection] dissolve.

If He was truly God the Son, it is much more startling that He should die than that He should rise again.

He was not now God minus some elements of His deity, but God plus all that He had made His own by taking manhood to Himself.

It is our shame and disgrace today that so many Christians–I will be more specific: so many of the soundest and most orthodox Christians–go through this world in the spirit of the priest and the Levite in our Lord’s parable, seeing human needs all around them, but (after a pious wish, and perhaps a prayer, that God might meet them) averting their eyes, and passing by on the other side. That is not the Christmas spirit. Nor is it the spirit of those Christians–alas, they are many–whose ambition in life seems limited to building a nice middle-class Christian home, and making nice middle-class Christian friends, and bringing up their children in nice middle-class Christian ways, and who leave the sub-middle-class sections of the community, Christian and non-Christian, to get on by themselves.

The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor–spending and being spent–to enrich their fellowmen, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others–and not just their own friends–in whatever way there seems need.

Grace and Peace

First Day of Spring

March 1 — The first day of spring!

The most common definition of spring in the U.S. is:

  • the period of time between the spring equinox (March 21 this year) and the summer solstice (June 21 this year).

But there are other valid definitions as well:

  • The meteorological definition is based on weather. Spring by this definition is the months of March, April, and May. This makes a lot of sense, as we often have spring-like weather in early March, and early June is often more summer-like than spring-like.
  • The traditional Chinese definition of spring has the spring equinox in the middle of the season, so spring lasts from early February to early May.
  • The traditional Irish calendar has February, March, and April as spring.

So take your pick. I go with the meteorological definition.

Grace and Peace