Monday, December 26, 2016
The motto of the CIA is: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free". These are the words of Jesus, from John 8:32. If liberty is founded on truth, then can we be genuinely free in a post-truth world? Orwell's dystopian novels suggest not. Floundering post-truth politicians seem to reinforce Orwell's conclusion.
Christ promises freedom through truth. So how can we know the truth? Christ said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." [John 14:6] He is truth incarnate, quintessential truth. To know Him is to know the truth.
Therefore a post-truth society implies a post-Christ society. Indeed, many would recognise our culture as post-Christian. So how can we know Christ? How can we steer to the truth despite the prevailing winds of post-truth? I suppose the answer is the same as it ever was - by searching the scriptures. "Thy word is truth." [John 17:17]
Show me the truth concealed
Within Thy word;
And in Thy book revealed
I see Thee Lord.
Earnest Christ-seekers (and all Christians should be included in this company) must scrutinize the Bible to learn of Christ. What an excellent resolution for the new year!
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Bigger than Brexit?
Saturday, December 19, 2015
Superficially, one might consider the Force to be divine - an immanent, omnipotent concept. But the Christian understanding of God is very different.
God is Good'The Lord is good' says Nahum. 'Jehovah, merciful and gracious ... abounding in goodness' says God to Moses. 'God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all' says John. In terms of morality, God is unambiguously good.
The Force is different. While it can be channelled for good, it also has a Dark Side. So the Force appears to be morally ambivalent. Power without morality is a dangerous thing.
God is PersonalGod has attributes. He is Light and Love. He portrays his character as a shepherd, caring for us, as a potter, forming us, as a Father, loving us. Ultimately, God's character is revealed in human form - the Word made flesh - at Bethlehem when the Son of God comes into the world.
The Force never communicates, or conveys any personable characteristics. This mysticism, this lack of ability to be appreciated, makes the Force impersonal and abstract. It is not possible to have a meaningful relationship with a concept.
God is AvailableGod reaches out to us. He calls Moses with a burning bush, Elijah with a still, small voice, wise men with a wandering star. God is 'not far from every one of us', says Paul to the pagan philosophers at Athens. He is only a prayer away - as the dying thief found out at Calvary - Lord, remember me!
The Force is only available to a select few - Jedi or Sith. General members of the Star Wars public are passed over - the power of the Force is unavailable to them. 'Who(so)ever' is a great evangelical word, entirely unknown in the Star Wars universe.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Are Christianity and Computer Science compatible? Can a Christian happily study and work in the area of Computing without excessive theological gymnastics or veiled hypocrisy? I want to claim the answer is yes, for the following reasons...
First, I give an existence proof. There are some high profile Computer Scientists who openly talk about their Christian faith. These include two Turing Award winners: Donald Knuth and Fred Brooks - essential reading on any CS curriculum!
Next, I want to look at three concepts that are familiar to Computer Scientists, and discuss how each of these concepts has an analogy in Christianity. If something makes sense in a computing context, it should also be reasonable in other contexts too.
1. Right and Wrong
This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Boole, the father of symbolic logic. In boolean logic, we codify true and false as absolute values and use logical operators to reason about truth.
Christianity (along with most religions) has a clearly defined framework of morality - right and wrong. This morality, which correlates strongly with human conscience, is very difficult to explain away with evolutionary biology.
2. SubstitutionThe notion of substitution is fundamental to the semantics of computing. For instance, term substitution is necessary for beta reduction in the lambda calculus. At higher levels, substitution is an essential part of shell scripting (e.g. sed) or programming (e.g. String.replace in Java).
Substitution is at the heart of the Christian faith. Martin Luther describes it as the "wonderful exchange" (admirabile commercium)- when sinners trust Christ and accept that He died in our place. Paul describes the crucifixion of Christ in these terms: "...made ... sin for us ... that we might made the righteousness of God in Him". [2 Cor 5:21].
3. RebootAfter an operating system software update (particularly one that involves shared libraries .dll or .so), users need to reboot their machines. This is a frequent source of annoyance. This procedure ensures that the old code is removed from the system and replaced by the updated version.
I suppose the Christian analogy is rebirth. Jesus told the premier theologian in Jerusalem: 'You must be born again'. [Jo 3:7]. This is much more significant than a reboot after a software patch---it's a whole new start to life - forgiven by God, trusting in Christ and living with the help of the Holy Spirit. [2 Cor 5:17].
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
All Christians should be evangelists - sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others. I often wonder whether an evangelist is more like a salesperson or a scholar. I see these two as polar opposites: the salesperson is so sure of his/her product - s/he is both inwardly convinced and outwardly convincing, whereas the scholar is never certain - s/he is continually doubting, searching, striving...
Somehow, the evangelist needs to combine the best of both these personality types. Jesus' injunction to Thomas 'Be not faithless but believing' means we should be convinced of our message about the risen Christ. On the other hand, Paul's confession that he had 'not yet reached his goal' sounds much more like a careful, conscientious scholar than a cocksure salesman. Remarkably, this tallies with Bertrand Russell's view of wisdom and folly.
I guess Jesus himself is the perfect role-model for Christians - confident in meekness and meek in confidence [Matt. 5v5].
Sunday, February 16, 2014
In 1 Cor. 4 v. 10, Paul identifies himself as a 'fool for Christ'. My dynamically equivalent translation is a 'joker for Jesus'. A more authentic transliteration would have Paul to be a 'moron for the Messiah'.
The reason for this description? Paul is not living for here and now, rather for the hereafter. An atheist's value system considers 'this life only', whereas Paul treats earthly life as a precursor to eternal life. In view of eternity's infinite time and the possibility of infinite bliss, Paul is prepared to resign current prestige and comforts. His reasoning seems to be an early form of Pascal's wager.
As a Christian today, my perspective should be aligned with Paul's. I too should be prepared to be a 'joker for Jesus'.
Friday, November 22, 2013
This weekend sees a remarkable coinciding of 50th anniversary celebrations. On 22nd November 1963, C.S. Lewis and John F. Kennedy both died. Just one day later, the first episode of Doctor Who aired on BBC TV. I view JFK and Doctor Who as enduring legacies - one fact, the other fiction - iconic heroes of hope for all humanity. JFK is the world leader whose life was tragically cut short by assassination. Doctor Who is the stranger from another world whose life goes on for ever, thanks to the imaginative plot device of regeneration. Both these themes resonate with us - echoes of a fundamental mythos of dying and rising again, of heroic Saviourhood. This storyline transcends all culture and history.
I think C.S. Lewis would have approved. In his essay 'Myth Became Fact'  Lewis argues that "The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history." Jesus is literally the desire of all nations - whether or not they realize it. That desire is expressed in our contemporary admiration of shadows - both historical heroes like JFK and fictional heroes like Doctor Who.
To quote Lewis' 'Myth Became Fact' again, "We must not be nervous about parallels and Pagan Christs: they ought to be there - it would be a stumbling block if they weren't."