Stanford Is For The Birds

A guide to birds on Stanford’s campus.

On a totally random note, I happened to stop in at the Stanford Bookstore and I saw an ad for

Yup. Birds.

The site actually redirects to a subdirectory on the domain, so I guess the ol’ alumni assocation has some pretty serious ornithologists

Andrew Is Gone…

Our live‐in student, Andrew Wright, moves out.

Andrew Wright, the Stanford student who was living with us over the summer just moved out. He’s gone to stay at home the rest of the summer so he can spend some time with his family before school starts.


It was great getting to know him better! We had some wonderful talks about God and the Christian life, and our relationship with him has really confirmed our call to Stanford.

Just last night we had a great time talking about a Christian’s proper relationship to culture, and what it means to be in the world but not of it…

On another note: I’ve been sick all day. I’m feeling better now, but I sure was a whipped puppy earlier.

Lost & Found at Glad Tidings Assembly

A sermon I preached at Glad Tidings Assembly called “Lost & Found”

Last night I was privileged to preach at Glad Tidings Assembly of God in San Francisco. It was a lot of fun!

Pastor Beiser had asked me to come and encourage the people to invite their friends to hear Bubba Paris (of the San Francisco 49ers) come and preach this weekend at their special meetings, and to specifically “speak on the lostness of man.”

I decided to speak from Luke 15, the chapter in which Jesus talks about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son (prodigal son).

Since Paula’s college roommate, Rachel Spradley, is visiting with us right now I decided to use her in my sermon. I told the congregation that Rachel had just become engaged to be married, and I asked her to stand up and show everyone her ring. Rachel then stood up and flashed her finger sans ring, and convincingly shrieked: “I’ve lost my ring!”

Everyone freaked out and began to scan the floor for her ring. I then read from Luke 15:8: “suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?”

It was fun. Unfortunately, two people bolted right away to search the lobby and the restroom (they even put on rubber gloves and dug through the trash). As a result, they missed most of my message. Still, they beautifully illustrated how we respond when we think something valuable is lost!

My points, incidentally, were as follows:

1) Realize people are lost
2) Value lost people
3) Take risks to reach the lost
4) Use every resource at our disposal to reach the lost
5) Celebrate success

Stanford Student Wins Jeopardy Collegiate Championship

One of those quirky little things you can’t help but be proud of!

A friend just informed me that Stanford student Vinita Kailasanath won the 2001 Jeopardy Collegiate Championship.

I searched long and hard online for information about the 2002 winner, but I couldn’t find any info. I can only surmise they’ve not conducted the 2002 contest yet. I’m sure the Cardinal will emerge victorious again!

A Failure to Internalize Faith

One of the greatest challenges we face as believers is living authentically Christian lives. It’s very easy to be spiritual on Sunday and at official religious functions, but it’s much harder to study in a Christian way, to work with a Christian work ethic, to conduct ourselves at the dinner table in a manner that pleases Christ.

But such things are the very essence of our faith.

If our faith does not manifest in the small things, it’s virtually irrelevant how it manifests in the big things.

Why all these thoughts on holistic Christianity? This blog entry discussing ethics among Christian businesspeople. You ought to read it.

And then you ought to ask yourself whether or not you’re different as a student because of your faith in Jesus. If you’re not, then you’ve not fully internalized your faith.

What do I mean? Here are some off‐the‐cuff reflections on what it means to be a student to the glory of Jesus:
* You actually seek to master the material.
* You love truth and seek it passionately, even going beyond the bounds of an assignment to acquire it.
* You do assigned work whether your professor will check it or not.
* You seek to make knowledge practical (turn it into wisdom).
* You’re a pleasure to have in class (both for the prof and other students).
* When you disagree with the prof you do so in an agreeable way.

There are tons more, but these are a few that pop into my head…

Pray For These Incoming Freshmen!

A list of incoming freshman and some specific prayer requests on their behalf.

Stanford has given us a list of incoming freshmen who are interested in getting involved in a group similar to Chi Alpha. I’ll be contacting each of them and seeking to help them transition smoothly. I’ll also be praying for them daily: could you join me in praying specifically for each one of these things?

  1. That God would prepare them for the opportunities and challenges that are about to be laid at their feet.
  2. That God would make His purpose in bringing them to Stanford clear to them.
  3. Most of all, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give [them] the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that [they] may know him better… also that the eyes of [their] hearts may be enlightened in order that [they] may know the hope to which he has called [them], the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1.17–19, NIV

If you’d like to pray for them by name, here they are: Aaron, Akilah, Albert, Alfredo, Alina, Amanda, Arin, Ben, Brandon, Camille, Casey, Charles, Chioma, Chris, Chris, Christian, Christine, Chuck, Collin, Cyndy, Cyrus, Danny, David, Dena, Diana, Didi, Dominique, Ean, Eden, Eleazar, Emily, Eric, Jamelia, Jamie, Janine, Jessica, Jessica, John, Julia, Julian, June, Juston, Karen, Karen, Katie, Kevin, Kirsten, Laura, Lauren, Lauren, Lindell, Lisa, Lisa, Maria, Mark, Michael, Michael, Michelle, Naima, Natalie, Nathan, Nathaniel, Nicolas, Nicolas, Ochuko, Omorinsola, Paul, Quynhanh, Rachel, Richard, Samantha, Steph, Stephanie, Stephanie, Stuart, Suhan, Tamarah, Taylor, Timothy, Victor, and Yoko.

Charles Taylor on “What It Means to Be Secular”

Noted philospher Charles Taylor (who seems to be a Christian) has just been interviewed in Books and Culture on What It Means to Be Secular.

It’s pretty interesting stuff. For example

To say we live in a secular civilization is to say that God is no longer inescapable. It doesn’t mean that we live in a society from which God has been expelled. I don’t think we ever will live in such a society for very long; the Communists tried that. But the nature of this modern secular society is that it’s deeply plural. We have to accept that the ultimate grounding of the civilization we share in common is up for grabs.

and later on

There is an alternative readingnamely, that we’re moving to a society where more and more the consensus will be around an unbelieving variant of the modern social imaginary. But to me this seems to be just a dream. It’s a dream that arises among those who are deeply into an atheist or non‐believing position and are convinced as a matter of faith that religion will gradually disappear and everyone will think as they do. For them, the secular world is one in which we all end up agreeing fundamentally that there’s no God, and that agreement is the basis of everything. That’s an impossible scenario, and the more they think like that, the worse it’s going to be.

Objections To Objectivism: A Brief Critique of Ayn Rand’s Ethical Egoism

The Objectivist Club at Stanford is pretty active, and so this seemed like an appropriate first entry in our “Reasonable Answers to Honest Questions” category.

In case you’re not familiar with it, objectivism is the system of philosophy defined by Ayn Rand. It deals with much more than merely ethics, but that’s what I want to comment on today.

Ayn Rand’s ethical theory is of the type known as “ethical egoism,” which means that we should always choose to do things that benefit ourselves (we also call this selfishness). A short way to summarize Ayn Rand’s ethical theory would be “selfishness is a virtue.” That’s not a completely fair summary: she argues for a very specific type of selfishness: an enlightened self‐interest which recognizes that sometimes acting for the good of others actually benefits oneself. Here’s a more detailed description written by one of her fans:

The Objectivist ethics rebuilds morality from the ground up. “You cannot say ‘I love you’ if you cannot say the ‘I’,” wrote Ayn Rand. According to Objectivism, a person’s own life and happiness is the ultimate good. To achieve happiness requires a morality of rational selfishness, one that does not give undeserved rewards to others and that does not ask them for oneself. (source

I sent an email to Ravi Zacharias International Ministries asking them to provide me with a critique of Ayn Rand’s ethical theory. Paul Copan was kind enough to craft this brief reply:


  • Rand’s ethical views presuppose a naturalistic fallacy; that is,
    it moves from the descriptive (that we are naturally selfish) to the
    prescriptive (that we ought to look out for Number One). But there is
    nothing logically compelling about making this jump.
  • What happens if there is a conflict of interests? How do we adjudicate between conflicting egos?
  • If the rules of morality are really rules of expediency, then they
    will be obligatory only so long as they are expedient.
  • The pursuit of selfish pleasures/goals eventually leads to anarchy,
    in which everyone does what is right in his own eyes.
  • What happens when an ethical egoist turns into a dictator? It seems
    morally counter‐intuitive to suggest that acting egoistically is legitimate
    for him.
  • The ethical egoistal view is arbitrary. Why should I opt for my own
    good as opposed to society’s good (or the good of some other grouping)?
    It seems that the egoist can give no real reasons for why his view is to be
  • Egoism presumes a universal relevance (i.e., the egoist presumes
    a willingness to see others should embrace this view and act on it, but if
    the egoist does not, then it seems to be a deficient moral view). However,
    if the egoistic ethic is universalized, then it seems that this would go
    against the egoist’s own selfish ends. That is, the egoist wouldn’t
    want his ethic universalized.
  • The ethical egoist can’t be trusted when offering moral advice
    to others since it will be to his own advantage rather than to that of the
    one seeking his advice.
  • Furthermore, even if pursing selfish ends is legitimate, it seems
    hard to believe that this is the only moral virtue. That is, one’s good may
    be an object to pursue, but it need not be the only one.

There is a fuller defense of an objective, divinely‐rooted ethic in the book, True for You, But Not for Me; this can be ordered through RZIM’s order line at 800–448-6766.”

If this topic is of more interest to you, Copan (author of the above critique) also recommends that you read The Ethics of Ayn Rand: Appreciation and Critique by John Piper. Piper takes more space to elaborate on Rand’s theory and points out several elements of it he agrees with. Gets an Upgrade!

One of life’s little pleasures: recoding a website with elegance.

One of the weirder (but probably more strategic) ministry tasks that I’ve had for the last few years is maintaining the Chi Alpha national website and the Reach The U website (the latter being the more significant).

Today I had some time to tackle a feature I’d really been wanting to revise: the chapter directory.

I think it’s a lot slicker now, and the clean codebase means that I can add new functions without a lot of hassle. Huzzah!

Ultimate goal: to create a user login system so that each local campus ministry can own it’s data and update it whenever something changes.

Speaking of site upgrades: I finally managed to quash a very annoying bug on my blog. The page kept getting cut off! If you’re having similar trouble, read this helpful thread.

Where Are All The Smart Pentecostals?

Today I received from the Stanford Office for Religious Life the names of all three of the Assemblies of God students planning to attend Stanford next year. That’s right–three. Out of around 1,400. There was also a Foursquare student and a few from independent charismatic churches. Let’s say there are about 10–15 Pentecostal/charismatic students in total.

Even given that only 4% of teens attend a Pentecostal or Charismatic church, that’s pretty sad. If even 4% coming to Stanford were Pentecostal/charismatic that would be over 50 incoming freshmen. That’s a discrepancy of 70% (in other words, 70% fewer students are Pentecostal or Charismatic than you would expect)!

That doesn’t bother me for the reason you might think. Chi Alpha @ Stanford is primarily an evangelistic organization. While we do want to take care of incoming Christian students and help them mature in their faith, we’re primarily concerned with reaching the majority who have no religious background at all (much less a Christian one).

It’s not so much that I wish there were more students to plug into our group as I wonder why more coming in aren’t believers. These numbers, while only directly reflecting on Pentecostals are representative of what the other ministries are receiving.

There’s been a massive renaissance in youth ministry over the last decade, and there’s tons of articles on the burgeoning evangelical intellectuals: so why aren’t there more arriving at Stanford? Is it that we strongly discourage our gifted youth from attending secular schools or is merely the sad fact that most “Christian” students can’t wait to escape from their youth group?

In any event, if the other elite schools are seeing similar trends the intellectual future of American Christianity isn’t looking particularly robust…