New Orleans

Quite a few people have contacted Paula and I because they know we’re from Louisiana and they’re concerned about our relatives and friends.

Thank you.

For those who might be curious but haven’t contacted us, our immediate relatives were hardly affected. Extended family members and friends all survived but some lost everything.

When I was a kid we used to joke about how stupid it was to build a port city below sea level. Every year it seemed that New Orleans would have a near miss with a hurricane and we’d start joking about how dumb we Cajuns were. We knew with all the certainty childhood produces that New Orleans would be wiped off the map one day.

Of course, when you’re a kid you don’t really think about all the suffering such a catastrophe will entail. The news out of New Orleans is staggering. The scariest thing is that it could easily have been much worse. Times like these remind us of just how frail and fragile all of humanity’s accomplishments really are.

Anyway, all this leads me to wonder what jokes kids in California make about the “Big One”. New Orleans finally got a bullet it couldn’t dodge. I wonder when California’s is coming… I hope I’m not here to see it.

Convoy of Hope is doing a fine job of helping people. If you’ve been wanting to give in some way, I know several people who work for the outfit and can assure you that they’re doing a standout job.

Sacrifice a Song

We’re now offering brief meditations on the Bible that you can download to your portable MP3 player. Our challenge is simple–sacrifice a song. Take the time you would spend listening to one song and turn that snippet of time into a prayer oasis in the midst of your day.

Right now we’re thinking about the prayers that the apostles prayed and how they can serve as examples for us. Our hope is to make it easy for you to include prayer in your daily schedule.

You can listen to a sample (now fixed)
[FLASH]http://xastanford.org/playmp3.swf?mp3=http://xastanford.org/podXAsts/podXAst-2.mp3,200,35[/FLASH]

We’re using a technology called podcasting, which is just a fancy way of delivering MP3 files to your iPod (or other Mp3 player) over the internet.

If you use iTunes, just click on ‘Advanced’ and then ‘Subscribe to Podcast.’ Enter http://xastanford.org/podXAsts/ into the box that pops up. That’s it–you’re done!

If you don’t use iTunes but like to listen to MP3s, download the free iPodder, instead.

Check out our podXAst archives!

Why Not Atheism?

I noticed that the webpage Why Atheism? is very popular on Populicious and so I decided to give it a look. There’s a lot of legitimate criticism that can be leveled against Christianity and against the philosophical arguments that many Christians use to explain their faith, and so I always seek to learn from sites like this. And I did learn a little.

But mostly, I was just shocked at how poor the level of argumentation was. Given that the page is so popular, I figured it would be a “best of breed” example.

‘Fraid not.

His arguments are mostly against positions that most thoughtful Christians (at least, the ones I interact with) don’t actually hold. I don’t have time to compose a detailed rebuttal of his essay (actually a transcribed speech), but as I have spoken on the general theme before I can highlight some inadequacies.

  • We don’t claim that our mystical experiences should be as convincing to others as they are to us. But we do assert that they are available to you and should be included in the evidence you consider.
  • We believe in the Big Bang. Our question is, what went bang? In other words, the Big Bang explains a lot about the state of the universe today, but it doesn’t tell us where it itself came from. All that it tells us is that the universe had a beginning, and our argument is that there was also a beginner who must be fundamentally different than the universe which was begun. He rebuts some weak versions of this argument, but there are much stronger versions to interact with (such as those offered by William Lane Craig).
  • A lot of Christians believe in one of the many theories of evolution. In fact, I’d say most of the well-educated Christians that I know are quite certain that the earth is billions of years old and that species change over time. They’re divided on whether or not naturalistic explanations adequately explain the origin of life. It would be nice for our cause if such explanations could be shown to be inadequate, but it’s hardly essential.
  • His response to the argument from morality misses the point completely. We don’t claim that people can’t invent moral systems–it’s obvious that they do so all the time. The central claim we are making is that morality is only meaningful as a concept if there is more to reality than matter and the forces that operate upon it. Moreover, we assert that any moral system which ignores this is necessarily arbitrary and inadequate.
  • The claim that there is no evidence Jesus ever existed is so ridiculous I’m tempted not to respond to it, but given that it is being recited with discouraging frequency I’ll direct your attention to a list of extrabiblical, nonChristian witnesses to Jesus who wrote before 200 A.D..
  • Since what seems to be driving his site is a fear that Christians have some plan to install some sort of theocratic government in America, I’d just like to make it clear that we believe in a separation of church and state–because the state corrupts the church. And besides, it’s a Biblical idea (1 Tim 2:1-2 – a prayer that the government would leave Christians the heck alone).

Anyway, he says a lot more in his essay. I certainly haven’t responded to it all, nor have I responded thoroughly to what I did take time to respond to. It’s mostly the same-old, same-old stuff you hear if you’ve done any investigation at all into the existence of God (there is evil therefore God’s attributes are contradictory, the Bible is stupid, religion always opposes progress, etc, etc).

If those arguments bother you a lot then dig around on the sites I linked to above and also listen to some of the relevant lectures at Veritas.org. There are reasonable answers to people’s questions.

Anyway, I guess I was just shocked that this page is so popular. I expected better of it.

Hospitality Central

Dana has been getting quite confused–it seems that every morning she wakes up to find someone new in the house.

Four nights ago Andrew spent the night. Three nights ago it was Katie. Two nights ago it was Will & Jen Klier (incidentally, I helped them set up a new WordPress blog while they were here: TheKliers).

And in that whole mix we went out to lunch twice with alumni: Gareth and Elizabeth.

She’s warmed up to everyone pretty quickly, but I suspect that today she’ll be happier since this morning arrives without strangers and we’re not planning to travel anywhere.

Lindsey Hawley

Lindsey HawleyI met Lindsey this June while teaching at a conference in Springfield, MO. She was planning to go and work with Chi Alpha at UT Austin. The doors closed on her at the last minute and she was trying to figure out what to do.

Their loss is our gain, as she’s decided to come and work alongside Paula and I here at Stanford! Everyone who’s worked with her in the past has incredible things to say about her character and her competence. We’re very excited, and we can’t wait until she’s able to move down here from her Alaskan home.

There are still a few hurdles to be overcome (approval from various committees, raising her funding, etc), but we don’t foresee any problems. It will probably take about a year to get everything worked out, and then she’ll be joining us here on the Farm.

update: she’s launched her own website: Life With Lindsey.