Friday, 21 December 2007

Sensible Government at Last?

I was heartened by two items in yesterday's news.

The penalties for using a mobile phone while driving are being increased (BBC News). Motorists now face a jail sentence if their use of a mobile phone causes them to drive dangerously. This has to be good news - even at low speeds the effect of such distractions can be deadly. It would be even more sensible, though, to hammer the message home more consistently. The police should be more active in pulling over and warning drivers they see using mobiles - even in traffic jams and slow moving traffic.

The other item that caught my eye is that Harriet Harman, the Commons Leader, has called for it to be made illegal to pay for sex, as has apparently been done in Sweden (Daily Telegraph). There appears to be evidence that prostitution is fuelling a growth in international human trafficking; anything that can be done to help prevent such evil has got to be a good thing. That this proposal has already been opposed by the Liberal Party is perhaps unsurprising, and should make us think twice before giving them any more power.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Avoiding Worry 4 - Remember God's Love

Another strategy for avoiding worry if you are a Christian ...

4 Remember God’s love for you

When you meditate on God’s love for you in the Lord Jesus Christ: choosing you before the foundation of the world to share in his eternal kingdom; sending his own son to die for you - to deal with your sin and to clothe you with his righteousness … When you think about all these things and the other good that flows from this, how can you doubt that God loves you and wants the best for you? God will supply everything you need.

... your heavenly father knows that you need [food, drink, clothes, etc.]. (Matthew 6:32)

And you are precious to him.

Are you not much more valuable than [the birds of the air]? (Matthew 6:26)

Yes, times might be difficult, but the promise of Romans 8:28 still stands:

You know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favour and honour; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11)

Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits -
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel:
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children-
with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.
Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.
Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.
Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.
(Psalm 103)

Saturday, 8 December 2007

London Speak

This is a public service announcement on behalf of strangers to the capital.

One sure way to tell if someone is a visitor to London is to listen to them talking about bus routes. If they refer to the one hundred and eighty six (or - worse! - the one hundred eighty six) or the seven three, they probably haven't been here long.

Here are some rules to make you sound like a native (at least here in the North West).

Refer to routes with numbers under a hundred just as normal numbers; so:

13: thirteen
73: seventy three
82: eighty two
C11: C eleven

Once you get over a hundred, the rules get a little more complicated. If the number's not a multiple of ten, then just list its digits:
183: one eight three
113: one one three
102: one oh two (not one zero two)

If the number's over a hundred and a multiple of ten, then you need to combine the two rules above:
460: four sixty
210: two ten


Saturday, 24 November 2007

Avoiding Worry 3 - Realise Its Effect

More on avoiding worry...

3. Realise its crippling and negative effect

Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. (Mark 4:18-19)

Not only is it futile. It can prevent you being productive, and can even make things harder than they would otherwise be.

Worry is rust upon the blade. (Henry Ward Hughes)

In other words, worry blunts the sharp edge of our tools. You’ll find it harder to do what you’re supposed to be doing if you’re worrying about it.

An anxious heart weighs a man down. (Proverbs 12:25a)

Worry acts like a great burden on our backs … slowing us down, causing us pain, and making everything a bigger effort.

The Global Warming 10 Commandments

There's a clever post from Tominthebox in response to the recent United Nations "definitive" report on global warming.

It includes the Global Warming 10 Commandments (the environment speaking):

1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make an image out of any piece of wood.
3. You shall not speak out against environmental causes.
4. Rest weekly from your use of the environment.
5. Honor your Father Sky and Mother Earth.
6. You shall not murder any tree.
7. You shall not burn any fires with passion.
8. You shall not take resources such as trees or water.
9. You shall not say anything falsely against the defenders of Mother Earth.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's SUV.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

More Evidence for Global Flood

The London Metro reports today (so it's probably a story that's been around for a few days!) ...

A huge landslide under water produced the longest ever flow of sand and mud. The flow travelled 1,500km before it stopped off the coast of north-west Africa.

A researcher from Bristol University is quoted as saying, "The volume of sediment transported is difficult to comprehend. It was one of the largest movements of material ever to occur on our planet."

They say this happened 60,000 years ago. I think it happened more recently - during the flood described in Genesis.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Avoiding Worry 2 - Realise Its Futility

This continues an earlier post in which I started to outline some ways to avoid being crippled by worry.

2. Realise its futility

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? (Matthew 6:27)

This is a really powerful argument if we can persuade our minds to recognize it.

Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere. (Glenn Turner)

It only seems as if you are doing something when you're worrying. (Lucy Maud Montgomery)

A hundredweight of worry will not pay an ounce of debt. (George Herbert)

Worry is completely useless. It doesn’t help at all. It doesn’t bring any pleasure and doesn’t help to make the problem - if there really is one - any smaller.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

The Mary Rose and the Flood

This morning on the Today programme there was an item about the 25th anniversary of the raising of the Mary Rose from Portsmouth Sound, where it had sunk in 1545.

During the interview, John Humprhrys expressed surprise at the beautiful condition of some 19,000 objects found on the ship, including longbows, domestic equipment, jerkins, nit combs, bowls, shoes, plates, shoes and leather wrist guards. "Why is it all in such good condition? ... You'd have expected it all to have rotted wouldn't you, after all this immensely long time?"

The maritime archaeologist, Alexzandra Hildred, explained, "The view is that sediment went in through the open gun ports very quickly and sealed it ... sealing the objects below and completely excluding oxygen so they didn't disappear ... that's why she was preserved - covered in mud."

In other words, if the objects had not quickly been covered in mud they would not have survived so long. This is common sense.

On the other hand, most palaeontologists would have us believe that the wealth of striking fossils we find today - some retaining well-preserved soft tissue, including blood vessels - were gradually covered over hundreds or thousand of years as they rested on the sea bed, millions of years ago. This is plainly rubbish. Even after a few weeks or months, the carcasses would have completely rotted and the bones dispersed. Even if buried, such tissues would not be preserved for so long.

Only a moderately recent cataclysmic and world-wide event, such as the flood described in Genesis, can explain the excellent preservation of so many animal remains in so many parts of the world.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Avoiding Worry 1 - Realise It's a Sin

Worry is something that affects all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. Many people throughout history have recognized its power to damage us psychologically, to drain us emotionally, and to prevent us enjoying life as we should.

As a rule, what is out of sight disturbs men's minds more seriously than what they see. Julius Caesar

Grief has limits, whereas apprehension has none. For we grieve only for what we know has happened, but we fear all that possibly may happen. Pliny the Younger

It is not the cares of today, but the cares of tomorrow, that weigh a man down. George MacDonald

Oh the nerves, the nerves; the mysteries of this machine called man! Oh the little that unhinges it, poor creatures that we are! Charles Dickens

You can’t change the past, but you ruin a perfectly good present by worrying about the future. Anon

I've developed a new philosophy ... I only dread one day at a time. Charlie Brown (Charles Schulz)

Worry is something that can seem overwhelming and that we can feel powerless against. We cannot sleep. Our thoughts go round and round, always thinking about the same thing. ...

As Christians we know that we shouldn’t feel like this but can be completely unprepared for the onslaught when it comes. We find we can’t just laugh it off.

We need a biblical perspective to deal with worry when we feel so overwhelmed.

Here are some thoughts that I hope will be of some help - not only at that point, but also to help avoid worry before it begins to tighten its grip.

1. Realise it is a sin

When I first heard and thought about this, it came as a real eye opener. I suppose I had previously thought that it was just part of some people’s characters, mine included, which we could do nothing about. But Jesus says, Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. (Matthew 6:25) God has commanded us not to worry - and disobeying God’s commands is sin.

Another way of looking at this is to see that, if you’re worrying, it’s probably a sign to yourself that you’re not trusting God completely. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and [the crucial point] everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)

If you’re worrying because you’re discontented with what God has provided then you’re in danger of falling into even further sins, like envy and greed, and even further heartache. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

Now, we know what to do about sin!

First of all, of course, we need to repent, and ask God to forgive us our sin, on the basis of what Christ has done.

Then we need to remember that God always provides a way of escape from temptation - we need to look for that. No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Perhaps this will mean turning our minds to other things, doing something different in our daily routine, meeting with other believers, helping somebody. Whatever is needed, we need to do this as soon as we can. If we can nip the sin in the bud it will be much easier to deal with.

To be continued ...

Friday, 21 September 2007

Learning from Them

I believe that there is a lot to learn from many in the charismatic movement: their desire to worship God with enthusiasm, using contemporary language; their concern to demonstrate real, practical love to others; and their emphasis on evangelism. I may cringe at some of the methods used, but blanket criticism is not helpful — particularly when I know that so often my worship is cold, my desire to see others saved is non-existent and my love for others superficial.

Regarding one aspect of worship, Exiled Preacher has posted a thoughtful and helpful reflection on "why Reformed believers should not balk at singing hymns by charismatic authors".

He concludes:

I am not happy with much of what goes on under the "charismatic" umbrella. But I recognise that there are genuine godly believers in that movement, men and women who love the gospel. Some are even Calvinistic in their theology. If that is the case, the Spirit is at work in their hearts and lives. He has given these friends the gifts and graces that have produced some wonderful new hymns. If "all things are mine" as a member of the body of Christ, then these hymns are mine to sing just as much as those of Isaac Watts and Vernon Higham.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Teaser 5

What is the next digit in this sequence?

   1, 1, 1, 1, 5, 1, 7, 2, 3, 5


There's a corresponding sequence: 12, 6, 4, 3, 12, 2, 12, 3, 4, 6




Start with 1/12 (one-twelfth), and then keep adding 1/12. You end up with the sequence 1/12, 2/12, 3/12, 4/12, …. Next reduce each term to its simplest form. This results in: 1/12, 1/6, 1/4, 1/3, 5/12, 1/2, 7/12, …. The numerators from these fractions give you the original sequence.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Day Out in Leicester

I have managed to buy a couple of rail tickets that I cannot use. Doh!

If anyone would like them, please let me know. The details are:

6 October 2007
London St Pancras - Leicester 08:55 (arriving 10:04)
MML Advance D (can't change date or time)
Original price £9.00

6 October 2007
Leicester - London St Pancras 15:56 (arriving 17:17)
MML Advance C (can't change date or time)
Original price £7.00

Monday, 10 September 2007

Polar Clock Screen Saver

A while ago (Clever Clocks) I stumbled across the imaginative and strangely relaxing Polar Clock.

I'm glad to see that it's now available as a screen saver. Download it from Pixel Breaker.

Friday, 31 August 2007

Some Things I Dislike About France

1The state of public toilets
2The dearth of post boxes
3The abundance of "calvaries": roadside crucifixes
4Few evangelical churches
5Shops shutting for 2 hours at lunch-time
6Having to pay for medical treatment
7Very public urinals
8Inadequate direction signs on roads

Some Things I Like About France

1Well-maintained, quiet roads
2Lots of cycle tracks
3Street markets selling local, seasonal produce
4Good, inexpensive wine
5Frequent (although basic) motorway stopping places
8Cheap(er) petrol
9Free car parks at tourist attractions
10Camp sites with individual, hedged pitches
11The plethora of boulangeries
12Patisseries (and their contents!)

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Manchester Earthquake

There are reports today that there was a small earthquake in Manchester this morning, measuring 2.2 on the Richter scale (2.2 ML).

This is not uncommon. The British Geological Survey—which operates a network of seismograph monitoring stations around the UK—says that it locates between 300 and 400 earthquakes per year above 1.5 ML. In a typical year, 40 events will have magnitudes greater than 2.0 ML and about 20 are felt by local residents.

This map, from the BGS, shows seismic activity in the Manchester area since 1777:

The BGS web site includes an interactive map that you can use to explore historical earthquake data.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

French English

It's been a while!

Seen on top of a water tower in Sallertaine, France ...

Thursday, 19 July 2007

English Channel Flood

Nature reports (The megaflood that made Britain an island) that a team from Imperial College London have found strong evidence at the bottom of the English Channel that a major flood separated the British Isles from continental Europe.

Their survey reveals several distinctive features typical of large-scale flood flows, the team reports in Nature today. The straight shape of the wide underwater valley, a floor grooved and gouged as if by flowing water and tumbling rock, and streamlined 'islands' of raised sea-floor between deeper channels ...

They attribute this to an isolated incident: the breaking of a chalk ridge that dammed a huge lake to the North and East of Calais.

It would seem just as likely that this was just one part of the global catastrophe described in Genesis 6-8.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

An Historic Post!

A scene in my office. I couldn't find the box for insignificant post.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

The Bible, The Pope and the Church

How glad I am that my eternal state does not depend on membership of some man-made organisation!

According to CBS News, Mr Joseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict XVI, ...

... has reasserted the universal primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says Orthodox churches were defective and that other Christian denominations were not true churches. ...

"Christ 'established here on earth' only one Church," the document said. The other communities "cannot be called 'churches' in the proper sense" because they do not have apostolic succession — the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ's original apostles.

He is surely either supremely arrogant or supremely misguided.

But what does the Bible say about the church? I found this good summary on CARM (slightly altered):

The Church is the "body of believers". It is comprised of those who have been saved and redeemed by the true and living God, based upon the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus upon the cross.

Inclusion in the body of Christ is not by membership in a denomination, nor by baptism, nor or by dedication. It is not received by ritual, or by ceremony, or by natural birth. It is received by faith. Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1; For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8.

The invisible church is the church made up of true believers. The visible church consists of those who say they are Christian but may or may not be truly saved.

Being a member of a church on earth guarantees nothing. Being a member of the body of Christ guarantees salvation.

The true Christian church is comprised only of those who have been redeemed by Christ who died on the cross and rose again. They are justified by faith in Christ. They are not saved by false teachers, false gods, false gospels, by their works, or by their works combined with the grace of God.

They are saved by grace through faith and that through Jesus alone: Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved, Acts 4:12.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Dorothy Sayers on Wilful Ignorance

The only letter I ever want to address to 'average people' is one that says - I do not care whether you believe in Christianity or not, but I do resent your being so ignorant, lazy, and unintelligent. Why don't you take the trouble to find out what is Christianity and what isn't? Why, when you can bestir yourself to mug up technical terms about electricity, won't you do as much for theology before you begin to argue about it? ... You would be ashamed to know as little about internal combustion as you do about the Nicene Creed.

Quoted in One Eternal Day: Dorothy L. Sayers on doctrinal ignorance

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Shame on the BMA

The number of abortions carried out in England and Wales has been steadily increasing from the moment it was legalised 40 years ago.

In 1968, the first year after abortion was legalised, just over 22,000 terminations were carried out. In 2006 the figure was a staggering 193,700. (Source:

The vast majority of abortions - almost 97% - are because of "injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman" - a broad category which covers almost every cause of an unwanted pregnancy.

And what does the BMA call for in response? To relax the rules even further and to make access to abortion even easier.

They should be ashamed of themselves.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Drawer Your Own Conclusions

From the London Metro, 21 June 2007. (Sorry about the poor image quality.)

Thursday, 14 June 2007

De-Junking DNA

It is becoming more and more apparent that so-called "junk DNA" is not junk after all.

Like so-called vestigial organs, some atheists have claimed that large portions of the human DNA is an evolutionary artefact that serves no present-day purpose.

According to a recent BBC News article, new research, part of the Encyclopaedia of DNA Elements (Encode) study, suggests "genes, so called junk DNA and other elements, together weave an intricate control network".

The researchers focussed on 1% of the human genome sequence, carrying out 80 different types of experiments that generated more than 600 million data points.

The surprising results, explained Tim Hubbard from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, "transform our view of the genome fabric".

Previously, genome activity was thought of in terms of the 22,000 genes that make proteins - the functional building blocks in our cells - along with patches of DNA that control, or regulate, the genes.

The other 97% or so of the genome was said to be made up of "junk" DNA - so called because it had no known biological function.

However, junk DNA may soon need a new moniker.

Dr Hubbard said: "We are now seeing the majority of the rest of the genome is active to some extent."

He explained that the study had found junk DNA was being transcribed, or copied, into RNA - an active molecule that relays information from DNA to the cellular machinery.

He added: This is a remarkable finding, since most prior research suggested only a fraction of the genome was transcribed."

Once again we see evidence that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made". I don't hold out much hope, though, that mainstream biologists will at last start to acknowledge the hand of the superb designer in what they are studying.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Working with GetOpenFileName

In Excel 2003 VBA, you can use GetOpenFileName to display the standard Open dialog box. If you set the MultiSelect parameter to True it is supposed to return an array of file names from the user. It returns False if the dialog is cancelled.

One standard way of calling this function is along the following lines:

Dim fileNameList
Dim fileNum As Integer

fileNameList = Application.GetOpenFilename( _
      "Text Files (*.txt), *.txt", _
      1, "Select One Or More Files To Open", , True)

If fileNameList <> False Then
  For fileNum = 1 To UBound(fileNameList)
    Call ProcessFile(fileNameList(fileNum))
  Next fileNum
End If

However — even when MultiSelect is True — GetOpenFileName doesn’t always correctly return a variant array; sometimes it returns just a single file name. This causes a Type Mismatch error on the subsequent call to UBound.

The following alternative code can be used as a workaround. It tests whether the function has returned a string or an array and acts appropriately:

Dim fileNameList
Dim fileName As String
Dim fileNum As Integer

fileNameList = Application.GetOpenFilename( _
      "Text Files (*.txt), *.txt", _
      1, "Select One Or More Files To Open", , True)

If fileNameList <> False Then
  If TypeName(fileNameList) = "String" Then
    fileName = fileNameList
    Call ProcessFile(fileName)
  ElseIf TypeName(fileNameList) = "Variant()" Then
    For fileNum = 1 To UBound(fileNameList)
      fileName = fileNameList(fileNum)
      Call ProcessFile(fileName)
    Next fileNum
  End If
End If

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Clever Clocks

Polar Clock

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Devotional Books

Here's the last set of books recommended by Luke Jenner. These encourage a closer walk with God and have been written to help Christians to follow the King of Books.

Now that I've listed the whole set, I must get round to reading them!

Pilgrim’s ProgressJohn BunyanVarious
Living the Christian LifeA N MartinBanner of Truth
HolinessJoel BeekeBanner of Truth
Precious Remedies against Satan’s DevicesThomas BrooksBanner of Truth
The Bruised ReedRichard SibbesBanner of Truth
The Pursuit of HolinessJerry BridgesAuthentic Lifestyle
HolinessJ C RyleSovereign Grace
On Knowing Christ (sermons)Jonathan EdwardsBanner of Truth
Romans (sermons - several volumes)D M Lloyd-JonesBanner of Truth
Ephesians (sermons – several volumes)D M Lloyd-JonesBanner of Truth
Studies in the Sermon on the MountD M Lloyd-JonesIVP
Sermons of Robert Murray M'CheyneRobert Murray M'CheyneBanner of Truth
The Valley Of Vision (a collection of Puritan prayers)Arthur BennettBanner of Truth
Praying AlwaysFrans BakkerBanner of Truth
The Thought of God, Maurice RobertsBanner of Truth
The Christian’s High CallingMaurice RobertsBanner of Truth
The Shadow of the CrossWalter J ChantryBanner of Truth
Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the SoulOctavius WinslowBanner of Truth
The Mystery of ProvidenceJohn FlavelBanner of Truth
The Holy Spirit; His Person and MinistryEdwin H PalmerP & R Publishing

See also: Bible Introduction and Overview, Bible Commentaries, Systematic Theologies, Contemporary Issues, Biography and History

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Daily Intelligence

Some thoughts about reading newspapers ...

God is sovereign. He is in control. Rulers are chosen and appointed by him (The authorities that exist have been established by God, Romans 13:1). All things are working for the good of his church (In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose, Romans 8:28). Even mundane matters are in God’s hand (I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me, Psalm 3:5; The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore, Psalm 121:8). So what happens is not aimless, a random sequence of events. There is no need to be afraid.

Nevertheless we live in a fallen world. Man does not acknowledge God’s rule or his goodness. Don’t be surprised at the evil things that happen.

Man reading newspaperPray for those in authority, that we may live in a peaceful and just society … so that the gospel will have every opportunity to do its good work. (See 1 Timothy 2:2.)

Give thanks in all circumstances, 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

... Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Matthew 6:25

Be discerning. Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves (see Matthew 10:16). Many organisations have an agenda over and above reporting the basic facts. This may be explicit. More likely it is implicit, because of their owner or editor, or the people they employ. Separate fact from opinion. Test everything; hold on to the good, 1 Thessalonians 5:21

Don’t be idle or a busybody. Avoid gossip. Some “news” is useless. Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down, Proverbs 26:20. A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends, Proverbs 16:28

Monday, 7 May 2007

Unity Without Uniformity

Paul Brown in the May edition of Grace Magazine draws attention to the Act of Union 300 years ago, commenting that the Union is probably under more strain now than it has ever been since its inception.

He points out that it was the gospel that united the nation, while also allowing for cultural divergences. He quotes Linda Colley: "It was their common investment in Protestantism that first allowed the English, Welsh and the Scots to become fused together, and to remain so, despite their many cultural divergences."

He concludes:

Ironically, the cultural divergence is much less today - by and large it is the same shops, the same music, the same TV programmes, the same secularism and consumerism, the same preoccupation with sex, money and pleasure.

Worldliness brings dissatisfaction and division.

Christ brings unity without uniformity

Monday, 30 April 2007

Before the Beginning

Earth from SpaceThe basic philosophical problem that faces us is the fact that something—rather than nothing—is there. Furthermore, it is also clear that this something-that-is-there has two parts: I am there and something in contrast to myself is there. Being is there. But the question immediately arises, “Has it always been there?”

There are relatively few answers. In almost any profound question, the number of final possibilities is very few indeed. Here there are four:

(1) Once there was absolutely nothing and now there is something.
(2) Everything began with an impersonal something.
(3) Everything began with a personal something.
(4) There is and always has been a dualism.

For the first explanation to be true, nothing must really be nothing—totally nothing—neither mass nor motion nor energy nor personality. Think, for example, of a circle that contains everything there is; and there is nothing in the circle. Then remove the circle. That is the concept of absolute nothing. I know no one who has propounded the concept that all that now is has come out of such absolute nothing.

The fourth notion, of eternal dualism, has never stood under close analysis, for men naturally press on behind the dualism and its particulars towards a unity by which to comprehend the duality.

The impersonal beginning, the notion that everything began with an impersonal something, is the consensus of the modern Western world and of almost all Eastern thinking. Eventually, if we go back far enough, we come to an impersonal source. This view is embodied in the notion of the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system.

However an impersonal beginning raises two overwhelming problems which neither the East nor modern man has come anywhere near solving.

First, there is no real explanation of the fact that the external world not only exists but has a specific form. As I look at the Being which is the external universe, it is obviously not just a handful of pebbles thrown out there. What is there has form. If we assert an impersonal beginning then we have no explanation for this.

Second, and more important, if we begin with an impersonal universe, there is no explanation of personality. The assumption of an impersonal beginning can never adequately explain the personal beings we see around us; and when men try to explain man on the basis of an original impersonal, man soon disappears.

But the Judeo-Christian tradition begins with the opposite answer. And it is upon this that our whole Western culture has been built. The universe had a personal beginning—a personal beginning on the high order of the Trinity. That is, before “in the beginning” the personal was already there. Love and thought and communication existed prior to the creation of the heavens and the earth,

Something was there before creation. God was there; love and communication were there; and therefore, prior even to Genesis 1:1, love and communication are intrinsic to what always has been.

(Summarized from Genesis in Space and Time, by Francis Schaeffer.)

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Biography and History

Here's another set of book recommendations - this time tracing the influence of the King of Books in people's lives and its effect on history - again provided by Luke Jenner. No other book has had such an impact on people and nations, because no other book can show us what we're really like - and show us the remedy.

Sketches from Church HistoryS M HoughtonBanner of Truth
2,000 Years of Christ’s Power (3 volumes so far)N R NeedhamGrace Publications
Among God’s Giants (Aspects of Puritan Christianity)J I PackerKingsway
Five Pioneer MissionariesIain MurrayBanner of Truth
Christian Leaders of the 18th CenturyJ C RyleBanner of Truth
God’s Outlaw (Tyndale)Brian EdwardsEvangelical Press
The Forgotten SpurgeonIain MurrayBanner of Truth
Through Gates of SplendourElisabeth ElliotAuthentic Lifestyle
Shadow of the AlmightyElisabeth ElliotAuthentic Lifestyle
History of Princeton Seminary (2 volumes)David CalhounBanner of Truth
The Life of John MurrayIain MurrayBanner of Truth

See also: Bible Introduction and Overview, Bible Commentaries, Systematic Theologies, Contemporary Issues, Devotional

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Teaser 4

What is the next letter in this sequence?

O, T, T, F, F, S, ...


Try initials




One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven. Easy really!

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Contemporary Issues

What does the King of Books say about ...? This set of books aim to provide Biblical answers to some issues of current concern to Christians and non-Christians alike. Thanks again to Luke Jenner for the initial list.

World ViewsDoes God Believe in Atheists?John BlanchardEvangelical Press
EvangelismToday’s Gospel: Authentic or SyntheticWalter J ChantryBanner of Truth
EvangelismEvangelism and the Sovereignty of GodJ I PackerIVP
GuidanceDiscovering God’s WillSinclair B FergusonBanner of Truth
Charismatic giftsThe Final WordO Palmer RobertsonBanner of Truth
Charismatic giftsPerspectives on PentecostRichard GaffinP & R Publishing
ApologeticsApologetics to the Glory of God: An IntroductionJohn M FrameP & R Publishing
EvolutionDarwin on TrialPhillip E JohnsonIVP
EvolutionObjections Sustained: Subversive Essays on Evolution, Law and CulturePhillip E JohnsonIVP
World ViewsThe Divine ChallengeJohn BylBanner of Truth
Charismatic giftsThe Charismatics and the Word of God: A Biblical and Historic Perspective on the Charismatic MovementVictor BudgenEvangelical Press

See also: Bible Introduction and Overview, Bible Commentaries, Systematic Theologies, Biography and History, Devotional

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Systematic Theologies

The Bible contains many different types of writing, including history, poetry, law, proverbs and letters. And these were written by many different sorts of people over a period of perhaps 2000 years or so. It can be difficult to track down what it teaches about a given subject. However, there are quite a few books that aim to present what the Bible teaches in a thematic and ordered way. These are generally called systematic theologies.

Wayne Grudem helpfully defines systematic theology as

... any study that answers the question, "What does the whole Bible teach us today?" about any given topic. This definition indicates that systematic theology involves collecting and understanding all the relevant passages in the Bible on various topics and then summarizing their teachings clearly so that we know what to believe about each topic.

As long as we don't put these books at a higher level than the King of Books they can be extremely useful.

The following are recommended. Thanks again to Luke Jenner for the initial list.

First some general volumes:

Ultimate RealitiesRobert M HornIVP
Summary of Christian DoctrineLouis BerkhoffBanner of Truth
A Faith to Live ByDonald MacLeodMentor
Systematic TheologyWayne GrudemIVP
Bible DoctrineWayne GrudemIVP
Foundations of the Christian FaithJames M BoiceIVP

Other books deal with particular aspects of the Bible's message. The following authors are also recommended. I've mentioned one each of their books, but their other titles are also worth exploring.

J I PackerKnowing GodHodder & Stoughton
John MurrayRedemption Accomplished and AppliedBanner of Truth
John StottThe Cross of ChristIVP
Stuart OlyottThe Three Are One: What the Bible Teaches About the TrinityEvangelical Press
A W PinkThe Sovereignty of God Banner of Truth
J Gresham MachenWhat is Faith?Banner of Truth
A W TozerThe Knowledge of the HolyAuthentic Lifestyle
John PiperThe Pleasures of GodChristian Focus Publications
Edward DonnellyHeaven and HellBanner of Truth

See also: Bible Introduction and Overview, Bible Commentaries, Contemporary Issues, Biography and History, Devotional

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Creation in Schools

Another petition for you to sign.

There are various moves afoot to prevent creation being taught in UK schools on the spurious grounds that it is not science. Some of this hostility has been prompted by the recent (September 2006) distribution to secondary schools—by Truth in Science—of a resource pack that disparages the theory of evolution. One manifestation of this opposition is a petition calling on the government to abolish all faith schools and prohibit the teaching of creationism and "other religious mythology" in all UK schools. (Science Questions and Answers explores some of the reasons why trying to drive a wedge between creationism and science is misleading.)

In response, another petition has been started to request support for "faith schools" (horrible term!) and the teaching of creation alongside other views about origins. Please sign up. It's very simple and takes only a minute or so.

The full text is below. I'm not sure that I agree with all the sentiments expressed and would have preferred it if the two issues had been separated. However, the overall aims are laudable.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to continue the support for faith schools and to ensure that in all schools the teaching of traditional 'faith' views of origins is included alongside the more recent scientific 'theories' which many scientists 'believe'. Faith schools help to ensure that children develop mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and morally. As such faith schools ensure children are well placed to choose their own religious, philosophical and ethical beliefs. Schools should be places where children are given a full education, not centres where the spiritual and moral is excluded. Evolution and other scientific theories should not be taught as fact but instead along side other 'faith' views of origins. Supporting faith schools will provide children with a fuller education, parents with the choice of such for their children and help to promote a fully multi-cultural and peaceful society.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Christian Union Petition

Christian Unions in British universities and colleges often face opposition of one kind or another. Recently, Exeter CU was suspended from the list of official student societies, its student union bank account was frozen, and it was banned from using Student Guild premises for meetings. All this because the Guild claimed the CU's constitution and activities did not conform to its equal opportunities policies; that is, it objected to the CU requiring its leaders to sign a declaration of Christian faith. (See, for example, this Guardian report.)

Other CUs are also facing similar opposition (see this Times article). For example, Edinburgh CU was banned from running a course teaching the orthodox Christian view of sex and relationships because of opposition from homosexuals. Birmingham CU has been suspended because it refuses to allow its meetings to be led by anyone who refuses to sign up to its statement of beliefs and because it refused to alter its constitution to pander to the homosexual lobby.

A petition on the Downing Street web site asks for some sanity to be restored:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to defend the right of Christian Unions to control who may come into leadership of them. Just as one would not expect a left wing political party to welcome people of a right wing persuasion into their leadership a Christian Union should be able to expect leaders to share the declared beliefs of that CU and that the CU has the right to control who may be admitted into leadership; this right should not exclude CUs' access to premises in universities, colleges, schools etc. on a par with other societies in those establishments.

Please sign it.

Friday, 2 March 2007

Am I an Atheist?

There are several web sites that give you the opportunity of taking a quiz to find out if you are an atheist. They have questions along the lines of, "Do you believe in Christ?", "Do you believe in Krishna?", "Do you believe in Allah?", etc. Of course, if you are a religious person, you will probably answer "Yes" to one ore more of these, and "No" to several others. "Ah ha!", the site says when you've finished, "You're 83% [or whatever] an atheist!"

A similar argument was made to me recently during a discussion about the Bible over at ID in the UK: "An atheist only disbelieves in the sacred books of one more (out of many) religions than you do. How is his disbelief more unreasonable than yours?"

The falsity of this approach can be demonstrated with a simple story.

Suppose you had a terrible illness. 10 doctors come to you—each with a medicine that they claim will heal you. You investigate thoroughly and come to realise that 9 of them are charlatans. In fact, you discover that—far from doing you good—their medicine would kill you.

The other one is clearly a man of integrity; he is able to show you evidence that he has several medical degrees; he is able to point to a lifetime studying the disease you have and helping people with it; and he can produce many testimonies from people who have taken his medicine—all of whom claim that it has done them good. In fact, you interview a few of these and find that they back the doctor up. They are enthusiastic about his cure. So you take the medicine and immediately start to feel its beneficial effects.

Now suppose someone comes to you with a questionnaire. "Do you think medicine 1 is effective?", "Do you think medicine 2 is effective?", etc. Of course, you will answer "No" to 9 of these. "Ah ha!", they proclaim, "You are 90% against medicine". No, all you are saying is that you are 100% against false medicine.

In the same way, when I answer one of these quizzes, I am not saying I'm 90% against religion, I'm saying I'm 100% against false man-made religions that don't stand up to careful scrutiny and are, in the end, worthless.

But here is Jesus Christ. He is someone even his enemies could find no fault with. He has demonstrated—by his life, by his words, by the miracles he did and, especially, by his resurrection—that he is the Son of God. His teaching is helpful and loving. More than that, there are many people who can testify that faith in him has transformed their lives. He is able to take the worst sinners and make them fit for heaven.

So don't be taken in by these false arguments. Weigh up the considerable claims of Christ for yourself. By all means throw out the hogwash associated with man-made religions, but don't reject Christ in the same breath.

Friday, 23 February 2007

Bible Commentaries

Sometimes it can be hard to understand what a particular Bible passage is about. This is where a good commentary can be invaluable. Here are some useful ones. But don't take what they say at face value—always check them against what the King of Books says. Thanks again to Luke Jenner for the initial list.

New Bible CommentaryG Wenham, J Motyer, D Carson, R France (editors)IVP
New Bible DictionaryI H Marshall, A R Millard, J I Packer, D J Wiseman (editors)IVP
Welwyn Commentary Series (especially Romans)Evangelical Press
Bible Speaks Today SeriesIVP
Tyndale Commentaries SeriesIVP
New Testament CommentariesGeoffrey B WilsonBanner of Truth
Focus on the Bible CommentariesChristian Focus Publications
Reading the BibleGeoffrey ThomasBanner of Truth
Exhaustive Concordance of the BibleJames Strong
Expository Thoughts on the GospelsJ C RyleBanner of Truth
New Testament Commentaries (including More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation)William HendriksenBaker

See also: Bible Introduction and Overview, Systematic Theologies, Contemporary Issues, Biography and History, Devotional

Bible Introduction and Overview

Search for "Bible Introduction" in Amazon and you're presented with a list of several hundred titles. How can you sort out the trivial from the profound, the rubbish from the pearls of wisdom? Well, here's a start at least. Here are a few basic reference works that will help you discover something of the background to the King of Books. With grateful thanks to Luke Jenner.

The New Testament: An Introduction to Its Literature and HistoryJ Gresham MachenBanner of Truth
An Introduction to the Old TestamentE J YoungEerdmans
Survey of the BibleWilliam HendriksenEvangelical Press
The Moody Atlas of Bible LandsBarry J BeitzelMoody Press

See also: Bible Commentaries, Systematic Theologies, Contemporary Issues, Biography and History, Devotional

Friday, 16 February 2007

Hand Painting

SwanThis is clever. I originally came across it (and more like it) at Mighty Optical Illusions .

It's one of a number of hand and body paintings by Italian artist Guido Daniele of Milan.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

It Has to Stop

Marks and Spencer killed nearly 6,000 children at 9 stores in the UK during January 2007.

No, it's not true, but imagine the public outcry there would be if it were.

The truth is that Marie Stopes International provided nearly 6,000 (5,992) abortions to women at its nine UK centres last month—the most in its 32-year history, and 13 per cent more than January last year. (See, e.g., the BBC news report)

The silent killing goes on, vulnerable women continue to be traumatized, and society is not perturbed.

The response from the so-called pro-choice lobby is to campaign for greater access to the "morning after pill", to encourage the distribution of condoms, for greater "education", …. The same arguments have been used time and time again in the 40 years since the 1967 Abortion Act, yet the number of abortions keeps rising (in England and Wales: 163,638 in 1995, 185,375 in 2000, 186,400 in 2005). There are even now demands to make access to abortion even easier, for example by removing the "two doctor" rule.

It's time to stop this killing spree. The complacent attitude to human life needs to be challenged. Abortion should not be promoted as a "back-up" method of birth control. More support must be given to women in difficult situations who want to keep their babies. The beauties of sex only within marriage should be extolled and encouraged.

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Sea More

An earlier post concerned the Sea in Solomon's temple and the value of pi. That got me thinking about whether we can deduce anything about the shape of the Sea from the further description in 1 Kings 7. This says that the Sea was 5 cubits high and 10 cubits in diameter, and that it held 2000 baths. (Incidentally, 2 Chronicles 4:5 says that it held 3000 baths. This may have been a copyist's error at some point, although there are other possibilities. Perhaps I will post about that another time.)

The immediate problem is that we don't know for sure how cubits and baths map on to the measurements we use today. It seems that there were at least two, possibly more, types of cubit in use in ancient Israel, and different scholars have come up with their own values. A scan of various web sites and the commentaries I have suggests that the length of a cubit could have been anything between about 44.7cm/17.6in and 55.4cm/21.8in. Similarly, various possibilities for the size of a bath have been suggested, ranging from 20.1 litres/4.4 gallons to 48 litres/10.6 gallons.

Assume for the moment that 1 cubit = 48cm. That's about average.

Possible Sea ShapesLet's also assume that the Sea was a cylinder with an internal radius of 4.8 cubits (giving a circumference of about 30.2 cubits) and height 5 cubits. (When these values are rounded to the nearest integer, we obtain the measurements quoted in the text.) The volume of this cylinder is given by the formula πr²h, where r=4.8 and h=5. This comes to about 362 cubits³, which (conveniently!) is about 40.0m³. This would suggest that a bath is about 20 litres, which is at the lower end of the range of possibilities suggested.

Starting from this cylinder, we can generate a couple of other possible shapes with similar volumes. In both cases we have to assume that the writer, rather than rounding to the nearest integer, rounded off at least the circumference to 1 significant digit (i.e. to 30, rather than to 29 or 31, cubits). If we allow the internal radius at the top of the Sea to be 5 cubits, reducing to 4.8 cubits in the middle and 4.5 cubits at the bottom, then we end up with a beaker-shaped vessel with the same volume. The circumference ranges from 31.4 cubits at the top to 28.0 cubits at the bottom.

Finally, it may have been more pot-shaped, with a bulge towards the middle. In the example illustrated, the top and bottom have a radius of 4.83m; this reduces to 4.62 at the neck of the pot and then bulges out to 5.01m in the middle. The circumference of this pot is 29.0 cubits at the narrowest part and 31.5 cubits at the widest.

It seems possible that the Sea could have had any of these three shapes, given the scant knowledge we have of the measurements in use at the time.

In closing, let's consider Josephus's statement that the Sea was a hemisphere: Antiquities of the Jews, 8.3.5. This appears unlikely unless a bath was much smaller than research generally indicates. The volume of a sphere is given by the formula (4/3)πr³. So the volume of a hemisphere with a radius of 4.8 cubits is (2/3)π4.8³, which is about 232 cubic cubits, or about 25.6m³. This would make a bath about 12.8 litres - much smaller than the "minimum" value of 20.1 litres. Indeed Josephus himself said a bath was equal to 72 sextarii (Antiquities of the Jews, 8.2.9) or xestes; this would make it equal to 1 Attic metretes, which is usually taken to be equivalent to 39.4 litres.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Teaser 3

What is the next number in this sequence?

4, 2, 3, 4, 6, 2, 4, ...


What is the next digit in this sequence?

4, 2, 3, 4, 5, 2, 4, ...




What has 4 letters, is has 2, the has 3, etc.

Wednesday, 31 January 2007

All at Sea about Pi

The otherwise excellent Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Numbers states that, “In the Old Testament, 1 Kings 7:23 implies that π is equal to 3”. Since I first read that, I have come across several internet sites that say, either implicitly or explicitly, “The Bible says π = 3, therefore it cannot be trusted.”

1 Kings 7:23-26 describes the Sea in Solomon’s temple that was used by the priests for washing: “He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it. … It was a handbreadth in thickness, and its rim was like the rim of a cup, like a lily blossom.”

π is the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle. Here the circumference is given as 30 cubits and the diameter as 10. So the ancient Jews must have thought that π = 30/10 = 3, mustn’t they? Well, no … as I shall try to explain.

First, what is described is a very large, thick basin with a kind of lip to it, “like the rim of a cup, like a lily blossom”. It’s about 4½ metres in diameter, and about 8 centimetres thick. It’s not clear whether the rim-to-rim measurement was internal, or if it included the lip, or somewhere between. Similarly, it’s not stated whether the measurement around it included the lip or not. In fact, the “line … around it” may have been measured round the widest part of the Sea—which may not have been around rim at all: it may have bulged below the rim.

Secondly, the measurements here—and elsewhere in the description of the temple—are approximate. In fact, in the 140 or so verses in the Bible that mention cubits, most only ever refer to whole numbers of them. The remaining dozen or so refer to half-cubit measurements, but that’s the smallest fraction ever used. These are not exact measurements taken from the architect’s drawings.

So even if the measurements are both taken as referring to the same part of the rim, all we can confidently say about π from this passage is that it lies somewhere between about 29½/10½ (≈ 2.81) and 30½/9½ (≈ 3.21).

Friday, 19 January 2007

Justice Down Under

It's not so long ago that an Australian court found Pastor Daniel Scot and a colleague guilty of religious vilification after he criticised Islam in a church seminar - even though his criticisms appear to have been calm, reasonable and based on his considerable knowledge and experience. After two years that case has now been thrown out and a retrial has been ordered: Free speech victory for Australian Pastor.

The experience has been frustrating and exhausting for the pastors involved. As the Herald Sun reports (Pastors' toil and trouble), despite winning their appeal, the pastors must still pay half the costs of their challenge. They have been "harassed, threatened, denounced as bigots and flayed in the papers and on the ABC, and are now deep in debt".

The fallout from that case continues, with John Howard, the Australian prime minster now becoming involved. He has been condemned for sending a taped goodwill message to the group to which the two pastors belong: Group won't reveal PM's message and PM moves to defuse hate row.

The press is now reporting that an Australian Muslim cleric, Sheikh Feiz Mohammed, is distributing DVDs that incite jihad. See, for example, the International Herald Tribune and Herald Sun. Sheikh Mohammed is reported as stating that, "We want to have children and offer them as soldiers defending Islam", and of referring to Jews as "pigs".

It will be interesting to see how the Australian authorities deal with these allegations. On the one hand, I trust that he will be judged fairly. On the other, it must be obvious that these accusations are much more serious than those levelled at Daniel Scot.

Monday, 15 January 2007

Driven Mad

According to UK Government statistics, deaths from road accidents are decreasing. For example, in 2002 there were 3,431 deaths of road users in accidents, compared with an annual average figure of 3,578 in 1994-98, and 5,846 in 1981. The number of pedestrians killed each year has fallen steadily since the mid-1990s, although the number of car users killed was little changed over the same period.

Nevertheless, in my experience, driving standards seem to be slipping. For example, in the relatively short distance I walk during my daily commute, I noticed in just one week the following minor infringements:

  • A driver on the phone, his car swaying around a roundabout.
  • A taxi overtaking a queue of cars (including one police car) on the inside.
  • A car overtaking a bus on the pavement.
  • A motorbike turning left from a right-turn only lane (with no indicators).
  • A car turning left at a crossroads across traffic from a right-turn only lane.
  • A driver in a queue leaning on the horn after a red light just changed.
  • A van driver on the phone.
  • A car stopping well past the line at traffic lights.
  • Four cars turning right from a straight-on-or-left-turn lane.
  • A van going through a red light.
Why is this? Here are some possible reasons:

  • People always seem to be in a hurry to get to work, to get to the shops, to get home again...
  • Perhaps it can be put down to general selfishness; maybe there is less regard for others than there should be.
  • There's a less visible police presence now than I remember in the past.
  • Do the police now turn a blind eye to minor infringements anyway?
  • There seems to be less respect for law in general.
  • Perhaps better car design gives drivers a greater sense of security.
  • With roads generally more crowded than in the past, there's probably a temptation to take extra risks just to make progress.
  • Drivers forget that other vehicles contain real, flesh and blood, people.

It certainly wouldn't hurt drivers to remember the so-called Golden Rule as they get into their cars: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you …

Saturday, 6 January 2007

Thermodynamics and Evolution

The ID in the United Kingdom blog has an interesting post that includes Andy Macintosh's comments about the laws of thermodynamics and their relevance to the creation/evolution debate. Some argue that the second law of thermodynamics is irrelevant to the creation/evolution debate because the earth is not a closed system; energy is being continually pumped into it by the sun. However, as Andy points out, energy alone is not sufficient to produce new information. Here's an extract from the quote:

The reason of course why this subject of origins will not go away is that there is a scientific case, whether Dawkins likes it or not, which is a challenge to the neo-Darwinian attempts to explain life in terms of common descent. It is a straightforward case of testable science versus the modern evolutionary ‘just-so’ story telling. Scientists like myself who believe in Creation have no problem with natural selection. It is simply the natural equivalent of artificial selection. But natural selection has no power to create new functional structures. It does not increase information and does not build machines which are not there already (either fully developed or in embryonic form).

The principles of thermodynamics even in open systems do not allow a new function using raised free energy levels to be achieved without new machinery. And new machines are not made by simply adding energy to existing machines. This was the point at issue in the programme of Dec 10th. Intelligence is needed.

And this thesis is falsifiable. If anyone was to take an existing chemical machine and produce a different chemical machine which was not there before (either as a sub part or latently coded for in the DNA template) then this argument would have been falsified. No one has ever achieved this.

Teaser 2

This has been one of my favourites for a while…  If you built a monorail around the equator, 1 mile above the ground, how much longer than the earth's circumference would it be?


2π (that's just over 6¼) miles. (Of course, I've assumed the earth is a perfect sphere.)


At first, it looks as though some crucial information is missing: for example, the radius or diameter of the earth. As it happens, though, the answer is the same however big the planet is.

Suppose the radius of the earth is r miles. Then its circumference is 2πr miles.

The radius of the monorail will be r+1 miles, so its circumference is 2π(r+1) miles. This can be expanded to 2πr + 2π miles.

So, the difference between the two circumferences is 2πr + 2π − 2πr, i.e. , miles.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

The Essentials?

What are the most basic Christian beliefs? If you were describing the Christian faith to someone, what are the most important truths you would want to explain? A few of us discussed these questions recently. We suggested a list of subjects; then each picked the 4 or 5 that we felt were the most important. Here's the final list. The figures give the number of votes each received. I know it's not perfect, but is not bad for a half an hour or so discussion:

9Adam fell (Genesis 3, Romans 5:12)
8Jesus died (Romans 5:8, The Gospels)
7God made us (Genesis 1:27)
7Sacrifice (1 John 4:10, Isaiah 33:10)
7Everlasting life, heaven (Matthew 25:46)
5We need forgiveness (Romans 3:10-12)
5Repentance (Acts 3:19)
5Jesus paid the price - ransom, redemption, rescue (1 Timothy 2:6)
4We sinned (Romans 3:23)
3Jesus was without sin (Isaiah 53:9)
3Hell (Romans 6:23)
3God is holy (Revelation 4:8, Isaiah 6:3)
3Faith (Hebrews 11:1, Acts 16:31)
2The Bible: authoritative, infallible, inerrant (2 Timothy 3:16, Revelation 22:18)
2Resurrection (Romans 6:5, John 20:8-9)
2Jesus was born (Luke 2:6, Matthew 1:25)
2Trust and obey
1God is ... Spirit, love, just, almighty, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, three in one, infinite, creator
1Jesus is the messiah
1The kingdom of God
1The church, the body of Christ, universal, catholic, victorious
1Judgment day
1Grace not works