Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Modern Physics

I found out I'll be teaching undergraduate Modern Physics in the spring. I'm delighted with that assignment. I'm not sure if I'll post my notes here, or just links to another, yet to be instantiated, blog.

This is good news:

A renowned political activist pastor has been released for too much politics, not enough Gospel.

Amen to that.

Terry Fox resigned, under pressure, from the Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, Kansas.

From the article:

For years, Fox flaunted his allegiance to the Republican Party, urging fellow pastors to make the same "confession" and calling them "sissies" if they didn't. "We are the religious right," he liked to say. "One, we are religious. Two, we are right."

Shameful. Can you find anything resembling this in Paul's instructions to Timothy? I can't.

Look how amazed he is that the members of his church finally had enough:

Fox, who is 47, said he saw some impatient shuffling in the pews, but he was stunned that the church's lay leaders had turned on him. "They said they were tired of hearing about abortion 52 weeks a year, hearing about all this political stuff!" he told me on a recent Sunday afternoon. "And these were deacons of the church!"

Keep in mind that the members of Immanuel Baptist are undoubtedly staunchly anti-abortion, anti gay marriage, etc. It wasn't that Fox was preaching to a liberal audience uncomfortable with his views on abortion, it was that they finally recognized that the culture wars should not take precedence over preaching the gospel. We have only one commission from Jesus, and it is not to make it illegal for people to sin. It is to spread the gospel.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

How did I miss that?

I was asked a couple years ago to step out of my generation and lead a bible study for twenty-somethings. There I witnessed the most instantaneous, phase-transition-like conversion to the predestination view of salvation. Typically those who convert from the Arminian to the Augustinian view do so gradually. A good deal of kicking and screaming is often involved. And finally, there is usually an extended period of cognitive dissonance—where those struggling exegetes will be heard to mutter: I agree that's what scripture teaches but I just can't believe it.

But on this occasion that is not what happened. We were reading Sproul's Chosen By God, and through the early chapters, where Sproul sets up the basis for predestination. Essentially Sproul paves the way by first discussing Original Sin—the idea that man, in his natural state, is morally incapable of choosing God. That is, rather than teaching predestination first and then, as an afterthought, adding and here's why we need predestination, Sproul first demonstrates why the bible had better teach predestination or, in fact, we all are lost.

When he does get to predestination he uses all the usual verses from the gospels, especially John's. Then he uses Roman's chapter nine and the coup de grĂ¢ce of grace. There we have Paul repeating the startling claim that before they were born God loved Jacob and hated Esau. It of course matters little if the "hate" God has for Esau resembles anything like what we call hate—the bottom line is God's disposition toward Esau is presented in stark contrast with that He holds for Jacob—proving that, unless Esau is the universal exception, God does not love all people just the same. Of course Paul makes it crystal clear what is going on here, giving us the why in verse 11-12: in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—.

The real power of Romans 9, in regards to the predestination debate, is how Paul segues from this troubling revelation about Jacob and Esau. Here he tells us something that shakes the Arminian's foundation: there is no level playing field. Before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, God looked favorably upon Jacob (call it love) and withheld that favor from Esau (call it hate.)

Why did God do this?

Here the Arminian has hope. He rubs his hands in anticipation. Surely it will be because God looked forward in time and foresaw that Jacob would accept Him while Esau would reject Him. Paul, they hope, will make that clear and end the debate once for all.

But that is not the case. Paul's explanation is the most un-Arminian explanation possible. He tells us the, in possibly the most un-Arminian and most important lesson in scripture, that God will show mercy to whomever it pleases God to show mercy. He tells us that we have no right, as clay, to question what the potter makes or does with us. In fact, he tells us, in truly startling language:

Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? 22What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—(Rom 9:22-23)

On that night when we reached this point in the study, a young man (let's call him Jason because that's his name) who takes a very studious and intellectual approach to bible study, but who had been politely antagonistic to the predestination view, suddenly announced something to the effect: Well that's it; game over man, the question is settled, why didn't we just start here…

It was really quite remarkable.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007


We have moved from New Hampshire to the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. It happened very quickly--we envisioned staying in NH until January. But here we are, in temporary housing, looking for a house--a process that is much more time consuming when you have the luxury of being picky.

At any rate, the last few weeks have been a whirlwind.

We went back to a church we left six years ago when we moved to New Hampshire. It is a "Reformed Baptist" church. It was small when we left--maybe 40 members--and in the intervening years it has dwindled down to about half that size. And at the moment it has no permanent pastor, although the search is on.

I also visited the Presbyterian (PCA) church we attended before joining the Reformed Baptist church. In the last six years I have moved closer to the Presbyterian position--almost convicted of the truth of paedobaptism. However, I could survive quite happily in the Reformed Baptist church--agreeing to disagree--but we will wait until a pastor is named before rejoining officially.

That's about all I have until things settle down. We have made an offer on a house--but I suspect the seller will not come down as much as we hope.

I must say I have enjoyed my break from the ID wars. I haven't even read Uncommon Descent or Panda's Thumb for a few weeks and am blissfully ignorant of the many controversies du jour that I must have missed.

Monday, October 08, 2007

You may notice a change in this blog...

when posting resumes.

For one thing, I will post less on ID. In particular, there will be far less comment on ID's flagship site: Uncommon Descent. The reasons are many. One is that the whole storyline of materialist conspiracies has grown too boring. Another is that the UD site is becoming more and more bizarre: smear campaigns; creepy, obsequious commenters; posts appearing and disappearing, sometimes without comment and sometimes with poorly expressed "notpologies" offered as explanations; dissenters getting banned willy-nilly; strangely unfunny posts labeled as humor; etc. The bottom line is that criticizing UD is starting to evoke an unpleasant queasiness in my gut—a kind of feeling of shame that you might associate with childhood teasing of some unpopular classmate.

I will continue to post on theology.

As for the science posting, that will shift from ID commentary to reporting on actual experimental nuclear physics. In particular, I'll be writing about the projects, running and proposed, at the world class Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. Most often I'll discuss what is happening in TJNAF's Hall B.

Well, that's the plan.

OT: Movers come tomorrow to take our belongings from New Hampshire to Virginia. It's a tough, bittersweet time for us. Yesterday we had a farewell party at our church. That was quite emotional.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Hiatus for at least two weeks

Because of all the turmoil involved in a move. We are moving, next week, from New Hampshire back to the Williamsburg area of Virginia.

It is so very sad to leave our church and friends (which are almost but not totally one and the same.) It is also sad to leave the beautiful state of New Hampshire, although Virginia is no slouch in that department.

Come January, I will be teaching physics here. Which is right next door to here.

We expected to move in January. Houses in this area are staying on the market for three to four months, and going for 90% of the asking price. Our house sold in ten days, at 98.5% of our asking price. My wife has always been fascinated with those shows teaching how to stage a house for resale. She put that acquired knowledge to use expertly.

Part of Heddle with the Holy Spirit indwelt: Thank you God for making this go so smoothly.

Part of Heddle that is the "body of death" being dragged about: Rats, we priced the house too low.

To my New Hampshire friends who may read this: we love you dearly, promise to be back (maybe for Caleigh), and offer our new home (which we haven't found yet!) for you to visit. Use it as a launching pad to visit Williamsburg, Busch Gardens, Water Country USA, Virginia Beach, the Mariner's Museum, Jamestown, etc. Oh—and for those friends so inclined, the best track in all of NASCAR.

Our time here has been an unimaginable blessing for us.