What Is A Trichoplax?

A Trichoplax is one of the simplest organisms you can find. It has no discernible organs or structure, and is basically a flat blob of tissue that moves around. Is it alive? I don't know. But I thought I'd ruminate on other conundrums in this space.

I Agree

Eugene on John

As a follow up to my post about "The Road", I thought I'd pass along this little quote I read recently from Eugene Peterson in the book "Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination". In short: he agrees with me.

"The pastor is the person who specializes in accompanying persons of faith 'in the middle,' facing the ugly details, the meaningless routines, the mocking wickedness and all the time doggedly insisting that this unaccountably unlovely middle is connected to a splendid beginning and a glorious ending.... When we read a novel we have a analogous experience. We begin the first chapter knowing that there is a last chapter. One of the satisfying things about just picking up a book is the sure knowledge that it will end. In the course of reading we are often puzzled, sometimes in suspense, usually wrong in our expectations, frequently mistaken in our assessment of character. But when we don't understand or agree or feel satisfied, we don't ordinarily quit. We assume meaning and connection and design even when we don't experience it. The last chapter, we are confident, will demonstrate the meaning that was continuous through the novel. We believe that the story will satisfyingly end, not arbitrarily stop."


The most important part of the story is the ending.

I just finished reading "The Road"
by Cormack McCarthy (with NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE! emblazoned on the cover) and had some thoughts I felt like I'd share.

First, this book is a tense read. Life (that is, human life, see later) is excruciatingly fragile and you never know whether some horror lurks around the corner for our two protagonists, a boy and his father (simply called "the man" and "the boy"). It's set in a dystopian future that is complete in its grey, bleak depiction of a hellish landscape devoid of any life (and I mean any, no plants, no animals, everything is dead but a handful of men roaming the earth, eating each other or the leftovers of anything they can find) caused by a unnamed apocalypse that has scorched the earth leaving only ashes and death in its wake. The man and his boy are making their way south to the coast. They have no idea what awaits them there, only some nameless hope that perhaps it may not be so cold, or so dead. So that's the premise.

Set in this theater, I was struck by one scene where the man is described as coming upon an abandoned library. He leafs through a soggy book and looks at overturned and ransacked shelves and thinks to himself that the library is a joke, simply because it was built on the premise that generations would survive to reap its treasures. Stop and think about that idea for a moment. We build things because we presume that life will go on. If we knew that the future is only bleak existence, or no existence at all, what would we do? We live life on premise!

This why I'm always astonished at the resilience of atheists in the face of hopelessness. They live their lives, faithfully maintaining that there is no meaning beyond living and dying, and yet seemingly going about their business as usual, some fruitfully so, as though it had meaning.

In a sense, McCarthy's portrayal in The Road reflects this. The man and the boy push on to something,
anything, past horrors unspeakable, the man speaking to his boy of "carrying the fire" and "being the good guys", all the while everything they see and experience is shouting to them that "all is vanity and a striving after the wind".

But of course, that's how we're built. Those who succumb to the idea that existence is meaningless, that the end is a sharp pain perhaps, then nothing, either become like animals or simply commit suicide, or, through cognitive dissonance, convince themselves that there's some purpose despite things. Otherwise, most of us live life expecting life to continue, expecting life to have some purpose ultimately.

And that's why I love the book of Revelation. Sure, it can be confusing, but one thing it tells us is that, in the end, it'll all be set right. We finally meet God face to face, unencumbered by everything that is nasty about us and about the world. Wrongs will be made right and right will be rewarded. And somehow, though we can scarcely imagine it, it will eclipse any darkness we've every known like a million suns over an ink stain. Like the summit on a tall mountain, this gives us something to fix our eyes on as we trek along. And if we believe this is how things will go, that changes how we live our story now.

Hello, Long Time No See

Well, it's been a while since I've typed anything into this little box located in this particular corner of the internets. I don't really have anything to say, just proof that I've been doing something for the past 4 months. I don't even think I'll bother with a synopsis of the paper; I just finished writing it this afternoon so my brain is too fried. If you just want to see what spending four months studying the heck out of a small section of the Bible looks like, scroll to the appendices to see the fruits of my labor. Enjoy! (Click on the "Fullscreen" link to read it not-so-tiny).

Old vs. New Miracle Workers

My first semester at seminary is over and now that I'm in the Christmas break, perhaps I can find more time to write out some thoughts about this last semester. It was a good semester, by the way, rigorous in all the right ways. I found myself enjoying all my classes, even as I was challenged academically unlike I ever had been before.

I should say that my semester isn't completely over. My Church History class still has some reading requirements to make up and I'm finishing a book of stories about early figures from early Christian monasticism. Some of these stories are pretty crazy. For instance, there's St. Anthony who, it was claimed, would fight with legions of devils and bore the marks of the battles on his body. Another story about St. Anthony by a different author relates how he sought out a certain monk and, in the process of the journey, happens upon a real live centaur and, not too long after that, a satyr as well. All of the stories of these early monks relate particularly their great humility, their extremes of poverty, their devotion to Jesus, the fantastic spiritual warfare they engaged in, and the numerous miracles that followed them.

On another note, I have also had in my mind lately an article written by leading evangelical John MacArthur who challenges Christians to stand up against so-called faith healers and boldly calls some of them out. His point was that many of these men and women use God's name largely for their own gain, accruing large amounts of lucre for themselves, all the while promising wealth and healing for their followers in the name of Jesus but in the end do not really proclaim Jesus' Gospel at all.

As I read the stories from more than 1600 years ago, I began to see a connection between these desert monks and the men and women John MacArther decries today, primarily in the sensational aspect of their careers: miracles. Both the monks and the modern day miracle workers claimed exorcisms and many healings and both lived in a world defined by their battle with spiritual forces. I have no problems believing in a God who can do miracles (if you assume a God who created this world, how can you not assume a God who continues to do with Creation as He wishes?), but even I find myself feeling a bit incredulous at the claims of either party.

But that was were the similarities end. As I continue to read about the monks of the desert I don't find my credulity growing, but I do find myself growing in respect for their personal lives. Whatever I believe about their miracles, these men were humble to a fault. Jerome wrote of the monk Hilarion that he spent most of his life fleeing the effects of the miracles worked through himself. From one place to another, he would have compassion on the various ills of people who came to him asking for prayer, and when word spread of the ensuing miracles he would speed away as fast as he could to avoid the accolades and offers of recompense that would follow. Jerome said of him that "he grieved that although his tongue kept silent about himself, his miracles would not keep silent." In the end, Hilarion wanted only to be by himself in the presence of his God, and from that his power derived.

It grieves my heart that I cannot find such humility from the many people today who claim to work miracles. Far from pushing away any offered reward for these miracles, the whole theology of these false prophets revolves around getting what they want from God, showing a greed covered in false piety. Instead of a life of almost ridiculous discipline and absolute dedication to purity, this group of miracle workers is marked by a string of scandals that seem to never end.

I still think some of the miracles I read attributed to the old monks are a little weird. But I cannot deny that I wish the current crop of miracle workers looked more like them.

Cheap Fun

So, if you're into gaming, or even if you're not, this is too good to pass up. A game called World of Goo is celebrating it's one year anniversary by allowing people to purchase it at any price. Any price. You could purchase this (really fun and well thought out, review here) game for a mere $.01 if you were so inclined, though I would suggest something reasonable, like $2. Do it. I did.

GEEK OUT: Sober News for Windows Users

Sooo... I haven't posted in a while, but now that school is getting into a rhythm I might start doing so again.

What brought me back was this sobering news from a Washington Post technological security writer. He says he has been investigating "organized cyber crime gangs" and finding out how they pilfer thousands of dollars from businesses using trojans and such-like nasties. His recommendation for said businesses after all his fact-finding? Don't use Windows. Yup. Not: get anti-virus software; not: follow good password practices; not: use a firewall. Just don't use Windows. There's no other way to ensure 100% that you won't have some nasty malware on your computer that's sniffing out your bank info.

Instead he recommends using a Linux live CD, which I think is brilliant. (He also suggests using a Mac, but not everyone can afford to do that). Basically, it's a CD with an operating system on it that you pop into your CD drive, boot up with your computer, and run it straight off of the CD (as opposed to from your hard drive). You can then access your bank via the web, free from worry. My favorite Linux live CD (which I've used extensively) is the Puppy Linux CD. It's fast, fully featured, and very cool. If you're curious about using this CD, I can help you figure it out...

Revelation Chapters 19-22

I finished my series on the book of Revelation last night, not without some bit of sadness. Certainly I feel the accomplishment of having made it through such a challenging study, but I also feel like my involvement with The House ministry is wrapping up too. In any case, I've enjoyed preparing for these studies and I've learned a TON. I feel like my knowledge of scripture and of God's plan has been profoundly affected by the book of Revelation.

So, what did I talk about? Well, it's the end of the book so John is wrapping up loose strings. We see a progressive defeat of God's enemies (the harlot, the beast, Satan, and finally death), the millennium in the midst of that, and then the New Earth and New Heavens. There is a lot in the text to point out that it's not meant as a verbatim account of what will come, but as a spiritual guide of what to expect. So, for instance, we shouldn't expect New Jerusalem to literally come as a ginormous cube out of the sky, but we should understand it as a symbol of who and what the church is, in shadow now and in fullness then.

Mainly, what I wanted to express was that catching a glimpse of God's plan, of His mercy and His love for us, can create hope in us. I believe that hope can really change the way a person lives. Furthermore, what a person hopes for matters too. As Christians, if we understand that anything this world has to offer us pales in comparison to the promise of God's presence, how can we not live differently in that light? That, I believe, may be the entire point of the book of Revelation. I'm hopeful I got that point across.

Survey my notes here.