March 2009

The Prodigal God

The Prodigal God, by Tim Keller ★★★
This book was read at the recommendation of Pastor David Scott, and a good recommendation it was. I had already read another book by Tim Keller and found this text about as enjoyable. Keller takes the parable of the Prodigal Son and expounds on the two sons and the nature of God in both instances. The nature of the sons is discussed as fitting the character of many that we find in church, yet both are offensive to God. Interestingly, both are offensive to those who are exploring the nature of Christianity and happen to visit a church. This book is a lesson in our attitude toward God, not expecting God to bless us simply because we serve him better than others, or because we deserve it. Keller starts the book out slow, and builds steam, taking until the last chapter to discuss the true implications to the Prodigal Son narrative. In that chapter, he details how God has a great feast preserved for us and welcomes us. Yet, this feast will be enjoyed by neither the younger nor elder son, but by those who come to the feast on God’s terms for His sake, and not ours. This is a short book, that can be read in 1-2 sittings, and a worthy volume to have digested.

Intelligent Design 101

Intelligent Design 101 – General Editor H. Wayne House ★★★★★
This was a delightful compendium of various authors in the Intelligent Design movement, displaying a broad summary, from the science to legal aspects of what is occurring in ID. The writing was quite variable, but still broadly high quality. Most of the writing was a re-hash of writings I’ve read before, some of which were very readable, such as Michael Behe’s chapter, others a little more ponderous, such as Casey Luskin delving into the science of evolution vs. ID. I had not read Luskin before and found him to be rather perceptive, offering new insights. Luskin was able to discuss beyond the issues of irreducible complexity, to discuss the issue of convergence, where similar functions co-develop independent of each other, an event with a prohibitively low probability of happening just by accident. He also discussed issues arising from the crisis of Linnean (morphological) and genetic family trees being moderately dissimilar, suggestive that perhaps it is not a tree-like evolutionary scheme, but rather parallel developmental processes from various species to the next. The writers never lapse into the Creation Science Research mold of a young earth but remain independent of the exact nature of the intelligence that may have brought about the world that we see. The final appendix was a rebuttal of Francis Collin’s text on the random evolution of monkeys into man, pointing out his errors in suggesting that such evolution was only accidental. All in all, a worthy read.

The Color of Paradise

The Color of Paradise  Directed Majid Majidi ★★★★
We’re in Bangladesh, at the Kelley’s. We wanted to watch “What about Bob?”. We can’t get the system working. So, we put on an Iranian film, with English subtitles. At first, I was a bit skeptical. What decent film could come out of Iran? This film was superb. The cinematography was first class. The story is about a young blind child, finishing a year of school in Teheran, and going home with his widowed father to the hills outside of Teheran. I had no idea as to the beauty of Iran. It was quite nice and quite rugged. The story discusses the dilemma of a father trying to find a life for his child, first by attempting to re-marry, later, by attempting to get his son to work with another blind wood craftsman. Ultimately the film has a tragic end. I was very tempted to give this film five stars, but knocked it down, only because I didn’t appreciate the director trying to be too artistic with the storyline, by leaving mystery such as at the end as to whether the boy met a tragic versus the fortunate end. It was more a storyline that you might expect from the avant-garde French directors, and while leaving a sympathy for the handicapped, failed to make a strong moral or philosophical statement, but left one hanging. One aside… if I would have seen this film several weeks ago, I would have been fairly annoyed by the dress of the women. Now that we’ve been in Bangladesh for a week, I am appreciating the (usually) colorful though fully-covered dress that is found in this part of the world.

Why the Universe Is the Way it Is

Why the Universe is the Way it Is, the Hugh Ross ★★★
Hugh Ross is the founding father of the organization called Reasons to Believe and has training as an astronomer. In this text, he details the immense precision of multiple variables required in the founding of the universe following the big bang that would have permitted an environment that was favorable for life. Ross discusses in broad terms the mathematical possibility of the current universe. He details the size, age, and other characteristics of the current universe, identifying only a narrow window of “opportunity” for life to have arisen in the universe. Through it all, he concludes with the extreme unlikeliness that such an event could have happened solely by chance. Unfortunately, most of the evidence given was discussed in very broad, non-scientific terms, and that reference was made that the evidence was detailed on a website. That’s fair, but I had expected a touch better discussion than he offers in the book. This book is an “ok” read for a non-scientific mind, but for the one searching for a touch more detailed explanation, this book fails. Ross does offer discussion at the end of the book on the theological implications of the current creation, as to why we are not in a perfect universe, but that we can expect one to come. Based on descriptions in Revelations, Ross offers conjectures as to the nature and physics of the new heaven and earth.

The Cells’ Design

The Cell’s Design, by Fazale Rana ★★★★
In this book, Rana details how various complexities in cell design and function suggest most strongly for an intelligent designer. Rana takes a different approach from classic intelligent design pundits by not quoting probabilities and statistics, but rather, by looking at various nuances in our biological knowledge to argue against an accidental origin to like. An example of what he gives is the prolific observation of convergence. This is where certain enzymes have “evolved” at least twice by different pathways and yet perform similar functions. This would be considered highly unlikely to occur by accident. Rana speaks about how various pathways that were thought to be highly inefficient and thus suggestive against an intelligent designer, were actually shown to be pathways that were the best design. This is perhaps an opposite analogy to the “god-of-the-gaps” explanation which fills God into unexplained scientific knowledge. Rana’s writing style is at times quite simplistic, but at times, he does pass me by briefly, even though I am rather knowledgeable in cell biology. Thus, I’m not entirely sure who would make the best audience for this book. It is unlike the bookDarwin’s Black Box, which can be read by lay and biological scientists alike with the full understanding of the argument. Rana makes excellent arguments for the plausibility of intelligent design. Thus, he proves a reasonable argument for a Creator that demands answer from those who suggest life to be an entirely random process.

In My Place Condemned He Stood

In My Place Condemned He Stood, JI Packer and Mark Dever ★★★★★
This book resurrects a number of writings that have already been published in the past regarding the doctrine of penal substitution and propitiation. Unfortunately, it is a topic that has gone by the wayside on pulpits, so most Christians would look at you clueless as to exactly what you were talking about. Unfortunately, these doctrines are the absolute center of Christian orthodoxy, making Christianity different from all the other regions of the world, including Muslim, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc., and also different from the whole of Christian cults or sects, such as Mormonism or JWism, or Christian Science. These doctrines were re-acknowledged by Martin Luther and John Calvin, which fueled the reformation. Yet, such doctrines go as a mystery among most Christians. Most of the chapters are requotes from classic JI Packer, including a chapter out of Knowing God, his preface from Death of Death by John Owen, and several other writings. The book is followed by an excellent reference list of further reading on the topic. One of the chapters by Packer is a touch technical, otherwise, the book should be approachable by most people grounded in the faith. It is a very worthwhile read.

Phoenix SSO

I’ve often commented about the Northwest being a Paradise in summer. Actually, I was slightly inaccurate about that comment. It is also a paradise in winter. True, it rains all winter. But… it can be paradise if one enjoys skiing. Both downhill and cross-country skiing appeal to me, though I definitely enjoy cross-country skiing more than downhill. So, I got to experience my first downhill night skiing this year. It was a blast. I was with somebody who was definitely a much better skier than myself, but it was still very delightful. The photograph of this precious event was not so helpful at showing that we really had a blast.

Cross-country skiing has many varieties in the Northwest. One day, Jonny and I was able to go at a fairly fast clip on groomed trails. The next,  Jonny and I did true cross-country skiing, plowing our way through steep slopes, in the woods, powder up to our hips, which made it extremely difficult since we were on fairly steep slopes attempting to go up. It would have been easier with Mountaineering cross-country skis, with skins attached. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry!).

The snow hasn’t been particularly plentiful in the mountains. That is a little surprising, since, as I write this piece, it is snowing for the fifth time this year outside. This is unusually strange since I’ve never seen it snow more than twice in a year. Surely this is global warming! Either that or God intends to make a total fool of Algore.
I was able to make it down to Portland. During that visit, I discovered that a new Bengali language text was out on the market. The problem is that it didn’t have a CD, which is not available yet from the publisher. It looks a lot better than the only other real text out there, which is totally useless, the Teach-Yourself-Bengali text by Wm. Radice. I am completely frustrated with the language teaching modalities used in Radice’s text. I’ll have to wait for Bangladesh in order to re-commence my studies. Meanwhile, I was also able to see my youngest brother Gaylon. We went out to a “German” restaurant (Gustav’s), and I noted that there was about nothing on the menu that was similar to what I had in Deutschland. So, I endured, enjoyed a good beer, and left it at that. I ate much better in Germany for a fraction of the cost. The photo shows Gaylon in his pad.

So, off to Phoenix. The first two days were spent with brother-in-law Petie Megyesi. He is a wonderful cook, his wife is an even better baker, and they have the most loving dog named Bubba that would eat your leg off if you ever came near to him.

Petie runs a business that makes on-hold messages for the telephone. If you need some 1st class stuff done up for your office telephone system, give him a call (1-800-678-9971). I then went to the Society of Surgical Oncology meetings. It was nice meeting my old friend Dr. Peter T.

There was nothing new at the meeting. I didn’t learn much. In the old days, we fought cancer by looking at very large metabolic charts that hung on the wall and devised means of blockage of various metabolic enzymes. Now, we have very large charts that hang on the wall with lots of regulatory substances, all named with three letters, like ras, raf, fos, kit, etc., etc., and now we are devising blockade for them. Then, we do a few limited bench studies, herald the drug as a “promising” new treatment for cancer, after which we run countless expensive clinical trials to find out that the drug gives a possible 1% survival benefit, which is definitely statistically significant, even though the effect lasts for only 3 weeks – 9 months. I had to contain my excitement. There were a few good talks. I wish they would spend their time funding sole basic research, especially looking at embryology, the genetics of development, and the mechanisms of differentiation, de-differentiation, and phenotype expression. It’s not so glamorous of research, but it would be challenging to convince the Feds to pour billions of dollars into this sort of research, though, I suspect that it is here where the ultimate cure for cancer will be found, and not in the endless search for another metabolic or regulatory pathway to blockade.
Final preparations have commenced in earnest for our trip to Bangladesh. Our bags are slowly getting packed, unpacked, and repacked, very indecisive about exactly what may be needed for 2 months in Bangladesh. Betsy also has several outfits for Bangladesh, as you can see in the introductory photo. When we return from BD, I will make up a packing list for future ventures! We have our visas, and Samaritan’s Purse has been exceptionally helpful for Betsy and me. Meanwhile, I’d like to remind all you dear readers that I cherish all of our e-mails, even though I don’t respond to every single one of them. We will try to stay in touch, and even update our “Feuchtblog” once in a while, though I’m not sure how good the internet will be in BD for such a task. I WILL NOT be sending out notices of blog updates in BD, so please check the webpage from time to time if you are interested.