Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12


Extraordinary Silliness

The group of atheists behind last year’s controversial bus ads that suggest God “probably doesn’t exist” will be splashing a new set of posters on buses across the country. Photograph by: Handout, Handout

Christ meets Big Foot: more irreverent atheist ads to hit Canadian cities

The atheist group behind last year’s controversial bus ads suggesting “there’s probably no God” is rolling out a provocative new set of posters on buses across the country that places Allah beside Big Foot and Christ beside psychics. The new posters bear the slogan: “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence” with “Allah, Big Foot, UFOs, Homeopathy, Zeus, Psychics, Christ” listed below. They will hit Toronto streetcars in January, pending final approval from the Toronto Transit Commission, said Justin Trottier, national executive director of the Centre for Inquiry, an atheist organization. After the Toronto debut, the organization plans to post the ads to buses in Calgary, Vancouver, Ottawa, Saskatoon and Montreal. “Why is belief in Big Foot dismissed as delusional while belief in Allah and Christ is respected and revered? All of these claims are equally extraordinary and demand critical examination,” says the campaign’s website, http://www.extraordinary-claims.com. Trottier insists the ads weren’t designed to offend religious Canadians.

Perhaps you’ve heard this particular mantra of the atheistic crowd before.  It is a favourite for stifling any meaningful debate.  And why wouldn’t it be? If you demand extraordinary evidence it is then very easy to simply dismiss any evidence given as not extraordinary enough.  So nice try, but better luck next time.  You can see why many find it effective.  In case you are wondering, this seems to be where the idea came from:

“Carl Sagan is also widely regarded as a freethinker or skeptic; one of his most famous quotations, in Cosmos, was, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”[40] This was based on a nearly identical statement by fellow founder of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, Marcello Truzzi, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.”[41] This idea originated with Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749–1827), a French mathematician and astronomer who said, “The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness.”[42]” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Sagan)

I agree, that all claims must be backed up by evidence, but here is where a little bit of rational thought clears up a whole bunch of silliness … Pecisely what isextraordinary” evidence? Evidence is evidence. You either have evidence for your claim or you do not.  We may certainly dispute the worth of the particular evidences given, we may seek to give differing weights to say, circumstantial evidence versus eye-witness evidence, forensic or textual evidence, and the like … but who gets to say what is “extraordinary” or not? Especially before any such evidence is even given?  And, just what evidence are they providing to make their (extraordinary) distinctions?

As a wise fellow on a discussion forum once said, The phrase has a certain emotional appeal, but such an appeal has no place in critical thinking, logic, or scientific discussion. Evidence is evidence. You either have it or you do not. Any preceding adjectives (like “extraordinary”, or “overwhelming”) are subjective and emotive value judgments that should have no place in rational discourse. To put it another way, the veracity of any claim must be assessed according to the “weight of evidence”.  Any claim, big or small must be supported by sufficient evidence.

To see how this particularly silly argument holds little real weight, consider this.  If extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, then surely very little claims require very little evidence, right?  Then why not make the claim that anyone who seriously holds to this position is either not very bright, or is intentionally lying.  Secondly I will claim that you shouldn’t listen to those who are not wise, or who are lying.  Neither of  these is an extraordinary claim.  They are each of them, rather minor claim, therefore my evidence needs be no more than they think calling something extraordinary is enough to shut people up.

It is not my intention to get into bout of  name-calling, however, just to point out the lack of rational integrity in such a point of view.  Evidence for Jesus and His resurrection, (unlike Bigfoot and UFO’s) is not only substantial, historical, verifiable  (and found outside of the Bible too), but on orders of magnitude above and beyond any other historical figure of the ancient world.  If atheists would like to argue the particulars of the evidence that would be most productive.  But then again, it wouldn’t easily fit on a bus ad and would take a lot more conviction, care, and well-reasoned thought.

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By the way, just for fun, why not turn the whole thing around, and let them taste their own medicine for a while … Christians are not the only ones to have “extraordinary” claims.

If life came from non-life, then only being able to make new life from completely non-living materials will be proof enough, that such a thing happens.

If, in the Big Bang, everything came from nothing, then once again making everything from nothing is the evidence required to prove it happens.

Multiple universes, the spontaneous creation of (useful) genetic information on an order such as to change an organism, dark matter and dark energy, star formation, and billions of years, all need to be shown, not by extrapolated information (as the underlying constants may not be constant and the beginning assumptions may not be correct), or by secondary effect (simply showing how such a thing “must” be to balance some mathematical, or physics equation is not proof – again the underlying equation may be faulty, and/or the assumptions may be wrong), or by computer simulations (they only do what their programmers tell them to).

True science is observable, measurable, and repeatable.  Until such claims can be directly observed, measured AND repeated no amount of evidence will be enough.

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A Very Spiritual Experience

Believe It or Not! Acquires Laundry Lint Artwork of Biblical Proportions

ORLANDO, Fla. (Jan. 11, 2011) –Michigan artist Laura Bell is a little fuzzy about the details of her portrait -The Last Supper. That’s because she used fluffy dryer lint as the medium for her take on this famous work of art. The massive masterpiece measures 14 feet long by 4 feet tall and has been acquired by Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Bell says she spent seven months saving the lint from her own dryer … she ended up buying towels in the colors that she wanted to use in the portrait and washed and dried them separately to get lint with just the right tint. She estimates that she spent 700-800 hours just doing laundry to get the lint she needed for The Last Supper.  She says it took another 200 hours to create the portrait. All the lint in her portrait is as it came out of the dryer and has not been colored or dyed.

She says she’s been thrilled by the response from people who have seen it, and the prospect of millions more seeing it via Ripley’s. “For some people, it’s a very spiritual experience,” said Bell. “Others are simply amazed at what someone could do with basic laundry lint.”

This past summer I took my family through the Ripley’s “Odditorium” in Niagara Falls.  I remember seeing similar pictures made from dryer lint (and other more disturbing media).  But nothing quite so grand or wonderful as this! The best part of all this for me is the artist’s quote near the end: “For some people, it’s a very spiritual experience. Others are simply amazed at what someone could do with basic laundry lint.” Count me as one of those who sees this as a very spiritual experience.  But not simply for the subject matter of the lint in question.

I for one, am amazed, not by what can be done with ordinary lint, but with ordinary lives.  As this lady crafted the product of 800 loads of laundry into an iconic work of art, so to does God mold and shape the basic components of everyday lives, into a work of art with heavenly meaning.  For me, the spiritual experience is in the doing  of the laundry, not the picture at the end. 800 hours of laundry is in itself a glorious picture of one person’s love and commitment to her home and family.

In Lutheran circles we call that vocation.  And vocation truly is a very spiritual experience.  When a mother cares for her sick children. When a father plays with his son or daughter.  When grandparents send cards and call on birthdays.  When employees work diligently, when students learn to the best of their abilities … when ordinary people do the ordinary things of ordinary life … extraordinary beauty unfolds.  Most of the time we are so busy doing it that we can’t see it.  But if we just step back and look again, we might just be surprised at the work of art before us.

That’s why God the Father sent His Son Jesus.  An divine artist in the medium of basic humanity.  A flesh and blood saviour to weave His life and vocation into our own.  In doing all that ordinary sons should do He redeemed those who are children.  Through His devotion to work He redeemed workers.  Through His limitless compassion to His fellow man He redeemed neighbours. In faithfully paying taxes He redeemed citizens. In suffering and dying He redeemed those who suffer and die.  In rising to everlasting life He gives life the living.  Water for Baptism, Words for faith, Bread and Wine for His body and Blood.  God uses the ordinary to achieve a very Spiritual Experience – Forgiveness, Life, and Salvation!

And in Christ, your life as a husband or wife, as a son or a daughter, a grandparent, a student, mentor, employer or employee … this is the raw material that God, the greatest artist of them all, is using to build His greatest masterpiece!  Strand by strand, the grand tapestry is woven together, as we are built up and we in turn build others up by doing the work that is before us to do.  By itself no one thread, no single bit of dryer lint, seems like all that much.  Taking that time to spend with your children, going to the extra effort at work, being neighbourly … again, not much.  Not the material we would have used to leave our mark.  But put it all together in the hands of a master artist and you have something truly amazing. A grand masterpiece of  Biblical proportions!

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Year Two

Once again I am offering to (both of) you my loyal readers, is a collection of postings from my blog during its second year of life.  The posts run from October 2009 to the end of September 2010. It’s in a handy-dandy PDF file for easy printing and/or ignoring.  If you can find use for it, or some enjoyment in it then all the best … but this is probably more for me.   I know there are services that will do this sort of thing with just a click or two (and a few dollars!), but putting it together gave me the opportunity to look at each post once again.  Preserving, revisiting, reflecting … that’s what this collection is all about.

Download: Hope For the Hapless Year Two

Reviewing it all, and comparing it to the first year’s compilation showed me a couple of things.

1. Life gets busy, and I get lazy.  I would promise to try and do better, but I’m already really good at it!

2. Even though I found a few less things to talk about, apparently I had more to say about each one (Year Two was sparser, but more long-winded)

3. Year One had a few more “lighter side of the news” pieces, while Year Two had more stories and poetry. (Year Three – Technical Manuals…?)

4. Once again, I managed to offend some, confuse others, and encourage a few here and there … not bad for a year’s work. 

5. I’m sure there are still a few more things I can find to talk about … if you still want to listen (and maybe even join in the conversation).

May God continue to bless our time together in the coming year.  I can’t wait to see what comes next!


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This Little Light of Mine

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany.  The church’s celebration of the coming  of the Wise men, Gentiles from the East, to worship the Christ child.  Epiphany shows us that Jesus Christ is the true light of the world, the Saviour of the nations, and the Lord of Jew and Gentile alike.  Epiphany reminds us Christians that we too, are to shine forth as a reflection of Christ’s light.

Often overlooked in all this talk of Wise Men and Stars, is the detour they took into Jerusalem.  These magi from the East, got lost for a time.  They needed something more than the miraculous star to see them to the Christ Child.  CFW Walther speaks powerfully of the importance of this fact when he said:

Even more wonderful than the circumstances of this account is the fact that God chose to lead the Wise Men to Bethlehem, not exclusively by the star, but also via a detour.  The Jewish king, with his chief priests and scribes, first had to show them from God’s Word that Bethlehem was the place where Christ could be found.  We cannot imagine that the all-wise God would have done this without a most important reason. God wanted to show all future generations that He did not lead the Gentiles to His dear Son by miracles, by stars, by angels, or by some other extraordinary heavenly appearance. Instead, He directed them by means of men, His already existing church. We see from this that the mission to the Gentiles is a duty of the Church … The Christian Church is a debtor to the whole world that remains outside Christ. The are responsible for the lighting of the heavenly star of the Word for the poor Gentiles and leading them to Bethlehem.

As I begin a New Year this will be my humble resolution.  That I, through this blog, may continue in my own little way to be just such a detour.  For two and a half years I have been trying to light the heavenly star of the Word that would direct people to Jesus.  Sometimes by reflection, sometimes in poetry or story, sometimes by asking questions that others may not want asked … I do it not to tell you more about me (there’s really not that much of interest to be said) but to point you onward to Christ.

So look onward and upward – to the Babe in Bethlehem, the Teacher and Miracle Worker in Galilee, the Suffering Servant upon the Cross, the Saviour emerging from the opened tomb, the King of Kings who sits at the right hand of the Father.  Here is the true light of the world! The light no amount of darkness can overcome!

And as long as my own little light continues to show you (however imperfectly) that great and glorious light, I am doing all that I hoped for in this little exercise.   Sometimes the batteries will run low, sometimes the light will unfocused, but my prayer is that however weak it may be, this little light of mine will continue to lead you back to that which all truly wise men (and women) seek .