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  • Direction: Divine Stardust
    building blocks of matter are themselves somehow inherently carefully constructed within narrow limits There appears to be something at work which has made it possible for the universe to change while yet maintaining its cosmic focus David Schramm noted cosmologist has written It the universe had to be a very very carefully laid out machine We also know that the universe seems to be very fine tuned 3 One of the giants in the area of nuclear physics Victor Weisskopf put it this way It looks as if somebody had arranged it so the density is the same all over even in places that would not have had any possible communication or interaction with one another And further the origin of the universe can be talked about not only in scientific terms but also in poetic and spiritual language an approach that is complimentary to the scientific one Indeed the Judeo Christian tradition describes the beginning of the world in a way that is surprisingly similar to the scientific model 4 And then Weisskopf quotes Genesis 1 1 The words fine tuned imply that if any of the four fundamental forces were changed by a very small amount typically one percent or less the atomic nuclear and gravitational structures composing our universe would not be sustained Two examples of many should help illustrate this insight Consider the case of gravity the weakest of the four forces If it were slightly stronger matter would accrete faster and stars would burn more rapidly and there would not be time to fuse the nuclei needed to sustain life If the force of gravity were slightly weaker stars would not possess the temperatures needed to ignite fusion so only the very lightest elements hydrogen and helium would exist 32 Consider the nuclear force the strongest of the four which is responsible for binding neutrons and protons together In the simplest system of one proton and one neutron deuterium if the nuclear force were slightly weaker the nucleus would not hold together so the formation of heavier elements would be terminated If the force were slightly stronger then neutrons and protons would readily form only very heavy elements so life would not exist There are many other examples which could be cited to show the fine tuning present in the physical world that enables the universe to exist 5 The universe and its contents are constantly changing but always within the narrow limits of these four fundamental laws that govern the range of possible outcomes Change was woven into the very fabric of the universe but the Weaver apparently kept an eye on the overall pattern DESIGNER GENES As previously stated due to the uniformity of the universe the Cosmological Principle CP prohibits any statement that places humanity at the focal point of the developing universe The idea here is that humanity is just another part of the universe that has developed over time and should not be given any special reason for existence This certainly fits the philosophical ideas that Einstein embraced when he developed his two types of relativity as well as his view of the quantum mechanical wave function observer problem Strong advocates of CP insist that conditions in the universe occurred initially which led to the universe as we see it today as a result of chaotic processes void of any order or probability Certainly one may envision a full ensemble of possible universes to be initiated which would not possess the characteristics of the universe we observe However even after undertaking these mental gymnastics we still need to explain why our present universe survives after fifteen billion years whereas the hypothesized universes will not support life From the time you were one cell until now more than seventy five trillion cells that set of cells has developed and functioned to make you a conscious organism Purpose has been part of the overall process This emerging structure also has had to deal with other interacting agents that would harm the structure chemicals X rays other radiation but usually the organism repairs itself to remain functional This is all due ultimately to the nature of quantum mechanics and one or more of the four basic forces within the universe These hold the cells together and give rise to biological activity that eventually produces the amazing quantity we call life and consciousness 33 So in the case of cell material you do not have to purchase designer genes you were born with them What I am suggesting is that within the vast array of designer possibilities or design space similar to the idea of phase space in physics there appears to be something present which is more than just random construction J Polkinghorne puts it this way The way life has spread out has not been totally random for there is a metric on Design Space a pattern of hills and valleys which directs development in one way and not in another 6 THE ORIGIN OF INTELLIGENT BEINGS The overall effects which result from the four fundamental forces suggest that the physical laws of the universe are loaded with purpose or freighted with the future That is the laws of physics appear to give evidence of intention Why is it that the universe permits the development of stars and galaxies and intelligent beings at any place or at any time in history To answer this and similar questions one may refer to the Anthropic Cosmological Principle AP This term was first introduced by Brandon Carter in 1973 to counter an extreme version of the Copernican Principle namely that humanity s place in the universe cannot be privileged in any sense There are two forms of the Anthropic Principle One called the Weak Anthropic Principle WAP states that only one particular set of laws of physics and particular conditions that exist in the universe would allow the existence of intelligent life Thus the WAP is selecting only that universe in which life can develop

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/29/1/divine-stardust.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: The Environmental Crisis: Thoughts of a Christian Ecologist
    a 41 situation made worse by our increasing numbers Creation like justice and peace has fallen prey to our imperfect natures as humans through history have abused the Creation in pursuit of resources and a better life It is noteworthy to discover that others consider an understanding of human nature to be crucial to solving the environmental crisis G Tyler Miller begins his popular textbook Environmental Science with this quote from Lynton Caldwell The environmental crisis is an outward manifestation of a crisis of mind and spirit There could be no greater misconception of its meaning than to believe it is concerned only with endangered wildlife human made ugliness and pollution These are part of it but more importantly the crisis is concerned with the kind of creatures we are and what we must become in order to survive To be sure there are differences in the definitions of human nature and how to address its shortcomings but it should be clear to Christians that 2 Corinthians 5 17 has special meaning both for human society and the environment So if anyone is in Christ there is a new creation everything old has passed away see everything has become new NRSV There is an Environmental Crisis I further suggest that there is an environmental crisis There is now broad agreement in the scientific community that there are serious problems with the life supporting processes of our environment Air water and soil are being rapidly degraded in all countries Natural habitats and their wildlife are being lost as human populations expand especially in the tropical regions of the world Species not even observed by scientists are disappearing forever There is clear evidence that ecosystems are breaking down The pollution and environmental degradation can be easily seen by almost anyone in Los Angeles Chicago Mexico City Calcutta Rio de Janeiro or even Wichita Kansas And who would deny the reality of starving people in Somalia India or other countries which are desperately trying to cope with millions of homeless landless people Six billion people now exist and seven billion are expected by the year 2006 nearly eleven billion by 2045 42 h No One Did This on Purpose I further postulate that lack of knowledge of basic ecological processes and incomplete economic and political views are behind much of our environmental difficulties None of us wants to be part of the problem rather than the solution Nobody would consciously poison the water or air or engage in activities which lead to the misery and death of other people So why do we find it so difficult to protect the ecological integrity of Creation THE MYTH OF ENVIRONMENTAL INDESTRUCTIBILITY Many people believe that the environment is indestructible It is so big and encompassing that normal economic activity will not harm it The claim is put forth that all the environmental reports of destruction are just overblown stories and that environmental regulations are unnecessary and merely hamper economic growth and the production of jobs

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/29/1/environmental-crisis-thoughts-of.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: Sociobiology, Anabaptism, and the
    are not kin The answer has usually been to emphasize a tit for tat type of behavior if you scratch my back I ll scratch yours Natural selection could favor generosity toward others if it was performed only toward those who reciprocated While people may 49 exhibit apparent generosity and sacrificial behavior toward others the basic nature of humans and life in general is selfish Altruism is merely a disguised form of selfishness The denial of the reality of truly generous behavior was exemplified in the quote Scratch an altruist and watch a hypocrite bleed Nevertheless the blood type of altruists is difficult to determine with precision Where is the hidden selective benefit in the life of Jesus early Anabaptist martyrs or of contemporary altruists like Mother Teresa Various attempts have been made to make sense of such altruistic behavior from the vantage of sociobiology One challenge to the traditional orthodoxy has come in the form of a recent revival of the concept of group selection David Sloan Wilson argues that earlier arguments against group selection were flawed and that group selection is important in shaping altruistic behavior Sober and Wilson 1998 23 54 Another approach suggests that altruism toward others raises the reputation of the practitioner among the group demonstrates reliability and induces support from group members The current state of much sociobiological thought presents a somewhat changed perspective on human nature It suggests we are naturally selfish yet there are also within us natural inclinations toward charitable altruistic actions How appropriate is the paradigm of abject selfishness when it is natural to show care and concern toward relatives and friends Cooperative behavior can be argued to be just as much a part of human nature as is confrontation We have natural tendencies to display generous behavior But the predominant theme is that there are limits to our goodness The leash of genetic self preservation must ultimately constrain the bounds of human altruism PARALLELS IN RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVES Christians who emphasize the depraved nature of the human condition echo sociobiologists who insist the selfish gene trumps all From a less negative perspective the doctrine of original sin reinvents itself as genes which naturally predispose us to act in ways that preserve our genotypes While sociobiologists view their field as the vanguard of understanding human nature Jesus words seem to foreshadow recent sociobiological perspectives on altruism Reciprocating the actions of good or evil is natural the challenge is to return good for evil Matt 5 38 42 Praying and almsgiving in public carry their reward as well but these acts in secret can secure a benefit only from God Matt 6 1 19 Loving the neighbor who loves you carries its own reward perfection requires loving the enemy who does not Matt 5 43 48 50 If many sociobiologists have been skeptical of the possibility of truly altruistic and sacrificial behavior this certainly is not a uniquely recent claim The ethical call of the Sermon on the Mount is demanding It seems intensely unnatural and perhaps unattainable The rigor of the call has led Christians to many different interpretations of how we are to respond It has been variously interpreted as hyperbole as an attitude to be adopted rather than acts to be implemented or limited in application to certain private spheres of life Another response has been to view it as a means of showing the impossibility of God s standard We realize our inability to follow its commands and thus recognize our need for grace Since we are saved by grace we need not be troubled by our lack of perfection Similarly if the bonds of human selfishness are so strong as to prevent the Sermon s fulfillment perhaps it is an ethic for a transformed eschatological future In a view common to many dispensationalists the Sermon applies not to this current age but to the Kingdom to come EXPANDING THE ETHICAL CIRCLE Anabaptist theology has historically stressed the centrality of following the altruistic ethics of Jesus found in the Sermon on the Mount an ethic that reaches beyond the confines of kin and neighbor and tribe The challenge is to expand the circle of ethical concern Singer 1981 The belief that approaching such an ethic is possible in the present has distinguished Anabaptism from many other views Arrayed in opposition arguments for the impossibility of such an ethic have come from both Christians and sociobiologists The question that comes center stage is whether or not it is possible for people to practice an ethic of extreme altruism One would assume that the logic of sociobiology would contradict a truly altruistic altruism But a careful reading often reveals surprises For George C Williams An unremitting effort is required to expand the circle of sympathy for others This effort is in opposition to much of human nature Rolston 1999 264 And Dawkins writes Let us teach generosity and altruism because we are born selfish 1976 3 Holmes Rolston 1999 264 272 notes the discrepant logic of these statements for sociobiologists commonly argue that ethical beliefs are simply an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate Ruse and Wilson 1993 310 If these statements are to make any sense they must assume we have the freedom as humans to break the straitjacket of genetic determinacy It requires an element of human free will but at the same time recognizes the powerful ways in which selfish human 51 nature works against these purposes It also requires a belief that what exists in human nature is transcended by what ought to be A curious shift has occurred recently in the argument of that quintessential sociobiologist Edward O Wilson While previously he had asserted that it is a mistake to confuse what is with what ought to be known commonly as the naturalistic fallacy in his recent book Consilience 1998 he claims otherwise After arguing forcefully for the reality of genetic constraints that shape our nature there appears

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/29/1/sociobiology-anabaptism-and-problem-of.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: Theology of Numbers
    directives more than 15x 1 17 19 3 16 42 49 51 4 37 41 45 49 7 6 8 8 3 4 20 22 11 24 25 17 7 26 3 4 27 22 29 40 31 3 24 31 a fact that makes his disobedience 20 9 13 all the more surprising The diary of Israel s journey tells mostly of a people bent on noncompliance and on wrongdoing They are dissatisfied and complain about God s provisions incident of the quails 11 1 34 they lack trust and disobey they refuse to enter the land 13 1 14 45 they are impatient 21 5 9 and insubordinate Korah 16 1 40 and they flagrantly disregard the commandments e g they enter into illicit sexual relations with the 58 Midianites 25 1 5 Moses himself as leader fails to comply by striking the rock instead of speaking to it 20 1 13 Sin is clearly multidimensional There is clearly a nexus between sin and its consequences Wrongdoing brings disastrous results inevitably to Miriam and Aaron 12 10 to Korah and company 16 15 34 and to the collective people of God chs 14 24 25 5 The book is a warning 32 8 15 23 as well as a challenge to the new generation Leaders Mediating Leaders and the ministry of leaders is a gift 18 5 7 19 The necessity of leaders lies in part in their mediatorial role Yahweh who never speaks to the people directly communicates his message through the leader Moses Some 50x it is reported that the LORD spoke to Moses Priestly leaders exercise their mediatorial role by offering sacrifices e g Aaron s pan of incense during a plague 16 46 50 The mediatorial service of leaders includes intercession 11 2 12 13 14 13 20 16 22 21 7 Behind the description of the mediatorial role lies the understanding of a significant distance between people and deity but also of Yahweh s desire for contact and involvement Leaders Multiple and Caring Leadership is multiple in nature even though Moses is the leader 31 13 Miriam and Aaron are part of an inner circle 12 1 5 By Yahweh s command in response to Moses complaint of overload seventy persons are chosen to assist Moses 11 16 29 marked persons for upon them the Spirit comes in a significant way 16 17 26 29 Provision is made for Aaron s successor Eleazar 20 22 29 and for Moses successor Joshua 27 12 23 The installation of Joshua details not only the privileged position of leadership but through the shepherd image underscores the function of leadership as caregiving 27 12 23 cf the ordination of Levites 8 5 26 Leaders Privileged and Responsible So many are the privileges of priests cf service in the tabernacle 3 5 8 gifts to them of forty eight cities 35 1 15 receipt of people s tithes 18 8 32 that one may not be far wrong to think that the object of the book was to legitimate the priests particularly the Levites God insists The Levites are to be mine 3 45 8 14 The issue of status succession service was not unimportant Ezek 44 15 31 The two instances of revolt against the leader Moses viz Miriam Aaron Numbers 12 1 16 Korah Dathan Abiram 16 1 40 leave one with an understanding 59 that God s appointed leaders are inviolate cf 17 1 12 One dare not move against them But election is to responsibility more than to privilege The legislation early in the book is at pains to specify clearly the duties of various groups e g the Kohathites Gershonites and Merarites 4 1 49 In general the priests sons of Aaron present sacrifices 16 46 25 13 officiate in purification 5 11 31 19 1 10 and offer the priestly blessing 6 22 26 The Levites not differentiated so sharply in other books are here placed in a stratified position lower than the priests to be wardens of the tabernacle 1 47 54 3 5 9 31 30 47 For a newly emancipated slave people unaccustomed to self governance the structures of governance were critical Law Not Impersonal Codes The considerable number of directives instructions and laws touch more areas than merely cult or ethics they encompass virtually all of life There are directives about census politics 1 2 54 26 2 63 about land distribution boundaries and inheritance economics ch 34 about the faithless wife and women s vows domestic matters chs 5 30 about the disposal of war booty military ch 31 and especially about cult offerings festivals purification chs 7 29 18 9 These directives all at the mouth of Yahweh depict a dynamic of Yahweh people interaction The instructions laws are not a codified set of statutes the makers of which are anonymous but are instead the will of the suzerain God That these are not to be viewed as promulgations into a social vacuum is already clear from the way in which law L and narrative N alternate 1 10 10 L 10 11 14 45 N 15 L 16 17 N 18 19 L 20 25 N 26 27 11 L 27 12 23 N 28 30 L 31 33 49 N 33 50 56 34 36 L so J Milgrom Numbers xv Law Precedent A notable feature of the laws in Numbers is that they frequently arise out of an exceptional case or instance So for example the incident of the persons unclean because of contact with a corpse yields the directive that for them the Passover can be deferred until they are clean 9 6 14 The unclarity of the nature of punishment for one who does not hallow the Sabbath but gathers sticks contrary to command is resolved The man is to be stoned 15 32 36 The singular case of a man with only daughters who cannot inherit property is resolved by

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/29/1/theology-of-numbers.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: The Joys of 7/8 Time
    of the congregation to do likewise No one is excluded or included solely on the basis of position It is a joy to worship together when the service is led by members of the congregation not only by paid staff The worship commission is central in the planning and practice of worship This commission consists of the pastors and five or so members of the congregation one of whom is the lay leader It has been the custom for some years now to develop annual and seasonal themes around which we celebrate the presence of God in our lives During the past year the concept of an annual theme has been replaced by the use of the Revised Common Lectionary The worship commission or others in the congregation plays an active role in taking the texts recommended by the Lectionary and working to develop seasonal themes in accordance with the calendar of the church year Also considered are circumstances within the life of the congregation events in our denomination and matters in the larger community For example this approach allows us to plan for the Advent season and reminds us that Epiphany follows Pentecost becomes connected to the Sundays which follow Easter rather than standing alone Special days 66 such as the U S Mennonite Brethren Conference Peace Sunday or World Fellowship Sunday are given space as well as the annual church camp out The variety of voices within the worship commission are allowed to speak under the umbrella of the texts recommended by the Lectionary as we together recognize God s work through the text in the congregation in our lives and in our world RESOURCES We have found the work of Robert Webber the quarterly publication Reformed Worship materials from the Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries and the Builder particularly helpful in this process Not only are suggestions made for interpreting and presenting the texts for the day but these are woven into the larger history and tradition of the Church Very often the perspectives of another faith tradition awaken us to evaluate our own practices and habits This has led to a renewed determination to fill our services with Scripture We have also been persuaded that opportunities for confession and times of silence have often been missing from our services and should be included more frequently We have added special morning and or evening prayer services at certain times of the year such as the Lenten season For the past four years we have also held a Mourning Service at Christmas for those who find that season of the year difficult One of the unique assets of this congregation often reflected in worship commission discussions is attention to the arts We remind ourselves continually to consciously include quality music poetry drama banners and a variety of other visuals We will long remember the very large rock in the center of the sanctuary during one Lenten season The rock reminded us of God s faithfulness as well as

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/29/1/joys-of-7-8-time.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: Our Father in Heaven: Christian Faith and Inclusive Language for God
    inspiration in which inspiration revolves around the ideas found in scripture there is room for inclusive language He places a great deal of weight on the difference between names and titles such as father king and lord and other descriptors such as rock light love eagle etc Whether or not this particular argument can be sustained will have to be decided by linguistic experts The book has a number of strengths First is its comprehensive nature It covers a wide range of arguments on the issue and looks at them in the light of biblical interpretation historical practice and language Second the detailed table of contents makes it easy to locate a particular argument Third Cooper carefully supports each argument with an impressive list of citations from major authors in the field Fourth he is straightforward about his personal bias on the issue Despite these strengths the book is not without weaknesses Although the numerous citations are footnoted and referenced in the index there is no cumulative bibliography at the end Partly because of Cooper s attempt to be so comprehensive and partly because of the structure the book makes for tedious reading Each rather lengthy chapter has an introduction and a conclusion and sections within each chapter also have introductions and conclusions This causes some repetition It would definitely be easier to use the book as a reference to be consulted than to read it from cover to cover Another problem is that the overall tone is quite judgmental One cannot help but feel that anyone who disagrees with Cooper s views is less than Christian This weakens the book as a tool for gracious dialogue on a volatile issue Although Cooper is quite comprehensive when it comes to dealing with the major arguments on the issue of inclusive

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/29/1/our-father-in-heaven-christian-faith-and.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: A Royal
    parts of this book begin with a Scripture based sermon since Dawn emphasizes that the Church s worship must follow scriptural guidelines in order to form a biblical community Though she speaks as a theologian it is clear that Marva Dawn has a special interest in music of the Church The title of the book was inspired by an encounter with a student in the Sacred Music Department of the Westminster Choir College in Princeton New Jersey She asked Are we wasting our time here Dawn answered In the light of rapid changes 70 in congregations attitudes toward worship and of numerous controversies over styles and substance one might wonder if preparing to serve as a church musician is a waste of time 13 But from this point to the end Dawn discusses responses to a lengthy list of questions and in so doing draws on the wisdom of an impressive list of authors A sampling of these questions will suggest the content of the book and the breadth of its appeal How has postmodernism affected Christian thought 39ff What does it mean to be the Church for postmodern times 54ff Why is setting limits on the media critical for Christian worship 70ff Dawn s treatment of this issue is particularly urgent for the church today How has consumerism affected the Church s worship One of Dawn s statements here should raise eyebrows it is utterly dangerous for churches to offer choices of worship styles 98 How does the Church exercise the difference between worship and evangelism 124 What happens when God is not the center of worship 155 Worship is not a matter of taste How does one resolve the conflict of Traditional vs Contemporary taste What idolatries invade the Church Idolatry of ease of materialistic consumerism experiential consumerism

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/29/1/royal-waste-of-time-splendor-of.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: New Testament Ethics: The Story Retold
    church is called to read the Bible as a story in which it discerns the correspondence between the present community and the people whose story is told in the New Testament Hays affirms the priority of the canonical story the need for careful exegesis and a recognition that the right understanding of the texts is possible only when we act in obedience to them 19 He asserts that New Testament ethics requires a confessional self involving commitment to put what we read into practice 19 72 Hays suggests that New Testament ethics involves four overlapping tasks First the descriptive task calls for a careful reading of the text The synthetic task seeks to discern a coherent perspective within the diversity of the canon Hays claims that the unity of the New Testament is centered around the gospel story which itself requires a cluster of images community cross new creation to adequately identify what is fundamental to the ethical witness The hermeneutical task is to place our community s life imaginatively within the world articulated by the texts 33 and to see our lives anew by reading them in metaphorical juxtaposition with this story 35 The church is called to stand under the authority of Scripture and to allow its life to be confronted with the vision of the New Testament Finally the pragmatic task is for the church to embody the meaning of the text as it is continually being shaped by the text Two further issues are addressed by Hays He raises the question of the significance of the historical Jesus for Christian ethics in light of the renewed discussion regarding the canonical story of Jesus and recent attempts particularly that of N T Wright to develop an historical reconstruction Finally Hays applies his approach to New Testament ethics

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/29/1/new-testament-ethics-story-retold.html (2016-02-16)
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