July 10,2006 The Big Blue Marble

I just passed a local site today: the "most awesome flea-market in the world" and another sign touting world famous awesome Bar-B- Que. My friend Larry sent this: it was edifying and TRULY awe inspiring. We need a dose of real awe every once in a while to get a bit of perspective. I sometimes miss my days at the beginning of my career of working as a planetarium artist...
The site is a glorious one by NASA.

By permission, here's Larry's off- the- cuff commentary..."To me, the most eye-opening thing was the great difference between South and North Korea. There, one picture says much more than 1000 words -- the great dark void between South Korea and mainland China. And yet, we should have known it all along. South Korea almost looks like an island off the coast of China."

"First, this is one of these views that can be made large or small. Most of these comments are made from large viewing -- but they apply either way."

"Notice particularly, that you can see the outline of the continents barely, where the lights aren't -- thus you can see all of Canada if you look closely."

"How the islands that ring the Caribbean are so well lit. And the difference in lighting between Cuba and little Puerto Rico to Cuba's east -- and while in the area, note the Florida Keys."

"Note how the South American countries that are in financial darkness are also in literal darkness -- Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru, and inner Brazil."

"!! And in that vein, and timely, the difference between North and South Korea, just west of Japan. The "diamond" at the top of South Korea, right near the darkened DMZ is Seoul."

"And Japan itself may have the greatest concentration of lights per square mile of any country. "

"And SSW of Japan, the little island of Taiwan, with a great concentration of lights facing toward China."

"And paging down, the great unlit central and western lands of Australia.
And paging left/west, Africa -- the upper half showing the unlit Sahara desert; but in the bottom half, the unlit middle is the Congo -- in darkness in almost every way."

"And the peculiar lights around the Nile River in Egypt -- almost like spotlights -- the only river so delineated."

"And while China has large unlit areas, India has lights all over (very highly defined). And to the Northwest of India, the big unlit void of Afghanistan. And NNE of India , unlit Tibet.

"And how well defined the Mediterranean is, and how well lit the boot of Italy and Sicily are compared to Greece just to the east."

In His Presence

Through the gates of splendor we pass
We go the way of all flesh and all grass
While the ancient doors are open wide
To invite the beloved inside.

Through the gates of heaven rides the glorious King
He sits in majesty enthroned and rules o’er everything.
To enter these gates will be our goal
To dwell in his presence where we are made whole.
Where we will receive our inheritance
At a celebration where we’ll sing and we’ll dance.

In His presence there is unity
In His presence there is peace
In His presence we will forever remain
We will never seek a release.

For in His presence there is beauty
In His presence there is rest
The joy and the purpose for which all men loing
In His presence where His name is confessed
And He is forever blessed.

In His presence there is mercy
Restoration and comfort complete
Where the hungry and the thirsty
Eat a banquet there at His feet
As we fall before the mercy seat.

Anthony Foster
July 7, 2006

Thinking critically...

Critical thinking is the active pursuit in the life of the mind to establish a coherent, unified process of looking at and interpreting reality in the light of what is right and true. As rational, moral., creative, and aesthetic creatures who are created in the image Dei, critical thinking is not an option.

Colossians 3:9-10 tells us to "put on the new man, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image (ikon) of its creator." Paul tells us to "Critically examine EVERYTHING. Hold on to the good." (1 Thessalonians 5.21). 2 Corinthians 10:5 says we are to "take every thought captive in obedience to Christ."

Critical thinking is a virtue, and is related spiritually to discernment. Indeed, I would say that for the Christian, critical thinking is a form of righteousness, since it is set about the business of exacting what is right, true, good, and beautiful. That would infer that the lack of critical thinking is a form of sin. Critical thinking will likely involve the deconstruction of one's presuppositions and assumptions. Critical thinking is active thinking- it is curious and skeptical, and forms a lens through which by the power of the Holy spirit, we can be led into all the Truth.

Critical thinking pursues the reconstitution of the perception of truth that was fragmented by the fall. It is an aspect of renewing our minds (Romans 12:2). This process has taken me early on through the reading and of books on logic, and the practice of logical argumentation where the goal was to destroy your opponents arguments and quote the Bible doing it. As an artist the process of critique was the way by which one improved one's abilities aesthetically and ideologically. I learned not to be precious with my work or identify with it in a selfish way.

Later as I grew up, I learned that critical inquiry is an act of humility, wherein one comes to understand it is by the grace of God we know anything objectively. Francis Schaeffer, Carl Henry, C. S. Lewis, and the gift of several fine pastors who loved me enough to help me see this reformed my view of reality. Perhaps the greatest benefit of critical thinking is in understanding that from the perspective of the cross, which is foolishness to the wise, failure becomes a theological construct.

As a college teacher, I have endeavored to instruct my students especially in the critical evaluation of information, creative critique, and in the difference between original and derivative thought.

Thinking about thinking

It has occurred to me that in my life, critical thinking has been exacted in relational dialogue (It also occurred that I need to spell check). First, with my "Great Knocks" who have challenged my presuppositions: my wife, who has the gift of discernment, and who came from a non-churched background has helped me burn the dross of churchianity out of my life as I have discipled her. My best friend, Larry Gott, who is a PCA teaching elder (he's been the co-teacher of Sinclair Ferguson's SS class for the past couple of years) is great at Socratic questioning; our email conversation has extended for nigh on ten years now.

Miss Dorothy, my childhood Sunday school teacher who taught me that scripture memorization and asking "what does the Bible say?" is to be a part of daily life; My former pastor, Duane Litfin taught me that Biblical theology is the only theology I should ultimately make my stand on and that the proper handling of the scriptures is prerequisite; my co-members at a couple of great Bible churches in Dallas who were DTS professors - sustained and challenged me during a "sand seminary" Midian experience; Jerram Barrs, who modelled a keen mind and a meek and humble heart.

Dialogue of another kind can come from reading. First of all, reading authors with whom you do not agree and even reading syncretistic or proponents of fallen ideas, such as Paulo Friere and Jonathan Kozol, Heidegger and Hegel and Kant, Tillich. If we read cheaply, we will likely think cheaply.

At the opposite extreme, in addition to the authors I previously mentioned, I awoke this morning thinking of the contribution to my thought life made by Garry Friesen, Jonathan Edwards, J. I. Packer, Cal Seerveld, and so many others I have never met in person this side of heaven. Every so often I track down and write a letter of appreciation to individuals who have been Samaritans on the cognitive journey. I have a lot of those to write in heaven.

No Neutral Assumptions

We all have an ontological set that helps us make sense of the world. In regard to critical thinking, it is necessary for us to determine what those basic presumptions are. This is especially critical for leaders since we will be challenged at this nexus from within and without the church.

From within the church, we see a shift from belief in absolutes to relativism. In the emergent church, especially, the very leaders are buying the postmodern construct that you cannot reason with people about faith, and apologetics is an endangered species in these circles. We are told that "knowledge puffeth up" and anti-intellectualism is taking on a new tenor: anti-rationalism.

Apologetics is only one area where this is important. We should know our own presuppositions and why they are necessary, such as the assumption of the truth of supernatural revelation, cause and effect, the law of non-contradiction, the reality of absolute truth. Foucault denied the reality of any of these, partly based on the failed promises of modernism. We assert them based on the faithful and true promises of God. Our opponents will declare that the world makes sense from their naturalistic presuppositions or deny the possibility of making sense in an absurd world. But most of them will still get up and go to work tomorrow as if it does.

We will be challenged to show them why their belief systems are not in keeping with reality, or where their presuppositions do not cohere. We are up against an anti- logical, absurdist generation, but God is the God of lost causes. Logical proofs are important but we cannot stop there, as logic itself is based in the rational-personal aspect of the image of the God of Truth. It is because of this, in relation with the convicting power of Word and Spirit, that in a world of competing worldviews that the Christian worldview is absolutely superior.

Jesus Loves the Little Varmints

Jesus loves the little varmints
All the varmints of the world
Though our sin is black as night
We are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little varmints of the world

Jesus loves the little varmints
All the varmints of the world
He will cleanse and make us right
Then we’ll walk within the light
Jesus loves the little varmints of the world.

Anthony Foster
July 10, 2006

You are Awesome, God

You are awesome, God- you deliver the weak
You are awesome, God-so your glory we will seek
You are awesome, God-as you turn our loss to gain
You are awesome, God- and forever you shall reign
Awesome God!

We stand in awe in your presence
We tremble and fall on our face
We give you all glory and reverence
In awe at your amazing grace.

You are awesome, God- for lost sinners you restore
You are awesome, God- We your holiness adore
You are awesome, God-Sonow we declare your fame
You are awesome, God-praise the name above all names
Awesome God!

You are awesome, God-you created all the earth
You are awesome, God-We’ll not measure all you’re worth
You are awesome, God- For you spoke and there was light
You are awesome, God-you alone will make us right.
Awesome God!

We stand in awe in your holy presence
On your name we call as on our knees we bow.
We give you all glory and reverence
We worship for you have saved us now.
Awesome God!
Awesome God!
Awesome God!
Awesome God!

Anthony Foster
July 10, 2006

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From the personal weblog of Anthony Foster @http://anthonyfoster.com/blog/