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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

LHF Visits the LCMS International Center

Rev. Walter Otten, Chairman of LHF Board, Rev. Dr. Albert Collver,
Rev. James Fandrey, Executive Director LHF, President Harrison, Rev. Bart Day

Today, Rev. James Fandrey, Executive Director of Lutheran Heritage Foundation, and Rev. Walter Otten, Chairman of the Lutheran Heritage Foundation Board, visited the LCMS International Center. They presented President Harrison and some of his staff with a translation of the Book of Concord into Swahili. This project has been in the works for some 15 years and was begun and was a significant focus of Dr. Anssi Simojoki's work in Africa. This is a great accomplishment and will be of potential service to the 100 million Swahili speakers worldwide.

This is a fine example of the synergy between the LCMS and LCMS Recognized Service Organizations (RSO). RSOs according to the Synod's bylaws "fosters the mission and ministry of the church, engages in program activity that is in harmony with the programs of the boards of the Synod, and respects and does not act contrary to the doctrine and practice of the Synod." (LCMS Handbook 2010, Section 6.2.1, page 204) The production of the Book of Concord in Swahili compliments the work of the LCMS, LCMS missionaries, LCMS partner churches and even non-partner churches such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT). LHF has translated Lutheran materials into nearly 100 languages in nearly 80 countries. Such works have been of great service to missionaries, professors, and partner churches.

Also discussed were ways that LHF and the LCMS could work together in better ways to maximize the resources of both organizations, which are provided as gifts from the Lord's people. In some ways, this is a follow up to the Global Impact Meeting held at the end of June with the LCMS seminaries, LCMS Mission department, and Lutheran Hour Ministries. The RSOs and Auxiliaries of the LCMS are a great blessing to the church and have tremendous potential to maximize our work and Life Together. These sorts of meetings also provide for the opportunity to discuss areas where better coordination and cooperation can occur and how past and future problems can be avoided in our Life Together. We look forward to more meetings such as this in the future. Thank you Jim and Walter for visiting with us.

--Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Adobe Create PDF for iOS

Adobe Create PDF

One of the coolest apps I have seen for iOS (both iPhone and iPad) recently is Adobe's Create PDF for iOS. As far as I am concerned, PDF is one of the best formats out there and should be the preferred method of emailing documents, etc. One of the challenges for me on the iPhone and iPad is that I could not create PDFs easily. Up until this time, the best I could do was print a document using Printopia, an AirPrint solution that I linked to my DropBox account. It also required that I have a Mac running the Printopia software. At the LCMS International Center, the ports required were blocked by the fire wall, so there went my solution at work. On the road, Printopia was not a viable solution. Now came along, Adobe's Create PDF. Thus far, it works pretty well for me. It requires an internet connection, as the document is sent to Adobe's servers and sent back to the iPhone / iPad.

You can visit the Adobe Blog or the Apple iTunes page for more info.

Here is a video from Adobe on how it works.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

“Come Lord Jesus” – A Table Prayer (in Greek)

I was cleaning my home study and came across a scrap of paper with the following words in Greek:

̓Έρχου κύριε  Ἰησοῦ 
μεῖνον μεθ ͗ ἡμῶν. 
Εὐλόγησον ἡμᾶς
καὶ ταῦτα δόματα τῶν οὐρανῶν. 

For those of you who don't read Greek, here is a literal translation:

Come Lord Jesus,
Stay with Us.
Bless us and these gifts of heaven.

Some further thought on the Greek:

̓Έρχου κύριε  Ἰησοῦ (Rev. 22:20)
μεῖνον μεθ ͗ ἡμῶν. (Luke 24:29)
Εὐλόγησον ἡμᾶς
καὶ ταῦτα δόματα τῶν οὐρανῶν. (Matthew 7:11; Ephesians 4:8)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Toodledo -- How To Keep Track Of What You Need To Get Done

I always have hated To Do lists and Outlines... However, as my life has become busier and busier, I am finding that I cannot keep track of all the things I need to keep track of. I needed some way to make a list. Being me a piece of paper wouldn't do. I wanted something that worked on my iPhone/iPad and synced to the cloud. I found Toodledo. is a powerful, online to-do list. Keeping track of all your tasks will help you avoid disorganization, stay motivated and be more productive. Check it out. The site has links to the iPhone/iPad and  Android Apps.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Copernicus and the Church, Lutherans and the Missouri Synod

Ptolemaic System (Earth Centered) vs Copernican System (Sun Centered)

In a recent blog post titled, "The Bible Is A Library, Not a Book" by Dr. Karl Giberson, The Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod specifically is mentioned as an example of the church getting egg on its face for using literalistic interpretations of the Bible to oppose scientific fact. In this case, the scientific fact is Galileo's discovery that the earth orbits the sun. Dr. Giberson holds a Ph.D. in physics, taught at East Nazarene College and is known for specializing in the creation-evolution debate. He is known both as a friend to science and to Christianity, although he argues against Fundamentalism. Contrary to Atheists, he professes hope in the resurrection (See his blog post, "My Dead Relatives In The Sky.") He also wrote a thought provoking piece titled, "What's Wrong With Science As Religion," where he shows that some scientists are as fundamentalist in regards to professing certain scientific hypotheses and theories as fact, as the so-called Fundamentalists are about some religious teachings. In Dr. Giberson one finds a person that cannot be dismissed immediately as either a scientific or a religious hack. So where does this leave the Lutheran church and the Missouri Synod in particular in regards to Copernicus and the earth orbiting the sun?

The main point of Dr. Giberson's piece is about Biblical interpretation and how literally it should be interpreted. His example is that Christians today are facing a challenge much like the Church did in the 17th century when science showed the earth orbited the sun in regards to human evolution. Copernicus' theory that the earth orbited the sun seemed to challenges the literal (or literalistic) reading of Joshua 10:13, "the sun stood still." This passage had been used to argue that the sun goes around the earth. The larger question, "Did the Bible describe what in fact happens in nature, namely, that the sun orbits the earth?" Or "Did the Bible describe phenomenologically what appeared to the observer to happen that the sun stopped moving?" Most Christians today would probably say that the Bible described how the phenomenon appeared rather than what physically happened. While in the 17th century, Copernicus' treatise was seen by many in the church as going against the Word of God, few today would take that position. Giberson, while not entirely addressing this matter in his essay, "The Bible Is A Library, Not a Book," suggests that a similar interpretative move is necessary in regards to the literal existence of Adam and Eve and Christ as the Second Adam. 

Adam and Eve, Albrecht Dürer, 1504
Dr. Giberson quoted in NPR's "Evangelicals Question The Existence of Adam and Eve" said, that unless the church can get past a literalistic interpretation of a historical Adam and Eve, it will once again end up with egg on its face. He seems to hold that the questioning or denial of a historical Adam and Eve, really does not affect the confession of Christ, or Saint Paul's teaching that Christ is the Second Adam. The parallel for him is the Copernican Revolution where initially religion (the Church) opposed the science that earth orbits the sun, but later was able to interpret Joshua 10:13 that the "sun stopped" in a phenomenological way (or a non-literal way) without loosing faith. He seems to suggest that in a similar way evolution and the non-historical existence of Adam and Eve ultimately will not affect the faith.

In this context, Dr. Giberson mentions the Missouri Synod and its denial of Copernicus in the early 20th century. He writes:
"Reluctantly, and with much egg on its face, the Church eventually made peace with Galileo and the motion of the earth. The last holdout was the ultraconservative Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church, which finally capitulated just over a century ago, almost three centuries after Galileo's infamous trial."
What is Dr. Giberson referring to regarding the views of the Missouri Synod? Francis Pieper, President of Concordia Seminary Saint Louis and of the Missouri Synod, wrote in Christian Dogmatics, Volume 1 on page 473:
"It is unworthy of a Christian to interpret Scripture, which he knows to be God’s own Word, according to human opinions (hypotheses), and that includes the Copernican cosmic system, or to have others thus to interpret Scripture to him."
Pieper's Christian Dogmatics
This quotation from Francis Pieper has caused embarrassment to many Lutheran pastors and even to seminary professors who argued that it is time to update the chief dogmatics textbook of the Missouri Synod. Yet it seems that many people miss the chief concern of Pieper, and misunderstand both Pieper's view and that of the Missouri Synod. Pieper primarily was concerned with the placing of science and philosophy over Scripture, rather than using science and philosophy in service to theology. He also was concerned with maintaining human beings as the special creation of God. His position was not much different from that of Lutherans beginning with Martin Luther who is quoted in 1539 in Table Talk (AE 54, 358-359):
"There was mention of a certain new astrologer who wanted to prove that the earth moves and not the sky, the sun, and the moon. This would be as if somebody were riding on a cart or in a ship and imagined that he was standing still while the earth and the trees were moving. [Luther remarked,] 'So it goes now. Whoever wants to be clever must agree with nothing that others esteem. He must do something of his own. This is what that fellow does who wishes to turn the whole of astronomy upside down. Even in these things that are thrown into disorder I believe the Holy Scriptures, for Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth.'"
Notice that Luther did not explicitly mention Copernicus by name, but referred to him as "a certain new astrologer." It should be noted that Luther's comments about the "new astrologer" came four years before Copernicus' work was published in Nürnberg. Clearly, Copernicus' ideas were circulating in universities before the formal presentation became publicly available. Luther was far from alone in questioning Copernicus' theory. Most people trained in Aristotle questioned the theory. However, although Lutherans questioned the validity of the theory, as a group they were not threatened by the new theory. In fact, while Rome condemned it, the Lutherans published the scientific works and even expanded upon them.

Nicolaus Copernicus, "On The Rotation Of The Heavenly Spheres," 1543
Nicolaus Copernicus' De revolutionibus was first published in Nürnberg, Germany, with a Preface by Andreas Osiander, who wrote:
"For it is the duty of an astronomer to compose the history of the celestial motions through careful and expert study. Then he must conceive and devise the causes of these motions or hypotheses about them. Since he cannot in any way attain to the true causes, he will adopt whatever suppositions enable the motions to be computed correctly from the principles of geometry for the future as well as for the past. The present author has performed both these duties excellently. For these hypotheses need not be true nor even probable."
Note the attitude of Osiander. While he considered the theory that the earth orbited the sun to be unlikely, he recognized that Copernicus' mathematical predictions regarding the motion of the planets were more accurate than the dominate predictions in his day. His faith was not threatened by the new scientific discovery.

Scholars have observed how the Reformation and the scientific revolution are connected. As Patrick Ferry noted, "This transitional time, therefore, ought not be depicted as either a pro-Copernican or anti-Copernican period, for each description says too much." (Ferry, Patrick T. “The Guiding Lights of the University of Wittenberg and the Emergence of Copernican Astronomy.” Concordia Theological Quarterly 57, no. 4 (1993): 267.) Instead, the new ideas were evaluated, reacted to, and debated in the typical university fashion.

Hermann Sasse remarked, "Unbelievable as it may seem to many of our contemporaries, it is a fact that in the last analysis Christianity has saved the freedom of science to search for truth." (Sasse, Herman. “Hexaemeron: Theology and Science with the Church Fathers.” THE REFORMED THEOLOGICAL REVIEW XVII, no. 3 (October 1958): 65.) Christianity and the Gospel give Christians the freedom from philosophy and science that tells us how things must necessarily be so, allowing the person to consider other alternatives. Even Francis Pieper in his apparent rejection of Copernicus was free not to be bound to any particular scientific theory. In fact, Francis Pieper wrote, "Our human knowledge of astronomical matters is naturally limited much by our inability to view them from a position outside this globe and the universe." (Christian Dogmatics, Vol 1, 473.) Pieper even noted how Einstein's Theory of Relativity would finally undo the Copernican system, since everything now is relative to an observer's position -- who could argue against that from God's perspective the earth was the center of the universe?

Several Cosmologists have arrived at a similar position to Pieper when considering what happened before the Big Bang. Human beings are limited by what they can observe. Brian Clegg in Before The Big Bang, wrote, "Questions in principle have answers, but in practice are never satisfactorily answered... Physicists have come up with theoretical solutions to these problems (they're linked) but they may well never be real. Similarly we may never have a definitive answer to the question, What came before the Big Bang?" Ultimately, it comes down to faith... faith that confesses the "maker of heaven and earth," or faith that confesses the universe brought itself into being.

The Hexaemeron (Creation in Six Days) always has presented challenges to reason of man. The church always has confessed this as an article of faith. Augustine's preferred way of interpreting the six days of creation was that creation happened instantaneously. After all, if the Lord God "willed" the Universe into existence, it must happen instantaneously after He willed it as God is outside of time. This stands in sharp contrast to people today who prefer to understand the "days" of Genesis in terms of thousands, millions, or billions of years -- once again it must necessarily be so... to match up science and the Bible. The Lord God is not limited by anything we consider necessarily so -- be it a creation that must occur instantaneously or one that must take billions of years.

While Dr. Giberson considers the debate of whether Adam and Eve were historical people on par with the Reformation era debate over whether or not the earth orbited the sun, it is not an apple to apple comparison. The Copernican Revolution did not challenge Christology or diminish Christ unlike the denial of the historicity of Adam and Eve. Like Pieper, we must resist any theory or philosophy that tells the Lord God how He must necessarily do something. Perhaps, the Missouri Synod and Francis Pieper do not end up with quite as much egg on the face as would appear at first glance.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Powder Valley and Deer Before Work

Hickory Ridge Trail
Deer Coming Around Trail Bend
This morning before heading to the International Center, I stopped at Powder Valley for a short hike in the woods. As many studies show now, "Quiet Green Spaces Reduce Stress." So I thought I would take a short walk before entering the office and then heading to KFUO. To my surprise, I almost literally ran into a deer. Nice to see a bit of nature before work.
A Fawn Nearby
A Doe Attending to Her Fawn

Hickory Ridge Trail and Map

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thirty Years of Personal Computing

IBM XT from 1983
Today, I came across a blog post by Mark Dean, an executive from IBM, announcing that today is the 30th anniversary of the original IBM PC released on August 12, 1981. Mark Dean holds three of the nine patents of the original IBM PC and was opining that IBM leads the way into the Post-PC era. He noted that he just retired his laptop for a tablet computer.

My first computer was not the original IBM PC, but a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A computer, released in June 1981. I used this computer for many years, learning to program it not only in BASIC but also Assembly. One of the cool things it had at the time was a speech synthesizer, that produced a robotic voice and at least for me at the time went well with the Styx song, "Mr. Roboto." Eventually, I even used it for word processing with an attached printer. I didn't have a disk drive so everything was loaded, slowly, off of a cassette tape. In many ways, the TI-99/4A was more advanced than other computers on the market at the time. It was the first 16-bit computer on the market.

Timex Sinclair 1000

I also had a Timex Sinclair 1000 computer. This eventually was dissected and carefully studied. It was the first $100 computer. Of course, if I had a wristwatch, it would have more computing power today than this computer. I also wrote programs on this computer. I remember one in particular, where I programed it to draw a rather jagged diagonal line from the top of the screen to the bottom. I spent the rest of the day trying to make the line less jagged, but alas it was hard to do considering how limited the screen resolution was. In 1982, I am not sure that the $100 was worth much of anything apart from being able to say, "I had a computer." I am sure there must have been some people who did something useful with their Timex Sinclair but not me.

Compaq Portable
The computer I really cut my teeth on was the Compaq Portable my father brought home every Friday night from General Electric where he worked. Essentially from Friday night until Sunday night, the computer was mine to do what I wanted. Back in 1983-84 this was extremely advanced technology. It cost around $4,000 (nearly $9,000 in 2011 adjusted dollars) at the time. It weighed almost 30 pounds, but it was portable. It had word processing and Lotus 1-2-3. It ran a clone of Microsoft DOS. Soon I learned all the ins and outs of the machine and the parts inside. Eventually, I had opportunities with the IBM AT system and other business type machines.

In high school, I was involved in newspaper and yearbook. My school Henry Ford II, got a state of the art Macintosh for the journalist students. I was the one who uncrated it and hooked it up to the Apple Laser Writer printer we also received. While I used the Mac in school, it did not begin my love with Apple Computer, as I was still addicted to the command line.

Command Line
Other stories of 300 baud modems, early days of Windows, beta testing for Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, et al, BBS systems, online services, early days of email, Pipeline Internet, and such could be told... So here's to reflecting on 30 years of personal computing... as I sip my coffee, writing this blog post on my Macbook Pro, with my iPhone and iPad nearby... Let the Post-PC days begin...