Products of a Static, Literal, Inerrant Bible

A few days ago, a childhood friend of mine shared this video to Facebook. He grew up in the same church as I did and about 3 or 4 years ago he abandoned his faith to become an agnostic. Following the video are some comments between him and one of our high school classmates who, as you can tell, is still a Christian.

Bill Nye The Science Guy says this was the craziest moment from the 2014 creationism debate.
Posted by Business Insider on Thursday, April 9, 2015
Agnostic: All very good points. I must admit that the "Noah's Ark" story was one (of many) things that made me realize the bible is largely fictional. Just doesn't make sense for lots of reasons, one of which he articulates very clearly.
Christian: Never set limits on Jesus...He's fully capable
Agnostic: So he created all of these new species without anyone noticing? Lol. And that is one of the smallest problems with the Noah story.
Christian: Are you saying He can't?
Agnostic: Yep, I am. But, in fiction, anything can happen. My bigger problem is with a God that would destroy his "creation" in such a cruel way. Imagine little children who have done nothing besides being born to "evil" parents being forced through the horror of watching their parents die in such a horrible way and then to die by drowning. If there was such a god...think I'd crucify the SOB myself . But, I draw comfort in the fact that the story is obviously made up...our modern knowledge of geology and archeology really don't leave much doubt anymore. So, if there is a god (and I don't deny it is at least possible), he did not destroy the world with a flood and he (she?) is not what the bible depicts. Anyway, just my thoughts. Hugs
Christian: There are some things I cannot explain nor understand this side of heaven.....but I choose to place my faith and trust in Jesus....someday I will get the whole story but until then I trust in His plan.
First, let me say how pleased I was at how civil the comments were to one another. There is a rooted respect for the other and any disparaging comments were accompanied with hugs or admitting that this is their choice of belief or opinion. Refreshing, no?

Here we have two literal understandings of Genesis 6-8, where because of the wickedness on the earth, God sends a yearlong flood to destroy the earth, but saves 8 people and all flood surviving species in an ark. It is a darling story in Sunday Schools and Sabbath Schools because of the prolific images of giraffes, elephants and polar bears poking their heads out of a semi-circle wooden boat. The narrative of global destruction is glossed over for kids (and many adults) with selective reading focused on the saving love of God.

Agnostic's understanding is rooted in the dissonance of a loving God who has no problem wiping out almost all life on earth, with the added complication of scientific dissonance (sheer numbers of species, geological evidence, and the way too recent timeline). He has decided that the whole Bible must be false, or in his words, fiction. Of course, he has many other reasons not to believe that the Bible is fiction, this being just one.

Christian's understanding comes about since she was taught that the story of the flood must be taken as a literal, factual account. If this is not a factual account, then the Bible can not be accepted as God's word thus falsifying the resurrection of Jesus for instance. She resolves the evident dissonance with childlike faith (a practice endorsed by Jesus) and casually explains away scientific problems as events God could easily orchestrate since He is God.

But is there another way to understand the story of Noah, and other stories from the Bible?

I have been impacted by Mark Noll's excellent book on the history of Evangelical Christianity in North America called The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. As a result I am far better able to approach historical Christianity and ancient Christian doctrine (and understand why all these new churches came to exist in North America). In short the story is this: When the British churches came across the Atlantic, they abandoned church authority and became a deregulated enterprise. Anyone with a fresh look at Scripture or a charismatic preacher could start a new denomination, especially if they filled pews or tents. Preaching on hellfire was pretty popular as were exciting new interpretations of Revelation. Next came the Darwinists and the real possibility that churches were going to lose members so Christians reacted by actively trying to denounce teachings on evolution. (this is far to brief a telling, hopefully readers can extrapolate).

The result was an almost wholesale rejection of 1800 years of church tradition, which in some ways was important because of corruption. But in the end a great treasure trove of wisdom was lost by the new denominations. One of those treasures is the traditional way the Bible was interpreted. The early church and the churches who preserved these traditions (think Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican) had ways of interpreting everything from end times theology (which is virtually non-existent by the way), who Jesus was, and of course Genesis. The Bible was not viewed as a book of facts - even Jesus words are probably not all quoted verbatim, but rather a book of truth and story helping reveal God's work among his people. Ultimately, God reveals himself through his Creation as well, and most importantly through His son Jesus through the incarnation.

Back to the flood. If I read the story of Noah as fact I am faced with a dilemma: accept Bible and reject science or reject Bible and accept science.

What if I read it as a narrative to reveal another prelude to the Gospel: end of sin through a cleansing of water (think baptism), salvation of man and creation. Eastern Orthodoxy calls Mary the ark because she carried salvation in her womb. Noah is called out in the New Testament because by faith he inherited righteousness. The "days of Noah" are referenced a few times in the New Testament too as days of wickedness, times where redemption was needed. Imagery of cleansing water appears throughout the Bible.

So, do I believe the Bible to be true? Do I believe the story of Noah to be true? Yes.

Do I believe that all the stories in the Old Testament are factual accounts? Better: Do I have to believe that all the stories in the Old Testament are factual in order to believe that they convey truth and ultimately the truth about Jesus? I don't think so. And I think there are very good reasons not to. The Old Testament is a collection of various authors over many centuries in an ancient world very different from our own. Their use of stories differs greatly from the way we think of stories (think accurate reporting, a team of fact checkers, scholarly review, etc.). The Israelite people conveyed stories to bring identity and meaning and purpose and hope of deliverance and to share what they had come to know about God. They weren't meant to be referenced in geological analysis or as source for speciation in the biology lab. Noah and the Flood teach me that God hates wickedness; God can do incredible things when we are faithful.

I do believe a guy named Noah who was faithful to God existed. I also believe that there was a destructive flood, an ark, saved animals, etc. It isn't important to me whether or not he was one of only 8 living people on the planet after a worldwide, cataclysmic flood. It is important that his story tells a truth about who God is and who we are.

I would certainly appreciate Bill Nye's response to this latter understanding of Noah and a smaller scale flood.


At one point in the comments, God's righteousness is questioned since he would have killed innocent children along with the wicked. This is a much deeper problem that Christians ought to wrestle with. This along with the wiping out of entire tribes in Canaan (genocide?) or certain Psalms where the one sings for the destruction of their enemies in some pretty violent ways (reference as the imprecatory psalms or the cursing psalms). How do we resolve this perceived picture of God with the ultimate and most accurate revelation of God through Jesus? Jesus calls on his followers to love and pray for their enemies - not curse them. Instead of calling down fiery sulphur onto the wicked Romans, he allows them to crucify him. Dissonance anyone? I won't get into how I resolve these in this post, but it is certainly worth discussing at some point. Randal Rauser does a fine job in his book which I just reviewed last week (The Swedish Atheist, the Scuba Diver, and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails) and at his blog. I'm also keen to read the upcoming A More Christlike God by Brad Jersak as he tackles these very legitimate concerns.


Travelling to Northern BC

Every year. Every year since I've met my wife*, I have made the trek north to Smithers, Hazelton, Kispiox, etc., BC to visit her mom, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends.

It's a very long drive. Interestingly, it's essentially the same distance from Edmonton as it currently is from Calgary: 1,150 kms. While it would only take light under 0.004 seconds to travel that distance, it takes us 12 hours.

12 hours in our little Toyota Matrix. The kids sleep, eat, read, eat, play on the iPad, ask for snacks, tell me to turn down the music, and eat.

The first 4 hours take us through world class national parks Banff and Jasper. I never tire of driving Highway 93 through the Columbia Ice Fields.

Everytime I've driven Highway 93 at this time of year it has been covered in a thick pack of snow. This year it was bone dry allowing us to make good time. And it didn't muck up our undercarriage.

Amber reserved us rooms at the Hostels International in Jasper, which is just outside of Jasper. The common area is beautiful and peaceful. I played card games with three guys I met after Amber and the kids went to bed. During that time however, there was a group of 8 guys who were very loud and very rude.

We had a private room. My kids were tickled to sleep in a bunk bed. I had a hard time getting to sleep with all the comings and goings and loud conversations and dance music (?!).

The next morning, I drove to McBride, BC where we stop to pee. We pass Mount Robson, the highest mountain in British Columbia, on this leg. Amber drove the next 2 hours to Prince George. She got to drive through the blizzard. The weather can be different every 2 hours as you cross through different mountain ranges.

We stopped to stretch our legs less than an hour from Smithers at the little highwayside park in Houston. They boast the largest fly fishing pole.

Then we enjoy the warm hospitality of our hosts and the cool mountain air and bits and pieces of northern life.

*Almost every year. Every year minus 3, so just 15 times.


Brew 9: Scottish Heavy, Stout, India Amber Ale, Oktoberfest

This is my first real collaboration with another brewer. I was contacted by my brewing mentor a week ago to see if I would like to come brew 4 batches of beer to help use up 50 lbs of left over grain and some aging hops. I supplied the yeast and my brewing equipment so we could brew 2 batches at a time.

I borrowed Alex's equipment for my first five all grain brews and ultimately modelled my nano brewery after his, so we've been in touch a fair bit over the last year. He put together recipes to match his load of munich and vienna malts. We looked at the hops he had left from competition wins and agreed on some combos.

Here are our recipe outlines:

India Amber Ale
Grain Bill: 4.5 lb 2-Row, 4.5 lb Light Munich, 1 lb Crystal 60º, 0.67 lb Victory, 0.25 lb Chocolate, 0.125 lb Melanoiden
Hops: 2.5 oz Experimental P09-2 (60 min), 2 oz Falconer's Flight (5 min), 2 oz Falconer's Flight (0 min)
Yeast: Wyeast 1203 Burton IPA

Grain Bill: 7.7 lb Light Munich, 4.5 lb Vienna, 1 lb Crystal 60º, 0.1 lb Melanoiden
Hops: 0.5 oz Aramis (60 min), 0.5 oz Aramis (30 min), 1 oz Aramis (15 min)
Yeast: Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager

Stout (Foreign Extra)
Grain Bill: 7 lb Vienna, 3.75 lb Light Munich, 0.7 lb Black Patent, 0.5 lb Victory, 0.5 lb Chocolate, 0.44 lb Melanoiden, 0.14 Peated Malt
Hops: 1 oz Experimental P09-2 (60 min), 2 oz Experimental P09-2 (30 min), 1 oz Experimental P09-2 (15 min)
Yeast: Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale

Scottish Heavy 70
Grain Bill: 4.75 lb Munich, 4.7 lb Light Munich, 1.7 lb Vienna, 0.3 lb Black Patent, 0.25 lb Chocolate, 0.25 lb Peated Malt, 0.125 lb Melanoiden
Hops: 1.5 oz Triskel (60 min)
Yeast: Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale

We brewed from 10 am through to about 4 pm and Alex was going strong when I left with a fifth brew of his own. We plan on sharing our beer with our church's Man Scouts.

Book Review: The Swedish Atheist, the Scuba Diver and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails (Randal Rauser)

The debate between those who believe in God and those who do not has often devolved into shouting matches or insults. What I have always appreciated about Randal Rauser is that he is as interested in listening as he is at being understood.

I was introduced to Dr. Rauser has been a regular fixture at the ACSI teacher conferences I attend annually and I invariable attend his sessions even though they have nothing to do with my subject. I experience him as a philosopher first and theologian second so the guy can think. His presentations typically deal with controversial subjects like the imprecatory psalms or brainwashing or biblical genocide. What I really like, besides the controversial topics, is that he is able to present thoughtful alternative positions on a topic without mocking or belittling any of the sides.

He brings this generosity to this book on apologetics. The book presents philosophical and theological arguments for and against belief in God and then specifically for and against the Christian God. What is most unique is the setting and characters: it is held entirely in the Beatnik Bean, a coffee shop where he, a fictional atheist character named Sheridan and we the reader sip americanos and discuss flawed arguments and flawed theology. It reminded me of the little I read of Sophie's World - the philosophy best seller of the 90s which was set as a conversation between a teenage girl and a philosophy prof, but The Swedish Atheist is far more engaging.

Rauser initially tackles the more or less weak arguments that the new atheists have used to attempt to debunk belief in God in their assertion that they believe in reason and therefore put them beyond reproach in their epistomology. He then faces some of the more difficult questions specific to YWHY in relation to the ordered mass killings in the Old Testament and the western doctrines of eternal conscious torment in hell. Ultimately, no one has really changed the other's mind, but there is mutual understanding that the other isn't crazy - and that's saying something.

The book is playful, funny, and profound. I'm glad I picked it up and I look forward to reading more of Rausers many books.


Brew 8: Imperial IPA

When I read that Russian River brewmaster had shared his recipe for Pliny the Elder, I had to try! Pliny is consistently a top rated beer (currently #7 overall at BeerAdvocate). Picked up the recipe from Brewing Classic Styles, a must for home brewers.

It becomes readily apparent that this is a robust brew considering that it cost me nearly $90 in ingredients (and yes, I know I could have save money had I ordered stuff online).
$25 in malted grains
$10 in yeast
$55 in hops
To give a sense of how many more hops this recipe calls for, a typical non-hoppy 5-gallon batch of beer would likely call for 2 ounces of hops. This one uses 16 ounces.

As far as home brewing for economic reasons, this one still makes sense since the typical imperial IPA costs double other beer. Still pricy though.

6 ounces of hops in the boil for bittering:
2 oz Columbus (15% alpha acids) 90 min
2 oz Chinook (12%) 90 min
1 oz Simcoe (12%) 45 min
1 oz Columbus (15%) 30 min
This gives the beer a ridiculous measure of International Bitterness Units: 336 IBU. Alexander Keiths India Pale Ale has a 28 IBU. Lagunitas Maximus Imperial India Pale Ale is 78 IBU. Nelson's Full Nelson Imperial IPA is 90 IBU. I found a few beer with 100+ IBU, but that's all they state: 100+ IBU. Bushwakker Trephination Double IPA 100+ IBU and Alley Kat Dragon Series Green Dragon Double IPA 100+ IBU.

Then some hops are added at knockout, the moment the boil ends in order to take advantage of the aromatic oils that are released when hops are added. If they are added any earlier, the oils (which add aroma and flavour) are boiled away and only the acids remain (which only bitter as they are boiled - alpha and beta acids play different roles).
2.25 oz Centennial (strong citrus tones)
1.5 oz Simcoe (passion fruit, pine, earthy, and citrus tones)

Fermentation emitted the most amazing aromas and the initial froth seemed cleaner than all my other brews despite a hop bag bursting in the boil and a bunch of grain getting out of the mash tun.

Then, after the initial fermentation is over, more hops are added. This process is called dry hopping. This process continues to compound the aromatic and flavour profile of the ale. The first dry hopping will last 13 days until bottling. The second will be added 5 days before the end.
2.75 oz Columbus (citrusy and slightly woody)
1.5 oz Centennial
1.25 oz Simcoe
0.25 oz Columbus
0.25 oz Centennial
0.25 oz Simcoe

Hopefully the end result will vaguely resemble its Russian River inspiration. All about hops and balance.


ISU World Allround Speed Skating Championships 2015

A couple weekends ago, Calgary hosted an international speed skating tournament. World class competitors - I think all of them were at Sochi 2014 - competed in 4 different races each and scored points. The champions were the ones with the least points. You can find the results here.

Blaise and I decided to attend to see what the sport was all about. It was hosted at the Olympic Oval on the University of Calgary campus where the 1988 Winter Games speed skating events were held. The facility still looks wonderful and there is a nice torch reminding visitors of the site's heritage.

We were late arriving, so we missed the opening women and men's races of 500 m. I heard from a coworker who was also there that these were the most exciting races. In fact, the Canadian athletes performed best in these. So we ended up watching all the long 3000 m women's races and the 5000 m men's races. While it was certainly fun to cheer on the athletes, see how they paced their various laps, and witness a couple athletes catch up to their single opponent - it wasn't too gripping to see people skate round and round in ovals.

I was particularly impressed with two things: skill and power.

Generally, we cheered. I took photos. We had a snack. Blaise and I sat in three different locations as there were lots of empty seats. Blaise remarked that we got to sit in some really good seats and that if it were the olympics we would have had to pay way more money! He's right. We only paid $25 total - olympic tickets could have been in the hundreds of dollars to see the same skaters skate.

The fans were often more interesting than the races. Not surprisingly the majority of the crowd was identifiably Dutch because of the blinding orange jackets, hats, scarves, dresses, pants, and jumpsuits. They were loud, but the old Norwegian men were way louder. These guys sported lovely traditionl knitted sweaters and funny caps covered in pins.

The one cultural group I thought was a bit odd were the quiet Russians. I thought how odd it was to be waving a Russian flag despite the current Russian aggression in Ukraine. But hey, there were a couple Americans there too. With flags.

24 men and 24 women raced in pairs in 4 rounds over 2 days.

We cheered on Canadians Denny Morrison (7th), Ted-Jan Bloemen (16th), Ivanie Blondin (6th), and Kali Crist (8th).

This guy won for the men: Dutch skater Sven Kramer. I guess he has some serious cred.


K-12 Integer Sequences

The K-12 Integer Sequences Conference was organized by my good friend Dr. Gordon Hamilton (Dr. Pickle) of MathPickle.com and Dr. Neil J. A. Sloane, the founder of the On-line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences (OEIS). I was fortunate enough to attend as a math educator among other educators, math professors, and curriculum developers.

The goal of the conference was to identify 13 integer sequences that could be promoted for use in classrooms from K-12. The sequences would help students practice or learn level appropriate curricular goals, but they would also introduce the students to the wonderful world of mystery found in integer sequences. You can watch our large group sessions in these videos. Three sessions were spent in smaller groups - mine sought to identify sequences for grades 10-12.

The event was hosted by the Banff International Research Station (BIRS) at the Banff Centre which means they provided the hi-tech and comfortable conference facility (pictured behind me) and the lodging for the attendees. BIRS is dedicated to math research and collaboration.

Naturally, if you are still reading this, you are keen to learn which sequences will be promoted as a result. As with many collaborative conferences, there are still some **loose ends to tie up. I will feature a few here though.

Kindergarten: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 1, 2, ...

A034326 This is the clock sequence. I think it's brilliant. You can have kids do some skip counting on it where they will be exposed to factors of 12 (when you skip by 4s, you will always land on the same 4 numbers, when you skip by 5s, you don't!). There is of course the excellent recursive nature of this sequence which mimics time.

Grade 3: 14, 7, 5, 3, 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 24, 22, 11, 9, 18, 16, 32, 30, 15, ...

A254873 This sequence is a modified Recamán sequence developed by a 15-year old student. Starting at the seed number (14) the sequence continues by dividing, subtracting, adding or multiplying by the step number (2). Division gets precedence over subtraction which gets precedence over addition which gets precedence over multiplication. The new number must be a positive integer and not previously listed. The sequence terminates if this is impossible.

Grade 5: 4, 9, 7, 20, 6, 33, 13, 23, 16, ...

Starting with 1, on the first step add 1/n, and on subsequent steps either add 1/n or take the reciprocal. What is the smallest number of steps needed to return to 1? This number of steps is the nth term of the sequence. (Note: the n=0 and n=1 terms are not defined, so the sequence actually starts with the 2nd term.)
eg. let n=2: 1, 3/2, 2, 1/2, 1 therefore the number generated is 4 because it took 4 steps
eg. let n=3: 1, 4/3, 5/3, 2, 7/3, 8/3, 3, 1/3, 2/3, 1 took 9 steps
eg. let n=4: 1, 5/4, 3/2, 7/4, 2, 1/2, 3/4, 1 took 7 steps
This one is a lot of work, but I think it works to help students see that just because you work with increasing fractions, it doesn't necessarily mean it will require more steps. It really depends on the factors of n.

This time, I brought Amber along since I knew she would enjoy the tranquility, beauty and opportunity to relax in such surroundings.

My mom took the kids for most of the weekend, then Jasen for the last bit - we are very grateful.

Getting away to Banff now means being able to chow down and drink at the Banff Ave Brewing Company. Their beers are notable - especially their recent addition of an imperial IPA. Their food portions are ridiculously huge. I ate one burger for two meals.

The sequences have been determined in full! Here they are at the OEIS.org.