Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Neogeography

I should be revising, but this is just amazing. Google Maps now has "street view" in a number of American cities. So for example here I am meandering through Times Square in New York.

Why did I have to discover this in the week of my finals!?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Anger

Last night was my penultimate CU meeting at Southampton, and was undoubtedly the worst I have attended. Unfortunately the speaker had obviously signed the Doctrinal Basis of the CU without meaning it, because his talk did not even approach a proper understanding of the Gospel.

He didn't warm me to him right from the start: he first said "that was the best worship session I've ever had at this CU - sometimes when I'm here hardly anyone raises their hands". Yes, because emotional response is the mark of 'success' in worship. After that, he said "I was raised in a conservative evangelical family, but didn't get saved until I moved to Southampton and attended [a charismatic] church". Fair enough, I thought... be open-minded!

But then we were taken on a whirlwind tour of the social gospel, complete with entirely superfluous Powerpoint accompaniment. Considering that our talk series is "Jesus" and the subject of the talk was the gospel, it was amazing how he managed to preach for 30 minutes without even mentioning words like sin, righteousness, judgement or indeed the reason why Jesus came to live and die! According to this speaker, "the gospel is about more than just sneaking into heaven".

Well, I was pretty angry afterwards. A few of us were digesting and reflecting afterwards, and I missed the speaker's departure. It was probably a good thing that he got to his car before I caught up with him - and I was running after him - because at that time I would have roasted him alive. How dare he come and pervert the Gospel with wishy-washy heresy! The real tragedy is that most CU members don't have enough Bible knowledge to even know that anything was amiss. Even diligent Christians like some of my housemates who were saved recently were led astray simply through lack of experience. I had flashbacks to my flirtings with the prosperity gospel a few years ago, and am thankful for more wisdom and discernment by the Holy Spirit now.

I've calmed down a bit now (though I did have to have some brandy when I got home last night). Thankfully the usual calibre of our speakers is higher and their theology more orthodox!

PS: his 'strike-three' was referring to Steve Chalke as his friend. No wonder he didn't mention God's wrath!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Geography

This morning I attended my last ever lecture at Southampton University. Afterwards, my friend Ella and I grabbed a coffee and were talking about what it is we've achieved in the last three years.

The world hasn't changed enormously since October 2004. Its population now stands at closer to 7 billion than 6 billion. It has one more country (Serbia and Montenegro split last year). An estimated 28 conflicts are ongoing across Latin America, Africa and Asia (not including the "war on terror"). The reality of anthropogenic climate change seems to have finally been established.

Locally, the July 2005 terror attacks in London were both a result of and reason for our involvement in projecting power abroad. Close to a million eastern Europeans have arrived in the UK and have made their presence felt quickly in our cities.



So what do geography students do to learn about this world? Are we merely to describe it, or can we explain and understand what happens? Ella and I agreed that the most important thing we've discovered is not the mechanisms of globalisation, the development of third way welfare or the techniques of fieldwork - it's the ability to think critically. Accepting what we're told is a learning technique from school, where if a teacher says something it should be true. University inverts that process and teaches us to question authority, to analyse sources and develop our own viewpoints. When we read opposing explanations of the same phenomenon it becomes clear that they aren't both correct, but how are we to differentiate between philosophies and theories?

The Christian geographer has extra work to do. The modern vogue of 'poststructuralist' geography is predicated on all knowledge being 'situated' or biased. This makes sense, but it is in choosing viewpoints that the Christian has an advantage. The existence of absolute truth means that we can know, not just opine. For truth is not an abstract concept, it arrived in this world in the shape of God himself: the author of creation became created in order that we might approach the Unapproachable and know the Unknowable! Now that's what I call ontology.

I'm grateful to have been able to glorify God through studying his world, even though most of the time I've not had the mindset I just outlined.



The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world and
all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.
(Psalm 24:1-2)

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the
work of his hands.
(Psalm 19:1)

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring for ever. The
ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.
(Psalm 19:9)




Outrageous Last Verse Harmonisation

Now that's what I call organ playing!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Three bicycle fortnight

Two weeks ago yesterday, I was eating breakfast when a glance out of the window brought about a double-take. Our house's four bikes are locked up outside the house to a set of wooden posts. As I use mine the most, it usually lives on the closest post - but it wasn't there! I mentally checked that it hadn't been left somewhere else: in town, at uni, at church, in my room. After a deduction of Holmesian proportions, it was clear that some scoundrel had stolen my bicycle.


My lock has been "left behind"
Not only that, but it seemed I had been on the receiving end of some rather direct social democracy. Another bike had been left on the street outside my house, but it was old, small and heavy with broken gears, dodgy brakes and a saddle that couldn't be raised from its lowest position. Lance Armstrong himself would struggle uphill on my bike, but this 'new' bike was practically unrideable (I took it to a church meeting and ended up pushing it most of the way).

Every cloud has a silver lining though: in this case I received £100 from the insurance company for my stolen bike. New bike: £35, new (better) lock: £18. Cash in hand: £47.

And in three months I can claim back the rubbish bike off the police and sell it! Ah, the sweet smell of profit...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Central Eurasian Partners (CEP UK)

Success! All my links to Central Eurasian Partners the other day have propelled it into 3rd place in Google's search for "central eurasian partners". Hopefully with a few more targeted links mentioning ministries in Poland, Slovakia, Central Europe and Central Asia (nudge nudge) it will reach first place.

I should point out that the organisation is actually looking for people to partner in its work of promoting national Christian witness and mission through education, culture and compassion. If you feel you would like to get involved - or to find out more - then please visit the CEP UK website at www.cepartners.org.uk and get in touch.

Na zdrowie!

(Yes, all those links do go to the same place.)