Friday, August 1, 2014

Serve Or Conserve

This was a very popular post on my blog, highlighting a typical tension in the Churches -- so it gets a re-post tonight: "The last time I checked, our Church had more than a quarter million in the bank -- up from way in the red in the early years of my ministry. Some members have viewed this as very modest -- prudent to have that money there. Others have asked why on earth they should give if we have so much money in the bank. Ministerial colleagues, on the other hand, have responded emotionally: "Why do you not spend it for God's sake?" or "You have that much money in the bank?" -- always with the thought of missions, outreach, growth. One colleague went so far as to suggest, quite seriously, that we should spend one-third more than we had. OBSERVATION: My own views have changed over the years (reflected on this blog). I'm more with my colleagues now. A Church needs to "run lean" to be healthy. I believe also that this is a litmus test of evangelical thinking: do we wish to serve, or conserve? Paradoxically, conservation tends to work against itself. It is a killer."

Modern Thought

On my shelves, I have many reference works on modern thought: dictionaries of philosophy, critical theory, physics, mind, linguistics, sociology, and so on. One or two of these books really shine -- much as one finds in the field of theology. For perspicacity, this one gets my vote: The New Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought, by HarperCollins. It deals with vast and complicated themes with extraordinary insight and clarity. One wonders that anyone is capable of doing it so well.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ministers On Discipline

A few years ago, for a seminary assignment, I interviewed four colleagues about Church discipline. All of them did it. All of them had first-hand experience with it. Where the need arose, all four of them went in first as minister. In three out of four cases, the next step was taken by the minister together with the elders. In the remaining case, it went to the elders and deacons together. If it ever went to the whole Church, all of them did it merely to ratify the decisions of the elders (and deacons). It was not up for discussion. One of the ministers commented that the pastor is “the enemy's main target”, and his or her protection is a priority for the Church. Another commented: “Last time I did this, one of the deacons resigned about discipline being too harsh a thing, but he wasn't prepared to accept any responsibility.”

The House That Tom Built

E. and I visited our house in Tesselaarsdal today (pictured). One now sees both what one did think of and could have thought of in the design. What comes as a nice surprise is the size of the attic. Originally this was about 0m / 0' high at the sides and 1.3m / 4' high in the centre -- a storage space. Now it measures about 1m / 3' high at the sides and 2m / 7' high at the centre -- enough for two small rooms. The question remains ... how to get up there? The preferred solution at the moment is a pedal lift.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Science And Humanities

Much of my writing has focused on the divide between science and humanities. I touched on this among other things in a paper for The Philosopher, suggesting how the two might be reconciled. Here is a cartoon that illustrates the problem very well I think, although it has been derided by students of science. Instead of Tyrannousaurus rex, imagine nuclear power, modern transportation, genetically engineered foods, and so on. You may click on it to enlarge. There are jokes in reverse, of which this is perhaps the most popular: Q: "What do you say to a humanities graduate at your door?" A: "How much will it be for the pizza?" OBSERVATION: These are perceptive jokes. It is one of the great dichotomies of our (post)modern world, beginning with the way that our universities are laid out on the ground.

Doctoring A Doctorate

I had to do with a clergyman last year, a doctor of psychology. But having a few modest qualifications myself in the field, a few things didn't add up. I obtained his qualifications. Nothing checked out -- beginning with the institution which conferred the degree. It was reported as "bogus" and "fake". That need not be fatal of course, but it does arrest one's attention. I approached his denomination: did he have the doctorate? They would not respond. Or rather, they referred me to their legal department. And that, I thought, would be a perfect waste of time.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Some of the places marked on South African roadmaps hardly exist. This is one of them, called Rhenosterfontein (in the Cape). In fact, it is hardly more than a farmstead, a dairy, and some labourers' cottages. It is about 200km/120mi east of Cape Town. That's my previous vehicle in the photo -- one of its more ambitious excursions. OBSERVATION: Other places you shouldn't depend on as a fuel-stop are Paleisheuwel, Hottentotskloof, Sandberg -- and more. You may click on the photo to enlarge to 200k.

Opening Up

A year ago, I was attacked and injured in my robes. At the time, I removed a blog post about it, and I made little mention of it since. But recently, some things changed. A doctor who had been decidedly strange about it, now made a statement about the "events which took place on 26 May 2013", and the "injuries that he observed on 28 May 2013". Soon after, I received a surprise letter from someone who was "so sorry" about the "physical violence" I had experienced. OBSERVATION: It comes as a relief, to witness things opening up. The situation as it now stands puts paid to those who claimed that it never happened. Last year in August, the police rejected any wrongdoing on my part. I have declined until now to lay charges.

NOTE: It was through another incident, on 5 June 2013, that I resigned from urban ministry. But that is another story.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Designing A Lift

I have been designing a lift for our small cottage, to take one up to the attic -- as far as I can see, a new concept. Whether it will become a reality remains to be seen. However, news of my daydreams seems to have assumed a life of its own: "He's building a lift!" One conjures up automatic glass doors, a smooth electric powertrain, and so on. In fact, the design needs to be human-powered, and it needs a very small footprint. OBSERVATION: I got my first response to a design from an engineer this morning: OK, we'll make it, but you need to give us the details for each piece.

Worthwhile Consulting

I knew a professional Church consultant and mentor whose position on interventions was this: "If I discern that the Spirit is present in someone's life, then I take them on. No matter how big or how complicated the problem, I know then that the Lord is at work. If I do not discern that the Spirit is present, I don't waste my time."

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Blog Statistics

There are three sets of statistics which inform me how many people read this blog. Amatomu is frequently non-functional (no statistics at present). SiteMeter shows over 70,000 total pageviews. Blogger shows over 190,000 total pageviews. Based on the number of pages which are viewed by each visitor, it is likely that about one-million posts have been surveyed. OBSERVATION: Readership about doubled at the point where my late wife was diagnosed with cancer. It increased perhaps a further 20% at the point where I resigned from urban ministry.

Anonymous Giving

As minister, I seek not to know what members and friends give to the Church. I feel that this helps me to minister to the person without their giving coming into consideration. Sometimes, though, I become aware of a special donation, and wonder what to do. Or, sometimes, people might have expected a response to a donation where I knew nothing. Different Churches have different practice. In some Churches, giving is all but completely anonymous to the minister. In some, the minister knows exactly what every person gives, and may even address them personally about it. OBSERVATION: With this in mind, there is an unfortunate tendency in Churches, similar to what one finds in political conversation, to be 'respecters of persons' as the Bible calls it: a feeling of (cultural) entitlement on the basis of the quantity of one's giving (or perhaps more accurately, one's monetary worth, since those of monetary worth often are not quantity givers in the context of the Church).

Sifting One's Mail

Yesterday I wrote to a security company, to pass on a contact for them to have "cheap PCB's made up". An hour-and-a-half later, by e-mail, I received an offer from a PCB manufacturer in China: "Our price is competitive." A coincidence? Here's something stranger. In November last year, an editor wrote to me that someone had, amazingly, asked if they could "still supply a Mini Lab PCB", twenty years after they had published it. I briefly corresponded with him about the Mini Lab. The same month, by e-mail, I received an offer of "spare parts, accessories" for the Mini Lab from China. That's not a coincidence. OBSERVATION: It would seem clear that people are intelligently sifting one's mail.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Notable Quote

A few quotes have made a special impression on me through my theological studies. Here is one by Cyprian (abridged): "This is a cheerful world as I see it from my fair garden, under the shadow of my vines. ... [However] it is a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people ..." Cyprian was right: it was a cheerful world, but he was beheaded. Perhaps he had in mind 1 John 5:19-20: "The whole world lies in the power of the evil one ... and we are in Him who is true." OBSERVATION: In my early ministry, I puzzled over why Scripture seemed to give the world such a "bad rap". It isn't the common view. For the full quote, see: They Have Overcome The World.

Bestselling Kits

A few days ago, I referred briefly to the kits I have designed. Yebo Electronics sells two security kits which were designed by me. I make nothing from these kits -- for the reason that I exchanged all my future royalties to have my copyrights back (which was my idea), several years ago. This would seem to confirm my dreadful business sense, as I note that both of these kits are now in the Bestsellers list (at no. 3 and no.6 respectively), all these years later! The image shows my Force Field Kit.