Epistles of Thomas

January 20, 2013

Best books of 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 2:16
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willardverwerI usually find a book to label “book of the year” during a calendar year but this time I have waited until now because I want to recommend a combination of books. Last year I read the The George Verwer Collection which is comprised of three previously published books. Verwer is the founder of OM and this was free for my kindle app. I’ve really been making good use of my Android phone on the bus and appreciate all the freebooks available. After finishing Verwer’s collection I was left wondering what a person is to do. His is a very challenging message but not exactly practical in leading one to the next personal step. Thankfully another free Kindle book was available. I began reading Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart immediately after Verwer and found that it complements it nicely. Once you have read Verwer you know the problem with the world and yourself and Willard will help you to renovate your heart and prepare you for the next step in life and ministry. In other words don’t read one without the other!


2012 in Reading

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 2:03
Tags: ,

This year’s post is again once again dedicated to Aunt Joan who cares about such things 🙂 .

2012 was a super duper busy year for us. Even busier than 2011, which I remember as being busier than 2010. Are you sensing a trend here? I still managed to do some reading in my spare time; on buses, on airplanes. Statistically speaking it wasn’t much better than last year but again I tried to read selectively and stick with winners.

Total books finished: 155
Total pages read 28,107
Average length of a book: 181 pages
Number of non-English books: 7
Best month: January (29 books)
Slowest months: Nov-Dec (3 books each and only 618 pages total)

I compared my reading to the New York Times bestseller list again this year. Last year I had read 152 of 10,518 New York Times bestsellers. I am now up to 160, however the total number has increased to 10,617 which means they added 99 books last year and I added 8! You can check out the list on LibraryThing. http://www.librarything.com/bookaward/New+York+Times+bestseller

November 26, 2012

Coursera MOOC

If you haven’t heard of MOOC yet it means Massive Open Online Course. I’ve looked at several of the availale options: Udacity, Coursera, EdX and Khan Academy and I have to say that Coursera is the best. The others are heavily weighted with tech courses but have next to nothing in the humanities which is where Coursera shines. I just finished a course on Greek and Roman mythology taught by Peter Struck of the University of Pennsylvania. It was interesting and I read a number of works that I should have read years ago. I would personally recommend that all Bible college students take an introductory course in Greek and Roman mythology such as this in order to round out their understanding of the religious milieu of New Testament times.

Today begins a course on entitled, Think Again: How to Reason and Argue taught by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Ram Neta or Duke University. It looks interesting so get over there and sign up already.

If children believed in democracy life would be a lot easier!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 0:14

Two parents could always outvote one child but it doesn’t seem to be that easy. No matter how much I teach my baby about democracy, about the will of the people, about the greatest good being the greatest good for the greatest number of people she still insists on having her own way. Granted she’s only four months old but I don’t think that’s too young to accept our society’s founding principle. For example, this morning we all agreed that she was tired and needed to go to sleep. However, she insisted that sleeping was not something that would come to pass in this house, even with bipartisan support from her mother and I. She’s currently lying in her basket playing with her rattle. Although to be honest she finds it more delicious than auditory.
P.S. She’s actually the perfect little girl!

November 7, 2012

Logos Bible Software 5 released

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 6:03

The long anticipated day has arrived – Logos Bible Software Version 5 has been released. If you frequent the Logos user forums you will know that this day has been looked forward to by many for at least two years! Three years ago L4 was released and it was a complete rewrite of L3 and included many new features such as complete library indexing and many graphical resources. Does L5 depart from L4 in such a major way? Read on to find out!


I downloaded the L5 installer and began the process of installing. I quickly discovered that I needed to download a newer version of the Microsoft .NET framework so it took longer than expected but installation was flawless. This means that L5 will not run on Windows XP so those using that OS will have to stick with the older version or upgrade their OS. After installation it downloaded a considerable number of new and updated resources. Logos gave me access to L5 Silver for the purpose of reviewing the product which includes new features such as a graphical timeline and includes their Faithlife materials. Downloading the resources took some time as it was about 1.5GB. I also have other resources and the free Perseus collection so Logos consumes a good chunk of HD real estate – 39Gb. This is because the index basically doubles the amount of space needed. If you’ve used L4 you will know that indexing takes the bulk of time when new materials are installed. I’m happy to report that L5 is fairly quick in this regard and compared to the initial release of L4 we are much better off.

Look of L5

The graphical interface of L5 is quite similar to L4. There have been a few tweaks but nothing major. This is good for the majority of users who will not have to learn to use a new program. This was a major complaint people had when upgrading from L3 to L4 and I don’t think it will be a problem for anyone using L5 after L4.

The Home Page is now completely customizable in terms of which categories it displays data from, such as excerpts from your own library resources, Logos’ various blogs and program information. I think this is a great improvement on the concept.

The menus are fairly intuitive and new users will be able to use most of L5’s features without instruction. However, there is still the fact that Logos contains dozens of keyboard shortcuts that can only be learned by searching out the Logos user wiki (reachable via the help menu at the top right (?). I love that the search screen now has a list of ways to search. This will really help users, new and old.

There are many ways to upgrade to L5 with new packages and features galore. I hope to have another review soon which will detail some of them specifically. In the meantime you can head over to their website and see what it would cost for you to upgrade or buy a new package. Logos always offers a free engine upgrade to their software but this will not include new features. The engine and a minimum crossgrade will be availble in a few weeks according to their forum. Check it all out here.

October 5, 2012

When is an apology not an apology?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 22:36

The word “apology” seems to be misused more than properly used in our society. Today I was reading about Motorola’s apology for breaking its promise to upgrade phone owners to a newer version of Android. I happen to own an Atrix 4G so this “apology” applies to me … and yet is it really an apology?

Here’s what they had to say:

“I think some of them [customers] have gotten a raw deal,” said Punit Soni, who runs software product management for Motorola Mobility. “We understand strongly and apologize for it.”

Certainly understanding is a part of apologizing but in my lexicon an apology also has the meaning of making something right. Now clearly Motorola (and Google the parent company) could make this right by standing by their promise but instead they have chosen to misuse the word “apologize” as if merely pronouncing it correctly makes things right. He justifies their actions by saying that “If we didn’t make the hard call here, we would be in trouble going forward.” Of course this fails to assuage outraged Motorola owners who have made it clear on the Moto forum that they will never buy another Moto phone and some are leaving Android altogether. I think the deeper issue is that Motorola (and Google) have lost their customers’ trust and abuse of the word apology isn’t going to bring that back. If those customers are not left to buy Moto phones once their current contract is up then Moto has an even bigger problem going forward.

All of this speaks to the deeper issue which is false public apologies in our society. It seems to happen daily. Some company or politician upsets the unwashed masses and is then forced to make an apology. Those who bought a phone or voted for a politician based on their false promises are left with a sour feeling. And we wonder why people are so jaded and cynical… We think nostalgically about a time when people kept their promises no matter the cost. I’m not sure that time every existed, but if it did it is long past. A word to the wise – don’t make promises you can’t keep or write cheques you can’t cover.

You can read the details here: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-57526994-94/android-users-outraged-over-motorolas-broken-promise/

September 25, 2012

American Christians and drone strikes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 2:01

Maybe I’m out of the loop, not being an American, but I can’t believe that I’ve heard nothing from mainstream American Christian leaders about the American drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Is this just not on their radar? Please read this article on the BBC and then tell me if their silence is warranted. WWJD?


Update: and this article http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/09/drone-body-count/

July 21, 2012

Amazon, What’s wrong with this picture?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 0:40
Tags: , ,

I get the feeling Amazon needs to work on how they categorise books…or perhaps someone is trying to be funny.

July 4, 2012

Atheist Clergy?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 2:45

I recently read a comment on another blog which mentioned The Clergy Project (clergyproject.org) where atheist clergy can “network and discuss what it’s like being an unbelieving leader in a religious community.” I wonder if there are similar online communities for firemen who don’t believe in putting out fires or construction workers who don’t believe in building.

Seriously though, I know that clergy often have doubts about the veracity of what they believe and that parishioners can put a heavy weight on their pastors who are sometimes seen to be the foundation of the faith, instead of the Bible. In other cases I know of ‘churches’ where it wouldn’t really matter what the pastors believe because no one takes God seriously. Presumably those who use The Clergy Project are not of this latter type because it wouldn’t be a crisis to disbelieve. They claim 300 members and I wonder if any of those are actually grace agents working to help clergy through these dark nights of the soul… It would seem somewhat dishonest to claim to be an atheist in order to bolster a pastor’s faith but then “being an unbelieving leader in a religious community” seems even less honest. The mortgage has to get paid somehow and churches aren’t very understanding about granting pastors a “crisis of faith” leave of absence.

Let us pray that the chaff leaves of its own accord so that Holy Spirit can bolster the body of Christ as all members work together, using the gifts he has given for the edification of all and the spread of the Good News that not only does God exist but he died so that his body might have True Life.

June 10, 2012

What languages did the disciples know?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 17:00

Some time ago (3+ years actually) I posted on whether or not Jesus could speak Greek. https://epistlesofthomas.wordpress.com/2009/01/12/did-jesus-speak-greek/ I recently read Bart Ehrman’s Forged in which he denies that Jesus and his disciples would have been fluent in Greek. Specifically, they could have been fluent enough to write the works attributed to them. e.g. 1, 2 Peter could not have been written by Peter because Peter was an illiterate fisherman. That and a recent comment on my Jesus post has got me thinking…

I have taught English overseas and Vancouver is one of the most linguistically diverse areas in the world today and thus in history. If new immigrants want to succeed in life, whether fishing, farming or the service industry they need to learn at least some English. In much of Africa this would be French, in Central Asia it would be Russian, in South America it would be Spanish. And in Brazil Portuguese is close enough to Spanish that one can get by. Was Greek Peter’s mother tongue? Obviously not. Is it possible to imagine that he could speak Greek – certainly. My wife was fluent enough in English that on immigrating to Canada most people thought she was born here. It took her five years to become fluent and she had never left her native country where English is taught in school but never used in public discourse. Given her experience and the many non-highly educated English speakers I have met it seems more than likely that Peter or any other disciple could have picked up enough Greek to be reasonably fluent in day to day life.

I would like to mention that I have also worked in a tri-linguistic area, meaning that people speak English, their mother tongue and the national language. All three are from completely different language groups and use totally different written languages. Obviously peasants are not fluent in all three but in order to sell their produce two languages are required. And anyone who wants to work with foreigners must speak English. I’ve met folks with only the minimally required education who can speak English and act as tour guides/translators. Can I imagine a fisherman being able to speak English if his livelihood depends on it – yes. Can I imagine a Galilean fisherman desiring to spread the Good News to the world learning to speak Greek – yes I can.

Oral proficiency and written excellence are two different things and Ehrman makes much of the fact that a fisherman could not have written the excellent Greek of Peter’s letters. I would tend to agree because I know hundreds of ESL folks who can hold a conversation but cannot write an argumentative essay in English. However, it is ludicrous for Ehrman to cavalierly dismiss Peter’s possible use of a secretary or proofreader on the basis that his letters don’t read like translated documents. The early church contained many native Greek speakers and according to Acts they were present on day one at Pentecost. Is Ehrman suggesting that these native Greek speakers would not have worked with Peter to produce an excellent Greek document that made his point persuasively? I have edited hundreds of essays and my wife is a professional translator/editor. Our job is to make non-native English speakers sound like native speakers when they write. There are many 2/3 world Christians who have been translated into English and enjoyed by us and yet they don’t speak or write a word of English. How is this possible – they are helped by brothers and sisters who do speak English natively. If our product reads like a translation and not a native speaker then we have failed. A “good” translation is one in which you don’t know the original language was not English, etc. I would suggest Ehrman read Stanisław Lem’s The Cyberiad. I couldn’t believe it was a translation from Polish because even the humour comes across and humour is the most difficult thing to translate – much more so than Peter’s epistles which have been successfully translated into thousands of languages with meaning intact.

Let me conclude with an illustration. Yesterday my wife was proofreading a translation of the subtitles for a video by Stephen Baldwin (http://www.iamsecond.com/seconds/stephen-baldwin/). Let’s say that 1000 years from now all that was left of Baldwin’s life are copies of some of his movies: Threesome (1994), The Usual Suspects (1995), Bio-Dome (1996) and Fled (1996) and the translated subtitles from this short video. The only evidence we would then have that Baldwin became a Christian was a non-English translation of the subtitles from this video. Scholars would argue that it obviously was not authentic. From watching all of his extant movies there is no evidence that he could even speak a language other than English so he certainly couldn’t have written this. Furthermore, based on the content of those extant movies we cannot except that he was ever a Christian. Therefore this so-called evidence is spurious and in no way connects to the real historical Stephen Baldwin. Rather it is a Christian forgery written in Baldwin’s name. This is the conclusion that Ehrman and others come to based on their interpretive framework and it is one they must come to given that framework. However, I think that I have demonstrated that it is more than possible to conceive that another explanation is tenable, even likely given the linguistic milieu in which the early church grew.

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