== Love God == Delight in Light ==

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Open Sunday

Just an update bacause I have been rather silent on this blog for a while... We're planning a Church "Open Sunday" in January and I've been snowed under with the planning and organising for that! There have been various things that I have wanted to get on with for this blog (poems, book, songs, etc.), but these have had to go on to a bit of a back burner at the moment.

Talking of which - if you are a Christian, then please pray for God to guide us and for us to be open to that guidance so that we can work for Him in the way He wants.

If you are not a Christian (or even if you are, for that matter), then why not come along if you happen to live somewhere near Crawley, West Sussex, UK? The Open Sunday will be at Gossops Green Community Centre, Crawley on Sunday 18 January 2009. Details have not been posted on our church website yet, but I'll try to remember to post a link here when it is.

Friday, October 24, 2008

"There's Probably No God"

I was interested to read reports this week about an advertising campaign that is planned by a certain anti-religion movement for next year. What they are planning is to get large posters on London buses that read: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

What I find interesting about this is: why are they planning to include the word "probably"? If they are so sure that God doesn't exist why don't they just say: "There is no God. Now..."?

Is this a tacit admission that even those who oppose religion most vehemently can't actually prove that God doesn't exist? So even they have to concede that while, in their opinion, God "probably" doesn't exist, actually, there is a possibility that maybe He does exist.

Of course, if you have looked into the evidence yourself and concluded that you don't believe that God exists, then fine. Personally, I have concluded that He probably does exist.

But are you living with the belief that God doesn't exist without having really ever looked into it in any detail? -- If so, wouldn't it be a good idea to look into it in a bit more detail just so you can make up your mind for yourself? After all, even these campaigners seem to accept that there is at least a chance that He does exist, so it's surely worth at least considering that possibility?

If you are interested, I have put together a few posts on at least some of the reasons why I reached my conclusion - the post "You Believe That Stuff???" is the best place to start if you are interested.

The other interesting (or, possibly, sad) thing is the second part of their message - the reason that they don't want you to think about God: so you can "stop worrying and enjoy your life". What's sad about that is that not only do they disagree with me on whether God exists, but they also disagree on what life is like if you do choose to follow Him. They seem to be working from the assumption that following God means you are therefore going to have a miserable life. Well - maybe they should listen a bit more closely to what He says - their assumption doesn't exactly tally with His message - nor my experience...

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Magic Word

Quote from Abigail (aged 4):
Abigail to her grandmother: "Could you pass me some of that fruit?"
Dad (from nearby): "What's the missing word?"
Abigail: -silence-
Dad: "It starts with 'P'"
Abigail: "Pancake?"

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Salvation Study Summary

A group of us have recently finished a study on salvation and baptism. This involved reading through the New Testament to collect as many relevant passages as we could find (we ended up with nearly 300 of them) and then looking at them in a fair amount of detail to try to ensure that what we believe / teach is supported by what the Bible seems to us to be saying on the matter.

Here is the list of what we perceived to be the main points:

1. God can give salvation to anyone. He doesn't need us to do anything to "enable" Him to save us.
2. There is nothing that anyone can do to "earn" salvation.
3. God indicates that He will give salvation to those who genuinely come to Him in faith / belief.
4. If our belief (faith) and love are genuine, then they will be demonstrated in our willingness to respond to Him in any way that He asks (i.e. in our actions). A "belief" that is not accompanied by an appropriate response (change) is not the kind of belief that God is looking for.
5. A key part of the initial response that God wants from us is for us to be baptised. By being baptised we "sign" a covenant with God in which we pledge to become slaves to Him. This releases us from our former slavery to sin, transfers us to the new covenant and makes us part of Christ's body.
6. This does not mean that there is any power in the physical of baptism itself - it is God, through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, who gives salvation.
7. Once we are under this "new covenant", our sins are continually cleansed by Jesus' blood so we are continually perfect in the sight of God even though we fail to be perfectly sinless ourselves.
8. However, we can later choose to reject God and His gift of salvation. If we do so we remove ourselves from the "body" and return to our previous slavery to sin (fall away).

Slightly more detail of these points (and some others that we also noted) as well as examples of supporting passages) are included here: summary of baptism study (PDF).

Friday, August 01, 2008

Still Hungry

Here's another quote from Lucia - she must be going through a growth spurt at the moment - anyone would think we never fed her!
Lucia: "Is it breakfast time?"
Dad: "Yes"
Lucia: "I like that! I do, I do! Are you having breakfast? Is it lunch time?"

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Lucia (aged 2) early one morning before breakfast:
Are we having supper for lunch?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Feeding of the 5000

Following on from my earlier post about "Loaves, fish, pride and burnout", here's a poem based on the feeding of the 5000 recorded in John 6:1-13...

I looked round about and saw lots of mouths
That needed all to be fed.
"It's lucky for me," (I thought to myself)
"That I brought my own fish and bread!
I think if I too was one of those folk
(And was waiting too to be fed)
It would take such a time to bring in supplies
That I think that by then I'd be dead!"

So I pulled out my food (five loaves and two fish)
And was about to dig into my tucker,
When I heard Jesus say (to someone nearby)
"Now - What are we planning for supper?"

The someone He spoke to seemed rather surprised
And nervously looked up and down:
"I'm not really sure we'll have enough cash...
And besides - it's a long way to town"

I looked round again at the mingling crowd
And looked down again at my bread
And thought to myself, "Well, it's not very much,
But... well - let it never be said
That there in the midst of that ravenous crowd
'Twas only me that was fed!

"I must surely do something - um - I'll give them some fish.
... No - in fact, I'll give them it all
It's not very much; it is hardly a drop
But ... it's better than nothing at all."
So I gave them my bread and I gave them my fish
(And it really looked rather small)
But Jesus just smiled and gave me a look
That made me feel seven feet tall!

He said a short prayer and called His disciples
Who handed the food round about.
And my five little loaves and my two little fish
Just never seemed to run out!!
Everyone there, in that whole crowd of people,
I can confidently say without doubt
Ate as much as they needed (and some even more):
An amazing - awesome - result!

I'd have never imagined; I'd have never believed
That such a small little thing
Could make such a difference - when it looked at first sight
That the little that I had to bring
Was tiny compared to a problem so large
That no-one knew where to begin.
But what I now know, what I've learned here today
Is there really is no such thing
As a gift that's too small to be used for great things
When placed in the hands of The King.
- Mark H (DelightInLight.com)

Note: This is one of a number of poems for Christian children that I have posted on this blog. If you want to see more of them, please have a look at this post: "Fun Poems for Kids"

You can also email a link to this post by clicking the mail icon below...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

No I'm Not!

While I'm online, I must tell you about what Lucia (aged 2) keeps saying these days. When ever anyone says "you're cute" or "you're a funny-bunny" or "you're ..." (just about anything else) - she always says "No I'm not I'm Lucia!"

No amount of attempted persuasion will convince her to accept that she's anything other than her name!

The Mission

I can't believe that it's over a month since I last posted to this blog! Sorry about that!

Over the past few weeks I have been reading a book called "The Purpose Driven Church" by Rick Warren, and, whilst I don't necessarily agree with everything he says or recommends, I think that his fundamental point is a good one: if you want to have a healthy church, you need to understand what the Biblical purpose of the church is, and then make sure that you are doing that.

Rick Warren's starting point is a combination of the "Great Commission" (Matt 28:18-20) and the "Greatest Commands" (Matt 22:37-40).

This seems like a great starting point to me. According to the "Great Commission" we are supposed to go into the world and make disciples, baptise them, and teach them to obey Jesus' commands. Of all the commands that Jesus gave, the greatest are to "love God" and "love your neighbour".

In other words, the church's purpose (or mission) is to help people to move from wherever they are towards being more "obedient" to the great commands of loving God and loving others.

How that is actually put into effect depends on where the person is. This ranges from someone who is a "stranger" to the church to someone who is already a mature Christian. All of these people still need to move in the direction of greater love for God and each other. However, the things that the church can (should?) do to help changes depending on where the person is in that spectrum. Also, the extent to which it is the church's input (as opposed to the individual's own input) that brings about the change also varies.

Here's a sheet with couple of diagrams that I used to illustrate some of these points when I was speaking to our congregation about all this a few Sundays ago: Church Mission PDF. It shows some thoughts on how some of the different "stages" progress, some of the key things that are likely to be needed if the person is to move forward, how the input of the church and the individual varies over the different stages, and some examples of things that can "go wrong" at various points along the way.

We have just (today) introduced an additional study for those people in the congregation who are interested in pursuing some issues at more depth. We are currently finishing off a study on salvation, and then intend to move on to study this question of the purpose of the church and how we, in our congregation, can fulfil our mission more effectively.

Please pray for God's guidance for us on this so we can serve God as effectively as possible.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Loaves, Fish, Pride and Burnout

It was my turn to speak at Church this past Sunday, and I spoke about the story in John 6:1-13 of the feeding of the 5000.

This story caught my interest because it includes the information that it was a "young lad" who gave the 5 loaves and 2 fish that Jesus used to feed that huge crowd of people.

There isn't very much recorded about that lad beyond that simple fact, but it seems to me that reading between the lines a bit draws out some interesting lessons that I need to keep reminding myself about. Of course, since these details aren't actually recorded in this situation, there is no way of knowing whether my assumptions were in fact true in that case. However, I think that they are general principles that are held up by other scriptures.

[1] - The first point that I noticed was that although there were so many people there, it seems that this lad was the only one who actually did something constructive to help to deal with the situation.

I don't know if it was just that he was the only one who happened to have food with him, but I suspect not. Either way, I think that it illustrates the point that God wants us to do something. Of course, He could achieve everything He wanted to through His own strength and action, but it seems that He has chosen to rather work through His servants (i.e. us). So we shouldn't just sit around wondering when God is going to get His act into gear and "feed the 5000" - rather we need to get up and do something to help.

In Isaiah 6:8, Isaiah illustrates this attitude when he says "here I am - send me". He was willing to get up and do something. Similarly, in Matt 9:37-38, Jesus calls for workers for the harvest - in other words, He wants people who are willing to actually get on and do something.

[2] - The second point was that it appears that this lad gave all that he had. It doesn't appear, from what is said in the passage that he kept any of his food for himself.

Again, whether or not this was actually the case in that situation, it is certainly true that God wants us to give everything. In Romans 12:1, for example, that we should give ourselves as a "living and holy sacrifice". I think that God wants us to see ourselves and everything we have as completely His. And, when we are thinking about how to use those resources, we should, as it says in Philippians 2, think about other people's needs and interests ahead of our own.

This seems to be the attitude that the lad in John 6 had - he put the needs of those other people ahead of his own need for that food. Unfortunately, far too often I am more like the rich ruler who wasn't prepared to accept Jesus instruction for him to sell all that he had and follow Jesus (see Luke 18:18-27) - I am happy, maybe, to entrust Jesus with 10%, but not 100%.

Maybe the problem is that I don't have the necessary faith in Jesus' promise in Matt 6:33 that if God's interests are what I "seek first" then those other needs will be met. It is interesting, isn't it, that that lad, in spite of giving away all his food, still ate his fill - the only difference was that everyone else also got to eat their fill as well.

[3] - The third interesting point was that the thing that the lad did was relevant to the situation.

I think that sometimes we have that attitude that since God can use whatever we do there's no need for us to worry about whether or not we're doing the right, or most appropriate, thing. Of course, it is true that God could use anything we do for His ends. If the lad had handed Jesus some stones, then Jesus could have turned those into food and fed everyone. However, the lad gave food - the best thing to give when the issue at had is that of feeding people.

Our abilities to think, reason and plan are just as much gifts from God any anything else, so it seems to me that we should be using those for His ends just as we should be using our other gifts. In Matthew 10:16-20, Jesus told His disciples to be as "shrewd as serpents". In other words, He wanted them to use their heads. However, along with that instruction, He promised that they would be given the words that they needed when brought before the authorities.

It seems that God wants us to use our intelligence in an attempt to serve Him in the best way, but not rely on that intelligence. We do our best - then He takes that and makes it good enough. That lad did his best: he gave food in a situation where food was needed - then Jesus took over and made it good enough to deal with the needs of the situation.

[4] - The fourth (and final!) point was one that I found particularly relevant to myself: that lad doesn't appear to have attempted to give more that he had to give. He gave what he had, yes, but he didn't then try to do anything more than that. Because he couldn't. He had no more food to give, and, as far as one can tell, he didn't then go off in a desperate attempt to find more food so that he could provide enough for all those 5000+ people.

In my society we are generally more interested in results that in effort. We are more interested in "what did you achieve" or "did you meet your objectives" than in "did you do all you can" or even "did you work hard". But that doesn't seem to be God's approach. In 1 Cor 3:4-9, Paul points out that God expects us to "plant" and "water" but He is the one who "causes the growth". I believe that we need to avoid the mind-set of trying to achieve things that only God can achieve.

That mind-set leads to two common problems: pride and burnout.

If we do something, and God achieves something through it, then we need to recognise that, as Paul says in 1 Cor 4:7, all we did was give back what God has given us. We didn't achieve it - God did. The lad didn't achieve the goal of feeding 5000+ people - Jesus did. The lad could hardly go have and boast about the fact that he had managed to feed 5000 people!

On the other hand, understanding this fact helps us to avoid stress and burn-out. Imagine if that lad had been given the task of sorting out the food for those 5000 people in that situation - he wouldn't have had a hope. If he had thought that he could then the stress of trying would probably have done him in! Similarly, we often look at things that need to be achieved in the world and try to take the burden of solving them on our own shoulders. And then we wonder why we cave in under the stress of it all. The problems around us are far too large to be fixed by us. There are many things that need to be achieved that are far too difficult for us to achieve - only God can achieve them. So we should give up trying. Rather we should give our "5 loaves and 2 fish" and then allow God to use them in whatever way He sees fit.

What God does with what we give may be in line with what we expect. Or it may not. He may do something large and impressive or He may do something small and (in our eyes) insignificant. Whatever it is, however, you can be sure that it will be right.

So those were the four points that I gleaned from reading between the lines of that story. Maybe I'm reading more into that particular story than actually happened, but I think the points are still valid. When we look around us and see things that need doing, we need to:
  • Do something - it may be small, but we should at least do something!
  • Give our all - remember that everything we are and have belongs to God - put other people's interests ahead of our own.
  • Act sensibly - God has given us brains: we should use them.
  • Don't try to do what only God can do - if we try to feed 5000 people with only 5 loaves and 2 fish we will fail. Only God can do that. We are responsible for doing what we can do - God is responsible for achieving the results.

I hope that this encourages you to go ahead and give God your "5 loaves and 2 fish" - whatever they may be in your particular case. This website is part of my giving God my "5 loaves and 2 fish". What God will do with it I don't know. It may be something large or it may be something small - that's God's choice. My part is to use my skills to do things that I think will be useful to Him in a way that I think is most likely to be of use to Him. My part is to think about how I can use this site to serve others rather than to serve myself. My job is to be a tool. God's job is to use His tools to build things.

I hope that one day, when I am on my death-bed, I will be able to look back over my life and say that I gave God my loaves and fish.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Copyright Stuff

All content on this site is copyright (C) by Mark Henning (the author).

However, while it may be presumptuous of me to think that this is a possibility, it occurred to me that you may be interested in using the content on this site in some way other than just reading it here.

So, for that reason, permission is granted for you to use the material here for non-commercial purposes (unless it is content that is from another source, in which case the relevant copyright owner's terms will apply). If you do reproduce anything from this site, please, if at all possible, indicate where it come from ("Mark H : blog.DelightInLight.com" or something like that would be great). If it is on a website, then it would be even better if the attribution was also a link to this site.

Some examples of things you can do (should you want to) include (for example):
  • Print out a copy of something (e.g. one of the poems).
  • Print out multiple copies of something for a Sunday School class or similar.
  • Watch a video / view some pictures / read out a poem, etc. with/to a group of people (for example during a church meeting) - as long as you are not charging people for it, of course!

However, please don't republish any of my content (e.g. copying it and putting it on another site or publishing something from here in a book/magazine) without checking with me first to see if it's ok. If in doubt add a comment to this post asking for a clarification and I'll let you know it what you are intending is permissible.

Note that there permissions are not perpetual and I reserve the right to revoke or change them at any time either in general or for specific cases.

Thanks :)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Welcome to Visitors From Google :)

I recently received a Google AdWords voucher in a magazine, so I decided to try setting up an account and using it to advertise this site a little.

Up to now, this blog has mainly been read by my family and friends, so if you are a new visitor who has come via Google: WELCOME!

I know that it's easy to convince people like my mother, wife and kids that this blog is really really interesting, but I suspect that you are somewhat less biased, so I hope you find something of interest too. If you do, I hope that you will come back in the future and that there will be something new that will continue to interest you.

May I also request, if you are willing, that you go ahead and use the "email this post" option (the little mail envelope icon at the end of each post) to send a link to someone else who you may know who you think would be interested in a particular poem or post. Since this site doesn't actually earn me any income, my advertising budget is pretty much limited to the value of the voucher I got, so if you could help me along I would greatly appreciate it! Don't go too overboard though - I don't want to end by being the source of piles of the dreaded spam - please only send the link to people you know well enough to be sure that they won't mind.

Thanks for stopping by and I pray that I have, in some small way, helped to brighten your day today :)

ps. If you came here via Google (or even if you didn't, for that matter), why not add a comment to this post to say "Hi" and let me know what you thought? I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I ran and ran and ran
So fast
That (though the floor was flat)
My body overtook my legs
And so I fell down: splat!
- Mark H (DelightInLight.com)

Note: This is one of a number of poems for Christian children that I have posted on this blog. If you want to see more of them, please have a look at this post: "Fun Poems for Kids"

You can also email a link to this post by clicking the mail icon below...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

On Psalm 23 and Being a Sheep

Based on Psalm 23 - "The Lord's My Shepherd"

I was reading one day a Psalm about sheep.
Now, to feed them and lead them and help them to sleep
There's a man called a shep... shep... something or other
Who kind of acts like their father and mother.

He protects them all night and guides them all day
He feeds them green grass and watches them play.
And then, when they're gasping with thirst from the heat
He finds sparkling streams with water so sweet;
And, Oh, how they love him and dance round his feet!

And when there is danger 'cos baddies are near
When strange, creepy noises ring out through the air
They gather round close and they don't need to fear
'Cos the strong, gentle shep-man is always right there.

So they pounce and they flounce and they bounce up and down
And they don't go out shopping or traipsing round town.
No - they bound all around - and to make a glad sound
They bleat from a mound or they pound on the ground
'Cos all that they need the shep's bound to have found.

And thinking of sheep with their good old shep-chappie,
I sometimes start wishing that I was that happy!
I wish that I too had a sheep-shep like that
To get all I need; lay enemies flat.

I think of these things, and I cry out in glee
Oh if I were a sheep what great things I could see
What great things I would have, what great things I could be...
... But then I remember that I'm simply just me.

At least that is what I always did say
Until something happened one glorious day:
My teacher was reading that very same psalm
And talking of how no harm should alarm,
When she just out and said this wonderful thing:
"The sheep David talks of is simply just him.
And just like a shepherd with sheep in his care
So God watches you - He's always right there."

I gasped at the thought that this message was true:
I'm that sheep! I'm that sheep! I'm that sheep through and through!
"All those wonderful things that those sheep get and do,"
I said to myself, "are, in fact, all for you!"

So now if you see someone bounding with glee
Instead of a sheep, it's probably me
Because the best shep that there ever could be
Has given me all that I need to be free,
And all that I need in work and in play
He lavishes on me day after day
And instead of that wishing you'll now hear me say
God is my shep-man - Hip, Hip, Horray!
- Mark H (DelightInLight.com)

Note: This is one of a number of poems for Christian children that I have posted on this blog. If you want to see more of them, please have a look at this post: "Fun Poems for Kids"

You can also email a link to this post by clicking the mail icon below...
Another note: This poem is now available in video form :)

Monday, April 28, 2008

"S" is Very Hard to Say

This is for Abigail (aged 4) who is still learning how to say her "S" and "R" sounds.

It's written as it should be read - "S" replaced with "TH" and "R" replaced with "W". However, because it gets a bit tricky to follow when written like that, I have also included a "translation" for you under each line.

I think that "eth" ith thomething that ith vewy hard to thay
I think that "S" is something that is very hard to say
My tongue jutht thort of doethn't theem to thay it the wight way!
My tongue just sort of doesn't seem to say it the right way!
I'm thuppothed to thort of thay it with my tongue behind my teeth
I'm supposed to sort of say it with my tongue behind my teeth
But my tongue jutht thort of wiggleth and popth out underneath!
But my tongue just sort of wriggles and pops out underneath!

And even if I get it, I often theem to find
And even if I get it, I often seem to find
That although my "eth"eth are "eth"eth,
That although my Ss are Ss,
My "ar"th are left behind!
My Rs are left behind!

Tho when I thay "I wan and thplathhed and thwam into the thea"
So when I say "I ran and splashed and swam into the sea"
Or "Wothie'th wipping wotheth up to make thomething for me"
Or "Rosie's ripping roses up to make something for me"
Then people theem to thnigger and twy to copy me!
Then people seem to snigger and try to copy me!

It thometimeth maketh me thort of bluth or feel a little thad
It sometimes makes me sort of blush or feel a little sad
Ethpethially when I'm twying to thay a nithe thing to my dad.
Especially when I'm trying to say a nice thing to my dad.

But I know they not being nathty
But I know they not being nasty
They jutht like thound it maketh
They just like sound it makes
And they know that I'm jutht learning
And they know that I'm just learning
And that I thtill make thome mithtaketh
And that I still make some mistakes

Tho I thay a little pwayer
So I say a little prayer
('Coth God will underthtand)
('Cos God will understand)
And I thnuggle up to Daddy
And I snuggle up to Daddy
And I hold him by the hand
And I hold him by the hand
And we thit and laugh together
And we sit and laugh together
(Which maketh uth both feel gwand)
(Which makes us both feel grand)
And he helpth me to thay: "essss"
And he helps me to say: "S"
And: "Ssssally rrrran along the ssssand".
And: "Sally ran along the sand".

- Mark H (DelightInLight.com)

Note: This is one of a number of poems for Christian children that I have posted on this blog. If you want to see more of them, please have a look at this post: "Fun Poems for Kids"

You can also email a link to this post by clicking the mail icon below...

Monday, April 21, 2008

My Choice

In my last post in this series on why I believe in God, I summarised the points that I have been talking about in the previous posts and concluded that, as I see it, there are two options regarding the origin of the universe and life:
  • God exists and the universe is the way it is because He created it that way, or
  • God doesn't exist and the universe we see today is just one of a vast number of multiple universes and is the way it is simply as a result of random chance and natural processes.

So how do I decide which of these two options I will choose* to believe in?

Now, of course, if you have been following along, there is no secret about the fact I choose to believe in the "God exists" option. But let me explain the "why" behind that choice.

The first reason is simply that this is the option that seems more likely to me to be correct. As I said before, both options, when you really think about them, are rather mind-blowing. However, the alternative option (multiple, eternal universes) just seems more unlikely to me - particularly since it would require the laws of physics to be fundamentally different in different universes. You may disagree, of course, but to me the existence of God is, in the end, the more plausible of the two options.

The second reason is the personal implications of getting the answer wrong. The fact is that one day I will die. If I am right about what I believe, then it may be that this is true:
... at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord ...
[Phil 2:10-11, NASB]
In other words, it may be true that when I do die I too will see "The Creator" who made this universe and will, no doubt, respond is the same way as John (one of Jesus' closest disciples) did when he saw just a vision of Him as He appears in heaven:
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me... When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man.
[Rev 1:12,17 NASB]
But then, if I am right about what I believe, the good news is that the Creator's response to me will be similar to what His response was to John in that last passage:
And He placed His right hand on me, saying, "Do not be afraid ..."
[Rev 1:17 NASB]
And I'll go on to live forever in a place that is more fantastic than anything I could even dream of alongside a God who loves me more than I can understand.

On the other hand, if I am wrong (and God doesn't, in fact, exist) then I will still die with the anticipation of all those wonderful things. And that will be that. I will never know that I was wrong.

The alternative would be for me to believe that God doesn't exist. If I did choose that option, and I was right, then I would die with the expectation of death being the end. And it would be - although I'd never actually find out that I was right.

On the other hand, if I choose to believe that God doesn't exist then when I die I may just find that I was wrong and it is, after all, true that (like it or not) "every knee will bow". I may just find out that I too will "fall at His feet" in fear.

And maybe I'll find that He won't place His hand on me and say "Don't be afraid".

Call me a coward if you like, but that's not a mistake that I am particularly keen to make. In fact, I would want to be absolutely convinced - beyond a shadow of a doubt - that God doesn't exist for me to risk not believing in Him.

Particularly since believing in Him, though it costs me my life in one way, gives me so much more than it takes - even this side of death.

So there you have it - that concludes this (very brief) summary of some of the reasons why I believe what I believe.

As I said in the introductory post, what you choose to believe is up to you. Of course, since I do, in fact, believe what I believe, I believe that what I believe is true (otherwise I wouldn't believe it). Which means that I believe that heaven is real. And that means that, if I had any say, my preference would be for you to make that same choice - because I'd really like to meet up with you in heaven and have a good old chat with you over a nice cup of coffee (or, more likely, something far more enjoyable than coffee).

After all - we'll have all of eternity to get to know each other!

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
[Eph 3:14-21 NASB]

* This assumes that I have a choice. If God doesn't exist then we don't really have any choice about what we do or believe because all that is really happening is that our brains are responding to electrical and chemical impulses in the way they are forced to do by the laws of physics. If God does exist, then we have choice if, and only if, (and only to the extent that) He gives it to us.

Note: This is the last in a series of posts about why I believe in God. See my post "You Believe that Stuff???" for more info and links to the other related posts.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Fun Poems for Kids

Here's a list of poems posted on this blog. Most of them have a Christian theme, although some of them are really just a bit of fun. They also vary in length from just four lines to, well, quite long. I hope that you (and your kids!) enjoy them.

The most recently added poems are shown at the top of the list.

My Little Paper Aeroplane
Whilst in my hands I pray for help to shape your wings just right;
'Cause one day soon the time will come to launch you into flight.
... [4 lines long]

A Little Song
A little song, one summer's day,
Came floating past my ear
... [8 lines long]

The Feeding of the 5000
I looked round about and saw lots of mouths
That needed all to be fed
... [48 lines long]

I ran and ran and ran
So fast
... [5 lines long]

On Psalm 23 and Being a Sheep
I found out one day, in a Psalm about sheep
That to feed them and lead them and help them to sleep
... [46 lines long]

"S" is Very Hard to Say
I think that "eth" ith thomething that ith vewy hard to thay
I think that "S" is something that is very hard to say
My tongue jutht thort of doethn't theem to thay it the wight way!
My tongue just sort of doesn't seem to say it the right way!
... [24 lines long]

The Snowman
If you've a snowman as a friend,
Then I think you're around the bend.
... [32 lines long]

Seventy Times Seven
If you have a friend who's done something to you
That's hurt or upset you or made you feel blue,
... [96 lines long]

Mine is Fine
Mine may not be fine as thine,
But ... his may not be fine as mine
... [4 lines long]

I rushed this job and made a mess;
It made my mummy frown.
... [4 lines long]

What Will You Be?
People often ask me and say:
"What will you be when you're big?
... [8 lines long]

When time was still very new
When time was still very new
And God hadn't yet turned on the sun
... [46 lines long]

I'm a Little Butterfly
I’m a little butterfly,
Flying up and down
... [8 lines long]

I've got my Daddy's measuring tape
It's a funny sort of thing
... [31 lines long]

If God looked through my window
If God looked through my window
And watched me while I played,
... [24 lines long]

Is Love a Banana?
I've thought about it and I've thought about it
But I just can't work it out.
... [48 lines long]

Deity of Christ
Sometimes I wonder
Just how can it be
... [4 lines long]

Start Your Day in a Happy Way
Start your day in a happy way –
Don't grump and growl and groan;
... [28 lines long]

Imagine Forever
Imagine a hand as small as your thumb
That can hold up the earth and light up the sun.
... [26 lines long]

Well, that's all the poems that are available here for now. I hope you enjoyed them!

While you're here, I'd really appreciate it if you would spare a moment or two to add a comment to let me know what you thought. I know time is precious, so no problem if you haven't got time, but even just a few words would be helpful and encouraging for me. For example, you could let me know:
  • Which ones you (or your kids) enjoyed the most (or least!)
  • Is there any specific topic that you would like to suggest for me to write a poem about.
  • And so on...
I look forward to hearing from you :)

Also, don't forget that you can email this page to a friend if you know someone who you think would enjoy them.

Thanks and God bless :)

The Snowman

This is one of the first poems I wrote a few years ago...
If you've a snowman as a friend,
Then I think you're around the bend.
I mean, please, tell me - what can be nice
About a friend whose made of ice?
He cannot run or jump or play,
And as for flying - yeah right - no way!
I think he would be quite lame
Compared to say - a computer game.

I beg your pardon? What's that you say?
There's snow outside? You sure? In May??
Well ok - alright, alright,
I come and join the snowball fight.
No wait! - Oh no, I say,
I wish we hadn't lost that sleigh!
I know, let's make a huge snowball,
With one on top to make it tall.
And - Oh! Hey! Look at that
It looks quite cool in that black hat!
Let's see: what else is there
That we can make our snowman wear?

Just then my mother called and said:
"It's nearly time to go to bed!"
But Mum, I said, it won't take long
For us to finish his sarong.
And surely you can't think it's fair
For us to leave him with no hair?

Now later, as I lay in bed,
I wriggled my toes, and coughed and said:
About the stuff I said before
(How snowman friends are quite a bore)
I think I should have held my tongue -
I must admit - he was great fun!
- Mark H (DelightInLight.com)

Note: This is one of a number of poems for Christian children that I have posted on this blog. If you want to see more of them, please have a look at this post: "Fun Poems for Kids"

You can also email a link to this post by clicking the mail icon below...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Two Options

Ok - let's summarise what I have talked about in the posts up to now on this topic of "Why I believe in God":
  • A permissible hypothesis - It seems to me that there is no logical reason for discounting "God" as at least a potential answer to the question of why things are the way they are.
  • Hello World - Life requires information. Generating the information for even the most basic of living things by random processes would be likely to take incomprehensibly vast amounts of time (far more than are allowed for by even the most extreme estimates for the age of the universe).
  • Special Conditions - Formation of life also requires very specialised conditions - specialised chemical and environmental conditions, specialised planetary conditions and finely balanced laws of physics and chemistry. Again, the chances of all these conditions being available simply by chance are incredibly small.
  • Random Writing - Having formed the first living "thing" we would then need to allow for that thing to improve over time by a process of random changes followed by natural selection. Once again the odds are stacked phenomenally heavily against this being successful.
  • Starting from Scratch - Even if we put aside the issue of random probability, changing things gradually over time (even when coordinated by an intelligent human) does not normally result in a highly efficient system. Rather it requires us to learn lessons from past attempts but then to build something new from scratch.
  • Changing in Parallel - Similarly, even when making incremental changes to existing systems to improve them, the norm is that we would need to change multiple parts of that system in parallel. Changes to one part without synchronised changes to another will, more often than not, make things worse rather than better.
  • A Lot of Positives - Even if positive (information adding) mutations happened every generation it is questionable if there would be enough time for all the necessary changes to take place in the time available.
  • And more... - And those are just some of points to consider - there are many more to add to these (a task that has been undertaken by others more qualified than I am to do so).
  • Yes But... - Of course there are also arguments that people make against the existence of God - however, none that I have encountered constitute genuine proof that God doesn't exist, and some are (in my view) not really actually relevant to the topic.

Now to me, this all amounts to, if not "proof" of the existence of God, at least enough evidence for me to consider it as a very strong possibility.

You may disagree - and that's fine - as I stated right at the beginning, what you believe is entirely up to you. In fact there are, clearly, millions of people (including some very clever and educated people) who do disagree.

But then there are also millions of people (including some very clever and educated people) who agree with me and also conclude that there is a God. (If you're interested, here's lists of are some of them, both present and past).

The problem, of course, is that the relevant evidence and the arguments about how that evidence should be interpreted are very complex and it wouldn't be possible for any one person to have a full understanding of all of them.

In some ways that's a bad thing - because it means that there is really no-one who is fully qualified to draw any kind of conclusion on this topic.

In other ways, though, it's a good thing - it means that we don't need to wait until we know everything there is to know about all these topics before we can reach some kind of conclusion of our own. We just need to make sure that we have looked at enough evidence and arguments from both sides to enable us to make a reasonable, rational decision about which of the two basic options we are going to choose.

Well - I say "need" - there's nothing forcing us to actually look at any of this - we could just select whichever is most convenient, go with that and hope for the best. However, that's not really an approach that I would recommend if the stakes are as high they may possibly be.

So - what are the two options?

They are these:
  • "God" exists. The universe is the way it is because God designed it like that, so probability and reliance on random changes are not necessary. God Himself (who would need to be far more complex than the most complex thing that He has designed) has always existed and so no random processes were necessary to initially being Him into existence. He exists outside of the universe (probably including outside of time itself) and so is not governed in any way by the laws we observe operating in this universe.
  • "God" does not exist. The universe is the way it is because of the effect of random changes and luck. The probabilities are such that it is unreasonable to believe that we just "struck lucky" the first time, so there must be multiple universes (so many of them that it makes the number of atoms in our current, observable universe look minute). These universes must exist in a way that means that the laws of physics, physical constants, etc. are different in each one of those universes. It is possible that large numbers of universes all exist at the same time, or that there is just one "universe" which is repeatedly being "reborn" in a new form (or some combination of those two). The fundamental matter and/or energy from which all these universes are made has existed for an infinite length of time (i.e. always - there never was a time when it didn't exist) but does not appear to have settled into any kind of steady state - rather it is continually changing into different states to enable different types of universes to form. Alternatively, at some time in the past there was nothing until a certain point when, without any external cause, something happened to that nothing to cause it to turn into "something".

These are the two options as I see them*.

To be honest both of them are rather mind-blowing. Both of them do funny things to my mind if I start to ponder them in any depth. And neither of them can actually be proven by actual external observation.

Mind-blowing as they are, however, I feel that I need to make a decision about which I believe. Of course you already know which I have selected if you have read this far, but bear with me for just one more post so I can talk you through my own reason for making that choice...

* Actually, there are other slight variations on the "God does not exist" side of the argument. For example, I once heard someone who argued that there is a feedback loop in time, so that the life and complexity that exists today in effect designed itself by feeding back through time and influencing the changes to happen in the correct way (although even this relies on the infinite existence of "something"). However, the two that I have presented generally appear to be considered as the two core options (except, of course, by those who don't believe that we should even allow for God as one of the options, in which case they are left with just the one option).
Note: This is part of a series of posts about why I believe in God. See my post "You Believe that Stuff???" for more info and links to the other related posts.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Seventy Times Seven

A rather long poem this time (based on Matt 18:21-35)...

If you have a friend who's done something to you
That's hurt or upset you or made you feel blue,
You may find deep inside you a little voice say:
"He hurt me first, so he's going to pay!
I'll get my revenge to just make him see
What happens to people who pick upon me!
I'll stick a dead frog right into his nose,
And pull out the toenails from each of his toes.
I'll pour lots of goo all over his head
And put slugs and snails into his bed.
I'll shave off his eyebrows and die his hair pink
And put creepy crawlies into his drink.
And that's just the start 'cos I'm telling you
There are many more things I know how to do.
When I have quite finished this miserable lout
Will always remember when I am about
To watch what he does - stay out of my way
Or he will regret it for many a day."

Now Pete the apostle once thought to himself
(To really be good and godly and stuff)
He'd maybe consider, the first time or two
Forgiving the guy - not following through.
He'd push out the boat, he'd go all the way:
"I'll forgive seven times! - But then he must pay."
Jesus was there, and He said "Listen, Pete,
Let me tell you a story - you may think it's neat."

"There lived long ago, in a land far away
A powerful king who sat down one day
And said to himself, 'I think that it's time
For people to pay what is rightfully mine.'
He called in his slaves and said to each one:
'I'm sorry old chap, but the time has now come
For you to pay back all the cash that you owe
So pop to the bank and bring back the dough.'
Now one of the slaves who came in that day
Had a very large debt to settle and pay.
The amount he owed was ten million or more
And just at the moment he was really quite poor.
He said, 'Sorry squire, but just at the mo'
I can't really pay you all that I owe.'
The king said 'Well then, here's what I'll do:
I'll sell your family, your possessions and you.
The money I get from the sale of you all
Will help to reduce this massive shortfall.'
The slave falling down said, 'I'll pay every dime
I'll do all you ask - please just give me time.'
The king looking down said, 'Now, there, there, there,
Stand up my good man, there's no need to fear,
To show my compassion, here's what I will do
I'll cancel the debt that I'm owed by you.'"

"As he left the king's castle his heart was so glad
But at the next moment he changed and got mad -
Right there was a man he'd been trying to find
Someone to whom he'd been thoughtful and kind:
He'd lent him some money - an amount not that small,
And so far he'd paid back: nothing at all!
He called out 'Hey! You over there!
You just turn 'round and come over here!
Where is my money? You come here and pay
Or I'll get the police to lock you away.'
The other said, 'Sorry, it's like this you see
Times have not been at all kind to me
So just at the moment I'm afraid I must say
I need some more time before I can pay.'
Slave One said, 'Forget it, I've had it with you;
You've had long enough, so here's what I'll do.
I'll have you locked up, and I'll keep the key
Until all my money is paid back to me.'"

"This terrible story got back to the king,
And he got his soldiers to bring Slave One in.
'You're wicked and mean!' He said to the slave,
'What you have done is exceedingly grave!
I showed you great kindness and forgave a huge debt,
You too should be kind to this guy that you met.'
And the king told the guards to take him away
And have him locked up until he could pay."

"So, Pete", said Jesus, "Try not to forget
That you too are a man who was burdened with debt.
So if you are not willing to forgive anyone
Who you think has hurt you by what he has done,
Then just like that king, My Father will say:
'If you won't forgive, then you must repay.'"

So next time when someone's done something to you
And that little voice says, "Here's what we'll do!"
Remember this story, and remember the king,
And remember how God forgives all your sin,
And say to that voice, "God's so kind to me,
I owe Him so much, but He lets me go free.
So how could I let such a small little thing
Make me forget the love of my King?!
I'll put it behind me - forget what he's done
And, instead, fill my mind with thoughts of God's Son."
For revenge is not sweet (as some people say)
It just makes things worse - day after day.
But kindness and love and doing what's right
Are much better ways to settle a fight.
- Mark H (DelightInLight.com)

Note: This is one of a number of poems for Christian children that I have posted on this blog. If you want to see more of them, please have a look at this post: "Fun Poems for Kids"

You can also email a link to this post by clicking the mail icon below...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mine is Fine

Mine may not be fine as thine,
But ... his may not be fine as mine
So there's no need to whine 'cos mine is fine.
(Oh, um, would you like to share mine?)
- Mark H (DelightInLight.com)

Note: This is one of a number of poems for Christian children that I have posted on this blog. If you want to see more of them, please have a look at this post: "Fun Poems for Kids"

You can also email a link to this post by clicking the mail icon below...


I rushed this job and made a mess;
It made my mummy frown.
I thought I'd try to speed things up,
But instead I sped them down!
- Mark H (DelightInLight.com)

Note: This is one of a number of poems for Christian children that I have posted on this blog. If you want to see more of them, please have a look at this post: "Fun Poems for Kids"

You can also email a link to this post by clicking the mail icon below...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Saying Sorry

Another quote from the kids this morning:
  • Lucia (aged 2) stomping into our room: "Kathleen say 'No! No!'"
  • Mum: "Well, did you do something to upset her?"
  • Lucia: "Mmm"
  • Mum: "Then you need to go to her and say 'Sorry, Kathleen,' and stop it."
  • Lucia, walking off, calls out: "Sorry, Kathleen and stop it!"

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Yes, But...

So far in this series of posts on why I believe in God, I have really only looked at some arguments that seem to me to indicate that God does exist. In this post I want to (very briefly) talk about some potential arguments against that conclusion (beyond those that I haven't already dealt with directly or indirectly in some of the other posts in this series).

Yes, But... Don't things like radiation dating, etc. prove that the earth is millions old?

Firstly, this isn't actually relevant to the question of whether God exists or not - rather it is relevant to the question of whether the Biblical account of creation is relevant.

That aside, however, the question of how old the earth (or universe) is depends on how you interpret the evidence that is available now. And how people interpret the evidence depends to a large extent on that their belief system is. So, people who believe in evolution tend to interpret the evidence in a way that indicates long time scales (billions of years) whereas creationists interpret the same evidence in ways that indicate far shorter time scales (around 6000 years). And sometimes accepting a short time scale makes it far easier to explain some of the things we see. Here are 101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe from CMi

Yes, But... Religion is bad

Again, this isn't really, in my opinion, really relevant to the question of whether or not God exists. However, again, it is worth looking at briefly. The short answer to this is that it isn't - "religion is a bad thing" is not something you can easily conclude from the evidence. For example, the report "Helping Out - A national survey of volunteering and charitable giving" (which was prepared for the UK Government Cabinet office) reports the following:
As Table 3.4 also shows, there is a clear link between those who actively practised their religion compared with those who were not active, or did not profess to have any religion. Sixty-seven per cent of those actively practising their religion gave some level of formal help (compared with 55% in other groups), and over half were regular formal volunteers (compared with a third or less in other groups).
Statistics aside - it is very likely that your experience is the same - think about the people you know who are active Christians - there's a good chance that (even if you find them a bit odd sometimes) you find that they are generally of comparatively high moral standing - not perfect - they make mistakes - but they are likely to be generally "good" people.

Of course you can always find examples of people who have done "bad" things in the name of religion. But then you can easily find vast numbers of examples of particularly "good" things that have been done in the name of religion - as well as countless "bad" things that have been done for all manner of other reasons. In fact, as I mentioned in a previous post, if you take evolution to its logical conclusion then you can easily justify behaviour that everyone recognises as "bad" - if evolution is correct then why was Hitler considered evil rather than being celebrated as a hero of mankind?

The fact that "bad" things have been done in the name of religion doesn't prove anything about the existence of God - it only goes to show that there are people who do bad things.

Yes, But... We Can See Evolution Happening - For Example in Dogs

Breeding of dogs is actually not a good example of evolution. Rather it is primarily an example of adaptation within a "kind" (as the creationists call it). The difference (briefly) is that selective breeding draws out particular, pre-existing characteristics. It does this by favouring certain characteristics over others. In dog breeding this is done by human selection; in nature it happens by natural selection (yes - even creationists believe in adaptation and natural selection).

However, if you look at the genetics behind it, what is actually happening is primarily that existing information (within the DNA) is being lost - no new information is being gained. So, for example, if you could get a pair of the original "dogs" you may be able to again breed them into (say) poodles by repeated selection. However, you could never take a pair of poodles and breed them into that original dog - or into great danes, for that matter - because the necessary information has been lost. You would have to re-introduce that information by breeding them with some other kind of dog or by adjusting their DNA in some other way.

Maybe rather than telling us about evolution, the breeding of dogs actually tells us more about how the original dog was "programmed" with information that would allow it to adapt to an amazing variety of different environments and situations?

Actually this is a slight simplification because some of the characteristics of some types of dogs do come from mutations - but ones that would have been disadvantageous to a dog in the wild. Again, CMI can provide more information about these points than I can here - here are some examples:

Yes, But... If God exists, why does (or doesn't) He ... [fill in the blank]

If God exists, why does He allow bad things to happen?
If He exists, why doesn't He always overtly answer the prayers of His followers?
If God exists, why doesn't He make Himself more obvious or visible to people?
And so on.

Now don't get me wrong here - I don't mean to trivialise these kinds of questions. I think that a lot of them are very important and worthy of serious investigation. However, I think that they are off the topic when thinking about whether or not such a thing as "God" exists. Rather, these are questions about what God is like if He does, in fact, exist. An important study, I agree, but one that is distinct from the issue of whether or not He actually exists in the first place.

If God doesn't exist, then there is little value in studying what He is like. More to the point, though, just because we may happen to disagree with, or dislike, the way He is or the things He does, doesn't mean that we can conclude that He doesn't exist. If God exists, then He is the way He is whether we like it or not. If He does exist, and He does things that don't fit in with what we would expect, it simply means that our understanding of Him is incorrect in some way - it doesn't constitute any kind of proof that He doesn't exist. If I happened to believe that all roses should be red, it wouldn't mean that yellow roses suddenly ceased to exist. It would just mean that my understanding of roses was wrong (or at least, incomplete).

To be honest, I would be a lot more surprised if we could fully understand God and how He behaves. I wouldn't expect someone who could create the universe to be fully comprehensible to me with my far more limited capabilities and intelligence. It would be a little like expecting an ant to be able to fully understand the behaviour of a human.

Yes, But... It feels silly to believe in God

Actually, this isn't really a position that is often stated "out loud" (as it were) as a reason for not believing in God. However, I thought I'd mention it because I think that it is actually (consciously or not) one of the core reasons that many people don't believe in God - along, possibly, with not wanting to believe in God because of concerns about the implications of that conclusion.

Of course, just because something "feels silly" (or odd or uncomfortable or scary) is not a scientific reason for rejecting it. People once thought that the concept of large chunks of ice floating around the oceans was crazy and unbelievable. However, that didn't change the fact of the existence of icebergs. Similarly, it feels a bit odd to think that the air around us is packed with all sorts of sounds and pictures that are invisible to us as humans - however, that feeling doesn't stop TVs, radios, etc. from working.

This goes back to the point that I make in the post about whether one should even allow for the existence of God as a possible conclusion to the "evidence" we see around us. Many people don't, and I suspect that the reason is this feeling that it is somehow silly, unscientific or just plain too scary to even consider such a possibility.

Note: This is part of a series of posts about why I believe in God. See my post "You Believe that Stuff???" for more info and links to the other related posts.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

What Will You Be?

People often ask me and say:
"What will you be when you're big?
Will you heal sneezes and other diseases,
Or will you trim hedges and dig?"

I'm not really sure what I'll be
So often I simply reply
That what's more concerning, so needs more discerning,
Is: "What will you be when you die?"
- Mark H (DelightInLight.com)

Note: This is one of a number of poems for Christian children that I have posted on this blog. If you want to see more of them, please have a look at this post: "Fun Poems for Kids"

You can also email a link to this post by clicking the mail icon below...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

And more...

I said that I wasn't planning to turn this blog into a Christian evidences site, so I'm not intending to go on much further on this line. Instead, if this is something that you are interested in pursuing further, may I recommend the Creation Ministries International (CMI) or Answers in Genesis (AiG). These sites have more material than I could hope to provide for you - either just browse around to see some what you come across or use their search functionality to find information on a specific topic that you are interested in.

Here's a couple of suggestions of places to start:
  • Missing links - or "transitional forms" to use the more official term. One of the problems with evolution is that we would expect to see a continual range of fossils gradually changing from simple forms to more complex forms with fossilised examples of a scattering of all the "forms" in between. However, that is not what we actually do find. Rather we find lots of examples of discrete "forms" - i.e. we see lots of thing A and lots of thing B but little to nothing in between (rather than a whole range of things gradually changing from A to B). Examples of fossils that could possibly represent those "transitional forms" (missing links between each new species) are (at best) very rare. Here is an article from CMI about the fact that one has to seriously question whether the fossil record really supports the theory of evolution.
  • Lack of information-increasing mutations - I've touched on this slightly in some of my previous posts: actual examples of genuine, beneficial, information adding mutations (as required by evolutionary theory) are rare (some would say non-existent). Again, here's an article on the topic from CMI.
  • Morality and ethics - Why is it seen as a good thing if someone sacrifices themselves for someone else? Why is cheating to get ahead a bad thing? Why is killing someone else bad? If evolution is true then the opposite should be true in each of those cases since evolution relies on "survival of the fittest". The apparently in-built, and remarkably consistent, understanding that exists within mankind of right and wrong seems to me to point to the existence of a "higher authority" who sets the standards for "good" and "bad". Again, here is a relevant article from CMI. There is also a good book called "Mere Christianity" written by a guy named CS Lewis which talks about this at some length - this book is available from Amazon in the UK or in the US (and, no doubt, elsewhere)
Some of the above are actually chapters from the books "Refuting Evolution" and "Refuting Evolution 2" (as reproduced on the CMI website). You may also be interested in the CMI Question & Answer section.

For my part, however, I'm not quite finished yet - stay with me for just a couple more posts and then I'll be done. [For now. On this topic. Probably ;-) ]
Note: This is part of a series of posts about why I believe in God. See my post "You Believe that Stuff???" for more info and links to the other related posts.


Another quote from the kids - this one is from Lucia (aged two) when I asked if someone could pass me something:

"I can pass it to you - I've got some hands!"

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

When Time Was Still Very New

When time was still very new
And God hadn't yet turned on the sun
He somehow or other made light
He made it dazzling and bright
And He looked at the light in delight
'Cos His wonderful work was begun.

As He lovingly fashioned the sky
He raised up His voice to declare
That the water should part
And make way for the start
Of that great work of art
Of swirled up water and air

He gathered the water together
His voice formed it into the seas
And He gathered the land
All the rocks, mud and sand
And covered it all with a carpet so grand
Of beautiful flowers and trees.

He sprinkled the nighttime with stars
And lit up the silvery moon
And to light up the days
In glorious ways
He called out the rays
Of the sun shining brightly at noon

Then He filled up the oceans with fish
Strange creatures came forth from His words
And He filled up the skies
With abundant supplies
Of melodious cries
And the shimmering colours of birds.

On day six God created the beasts
That scamper and gallop and crawl.
Then at last He began
On His ultimate plan
By making a man
To cherish and love above all

I wish that I had been there
To see all these things get created
Yet when I see trees,
Hear birds on the breeze,
Taste honey from bees,
Watch foaming white seas,
See puppy chase leaves
I just feel so pleased
That His world with such ease
Even now makes me feel so elated.
- Mark H (DelightInLight.com)

Note: This is one of a number of poems for Christian children that I have posted on this blog. If you want to see more of them, please have a look at this post: "Fun Poems for Kids"

You can also email a link to this post by clicking the mail icon below...

I'm a Little Butterfly

I’m a little butterfly,
Flying up and down
I hold on tight to Daddy’s hand
As he swings me round and round.

He swings me up and down,
He swings me round and round;
Then when I’m finished butterflying,
Dad swings me to the ground.
- Mark H (DelightInLight.com)

Note: This is one of a number of poems for Christian children that I have posted on this blog. If you want to see more of them, please have a look at this post: "Fun Poems for Kids"

You can also email a link to this post by clicking the mail icon below...

A Lot of Positives

In the last few posts I have been a few of the things that seem to me to be problems with the concept of moving from some initial simple living thing to the highly complex livings we see around ourselves today by a process of random mutation and natural selection. In this post I want to talk about just one more - the length of time required (even if the process wasn't random).

Research into human and chimp DNA indicates that our DNA is about 95% to 98.5% the same as chimp DNA. That doesn't sound like much of a difference, until you realise that our DNA consists of about 3 billion bases (i.e. individual "letters" in the DNA coding). This means that even a small percentage amounts to a lot of differences. In fact, by the more conservative estimates I have come across, there are still around 40 million differences between our DNA and chimp DNA. For example here's a quote from an article from the Seattle PI:
Out of the 3 billion units of DNA, the human-chimp comparison revealed some 35 million simple changes, or mutations, in the single units of the overall sequence. They also found about 5 million additions to or subtractions from the genome involving chunks of DNA sequence.
In other words, if a chimp were to change into a human, its DNA would need to be changed 40 million times.

So how long would that take? Well, let's assume that we start off with a chimp and that the chimp has a baby that has one of those positive changes (mutations) and that baby chimp grows up and has a baby which has another positive mutation and so on until, eventually, the line has progressed to the stage where we have a human.

The length of time taken (based on the assumption that there is one positive change each generation without skipping any generations) is simply the average age of sexual maturity multiplied by the number of changes. Now chimps become mature at about age 9, and humans become mature (well, at least able to reproduce!) somewhere in their early to mid teens, so let's take age 10 as the average. That would mean that we need 40 million x 10 = 400 million years. Even if we started off with something half way between a chimp and a human (which evolved into a chimp on one hand and a human on the other), we wound need 200 million years (half of 400).

This is a bit of a problem because chimps and humans are, according to evolutionary theory, supposed to have separated only around 4 to 8 million years ago. And this assumes that there is a positive mutation each generation without negative changes getting in the way and spoiling things. Realistically, we would expect there to be a number of generations between each positive mutation to allow that mutation to spread through the population enough for it to exist in the same animal as the next positive mutation and for it to be identified as positive by natural selection. If we were to allow, say 5 generations for this in each case, the time taken would shoot up to 1 billion years (5 x 200 million). According to standard evolutionary timelines there were only very basic, single celled organisms around that long ago never mind anything as advanced as a chimp.

This means that, if the evolutionary explanation is correct, there are two possibilities:
  • There have to have been multiple positive mutations happening simultaneously (somewhere between 25 and 125 or more of them per generation depending on how many generations we need to distribute the mutations around). And of course these have to be in a line that is not being subject to an equal or larger number of negative mutations. Now getting just one positive mutation is rare enough. Getting those kinds of numbers of them happening regularly is just, in my opinion, totally implausible.
  • Alternatively there would need to be multiple parallel lines of evolution happening simultaneously that somehow or other suddenly combined at some point (or a various points) to form a human. This is slightly less implausible (to me), but still isn't very convincing because the outcome of this would be far more likely to be a whole range of species ranging from chimp to human rather than just the two ends of the spectrum. [As an aside this is what leads to the kind of thinking that gives people an excuse to believe that their race is more highly evolved that some other race - the kind of thinking that has caused huge racial problems in the past.]
So it seems to me that even if positive mutations happened very regularly from generation to generation, there still isn't enough time available for all the changes we would need to get from a chimp like animal to a human to happen in the time frames that even evolutionists believe are available.
Note: This is part of a series of posts about why I believe in God. See my post "You Believe that Stuff???" for more info and links to the other related posts.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Changing in Parallel

Carrying on from the last post, another problem with getting our simple, single celled living thing to gradually change into some complex animal is the inter-relationship between individual changes.

Let me give you a non-biological example of what I mean - the humble zip (or zipper or zip fastener or whatever it happens to be called in your part of the world!). For a zip to work, you have to have:
  • A series of teeth that are shaped in a way that allows them to interlock with each other,
  • A way of attaching the teeth to each piece of cloth that ensures that they are all nicely and evenly spaced with just the right gaps between them, and
  • A device that you slide up and down that is shaped in the correct way to lock or unlock the teeth.
If you don't have all of these at the same time then your zip just won't work, or will be frustratingly inefficient to use so would be rejected by natural (or consumer!) selection.

What's more, if you want to make improvements to an existing zip, you need to change all three of those factors in parallel. If you changed the shape of the teeth, but didn't change their spacing and the shape of the slider to match then it would just get stuck.

This means that making and improving something like a zip is really difficult to do by random processes because the changes have to coordinate with each other very closely. If a piece of molten metal happened to randomly cool into a rudimentary slider, for example, it would be (at best) totally useless unless you happened to already have some adequately shaped teeth that had randomly managed to become arranged in a nice regular pattern along the edges of the two sides of the cloth. However, those teeth would have been long since rejected because, without the slider, they would be very unlikely to be a more efficient solution than just using buttons (have you ever tried to do up a zip without the slider bit?).

This type of thing occurs all the time when you are designing or building things. You are forever designing two or more things to work together in various ways. Even if you are changing something that exists already (as we were discussing last time), you regularly have to change multiple parts of the system in a coordinated way rather than just making one isolated change.

The same applies in nature. Take your blood circulation system, for example. For this to be of any use to you, you need to have blood, a heart, and a series of tubes for the blood to flow through (among other things). Without any one of those, the other two are not likely to be that useful.

Or take sexual reproduction. There would be no point in developing some kind of "male" living thing unless a "female" developed at the same time. And if you did get them both to come into existence at the same time they would be at a reproductive disadvantage - they would have to find each other before they could reproduce, while all the other non-mutants around them could go on reproducing individually without any such hurdle. The advantages of sexual reproduction only become apparent after a number of generations by which time the whole idea would have been selected out. What's more, the reason sexual reproduction is advantageous is that it helps to minimise the spread of mutations. Exactly the opposite of what you want for evolution.

Now, maybe we could come up with theories of how these things kinds of things could come about by gradual, independent changes - for example a set of gradual, independent changes that would allow a button or lace system to slowly change into a zip (with each step being better and more efficient that the preceding one). And similarly for the circulatory and reproduction systems. Not to mention the myriad of other mutually dependent systems that exist in nature.

So I won't say that it is impossible for these things to happen (impossible is way too contentious a word!). But it sure makes it a lot more difficult and less likely. There is a very narrow path that all these changes have to follow. Just think of all those wasted mutations that would have been just the ticket, but were selected out because some other dependent change hadn't come along yet!
Note: This is part of a series of posts about why I believe in God. See my post "You Believe that Stuff???" for more info and links to the other related posts.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Starting from Scratch

In my last post I made a start at looking at the problem of taking a simple living thing (that had somehow come into existence) and changing it into something significantly more sophisticated using random processes. Most of the time you just get the biological equivalent of gobbledygook.

But there's another problem with this process - it's this: trying to make something really good by making small, incremental changes to something that already exists is not a particularly good way of achieving your goal (even if those small changes are carefully considered by people who know what they are doing).

And I speak from personal experience here. Let me give you a (very) brief resume of my career to date: I stated out by studying at university for four years for a degree in civil engineering and then went on to work for a major international engineering consultancy. This role involved carrying out analysis and design of a wide range of major structures for clients based around the world. I also became a fully chartered civil engineer during that time. Subsequently, I had a bit of a career change and moved into the IT field where I have held a number of positions related to the design and implementation of IT systems (mainly for the international airline that I currently work for).

Now my intention here is not to try to get you to offer me a job, but to show you that I have had a lot of involvement in designing and building things over the years.

On some occasions the situation has been such that it was possible to design the "thing" from scratch. I.e. the thing didn't exist, someone wanted it, so we designed and built it.

On other occasions we were a little less fortunate. On those occasions the "thing" already existed but the needs of the owner of that thing had moved on, so the thing had to be changed to meet those new requirements. Some examples included having to increase the height of a large dam in Sudan, having to adapt part of a high-profile train terminal in London to reduce the likelihood of death or injury in the event of a train crash, and, in IT, I was involved in one way or another in having to make ongoing improvements to several business critical IT systems.

In all these cases (where we have had to "improve" something) there is no doubt that the end result would have been better if we had been able to start from scratch. When you are improving something that already exists, with the best will in the world, you always have to make compromises.

I suspect that you have also see this at least with IT systems. One day a shiny new system is installed and everyone is amazed at how great it is (well hopefully!). However, over time, needs change, and so changes are made to the system. Someone wants the system to do something a little differently, so they write their requirements and IT writes and installs a patch. And then it happens again. And again. And again and again and again. And before long that system isn't quite so shiny and new any more. In fact, it's the department's pet hate. It's ropey and keeps crashing. It does weird stuff with their data when they least expect it. The longer the process goes on the worse things get. So finally the decision is taken that enough is enough. A new system is brought in... and the process starts all over again.

That's just what my experience tells me: making lots of small changes to a system over an extended period of time just isn't the way you get really good systems. Even when the people making those changes are highly skilled and know what they are doing. You are far better off learning the lessons from the old system, taking advantage of new technologies that have become available, and starting again from scratch.

Now, if this principle is true in civil engineering and in software engineering, I see no reason to suspect that it is not true when it comes to designing animals. And when I look at the design of animals I don't see systems that look like they have been continually "patched" (with random patches) and so are very flaky, don't really hang together very well and should really be scrapped so we can start over. Rather I see systems that are amazingly well designed and make my own attempts at designing and building things look rather pathetic. More like the kind of thing I would expect to see if they had been designed from scratch by a highly skilled engineer.
Note: This is part of a series of posts about why I believe in God. See my post "You Believe that Stuff???" for more info and links to the other related posts.

Random Writing

In the last two posts (on this topic) I have talked about the information and the conditions that would be needed for the first living thing to come into existence.

For this post, let's assume that we (somehow or other) already have the first living thing - so now what we are interested in is getting that thing to change over time into something more sophisticated.

What I'm not planning to do this time is go into the whole mathematical calculation of the probabilities again. For two reasons:
  • I did that already in the Hello World post - all I would be able to show is that as the quantity of information grows so the improbability grows exponentially to figures that no-one can actually conceive of.
  • Because of the fact that the thing is now "live" and so has some kind of interest in survival, the maths becomes a lot more complex and involves factors that are not really very easily quantifiable, so the overall point would be rather obscured by questions about how exactly the calculations should be done.
Instead, what I thought we could do is try a little experiment of our own: to improve a piece of text by applying random changes to it. Here's the approach:
  1. Find some text that is Ok but could do with being improved. I chose one of my poems, but feel free to pick any text - not too long (or the experiment gets a bit cumbersome), but also not too short. The one I chose was about 1000 characters long (including spaces).
  2. Count the number of characters (or let your word processor count them for you!) and get some way of generating a random number in that range (you could use a spreadsheet or you could cut out lots of bits of paper with all the numbers on them). We will use this random number to work out the start location for our random change.
  3. Get a dice to use to work out the length of the random change (we'll assume that our random changes can be anything up to 6 characters long)
  4. Cut out bits of paper with the letters of the alphabet on them (we'll stick to just capitals for now) and one to represent a space.
  5. Generate your first random change: get a random number to show you where to make the change within the text, use the dice (or whatever) to work out how long the change should be, and pick random characters out of a hat to see what you should change the letters to (don't forget to put the letters back in after each draw so that you allow for words with the same letter in more than once). Then go ahead and change the original text and decide whether the result is better or worse than the original.
  6. Repeat until either you are satisfied that you have generated a masterfully crafted piece of prose (or poetry) - or until you die, whichever comes first. (I gave up after 200 attempts because there are other things that I would like to do with my life!)
Basically, this is the process involved in producing literature by evolutionary processes. Except that each person only gets to make one change - when they are born. So if we want to make our experiment a little more accurate what we should really do is make just one change ourselves, then get our children to each make one, and then get the grand-kids to make one each and so on. Once we get to the point (sometime down the generations), where we think we have made a small improvement, then we can pick that version and start improving it.

And so on until we have achieved our goal of producing that wonderfully crafted piece of literature.

Unfortunately, by then, no-one will have the faintest idea what English is (or was), so no-one will be able to appreciate the fruit of all this effort, so we will have to start all over again. (Bother!)

My conclusion is that this is not a particularly viable approach to writing. I suppose that it is not impossible that we may eventually hit upon some word that we wouldn't otherwise have through of that adds something to our text, but writing something in its entirety or making significant and far-reaching improvements? I'm not convinced.

For the same reason I have to admit to being less than convinced when I watch nature films that talk about the incredible and intricate design that is evident in the animals and plants around us but then want me to believe that it all came about by a similar random process.
Note: This is part of a series of posts about why I believe in God. See my post "You Believe that Stuff???" for more info and links to the other related posts.

Monday, March 17, 2008


I've got my Daddy's measuring tape
It's a funny sort of thing
You sort of reel it out
And you sort of reel it in.

I've got my Daddy's measuring tape
And I'm walking round about
And I'm doing lots of measuring
'Cos I've got to work it out.

I've got my Daddy's measuring tape
I'm measuring a reed.
It comes to..., um..., three-eleven
Which is very big indeed!
(For a reed)

I've got my Daddy's measuring tape
I'll check the table now
And I'm doing lots of measuring
'Cos I've got to find out how.

I've got my Daddy's measuring tape
And what I want to see
Is what sort of, kind of, biggish thing
A heart like God's must be.

I think it must be bigger
Than I can bounce my rubber ball
Though I'm not sure I can measure that:
I can't quite reach that tall.

I've got my Daddy's measuring tape
And I've pulled it till it stuck
But I still don't think it's long enough
It's - no, it's just not long enough
I'll have to find a longer one
Or I guess I'm out of luck.
- Mark H (DelightInLight.com)

Note: This is one of a number of poems for Christian children that I have posted on this blog. If you want to see more of them, please have a look at this post: "Fun Poems for Kids"

You can also email a link to this post by clicking the mail icon below...

Special Conditions

I was talking in the last post on this topic about the improbability of the "information" required for life coming about by chance. However, there is something that needs to come first - that is the conditions need to be in place under which the appropriate chemical processes can take place in order to for that information to be encoded in some way and for some kind of living "thing" to be formed.

In other words we need the following:
  • A mix of chemicals that supports the formation of molecules that could potentially combine to form a living thing (including encoding that "information").
  • The right conditions for the chemicals to form themselves into those molecules and for those molecules to combine together into the living thing.
  • Laws of physics and chemistry that support the very possibility of the formation of those molecules in the first place as well as their combination into that living something.

Let's look at these in a bit more detail...

Firstly, there's that mix of chemicals. A number of experiments have been done over the years to determine what the mix of chemicals and environmental conditions would need to be in order for the basic ingredients of life to be spontaneously synthesised. The most famous of these is known as the "Miller-Urey experiment" which was seen by some as "scientists creating life in the lab".

In reality, what they actually achieved was to generate monomers (amino acids). However, what was less well known and reported was the fact that they also generated a number of chemicals that would have prevented those monomers from combining to form polymers (which is what would really be needed to build some kind of cell or something like that). They also generated some other chemicals that would be likely to react with the very amino acids that had just been formed (thereby destroying them).

That was not the only such experiment, of course. There have also been other similar experiments using different mixes of chemicals and conditions. However, they have not been (as far as I can gather) particularly convincing either in terms of the molecules actually formed (in comparison to the actual molecules we find in living things) or in terms of the likelihood of that kind of environment actually being able to exist for any length of time on a planet like Earth.

That's not to say that there isn't some combination of chemicals and conditions that would work - maybe one of those is correct and we just haven't got the details thrashed out, or maybe we just haven't thought up the right mix yet. However, what is certainly true is that we would need very specialised and specific chemicals and conditions.

Which brings me to my next point: in order to have the right conditions, we would need a very specific planet on which to synthesize our living thing. For example, if the Earth were closer to the sun it would be too hot to have liquid water (a pre-condition for life as we know it). Similarly, if it were further away it would be too cold (water would freeze). Both of which would be a bit of a show-stopper for carbon-based life.

So, not only to we need to have the right mix of chemicals, but we need them to be on the right planet. Right chemicals but wrong planet? No life (bad luck). Right planet but wrong chemicals? No life. You need to have the right mix of chemicals with the right conditions on the right planet.

Finally there are the laws of physics. This one is, perhaps, a little less obvious at first, but the fact is that the laws and constants that govern how the universe works need to be "fine tuned" in relation to one another in order for it to be possible for chemicals to exist and combine in a way that makes life possible. For example, if gravity were a little stronger (and everything else stayed the same), anything that was complex enough to be life would be too heavy to move. We, for example would not be able to stand up, and (depending on how different) would be crushed by our own weight.

And gravity is only one of those things. There are all sorts of laws and constants that need to be in balance with each other or it becomes impossible for any kind of life to exist. Things like the size of atoms, the speed of light, the value of Pi, the charge held by electrons, the fact that when you apply a force to something it accelerates at a certain rate, etc. etc. If these things weren't all nicely in balance with each other then it would just not be possible for any conceivable kind of life to come into existence. In fact, a New Scientist article (24 May 1997, pg 39) suggested that the probability of all the laws and constants being balanced, by random chance, in a way that supports the existence of any kind of life is about 1 in 10229 (another one of those not-so-likely events like we had in the "Hello World" post).

So, in summary, quite apart from the probabilities involved in forming the information needed for life, there is the problem of the fact that we would need to have these very specialised and specific conditions. It's not something that could happen any old day on just any old planet in just any old universe. There are an awful lot of things that have to all be just right.
Note: This is part of a series of posts about why I believe in God. See my post "You Believe that Stuff???" for more info and links to the other related posts.