The Independent Variable - Matt Haugland

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Evangelism, who needs it? (Part 2)

I think there's an inherent problem with evangelizing people who've already heard and don't believe. Usually there's an assumption on the part of the evangelist that "I'm right, you're wrong. You need to believe what I believe." I'm not saying it's wrong to believe you're right and others are wrong (that obviously goes along with believing anything). But I think there's something wrong with expecting people to be open to (i.e., willing to objectively consider) your beliefs if you are not open to theirs. Someone who's convinced they're right and the other is wrong is not going to be very open to the other's beliefs.

This wasn't such an issue during the 1st century -- they were telling news that people hadn't heard yet and sharing beliefs that were relatively unknown. It wasn't "I'm right, you're wrong" but "I've heard the news, you haven't yet", which is much different from the context involving people who've heard and rejected.

It's sad that Christians today are known for being arrogant and closed-minded. Sad, but not surprising considering our attitude toward non-Christians. And I know I am just as guilty of this as anyone.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Evangelism - no longer necessary?

I wonder if Christians today have it all wrong with the whole evangelism thing. They believe we are supposed to spread the gospel to everyone. But in 2006, what we preach as "the gospel" is not gospel anymore, especially in the U.S. I'll explain.

Gospel means "good news". The "Gospel" that Christians try to spread to non-believers might be good, but it's not news. The context of the Great Commission was very different. Back then, the world had never heard of this news, so the job of the apostles was to go tell people what happened. That's very different from trying to get non-believers, who have already heard the "news" many times (especially in places like Oklahoma!), to believe what they already rejected.

I'm not saying evangelism to non-believers (as opposed to never-heards) is necessarily bad (though it can be), but I don't think the Bible says we should do it, either by command or by example. Of course, that doesn't mean we shouldn't be open about our faith and willing to talk about it if non-believers ask.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Next stop, Cincinnati

I recently found out that I'll finally get to go to Cincinnati soon. Well, to the airport at least. Well, close at least. The Cincinnati airport isn't quite in Cincinnati. It's not quite in Ohio either. But maybe I could do what I did in Minneapolis a few years ago... miss my flight, get on a bus, and spend the day in the city.

Why so excited about Cincinnati? Of all the U.S. & Canadian cities that have or have had a Major League Baseball team, I've been to all but two. One of those is Cincinnati. I'll be impressed if anyone can guess the other one.

And speaking of baseball and Cincinnati, my Padres beat the Reds again last night and are still ahead in the NL wild card race. So exciting!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Teaching, live from Boulder

This week I am in Boulder, CO. I am a co-lead instructor for a course that I helped design 3 years ago. This is the 4th time I've taught it. The purpose of the course is to improve weather forecasts around the country by teaching National Weather Service offices about how the land surface impacts the atmosphere.

This year is very unique. Usually, representatives from the various NWS offices come to Boulder for the week and attend the class. This time, apparently to reduce costs, only me and the other instructors are here. The students are at their own NWS offices scattered across the country. The course is being broadcast to them via internet, and they can participate using GoToMeeting and a conference line.

It's a unique challenge to teach a class where the students are so far away (this time they range from Hawaii to New York). There are some logistical issues (e.g., class begins at 5 AM in Hawaii, and some internet connections are slower than others). Interacting with the students is difficult sometimes. But it's also kinda fun in some ways. This first day went very well, and now that we're used to the system it should get easier.

I love teaching. It's a great way to make a difference, even if it's a small one. Most public weather forecasts in the U.S. come from the NWS in one way or another. And by now, most NWS offices in the U.S. have participated in our course. Maybe the course hasn't drastically improved weather forecasts around the country, but it's really neat to think that maybe it has helped a little.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Flight time

I was looking at my itinerary to see when to go to the airport. I saw "Flight time: 1:33". I knew the flight left at 1:something, so that seemed right. I arrived at the checkin desk at 12:45, 48 minutes early. No problem.

Well, maybe one problem. 1:33 was the length of the flight. The time of departure was actually 1:12. I was there 27 minutes before that, which was 3 minutes too late -- so they wouldn't let me on my flight to Denver. I think the world has too many sticklers, especially in airports. Does it really make that big of a difference whether I'm there 27 instead of 30 minutes early?

By the way, if you don't know what I'm doing in Colorado, stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


A friend posted an interesting blog that made me think. It was about science, naturalism, and whether various vocations conflict with Christianity.

I'm gonna step back and ask a more fundamental question. Does naturalism (in this case, an assumption that there is no supernatural) necessarily conflict with Christianity (specifically, the Bible)?

Belief in the supernatural is almost universal among Christians. But why? Does the Bible really teach supernaturalism? Or is it simply a matter of tradition and human philosophy inserting this concept into writings from a time when people described things with less 'scientific' language?

I'm not sure. But I don't see the big conflict between naturalism and Christianity. I always get funny looks when people who know I'm a Christian find out I also believe in Evolution. I'm sure I'd get even funnier looks if I said I don't believe in the supernatural. But it's definitely worth considering. I think it's quite possible that God is natural himself or that "natural" intrinsically refers to the way God created and interacts with his creation.

And of course, there are natural processes that we don't yet understand.

Friday, September 01, 2006

I'm going to Washington!!

Two very exciting things happened today. One was a call from Ohio, the other was an email from Tokyo.

I found out that I was selected as one of 11 finalists in the National Collegiate Inventors Competition. I get an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington D.C. in October for the final round of judging. First prize is $25,000 and second is $15,000. A publicist will be contacting me next week for an interview. I'm so excited!!! Even if I don't win a major prize, I'm totally thrilled just to be a finalist!

On a related note, the proposal to test my invetion in Japan was recently accepted and I began the project today. If that is successful (i.e., it forecasts nighttime temperatures in Japan better than the current state-of-the-art), I won't even be able to express how excited I'll be. It'll be at least 3 or 4 weeks before I'll know for sure.

October will be a very interesting month!