Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Mystery of the Incarnation

My fellow-blogger, Phil Reinders, over at Squinch, reminded me of this gem of a poem by one of our favourite poets. Of course, poetry is made for slow reading. So make yourself a cup of tea and dip your biscotti as you read (well, that is what I did today). The poem is entitled, “On the mystery of the Incarnation” and it is by Denise Levertov. Make certain you read it several times and catch the phrasing. Read it out loud (swallow that biscotti first). Convince yourself of the correct places for pauses. Wait for the moment when the meaning of this poem enters your heart and then meditate upon it throughout the day. May this mystery be good news of great joy for you this Christmas. 
On the mystery of the Incarnation 
It's when we face for a moment
the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
the taint in our own selves, that awe
cracks the mind's shell and enters the heart:
not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
to no innocent form
but to this creature vainly sure
it and no other is god-like, God
(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
the Word.
 - Denise Levertov

Monday, December 21, 2015

No Where's Good

The television series Hell on Wheels continues to intrigue me. The writers and director have done a great job of creating interesting questions for us to ponder. This scene from Season 4, Episode 11 is a good example. Cullen Bohannan has just walked into the room where Sydney Snow is recovering from being shot by Ruth Cole. If Sydney dies, Ruth, the “Church Lady," will be guilty of murder; so Cullen has worked hard to see that Sydney Snow survives. The following dialogue then occurs.
Cullen Bohannan: Congratulations, you ain't dead.
Sydney Snow: All this to see me hang?
Cullen Bohannan: Nope. First you gonna save the church lady.
Sydney Snow: One good act ain't gonna wash away all the bad I've done. What becomes of men like us, Bohannon? Where do you suppose we end up?
Cullen Bohannan: Nowhere's good.[1]
Is Bohannan a man of integrity, or an evil, vindictive man like Sydney Snow? Notice the double meaning of the words in Cullen’s reply to Sidney: “Nowhere’s good.” Does Cullen mean, “We will not be going to any place that is good.” Or does he mean that “‘Nowhere’ would be a good place for them to ‘end up’? Cullen Bohannan has killed many men. Some of the killings were clearly wrongful; others were a form of execution for persons who deserved the death penalty. Perhaps he is hoping that there is no after-life where he will be held accountable for his deeds. By episode four of the series, Cullen seems to be seeking to live a good life and repent of his past. At one point he puts away his guns and seeks to live a pacifistic life; but the circumstances of the world, and evil men like Sydney Snow, cause him to regretfully put on the gun belt and punish those who harm women and kill children. Where does a man like Cullen Bohannan “end up?” He has repeatedly ignored the offers from Ruth and her preacher father who encouraged him to turn his life over to Jesus. Bohannan is reluctant to turn to the church and to Jesus at either the Congregational Church or the Mormon Church because he seems to believe that he is unworthy of God’s grace. What will become of Cullen Bohannan? Perhaps Season Five will make things clearer.

[1] "Hell on Wheels: Bleeding Kansas (#4.11)" (2014);

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Review of 2015

I have begun to review the events of 2015 and look forward to the year 2016. I find that the best way for me to review the year is to look back at the 107 blogs I have written in 2015. My favourite blogs will tell me something about my personality and my year. Here is a list of the posts for which I am most thankful.

1.     The Heart is Full 2015-02-10 - a poem for a new grand-daughter

2.     Whiplash 2015-04-06 - a movie review

3.     Oblivian 2015-07-13 - another movie review

4.     Running With Horses 2015-08-10 - inspiration from Eugene Peterson

5.     Of Hobbits and Books 2015-08-15 - about the joy of reading classic books

6.     Violet 2015-09-15 - another poem for another new grand-daughter

7.     Loving Our Enemies 2015-09-20 - inspiration from Wendell Berry

8.     Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Regulus are Alright Tonight 2015-09-30 - all year I have followed these celestial points of light

9.     Cullen Bohannan 2015-10-16 - good questions from a well-done television series

10.  Imagine True Religion 2015-11-17 - thinking about Paris.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Star of the East, Oh Bethlehem Star

For as long as I can remember, I have wondered about the nature of the star studied by the Magi of the east; you know, the one they used to find their way to Jesus. There are many theories. Could the “star” be a comet, a planetary conjunction, a supernova, or some other celestial event of miraculous or natural origin? It had never occurred to me that the biblical narrative in the Gospel of Matthew might describe the miraculous appearance of an angel that guided these men of wisdom. This is exactly how the Eastern Orthodox Church understands this event. Perhaps the Wise Men first noticed a light far off in the sky that they assumed was a new star. Later, they might have found this star growing in intensity as it began to reveal itself as an angel on its way to visit them. The angel may have even spoken to them and given them further guidance or simply moved ahead of them like the ancient pillar of fire that Moses and the people of Israel followed. This treatment of “the star” leaves more room for the miraculous nature of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. It is an important perspective to keep in the forefront. We all need to leave room for miracles in our lives.

Oh Little Town of Bethlehem:
No ear may hear His coming
But in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive Him still
The dear Christ enters in

The Troparion of the Nativity:
Your birth, O Christ our God,
dawned the light of knowledge upon the earth.
For by Your birth those who adored stars
were taught by a star
to worship You, the Sun of Justice,
and to know You, Orient from on High.
O Lord, glory to You.

Works Cited:
“Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;” Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; accessed 2015-12-14;
“Star of Bethlehem;” Wikipedia; accessed 2015-12-14;

Thursday, December 10, 2015

"Yesterday I missed my exit, on my way to Sears" - Joe Diffie

Have you ever had one of those days where you missed your freeway exit and had to take an alternative route? The process can be quite time consuming and often adds several minutes to the anticipated travel time. It is hard not to get frustrated. Of course, such emotions only complicate things and make the trip even less efficient. Recently, a team of Japanese aerospace engineers learned first hand that, in space exploration, one little missed exit can lead to many years of extra work. In 2010, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency was excitedly watching as their Akatsuki probe was moving rapidly toward Venus. All was well until the main engine failed to come online and make the appropriate course correction. The result of this, missed exit on the cosmic freeway, was five years of unplanned wandering in the wilderness. Not only did it mean that Akatsuki would be late for her rendezvous with the “planet of love,” it also meant that, like Icarus, Akatsuki flew too near the sun and singed her wings.

What I like about this story is that the team did not give up on the mission. They knew that this “miss” meant the probability of success was small; but they did not lose focus and they kept seeking solutions to the problem. They still could not rely upon the main engine but knew that every five years Akatsuki would be close to Venus. This would be their window of opportunity. They would use the attitude control thrusters to position the craft for Venus gravity capture. On December 7 at 8:51 am (Japan Standard Time) the gamble paid off and Akatsuki is now in orbit around our “sister planet.” The scientific mission can resume. The probe has been scorched by the sun but remains functional and will soon begin to take continuous pictures of the atmosphere and surface of Venus.

This reclamation of the mission is a testament to tenacity and problem solving. Lesser engineers might have given up on the Akatsuki probe and begun work on a replacement vehicle. These individuals continued to work as a team and redeemed what might otherwise have been seen as a failure. There is something very impressive about this work. May they now enjoy the fruit of their labour as they gather data and explore further questions related to this closest neighbouring planet.

Other Works Cited:
“Japanese spacecraft reaches Venus — five years late”; Science News, December 8, 2015;—-five-years-late.

“That Road Not Taken,” Joe Diffie, from the album, Third Rock From the SunListen to it online here. Songwriters: Kelly Casey and Deborah Beasley, Published by The Bicycle Music Company.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Results of Tardigrade Paper Questioned

It only took a few days for the results of a new Tardigrade study to be called into question. No one questions the hardiness of Tardigrades, aka Water Bears; but are they the great scavengers of DNA that the Cambridge Researchers suggested? (See the paper by Eyres, et al.) A paper published by researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Oxford concludes that the genomic research from Cambridge may have been contaminated by other genomes. (See also Science News here.) Of course the Cambridge team acknowledged this and worked hard to prevent such contamination; but the fact is, with incredibly sensitive PCR reactions and hardy sequencing of small amounts of DNA, contamination is always a possibility.

The Cambridge team will likely be working through the Christmas break to see if they can redeem the results of their previous study. But, with the suggested level of contamination, they might do well to move to another lab where they can start with a fresh supply of Tardigrades that will not be prone to the same sources of contamination. Perhaps the only thing hardier than a Tardigrade is cellular DNA. This lends a further significance to the concept of selfish genes

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Stardust Memories

I have always found Woody Allen to be an honest atheist. He does not sugar-coat his atheism in either his movies or his interviews. He does not try to convince people that atheism will make them a better person, that they will be happier if they choose atheism, or that the world will be a better place. His movies show the stark reality of seeking to live by an atheistic philosophy. Stardust Memories (1980)[1] is an example of Woody Allen struggling to - and failing to - understand life. The closest he gets to solving the problem is near the end of the movie where he is seen resorting to existential moments of bliss to get himself through life. But the moments are short-lived and the final scene shows him back on the same train as he was on at the beginning of the movie, with the emotional and philosophic angst of the opening scene still present. The movie is one of my favourites, not for what it teaches, but for the questions it asks. They are questions that all of us must ask and they are questions that just might cause us to reach out to God. It may be a little difficult to find this older movie, but when you do find it I recommend watching it with a discerning eye. The following scenes are some of the key moments in the philosophical arc.

Many have interviewed Allen as they seek to understand his funny, yet dark, persona. Here are a few of his responses to questions about the meaning of life.

“This is my perspective and has always been my perspective on life: I have a very grim, pessimistic view of it. I always have, since I was a little boy. It hasn’t gotten worse with age or anything. I do feel that it’s a grim, painful, nightmarish, meaningless experience, and that the only way that you can be happy is if you tell yourself some lies and deceive yourself.”[2]

“You start to think, when you’re younger, how important everything is and how things have to go right—your job, your career, your life, your choices, and all of that. Then, after a while, you start to realise that – I’m talking the big picture here – eventually you die, and eventually the sun burns out and the earth is gone, and eventually all the stars and all the planets in the entire universe go, disappear, and nothing is left at all. Nothing – Shakespeare and Beethoven and Michelangelo gone. And you think to yourself that there’s a lot of noise and sound and fury – and where’s it going? It’s not going any place… Now, you can’t actually live your life like that, because if you do you just sit there and – why do anything? Why get up in the morning and do anything? So I think it’s the job of the artist to try and figure out why, given this terrible fact, you want to go on living.”[3]

Allen is a comedian who asks questions about the meaning of life and why we would want to go on living. This is the Woody Allen many have heard and not completely understood. This is the writer, philosopher, actor, and comedian who makes such interesting films. This is the same Woody Allen who also has said, “I don't believe in an afterlife, although I am bringing a change of underwear.[4]

[1] IMDB, Stardust Memories;
[4] "Conversations with Helmholtz,Getting Even, Woody Allen, Vintage Books, 1978.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Science is Stranger than Screenplays

With Batman and Superman preparing to do battle in our movie theatres[1], perhaps you have wondered, "What is the most invulnerable creature on our planet?" The armadillo? The Blue Whale? Lions? Elephants? No, there is one creature that is much more durable than all of these. It can survive being boiled and frozen; in fact it can live in temperature ranges of −272 °C to 149 °C. It can tolerate the vacuum of space while being exposed to more ionizing radiation than any other creature. It can also survive without food or water for decades (some have been rehydrated after 120 years of desiccation).[2] No, it is not that fictional life form from the Alien[3] movies. Truth is sometimes stranger than our fictional screenplays.

The Tardigrade, or Water Bear, pictured here, wins the gold medal for invincibility. However, you would need a very small ribbon to hang the award around its neck; Water Bears are only visible with a microscope and measure approximately 1.5 mm across their longest dimension. They are certainly weird looking animals and would likely scare the wits out of any of us if they were more like half a meter in length. Fortunately, unless you go looking for them, you will never see one. They like to live on mossy surfaces where they thrive on microscopic drops of secreted liquid. They can also live in our water supply, the gutters of our city streets, and our cupboards.

Researchers (and yes there are those who study these tiny animals in the wild) have recently made a remarkable discovery about Tardigrades. They have the ability to scavenge and incorporate DNA from other living creatures. (Note well, the paper related to this research has been subsequently questioned and researchers are working to confirm or deny the results of this research.) In one recent study, it was found that "the Hypsibius dujardini tardigrade incorporated into their own DNA genes from more than 1,300 bacterial species, 40 archaea, 91 species of fungus, 45 plant species and six viruses."[4] When severely dehydrated, Water Bears, and other organisms around them, spill out DNA from broken cells. The unique thing about the Tardigrade is that when water returns to the environment, they can quickly sew their DNA back together and sometimes incorporate other free-floating DNA. It is likely this feature that has made them so invulnerable to extreme conditions. Move over Superman, there is a new god-like creature in town. Perhaps someone needs to turn this match-up into a movie.

[1] Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016); IMDB;
[4] Science News; November 25, 2015, "Water Bears Are Genetic Mash-Ups; The validity of this study has since been called into question. See the follow-up blog at .

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Body and Wine

I write a blog, first and foremost, as a place to work out my own faith. There are times when the best way to sort out what is going on is to spill out emotions and words. The first draft makes little sense. The edits make it a learning process. On a really good day those thoughts also help someone else. Meditation on the words of others can be a great way to stir up this practise and there are many times when I turn to Jars of Clay. “Body and Wine” is one of those songs that has not yet revealed to me its full meaning. I meditate upon the words and sometimes something comes clearer. There are real questions here. There are real questions that need an answer: “What if this was all that we were made of; . . . all that we could make of love? If there wasn’t more, I wouldn’t be here.” What if humanistic science tried to tell us that we were only a collection of carbon, water, and trace elements? What if that was all that we were made of? If there wasn’t more, what would keep me here? What would make this earth worth staying for? If it’s been a while since I was king, is there someone else who should be on the throne? Hero or crime? Hero and crime? Body and wine.

Body and Wine
Rusty ground and dusty roads
It's been a while since you were king
Undermined and overthrown
You tried to run it on your own

Forget the birds with broken wings
Under piles of things on things
No one stops and no one stares
Seen it all and no one cares

What if this was all that we were made of?
This was all that we could make of love
If there wasn't more, I wouldn't be here
Hero and crime, body and wine

Drove my heart toward the sea
Passed the graves up over hills
Saw the spires hit the ground
Voices raised without a sound

What if this was all that we were made of?
This was all that we could make of love
If there wasn't more, I wouldn't be here
Hero and crime, body and wine
Hero and crime, body and wine

What if this was all that we were made of?
This was all that we could make of love
If there wasn't more, I wouldn't be here
Hero and crime, body and wine

What if this was all that we were made of?
This was all that we could make of love
If there wasn't more, I wouldn't be here
Hero and crime, body and wine
Hero and crime, body and wine
Body and wine

Words & music by: Dan Haseltine, Charlie Lowell, Stephen Mason, Matt Odmark
Produced by: Jars of Clay

Commenting on the song “Loneliness and Alcohol,” Steve Mason (one of the members of Jars of Clay) said, “Everything matters . . . there is always something artful to be said.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Living in a World of Turmoil

How will we respond when the world is in turmoil; when Syrian refugees are flooding European countries and seeking shelter in North America; when oil is $42 a barrel and people are losing their jobs; when Paris and Belgium are locked down; when travelers in the United States are warned not to fly? Do we live as functional atheists or do we "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ"[1]? I am now speaking to those of us who claim to be followers of the first century Rabbi, and Son of God, Jesus. If we truly believe in him, and follow what he taught, then we will recognize that "in him all things hold together."[2] We will not get caught up in the fear of the day. We will not be tossed about by every human argument about the way to solve these crises. We will have our pattern in Jesus. He will be our example and our teacher for dealing with daily life. Jesus tells us to "seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need."[3] Those of us who live as Christians in the world need to take seriously these words of the "author of our faith."[4] God still "reigns above the nations, sitting on his holy throne."[5] "Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us."[6]

[1] For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV)
[2] The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Col. 1:15-17 NIV)
[3] “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.
“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.
“Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. (Luke 12:27-34 NLT)
[4] Hebrews 12:2 (NASB)
[5] For God is the King over all the earth. Praise him with a psalm. God reigns above the nations, sitting on his holy throne. The rulers of the world have gathered together with the people of the God of Abraham. For all the kings of the earth belong to God. He is highly honored everywhere. (Psalm 47:7-9 NLT)
[6] Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. (Hebrews 12:1,2 NIV)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Rest in the Grace of the World

I have been sensing a tendency toward fear and depression both in my own soul and in the words of those around me. I am considering these words by Wendell Berry and what they might mean to all of us at this point in history.
“When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
― Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community: Eight Essays

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Imagine True Religion

It has been a few days since the world witnessed the events of November 13 in Paris. The initial words used to describe the event were naturally filled with emotion: “Paris mourns,” “an act of war,” “World War III,” “Blood-bath,” and “massacre.” Now that a few days have passed, I am in a better place to look at the nature of what happened and I pray that you are as well. Of course, anytime someone or some group of people intentionally kill innocent persons, it is evil; but some who speak of these events then go on to attribute the blame to religion and say that if it were not for religion this would not be happening. Some, specifically blame Islam and label it a violent faith. This is wrong thinking.

I admire the man who towed his portable baby-grand piano to the heart of the zone of destruction and then began to play a song of peace, but unfortunately his choice of song does more than simply call for peace. John Lennon’s “Imagine” has a beautiful melody and the words are inspirational; but it also calls for an abandonment of all religion: “Imagine there's no heaven; It's easy if you try; No hell below us; Above us only sky; Imagine all the people living for today.” The song assumes that world peace would naturally arise when we abandon all religion and live for today. The reality is that people are never at their best when they only live for today because we all have a tendency to live for ourselves. Living for ourselves and living for today is a bad combination that leads to taking care of our own, looking out for number one, and continuing to live a consuming life that depletes the earth of her resources. Getting rid of religion without curing this fatal flaw in humanity could only make our world a more dangerous place.

Other voices have said that “there is no religion in terror.” This is a way to try to describe the fact that those who commit terrorist acts, by remorselessly killing innocents, are not religious and are not part of the true faith. I tend to agree with this but there is a better way to say it. That is, “there is no terrorism in religion.” The great books of the faith, the Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament of the Bible and yes, the Quran contain admonishments to seek to do good toward others. The Old Testament of the Bible, regarded by Jews, Christians, and Muslims tells us that “the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) The New Testament of the Bible regarded by both Christians and Muslims says that “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) The Quran admonishes Muslims to “compete with each other in doing good.” (Surah al-Baqarah 5:48)

You will notice that I have not referred to Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, or other religions in quoting these three passages of sacred writings. I will leave that to others to find the relevant passages in their sacred writings. But the fact is, a religion that encourages the slaughter of innocents, is no religion at all. True religion is caring for widows and orphans. It is not true religion if it creates widows and orphans by killing innocent husbands and fathers. Of this we can be sure.

So, what is it that we desire? I do not desire a world with no religion. I desire a world filled with good religion. I imagine a world where good religion succeeds, and truth and grace are held as the highest of all standards by those who are true followers of true religion. Can we imagine that?

Friday, November 13, 2015

An Open Letter to Oil Company CEOs

November 13, 2015

An open letter to oil company executives in Alberta,

In recent years, and in fact, in recent days, oil has become a dirty word. Our federal government is gearing up for presentations in Paris at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Our provincial government will experience pressure to reconsider royalty rates and, if Saskatchewan is any indicator, pressure to create a new price for expelling carbon into the atmosphere. Those who capture carbon will be able to sell their rights and carbon will have a defined price.

In light of all of this, for the sake of our province, for the sake of our children and grand-children, for the sake of jobs, for the sake of my friends who are already looking for jobs and those who may be afraid they will soon be looking for jobs, can I please ask you to stop thinking like CEOs of Oil companies and ask you to start thinking like CEOs of Energy companies?

I have asked my friends in the oil and gas industry if their company is diversifying. They have responded, “Oh yes, we are diversifying. We used to be into nothing but conventional oil and now we have holdings in both heavy oil and conventional oil. With the latest downturn in oil prices we are diversifying back to conventional oil and even gas!” That’s not diversifying, CEOs! Or at least, it is not diversifying enough. What about diversifying into other forms of energy: building high capacity batteries, installing fields of solar panels, building wind turbines, or investing in fuel cell research? What about looking at other ways to provide energy and power?

For the sake of tomorrow, could I please ask you to do something different than wait for the roller-coaster ride of oil and gas to come back to the top? Please show us that you can truly diversify, for the sake of our unhealthy addiction to oil, for the sake of our province.

Keith Shields

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Artificial Intelligence

"What does it mean to be alive? To think, to feel, to love and to envy? André Alexis explores all of this and more in the extraordinary Fifteen Dogs, an insightful and philosophical meditation on the nature of consciousness. It's a novel filled with balancing acts: humour juxtaposed with savagery, solitude with the desperate need to be part of a pack, perceptive prose interspersed with playful poetry. A wonderful and original piece of writing that challenges the reader to examine their own existence and recall the age old question, what's the meaning of life?"[1]

This quote reminds us that authors and screenwriters have been writing about consciousness and the essence of life for a very long time. Fifteen Dogs, by Andre Alexis, which recently won the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize is a significant addition to the genre. If you add to this the concept of artificial intelligence (AI), as a related subject, the list of stories grows even longer. A few key questions continue to be asked. Would it ever be possible to create life? How would one know if life had been created? Would it ever be possible to create consciousness? How would one know if consciousness had been created? Would it be possible to create an artificial intelligence that was indistinguishable from a human? If one were able to do this, would it indeed be human? What does it mean to be human? Is there a need to protect humans from their own creations?

Ex Machina, a 2015 movie, focused on robots that were designed to be indistinguishable from humans. Even as the Giller Prize judges ruminate upon the words, “to think, to feel, to love, to envy,” so also do the writers of this screenplay. Another film, Her (2013), grappled with the concept of an intelligence that resided in the hardware of a computer and went on to develop feelings. Eventually the OS being was capable of learning beyond the capabilities of the ones who had created it and exhibited feelings for humans and other OS entities. Although a much older discussion, I, Robot, a 1950 collection of short-stories by famed Sci-Fi writer Isaac Asimov, asked questions about the safety of creating artificial intelligences and constructed the “Three Laws of Robotics.”
1.    A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2.    A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3.    A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.[2]
Nathan, the brilliant billionaire CEO of Bluebook, in the movie Ex Machina, would have saved himself a lot of trouble if he had read these principles of robotics and built them into his own version of the positronic brain.

Arthur C. Clarke, in his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, wrote about a renegade computer that managed to outsmart a team of astronauts on a mission to one of the moons of Jupiter. The novel became a stunning movie in 1968 under the direction of Stanley Kubrick. The murderous computer, HAL 9000, considers himself a conscious entity and finds that he is afraid when he begins to lose his ability to think.[3]

In the Genesis creation account, we read that “God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them;” and for centuries, theologians and philosophers have been seeking to understand the nature of this imago dei (image of God). We have much yet to learn, but I am convinced that the beginning of wisdom is to take seriously this concept. The more we understand the nature of this image, the greater we will comprehend what it is that makes us truly human. God is a Creator and we are creators. God is in relationship and calls us to be in relationship with him and with others. God is a communicator and we are communicators. God is truth and calls us to truth. God is love and calls us to be love as well.

Whatever the final answers regarding the image of God, we need not fear the AI apocalypse that has been depicted in so many of the stories, movies and writings in our majority culture. God, who created us from the dust of the earth, and created the dust before that, is the ultimate creator and sustainer. He is in control of all life and has set humans to be stewards of His creation. Even as we struggle to achieve this assignment, and sometimes pursue short-cuts to cleaning up the messes we have made, the God of the universe watches us and engages us with gracious concern. May His will be done; for this is what it means to be alive.