Monday, October 10, 2016

Can a Search Engine Sway Voters?

Image from Life Without Biases

It has been claimed that Google is biased in favor of Hillary Clinton. According to a report by psychologist Robert Epstein, this could sway as many as 3 million votes in the upcoming presidential election.

“How can a search engine be pro- or con- anything?” you ask. The problem, according to Matt Leiberman, is with the autocomplete suggestions that appear as you begin to input your search. Allegedly, Google is more likely to suggest positive rather than negative results about the Democratic Presidential Candidate – no matter how badly you want to find something disparaging about her.

Of course, Google denies the allegation. And according to this claim is false. But if you search for "Snopes bias," you will find numerous hits dismissing Snopes as liberal.

Besides Google, I used Yahoo! and Bing to search out information on this with similar results. But the two competing search engines return different results than Google when searching for dirt on HRC.

If you can’t trust a search engine to find unbiased information, where do you turn?

Having both a registered Republican and Democrat in our household, we receive the mailings from all the different candidates, taxpayer associations, and interest groups hoping to assist us in making informed decisions.

We watch the presidential (and vice presidential) debates from beginning to end. Afterwards, we channel surf through the variously biased news analyses to compare their takes on the issues. We surf the Internet for fact checking sources and discuss. Of course, fact-checking sources are also suspect. A popular fact checker,, winner of a Pulizer Prize in 2009 for their coverage of the 2008 election, is accused of being liberal by

This is a problem for me as an American citizen, but also as an information professional. Last week I carpooled from North Orange County to a professional association meeting in Los Angeles with a librarian colleague who is a Korean born naturalized American citizen. During the 90 minute commute (each way), the subject of the elections came up. We did not talk about Google but our discussion centered on how to get good information about local candidates. We both want to exercise our right and privilege to vote but despair of being properly informed. And we are information professionals!

Librarians value opposing opinions. In fact, the American Library Association has a Library Bill of Rights which says,
“Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” (Article II)
So the idea that Google might be withholding relevant information with biased results was alarming. Google is a brilliant information-seeking tool. But we must remember that, as is the case with standard authoritative reference works such as encyclopedias and dictionaries, Google is man-made and therefore, not infallible.

My husband says he applies the "hermeneutic of suspicion" to his own psyche, assuming that, although he may not be aware of it, he is biased or has an ulterior motive to believe what he already agrees with. It is my professional opinion that we must endeavor to suspect bias in every source, including Google and ourselves.

As far as the election goes, I trust in the system of checks and balances and hope that enough of my fellow Americans do too.

Related post: Thinking Critically About the Election, by Tyler Watson


Robin Hartman is Director of Library Services at Hope International University. She is curious about how the organization and communication of information shapes society and is committed to equipping students to impact the world for Christ.

Featured Author: Stephen Backhouse

St. Paul's Theological Center
Stephen Backhouse, D.Phil., will be our next speaker in the Voices of Christian Thought series this semester. Sponsored by the Pacific Christian College of Ministry and Biblical Studies at Hope International University, VOCT brings Christian thinkers to campus to present lectures and engage in dialog.

Dr. Backhouse is a Lecturer in Social and Political Theology at Mellitus College, London.

Dates of Residence (including book signing): October 23-27th.
A special lecture open to the public will be held on
Tuesday, October 25th in Room 205 at 7:00pm-9:00pm.
(For more information, contact Brittany Bauman.)


Backhouse, Stephen. 2011. Kierkegaard's Critique of Christian Nationalism. Oxford theological monographs; Oxford theological monographs. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (ISBN: 019960472X)

Backhouse, Stephen. 2016. Kierkegaard : A Single Life. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. (ISBN: 0310520886)

Read more about this author on Zondervan's blog or his Amazon page.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Neighboring Church: A Book Review, by Dr. Joseph Grana, II

Rusaw, Rick & Mavis, Brian. The Neighboring Church. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2016. 184 pp. $24.99.

Ecclesiology is changing. The manner of how we ‘do church’ is being evaluated not only in culture, but also within the church. Even, perhaps especially, the mega church is taking a deeper look at how we can better reach and engage our culture. Rick Rusaw and Brian Mavis of LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont, Colorado have captured the biblical, cultural, and practical insights into the movement from the attractional model to the incarnational model.

Chapter three’s title gives a keen insight, “Being a Good Neighbor is Better Than a Good Program”. This concept takes the church back to its roots: “Day by day… they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46). Rather than being program oriented they are emphasizing personal relationship. Rather than just meeting in the church building, they are advocating meeting with one’s neighbors in one another’s homes.

In the “Externally Focused Church” Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson ask, “Would your community weep if your church vanished?” In “The Neighboring Church” Rick and Brian ask, “Would my neighbors care if I left?” They bring the church to a different level than just the organizational church in a church building. They bring the church to the home! Their conclusion/opinion is, “Pragmatically, we don’t think the church, as it is institutionally expressed, matches the future. (p.11). Their book is then an exploration of what the future church could/should become.

Theologically the concept of being a good neighbor is tied to God and Jesus. They state that God was the original-the first good neighbor because he created a place for humankind to live with him (p. 31). Jesus then demonstrated that attitude by moving into the neighborhood (p.33). He tented among us, as John 1:14 states. It is an interesting metaphor worth contemplating. If God/Jesus were good neighbors, perhaps, we should be too. That approach may what the upcoming generation will respond to.

There is still a place for corporate worship in this model. However, that service is not the focal point of the church. The main ministry takes place where people live, in their neighborhood.

Rusaw and Mavis reiterate an important concept from the ‘Externally Focused Church’. “While evangelism may be our ultimate motive, it is not our ulterior motive” (p.111). This concept is an important one regardless of the model being used.

Perhaps, there is a new wind blowing in the church. That wind is a fresh wind that comes from the early church. Now may be the time for the church of today to learn from the church of the first century: day by day in people’s homes they shared and expressed their faith!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it well:
“The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the one who loves those around them will create community.”
(Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community, p.27 quoted by Rusaw & Mavis on page 45.)

Available for sale on Amazon.
Coming soon to the Darling Library.


Dr. Joseph C. Grana II is Dean of the Pacific Christian College of Ministry & Biblical Studies and Professor of Church Ministry of Hope International University.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Featured Author: Ann Hidalgo

Ann Hidalgo is the first speaker in the Voices of Christian Thought 2016-2017 season. VOCT, sponsored by the Pacific Christian College of Ministry and Biblical Studies at Hope International University, brings Christian thinkers on campus to present lectures and to engage in dialog.

Dr. Hidalgo is a specialist in Latin American feminist theology. She earned a Ph.D. in Religion, Ethics, and Society from Claremont School of Theology. Her dissertation, Liberating Liturgy: Voices of Latin American Theology, uses feminist and decolonial theory to examine liturgies in the liberation theology tradition that empower marginalized communities.

Ann is part of the editorial team for Perspectivas, the journal of the Hispanic Theological Initiative, and Horizontes Decoloniales, a tri-lingual journal focusing on global political and religious discourses. She also currently works as the acquisitions librarian at the Claremont School of Theology Library.

An evening lecture, "Covering Itself in Ashes: A Brazilian Church Repenting and Making Amends for Racist and Colonialist Theology,” is open to the public on Monday, September 26th, 7:00 to 9:00, in Room 205 (2nd floor of Nutwood East).

“Spray Paint on the Border Wall: Challenging the Waning Sovereignty of the Nation-State” Claremont Journal of Religion January 2013.

“¡Ponte a nuestro lado! Be on our side! The Challenge of the Central American Liberation Theology Masses” IN Liturgy in Postcolonial Perspectives: Only One Is Holy. 2015. Cláudio Carvalhaes, editor. Palgrave Macmillan (Postcolonialism and Religion Series). ISBN: 1137516356

Friday, September 16, 2016

Thinking Critically About the Election, by Tyler Watson

Introduction by Robin Hartman, Director of Library Services
Developing lifelong learners is central to the mission of higher education institutions. By ensuring that individuals have the intellectual abilities of reasoning and critical thinking, and by helping them construct a framework for learning how to learn, colleges and universities provide the foundation for continued growth throughout their careers, as well as in their roles as informed citizens and members of communities. (Association of College and Research Libraries. Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education)
With possibly the most incendiary election in U.S. history quickly approaching, we invited HIU alumnus, Adjunct Associate Professor of Political Science, and Senior Deputy Attorney General with the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, Tyler Watson, to help us to think critically about the American election process today. 

Thinking Critically About the Election, by Tyler Watson

On November 8, 2016, we will elect the 45th President of the United States. As many pundits lament that this election marks the arrival of a “post-truth” era of politics and Secretary Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump represent the two least popular presidential candidates in America’s history, it is tempting to become jaded and simply tune-out this election season. Don’t! As the famous playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.” If you want a strong democracy that reflects your opinions and passions, you need to vote. If you want to avoid a democracy that is responsive only to corporate interests and mega-donors, you must participate.

Despite all the negative emotions associated with this election, the result matters and our actions, or lack thereof, will make a real impact on our country and the world. First, your participation matters because the two presidential candidates, though flawed and disliked, represent widely divergent visions for America’s future – the winner’s agenda and persona, for better or worse, will shape our government and society. Though I am trying to avoid “taking a side” in this blog post, it is difficult to ignore that Mr. Trump’s caustic, often vitriolic, tone has done serious damage to our ability to have a nuanced policy discussion. So, your choice matters.

Second, the winner in this election will determine the balance of power in the Supreme Court, which will reach far beyond the next four to eight years. In fact, appointing a Supreme Court justice is the most lasting and impactful part of a president’s legacy. Don’t believe me? Think about this: Justice Anthony Kennedy, the “swing” or deciding vote on the Supreme Court, was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 – more than a quarter century ago. Since 2010, Kennedy has been a part of the majority opinion (meaning he is on the winning side) 84% of the time, while the rest of the justices have been in the majority opinion somewhere slightly above or below 50% of the time. This means that as goes Kennedy, so goes the Supreme Court (and the rest of the country for that matter). A Supreme Court appointment reaches far beyond a president’s years in office and often beyond his or her own life. And by way of reminder, due to the current vacancy on the Supreme Court, our next president will appoint the new deciding vote for years to come.

Third, this election will decide more than the presidential race. In addition to one third of the U.S. Senate and the entire House of Representatives being up for election, numerous state and local races will determine the balance of power where you live. All over the country we will elect judges, governors, law enforcement officials, and state legislators. This election will impact national and local issues alike.

Unfortunately, as a voter in this election, you must overcome more than apathy. You also face the daunting challenge of becoming well informed before you vote. This is no small task. As a voter you are inundated with (mis)information and opinion. Determining what is true and what is not, and what is relevant and what is not, is difficult even if you have been paying close attention for a long time. So, here are my four suggestions on how to become a reasonably educated voter before you step into that voting booth come November.

Step one: watch the candidates. To the chagrin of many, there simply is no substitute for investing time into this process. While it would be nice if sound bites and headlines were enough, they are not. Clips and snippets are misleading and reductionist. They leave you with impressions and feelings instead of facts. Just like studying the Bible, context matters. So, to get a real feel for who the candidates are, you must actually listen to them speak. Feel free to shudder or cringe at the thought if you must. Once you compose yourself, resolve to watch each candidate’s major policy speeches (assuming Mr. Trump ever gives one) and the three scheduled presidential debates (September 26, 2016, October 9, 2016 and October 19, 2016). Also, the vice presidential debate in on October 4, 2016 (watch this one to determine who is best to step in when and if the next president suffers from an unexpected bout of “heat exhaustion”).

Step two: find reliable news sources. As consumers of news media, you have to be aware of potential outlet/report bias, be able to distinguish fact from opinion, and resist the temptation to dismiss information just because you do not agree with it. That last one is tough! Knowing where to find reliable news is undoubtedly a challenge. So, here are some resources to help you navigate these murky political waters. As you read my suggestions, please note that I am not claiming these are perfect news sources (as no such thing exists), but they are far better than most.

I suggest you adopt BBC News, PBS News Hour, and NPR as your news outlet staples. These outlets provide mostly fair coverage and avoid wasting time on superfluous, incendiary garbage that many other outlets rely upon to lure viewers. Also, if you want to fact check something that a candidate has said, go to where candidate statements are rated from “true” all the way down to “pants on fire” (you might be surprised to find out which candidate is the most trustworthy). Next, avoid “junk” news that focuses on advancing a political agenda. I know this will upset some people, but Drudge Report, Fox News, MSNBC and the Huffington Post are not useful for anything other than slowly turning you into a misinformed ideologue. Further, these outlets exist to make money, not to give you newsworthy information. Their goal is to tell you what you want to hear to get you to tune in or log on.

On the local level, I suggest closely reviewing any voting packet provided by your state election commission. This will usually give you a fair overview of your local candidates as well as a quick synopsis of arguments for or against any ballot initiatives. In addition, it is useful to look at your local paper’s endorsements, but know that these endorsements have limited value, as local papers are likely to have a partisan bias. For example, I live in Las Vegas, Nevada where the largest local paper, the Las Vegas Review Journal, is owned by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who personally spent $100 million in a failed effort to get Republican Mitt Romney elected president in the 2012 election. Mr. Adelson’s political agenda has a real impact on the Review Journal’s reporting. Being aware of these types of biases allow you to process the information in context.

Step three: do not put too much stock into any single poll. If you have been reading headlines over the last two months, you have undoubtedly seen proclamations that Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump has a large and surprising lead in some swing-state. Ignore these articles and ignore these polls. They are meaningless. I repeat, meaningless! Reporting the results of a “shock poll” is just click bait. If you really want to know how each candidate is doing, look at the aggregate polling sites. An aggregate poll considers the results of several recent and reputable polls and averages them. The best aggregate polling sites are and These sites currently have Mrs. Clinton up by 2.3% and 2.8% respectively. This should tell you that the race is close with Mrs. Clinton holding a moderate lead over Mr. Trump.

Step four: engage in informed and constructive political discourse. Caution: I am not advocating that you get into an argument over gun rights or a flat tax with your crazy, drunk uncle at the Thanksgiving dinner table. That won’t help anyone (and your mother will be quite displeased). But, you should talk to smart people who disagree with you. Ask them questions with the goal of seeking understanding. Consider the possibility that you do not have all the answers. While you might not change your mind on a particular topic, you should acknowledge and embrace the fact that people have unique experiences and considerations that inform their perspectives and opinions. Learning another person’s point of view is how you develop empathy and compassion, which should be your goal as a Christ follower and voter. This outlook is not just good for your mind and spirit, it is also good for the health of our democracy.


Tyler Watson is a Senior Deputy Attorney General with the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, a Hope International University graduate and Adjunct Associate Professor of Political Science. Prior to beginning his legal career, Tyler spent a semester in Washington D.C. working for the Democratic Policy Committee where he focused on governmental waste, fraud and abuse oversight. Tyler has a JD from the University of Nevada Las Vegas Boyd School of Law. In 2004, Tyler married his high school sweetheart, Kristee, who also graduated from HIU. Together they have two adorable and precocious kids: a daughter named Harper (age 5) and a son named Henry (age 3). As a family they are rooting for the Chicago Cubs to end a 108-year-old curse this fall. Go Cubbies!

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Hugh and Hazel Darling Library, Hope International University, or its constituents.

Friday, September 09, 2016

How to Read a Book: A Book Review by Katy Lines

Introduction by Robin Hartman:

One of the first assignments my husband was given when he started seminary back in the mid-1980s was to read How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler & Charles van Doren. It seemed odd to me until I became the Teaching Assistant for that Bibliographic Instruction course taught by the Librarian there at Emmanuel Christian Seminary, Tom Stokes. I read the book (or part of it) myself and decided it was brilliant. I have used the principles presented in it ever since.

Now, our Library Services Manager, Katy Lines, is starting her D.Min. program at George Fox Evangelical Seminary with this very book! Of course, she is already an avid reader and easily read the 426 page book in a week in preparation to write a book review of it. She has given permission to re-post here.

How to Read “How to Read a Book”

Written by: Katy Lines on September 8, 2016

I am working under the following assumptions: those who venture to read this blog post are intelligent people; perhaps they have even read the book I review here. For whatever reason you have happened onto this post, welcome! Mortimer Adler’s classic 1940 book, updated with Charles Van Doren in 1972, guides the reader through a systematic method in how to gain increased understanding through reading. A reader of a book and an author of that book participate equally in the giving and receiving of information; like a pitcher and a catcher, their skills converge (5-6).

As a foundation for beginning a new program of learning, How to Read a Book provides a practical structure to critically wrestle, not just with a single book, but with books, authors, and terms. Levels of reading the text offer questions we ask of the author(s) along the way: The Elementary level considers the mechanics of reading; the Inspectional level encourages pre-reading or skimming to ask yourself, ‘might this book be helpful for me?’ In the Analytical level, the reader poses critical questions to understand the author: What are the author’s issues? Is this book true, in whole or part? So what? Finally, at the Syntopical level, the reader looks at a wider library of texts so as to do comparative reading on a topic (17-19).

Great books of the Western World

In order to criticize a book as a communication of knowledge, the reader must first understand the author. Only then can the reader show that the author is uniformed, misinformed, illogical, or presenting an incomplete analysis (162).

According to the authors’ own expectations of a practical book, “nothing short of doing solves the problem” (189). As such, I gained an understanding of how to quickly skim this book to ascertain what would be helpful to me, with the aim of “add[ing] something to the book to make it applicable in practice. [The reader] must add his [sic] knowledge of the particular situation and his judgement of how the rule applies to the case” (190). This seems like the next logical step to reading a practical book such as this.

The authors have crafted a well-designed method to effectively read books. From the standpoint of a doctoral student in a global studies program however, I find two significant shortcomings in their text. The first shortcoming is their denunciation of the aphoristic style of philosophy as “not as important as the other four [styles]” (278). The aphoristic style, that is, short, pithy wisdom sayings, are, according to the authors, most commonly found in “the wisdom books of the East.” As part of a globally connected world however, this style should not be disregarded or considered unimportant today. Perhaps when the text was originally published and then revised, the Western world could ignore the East. But that is to the detriment of everyone. Aphoristic philosophy is also extremely prevalent in social media today, with meme phrases and limited-character tweets dominating our conversations. To ignore this style of philosophy limits the world in which one lives and understands.

The second substantial deficiency of the text resides primarily in the recommended reading list of Appendix A, but to a greater degree, in the selection of books which the authors consider “worth your while to read” (337, cf 164, 170-171). The authors desire for the reader to “discover the best that has been thought and said in our literary tradition” (337). Besides their own admission of the omission of texts by eastern authors (339), their proposed great book list ignores all non-white male authors of the West, and nearly all female authors (George Eliot and Jane Austen are the two exceptions). Within a very brief timespan, and limiting myself to Western authors prior to the twentieth century, I easily came up with many plausible additions, to this list that would fit those categories: WEB Du Bois, Frederick Douglas, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Booker T Washington, Langston Hughes, Teresa of Avila, Emily Dickenson, Lucretia Mott, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and the list can go on.

While I fully understand that the purpose in this book (and this assignment) is to understand how to read a book, I cannot fully show that I have read this book in the “proper” manner (according to the text itself) without acknowledging that the authors themselves have left an incomplete analysis (162). To give them credit, the dated context in which they wrote (and revised) the text was an era spotlighting Western, male authors. Perhaps my critique is more directed to the publishers who released the 2013 edition I am currently holding. Due to the continued evolution of cultures throughout time, I daresay it is high time to not only reissue the text, but revise it once again."


Katy has served for nearly twenty years in children's, youth, and cross-cultural church planting ministries. She is currently the manager of the Darling Library of Hope International University (HIU), teaches graduate ministry classes part-time at HIU, and serves as the Neighborhood Engagement team leader of Anaheim First Christian Church, Anaheim, CA.

Citation (Chicago Style):
Adler, Mortimer Jerome, and Charles Lincoln Van Doren. 1972. How to Read a Book. Revised and updated edition. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Available for check out from the Darling Library.

Available for sale on Amazon.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Exhibit: Ancient Artifacts of the Roman World

The Hugh and Hazel Darling Library is pleased to announce a new exhibit of Ancient Artifacts of the Roman World: A collection of coins and pottery on loan from Dr. Carl Toney, Chair, Graduate Ministry Program and Associate Professor of Biblical Studies.

To officially unveil the exhibit, a short presentation is planned for Thursday, September 15, 2016 from 10:30AM immediately following chapel and will end before classes begin at 10:45AM with Dr. Carl Toney and Dr. K.C. Richardson.

Dr. Toney will present a brief description of his collection and its biblical connections. Dr. Richardson, who is teaching a new course on The Roman World in the First Century this fall will discuss the value of using such artifacts for a deeper understanding and appreciation of historical contexts.

Please join us on the second floor of the Darling Library for this enriching opportunity.

Drs. Richardson and Toney with Katy Lines, Library Services Manager,
preparing the display.

UPDATE 9/20/2016:
A video recording of the presentation is available on the HIU-Library YouTube Channel.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Featured Author: David L. Matson

Congratulations to Dr. David L. Matson, Professor of Biblical Studies, for his recent publication in the Stone-Campbell Journal!

Matson, David Lertis. "Divine Forgiveness in Paul? Justification by Faith and the Logic of Pauline Soteriology." Stone-Campbell Journal 19, no. 1 (Spring 2016): 59-83.

Pauline scholars remain puzzled by the virtual absence of forgiveness language in Paul. The problem, however, is more than a lexical curiosity; it penetrates to the core of Pauline soteriology. Rather than forgive, God justifies sinners by regarding the death of the sinner as having taken place in union with the substitutionary representative death of Jesus on the cross. This model of a God who exacts payment for sin is incompatible with forgiveness, but only in this way is God both just and justifier. The result is a compelling answer to one of the common objections to traditional atonement theory, with important implications for Christian life and theology.

This article formed the basis of two public lectures — one at the Stone-Campbell Journal Conference in Indianapolis (where Dr. Matson was one of three plenary speakers), an event attended by scholars and ministers in all three branches of the Restoration heritage, and the other to a standing-room only crowd at the North American Christian Convention in Anaheim this past July.

This make the third article printed in the SCJ by Dr. Matson since 2008.

How to find it:
Visitors may find the journal on the shelves in the HIU libraries on the main campus and at Nebraska Christian College. HIU students, staff, and faculty may login to access it online. Anyone may get a personal subscription at the SCJ website.

More about the Stone-Campbell Journal:
  • The Stone-Campbell Journal is the only peer-reviewed graduate academic journal associated with the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ of which Hope International University derives its heritage.
  • Dr. William Baker, Professor of Ministry and Biblical Studies at HIU, is the founding editor.
  • According to WorldCat, as of August 26, 2016, 317 libraries report having it on their shelves - including the HIU libraries in Fullerton, CA and Papillion, NE.
  • Students of Hope International University have online access to the SCJ (1988 to present) through our subscription to the ATLA Religion databases in EBSCOHost. (login required)