Monthly Archives: June 2013

Lightened Darkness.

Darkness can be scary.  There are many stories of WWII, Korea and Vietnam War pilots whose cockpits went dark during a night landing on a carrier because they had taken fire or the electrical systems of their planes went out.  How exactly is one supposed to land an aircraft on a blacked-out carrier at night without instruments!?!

At first, all they might have seen was black, but many found a blessing in the darkness.  Once their eyes

Plankton photomontage

Plankton photomontage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

adjusted, they could see a warm bluish-green glow below, guiding them towards their floating runway.  While the lights were on, they couldn’t see the bioluminescent plankton, which had been churned up by the carrier’s props, lighting up the coal dark ocean.  These normally unnoticed creatures had lit the carrier’s course and guided the pilots to a safe landing.

Such plankton are present throughout the oceans, yet most people have never observed them.  Trillions of these tiny beings are alive right now, floating in and illuminating otherwise dark waters.  But one has to be immersed in darkness to see them glimmering in the dark.  If you would like to see pictures or read more about bioluminescent plankton, here’s a link to a recent National Geographic article about them.

These normally unnoticed and taken for granted organisms serve as a reminder that most people are unaware of the light that surrounds us when life becomes dark.  All experience times of darkness which can come in the form of confusion or loneliness, sickness and pain, temptation, suffering or death.  Yet Christians trod through difficult and trying times with paths lit by God’s love.

Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;

He is gracious, merciful, and righteous” (Psalm 112:4 ESV).

As a matter of fact, it is often the darkness we experience that reveals the light of God’s love to us.  God has lightened our darkness by giving us a glimpse of His power over our darkness in the resurrection and ascension of Christ.

Even though most in the world are unaware of the hope God has given His chosen ones in Christ (just as most are unaware of the beauty of microscopic bioluminescent plankton afloat in the ocean), we don’t have to wait until we are in heaven for our spiritual darkness to be enlightened.  We have already seen the light of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ.  God has also given us His Holy Spirit to show us His way in this dark world.

By faith, we see that our future is not confined to our depressed thoughts or limited to a dark, cold box or funeral urn.  Instead, we have been given life that will never end in a place so bright with God’s love that the misery we experience in this life will be transformed into pure joy.  Seeing God face to face, we will then understand how God used the dark times in our life, and even gaps in our understanding, to draw us closer to Himself.

Sure, bad things happen and there is often much we don’t understand, but we know God is at work in it all.  Life’s darkness becomes compounded when we don’t always have the answer to the questions of “how” and “why” things happen in life.  But, like those inexperienced pilots who found a blessing in darkness, Christians are most blessed when their personal darkness is enlightened with the light of Christ.

Did life spring from physical death or is death an “unnatural” interruption of life?

Every explanation of life’s origins is a version of one of the following two ideologies: either life springs from death or death is an interruption of life.  We, 21st century human beings who live in an ever-more secular world, must decide for ourselves whether we believe life comes from death or that death is an unnatural interruption of life.

Since the 19th century, Western culture has become more and more convinced that life is simply a result of “natural” processes dependent upon death.

Charles Darwin. 1 negative : glass ; 5 x 7 in....

Charles Darwin. 1 negative : glass ; 5 x 7 in. or smaller. From a photograph by Elliott & Fry. According to Gene Kritsky, maintainer of an archive of Darwin photographs, this was from a photography session at Darwin’s home, Down House, and on another photograph from that session Darwin wrote “1879” on the back. It was later widely sold and distributed on heavy card stock by Elliott & Fry, with a caption dating it “Circa 1880”. It was later reproduced in a wide range of Darwiniana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Charles Darwin proposed in the conclusion of On the Origin of Species that death along biological lines has brought life on earth to its current form, “Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.”  In other words life as we now see it is a product of millions and millions of years of death.

Those who believe that God Elohim is the Creator of the universe teach  that life came before death and therefore hold that death is an unnatural interruption to life.  On the fifth day of creation, God Elohim filled the sea and skies with “living creatures” (נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֑ה).  He filled the dry land with living creatures on the sixth day, capping off His creation with human beings who were created in His Image.  These living creatures were blessed so that they could fill the new planet with biological life of all forms.

How do Christians reconcile these two competing ideas?  Some interpret the opening chapters of the Bible in light of science, favoring the secular explanation of origins to the Biblical account for a variety of reasons.  Others hold to the creation account and look for ways to interpret scientific findings in light of the scriptures.  In both cases, what you presuppose is true (either life from death or death from life) will color how you interpret what you discover in the scriptures and observe in the physical realm.

Recognizing this—what you presuppose to be true about the origin of life determines how you will interpret every fact or theory regarding life as it now exists—is the first step towards understanding why you think the way you do about your life.  Everyone who embraces the “life springs from death” mentality will be more likely to think along secular lines about life, ethics, even God and eternity.  Those who presuppose that physical death is an “unnatural” interruption to life will be much more open to what God proposes in the scriptures.

It takes special insight and great courage to hold to the Truth of human origins as recorded in the scriptures.  Jesus Himself said such knowledge is a supernatural gift.  “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17 ESV).

Christians have been blessed with faith to see God at work in creation, in Christ and through His Church.  But this greatest blessing can become a curse if we look down upon others who think differently than us or fail to share Christ’s love and forgiveness with those who are different from us.  Instead, we should live humbly among our neighbors while speaking confidently of our faith so that God can draw others to Himself through us.  This is how Christians bring others from spiritual death to life in Christ!  

Advances in Science are Bringing Us Closer to Understanding the Origin of the Universe, but Not Further Away From God.

While doing research for On Our Origins, I often found myself straddling a gulf of understanding between great Christian thinkers (many of whom lived hundreds or thousands of years ago) and some of the sharpest scientific minds of our day.  They had very different approaches, different tools at their disposal and yet were trying to answer the same basic question—where did we come from?

These great thinkers often don’t have much in common and some of their beliefs are opposed to each other, but I have learned much from all of them.  One thought that guided my own reflection on the question of origins, and the difficulty of trying to make sense of two very different methods of reflection on human origins, was penned by Luther in his Genesis commentary:

“We Christians must, therefore, be different from the philosophers in the way we think about the causes of these things.  And if some are beyond our comprehension (like those before us concerning the waters above the heavens), we must believe them and admit our lack of knowledge rather than either wickedly deny them or presumptuously interpret them in conformity with our understanding” (Luther’s Works vol. 1, Genesis 1:6).

We have, as a race, learned an incredible amount about our beginnings via recent scientific discoveries, but not enough to say we have it all figured out.  Even the greatest scientific pioneers of our time admit that there is still much to learn about the physical realm.  Physicists are searching for a Grand Unified Theory to describe all physical interactions in one equation.  Even if we discover such a great theorem, instead of using it to dismiss God, Christians can celebrate it as a great human achievement.

Christians can join in this and other scientific pursuits because faith equips explorers with a Spirit that is unafraid of where such searches may lead.  Even if we discover the “god particle” or decipher some Grand Unified Theory, we will then become aware of even more to discover.  What equips Christian scientists for this pursuit is knowledge of the One who transcends all limits, the Creator who made everything just the way it is so that we can praise His wisdom at work in the world.  The psalmist declared, “For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy” (Psalm 92:4, ESV).

Sure, some will use any and every scientific achievement to suggest humanity now knows enough to reject God.  But this pride in scientific accomplishment is contrary to reason.  True reason knows its limit, as Luther stated.  Knowing our limit doesn’t harm scientific inquiry.  It drives us to learn more, do better and grow in our understanding of origins and all things.

Where you think you’ve come from determines who you are.

One important key to understanding self, which many people today don’t realize, is that your view of your origin greatly affects who you are. In a universe where there is no God, and human beings are the result of chance cosmic coincidences and the struggle for survival, you get to determine who you want to be with little to no consequences. You can play the game of life by your own rules. You are expected to put yourself first (that’s what you have to do in order to survive). In short, you get to be your own god.
Honestly, this works well for most people most of the time. Sadly, it often isn’t until life happens, tragedy strikes and suffering comes, that most people realize they aren’t god. At this point, they get to decide whether they want to continue to live life as if they are god or want to turn to God.
Thankfully, you don’t have to wait until tragedy strikes to feel the security that comes from knowing you aren’t God. The Bible makes a very convincing case for the Creator and reveals the place of humanity within the Creator’s plans. And contrary to what many would have us believe, the more we learn about the world through science, the more believable the Biblical explanation of existence becomes.
The Biblical story of existence also answers many of the nagging questions of life by showing very clearly how God Himself loves His human creatures enough to become the answer to all of their prayers and needs in Jesus. In Jesus Christ, God lifts up humanity, endures human suffering, dies for us and redeems us to make us His own forever! There is hope and the light of everlasting life IF you and I are the creation of a loving God, created to be like Him and bear His Image forever.
If the universe just happened and “poof,” here we are, then have a nice life because this is it! You might as well have as much fun as you can because after this there is nothing! A universe from nothing leads to a universe of nothing so why bother? If death is the source of life, then life is death and death is life.
This is what Wisdom teaches in Proverbs 8:35-36, “For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death” (ESV). Do you see this proverb being lived out in your life or the lives of others? Learn from the scriptures, and I pray that you will always seek life and find it in the Lord.