Tag Archives: creation

An Astronomer’s Kind of Vision

There was a day in the past when people–understandably, I think–believed that the earth stood at the center of the universe. In that cosmology, all of the planets, the sun, and the moon revolved around the earth. The stars inhabited a single sphere that marked the outer edge of the created realm. It was a magnificent model, however flawed.

Today, we see things far larger and far smaller. The development of telescopes and other tools for astronomical research have revealed galaxies upon galaxies, while the discoveries of chemistry and biology have shown us DNA and the staggeringly complex biochemistry necessary to keep our bodies working.

While some use these discoveries to argue for the necessity of a creator, I’d like to go a different direction. Once we assume that a creator exists, the revelations of the very large and the very small demonstrate more and more the greatness of God. If God was amazing when Ptolemy described the model above, how much greater can He be seen to be when we realize the vast complexity of the universe? How much more remarkable will God be shown when we understand still more of His creation?

I see that greatness and I claim to believe it. So why is it that I don’t behave as if I believe?

  • Why would the God who can create over 6,000 of species of toads have any trouble seeing me through life if I take the rather feeble step of tithing on my income?
  • Why would the God who designed and deployed human brains with 100 trillion synapses not be able to move upon one of those brains either to give me words to speak (Luke 12:12) or move upon my listener for persuasion (John 6:44)?
  • Why would the God who gave the Israelites food enough to come out of their nostrils (Numbers 11:19-20) have any trouble feeding a wealthy nation like the United States without us needing to pollute our land and waters so badly?

When Moses, after all he had seen, has his doubts about the ability of God to provide meat, God’s response is quick and forceful: “Is the Lord’s arm weak? Now you will see whether or not what I have promised will happen to you” (Numbers 11:23).

Why do we, who supposedly believe in the limitless power of God, box Him in by living as if we thought Him limited? If God can only do so much in our world, doesn’t it stand to reason that He can only save so much? Or so many? Maybe He can only partially forgive sins.

The God who can keep the cosmos arranged and the electrons orbiting can easily handle anything that I need. That’s the truth. Now I just need to live like I believe it.

Everything’s Changing: Bruce Jenner Edition

changesI do not read minds nor do I have the expertise to say what is going on in Bruce Jenner’s brain. “I am a woman,” he says. Since he’s undergoing some pretty radical alterations to back up that feeling, I’ll take the man at his word that he honestly believes this. Hollywood types will do some pretty extreme things as publicity stunts, but surely this one isn’t a gimmick.

My flippant side wants to listen to Bruce and say, “Oh, that’s nice. Well, I am a giraffe inside. I’ll be undergoing surgery soon to make my outer self match my inner self.” Since it would be insensitive, I probably shouldn’t say it, so I won’t. I also won’t suggest that Jenner’s main motivation is his declining golf game and a desire to use the women’s tees.

What does it feel like to “be a woman” on the inside? I don’t know. What does it feel like to be an inner man? I assume it feels like what I feel like, but I really can’t say that with any certainty. Maybe what I’ve felt for all these years is really feeling like a woman. How would I know? It’s kind of like that old bit of navel gazing that asks, “What if what we both call blue looks like blue to me and red to you?” In the end, all I can say with certainty is “I feel like me.” Presumably, Jenner’s “me” doesn’t feel good.

Today, we have people indulging kids who want to “transition,” boys who want to be treated as girls or girls who want to be treated as boys. When my youngest daughter was about five, she would have jumped at the chance to be treated like a schnauzer, but we somehow suppressed her inner dog and probably led to all manner of psychological damage.

I find it ironic that some of the same people who would argue that gender is a completely social construct, that little girls like to play with dolls and be nurturing simply because we give them dolls to nurture, are the same who applaud Bruce Jenner’s decision to embrace his inner (socially constructed) gender identity. If it is socially constructed, how can he really “be a woman” in a way that would require surgery? Similarly, some of the people who will man the barricades to defend Jenner’s right to transition are the same people who would gladly stand with pitchforks and torches around mental health practitioners who help homosexuals become heterosexual. Apparently it is okay to make your body match your perceptions but not to make your perceptions match your body.

God created Bruce Jenner with the hardware to be identified as a male. In 1976, Bruce stood on a podium as “the world’s greatest athlete,” proving himself as a physically exemplary male. At some point in his youth, he saw a goal and desired to make himself into the athlete that he wasn’t yet. Over those early years, Bruce must have said, “I am a champion.” Then he worked hard to make it a reality.

Where did this “I am a woman” thought come from? That I don’t know. Most of us want to be something that we aren’t. If your dream requires radical surgeries and rounds of pharmaceuticals, then perhaps it’s not such a healthy one. If your dream involves others working on you rather than you (with God’s help) working on yourself, then I would argue that it is dehumanizing.

I wish Jenner the best.But I feel pretty confident in saying that Bruce won’t find the end of all his misgivings when the final hormones are administered and surgeries are finished.

The Master Builder (Hebrews 3:4-5)

For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all Gods house, bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future.
(Hebrews 3:4-5)

Penny and I drove from Tulsa to Kansas City today. Along the way, we enjoyed the sights, such as they were. We delighted to (but did not stop in at) the McDonald’s bridging I-44. We oohed and ahhed at the fifteen-foot morel mushroom somewhere north of Joplin. But mostly we admired barns in various states of repair.

One barn that I always enjoy is a large masonry structure just outside Harrisonville, Missouri. Back in my childhood, some clever wag tagged that building’s wall with “Draft beer, not our boys.” Today, that sentiment is, like the draft, long gone, but the barn still stands, apparently unused, in a similarly unused pasture.

Somebody spent a good deal of time and money building that barn. They built it to last. Since it looked to be old and unused forty years ago, my surmise is that its builder has long ago gone to his reward. If he were still doddering about, he could certainly look with satisfaction upon his handiwork.

Some buildings seem designed for the long haul. The Tower of London is approaching its 1,000th birthday. The Great Pyramid is many thousands of years old. But by and large, the buildings erected by human hands crumble back to earth within a relatively brief span of years, especially if they’re not carefully maintained.

Compare that with the “building” of God. Besides being almost infinitely larger and more complex, God’s handiwork not only endures but replenishes itself. According to the scientists, the Sun will one day burn itself out, but within reasonable time spans, God’s creation, left to its own devices, will just keep on humming, presumably for millions of years.

We sometimes have to remind ourselves that the building is not the Church. In Moses’ day, the Tabernacle was neither the entire creation or the Creator. Neither the tent nor its successor building could contain that Creator.

I wouldn’t want to serve a God who could be fully contained or fully comprehended.

The First Artist (Hebrews 3:3)

Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. (Hebrews 3:3)

I recently read G.K. Beale’s The Temple and the Church’s Mission. In this volume, Beale examines the importance of the Hebrew tabernacle and temple, finding them to be symbolic representations of God’s creation and the Garden of Eden. By ministering in the temple, the priests symbolically set right what was damaged in Eden, just as Jesus would ultimately set that problem right for all who call on him.

As I read today’s verse, I’m initially mystified. Obviously the maker of a thing, a house, is greater than the thing itself. It’s part of the old “You have to have more molasses than you pour out of the jar” thought. There was more to the Israelite craftsman Belazel than he put into the Tabernacle. That much of the verse seems crystal clear, but I’m left with one simple little thing. Jesus did not build the Temple or the Tabernacle before it. And for that matter, Moses was not the same as the Tabernacle, which is what the comparison seems to suggest. If you’re hazy on this, let me do the math.

Jesus’ honor > Moses’ honor
Builder’s honor > House’s honor, and so…
Jesus = Builder and Moses = House.

Was our writer simply being sloppy, or have I missed something? I go back to Beale’s book. Jesus didn’t build the Tabernacle. No, he did far more. Jesus built the Creation that the Tabernacle symbolized. How much more honor does that deserve than what we’d give to Moses or Belazel or Stephen Spielberg or Leonardo DaVinci. Lest we forget, Jesus is, among all his other aspects, the ultimate artist, the creator of mediums, the author of canvasses and palettes alike. All we can do is paint with his colors.

 

The Final Answer (Hebrews 1:2)

but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
(Hebrews 1:2, again)

Not too far from my home, you’ll find the foundation of an old house. Recently, I met a man whose uncle formerly lived in that house. I’m not sure who first built it, but I do know that people farmed our property beginning in about 1840. Today, less than 200 years later, nature is reclaiming everything that hasn’t been maintained over those years. The fencing around that old foundation has rusted and will be fragmented in a few more decades. Human use of the land, it seems, is a temporary thing. Once our stewardship over it relaxes, the cedar trees and vines begin the succession that will culminate in towering oak trees. Nature, it would seem, prevailed here long before humans arrived and will reclaim anything that the humans relinquish.

But there is something that predates nature and that will survive its reign. We could easily slide over the words in the second half of today’s verse, missing their incredible import. To avoid such a mistake, though, I thought it necessary to dwell on this verse once more.

Who is this Son of whom the author of Hebrews speaks? Of course, it is Jesus, and we learn valuable things about Jesus from these dependent clauses. We learn that God created the universe through Jesus. What precisely does that mean? Does that make Jesus the general contractor? Somehow I don’t think that’s answer. Many would point to the powerful speech of God in Genesis 1 and then the equating of Jesus and the Word and God in John 1. In reality, I’m not sure that such connections truly get us a great deal closer to understanding God creating the universe through Jesus.

Similarly, I’m not entirely sure what it means for Jesus to be the heir of all things. I do understand inheritance from a human standpoint, but how do you inherit the universe that you’ve had a hand in creating? I don’t really understand that either.

What I do understand, however, is that nature was not here first. Nature will not be the ultimate victor over my farm or any other place. By aligning myself with Christ, I align myself with the first and the last, I allow God to make me a joint heir. That ‘s enough for me to understand for today.