Pale Blue Dot

Perspective is a powerful thing.  As is the case with much in life, we get familiar with the things we do from our homes to our jobs, our possessions, and our families.  These things, and many others, become routine to us, so much so that we fail to comprehend how important they are to us.  When we lose perspective we begin to take things for granted and we stop seeing our jobs and homes, and family as blessings and we become ungrateful.  We could all benefit from a change of perspective on a regular basis to keep us aware of the things in life that matter most.  For the Christian an ungrateful heart can be our greatest enemy and our greatest hindrance from experiencing the full depth of the love of God for us.  What I want to hopefully readjust your perspective on today is perhaps the most elementary and critical blessing of all, one that is common to all humankind.  The place we call home, planet Earth.

Those familiar with the Apollo missions of the 1960’s and ’70s will remember the famous “Earthrise” picture taken by astronaut William Anders during the Apollo 8 mission in 1968.  It is widely considered the most influential environmental photo every taken.  The picture was taken on Apollo 8’s fourth lap around the moon on Christmas Eve 1968 as the Earth rose above the lunar horizon.  After the taking of the Earthrise photo astronauts Bill Anders, Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell took turns reading Genesis 1 over the communications radio.  Many viewed the Earthrise photo as a game-changer in how people saw the Earth.  No longer was the Earth a massive planet where nations waged wars against each other or where racial hatred plagued our hearts, but instead people began to view Earth as a small and fragile world.  Despite our differences, all humans live together on this small ball of rock floating in the darkness of space.  We were all made a little bit closer and our differences seemed less important.  Perspective has a way of doing that to us.  What we once thought was normal and insignificant immediately becomes precious and important.

Earthrise photo taken by Apollo 8  Credit:  NASA/William Anders

Earthrise photo taken by Apollo 8 Credit: NASA/William Anders

More recently in 2006 the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn took one of the most remarkable photographs of space ever seen.  When Cassini passed behind Saturn and Saturn was in between the spacecraft and the sun the planet was blacked out but its marvelous rings were bathed in sunlight and shone brilliantly.  That’s hardly what makes the photo remarkable though.  On the left hand side of the rings, in between the thin G ring and the main ring group you can see a pale blue dot barely discernible.  This dot is not a meteor, an asteroid, or even a moon.  It is the planet Earth shining 1 billion miles away.  Our fragile island home was illuminated by the light reflecting off of Saturn’s rings!  For me this is the ultimate picture of perspective within the solar system.  To be reminded of our place in the solar system and that we are but a minuscule part of that solar system is extremely poignant.  I’ve always been a fan of space and the overwhelming vastness of the universe has never been lost on me.  This picture however, changed the way I view the Earth as a planet.

Pale Blue Dot from Cassini  Credit:  NASA/JPL/ESA

Pale Blue Dot from Cassini Credit: NASA/JPL/ESA

We always see in the Bible that God is the creator of everything in the universe from galaxies to tiny microscopic bacteria.  When viewed on the scale of the unimaginably large and unimaginably small God’s power and glory are revealed like nothing else.  That God would create such a staggeringly huge universe and focus His attention on us living on a small rock orbiting an average sized star about halfway out in a typical galaxy is mind-boggling!  The significance of Earth is also magnified when you consider how important humans are to God in the story of the Bible.  God determined before time that He would give a redeemed humanity to Jesus as a gift of love.  Humanity is basically a gift from God to His Son Jesus to show how much God loves Jesus.  Earth is the stage on which the human drama unfolds and all of God’s actions in history are meant to advance to the cross where Jesus offers Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of mankind.  Further than that, the Bible tells us that all of creation longs for the day when it will be restored to perfection and when God will glorify Jesus and His redeemed people in heaven.

God chose to place humans on the Earth and for the job of hosting the epic story of the  redemption of mankind and the glorification of Jesus, God equipped Earth like no other planet we know of.  Since the turn of the century astronomers have discovered literally thousands of planets in our own galaxy.  Most of them are gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn with no hope of hosting life.  A small group of the newly discovered planets are rocky planets like Earth but are either too far away or too close to their host star to support life.  There is what astronomers call “the Goldilocks zone”, being just the right distance from the parent star to be neither too hot nor too cold for life to emerge.  Earth exists happily within the sun’s Goldilocks zone where water can exist as a solid, liquid, and gas.  This is the crucial element in how life arose on Earth.  Without liquid water life on Earth would not have been possible.  So far, there have been a limited number of Earth-like planets discovered in the Goldilocks zone and there have been zero confirmations of possible liquid water on the surface.

From what we know so far, Earth is unique in the galaxy.  Will we ever find another planet that truly is like Earth in its life supporting capabilities?  Only time will tell.  Even if we eventually do, nobody will argue that Earth is a rare gem among a galaxy full of uninhabitable planets.  When seen from the vantage point of space, Earth is a diamond against a black cloth.  The blackness of space makes the Earth shine as brilliant as the most carefully cut diamond but far exceeds the value of any precious gem found on its surface.  For something as precious and invaluable as the Earth, we must take care in how we steward it.

In Genesis God gave Adam the task of subduing the Earth and He gave Adam dominion over all the animals and all that grew on the surface.  With that great power comes great responsibility.  We are not only meant to subdue the Earth, but to care for it like Adam and Eve cared for the Garden of Eden.  God made the Earth beautiful so that it would show of His glory.  We must take care that we protect the beauty of the Earth to preserve the image of God’s glory it represents.  We have done a pretty terrible job of being good stewards of the Earth over the past 200 years.  Largely in ignorance we polluted the waters and air with chemicals, deforested millions of acres of jungle and rain forest, and hunted many species to extinction.  Our focus on human progress has come at the expense of God’s beautiful creation.  We have even managed to ruin the night sky by over-using artificial lighting to light the night.  The heavens which God says proclaim His handiwork are no longer visible to 2/3 of all humans because of light pollution.  The effects of human ignorance that lead to pollution are lamentable but not wholly permanent.  The Earth, much like a living creature is able to stabilize itself and heal from injury.  With a proper understanding and respect for the Earth we can begin to live again in harmony with the Earth.  As people who know God and have a relationship with Him, we should seek to be excellent stewards of the greatest resource God has given us.  We are called to be stewards of our resources in the Bible.  The Earth is by far the most valuable resource we have been given as without it our lives would not be possible.

Good stewardship of the Earth is another way for Christians to glorify God, the same way good stewardship of money brings glory to God.  We honor God when we use our resources with respect and the understanding that they are not ours, but God’s.  When you borrow a friend’s possessions whether they be clothes, vehicles, or money you treat them with respect because you acknowledge that your friend holds them in high regard and that they trust you with what you’ve borrowed.  We need to acknowledge that the Earth belongs to God and we live here because of God’s love for us and His good grace.  Our treatment of the Earth should reflect such love and grace.  Despite the harm we’ve done to the Earth there is hope for a better future if we seek to find sustainable ways to live.  There is no need to forsake technology or the comforts of modern living but there is a pressing need to figure out how to live our lives in a way that both honors God and the fragile island home He’s given us to live on.  Technology and intelligence are a mighty gift from God so we should focus on how to use each to better steward the Earth and its resources.

Forgetting how precious and valuable the Earth is is a dangerous thing.  Losing sight of the vastness of the universe and the wonderful creation of God can create an improper sense of importance, even an arrogance that we are greater than we really are.  When it comes down to it, we are just a bunch of hopeless sinners living on a pale blue dot floating in insignificance among an innumerable amount of planets in the universe.  That’s not the full picture of humanity though.  God has chosen to create us in His image and likeness that we should reflect His glory and proclaim His greatness.  One of the simplest ways to accomplish this purpose is to better understand the uniqueness and value of the Earth, our gem of a planet.  By making much of and enjoying Earth we bring glory to our Creator who is blessed forever.

Advertisements

Why the Universe?

Mankind has always asked “Why?”.  Why indeed?  Through one simple three-letter word we have asked questions of the stars, unearthed secrets of our planet, harnessed the power of nature, developed technology, and explored the deepest depths of the oceans.  The word “WHY” has fueled the engine of human exploration, discovery, and advancement for thousands of years.  We know almost all there is to know about our planet and are well-versed in the workings of the universe (though our knowledge be vastly incomplete), but one “why” has eluded us since the dawn of time.  Why does the universe exist?

I’m sure you’ve heard a story of someone in college who, when asked on their biology final the simple question, “Why” wrote “Because” and received full marks.  Whilst that answer might have sufficed for the purposes of the freshman Biology course it is a supremely inadequate answer.  It is an extremely disappointing answer to say the least.  We learn of this answer’s disappointment from a very early age.  When a child asks why he can’t have ice cream for dinner the parent responds, “Because.”  “Why?” asks the child.  “Because I’m your father and I said so”  in order to avoid having to embark upon a futile dissertation on why ice cream is not healthy and dinner is.  However, the child is always disappointed because their question was not adequately answered (in their mind).

As humans we are driven and we feel compelled to understand the nature of things around us.  Why does the sun move across the sky?  Why does the moon go through phases?  Why does everything stick to the surface of the Earth instead of floating away into space?  Why does it get cold in the winter and hot in the summer?  Through the simple word “why” we have developed science which is nothing more than the art of asking “why?”  We are curious beings and a cop-out answer of “because” simply won’t suffice.  We seek the truth and nothing less.

The science of seeking the answer to why the universe exists is known as Cosmology.  The popular belief among today’s cosmologists seems to be that the universe exists because of a cosmic dice game.  Conditions for the universe existing are just right because the dice fell the correct way.  On a traditional die there are six outcomes so the die is a cube.  In the case of the universe, the dice used would have so many sides that it would almost be spherical with the probability of the current outcome being rolled is almost infinitely small.  This has led to the exploration of a theory of the multiverse.  Are there more than one universes?  Are there an infinite amount of universes existing simultaneously?  If so then that would greatly increase the chances of our universe being the way it is more realistic.  Are we really just the result of chance?  Is the complexity of our bodies, the planet, the stars, and galaxies really just by accident and random?  If so, then the universe is a dreadfully bleak and meaningless object.  My life has no purpose and neither does yours.  The Milky Way galaxy is here, but it could not have been here, or there, or anywhere at all.  If the power to exist is derived from the sums of all its parts probabilities of existing then it would seem that we’re just multiplying by 1/∞.

Just a game of dice? Who’s playing? Credit: G.E. Ely

We all know you can’t divide by infinity.  It could be true that the probability of anything existing is the sum of all it’s parts existing, but for this to be possible you would need a finite probability for each component.  One way of rationalizing this would be to assume that the universe was created on purpose.  There are simply way to many components that influence the existence of any one object that to quantify them would always create a denominator so large, the resulting probability is infinitely small.  So for me, chance is out right.  There has to be some purpose and order to it all.

I am neither a cosmologist nor a scientist.  I am simply a layman who is taking what he sees and using it to make sense of the world.  As John Milton says in Paradise Lost, “We see things not as they are, but as we are.”  It is impossible for us to make truly objective conclusions about anything because we always see things and approach things based on personal opinion, experiences, and perceptions.  The trouble with the cosmic dice game explanation of the universe is that those scientists have always had a perception of the universe being random and chaotic and harsh and will see only the evidence that supports their perceptions.  If only there was a source of knowledge that came from outside a human mind not subjected to false perception or bias then we could accept that as pure truth.  Could this be the same external force that exists outside of human knowledge and mathematics that created the universe on purpose?  Could there be a designer who’s knowledge and power caused all things to be?  My belief tells me that there indeed is.  There is a Creator who exists outside of human existence in whom all creation finds its source.

Apart from my personal beliefs, the notion of a creator is not as completely crazy as it sounds.  If you think about how marvelously fine-tuned the universe is and how everything works together in complete harmony it seems almost ridiculous to think that the order of the universe evolved from chaos by chance.  If say, the gravitational constant was less than it is stars would not be able to hold their elements inside where more complex and heavier elements are created there would be nothing in the universe except hydrogen and helium and nothing worth note could have formed from those lightest of elements.  Similarly, if the gravitational constant were larger then even the smallest of stars would explode into supernovae and black holes would ravage much of the known universe.  Planets would almost never form and galaxies would look very different.  Just in the case of gravity alone there seems to be evidence that a creator fine-tuned the knobs and locked them in place to the perfect setting.

This could easily turn into a 5,000 word essay but I will conclude here.  I believe there is simply too much detail and evidence of fine-tuning to believe that it all happened as a result of chance.  There has to be some kind of intelligence behind it.  The mathematical laws of the universe suggest this.  Math is beautiful and it binds the universe together.  Could we even have math to explain something that is infinitely random?  We study probability but balk at the thought of infinity.  So what if infinite probability is not even a part of the equation?  What if the probability was 1?  That certainly seems possible if there is a creator.

The God of Physics

The relationship between science and faith is one of a friendship gone sour.  The two used to be good friends who used to spur each other on to higher understanding. Early astronomers like Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler who were devout men of the Christian faith sought the mysteries of the cosmos to better understand the mind of God.  Even Sir Isaac Newton himself after publishing Principia Mathematica believed that the tightly-bound universe governed by mechanics and gravity was an insight into the mind of God and the brilliance of creation.   But over time science starting hanging out with other people and faith didn’t appreciate that much and got angry so they’re friendship became a bit testy.  In the mid 17th century science and faith signed what you could call a “non-aggression treaty” to agree to not intrude into the other’s territory.  For about 200 years science and faith were cordial at best as the Enlightenment gained momentum and the humanistic and materialistic culture of the 19th century took shape.  For many it was Charles Darwin’s work The Origin of Species that introduced evolution and natural selection that was the final nail in the coffin of the relationship between science and faith.

It used to be said that God was the God of the gaps.  Man used to wonder why it rained and so he said “God makes it rain” until we discovered that water vapor forms clouds that produce rain.  We used to ask why the sun rises and sets every day so we said “God moves it from east to west”.  Then we discovered that the planet rotates on its axis.  Eventually human curiosity and scientific observation filled almost all the gaps so there was essentially no more need for God in human thinking and God was confined to the minds of pious men of faith who were labelled “dim-witted” and “afraid of progress”.  By the end of the 19th century the thought of a divine being who had the ability to create and govern the universe was laughable to the vast majority of mainstream scientists and empirical evidence supposedly supported a universe that was un-ordered and chaotic and disproved the very idea of a creator.  Then there were physicists such as the great Albert Einstein who (based on his theory of general relativity) believed more or less that God was creation itself, that the universe was more ordered and desinged than we could ever imagine that a Creator must be behind it.  However,  the Creator of Einstein’s mind was the creation itself.  God was in the very stars, planets, nebulae, and black holes.  Very different from the personal, and anthropomorphic God of the Bible was this belief that is sometimes referred to as Pantheism.

There are a few people like myself (I am not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination!) who still hold to the belief that science and faith are not enemies, in fact they are more closely related than you could possibly imagine.  I can’t give a full discourse on why I believe this #1 because I am not as scientifically learned as required for such a proof and #2 because this is a blog, not a dissertation at Cambridge.  I am a man of faith, faith in the God of the Bible I might add.  I am equally fascinated in both science and faith.  My faith tells me that humans are created in the likeness and image of God and as such we are gifted with a mind capable of understanding the world we live in.  Not to exercise that gift, to stifle it, would in my mind be an insult to God.  For the sake of brevity (I may have already violated it) I will outline just one reason why I believe science and faith are friends still.  That reason is the theory of stellar and planetary formation known as accretion.

Accretion is the theory that stars and planets form from clouds of dust and gas that gravity causes to clump together to create a “runaway” effect of mass creation.  I will just focus on planetary accretion for now.  Once a star’s nuclear life has begun when hydrogen is fused into helium in the star’s core the outer elements are expelled and are thrown into an orbit around the new star.  The chaos of the elements causes them to constantly bombard other elements at massively high speeds and they begin to clump together.  The clumps get bigger and bigger as they begin to assert gravity of their own which attracts the smaller clumps and particle around them until a main bulge is created which is the skeleton of the new protoplanet.  Over many millions of years this process continues until all the dust and gas has been either accreted or expelled from the newborn solar system.  Accretion is not unlike a snowball being rolled down a snowy hill.  The snowball is small at the top of the hill but as it rolls down it gathers more and more snow making it larger and larger.  As it gets bigger and bigger the snowball has more surface area which allows it to gather more snow faster until it gets to the bottom as a huge and well-rounded snowball fit for a snowman.  This is the theory that explains how our planet and the others in our solar system were formed billions of years ago when the Sun was an infant.

Accretion of Earth Credit: Don Dixon/cosmographica.com

If you’ve hung in there with me so far here’s where I make the connection with my faith.  In the Bible the book of Job is the story of a man named Job who is righteous before God and who has been blessed with prosperity and wealth.  Job has many possessions, a large family, and he is respected in the community as an elder and a wise man who is learned of the ways of God.  A conversation takes place between God and Satan where Satan is asking permission of God to test one of His people.  God suggests Job who is righteous in all his ways.  Satan claims that if he could just take away all his wealth and possessions Job will curse God.  God grants Satan permission to do so.  Job has every material blessing suddenly stripped away from him, he looses his flock and herd, his house is destroyed, all his children die, and Job is left with no claim to anything on the Earth.  What ensues is a very lengthy discourse between Job and three of his friends about why this horrible calamity has happened to Job.  They all suggest that Job must have sinned to bring such disaster and punishment upon himself, whereas Job questions God’s goodness because he knows his heart has always been upright before God.  Near the end God Himself enters the discussion and directly questions Job for his accusations against God’s goodness and power.  In chapters 38-39 God declares Himself as the One who caused creation to be and He declares His power over all the wonders of the Earth and the universe.  In Job 38:37 God says something very interesting regarding His creative technique.  It reads, Who can number the clouds by wisdom?  Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens, when the dust runs together into a mass and the clods stick fast together?”  This sounds remarkably like the process of accretion!  As far as we know, the ancient Hebrews had no knowledge of planetary formation so it is astonishing that God would say something like this to someone who would have no idea what He is talking about.  I believe it is clear that the “waterskins of the heavens” is a reference to the planets which the ancient people would have thought were just stars.  The dust that runs together into a mass sounds a lot like the accretion disk that forms around the newborn star which eventually becomes a planet or moon that “sticks fast together”.

To me this appears as clear evidence, not only that the Bible is more factual than most people could ever imagine, but that there are confirmations of our modern scientific knowledge in the Bible.  This proves both that our understanding of the universe has gotten us closer to the mind of God and that there is a divine Creator who operates the universe by a skillfully crafted set of rules.  The complexity and beauty of the universe is a testament to the unfathomable brilliance of God and His glory.  As Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above (the expanse in Hebrew) proclaims His handiwork”.  According to this knowledge my faith tells me that God created the universe and strictly governs it by a complex, yet beautiful set of laws that we are beginning to understand.  How marvelous is the prospect of being able get a glimpse into the mind of God by discovering the laws by which the universe operates!  Sadly, much of academia does not see it this way.  They assert the power of man’s mind and give no thought to a creator.  Let me close with another quote from Job.  Job 32:7-8 says “I said, ‘Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom.’  But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty , that makes him understand.” God grants wisdom to all men, but it is the Spirit of God that allows us to understand the true meaning of our wisdom…that it all points back to God.

Famous Last Words

Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

Do last words have any special meaning?  Are they the last messages conveyed by a dying person left for instruction, wisdom, or legacy?  Are they just random nerve endings firing in our brain in a last-ditch effort to keep our body from dying which are uttered as words?  I suppose we’ll never know for sure.  However the subject is quite intriguing.  It is often said that a person’s last words can summarize what their life was all about, the essence of their personality represented in one final sentence.  Sometimes last words are viewed as a glimpse into the afterlife when the dying person is somehow able to see the eternal aspect of the soul and supposedly see heaven or hell.  Are any of these true?  We’ll never know until we experience death ourselves.

One instance of famous last words that I believe will become very famous are those of the recently departed Steve Jobs.  Jobs’ last word are very intriguing for a couple reasons.  Jobs’ sister Mona Simpson gave his eulogy at his funeral when she mentioned his last words.  He had his children, his wife, and his sister by his side when he died and gazing at each in turn, he then looked past them and remarked, “Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow”.  Now it is unclear in what tone of voice he uttered these words because it was read at his funeral and then published.  But the tone is what is so interesting.  The fact that he clearly was looking beyond his family and looking at something behind them that was not there leaves me to think that he might have had a revelation of something, or saw something for the first time.  What he saw must have either been beautiful or terrifying.  The tone of his voice would have indicated which emotion he was feeling but we are left to guess.

Was the late Apple CEO gazing at eternity?  What was it like?  Apart from the “Oh wow” we know of, we have no idea what was going on inside of his head at that instant before he fell into a coma.  There have been numerous stories of people glimpsing heaven or hell before death, and even dying and coming back describing what it is like.  The Bible tells us that we die and after that we experience the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).  We’ve all been taught that after we die we go up to heaven where we give an account to God for our entire life.  Every deed we’ve done, thought we’ve thought, everything we’ve not done will questioned and then according to God’s justice we’ll be congratulated or sentenced.  While this is partly true, the way the Bible really teaches it is that God will read to us the deeds of our life from a book as we stand and listen.  It will be more like a court trial when the accused is read the charges against him by the judge.  God judges according to His holiness, which just means His “otherness” from us or His “set apartness” from us.  God’s holiness is so pure and is the embodiment to moral perfection.  He is everything we aren’t but should be.  His holiness incites in our souls a fear because we are so imperfect compared to Him.  Deep down we know that we should not be near to God because He and His holiness is so terrifying that we are afraid.

Could this be what Steve Jobs saw in the final moments of his life?  Did he see with unveiled eyes the holiness of God?  Was then his exclamation of “Oh wow” one of fear and terror as his human unholiness was revealed to him compared to God’s?  As Hebrews 10:31 states, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  Sinners who fall into the hands of God have everything to fear because of the judgment approaching them.  The fire of hell is a stark reality that they will soon experience for eternity.  Constant torment as retribution for a lifetime of wickedness and rebellion against God is what they are about to be condemned to, with no way out I might add.  The sentence is final and the execution swift, the consequences, forever.  It is truly a frightful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

But perhaps there was hope for Steve Jobs.  His biographer, Walter Isaacson, had wrote that Jobs had been thinking a lot more about God when he found out that he was terminal.  He told Isaccson that he wanted to believe in an afterlife and that he was about 50-50 on the concept.  Perhaps he had heard the Gospel and was contemplating it, or maybe even believed it.  Whether he did or not we’ll never know.  But that would have certainly changed how we interpret his last words.  For someone who dies in faith in Jesus, the judgment is not something to be feared, but something to rejoice in because they have been declared righteous and justified before God.  God’s holiness is not seen as a fearful indictment but a beautiful sight leading to praise and worship.  If that was the case with Steve Jobs, his “Oh wow” could have been an exclamation of beauty having finally been able to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.

But the rest of the story of Steve Jobs is unknown to us, at least this side of eternity.  The question is, what will your eternity look like?  Will it be infinite agony and torment in hell for the wickedness of your life?  Or will it be infinite joy with God in heaven for the faith of your life?  The time remains for you to affect the ending of your story.

Happy Reformation Day

The far, far lesser known holiday celebrated on October 31st is Reformation Day.  It is the remembrance of the day when Martin Luther, then a monk in a Roman Catholic church, protested the sale of indulgences to be made righteous before God.  His letter of complaint and essay of his position on man’s justification was nailed to the door of the Schlosskirche cathedral in Wittenberg, Germany which became known as the “95 Theses”.  The year was 1517 and the Roman Catholic Church was moving throughout Europe selling indulgences to raise money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  The Roman Catholic theology stated that man was not justified and made righteous by faith alone, but that faith must be active in charity and good works to be saving faith.  So by extension, donating money to the church could contribute to one’s good works and thereby his salvation.  Luther asserted that since forgiveness is God’s alone to grant, the Catholic church was in error claiming that indulgences had the power to forgive sins.  Although Luther never intended to confront the church, the protest against Roman indulgences sparked a European shockwave that spread to all reached of the continent.  The new movement called the Reformation was fueled by such people as Luther, William Tyndale, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, and John Knox and quickly spread like wildfire.  The Reformation liberated thousands of parishes from the chains of the Roman Catholic Theocracy and lead a restoration back to God’s Word as the only source of divine revelation.  The key points of the Reformation were established as the Five Solas: Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, by grace alone, faith alone, Sola Scriptura, scripture alone, Solus Christus, in Christ alone, and Sola Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.  These five “solas” became the battle cry of the reformation leaders and they were held dearly, even to the death.

From the Reformation sparked many new denominations of churches that we categorize as Protestantism.  These denominations developed from various Reformation leader such as Martin Luther, Charles Wesley, John Calvin, and others.  The Reformation forever changed the way the world views God and reads the Bible and we have so much to be thankful for from the brave men who stepped out of line to ask tough questions and challenge the daunting status quo.  Today, while the rest of the world is celebrating Halloween and dressing up as zombies or whores, maybe spend the evening reflecting on God’s power to awake the dead from the bondage of slavery and give new life, both to the soul and to the Church.  The Reformation was certainly one of the most important events in human history so let’s not easily forget it or take it for granted.  Peace.

What Did He Just Say?

Rev. Jonathan Edwards, a leader of the Great A...

Jonathan Edwards: America's greatest theologian Image via Wikipedia

I just started reading the book Think:  The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper and so far, as is to be expected when one reads a Piper book, is pretty academic and mind-exploding!  In chapter 2 Piper is extolling his love of Jonathan Edwards and his musings on the Trinitarian God.  This quote from Edwards comes from his paper “An Essay on the Trinity” and it is simply too good to not share.  I had to read it a couple times before I totally understood it, but it seems to me the most complete and robust explanation of the Trinity and how each Person relates to the Other.

This I suppose to be the blessed Trinity that we read of in the Holy Scriptures.  The Father is the deity subsisting in the prime, unoriginated and most absolute manner, or the deity in its direct existence.  The Son is the deity generated by God’s understanding, or having an idea of Himself and subsisting in that idea.  The Holy Ghost is the deity subsisting in act, or the divine essence flowing out and breathed forth in God’s infinite love to delight in Himself.  And I believe the whole Divine essence does truly and distinctly subsist both in the Divine idea and Divine love, and that each of them are properly distinct persons.

That totally blew my mind!  And it gets even crazier because on the next page Piper includes another excerpt from Edwards’ paper on how the Trinity glorifies itself and delights in itself.

God is glorified withing Himself these two ways: (1) By appearing…to Himself in His own perfect idea [of Himself], or in His Son, who is the brightness of His glory. (2) By enjoying and delighting in Himself, by flowing forth in infinite…delight towards Himself, or in his Holy Spirit.

…So God glorifies Himself toward the creatures also in two ways: (1) By appearing to…their understanding. (2) In communicating Himself to their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in, and enjoying, the manifestations which He makes of Himself…God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in.  When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified  than if they only see it.  His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart.

God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might [be] received both by the mind and heart.  He that testifies his idea of God’s glory [doesn’t] glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it.

So there it is.  A rather complete and robust exegesis on the doctrine of the Trinity in less than 200 words!  I didn’t think that existed!  Just some food for thought since I don’t have time to write any more.

Peace.

True Beauty

Last night we learned of one of the most tragic and saddening deaths of perhaps this young century.  Steve Jobs, the founder and CEO of Apple passed away from a several year long battle with pancreatic cancer.  Steve Jobs’ influence in the world of technology is one that simply cannot be regarded with anything else but praise.  Jobs took a fledgling desktop computer company called Apple in the early ’80’s trying to compete against giants such as Microsoft and IBM and turned it in to one of the world’s most valuable companies at the time of his death.  After being fired once from his post at Apple, Jobs is widely remembered as the Comeback Kid success story of the business world.  Under Jobs’ guidance and brilliance, Apple has created some of the most amazing computers and devices the world has ever seen, from Macintosh computers, iPods, Macbooks, to the revolutionary iPhone.  Apple products have long set the standard for industry change while also raising the bar aesthetically as well.  Steve Jobs will be missed by all those whose lives have been impacted by Apple in any way, shape, or form.  The world has lost a true visionary and genius.  My prayers go out to the Jobs family; may they find comfort and peace in their Creator in this time of intense grief and sorrow.

But this post is not about Steve Jobs.  This post is about Someone else.  That someone knows a thing or two about creating beautiful things and being a revolutionary and genius.  He also happens to be the creator of ALL things, including Steve Jobs.  He is the Sovereign Creator of the universe…God.  While all the things in this world may hold a unique beauty, they all declare something about the One who created them.  Humans for example are created in the image of God.  Our primary purpose in life is to model God with all the things we do with the gifts He has given us, our brains, our talents, our ability to think and reason, our creativeness, and our emotions.  All of those are gifts from God and were meant to be used to say something awesome about the One who endowed us with those gifts.

Our God’s beauty is on display all the time in nature and the beauty of the heavens.  Have you ever been stargazing on a clear night and been captivated by the sheer beauty of the cosmos?  It’s an amazing feeling because you are gazing at the beauty of God and his wisdom and power.  God is the source of all the beauty in this world and we, as His image-bearers have the responsibility, and the privilege, of giving Him praise as we behold it.  Martin Luther once said “All of a Christian’s life is one of repentance.”  While that is true I think in light of the truth of God’s beauty and wisdom, and power we should also say “All of a Christian’s life is one of praise!”  He alone is worth of all our praise.