“The river of truth is always splitting up into arms that reunite. Islanded between them, the inhabitants argue for a lifetime as to which is the mainstream.” Cyril Vernon Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer, editor of the influential literary magazine Horizon.
Connolly’s quote is a profound one – and never more true than among Christians. We are netted out of the guppy bowl of self by the true Fisherman and then placed in an ocean of truth. And before we know it, many (most) find themselves joining a school of other fish in some estuary of denominationalism and tradition and telling themselves – and arguing with others – that they have found the Mariana Trench.
Now don’t get me wrong. I believe in Truth, the absolute kind that shines like a diamond and is even more hard. I have no problem with denominations – tribes in His Kingdom, I prefer calling them. And I deeply appreciate tradition. Few of us would be Trinitarians without it. What I don’t like are people and groups who claim to have chased the mystery (Pro. 25:2) and caught it. Who chastise other God-fearers who don’t hold to the “truth” they’ve bagged with a cry of “they just need to read and believe the Bible.” (Probably the best example that comes immediately to mind are those who write Dr. Hugh Ross off as a heretic because he believes in an old-earth and animal death before the Fall.)
My calling in God is to try and faithfully present and defend the Truth. And thankfully much of its greater outlines are so straight-up and well-defined that a child can see and understand them. And as a result the overwhelming majority report for 2,000 years (or more) is locked and loaded in agreement: Jesus is God, He died on a cross and rose again bodily from the dead, that salvation from sin is made possible in and through Him alone, etc. There are even some moral/social Truths we can hold on to like the horns of His altar: that murder is wrong (including the murder of little children who happen to be temporary aquanauts in their mother’s womb), that sex is a wonderful and powerful gift from God that is to be unwrapped only in the marriage bed by a covenant-bound man and woman, etc.
But when it comes to getting all the colors right within the broader outline, truly only God is up to the task. Perhaps we will be as well when we cross over the the thinning membrane that separates this world from the New One that is rushing towards us like a comet. (My personal theory is that one of the joys of Eternity will be plumbing the infinite depths of Truth – of the mind of God – without ever arriving at the bottom.)
So in the meantime I’m trying, as Blind Willie Jefferson sang, to “read my Bible often and try to read it right,” ever keeping it mind the second verse: “As far as I can understand, it ain’t nothing but a burning light.”
Try and get all that light in your head and it will likely explode. (Exo. 33:20)
PS. That is such a good closing line I hate to mess it up by rambling on. But for the sake of driving this point home in a personal way: I am known for staking a position on certain theological perspectives that could fairly be called “colors within the broader outlines.” For example, I have written articles and produced videos defending a Reformed/Calvinistic perspective on salvation and grace. Ditto on partial preterism and a post-millennial eschatology. But I remain good friends and a co-laborer in the Gospel with people who share differing views on these matters. And while I do believe (Rom. 14:5) that my position is correct – meaning Biblically accurate – I try not to be a jerk or dogmatic about it. I know there is deep mystery here. When I do see Him as He is – and in a twinkling of eye am transformed (1 Cor. 15: 52; 1 John 3:2) – if in that rush of perfect light I see that I was wrong about any of these things, I trust my response will be to laugh…and then worship.
What an explosion would unsky the world and rock the bones of men into little white fragments if the veil were lifted and Truth’s fulness revealed. Only a new creation and a new type of man can stand – more embrace – its measureless weight and glory.
Adapted from ROBINSON JEFFERS, “The Silent Shepherds”
Worshipping the one true God is man’s first, last and eternal order of business, his very source of life and joy. Through worship we honor and enjoy intimacy with the Source of all that is transcendentally true, good and beautiful. It is, as William Temple observed, “the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His Beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose – and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.” (William Temple, Readings in St. John’s Gospel, p. 68)
In Temple’s poignant observation there is a truth that is not understood by many Christians – and completely lost on the skeptic who dares to mock God as insecure (Why does he need people standing around adoring him?) or describe heaven as a big yawn (Who wants to sit around saying “Holy, Holy, Holy” over and over again forever?): that is that as we worship we are transformed. The eyes of our understanding are cleansed. We begin to see Him as He is and are progressively drawn into His glory and are transfigured by it. (1 John 3: 2)
And while there will no doubt be countless other delights we will enjoy in the New Creation (1 Cor. 2:9), this intimacy with the Presence and experiencing its energizing and transformative power will be the greatest and most sublime of all eternity’s joys.
Understanding this, it’s evident that worship on this side of the veil is vital for us individually and corporately as the Church. And so how we do it (engaging heart, mind, soul and strength versus hands in pockets with attention drifting) is crucial. And what we say and sing – as well as how we present and perform our worship – are critically important as well.
Now a sea of ink – and tragically even some blood – has been spent thinking and working through these matters by people far more qualified than me (by corey at testsforge). My little contribution has to do with just one aspect of this issue about which I have heard little – at least in these days where the vast majority of western Christians have been influenced by a baptized form of dualism and a “this is not my home, I just a-passing through” type of Christianity. (For more on this please see my essay, Heaven is Important…But It’s Not the End of the World.) That is the relationship between the lyrics we sing and the Kingdom of God, by which I mean the present reign of Christ in the earth.
In Part 2 I will explore this in more detail.
In physics, the Fine-Structure Constant, also known (significantly I think) as ALPHA (α), is a fundamental physical constant characterizing the strength of the electromagnetic interaction. It is also mysteriously related to a number of other fundamentals in physics: e.g. the square of the ratio of the elementary charge to the Planck charge; the ratio of the velocity of the electron in the Bohr model of the atom to the speed of light; in Quantum Electrodynamics as the probability of interaction between Light and Matter.
Shades of the anthropic principle, ALPHA is one of those finely-tuned constants that describe the fundamental structure of our cosmos. And if it was just the slightest bit different, stars, planets and we would not exist.
Like Pi (3.14) ALPHA is commonly referred to by the first 3 numbers of its inverse: 137. (More precisely it is 137.03599173(44)). 137 is made up of three prime numbers and moreover is a unusually beautiful prime (some numerological speculation here) in that it consists of Unity (1, God) and a prime division of Ten (10 = 3 + 7), with echoes of the Trinity and Perfection, Fulness, and the Seven Spirits of God.
Here is what Richard Feynman, Nobel prize-winning physicist, one of the originators and early developers of the theory of quantum electrodynamics (QED) and an atheist had to say about ALPHA
“It has been a mystery ever since it was discovered more than fifty years ago, and all good theoretical physicists put this number up on their wall and worry about it. Immediately you would like to know where this number for a coupling comes from: is it related to pi or perhaps to the base of natural logarithms? Nobody knows. It’s one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics: a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man (by corey jefferson). You might say the ‘hand of God’ wrote that number, and ‘we don’t know how He pushed his pencil.’ We know what kind of a dance to do experimentally to measure this number very accurately, but we don’t know what kind of dance to do on the computer to make this number come out, without putting it in secretly!” (Richard P. Feynman (1985) QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter. Princeton University Press. p. 129)
Feynman died in 1988, sadly with no evidence of ever having embraced the Author (the Alpha and the Omega) of α. What a tragedy! For there can be no question that living in God’s presence and having eternity to know Him and plumb the mind and heart of the One who “pushed the pencil” would be a joy unspeakable and full of glory.
I will close with this observation concerning ALPHA from Max Born, another renowned physicist and a man who saw “religious professions and churches as a matter of no importance.” (Greenspan, Nancy Thorndike (2005) The End of the Certain World: The Life and Science of Max Born. New York: Basic Books, p. 61-62)
“The fact however that alpha has just its value 1/137 is certainly no chance but itself a law of nature. It is clear that the explanation of this number must be the central problem of natural philosophy.” (Max Born, A.I. Miller (2009) Deciphering the Cosmic Number: The Strange Friendship of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung. W.W. Norton & Co. p. 253)
One of the things I most appreciated about Phil Robertson’s comments to the snoots at GQ was the manner in which he colorfully pointed out the anatomical absurdity of homosex. (WARNING: please read no further if you are a child, pietist, or are easily offended.) Like a red-neck version of Elijah (who may well have been considered a redneck himself circa 9th century BC) mocking the prophets of Baal and the potty habits of their pathetic god (1 Kings 18:27), the bearded one dared to compare the desirability of a certain female body part to its closest correspondent in males.
In so doing Robertson pushed back against one of the key strategies of the architects of the LGBTQ putsch: that is to take the “sex” out of “homosexuality” – to redefine it as a simple orientation (like being left-handed) and disconnect it as much as possible from what people actually do to each other in bed (or in a bathroom or the bushes). For proof of this simply read After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90s – the seminal book by homosexual, and Harvard educated, activists Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen. See, for example, page 178:
“In the early stages of the campaign, the public should not be shocked and repelled by premature exposure to homosexual behavior itself. Instead, the imagery of sex per se should be downplayed, and the issue of gay rights reduced, as far as possible, to an abstract social question.” (Kirk, Marshall and Hunter Madsen, Ph.D., “Strategy: Persuasion, not invasion,” in After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90s, Doubleday: New York, 1989, pg. 178.)
Christians and anyone else concerned about the normalization of homosexuality and other perversions of God’s design for gender and sexual behavior should shake off the shackles of newspeak and begin to graciously but firmly – using irony and shock where necessary – join Robertson in pushing back against this agenda. We need to make like Elijah and point out the absurdities inherent in the practice of homosex; how the wages of sin will not only surely be spiritual death, but can lead to physical sickness and death as well.
Three simple points I like to make, in order of increasing shock factor:
1. According to one peer-reviewed study done towards the end of the 20th century, the life expectancy for the average 20-year-old gay or bisexual man is 8 to 21 years less than his heterosexual counterpart. (See the International Journal of Epidemiology.) Here the authors actually condemn as “homophobic” anyone who dares to point to their research as evidence that homosexuality carries with it certain inherent health risks. And yet they in no way deny the statistical evidence their research has uncovered. (This is one of the best examples of “professing to be wise and remaining fools” I have ever stumbled upon.)
2. As part of my research on this subject, two years ago I attended the various “gay-pride” events that took place over four days in San Francisco. On Saturday I filmed and conducted interviews among the nearly 200,000 attendees of the now famous annual “Dyke March.” It began with a festival in Dolores Park. Like with any festival there was music, speeches and all manner of booths and vendors selling food, drinks, t-shirts, souvenirs and other wares. The most popular merchandise I saw? Dildos. Thousands upon thousands of them in every shape, size and color imaginable. The irony here should be obvious: you have women that don’t want men, that sexually prefer another woman instead. But what do they often bring with them to bed? A crude approximation of a male sex organ. Add to that the fact that it is quite common for one woman to be butch (a top) – to look, dress and behave in a mannish way – while their partner plays the femme (bottom), taking on the more stereotypical female role and identity. There are so many things intuitively, viscerally wrong with this sad pantomime one hardly knows where to begin. (I’m reminded here of the episode of Showtime’s The Real L Word where Cori and Kacy are trying to get pregnant using donated sperm. Instead of going to a clinic (literally too “clinical” for the young romantics) or relying on the old lesbian standby, a turkey-baster (again not very romantic) the couple go to a sex store where Kacy (the butch one) shops for a dildo that can squirt out the sperm so she can use it to “personally” impregnate the femme Cori. What a heart-breaking glimpse into the futility of sin. (By the way, such a device does not exist...yet.)
3. Here we definitely enter the Phil Robertson arena of telling it like it is. Consider God-designed heterosex: the husband inserts his penis into his wife’s vagina. Like a hand-in-glove, there are dozens of anatomical design and response parameters that perfectly sync up. If done properly, with the male in particular being careful to meet his wife’s emotional needs as well as to provide the right friction in the right spot, both partners bond in a powerful and exquisitely enjoyable way, experiencing the “little death and rebirth” that is an orgasm. They can gaze into one another’s eyes and take in one another’s breath. And, miracle of miracles, under the right circumstances, the seed from the man can merge with the egg of the woman to produce a new human life, a new eternal soul and image-bearer of God. This picture of intimacy – of the “two becoming one” – as well as its co-creative elements are a powerful, poignant and prophetic glimpse into our Creator’s purposes and plans. Now take the grotesquerie that is homosex, using two men as an example. The receptacle of death and decay is substituted for the vessel of life. Nothing fits properly and without great care and the use of artificial lubricants, damage to the receiver’s anatomy results. Except for the extremely fit and hyper-flexible, face-to-face, eye-to-eye, breath-to-breath intercourse is impossible, as is mutual climax without other tricks being up their proverbial sleeves. And where the man and woman can produce a baby, for two men new life is virtually impossible. Anal fissures and all manner of infections and diseases – some fatal – are the common physiological byproducts. Boiling it all down to a memorable meme: heterosex ~ fertilized egg, homosex ~ inseminated turd.
This is a hard-saying, but a radically true one. And as the parade of preening emperors grows, spouting their PC nonsense and leading our culture – and yes those tragically cursed with same-sex desires – into deeper realms of bondage, we need now more than ever to use the mirror of truth to point out that they’ve all left the house without any pants on.
As someone who has always loved mysteries and pattern mining, one of my greatest delights after having my lights turned on by the Holy Spirit was then applying that light to the study of scripture. I was astonished to find that compared to the Bible, Moby Dick or Finnegan”s Wake were amateurish when it came to using symbols within symbols and other recursive patterns. And what made this even more mind-blowing was considering how the respective books were written: in the case of the later two, one author free to carefully think through and craft their narrative without regard to any thoughts or suggestions other than their own. Not too difficult when it comes to fashioning a coherent and consistent whole. But the Bible? Sixty-six books written by forty different authors over 1,500 years and spanning several different cultures and social classes and written in three different languages. That there”s any coherence at all is by itself pretty amazing. But that an incredible range of interlocking symbols exist that fold into one another and iterate over and over again variations of the same theme…well that, dear reader, is simply supernatural – and proves casinots sajt anpassas autmatiskt beroende pa om du spelar fran din dator, iPad eller annan mobil enhet. that the ultimate author of the Bible was indeed also One.
In this Advent season, I would like to explore one interesting example of interlocking symbols as it relates to the birth of the Messiah. In the same way that the location where Abraham offered up Isaac to God, where David displayed the severed head of Goliath to the city of Jerusalem, and where Jesus was crucified are at minimum thematically related – and I”m guessing precisely synced up geographically as well – so the birth of Jesus was sovereignly choreographed to coincide with the Old Testament birth of the precise child to a specific woman with a certain husband. Despite the scrambling randomness that on the surface seemed to attend the blessed event (“Sorry, no room at the inn. You”re going to have to look elsewhere.”), the true Father of the in-utero Babe was making sure that His Son was born in the exact place He needed to be to make the symbols sing.
We’ve heard it countless times: the laudable advice to put first things first and remember “the reason for the season.” Christmas (from Crīstesmæsse, or “Christ’s mass”), after all, is first and last a celebration and remembrance of one of the two most important moments in history: the arrival of YHWH on our planet as a man (the incarnation) in order to reset the Genesis Project and make all things new. (The second one, of course, was the resurrection when Jesus became the first fruits of the New Creation and launched the final stage of the Project.)
But for many people, remembering to “put Christ back into Christmas” translates into little more than nativity scenes with the baby Jesus and his adoring parents, lowing lambs, humble shepherds, singing angels and the three magi bearing gifts (the latter an anachronism; these Gentile visitors didn’t show up until after, likely well after, Jesus’ presentation at the temple and after he had been moved to a house.) But in reality the atmosphere surrounding the first Advent was heavy with shadows cast by Satan and the Fall as Jesus’ birth signaled the first phase in the ultimate confrontation between good and evil, light and darkness. (Here the reader would benefit by reading my previous post, Creche, Cross and Crown). We can’t fully appreciate the miracle of the Advent without also meditating on the dark clouds roiling about the Christ-child.
Consider: 1. An awkward pre-nuptial pregnancy that surely had rumors flying and Joseph wondering what in the world he had gotten himself into. 2. The ulitimate “on our way to the hospital” delivery, except there was no hospital and no cab-driver or EMT to assist – just a barn with the stench of manure dust in the air and an awkward young man with zero experience in midwivery trying to coax a child that wasn’t his out of his betrothed’s naked body. 3. Angels anouncing His birth with happy cries of “Glory to God in the highest!” and “Peace on earth!”before adding the rather ominous qualification of “with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:14) Apparently there will be some with whom He will not be pleased and for whom there will be no peace. Sides are already being drawn and the sword of judgment unsheathed. 4. Ditto Simeon’s prophecy eight days later when Jesus is presented per custom at the temple for dedication to God and to be circumcised, a bloody ritual that for Jesus was shot through with all manner of prophetic import. ““Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34,35) Many were going to fall, He was going to be opposed and a sword was “also” going to pierce His heart. No “visions of sugar plums” that. 5. The minor beast 666 Herod would hear of the birth of this King and be inspired by Satan to send his troops to Bethlehem to kill every male baby under the age of two in Bethlehem “and its environs.” (Matt. 2:16-18) Jesus has hardly begun the time of His sojourning as a homo sapien and the body-count was already beginning to pile-up.
As Christians we know that the best things often come in threes, including the very best thing of all: the Persons of the Godhead. And the entire creation springing forth from that Triunity very often breaks down fractally into threes: length, width and height; past, present and future; solid, liquid and vapor; body, soul and spirit. Similarly, in examining the life and calling of the eternal Son of God as manifest in His incarnation, its trajectory breaks down into three distinct and very key stages: creche, cross and crown.
Ah, the creche! So great the mystery therein that the angels of God came to behold; longing (in the Greek “hungering with an intensity bordering on lust” (1 Peter 1:12b) is more accurate) to look into the mystery of the Gospel. And what a soothing thought it is for many. What’s more adorable or less intimidating than a baby? And so the manger, as important as it truly is, becomes the virtual box that many people, including more than a few ministers, like to try and keep Jesus in. Meek and mild, loving everybody; a Messiah who’s no more capable of “sheep and goats” judgments and expressing wrath than a nursing infant.
But why the creche in the first place? It was stage one of a three-stage rocket – a sling that inexorably shot the smooth stone of Jesus’ incarnated life into the forehead of the great serpent-beast. The manger promised Him, betrothed Him to the cross. “Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.” (John 12:27) “…the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28) “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8) Without the cross, the creche is drained of both meaning and significance. And our redemption, regardless of whatever warm fuzzies we may experience singing “Away in a manger,” is but vapor. Furthermore, without a desire to pick up our own cross, to die to ourselves and follow Christ, that vapor may be condensed into something watery through the machinations of formal religion. But it will never produce the solid ground on which we will need to stand on that Great Day.
But true Christianity doesn’t stop at the cross, or even the empty tomb. (Sadly, many if not most true Christians in the West today have been blinded to this third stage.) Perhaps the greatest mystery of all is how the first fruits of the New Creation, the glorified, transfigured second Adam – the Son of Man – crossed the membrane of this world and stepped into the one to come. He marched through ancient gates and sat down – as a Man – on the throne of both heaven and earth. (Emphasis mine) He received back the glory He had set aside (Phil. 2:7) – and more besides. He was crowned and given a scepter (we should ever remember that a king’s scepter is just an ornate war club), which He in turn extends over His bride the Church with the command to rule over His enemies. (Psalm 110:2). And so by faith we are more than conquerors. (Rom 8:37) And as conquerors it is inevitable that we shall one day join our Beloved, the prince of Peace, in crushing Satan under our feet. (Rom. 16:20)
In this present age, by the way, and not just in the one to come. (Eph. 1:19-22; 2 Thess. 2: 8)
“On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” Acts 12:21-23
Stumbled across this interesting passage from the great Jewish historian, Josephus that provides a parallel account – with fascinating color commentary – of this provocative snippet of Biblical history.
From Josephus, Antiquities 19.8.2 343-361: “Now when Agrippa had reigned three years over all Judea he came to the city Caesarea, which was formerly called Strato’s Tower; and there he exhibited spectacles in honor of Caesar, for whose well-being he’d been informed that a certain festival was being celebrated. At this festival a great number were gathered together of the principal persons of dignity of his province. On the second day of the spectacles he put on a garment made wholly of silver, of a truly wonderful texture, and came into the theater early in the morning. There the silver of his garment, being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun’s rays, shone out in a wonderful manner, and was so resplendent as to spread awe over those that looked intently upon him. Presently his flatterers cried out, one from one place, and another from another, (though not for his good) that he was a god; and they added, “Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature.” Upon this the king neither rebuked them nor rejected their impious flattery. But he shortly afterward looked up and saw an owl sitting on a certain rope over his head, and immediately understood that this bird was the messenger of ill tidings, just as it had once been the messenger of good tidings to him; and fell into the deepest sorrow. A severe pain arose in his belly, striking with a most violent intensity. He therefore looked upon his friends, and said, “I, whom you call a god, am commanded presently to depart this life; while Providence thus reproves the lying words you just now said to me; and I, who was by you called immortal, am immediately to be hurried away by death. But I am bound to accept what Providence allots, as it pleases God; for we have by no means lived ill, but in a splendid and happy manner.” When he had said this, his pain became violent.”
FINAL NOTE: THE NEXT VERSE IN ACTS IS “BUT THE WORD OF GOD INCREASED AND MULTIPLIED.” (Acts 12:24) Oh, the difference between the words and power of men versus God!
Whether a man can “marry” another man with our culture’s approval (Rom. 1:32) comes before the highest secular court in our land today. The nine judges and sundry legal advocates will conduct this mockery of true justice under the symbolic gaze of Moses holding the Ten Commandments (and ironically during Holy Week).
The one Advocate who absolutely will not be allowed to testify? The triune God and His law-word. And that is why we are ultimately doomed. My guess (and prayer) is that the forces for unraveling the gender and sexual norms instituted by our Creator will only achieve a partial victory. But make no mistake about it. God will not be mocked. As long as we continue to tell the King of King and Lord of Lords that there is no room at our national table, our accelerating slide into the abyss of chaos and “reaping-what-we-have sown” judgment will continue apace.
By the way: this is not a white-flag of surrender comment. I for one plan to continue to stand for our nation’s King, pray, preach the truth, educate, agitate and in general make war on the armies of night. Because I know that in the end He will be glorified and have His way. America will continue her decline, be plowed under in some form or fashion, then be re-seeded with the Gospel of the Kingdom and rise again from the ashes.
Arise and take courage ye Gideons! The Roman empire wasn’t conquered in a day!