The 100-Word Word


Being a former newspaperman, I love following the Overheard In The Newsroom blog.

I was amused by this recent entry:

Reporter: “My story is already over 700 words and I still have a second soldier to interview.”

Editor: “You act like I can’t edit. I could edit the Bible down to 100 words.”

But then it made me start thinking. What if I did have to present the entire story of the Bible in 100 words? What would I say?

And the thing that fascinated me was, I wonder how intensely personal an exercise it would be. How much would me 100-word Bible be just that — mine? How different would somebody else’s look?

So I thought I would take a stab at it. But what I would really love is for other people to do the same. How much to they differ? What do we each take away from what we read? I suspect it would demonstrate just what an incredibly personal love letter to each of us His Word is.

And the truth is, if I were to do this as an ongoing project — if I were to, say, do this again a year from now, and two, and so on, how much would my own version change. How much is this version different from what I would have written five years ago?

Here’s my very poor attempt at it:

In the beginning was a Father, who created children He loved very much. His children were headstrong, and ignored what He tried to tell them, hurting themselves in the process. He watched patiently as they ignored Him and made mistakes — always trying to help, always weeping to see them turn their backs on Him and to see them hurt. Eventually the children made such a mess of things that a price had to be paid, a price higher than the Father wanted His children to suffer. So He came to Earth, suffered and died, to save His beloved children.

What would yours say?

A Matter Of Trust


I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
— Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, from Frank Herbert’s Dune book series

I had to admit to Heather this morning that I’m afraid.

“Afraid” may be a bit strong, in public I would probably say “nervous” or “worried” or something.

But whatever word you use, it’s driven by fear. I’m afraid.

I’m nervous or worried or fearful or whatever about the things that I wrote about on here two days ago, particularly the looming financial giants of the potential government shutdown and roof repairs.

And Heather, very calmly and honestly, stated to me that it’s going to be OK.

And she’s right.

But here’s the sad thing:

I know it’s going to be OK. I know God’s not going to give me more than I can handle. I know that I’m taken care of.

I know all that.

But …

The part of me that is afraid doesn’t care.

Not because it doesn’t believe those things.

But because it doesn’t care.

Because that part of me knows that God will make sure I’m OK, but He’ll use His standards for what that means.

I want to be OK by my standard.

That part of me  don’t want to be OK by the standard of not having to deal with more than I can handle. It wants to be OK by the standard of not having to deal with anything.

I don’t want to have to use what I have to survive this.

I want to come out of this continuing to be able to go out to eat and buy books irresponsibly. I want to buy an iPad.

I want to be that sort of OK.

That’s selfish, and self-indulgent.

And I’m afraid, because I’m afraid God isn’t going to enable those things.

That’s rather sad.

And that’s been true many times. I had that conversation over a year ago with a good friend. We have trouble trusting God because we judge His trustworthiness not based on whether He does what is best, but whether He does what we want.

Part of me really does trust. Trust that He’ll do in this what is good.

And that part of me really does have peace and rest.

Part of me on the other hand is afraid.

Afraid I don’t get to be sloppy and self-indulgent and undisciplined.

And it’s a good reminder for myself that I’m still very much a work in progress.

Bible 2.0 — Scripture and Technology



Want proof times are changing? A boy recently told me he couldn’t read scripture because his phone was dead.
–@RickAtchley


The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United St...

Image via Wikipedia

How is technology changing the way you relate to your Bible?

Two feet from where I’m sitting right now, I have a copy of the Holy Bible. It’s a nice copy, too, NIV, red leather bound with gold printing. Nothing too fancy — my good Bibles are in places I use them more — but functional nonetheless.

I rarely use it.

Instead, I’m far more likely to leave it on the shelf and access the Bible electronically. Google makes it easy to either look up a particular passage I know the address for, or to search for a verse if I can’t remember where it’s found. It’s easier and more convenient than pulling the print version of the shelf.

I’ve sat in my Bible study group with my Bible in my lap, reading scripture on my iPhone. At times, I’ve got both going at the same time; my Bible open to the chapter we’re reading, my iPhone searching for passages elsewhere I think relate, flipping between translations to make sure the connotation is what I’m looking for.

And I want more. I want to be able to read a verse, look up what a word is in Greek, and determine if it’s the same word used elsewhere all from my phone, and then read commentary on the verse to see how it lines up with what I just read. I want to click on a verse in Matthew, and find the corresponding passages in the other Gospels. I want to read an epistle, and go immediately to what Paul says about the same subject in other letters.

I suspect the Bible is undergoing a major evolutionary change today. It’s not the first time. In fact, the “Bible 2.0” title I used for this post is somewhat misleading; in terms of user interface upgrades, the Bible would be on at least version four already. Translations, the printing press, and separation into chapters and verses all change the way people read and use the Bible.

In fact, all those things change the way people think about the Bible. It’s hard today to really comprehend the idea of a Bible without chapter and verse distinctions. It’s very natural to us to pull one verse out of a passage and use it separately, as if, because it has its own address, it’s a self-contained entity. I’ve been working for the last couple of years to break myself out of that mindset — to focus more on the narrative than the excerpt, to never take a verse, regardless of where I see it, as many anything until I’ve read the context that it’s in.

Electronic versions of the Bible have the potential to make that challenge much easier or much harder. On the one hand, it’s now easier than ever to pull verses out of context and deal with them individually. I can e-mail or tweet a verse by itself with just a few keystrokes, and broadcast it without its context. Never has it been easier to share scripture out of context than it is today.

On the other hand, it’s easier than ever to deal with the Bible as a whole. Right or wrong, you can Google the Bible now, finding things in it that you might otherwise have missed. It’s easier now to look at the microcosm of a verse, but it’s also easier to look at the macrocosm of the Bible as a whole. It’s easier than ever to take the whole Bible with you wherever you are.

The Bible is changing. And while that may sound sacrilegious; it’s still within spec. This change, like translations and like the printing press, was anticipated by God when He inspired scripture to begin with.

I said earlier that the title “Bible 2.0” wasn’t entirely accurate. But it’s not entirely inaccurate either. This may not be a second iteration of the Bible, but it is the Bible in a Web 2.0 world. It’s the Bible in a world that’s interactive, that’s accessible, that’s peer-to-peer, that’s dynamic. We live in a world where the published world is no longer dead, but living, growing, interacting information. The Bible has always been a living book. Technology is finally catching up with it.

What does that mean for you? How does technology change the way you read the Bible? What electronic tools do you use to interface with it? What would you like technology to allow you to do? How does technology change the way you share scripture? How does technology change the way you share God?

Welcome to the Golden Age of Heresy


Rob Bell in the "Love Wins" trailer

OK, for those not in the sorts of circles to know this, I’ll summarize.

There’s this guy, Rob Bell. He’s a preacher. And he’s written books with hip-sounding names like Velvet Elvisand Sex Godand Drops Like Stars.

I’ve read Velvet Elvis. I own others, but haven’t read them yet. I’ve also seen some of his video stuff.

So he’s got a new book coming out, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.

He made a video trailer for his new book. In the video, he questions whether Gandhi’s in hell.

This has made many people upset.

These upset people have tweeted and blogged a lot about being upset.

People were upset because saying that Gandhi might not be in hell is heresy.

And heresy, they say, is bad.

Saying that Gandhi might not be in hell, they say, means that Bell may not be a real Christian.

“Farewell, Rob Bell,” they say.

For those people, things are just going to get worse.

Welcome to the Golden Age of heresy.

Everything I’ve heard about the book, including watching the video, makes me think it probably is, in fact, heresy.

And, personally, as much as it sucks, I think believing Gandhi is not in hell is a dubious belief, Christianity-wise.

But I’m not upset about Rob Bell saying it.

See, people use the word “heresy” like it’s a bad thing.

Me, I believe heresy is going to save the church.

Some people would say it has before. Ironically, some of those are the same people condemning Rob Bell for heresy.

All heresy is, is saying that you believe something outside the mainstream orthodoxy.

Sometimes heretics are the people who twist religion to fit their own purposes. I’d agree that sort of heresy is a bad thing.

Sometimes, however, heretics are the people who stand up and say that mainstream orthodoxy is wrong, that it’s the result of someone twisting religion to fit their own purposes. I’d say that sort of heresy is a good thing.

If you believe that the elements of communion do not literally transubstantiate into the body and blood of Christ, thank a heretic. John Wycliffe died for that belief.

If you believe that the Earth orbits the sun, instead of vice versa, thank a heretic. Galileo was threatened with death for this belief.

Heresy is how the church matures, how it evolves, how it grows, how it rights itself when it is wrong.

It can also be how the church goes wrong in the first place.

How do we decide which a given heresy is? By listening to it. By evaluating it. By comparing it to scripture. By praying about it.

The same way we evaluate any new belief we’re exposed to.

So why do we live in fear of heresy?

Because we’re told to.

Because heresy is a threat to those in power in the church. Church leaders are only church leaders to people who believe the things they’re teaching. If people read Rob Bell’s book and think about it and evaluate it and compare it to scripture and pray about it and end up deciding it has merit, some church leaders will lose followers. They will lose power. They will lose influence. They will lose books sales and tithe money.

Those people don’t want you to read and evaluate the book. They want to stop you from hearing what it has to say. They want to dismiss it as heresy. They want to dismiss Bell as un-Christian.

Five hundred years ago, reformer John Calvin said of heretic Michael Servetus, “If he comes [to Geneva], I shall never let him go out alive if my authority has weight.” Servetus was the originator of the now not-uncommon doctrine of “once saved, always saved,” or the “perseverance of the saints.”  Seven years later, Calvin testified against Servetus in a trial that resulted in Servetus being burned alive at the stake for heresy.

We live now in a different world. Today, John Piper, perhaps Calvin’s best-known modern follower, tweets to his hundred thousand followers, “Farewell, Rob Bell.”

Today’s established leaders have new tools for silencing those who would share ideas.

Unfortunately for them, we are entering a new Golden Age of heresy.

We are living in an age where heretics can be heard like never before. They can tweet. They can write blogs. They can write books. Their ideas can spread. And those who agree with them can say so. Just like those who don’t.

Like never before, Christians have the freedom to explore new ideas. They have the freedom to evaluate their beliefs for themselves. They have the ability to explore the scripture for themselves, aided by vast resources from generations of experts. They have literally volumes written by competing schools of thought to peruse and compare.

You don’t have to take John Piper’s word on Rob Bell. You can read his book yourself. You can read Piper’s books. You can — you must — read what scripture says about both of their arguments. And you can decide.

Until I can read the book, I won’t know for sure what Bell says in it.

From what I’ve seen so far, it flies in the face of beliefs I consider important.

What I have seen, I would call heresy.

It’s not uncommon for me to read books with heretical viewpoints and consider them without merit.

It’s also not uncommon for me to read books with more orthodox viewpoints and consider them without merit.

I can’t guarantee what I’ll think of Bell’s book. But I’ll be interested to see what it says.

You don’t have to agree with Bell. You don’t have to read his book. But you also don’t have to dismiss him because someone says to. The choice is yours.

The days of silencing heretics are over.

Quote Backlog III


I keep a folder of quotes that I like to use in my sidebar, but I come across them more frequently than I can use them, and some just never really fit where I am when I update. So here’s a whole bunch of them I haven’t used.


“I’m not writing it down to remember it later. I’m writing it down to remember it now.” — Field Notes

“And the God of all grace, after you have suffered a little while, will himself perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.” — 1 Peter 5:10

“‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king I tell you.'” — C.S. Lewis

“To the world you might be just one person. But to one person, you might just be the world.” — Unknown

“It’s no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God.” — Gal 2:20 (MSG)

“There is wonderful freedom and joy in coming to recognize that the fun is in the becoming.” — Gloria Gaither

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” — Phil Cooke

“Prayer is what happens for people who realize that God is Dad.” — Mark Driscoll

“The fewer the words, the better the prayer.” — Martin Luther

“Say that you are well and all is well with you, and God will hear your words and make them true.” — Ella Wheeler Wilcox

“It is a remarkable thing that some of the most optimistic and enthusiastic people you will meet are those who have been through intense suffering.” — Warren Wiersbe

“Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true.” — Francis Bacon

“God is painting with thousands and thousands of colors and shades and textures a picture we call history.” — John Piper

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” – Albus Dumbledore

“I love her and that’s the beginning of everything.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Religion is for those who don’t want to go to hell, spirituality is for those who have been there.” — Clarissa Dickson Wright

“We can awesome! And we can sexy!” — Ryan North

“As a writer, words are your paint. Use all the colors.” — Rhys Alexander

“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” — Gloria Steinem

“Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it.” — Oscar Wilde

You Are Free — To Serve


It looks like I’m going to stop wandering around so much to different churches and start attending Flint River regularly with Heather and the boys, so I’m discontinuing my regular “Another Sunday” series. If I end up visiting somewhere new, I may write another entry, but, right now, it just doesn’t work for where I am. Instead, I’m going to try starting a new series, “You Are Free,” focusing either on teaching about how Christians are free, or riffing off teachings that give false perceptions of that freedom. This is the first part of that series.

God wants you to serve.

Have you ever been told this in church? Hopefully so. Because it’s true.

Have you ever been told that you’re not serving right, or serving enough? That’s a common one to here, too.

But what does God want?

Maybe you’ve been told that people use “doing the family stuff” and “doing life” as excuses not to serve. They say they’re too busy because of the new baby or the kids’ ball games.

Or maybe that coming to the church service on Sunday doesn’t count either. That’s “worship,” not “service.”

Likewise Sunday School or other small groups. Those are “discipleship” or “Bible study,” not service.

Things like being a good parent, being a good spouse, honoring your parents as a child are “good qualities to have,” but aren’t service.  They’re not what God expects from you.

But what does God expect? What does He want? What is service?

If you’re a slave, a servant, service is doing what you’re told. If that’s to work in a field, or clean a house, that’s service. If it’s being told to sing, or to play with a child, that’s service.

We serve God when we do what He tells us.

When Jesus on Earth, there were three things He said to do that were so important they were called “great.” Two great commandments. One great commission.

Love God. Love others. Make disciples and teach them to obey.

Worship. Relationships. Discipleship. Study. These are the things that God asks us to do. And if we do them because He asks us to, they’re service.

That doesn’t mean that those are the only things you should do. Maybe you’re called to teach Sunday School. Or to help the homeless. Or to be in the choir. Or to go on a mission trip. If you are, that’s what God’s asking you to do. And doing it because He asks is service.

But maybe the thing God most wants you to do right now is to be a better spouse. Or to be the best parent you can. All of these things are under that “Love others” commandment. Paul spends a good bit of time breaking down the details on these things in his letters. And if that’s the big thing God’s asking you to do right now, then that’s what you should be doing it. And if you do it the way He asks, that’s service.

There’s no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach for what serving God looks like. Nobody else can tell you. Nobody else should make you feel guilty; not if you’re asking Him and trying to do what He asks of you.

When He was on Earth, Jesus didn’t teach Sunday School, or join mission trip teams, or serve on committees, or sing in the choir. He went around talking to people about God, and helping people He met with problems. That, certainly, can be service. All we know about his mother Mary is that she did what God asked her to do and tried to be the best mom she could. That’s service, too, because that’s what God wanted.

This isn’t about liberty; it’s about freedom. It’s not about saying you don’t have to do anything; God does want you to serve.

It’s about being free to ask God what how He wants you to serve, and being free to do that out of love for the Father, regardless of anyone else’s expectations.

Review: John Piper’s “Spectacular Sins”


“I guess you had to be there.”

I’ve heard a lot about preacher and theologian John Piper. I’ve read some quotes that I thought were inspired. I’ve heard people talk about things he’s taught, which seemed to be a mixed bag.

To be perfectly honest, for that reason, I was reluctant to delve much deeper, to listen to sermons or read his books. To me, there are few things worse that can happen to a church than to allow a cult of personality to form around its preacher, and there are few things worse to happen to a Christian than to become part of a cult of personality around a teacher. When people answer theological questions not with “here’s what scripture says” but with “here’s what Piper says,” that frightens me, and it’s happened to me all to frequently recently. To paraphrase Paul, “When one says, ‘I am of Piper’ and another, ‘I am of Wright,’ are you not carnal?”

I say that not to be critical, though, but rather for two reasons. One, to explain my biases at the outset of this review, and, two, to say that because of all that discussion and devotion, I had certain expectations going into it when my Bible study group decided to study Piper’s Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ.  Surely this was going to be brilliant and inspired and informative. Surely this would let me see what it was that inspired that sort of interest and loyalty.  Like I said, guess you had to be there.

The problem that I had with “Spectacular Sins” is that it’s just a sloppy book.

I agree with Piper on some things. I disagree with him on some. There were many things in this book that, superficially, sounded like things I would agree with. None of them were particularly groundbreaking or made me think about things in new ways, but they still seemed to be good points.

The problem is, I’m not entirely sure; the logic in his arguments was so flimsy that I really didn’t have enough to judge their merits. The first three chapters of the book contained so many unsupported suppositions that the entire book collapsed for me from their flimsy support. Piper groups things like crimes and natural disasters together as “evil” with no explanation why. He essentially argues that someone doing something unpopular or with bad consequences is sin, even if it’s God’s will, with no evidence that this is the case. He takes examples of places in scripture where, he says,  “sin” is “caused” by God and applies those universally, with no acknowledgment or discussion of the examples that don’t say that.

(And, leaving this particular text for a moment, this doesn’t seem to be the only time Piper has done this. During the study, another participant, attempting to clarify Piper’s stance, referred me to an essay Piper had written in which he argues that God does everything for His glory, citing a handful of passages in scripture that say God did something to make His glory known [an important distinction from saying He did it for his glory, but that’s beside the point], ignoring all of the other reasons God did things throughout the rest of scripture. This same pick-and-choose approach could be used, for example, to focus only on times God did things regretfully to paint Him as depressed and petulant. That same approach basically is used by many Christians who paint God as angry and judgmental, and it’s just as wrong for Piper to do it as it is for them.)

And I was left wondering why. From all accounts, Piper is an intelligent enough man that he should see the holes in faulty logic. Does he simply take his beliefs so much for granted that he doesn’t realize there’s a need to support them? Is he trying to shortcut to a bigger focus and not realizing that he’s shortchanging the conclusion as a result? Does he believe that a bit of slight-of-hand is justified in convincing people of his views? Is he just an ingrained part of the preacher culture in which Christians are encouraged to take the word of professionals instead of figuring things out themselves? Again, I say this not to be critical of Piper but of the book; its flaws were so distracting that questions like these, not about the subject matter were the main ones I came out of it with.

As for Piper himself, I’ve already bought some more of his books, and I would love to discover that Spectacular Sins was just one bad experience.

Save your ten bucks, here’s all you need to know from the book, and the one point Piper did make convincingly — Some times God does good things when bad things happen.

Another Sunday — Sojourn VIII


This entry is part of my series on my on-going “church journey” that I’ll be documenting as it takes place. You can read about other visits with the “journey” tag.

This past Sunday I was back at Sojourn Kids, teaching about Moses, which I’ll get to in just a moment. First, however, I wanted to link to this post that Heather wrote on her blog about visiting Sojourn while the boys and I were in the kids groups. She did a good job at capturing that my “journey” series is about; the experience of visiting a new church and exploring what makes it unique.

Sojourn While David the kids were in kids church Sunday I went to Sojourn’s “big church.” It was the first time in … ever? that I’ve gone to a new church, for the first time, all by myself. That, in itself, was liberating. The church is small — 40 or 50 people in worship, I guess. It meets in a brewery, which initially the smell got to me, but I kinda got over that after a while. I’ve had strong opinions in the past about holding church in a place that … Read More

via Calluna

Now — like I said, while she was there, the boys and I were at Sojourn Kids. The lesson was about Moses, covering from burning bush and the plagues. I prepared by reviewing the lesson materials and the scripture and some Moses mood music — The Plagues from Prince of Egypt, a “Let My People Go” bit that in my opinion rivals the Charlton Heston bit.

It’s hard for me to say for sure, but it felt like one of my better performances teaching at Sojourn Kids.  Aided by some great acoustics, I did a pretty decent retelling of the story.  The crossing of the Red Sea wasn’t part of the lesson, but the kids wanted to hear that part and the Passover, so I added those in. My Red Sea crossing, and the encore performance the kids asked for, got applause.  It felt like a week that I made good use of everything I brought to the table, from understanding of scripture to improv acting skills. I’m biased, but I feel like I’ve made some progress over the past year.

So that complicates the decision as to whether to continue or not. I’ve been doing this for a year, and so it’s sort of a logical time to move on. I started doing it on an open-ended basis, but didn’t think it would be permanent. To be honest, I really believed I would be so bad at it they would have asked me to stop by now, but was willing to “put my ‘yes’ on the table,” as Heather would say, and be used if called to serve. I plan to start going to church with Heather and the boys more, so that’s a factor; the boys like hearing me teach, so that’s a factor; but they also don’t like going back and forth, so that’s a counter-factor to the last factor. There are also some changes in Sojourn Kids leadership coming, and I think that may be the deciding factor; while I like the new people, I started as largely a personal favor to the outgoing leader, so that makes this a logical time to move on. I wouldn’t teach again until next month, so I may have a little time to decide, but I think that may have been my last lesson.

It was sort of an appropriate lesson for dealing with that; it’s easy to forget just how reluctant and resistant Moses was when God called him to service at the burning bush.  I’m nowhere near that set on quitting this, so if He wants me to keep going, I’m sure He’ll let me know.

In The Beginning …


This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This post’s topic is “The Origin of The Universe.”

At the center of this image made by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is a very young and powerful pulsar, known as PSR B1509-58, or B1509 for short. The pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star which is spewing energy out into the space around it to create complex and intriguing structures, including one that resembles a large cosmic hand. Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/P.Slane, et al.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

It fascinates me the need to divide religion and science. People read Biblical accounts of creation, and they read scientific accounts, and they assume that only one can be true.

And, it seems to me, they tend to read the two approaches accordingly.  If you assume one is right and one is wrong, you read them for their differences, not their similarities.  But the more I read about modern understanding of the science of creation, and the less I’m inclined to read the Biblical creation texts in a constrained way, it’s interesting to see how the two map together.

One of the findings that started driving this home for me was research indicating that time existed before the Big Bang; that is to say, there was “something” before the creation of our universe. It’s a detail in Genesis, but it’s there — God was there before creation. Did He have a context then? There’s a quote in the article from a CalTech physicist: “We’re trained to say there was no time before the Big Bang, when we should say that we don’t know whether there was anything – or if there was, what it was.”

The article goes on to talk about the nature of time, and why it’s unidirectional. At some level, the laws of physics should work in either direction, and yet time seems to move in only one direction. Physicists link this fact to entropy — the gradual move from order to chaos. But for entropy to explain time moving in one direction, it requires there being one, and only one fixed point of order. In other words, there has to be one end-point of time in which everything is in an ordered state, from which everything gradually moves into disorder, creating unidirectional time. To sum it up, for time to make sense, when the heavens and the Earth were created, they had to be in perfect order. They had to be “good.”

It’s worth noting that when the Big Bang theory was first postulated by a Roman Catholic priest, there were believers in the steady state theory of the universe who dismissed it as an attempt to introduce religious ideas into physics — they argued that the idea that there was a singular moment of creation before which the universe didn’t exist sounded like something more out of Genesis than science. Ironically, today, some Christians reject the theory for the opposite reason — that it sounds like something more out of science than Genesis. I would argue that it’s just a place where the two accounts line up; that before scientists reached the idea of a singular moment of creation, it was already described in Genesis.

The current scientific views also generally say that after an initial period of darkness, because of the levels of energy in the young universe, there was ambient light before there were stars. It’s an aspect of the creation story that seems counter-intuitive, that God created light before He created the sun and stars, and yet modern science is giving credence to it.

Wanna get even more funky? Check this out: Large Hadron Collider proves the universe was once a liquid. According to research just a few months ago, “The world’s most powerful particle accelerator smashed together lead nuclei at the highest energies possible, creating dense sub-atomic particles that reach temperatures of over ten trillion degrees. Beyond being awesome, this achievement shows the early universe was actually a liquid.” It’s an unexpected finding, and yet, again, one that was predicted thousands of years ago — “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

It’s frustrating to me that so many people like to make this an “us versus them” thing, picking one account and dismissing the other.  And, particularly so for Christians who dismiss the science because it doesn’t match their interpretation of the scripture.  There is some great science that showed up first in the Bible — things like the fact that the Earth is round and hangs freely in space, things that were recorded in scripture long before science figured them out. Unfortunately, throughout history, you have the church calling people like Galileo a heretic, getting too caught up in defending its interpretation, instead of going back and checking, “Hey, what does the scripture really say about this?” It’s sad watching pride cause the church to say, “You’re wrong,” when it could be saying, “I told you so.”

Me, I prefer to stop trying to force one version or the other to be wrong, I prefer to stop believing that I have to adopt someone else’s version of scripture, and love reading the two versions like they’re two ways of telling the same story — poetry backed up with physics.  And when you read it that way, it’s a pretty cool story.

The Stars, Like Dust


This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This post’s topic is “The Night Sky.”

“[God] took [Abraham] outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” — Genesis 15:15.

“I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.” — Genesis 22:17

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” — Psalm 8:3-4

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” — Psalm 147:4

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” — Romans 1:20

If you drive just a little ways out of Huntsville, you discover something rather cool about the stars.

They twinkle.

It’s a little ironic, because, of course, they don’t really. They don’t twinkle in real life, and if you’re in space, with a clear view of them, they don’t twinkle. But looking up from Earth’s surface, they appear to, because of the distortion of the planet’s atmosphere. Go into a city, however, where there’s even more distortion — lights, pollution, etc. — and they stop twinkling. The “high-resolution” view you need to see the twinkling gets lost.

I noticed the stars twinkling somewhere I was able to see it a few months ago, and it was amazing. Like discovering that a little bit of lost childhood magic was real after all.

But the bigger revelation still is to get even further away from civilization, to get out into the unadulterated darkness of night and see just how dark it really isn’t.

Get far enough away from the lights of civilization, and there are far more stars than you remember there being. Depending on how old you are, depending on where you live, depending on how much attention you pay when you’re on the open highway, there very well be more stars than you’ve ever seen in your life.

I had that experience, too, not that long ago. And I was awed. Truly, truly awed. I had forgotten how glorious the night sky could be.

And it made me realize something. In scripture, the stars, and their number, are used to point to the awesomeness and power and generosity of God. And as a rule, modern man looks up at the night sky, and sees stars that number in the dozens. But someone living at the time the words were first written would have taken something completely different away from those scriptures than we do today. They would have imagined a sky more glorious than we do, a number much higher than we do, and it would have pointed to a God much more magnificent as a result. The lights of our civilization dilute that for us; they dilute our understanding of the wonder of the stars and they dilute our understanding of the wonder of God.

Our civilization does that in countless other ways. Our comforts buffer us from wonder on a daily basis. We miss sunsets in favor of televisions. We miss the dirt beneath our feet in favor of automobiles. We miss so much magic, because we shelter ourselves from it. And as a result, we miss appreciating the Artist behind that magic.

What simpler way to reclaim that magic than with the twinkle, twinkle of a little star?