26 April, 2008

Quantum Predestination

God is Light, and in Him is no shadow of turning.

The history of man's understanding of light is a physicist's rollicking, mud-wrestling fest of scientific goodness. I've forgotten all the details, remembering only the ebb and flow of hard feelings on both sides. The Wikipedia article captures all the major events, but overlooks the intense competition and fiery conflict involved. The best insight the article gives comes at the bottom when it quotes the rock-star scientist, Richard Feynman, telling his audience that light is particles - full stop - and Carver Mead telling his audience in equally confident terms that light is waves, and so is everything else. And those two quotes are from now, not nearly a century ago when the mud slinging was in full splatter. The war around man's understanding of light may be over, but cleanup actions continue apace.

The first guy to describe light mathematically did it with wave equations. The next guy did it with particle equations. The thing is, waves and particles ain't the same thing. A wave is something that happens in the ocean, and a particle is something you throw into the ocean. When you talk about equations that describe light, you're talking about differences that extreme.

+ Waves go around corners.
- Particles don't notice corners.

+ Waves interfere with each other. If two peaks meet, they make a single peak twice as high. If a peak meets a valley, they cancel each other.
- Particles bounce off each other.

+ Waves can be polarized so only one kind works, like maybe left/right waves work but up/down waves get smooshed.
+ Particles don't vibrate, so polarizing particles makes no sense.

+ Waves don't knock electrons out of solar panels and make electricity.
+ Particles make solar energy possible.

+ Waves don't have any good reason to make "quantum leaps."
- Particles, also called, "quanta," are the defining point of a quantum leap.

So, physicists had a religious war.

The wave guys did math and experiments using diffusion grates and frequency-energy relationships, while the particle guys calculated about reflections and interactions. Then the wave guys came up with complex, hard to follow equations that fully explained the particle stuff in wave terms if you held your mouth just right and squinted just so. That's when the particle guys had to give up (except Mr Feynman, I gather). The particle guys could poke little holes in the wave-guys' equations, but they couldn't write equations that would explain all the diffusion grate and frequency stuff.

In the end, though, everyone had to swallow a little bile because the wave guys couldn't really make their equations work either.

And the reason no one's equations would work is really quite simple. Light is a particle-wave. Light is made of particles that vibrate like waves. The physicists were forced to say, "We're both right," and that breaks any debater's heart. But they only said because they actually were both right. Light particles seem to be kind of big and squishy and vibrating in a perfect frequency. So, when you shove them through diffraction gratings they act just like waves, but when you run them into solar panels they act just like particles.

It hurts to admit that the other guy is right, but it's not too bad once you've gotten over the initial shock of admitting that you were wrong. What's deadly difficult is admitting the other guy is right while you still have not been proven wrong at all.

That's what happened to our mud wrestling physicists, and that's what should be happening to our mud wrestling Calvinists and Arminians, too.

I hate to say, "We're both right." I really do. In most things mathematical, one person is wrong, and I tend to extend that thinking to theology. That's a mistake on my part.

The odd thing is that I still don't think the Calminians are right. Calminians tend to jetison the rightness of both sides and end up with a wishy-washy God and semi-responsible people. I think the truth is harder than that.

God does predestine, and does so absolutely. God chooses those whom He saves, and is not panicking over those whom He might have been able to save if only we'd evangelized more/better/perfectly. Those who are not saved are those whom God knew would not be saved before He ever created. He knew how it would end for each of us, what His actions would be that would influence us, and what He could have done it differently, and that He would do everything exactly as He has done it. If that's not absolute predestination, I don't know what is, but it's a little different from saying God created some people for some bizarre pleasure He might take in damning them.

To me, those are the wave equations.

The particle equations are true too, though.

Every man must decide, and there is no crutch upon which he might lean. The decision is his and the responsibility for that decision is his. God made us with a will that bestows on us the right to suffer the consequences of our actions. And God only judges us on our own actions. Neither the sins of the father for any previous generations, nor the decisions of our great Creator before time will be weighed in the balance. On the one side will be the requirements of our own conscience (gentiles) or of the law (Jews), and on the other will be our performance against those requirements (unsaved) or Christ's performance of those requirements (saved.) We must choose Him.

The thing that stirred me to write was not some new insight into the scripture, but into physics, so please forgive me if I don't state the two positions any more clearly than that. You've all heard it too many times any way.

The thing that interests me is that the physical world gives such a great example of a complex duality. There is not a human being alive who can understand or picture what light really is. We cannot hold the idea of a wave and a particle in our mind simultaneously when trying to describe something so ubiquitous as light. The first thing ever created is so bizarrely complex that we cannot picture in our minds, though we sense it every waking second.

Light fills the void of space, transmitted from every direction and into every direction, and exerts its influence on things as random as plant leaves, microwave dinners, radio towers, and my mood on a gloomy morning, yet the brightest of our minds cannot tell us what it really is. It exists and behaves predictably, but not definably. One set of equations defines half of what it does, while another set of equations defines the other half of what it does, and the two sets of equations seem both to exclude the other set.

It's not enough to say, "The truth is in the middle." There is no middle between equations. Equations are either true or they are false. If you find some happy camping ground between two equations, it's either because the new equation is true, or because you're living in a fantasy world.

[Amusingly, quantum physics, the deep science of light, says the same thing. Light exists at discreet energy levels, and never in between them. Imagine that your car could go 5 mph or 10 or 25 or 50, but not 17.3 or 26.1 or anything in between those 4 speeds. That's why they talk about a "quantum leap." It always takes a quantum leap for light to change energy levels because while it might change speeds from 5 to 10 mph, it will do it without ever going 7.5 mph. It leaps from one energy level to another.]

There is only truth. There is no space between truths for convenient half-truth. The truth is that God predestines absolutely, and the truth is that we are fully responsible for our actions. I am comfortable saying that those two things confuse me, but I'm not able to toss either of them aside, even if they seem to be unable to live together. And the science of light gives me permission to be that stubborn.

Does that help or hurt anyone's thoughts about predestination?

20 April, 2008

Yahweh's Love Interest

The Biblical Archaeology Review has an article in this issue regarding "A Temple Built for Two." The inspiration is a little house shrine evidently showing a 2-seated throne. One of the seats they suppose to be for Yahweh, and the other for His consort, the local fertility goddess, Asherah.

The article does a fine job evaluating the possible meanings of the idol, and makes a good argument that, yes, in the local popular religion (as opposed to the intellectual religion of the priesthood) Yahweh did not abide alone. One of the chief points the article makes is that the prophets all spent reams of parchment decrying Asherah. The prophets' complaint that sanctuaries to "The Queen of Heaven" were "on every hill and under every green tree," is about as good a proof as one needs that Asherah was big medicine. The little house shrine portrayed in BAR merely gives an indication that the Israelites came up with the usual way of reconciling their conflicting deities.

The point that occurs to me while reading this article is that Yahweh is the only God I can remember who has no mate, except His people, and them as a whole. I can think of many examples of gods who are mated to other gods. I can think of gods who have been taken with individual humans. I can think of gods who have every human romantic problem. I cannot think of a single other god who mates himself to all willing humans as a single entity.

Yahweh calls Israel His wife, and mourns her departures. He brings Israel gifts, protects her from enemies, nurtures her, and makes life promises to her that are unique in all religious history so far as my memory recalls. Ours is a God Who loves inhumanly. He loves a being no human has ever imagined as an individual before, the church, with a pure grace no human has ever conjured up in any religious fiction.

As the heavens are above the earth, so His love is above our love, His intent above our intentions.

We are so much more than lucky to be so loved. Praise the Lord our King.

16 April, 2008

14 April, 2008

Revelation

Rom 1:17
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.


It's just that one little phrase that arrested me.

... the righteousness of God revealed ...

Can you picture it?

If you can, you can picture lightning being hidden.

I was once close enough to lightning to hear it sizzling for hours before the thunder finally like'd to broke my eardrums. It seemed to be days later when I finally jumped for the ground and hugged it like never before. It had to have been 20 feet away from me, at most. I never saw it, and I've never done anything so fast in my life as dive for mama earth just then. The bolt sealed herself up again and went home to papa before my first flinch, though. The power, the speed, the brightness, the overkill in that split second of power revealed from heaven never left me.

Lightning cannot be hidden.

The righteousness of God is more powerful, and yet it cannot be found.

We cannot know this holiness. There is nothing in our experience to indicate perfect righteousness exists. They say that if you can imagine a thing, it proves that it exists - that we cannot imagine anything that cannot be. But here is an example of a thing that does exist, and that we cannot imagine. We can try to picture white, if we set our minds to it, but we cannot conceive of an unmixed motive. Everything to us is yin and yang. The seeds of righteousness exist in every evil, and the seeds of evil exist in every righteous deed.

In God, though, only righteousness is revealed because that is all there is. The I AM never changes, and from the moment the first atom blinked into existence until the last atom flashes back into the void, God never flirted with sin. God's care IS always pure, His eye IS always single, His love IS always sacrificial.

This is revealed to us by faith, and from faith to faith. This blinding, thundering, deadly, life-giving righteousness is seen only by the eye of belief. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the word of God, but the righteousness of God is revealed in and by faith.

I don't have a point. It was only an impression, and I hope I expressed a little bit of it. It really needs to be a poem, but I don't know that I could deliver on it so I had to write it this way.

13 April, 2008

Psalm 119:25-32
DALETH.
My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word.
I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me: teach me thy statutes.
Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works.
My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word.
Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously.
I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid [before me].
I have stuck unto thy testimonies: O LORD, put me not to shame.
I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.


We studied this in Sunday School this morning, and it was right where I was. It was a delight to give it a good, hard look.

I like that the passage starts with the singer prostrate in the dust, melted under the weight of his loads, and afraid he might try to deliver himself by lying. I get that.

He answers his own situation with the word, the statutes, the precepts. And what else? If you take away from me my scriptures, where could I go to learn that Jesus suffered here along with me? That he watches my every tear and marks the enemies that caused them? That has delivered me from the sin that kept me from appearing before God my Hope?

Where else would I learn how to behave myself in the courtyards of His home - and now mine? Where else would I learn to tell the truth to those who are hurting? Where else would I learn to praise my Deliverer even before I see His deliverance?

But when I have those things, when I know those truths, I can stand up from the dust. When I know where to go, I can begin walking. And when I see what there is to gain, I can begin to run, because the Lord has enlarged my heart.

For a few more decades, there will be dust on my feet, but the invisible truth of God's love and actions keeps me upright in more ways than one.

12 April, 2008

When Did Changing the World Become Every's Job

This is another of my son's questions.

I keep looking for where it all went wrong. I look back over the centuries, and I don't guess it ever really went right except during that one golden age of the '50's. But somehow, things look better in the past. I guess they always do, but a day when a man cared for his family, when morality was de rigeur, and when having good grandkids was "reason enough" looks pretty golden to me.

I wonder if one of the things that went wrong isn't this feeling that seems to pervade everything that we all have to be changing the world.

I think it started in the '60's, and it set us up for failure. If we're saving the world, then maybe it's OK that we skip a couple little insignificant things like hearing our kids crying out for our time, or our spouses longing to feel significant again.

Bob's 6 Word Meme

Bob posted his memoir in 6 words. The moment I read his, mine sprung to mind, so I figured I'd fess up to it:

He came, he cried, he faltered.

Only the fact that the Lord is God would keep me from putting that on my headstone. Nothing could keep me from deserving it.

07 April, 2008

A Man's Salute

Says a lot about him.

Someone saluted me as I was driving out today, so I saluted back. And as I did, it occurred to me some of the things a man's salute says.

When his fingers and thumb are rigidly held with a knife-edge precision, the man likes to see himself as precise. When his shoulder is properly pulled back, and his elbow extends directly 90 degrees away from his body and level with the terra firma, he really is precise.

But when he straightens his spine, and stands tall with his chin level, he's giving true respect to the man he's saluting.

I don't know why, but that was very interesting to me.

04 April, 2008

How Shall a Young Man Clean His Way?

Psa 119:9
Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed [thereto] according to thy word.


I really enjoyed this verse when we talked about it last Sunday. I meant to post about this a little earlier, but such is life.

So, a young man definitely needs to clean his way up. That's believable. So how does the great 119th Psalm recommend he do it? 119 is the Psalm most completely dedicated to the law of God, to His statutes, so what does it recommend.

It recommends that young man take heed to "his way."

I don't know why, but I loved that. It doesn't recommend that he pour over the law every waking second. It recommends he love and learn that law, but take heed to his own way.

I know I'm fighting a rare enemy here, but some of us spent too much time on theology and not enough figuring out our way through life. It's cool when God's inspired word does not make the mistakes of young men.

01 April, 2008

So Young to be so Wise

My boy said, describing our most annoying cat, "He wants so little, but he wants it so much."

Priceless