Antimatter: An Analogy for God and Holiness


Atomic

Atomic (Photo credit: sushiraider)

Have you ever heard of antimatter? It has all of the characteristics of matter, it takes up space, it’s made out of the same kinds of particles—except all of it is completely opposite matter. So there are antineutrons antielectrons and positrons that make up antimatter molecules. When antimatter contacts matter there is a complete conversion of matter into energy (a really efficient explosion) that releases purely radiation. Some scientists have posited that the big bang resulted from the collision of antimatter and matter and that there was just a little bit more matter than antimatter… yeah, it doesn’t make much sense to me either. Where did they both come from before they collided?

Here’s the cool thing, there could be entire stars and solar systems made up of antimatter because it’s just matter that’s completely opposite what we’re familiar with.

Actually, it’s opposite what you’re made out of, so I’d keep my distance if I were you.

We can actually create antimatter here on earth.

And if you’re worried about the sounds of that then you’re not the only one. Some people thought the large hadron collider might create a black hole here on our planet. Don’t worry, it’s successfully run from 2010 to 2012 and no black holes yet.

So we can make antimatter. You know what’s even more impressive? We’ve managed to figure out a way to store it (in very small amounts). So once you manage to produce some antimatter from atom smashing you can store it using a vacuum and magnets to keep it from touching anything. So far, storing it is difficult and short-termed, but that should improve.

So why am I telling you all of this? Because this can be a very helpful analogy to understanding God and us—or more specifically—God and sin.

To understand the phrase God’s holiness it might be helpful to understand what it means for God to be holy and for us to not be holy. And from that why we need to be reconciled with God.

So it might be helpful to think of God as matter and us as antimatter. He’s a holy perfect God that cannot be in contact with sin and since God is infinite (there’s a lot of him) and we’re finite (there’s not much of us) when we collide with God we explode and he’s all that’s left.

Traditionally commentators have looked at God’s warning to Adam that if he eats of the fruit of the tree he “will surely die” as meaning a spiritual death because he doesn’t actually die that day.[1] So it must have been a spiritual death. Or some others suggest that the verse simple suggests that “in that day” means in that age or era, so Adam’s death some 930 years later is not at odds with what God has said.

Most options require a lot of back flips and reliance on other than apparent understandings of that verse.

The Hebrew is very clear. It’s emphatic.

“You do this, and this will happen.”

But it doesn’t.

Adam doesn’t die. Neither does Eve.

They were supposed to die.

What happens right after God confronts Adam and Eve with their sin?

He kills some animals.[2]

Something dies.

But it’s not Adam and Eve.

For the rest of history of the Old Testament things—innocent things—had to die to make up for our sin. It’s as if in the very moment Adam and Eve sinned they became antimatter in a universe of matter. They should have exploded. They should have ceased to exist. But God in fear of the destruction of his precious creatures, who he had poured his very self into, bent time and space and put them in a magnetically-controlled vacuum-sealed jar separate from him. He had to remove himself in some ways from his creatures so that they wouldn’t die instantly on contact with him.

There’s a strange story of a man who touched God. He reached out his hand and touched the arc of the Covenant and was killed instantly.[3] I don’t understand this passage, but it might help to use that analogy of antimatter, because every other time they Israelites moved the Arc (when they followed God’s directions) they had to have the arc on long poles and none of them were actually ever supposed to touch it.

Like antimatter and matter, the arc of the covenant had to be suspended between people; separate, untouched.

The word reconciliation is used a lot in church, but not often explained well. Reconciliation is making things fit together. Reconciling us (sinners) to God (perfect holiness) demands something to be done to make us fit together.

God has to make antimatter fit back together with matter.

For us to be in perfect union with him we have to be able to make contact with him, and when we sinned contact with him meant our destruction–perfect and complete annihilation

Death spiritually and physically.

Praise be to the one who made the irreconcilable, reconcilable.


[1] Genesis 2:17.

[2] Read Genesis 3.

[3] Actually this story appears twice in the Old Testament, see 1 Chronicles 15 and 2 Samuel 6.

God/King/President


With the approaching elections I’m hearing more about God as king and not an elected official then I ever have before. The observation I’ve heard repeated recently is that we as American’s struggle with understanding God as king more than we would, say, if we lived in England. We’re all about freedom, and we overthrew our king.

(Insert rant about how frustrating it is that Christian leaders prefer to harp on culture rather than find things that are positive and relate them to the Christian faith.)

And so we continue to have these discussions about how we want to be self-governed, self-directed and self-empowered individuals not under God’s authority.

Bad, bad, bad.

You’re all bad Christians.

And they’re right. We do struggle with power and authority and surrendering it to God. This is especially prevalent in Matthew’s Gospel. Everyone leaves everything, follows “immediately” and “surrenders all to Jesus” as the old Hymn goes.

Great study. Worth Repeating. Worth reminding ourselves that we need to give everything over to God. It’s all his. We’re all his. He needs to be first.

And then we move on.

And that’s where my frustration with devotionals and sermons grow from. We’ve all heard that drum beaten before (at least if you’ve been in Christian circles for a year or listened to KLove for more than 10 minutes).

We have got to go deeper.

Because Christian culture tends to categorize that desire for ruling and power as a result of the fall–and it’s not. God created Humans in his own image and set them as his representatives and caretakers on Earth (Gen. 1:27, 2:16).

God not only created man for authority, but gave him authority, power, control.

So where are the sermons on what our authority is as Christians?

And not just over one another in the work place, where are the sermons and discussions on authority over all of creation—our cats, our dogs, over creation and whether we pillage the earth’s resources for our own benefit like tyrants or rule over it justly and with great concern?

And who is asking the questions about why God gave us authority anyway? And if he did give us authority over his creation, why are we not affirming that God given desire? Because then the question becomes “How do you use it?” rather then the denial of power and authority (that it’s “bad” and a result of the fall).

And that has got to be the question because people in authority—which we all are—who are unaware or refuse to acknowledge their power and authority will still have it and use it, but not necessarily in helpful ways.

Which would you prefer, the authority who gives careful thought to his use of power, or the one denies they have any power?

And why the negativity toward those who want to be self governing? Government is installed and encouraged by God after the fall, not before.

And why the disparagement of humans before their creator? A king with absolute control is usually called a tyrant. Aren’t human’s more of subservient partners with God as rulers over this earth rather than drones?

And why is the electoral form of government so inferior to a kingship in being able to understand our God? Don’t we have to choose him daily as our commander and chief? And don’t we continue to elect and choose to do things that are harmful to us? And shouldn’t we commend that desire for honorable and just leaders? Would it be better to have a king who is in authority simply because he is born into it? Does that help us understand God better? Isn’t He king because he is virtuous and not because he was born into it?

And “king” falls short of an adequate descriptor for God anyway. Why is it so relished with favor? God’s not of a certain bloodline who inherits his kingdom from his father before him. “King” was just a useful term in Biblical times to help communicate that God was a ruler over land and people. By analogy “President” may be just as helpful.

They all fall short. He’s the creator father king lamb of sacrifice redeemer of all things who works with and through people to whom he gave power and authority.

We need to be partner-servants who recognize our power, authority and resources for God and his kingdom. If we continue to ignore the fact that we have those things then we will continue to cause harm to this world and that which is under our care. I wonder if the real area we’re falling short in is not misunderstanding who God is but it’s misunderstanding who we are; ones with authority and power.  We can’t surrender something we don’t have.

Why Unity Won’t Cut It


Love ? I love love love you.

(Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I recently wrote my reflections I had recently during a run on the condition of the church. As someone who has spent years of study and in internships to become a leader and speaker in the church, people’s perception of the church is of great concern to me. In fact, I wish we had more generous churches who were environmentally friendly, experts at overcoming poverty and injustice run by pastors who were authentic and not trying to be cool, but I also wish for people to not be so judgmental about other Christians–so it’s easy to see that I can be part of the problem too. I had suggested that we all need to take a long hard look at ourselves, because it’s not our job to monitor other people–at least not until we’ve taken a good look at ourselves. The way Jesus put it was that we cannot help someone get a bit of saw dust out of their eye when we have log in our own eye (Mt. 7, Lk. 6).

Perhaps then we’d have a more unified church and a more cohesive, inviting community the represents God’s love to the world. A message of introspection and checking our own hearts first would help solve a lot of our issues. The Westboro community looking at themselves to see if they are really loving everyone as Jesus commands instead of taking up hate signs upon the instruction of their leader. World hunger and easily preventable disease would be reduced if church people really looked at their hearts and asked how much their hearts were swayed by their money and their own comfort. Politics and our economy in this country (as Andy Stanley has suggested) would be different if we realized that it’s not a lack of money problem that we have–it’s a spending problem. And as much as we eagerly point our fingers at Washington and corporations we should look at our own spending and realize how much we share in the blame.

And if we could just get the church to stand together and stop bickering with each other than we could really direct change in our country and around the world.

I have heard so many speeches at Christian conferences about how we need unity in the church, but I have concerns about teaming together under the banner of unity.

Not that we shouldn’t strive for unity, but that when we are striving for unity our goal quickly distracts us from from our real mission–because when unity becomes our focus, we can become distracted from being love to all people.

And what if we became a unified church? How quickly would an age-old problem of “us verses them” seep into our thinking? “We the unified, mighty church of God?” Rather, if we focused each on our hearts and concern to love all people, unity would be a natural byproduct of our hearts and there would be little room for the “us verses them” mentality because our first priority would be loving everybody and when you are trying to love everybody it’s hard for anyone to become an outsider or enemy.

But maybe I have too simplistic of a solution to the problem.

  • Kevin DeYoung of the Gospel Coalition listed 10 steps for unity in the RCA. He agrees that unity should not be the goal (#9) but suggest truth not love as the answer. I wonder who has the perfect interpretation of the Truth that will unite denominations/churches….
  • For a much more scripture filled article on the need of unity see CARM’s article, “The Need for Unity in the Church.”

Enemies of the Church


Streetlight

Streetlight (Photo credit: Dorron)

“What would you have me do?” I asked God in my head as my feet pounded the blacktop under the dull orange streetlights on a late night run.

“I would have you learn to love my people again. You’ve become bitter and angry with them. You don’t love my bride,” came the reply.

“Yeah?” I chuckled, “Have you seen them recently? They’re terrible.” Just as quickly as the thought crossed my mind I flashed back to earlier that day. I had been sitting around a table with some guys waiting for our lunch to be brought out and one of the guys started in on a long tirade of “You know what the problem with the church is?” It was the first time I realized that I really hated that attitude. It’s not helpful. You know what I’d call it if the church only had one problem?

I’d call it awesome.

We’d be doing really well.

But walking around proclaiming, “You know what the problem with the church is? It’s [fill in whatever you like]” isn’t helpful because (as it turns out) we all need the gospel. The people on the street corner looking for the next hit and the church next door with whatever “problem” you want to assign them—all need the gospel. And you know what the good news of the gospel is?

It’s love.

“For God so loved….”

We could really stop there. I mean that’s all that matters. All of the rest of the gospel message hangs on that one thing: God loved. God loves. God will love.

How much did God love? He loved so much that he gave his only son. Why’d he have to do that? Because he created this amazing creation and then entrusted it to human beings to rule as his physical presence—image bearers—of God to his creation. Then they took those keys to the kingdom and handed them over to God’s enemy and said, “Here, you can have these. This kingdom is yours.” And then bad things happened to all of God’s creation and humans could no longer be a part of God’s kingdom and needed be brought back. God did the heavy lifting so we could again be apart of his kingdom instead of the kingdom of evil; the kingdom of love instead of the kingdom of destruction and hate.

Unfortunately it’s much easier to unite people under a common enemy then anything else.

So we need a common enemy.

But who? Rob Bell? Pentecostals? Assemblies of God? Maybe become nondenominational? Better yet—house church verses the mega church! Or CO2’s—join the Church of Two! It’s like an infomercial for shamwow over ordinary washcloths, “Do you know what the problem with your old washcloth is? It’s not good at reaching out to those on the fringes of society!”

Except making enemies of other churches or other Christians doesn’t seem… well… Christian.

Except for maybe the Westborough Baptist church (they really deserve to be hated, right?).

Maybe we should look outside the church for a common enemy to unify us. Democrats? Pro Choicers? Maybe just people with tattoos… especially if they dance and smoke too.

Except the single occasion in the Bible over which most people struggle with Jesus “not sinning” is the one occasion when he seems ready to beat the snot out of people in the temple. He runs around throwing things and wiping people all because they sold animals at the temple? No, that was actually a wonderful and helpful business. (Have you ever tried leading a cow, sheep or goat very far? It’s not easy. Much easier to sell yours and buy a new one once you get to the temple.) Was it because they were charging too much for the animals and therefore cheating the worshippers? Possibly, but the text doesn’t say.

No, he blows up because they’re selling these animals in the court of the gentiles. It’s supposed to be a place of prayer for all people and it’s full of people bartering on prices, sheep and goats bleating, pigeons cooing and the smells animal dung and straw.

Not exactly a place to pray.

So here’s Israel, “displayer of God’s splendor” and “the light to the nations,” ignoring, discouraging and casting off the gentiles in God’s very own house. Jesus is outraged because the church people are united together against the “outsiders.”

“You know what the problem with Israel is…?”

So who are we supposed to hate to unify the church? Not our neighbors, we’re supposed to love them. And our enemies. We’re supposed to love them too.

So, we’re just supposed to love everyone?

Everybody?

Huh.

“Thank God it’s not my job to make that happen” I chuckled to myself as I rounded another corned of my evening run. “Good luck with that one, God!”

No, my responsibility is of myself first. Am I loving everybody?

I have to look at myself first.

And you should probably do the same.

Marriage Superior to Singleness?


If this idea isn’t overtly taught from the pulpits of our churches, magazines and relationship books, then it is often at least implicitly taught. I think the most common mutation or strain of this idea right now if the “godly” notion that marriage is designed to build your character and develop you into the person God wants you to be in a way that being single won’t.

It’s unbelievable and I’m sick of it.

There are so many problems with this idea. For starters, there are plenty of people who are married that don’t grow or mature. So, that’s a problem. And it’s a problem for both the married and the unmarried. Maybe marriage makes it a little harder to ignore issues you need to work through, but I don’t think it forces you to grow and mature.

It might just force your spouse to hate you.

Next, Jesus was single. If you want to declare that his character or holiness was underdeveloped because he was never married, then I’ll let you take the up with him.

Next, Paul. He was single too. Possibly—although unlikely—he was married, but all the evidence supports him being single. And he wrote a lot of the New Testament. More than Jesus did, actually.

Next, scripture is very clear (see Paul’s letters) that singleness is at least equal (if not superior) to being married.

Additionally, and perhaps finally, the people who are married who tell me this don’t always have the right to speak of character development in single people.

Let me explain.

If you get married in your early twenties you’ll never know the character development that occurs when you’re still single and 25. Or in your late twenties. Or into your thirties.

And they’ll never know what it’s like to live in religious culture that sees singleness as an imperfection, an incompleteness—that somehow you’re missing your “other half” or that you’re only “half of what you could be.”*

They will not know what it’s like to maintain purity and holiness for years longer than they imagined they’d have to wait for that special someone.

They’ll never know what it’s like to get a job offer or acceptance to a school far away from home and only have themselves (and God) to decide whether or not to go. And then only have themselves for support when they do go, alone.

They’ll never know what it’s like to have to depend on only themselves when they’re sick and need food from the grocery store.

Or medicine.

They’ll never know the perseverance or strength it takes to both go to school and figure out how to pay for their schooling, rent, books and food without the help of someone else to make the income.

Or to balance all of that with doing the laundry, cooking food, taking the car to the shop and cleaning the dishes.

I’m concerned that we are doing an unspeakable disservice to the single community by adding to their anxiety and struggles this idea that marriage is superior in developing their holiness, character or whatever else, than being single.

I think they’re just different.

But at the same time, I should mention that I’m still single.

And so was Jesus.

That is why I am convinced that what we really need is for people to rally around singles and encourage them to be the content and complete people  they really are.

Additionally, we need to encourage people, while they are still singe (to quote Andy Stanley) to “work on becoming the person you’re looking for is looking for,” because they are completely capable of growing and maturing through their relationship with God and their peers.

Marriage is better than singleness”? I think I can stamp that one as another lie I’ve been sold. And it’s especially upsetting that this lie is so heavily pandered in Christian circles.

______________________

*I particularly detest this line from a song originally written and sung by Dave Barnes and then covered (ripped off?) by Blake Shelton. I like the song, but I am discouraged by the notion here and elsewhere that you can’t make it as well as a single person.

True Love Waits – Purity


Gummy candy

Image via Wikipedia

(Lies I’ve Been S/Told series)

There’s an organization within Christianity dedicated to encouraging purity among students. The only problem I’m beginning to worry about is the notion that you shouldn’t have sex before marriage to “save yourself” for your future spouse—hence the name “true love waits.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I myself have worn a ring that expresses this sentiment for some ten years (it has inspired many amusing conversations) but in recent years the motivation behind it has begun to fall a little flat in my mind.

I mean, how do you know you’re going to get married?

Not to be pessimistic, but you don’t know that you will get married. I could be killed in a car accident on my way home tonight from Starbuck’s and never get married. It’s a real possibility.  And what then? Was my “waiting” in vain? Was it useless?

Or what about the fact that I’m twenty five and there’s no one on the horizon? The idea of “waiting” is suddenly a little hallow.

I was in a friend’s dorm room with a couple of female friends and they were talking about waiting to have sex and one of them said, “I dunno, if I haven’t gotten married by the time I’m twenty five, I might just say ‘forget it, I’m going to have sex.’” They laughed and all agreed, by twenty five, if they weren’t married, they were going to have sex.

It was mostly in jest, and they were all about 20, so 25 seemed a long way off, but I think it illustrates the problem: Waiting for some abstract future that may or may not happen only motivates for a short time.

So what do you do when you’re 25 and still single? I don’t think the 15 year old me would have so readily signed up for that. And after awhile the fact that you’ve been walking down a tunnel with no light at the end of it for such a long time can get exhausting.

We need long term reasons to remain sexually pure.

Like that fact that it’s not worth the heart break and added complexity that being physical adds to any relationship. Did you know that a woman’s brain begins to release oxytocin (the same chemical released by the brain after childbirth to bond mother and child) after being held for only twenty seconds? I even saw this in a Men’s Health article about how to get a girl. They were saying how those long hugs help her bond to you—chemically. Scary? I think so.

It’s very easy to see from there how girls (especially) stay in unhealthy physical relationships with men who treat them poorly.

And bonding happens in guys over physical too, it’s just much slower (and a different chemical).

How about the fact that it’s really a commitment to God? That kind of a reason lasts far past the “was it worth the wait?” questions that inevitably arise. And it’s not because God is down on sex, but that he loves everyone and doesn’t want them to be hurt or hurting, and out of that concern encourages sexual purity. So great a concern that it’s commended to not have even a “hint of sexually immorality” or “lust in your heart after a woman,” which Jesus equates as being just as bad as adultery. That’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?

How about the fact that you can’t ever go back and undo something you did? The adage, “Once you taste the candy, you can’t go back” is probably especially true here. I mean, maybe it would be fun and worth it to have a romantic interlude for a summer with a girl and cherish it as a fond memory, but what if it’s not? And why risk bringing even more baggage into a relationship with the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with? I’ve got enough stuff to work through, why would I want to add to it? And what if ten years from now I realize I’ve regretted that decision I made that night (or those nights) and there’s nothing I can do about it? I can’t go back and take it back.

I find those more compelling reasons to not have casual sex in my mid twenties than the idea of waiting. Yes, I think it would be wonderful to marry someone who didn’t have sex with anyone before me, but it doesn’t have to be because she was waiting for me.

So I wish some of these things were the main reasons pushed to students to “wait.” I mean, even if the “true love waits” motivation holds when you’re young, it starts to get neutralized when you’re with the person you “know” you’re going to marry. Or you’re getting older. Or….

That’s why this one fell in the category of a “lie” I’ve been sold. It’s half true, at best inferred from scripture, but it’s shallow packaging with thin advertising at best.

And I want to call it out.

The Value of a Human


creation of man

This is actually an excerpt from the book I am writing, so it’s a bit ripped out of it’s context, but I thought it would be a good scriptural follow up to the “What I Don’t Deserve” article in my new series, The Lies I’ve Been S/Told. Enjoy!

See, what some of my brethren have mixed up is what we deserve versus what we have earned.

That’s an important distinction to make, because if your value is based on what you have earned, then yes, you “deserve” punishment for your sin.

But if your value comes from somewhere else, then punishments are what we have earned, not what we deserve.

It’s a core value question instead of a superficial concern of the moment.

It asks, “What do human beings deserve, as created?” not what they have now earned through their own actions.

Certainly we have earned punishment for our sins. We can all think of a bad choice that we’ve made that has caused consequences in our lives. And throughout scripture we see that when holy comes into contact with unholy, something has to die. And so we have earned our death, punishment and the suffering attached to it.

But human beings don’t deserve it.

If human beings deserved hell then God could have just saved time and created them in hell, “Mwa-ha-ha-ha!”

But that’s not the story of this God.

This God carefully crafted a wonderful, thriving environment for his creatures to live in and then set them as co-stewards over the very creation he created. He released them into his world with the ability to think, create and cultivate his beautiful creation. And he created them in an image (reflection, likeness) of himself.[1]

It was a world of vibrant, shimmering potential; creation and creatures loved by God.

So when we think about what human beings deserve, it’s very different from where they have ended up.

Zephaniah describes God as a mighty warrior who defends his people and takes great delight in them—even rejoicing over them with singing.[2]

Think about that.

God rejoices over his people with singing.

The Psalmist upon reflecting on the awesome magnificence of God asks, “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”[3]

Then he answers his own question. Why would an all powerful God who could do anything he wanted to care for these puny little frail creatures called mankind?

Because he created them.

But not just because he created them, but because he made them as wondrous, enchanting creatures, “You have made thema little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.”[4]

I like this paraphrase:

“Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods,
bright with Eden’s dawn light.
You put us in charge of your handcrafted world,
repeated to us your Genesis-charge,
Made us lords of sheep and cattle,
even animals out in the wild,
Birds flying and fish swimming,
whales singing in the ocean deeps.
God, brilliant Lord,
your name echoes around the world.”[5]

This is not a low view of humanity. This is the insistence that you are a not worthless creature that deserves to suffer in despair and pain, no; it’s the insistence that human life is uniquely precious and beautiful.

It’s a very high view of humanity

And if that view of humanity is true, then it’s no wonder that God would come down to his own creation and die for them.

And Jesus’ death isn’t saving humanity from what they deserve; it’s saving us from ourselves.

He’s not providing a better future—he’s offering us the correct future.

It’s a future full of richness in life, joy and communion with the Father of all creation. And so throughout the bible is the insistence that you are worth so much more than this. You were created with the divine spark, and in this is the affirmation and celebration and all of creation. When God steps down into his creation as Jesus he came in the sarx, the flesh. He came in the flesh to save the flesh and spirit. It’s the restoration of true humanity. The restoration of creatures from their fallenness to their intended glory and honor as God’s creation—as they deserve.


[1] Genesis 1:26,2:15 [2] Zephaniah 3:17[3] Psalm 8:4[4] Psalm 8:5[5] Psalm 8:5-9, The Message.