Posts Tagged ‘Why?!’

Early in 2001 my father passed on to the next life after a slow decline resulting from many and various ailments. I believe that it was a grace that he passed without knowing of 9/11. He fought in WWII receiving a bullet and multiple pieces of shrapnel near the German border. Every 4th of July he would hang a copy of the Declaration of Independence and an American flag on the living room mantle. As the years went on he added more evidence of his love of America and its freedoms, things like a small Statue of Liberty. I used to think how much the world changed during his lifetime. Afterall, TV had not been invented when he was born in 1922. Polio was a major killer; the War to End All Wars was a fresh scar; the roaring twenties had not succumbed to the Great Depression. During my formative years airplanes, bridges, skyscrappers, atomic energy, and space travel were among the top of the list of items and ideas that he talked about and learned about and visited. How the space race had resulted in a handheld calculator was amazing to him. The world had changed so much in one lifetime.

Now we hear that the world was forever changed by 9/11. In one sense, of course it was! We collectively look over our shoulder as a nation, wondering when or if it will happen again. But did it really change the world? Hasn’t every generation had at least one event that so penetrated the minds and hearts of the populace such that each person knows where they were when it happened? If you are old enough, do you remember where you were when JFK was assassinated? For my father’s generation the event that riveted their attention was Pearl Harbor. News traveled much slower the further back you go but there were terrors and plagues and perplexities for centuries. In 79 A.D. when Pliny the Younger described the flaming bombs of Vesuvius sinking ships in the harbor off Herculaneum while Pompeii was covered in noxious gases and pyroclastic flows, the world must have seemed to be at an end.

Do I attempt to diminish the severity and pain of 9/11? Do I not see the ways in which it changed how we do freedom in our land? By no means. But the cause of terror and pain has not changed. Because of sin there is stark evil and natural disaster in the world as there has been since the Fall of Adam. These adversities should call us as a nation back to God. We deteriorate; our nation’s demise is at hand, yet we see 9/11 and Antietam and Hurricane Katrina and Pearl Harbor as totally disconnected from our spiritual condition and God’s call to repent. Evil exists in the world because there have been and are evil people in the world. We must confront the evil in ourselves so that our enemies have no excuse for their evil acts against us and we have no compunction about attacking it when it comes.

I remember where I was on 9/11, watching the screen in my classroom as the first building hit earlier was burning and as the subsequent one was hit and the towers collapsed and students came into my room who wanted someone to make sense out of the chaos. In those first moments during my planning period before that screen I prayed that God would have mercy upon us as a nation. In many respects He has and He is but we must cry for it and act in ways commensurate with receiving mercy now more than ever because we drone on in our mundane, garden variety evils as if 9/11 never happened. God have mercy on us!

The world has changed but not so much.

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In one sense we are a society full of skeptics and well we might be since we have many and conflicting sound bites and philosophies foisted upon us with very little solid truth. Some think that the solution to this dilemma is to operate fully on the relational side and not hassle with truth claims and others think the solution is to come up with your own truth. Neither of these approaches leads to truth, however, because one avoids it and the other is self-contradictory. So where is a person to go to ask hard questions? Civil public discussion is one good source. Not intended to be truth by majority rule but rather a gentle airing of views and questions, it is a good way to open up conversation about truth. Recently at our nearby community college such an open discussion was begun. Prem Isaac of Southern Evangelical Seminary presented a clear, engaging rendition of the Cosmological and Teleological Arguments for the existence of God. Several audience members challenged details of the arguments presented to Mr. Isaac and three of his colleagues on a Q&A panel. One person asked, “Why does the Law of Causality not apply to God?” The answer was given that “Who made God?” is a category mistake, that is to say, saying God is created means He is not God. If we retreat to infinite regression, namely that god was created and then who created god and who created that god and so on, then we have not really answered the question. But the cosmological argument logically presents an answer in that everything that has a beginning has a cause. Science and religion both posit that the Universe had a beginning, therefore, it has a first cause, and since that cause is not part of the effect, namely the Universe, that first cause must be wholly different from the effect. That First Cause is God. What if the Universe had no beginning? The question was couched in more complicated terms, “How about the quantum correction and the suggestion that the universe had no beginning?” The answer was proposed that many math problems produce imaginary numbers. Mere pure math solutions to problems have no real world antecedent. I think that it is reasonable to add that General Relativity and Quantum Theory have existed in tandem for 90+ years now. Both have significant experimental evidence for their validity and yet both contradict each other. Mostly this contradiction seems to be because they evaluate similar situations in different ways, but when they evaluate the same thing in the same way they still contradict each other. Obviously, one or both theories need to be revised to come into line with reality. So how do you use mutually contradictory theories to judge God’s existence, theories that are by their empirical nature limited in what they can evaluate? And this brings me to the last question asked at that meeting, “How scientifically do we account for six days?” My answer is we do not account for six literal days scientifically just as the Big Bang theorists do not actually account for the singularity scientifically. God has revealed that He created all that physically is in six days; we accept that. Then we show by scientific evidence that there is nothing in the world that contradicts that idea. The Big Bang theorist posits a singularity, described as a point, wherein space and time do not exist and all the laws of Physics cannot apply. Then he inserts an “inflationary period” after the Big Bang to get the universe up to speed, so to speak, which cannot be evaluated with physical rules because it obeys none we know, all so the universe can look something like what we now observe. The background radiation was supposed to have been the confirmation of the inflationary period, and even though the observers recently denied the validity of the results, it could never prove that period apart from the presuppositions of the theory. The theorist further injects continuous acceleration of the expansion of the universe without cause, that is, net force to accelerate it. In other words, Big Bang theorists rely on “blind faith” of which they accuse the Creationists. Creationists, however, rely on the Word of an All Powerful, Intelligent Designer, who has given much evidence of being reliable. Civil, public conversation must be polite but it can pull no punches if it is to be constructive and pursue what is true. If you see the truth of this statement, I invite you to enter into just such conversation with a Creationist.

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For those of you who understand, this is the season for poems, when the moments of musing through many days ooze out during hours of forced repose. Here is the most recent that hearkens back to Spring’s delights:

Life begin
  and again
When Spring sprung
  and birds sung
Blooms no lack
  eggs will crack
Life renewed
  beauty viewed
Why this show?
  ebb and flow?
Could it be
  God’s plan see?
Life from death
  Christ’s last breath
Rose again
  life begin

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The New Year started with quite a jolt
Not yet awakened to the day were we
When lesser mind from greater did molt
And confusion reigned as up went our plea
Fears and regrets won much of the day
Consequences realized and unforeseen
Extend forward in what we must pay
In tears and stress and oft puzzling scene
Week by week understanding more words
Paying bills on a month to month basis
Each day try words that curdle like curds
Prayer moments that connection retraces
God ordained all from start to finish
For His glory and our good He has planned
His provision and presence relish
From hard changes peaceful righteousness gained

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The first poem I wrote this past week is the last one I am posting because I had to reflect on its content abit. It could so easily be seen as insensitive, or premature, but I consider it neither. I think it is just honest in a constructive kind of way. We have questions; we should voice them and find answers rather than silently or violently remaining agnostic about what is real and true. I offer this poem as a balm to many hurting loved ones who are truly asking. The eleven year old girl who died of leukemia and provoked my mind to write it has God’s best as I understand because she accepted God’s solution:

A purpose in life to glorify God
To enjoy His gifts, obey His commands
Accept hardships and the correcting rod
Challenge potential and all life’s demands

What’s the way forward when we’ve lost such life?
Then come tears and doubts and questions abound
Mind and heart struggle with internal strife
About ultimate issues, life profound

How is God good when there is so much bad?
God’s not the author of evil and wrong
Man disobeys, consequences are sad
Overtaking the ‘innocent’ and strong

God provides a way to overcome death
To have peace with Him and eternal rest
Bought by His Son, finished at His last breath
Now and forever have life and God’s best

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“It is not amazing that God answers prayer; it is amazing we pray so little.”

‘How can you say it’s not amazing that God answers prayer?’ Don’t misunderstand the statement because I do believe it is amazing how He answers prayer. For in pulling off an answer to prayer God must at least redirect the course of God ordained natural forces or the intentions of wills predisposed to wrong. At most He must suspend the rules He has laid down for nature so that they begin running immediately in a new course or give tangible manifestation to spiritual reality. In any circumstance you can name where prayer is answered the supernatural impinges on the natural to bring about God’s purpose with full consideration and at least partial affirmation and completion of the request. All together how prayer is answered demonstrates God’s great power and unending knowledge. How that happens is amazing and wonderful. But that He would answer prayer is not. Answered prayer matches well His character of kindness, mercy, grace, personal involvement in His creation, and goodness. 

But why do we pray so little? Our skeptical, mocking society has largely silenced our praise to God for answered prayer. For one thing they nay say any testimony that challenges their naturalistic presuppositions. ‘That can’t happen; you can’t prove the supernatural.’ Of course you can’t if the only evidence you allow is natural or has a natural explanation. So we Christians back off from saying the truth under the pressure of skeptical mockery. Merely natural explanations, however,  fall short on too many accounts at explaining all that we observe. But our praise to God for answered prayer is silenced for a far more serious reason. Despite the abundant Scriptural evidence to God’s willingness, ability, and examples of answered prayer; the abundant historical evidence (George Mueller very notably); God’s good sustaining grace in our own lives, we pray far too little. We must not believe He will answer. He has many times for me in witnessing opportunities,  financial needs, serious health issues, relational difficulties, bewilderment and discouragement, weather, direction, help for missionaries and witnessing friends. Why do I pray so little? “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives so that you may spend it on your pleasures…” (James 4:2-3) Perhaps a better question is… What is preventing me now? A big and glorious God answers big and God-glorifying prayers! Lord, work in my life so that I pray more and more intensely!

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When I was a child my father owned a National Geographic book about… well, I don’t exactly remember. However, I do remember the inside cover painting, one similar to the one below, though linear. It also based its unit of measure on the height of man, a markedly humanistic approach which at least has merit because it compares all else to something we know.  Notice that the exponents range from a mere -15 to 25 and yet this nearly emcompasses the entire known range of size in the universe (the universe is above 10^25 and elementary particles or strings (Do they have dimensions?) are below 10^-15).

Source: http://www.astrobio.nau.edu/~koerner/ast180/lectures/pic/cdrom/art_low-res/es01/figure-I-03.jpg

I loved numbers and making connections so this painting was the source of contemplation and imagination for many hours. I liked the idea of numbers and size relationships so much that one time while carrying English ivy that my father was trimming along the driveway, I asked him what the largest number was.  He replied that it was similar to an eight turned on its side. I didn’t figure out for years that this was the infinity symbol (∞). Sometime near the end of elementary school I decided to write my numbers as high as possible. Was I trying to write to infinity, or some highest number, or just a very big number? I have no idea, but frequently the young are too idealist to notice the possible failure rate of poorly laid plans. I also know that author John Piper says he believes we are drawn to bigness in its various forms because we are made in God’s image with an ability and afinity for seeing the beauty of God which we cannot clearly see at the moment. At any rate (or perhaps a specified rate within limits of one factor of ten) I had one of the old large rule writing tablets with dotted lines for teaching beginners to write their letters. I would write each number interval of 100 on a page. I don’t now know where I stopped but I do remember it was over 10,000.  Obviously these antedotes mean that I was (am?) silly, but they also partially introduce why I think “order of magnitude” thinking is important and partly explain how I know it is largely missing in education. When students crunch numbers on calculators they mindlessly accept what number it spits out not considering that perhaps they put in inappropriate numbers or incorrect key strokes. You may not immediately know what 1,549,000 times 361 equals but you should be able to know that 55,918,900,000 is not the answer by inspection because it is two orders of magnitude (100x) too large. You may not know a comparison between miles per hour and meters per second but if I tell you that a person walks at 1.5 meters per second you should be able to tell that any normal car is not likely to be traveling at 150 meters per second (unless transported to a war zone in a C-5A perhaps). If this rambling of childhood memories in any way spurs you on to consider at all or again powers of ten or orders of magnitude I have included a fun link that is useful for imparting the concept as well as firing the imagination. Enjoy it and share it with some young person who needs an introduction to magnitude so that their future answers might at least be in the ballpark.

 http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/scienceopticsu/powersof10/     (As I understand it I may not link this site for copyright reasons but you may go to the site by copying and pasting it into your address line. Enjoy!)

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