Sheep and Wave-Particle Duality

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Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. Kiss his Son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Psalm 2:10-12

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Genesis 1:1-3

The presence or absence of light seems pretty simplistic. With no conscious effort, we flip light switches on and off 24/7, as needed. But light is anything but simple. In fact, the nature of light has baffled the most brilliant scientists for decades. The conundrum lies in that light exhibits two seemingly different natures simultaneously. For lack of a single term to characterize it, light is said to have “wave-particle duality.” This means that light sometimes appears to behave like a propagating energy wave (with no mass). But then change the experimental set up, and as if on a whim, light taunts the watching and waiting investigators of the natural world by acting like a particulate. Particles typically have mass, but light does not. This paradox is vexing and perplexing enough that it can’t just be ignored. Terms that once seemed quite basic…”matter,” “energy,” “particle,” “wave”…now must be continually redefined to try to make sense of it. It’s kind of a big deal because the properties of light are key to understanding the cosmos. Every equation relating to general relativity (that I can remember from college physics, anyway) includes the constant “c,” which represents “the speed of light.” Yet at the beginning of the 21st century, we still lack illumination regarding exactly what this radical radiation is like. Fascinating though…in the ancient book of Genesis, even before the Sun could be seen in Earth’s sky (vs. 14-18), light already defined universal boundaries yet to be discovered.

And then, as I’ve mentioned before, there were creatures. And among them were sheep. Sheep do not know about the boundaries of the universe. It’s my understanding that they are not really that sure about how to find grass. This said, you may be insulted to learn that God often describes his followers as sheep. No one likes the idea of being helpless and dependent, even if they are. But when the frailty of the human condition becomes unavoidably apparent at a funeral, it is Psalm 23 that is commonly read to bring comfort. A psalm written from the perspective of a sheep, albeit a well-cared-for one. It is a well-known wellspring of words that flowed from the heart of God through David, a man who guided and protected the flock in his father’s pasture long before ruling the nation of Israel.

Admittedly, however, sheep do have one innate capability: voice recognition. Though spread out over wide expanses and mixed together with other herds, they know how to gather when they hear the distinct call of their Good Shepherd. In fact, a sheep might tell you that vision is overrated, for most threats come by night. Better to stay within earshot of the One with the staff that nudges strays, but whacks predators. Lots of animals can see in the daylight, but no matter what the commotion, only ovine ears accurately identify the specific voice signature that matters.

But beyond the typical sheep of the pasture, the Holy Scriptures are replete with references to the rather mysterious, other-worldly-sounding Lamb of God. The Lamb who opened not his mouth as he was led to the slaughter. Who died in submission to the will of the Father, though he had the authority to call upon legions of angels to rescue him. The Lamb who came to dwell among other sheep, but they knew him not. But this Lamb has yet another nature. You see, under the right conditions, he is quickly recognized as a Lion. Lambs may willingly submit to injustices, but lions take charge and call the shots. And this Lion sets things right, not with a wooden staff but with an iron scepter. (Psalm 2:9) You just can’t read the Bible for too long without coming to the conclusion that the Lamb of God who was slain is also the Lion of Judah who will reign.

How can two contrasting natures impossibly coexist? Herein lies the quandary of both theologians and physicists. Examination of unfolding changes in the space-time continuum are likely to elucidate these matters for both in short order.

Copyright © 2014. The Literate Lyoness.

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Make your own tracks…Enjoy some retro reading from C.S Lewis’ “Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe”:

“Aslan is a lion–the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he–quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” 

And finally, just when you thought it was safe to listen to my music recommendations, take in some retro alternative rock tunes from AudioAdrenaline: “Mighty Good Leader” from Underdog, 1999.

A Fair and Balanced Report on the Serpent: Part 2

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Nehushtan was the Hebrew name given to the bronze serpent held up by Moses to bring healing.
Click the image for a better view.

Flip forward to the Book of Numbers, and we find snakes sneaking up on folks again. This time the entire nation of Israel is in transit, and frankly, in sin. So much sin that it’s about to come back and bite them. Literally. God sends snakes to bite them. It’s wholly unpleasant and the body count is rising. But then there is repentance, and a strange but efficacious cure is made available: look at the bronze snake on the pole and live. (Numbers 21:4-9)

I realize this is a very short snake story. Just a single paragraph in one of the least quoted books of the Bible. But as primitive and obscure as this story might seem, it foreshadows the most profound and fundamental of biblical messages. In fact, this earthly imagery prepares us for the overarching metanarrative of all Holy Scripture, and it reappears just prior to one of the most well known verses of all time:

John 3:14-17 (NIV)

14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Thousands of years later, God himself donned the skin of sinful mankind and was raised on a cross, the remedy for the malady of falleness and depravity for those who would see it. The cross was the pivot point upon which the redemption of all the world turned.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood, From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure; Save from wrath and make me pure.”

“Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress; Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Savior, or I die.”*

It now became evident that God had made a preemptive strike even before the foundation of the Earth. Though He had not created evil itself, He had created the potential for the inception of evil which stood before the world’s inhabitants in the form of a clearly visible tree with a clearly comprehensible commandment. For without at least one Law, there would have been no way to externalize what would fester within. And there could be no repentance without awareness of an infraction. (See Romans 5:12-21 for more detail.) Human beings would have then suffered the same eternal consequences of fallen angels with no recourse.

“Not the labor of my hands Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone.”*

Though mankind would indeed gain knowledge of both Good and Evil through their lost innocence, they would also potentially qualify for a benefits plan unavailable to fallen angels. A different system would be put in place this time — a system over which the more “angelic” angels would puzzle, yet rejoice. Indeed they would watch in wonder as the Holy One would reveal yet another facet of his character: that He was merciful and willing to suffer much to make his people aware of it. (Romans 11:32) For He who is incompletely comprehensible is likewise not completely incomprehensible. The glassy barrier now reflective, will one day become transparent. (I Corinthians 13:12)

So, don’t hold the whole Garden incident against the snakes in your backyard. God reclaimed and reframed this creature’s reputation by the fourth book of the Bible. At the same time, the Almighty not only crushed the true enemy’s head, but slapped him in the face as well. For ironically, Lucifer’s deceptive plot only served to advance God’s plan to enable men and women to become like Christ (1 John 3:2) — in a way, the very thing he falsely promised them in the beginning. How ’bout them apples?

*Lyrics from “Rock of Ages” by Au­gus­tus M. Top­la­dy, 1776.

Copyright © 2014. The Literate Lyoness.

trackMake your own tracks…Discuss what it means to be “shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” as Jesus commanded his disciples in Matthew 10:16

A Fair and Balanced Report on the Serpent: Part 1

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The Star of Life has become the internationally recognized logo of emergency medical personnel. Yet a snake on a rod seems like a strange symbol for healing and life-saving services. How did this sinister creature have its image so remarkably reframed?

Subtle and crafty, the serpent was to become known as Eden’s infamous interloper and Master Botanical SpinDoctor. He could execute a disinformation campaign convincingly enough to sell ice to Eskimos. Or, fruit to those who lived among fruit trees. Or, dissatisfaction to those experiencing the highest quality-of-life index. He ever so carefully sowed seeds of doubt  using false reasoning and half-truths, drawing Adam and Eve into whimsical delusions of grandeur while simultaneously arousing undue suspicion toward their loving Benefactor.

“Why be satisfied with what you have, when you could be obsessed with what you don’t have?”

“Why enjoy communion with the God of the universe when you could be just like him all on your own?”

Not only did his message effectively stimulate discontent, but the messenger himself was probably quite convincing. Adam and Eve had been tasked with managing the Garden, which included naming the animals that dwelt alongside them. They probably called various creatures to themselves, just as we call to our household pets of today. But this one…he addressed them. He seemed more “evolved” than the others. He could speak. He could reason. And how could he possibly know about the singular prohibition that God had given them? If this animal had found a way to become human-like, then he might actually know the secret of how humans could become God-like. A credible, yet ultimately flawed, conjecture.

So serpentine whispers sown in the wind would reap curious thoughts. Curious thoughts would reap self-aggrandizing temptation. Temptation would finally reap an infraction of the only Law in existence at that time. And, the infraction of that Law would reap a whirlwind that would wreak havoc for millennia to come.

In the short term, however, the beguiled and busted humans were immediately demoted from management to labor positions: manual labor for the man and birthing labor for the woman. And they were cast out of the Garden. As the old saying goes, “Sin takes further than you want to go, keeps you longer than you want to stay, and makes you pay more than you want to pay.” And sadly, sin also has corporate effect. Adam and Eve would not suffer its ill effects alone. The impact of this single act would reverberate throughout the ages and throughout the Creation. What started subtly would not end subtly.

So what was up with this rotten serpent? And why didn’t the Garden Manager (Adam) just smash in his slimy head with a garden hoe right from the beginning?

It all makes more sense if you are familiar with the prequel. This particular serpent was being innervated by a more malevolent being, unlike any ever encountered before by man or beast on Earth. In another time and place, Lucifer had thought himself equal with God. He had gathered a minority contingent of other angelic beings who ultimately failed in their attempts to usurp the power and authority of the Almighty. The consequences were disastrous. They become outcasts from heaven a.k.a fallen angels, a.k.a devils or demons. But Lucifer was as much a victim of faulty thinking patterns as he was a purveyor of them. He conceived that he might still emerge victorious somehow. Maybe a change of venue, maybe a change in species. After all, if you can’t get to Superman, you go after Lois Lane. Right?

trackMake your own tracks…Check out Genesis Chapters 2-3 to read about the initial interaction of mankind with the serpent. Isaiah 14:12-14, Revelation 12:7-9, and Jude 1:6 provide some good material regarding the prequel story. Stay tuned. Next week, the snake is going to make a comeback.

Birds of the Air

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Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible waxes eloquent regarding this biblical scene and provides material far superior to my post. You can click the image to see a far superior icon.

Among Time Magazine’s Top 10 Most Heroic Animals we find a little homing pigeon called Cher Ami. This unlikely conscript saved the lives of nearly 200 American soldiers of the 77th Division’s “Lost Battalion” in France during World War 1. After being shot to the ground, this little bird took flight once again to deliver the critical message that dangled from his bullet-pierced, little leg (that eventually had to be amputated).

Mere pedestrians have long deemed their bipedal experience as merely pedestrian* and coveted the ability to soar. And one can only marvel at the hummingbird’s specialized hovering capabilities. Orville Wright stated that “learning the secret of flight from a bird was a good deal like learning the secret of magic from a magician.” Effortlessly and unknowingly, these tiny creatures employ the laws of physics to incite wonder in the minds of even the most brilliant engineers.

In the Holy Scriptures, we find birds serving in unique capacities due to their much desired gifting. Perhaps they were Cher Ami’s avian ancestors that served as divine couriers to Elijah. The mighty prophet who could invoke fire to fall from heaven (1 King’s 18:37-38) or conversely request that rain cease to fall (James 5:17) with a single prayer from his lips was required to passively sit and await the arrival of his daily bread brought to him by ravens. In Matthew 6:26 we find that birds are exemplary in their reliance upon God for provision, so it appears they were just passing the lesson along.

In “The Art of War,” Chinese military general and philosopher Sun Tzu (~544–496 BC) observed that “birds rising in flight [are] a sign that the enemy is lying in ambush.”  We also find cases of strategic birdwatching in the Bible. Though the historical characters of scripture could not fly, much could be inferred from a “bird’s-eye view.” While adrift on water as far as the human eye could see, Noah deployed a raven and a dove on surveillance and reconnaissance missions to determine if dry land and vegetation had resurfaced. (Genesis 8) Just as birds were used to indicate hope of a new Earth in Noah’s day, they likewise were utilized by Jesus to symbolically describe another time of renewed hope following worldwide calamity as described in Matthew 24:26-30: “Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.” (v. 28) In context, this passage simply indicates that one will not need to travel around looking for Christ’s return; His re-entry will be evident to all who simply look up (Luke 21:28). Perhaps he chose this more ominous bird to foreshadow the ultimate renewal of all things because His appearing will transpire in the midst of great turmoil and wrath. I’m open to hearing other possible explanations.

Doves, ravens, and even vultures get biblical press, but it is probably the sparrow that is most frequently referenced in both Christian sermon and song. Why so many “religious retweets”** regarding sparrows? Because of this encouraging contrast found in Luke 12:6-7:

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

As it turns out, we are the creatures to be envied after all.

*Yep. Pun intended.
**Agreed. That one was awful.

Copyright © 2014. The Literate Lyoness.

trackMake your own tracks...Research the many references to birds in the Bible. What does God tell us about himself through them?