God and the u-bit

Science on the brain, today…

Tonight, Ken Ham of the Creation Museum just south of us in Kentucky and Bill Nye of “The Science Guy” fame will debate the question “Is creation a viable model of origins?” I had hoped to get tickets, but given that they sold out in two hours, that wasn’t going to happen. However, it is apparently going to be broadcast live (sign up at debatelive.org, where I think it will be broadcast), so I will watch if I can.

I don’t think the truth of “origins” will come out in the debate — I subscribe to an old earth but a young mankind, created at the re-creation of the earth, which neither men subscribe to. Ken Ham is a Young Earther and Bill Nye is an Evolutionist, so I think both miss the boat. And I should add: I’m open to learning I’ve missed the boat, as well. Since I can’t swim, successfully making it to the boat is important to me. However, the Old Earth/Young Mankind model is the best I’ve seen so far in reconciling all the data as thoroughly as possible while leaving open vast possibilities for new details to be discovered, and I am glad that is what we teach. Actually, some of the first few posts I made on this blog were about such things, now that I think about it. Here they are, in all their ignomin… er, I mean glory:

But I am still interested in the debate. I am also interested in how they conduct themselves. The inability of some to discuss/debate such matters with civility is irritating. Christian apologist William Lane Craig always impresses me with his ability to be respectful and courteous, even under harsh conditions (such as the first few “discussions” with physicist Lawrence Krauss in Australia, recently). I’m curious to see, given the formal structure of the debate, if Ham and Nye are able to keep the discussion respectful and courteous — and ditto for the audience.

20140125But that’s actually not what I was going to write about! (Editorial Department at TW: I appreciate you!) I was reading in New Scientist this past week about the u-bit, a theorized entity in one particular maverick strain of quantum mechanics. New Scientist loves sensational cover blurbs (and they are pretty good at writing them), and the u-bit was the cover story, with this tease: “To make quantum theory real, we must create the most powerful entity in the universe.” Great tease, huh?

The article is worth a read for those who can stomach science content. I think its a good one. Here is a link–“From i to u: Searching for the quantum master bit”–but you might need to register to read the whole article (since I have a subscription, I don’t always see “please register” pages). Here is a (poorly condensed) summary of the idea…

Quantum mechanics–one of the most successful-yet-counterintuitive scientific theories in history–relies on the presence of poorly named “imaginary numbers.” I have discussed these on the blog before (see “About that equation…”), but to put it very briefly: an imaginary number is one that produces a negative number when you square it (that is, multiply it by itself). When you square positive real numbers or negative real numbers, the result is always a positive number (since “a negative times a negative is a positive”–the old rule from your school days, proven to be true here). So, since all “real” numbers are never negative when you square them, any numbers that would be negative when you square them must be “not real”–or imaginary. So, we have the number i, where  = -1 just like 1² = 1.

Because they aren’t like the “regular” real numbers, many people assume that the imaginary numbers are just that: purely imaginary entities. However, we discover their presence in many applications and physical theories in our very real universe. As the New Scientist article describes: “In geometry they appear in trigonometric equations, and in physics they provide a neat way to describe rotations and oscillations. Electrical engineers use them routinely in designing alternating-current circuits, and they are handy for describing light and sound waves, too.”

Still, there has been something dissatisfying to many in their use in quantum mechanics–the currently reigning King of the Theories in describing physical reality–and in calculating its related and ubiquitous (and highly confirmed by experimental evidence) probabilities. Consequently, some have undertaking the challenge of recasting quantum mechanics in a form that uses only real numbers and has no imaginary number component whatsoever. Apparently there hasn’t been much success–coming close, but still needing the existence of something to “play the role of the imaginary unit.”

The theory that Dr. Bill Wooters and his students Antoniya Aleksandrova and Victoria Borish have come up with dispenses with the need of the imaginary unit, but only works if one hypothesizes the existence of the u-bit. The u-bit would be some element of reality that, in some way, is entangled with every other bit of information about every other particle, wave, field, etc. in all of existence. Mathematically, it would be represented by a two-dimensional vector, which is probably what gives it the ability to replace the imaginary numbers, since combinations of imaginary and real numbers, called complex numbers, are two-dimensional numbers by nature. But physically, the theorists have no idea what in the world the u-bit would actually be. Their theory only says that whatever it is, if it exists, it is rotating very at a great rate. (What sort of science is this where the only thing you can discover about an entity’s existence is how fast it must be spinning? Welcome to theoretical physics! 🙂 ) And, as the article describes, this entity could successfully act as an “omnipresent conduit of information” tying all things together.

Dr. Wooten’s speciality is in the information side of quantum mechanics, and that clearly influences the theory.

One familiar with the Psalms may not be able to help himself from recalling Psalm 139:7-12,

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.”

The idea of information being at all times and from all places available to an omniscient and omnipresent God seems like an idea of pure theology. Yet, here we have a purely physical theory of the universe that involves a theoretical artifact that smacks of the same sort of omniscience and omnipresence.

A lot of truth in this comic…

That doesn’t mean that the u-bit, in fact, exists. Hardly! Drawing that conclusion so quickly would be both bad science and bad Bible study. 🙂 Let the experiments be designed! Let the searching begin! Frankly, I think the odds are not in the u-bit’s favor, though I’m open to discovering I’m wrong–actually, I would be delighted to discover I’m wrong. And if it is found to be real–whatever it actually is–I’m not saying that we would have somehow discovered physical evidence of God’s Spirit in the universe. There be dragons in such thinking, unless there were to be powerful cause to conclude such (and it is hard to imagine cause powerful enough to dogmatically conclude such a thing). Yet, it is still fascinating! Knowing that there is a spirit in man and that, yet, his mind represents–as best we understand it–the union of a physical brain with the human spirit, I’ve often wondered how that interaction occurs–how it actually takes place. The ideas of Roger Penrose and others about the quantum-level dymanics that must exist in the brain, with Heisenberg uncertainties, wave function collapses, etc., and their possible relationship to consciousness and free will have always been a fascinating possibility in my opinion for enabling the spirit/brain interface, but, still, who knows? I won’t pretend to. And the possible existence of an entity, the u-bit, that is entangled with every single bit of information in the entire universe? As New Scientist describes it, “interacts with everything else in reality, dictating its quantum behavior”? OK–that is fascinating.

And the potential theological flavor of such an entity, of course, would make some nervous. Let me discuss that last…

New Scientist, which is sometimes rather assertive in it’s proactively anti-God stance, anticipates thoughts such as those above and tries a preventative measure in the early part of their magazine, where they publish editorial/promotional introductory essays about the current issue (p.5 in the print edition). In a small section (a couple of paragraphs) titled, “The u-bit may be omniscient, but it’s no God particle” (the print edition simply titles it “Not the God particle”), they write:

“Now we have an entity more befitting of the title [God particle]: the omniscient, omnipresent and unseen ‘u-bit’… Some will pounce on the fact that science needs such an entity to explain the universe. But the existence of a u-bit would be no more profound than the existence of natural laws. Let’s leave God out of it this time.”

There’s a lot of worldview packed into that statement, but to unpack just one element, “leaving God out of it,” here, is what some scientists would like to be done but which simply cannot be done–not completely. And scientists’ commitment to such a sentiment has clouded their judgment, before. The idea of a universe with a beginning was long fought against primarily because it had positive theological undertones–frankly, more than undertones, but outright theological implications. The idea that some get physicists get upset when people see theological implications in their work seems all the more weird when, in cases like the Big Bang theory, it was their own aversion to theological implications that delayed their own acceptance of a theory now taken as common understanding. Do they fault the public for noticing the same things they did–theological implications–or for not sharing the same distaste for those implications?

Of course, the theological biases of the past shouldn’t be held against the scientists of the present (unless they reproduce then), and major contextual ideas shouldn’t be overturned on a fad. And, frankly, I sympathize with the sentiment of some scientists who worry that the statement “God did it” will cut off scientific research. Understood wrongly, I see how it can do exactly that.

For instance, if we discovered a Big Bang was the beginning of it all and claim “God did it,” what more would we fail to learn? Should those scientists currently exploring what may have prompted the Big Bang or preceded it simply stop their research? Is there no more to learn beyond that? I guess what I am saying is that it would be a shame if the statement “God did it” was a means of cutting off study and research into “How God did it.” Does that make sense?

For instance, consider gravity. If we simply looked at the planets and saw them orbiting the sun in such a wonderful order according to beautiful laws, and then we–rightly–gave God credit for what we saw, knowing that the “ordinances of the heavens” (Job 38:33) bring Him glory, should we stop there with the understanding that “God did it”? Isn’t a natural desire to what to continue to learn, if possible, how He does it? Is gravity simply communicated by a particle, like the graviton, or is it a field? Is the idea of gravity as a distortion of the fabric of space-time the best way to look at it? I believe there is much wonder to be seen in continuing the process of discovery–that is, if anything, knowing that God did it should drive us all the more to explore it and learn about it, knowing that the works of His hands are truly worthy objects of our attentions. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter” (Proverbs 25:2). When we explore such things–strive to understand them more fully–aren’t we participating in the glory of kings? Isn’t the knowledge that “God did it” terribly motivating?

For another example, consider instinct. We marvel at the way animals make vast migrations having never been taught the way, how salmon return to spawning grounds to which they have no map, and how a vast amount of living information is transmitted from generation to generation in the animal kingdom through instinct. Yet, we still do not have a grasp on how this works. As someone once said, “instinct” is a good example of how we can give something a name and, by doing so, think that we understand it when, in reality, we haven’t a clue. Clearly, we’re seeing a wonderful element of design in God’s Creation when we see instinct in action, yet is that the end of the exploration? Is there no reason to explore further to see how instinct works? Recognizing that “God did it” should not be the end of exploration and experimentation–it should motivate us to wonder how He did it, and how it works.

Science is a noble practice, and just because some do it without a full understanding of the truth is no reason to beat up on them so. To be sure, I fault many of them for being willingly blind to the implications of their discoveries (he says, knowing he has many faults of his own). As I have said before, it is a human endeavor and thus suffers from human faults. Yet, at the same time, it is a marvelous pursuit. And scientists don’t have to fear the statement “God did it” if it is a spur to further investigation as opposed to and end to all questions.

I really have no dog in the hunt when it comes to the u-bit. I am comfortable in accepting the imaginary numbers and complex numbers as denizens of our very real world if they are needed. As I’ve mentioned, my favorite equation has i as part of its beating heart. But I am also fascinated at the possibility of discovering some additional element in the universe that may rid quantum mechanics of the need for them while displaying such fascinating qualities, knowing that the spirit realm and the physical realm must interact in some way. Is there such a thing as the u-bit? I have no idea whatsoever. But whether its for very real prey or very imaginary snipes, I am enjoying the hunt.

And, regardless of however irritated the editors of New Scientist may become, let’s not leave God out of it.

Finding God in Geometry Class

There's a reason I named my first car "Euclid" (Frankly, since Euler is pronounced "Oiler", it seemed a confusing option...)
There’s a reason I named my first car Euclid (Frankly, since Euler is pronounced “Oiler”, it seemed a potentially confusing option as a name for a car…)

This post deserves to be much longer and deeper than it will be, but I’m still going to post it while I have this brief opportunity.

Plato once said, “Geometry aims at the eternal.” For me, this statement was very true as a 9th grade geometry student in high school, except that it is missing a capitalization: “Geometry aims at the Eternal.”

That was an important year for me. While the years leading up to it and those immediately following it were certainly important as well, including the manner in which they complemented my 9th grade year, but that particular year saw my introduction to high school geometry. I had been a good math student, though not the self-starter I should have been, I believe. (Bad memory from 7th or 8th grade there–can’t remember which.) And I enjoyed math to a certain extent, I think. I remember in Algebra I class in Middle School finishing my work early and being allowed by the teacher to peruse some of the books on her shelf. The books were beyond me, to be sure, but the symbols I discovered there fascinated me and introduced me to the concept of mathematics as a language. I think it was the moment that I moved into a real interest in the subject, though not to the extent this would be true later.

But it was the next year–in Geometry class with Mrs. Paula Russell–that things really changed. I’m not sure if it is still as prominent today (this was before “Informal Geometry” had really caught on), but proofs were still a HUGE part of high school geometry work: assuming postulates, proving theorems, etc.

Seeing a mathematics based on clearly defined assumptions, using those to prove theorems–more complicated and less obvious statements–and then building on those theorems to prove other theorems, etc. was something transformative for me. Though mathematical points, lines, and planes were abstractions and not truly real world objects, it felt as if I were in a completely new universe with new objects to play with and examine. Yet, it wasn’t that it was a new universe that was somehow unrelated to our own. Quite the contrary: It seemed a deeper universe–something more fundamental, on which our own universe was built. A bright, glorious, beautiful place, where the pillars of reality might be seen and touched and felt in some magical way.

I had always been a “science kid” as far back as I can remember, and the idea that we live in a universe that could be mathematically described was not new. But the fact that this is an extraordinary reality about the world had not struck me, perhaps because I didn’t yet see mathematics unshackled from its applications. I don’t know. But I saw it unshackled in Geometry class. For the first time, I saw a truth such as this one I quoted from Clifford A. Pickover on Twitter yesterday:

I felt, perhaps for the first time, that I was sitting at God’s desk and looking at instruments unique to His own work. There seemed something eternal about it, as if those of us in class were simply exploring a place that, for all intents and purposes, had always existed in a way that the physical world around us simply hasn’t. A infinite place that was both workspace and playground. And there was something glorious about it.

These words and descriptions certainly didn’t come to mind back then, but the sentiment was there. And it came at an important time for me, in which my religious sentiments were undergoing a transformation, as well, and I do believe that this class played an active role in that transformation. That such ethereal objects as points, lines, and planes–postulates and theorems and proofs–could be made so very nearly tangible to me, added a tangible sense to God and His realm and thoughts to me, as well. The order in His Creation became so much more real to me that year. Well, that’s not quite right. Rather, my awareness of the reality of order seemed to change in nature a bit. I had known it was there (my science books had always emphasized that), but the fact of its presence became a startling thing–something wondrous and mysterious and not to be taken for granted.

To take things up to a melodramatic level (and I will take them back down in a moment), it reminds me of Job’s statement in chapter 42. It was not that before his trials Job did not know God–I dare say that even then he likely knew God more fully than virtually anyone reading this blog post could claim. Yet, through the trials and God’s lesson at the end of them, he makes the remarkable statement:

“I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know… I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” (v.3 & v.5)

Geometry class certainly did not propel me to such an understanding as Job surely had! Wow, would that be a pretentious claim. 🙂 But, it did have that sort of clarifying and enriching effect on me. The God I knew after that class was richer in detail, fuller in substance, larger in scope, and more different in kind. It’s not a coincidence to me that my 9th grade year was the year God seemed to accelerate His calling in me. It has always been a benchmark year in my life.

These thoughts have been on my mind recently, as I’ve been examining my relationship with numbers — moving from seeing them in a platonic “numbers are real” sort of sense to something else — and, thus, with mathematics, too.

And it highlights the role good teachers play, especially in mathematics. I was blessed with Mrs. Russell. In the hands of a lesser teacher, perhaps I would have been distracted by various “school dynamics” and not been free to really discover what an amazing subject I was studying. I guess I can’t know for certain, but regardless — having Mrs. Russell as my teacher was a very good thing, and I will always be grateful.

Beyond that, I think I will just say that you never know what God may use in your life to help you see Him more fully. For me, He showed up in my Geometry class, and my life has been different ever since.

2013 in review

Wow — 2013 has flown by like nobody’s business! I cannot recall ever feeling like a year went by so fast as I feel this year.

For my own sake, I thought I would put together a few thoughts about the Roman year that is now passing. It has been a crazy 365 days, though it hasn’t necessarily been an unpredictable craziness…

The United States continues to broadcast its incompetence. As explained by a WSJ opinion piece today, the new president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, has “out-leadershipped” virtually every U.S. leader over the last year by actually making his country work and work better, addressing actual problems. Meanwhile, we keep applying new band aids on top of old band aids and our symptoms are beginning to multiply. “Dysfunctional” hardly seems like a sufficient word for what we have seen in our government over the course of 2013 (certainly a far cry from my fantasy Obama acceptance speech). Our debt continues to be nauseating, our military frustrated, our credibility in the world fatally compromised, and our morality continuing down the toilet.

On that last point, as Yahoo! News noted (hat tip to SW!) 2013 was, according to the so-called Human Rights Campaign, the “gayest year in gay history.” What we have witnessed in terms of cultural collapse and moral change in 2013 has been breathtaking in its speed. But, as I have tried to say before, the changes we see in the state of “marriage” are not the problem as much as they are the symptom. If marriage had remained a sacred and honored institution and if sexual activity had continued to be seen as something belonging within the domain of marriage, none of this would be happening. Admittedly, it is a symptom that the disease is in its final stages, but it is merely a symptom. We’ve only gotten to these final stages here in 2013 because all previous symptoms were willfully ignored.

(That said, the signs of our cultural rot in the U.S.A. are too many for me to even want to list here, as I would love to move on. Let me only add here in parentheses that it would be wonderful if 2014 involved no news items that contained the word “twerk.” That would be great.)

On the world scene, the changes and challenges have also been breathtaking. The Eurozone survived the predictions of many that it would crumble. The Middle East, Egypt and Syria in particular, continues to be scrambled up in a manner that will eventually enable a King of the South. Not to ignore other countries in the area: In 2013, Iraq experienced its deadliest year since 2008 and Iran got a big, wet, kiss on the lips by the U.S. and its buddies. The world continues to become configured in a manner consistent with the picture the Bible paints of the End Times.

And stepping into that world scene is a pope like none that world has seen for quite some time. Taking on the name “Francis I” which suggests that he is of a mind to reform, he has begun to do that — attempting to reform both the Roman Catholic Church’s image and its institutions. In addressing its image, many homosexuals and abortionists were encouraged by his comments that such topics dominate too much of the RCC’s dialogues and that it should focus on other things. What he did not say, of course, is that the positions and doctrines of the RCC were actually going to be changed in such matters — something that those who actually pay attention were sure to notice. Still, by focusing on projecting an image of humility and outgoing concern for the impoverished and the unheard, Pope Francis is creating the sort of picture that better matches the RCC’s talk and is reforming its image in a way that few could have imagined before 2013. The news speaks of record numbers of young, intelligent, educated women choosing the “calling” of the nunnery, and even many atheists are singing his praises, with one woman tweeting, “I’m an atheist, but the more I hear about Pope Francis, the more I like him.” Her opinion is not an isolated one, and I have read of many atheists considering giving the RCC another chance at winning their hearts–perhaps loosening the grip that Richard Dawkins, et al., have had on their minds.

Whether or not he is the last one and whether or not his honeymoon with the world continues unabated in 2014, the pope that the RCC received in 2013 is a game changer. It was a remarkable event of the past year with ramifications that will continue to be felt for much longer.

Concerning the Work of God, 2013 was an incredible year, with some of the most dramatic changes I have seen since I have had the privilege to be a part of it in this way! The Tomorrow’s World studio has been transformed, we’ve grown from a one-camera operation to three (including a jib), our graphics and planning for each program are being taken to a new level, the magazine underwent a powerful redesign, and our online presence has exploded through social networks at an almost frightening rate. The new TW Short videos are being viewed by tens and even hundreds of thousands of people at a time and are bringing thousands of additional people to our booklets and materials. Individuals all across the northern hemisphere are hearing the Tomorrow’s World program being broadcast in Russian for the first time. Dr. Roderick Meredith’s live Tomorrow’s World presentations online rocked, and, in my personal experience, the number of people who responded to the local TW presentations were greater than I had ever seen. And all of this (and so much more) just represents 2013! It doesn’t include any of the many things on the horizon just waiting for the trigger to be pulled. As far as I am concerned, this really is perhaps the most exciting time to be a part of the Work of God that I have ever experienced, in which it seems so blatantly obvious to those with eyes to see that His own hands are at work in the Church’s efforts.

Concerning those related to COGdom but outside the borders of God’s Work, if you will, in 2013 the rumormongers continued rumormongering, the self-appointed grew in number (as they always do), and the weird fantasies continued to multiply. Someone claimed to see in the Bible that Mr. Meredith would die this past year. And while it isn’t exactly the boldest prediction in the world that a man in his mid-80s would die, it, of course, flopped. Weird stories and predictions about the Church and its leaders crafted by various heretics and apostle-wannabes that were provably complete delusional fantasies did not pan out, as usual. Some folks here and there on the Internet finally acted on personal ambitions and self-delusions they have held for years. The earth kept spinning. The moon continued to orbit the earth. Boasters kept boasting. Accusers kept accusing. In those ways, 2013 was just another day in the office, as it has been for 2000 years. 🙂

Personally, it was a joy to serve my congregations in 2013. We grew, with a number of additions from those who have seen the telecast, received our literature, responded to the local presentations, and impressed with friends and loved ones who are in the Church. Frankly, I’ve never been involved in so many baptism counselings simultaneously, and it looks as though our Passover halls will happily be a bit more crowded! Growth aside, it is a privilege to get to serve so many wonderful people in this area, and I appreciate so much their patience with me. My family and I are so happy to make our home here.

Speaking of home, 2013 was quite a year on the home front! It was the first full year that my wonderful father- and mother-in-law have loved here, which has been such a blessing. It also was the year when I officially became shorter than 50% of my children, making me the third shortest person in a house filled with eight people. I lost 20 lbs. (Huzzah!) But have gained almost half of that back. (Booooo…) My wife and I had the humbling opportunity to travel to Europe, which was life-changing in a number of ways. Boy #1 continues to excel at fencing (the kind with masks and foils, not paint and wood), while Boy #2 has taken up Tae Kwon Do. Boy #3 is almost as tall as me, even though he is only 12-years-old, and Boy #4 has, here at the end of the year, gotten a pair of glasses that officially make him look smarter than me. 🙂 My Beautiful Wife began trying to sell some of her beautiful quilts (Etsy store: “Jeanine’s Quilted Things”). We painted our house. My work on Wally 4.0 proceeded apace, though not as “apace” as I would like (I still think it’s in beta). I converted to the Apple Ecosystem — in fact, I even got a MacBook Air to replace my old PC laptop (which I am surprised I haven’t blogged about, given how I’ve gone on about earlier matters), making me virtually 100% Apple-powered (though still rooting for Surface to do well).

More could be said, to be sure, but this Roman year of 2013 is ending with quite a bit having happened and with much promise of more to come in 2014.

In particular, this past year for me and my family was another opportunity to know that God has blessed us, that Jesus Christ rules in the Church and in our family, and that all our answers are found there in Him. All we have and know is worth having and knowing only because He grants that we have and know it, and all we do not have or know is not our concern as long as we are continually open and yielding to the One who, in His good time and for His good purposes, should one day grant that we have or know it. And until that day, having Him is sufficient. I think I saw that a little more clearly in 2013.

Perhaps the best thing about 2013 (even better than being 99% done with 2012 Maya-related silliness!) is knowing that Jesus’ return and His Kingdom is another solar revolution closer than it was this time last year. And whether I am alive when He comes back to earth or whether He determines in His wisdom that my end should come earlier than that, that is — beyond a doubt — a very good thing. (Does Martha Stewart have that phrase copyrighted? I hope not.)

Nice video about the Kalam Cosmological Argument

Just a quick post… I posted a new video I came across on our local congregational website concerning the Kalam Cosmological Argument for God’s existence. I have commented on that argument before here on the blog (specifically, here: “The Kalam Cosmological Argument and Unwin’s Pursuit of P(G)”), and I thought the video by Dr. William Lane Craig’s organization was very well done. It’s concise, it gets the point across without getting lost in minutia, and it is pleasantly and professionally produced.

Feel free and watch it for yourself. And you might use it as a spur to do what I recommended to my congregation: Take advantage of this Sabbath to ask someone why they personally believe that God exists and share your own reasons, as well.

The video is here, below. (And, as with all such links and embeds, the standard caveat applies.)

(And for those who have never read it, please consider our booklet: “The Real God: Proofs and Promises”)

Some thoughts on the death of storm chaser Tim Samaras

I’ve posted on storm chasers once before, back when one of Sean Casey’s chase team, Matt Hughes, died and some thoughts about worldly success and mortality were swirling around in my noggin. My family and I used to watch the Discovery channel’s “Storm Chasers” program, though we haven’t for some time and it’s my understanding that it is off the air now.

I do remember, though, the team that died this past weekend: Tim Samaras and Carl Young. I don’t recall Tim’s son, Paul, who also died, though it’s my understanding that he was on the program, too. And from the episodes we watched, they really did not seem like a large risk-taking team–that is, beyond the clear and obvious risk one is always taking in that line of research. Of all the individuals on the show, Mr. Samaras always came across (to me, at least) like the adult in the room. And there is nothing wrong with being the adult in the room!

There is a lot of talk, now, about the need to examine and investigate in light of the deaths and the need to consider regulations–all the sorts of things you would expect after something like this. Color me not interested. Not irritated, not delighted–just not interested. The fact that someone has died while engaged in a risky behavior that they felt they were doing out of a public service that justified the risks doesn’t sound to me like the sort of thing that should prompt a great deal of investigation and regulation, but–hey–who am I? If the publicity around the event turns up something that should be addressed with the public, that’s OK, too. Please forgive a taste of cynicism in the following, but I can think of more harmful things that politicians can be doing that debating regulations about amateur storm chasers, so if that keeps them busy it might be something of a blessing. 🙂 And lest I be misunderstood, I wouldn’t consider Mr. Samaras and his team to be amateurs. As I wrote a couple of weeks-or-so ago after the EF5 Moore, Oklahoma tornado, this world isn’t what God would have it be, and as long as it isn’t there will be people who place themselves in harm’s way in the service of others, and as far as I understand Mr. Samaras was one of those people.

But I suppose what has caught my interest more is a very specific reaction that has come out of the twisters of this past weekend. One of the many news links I came across yesterday was from the Today show and included an article and a video relating the thoughts of Weather Channel storm chaser Mike Bettes, apparently based on Al Roker’s interview with Bettes on Sunday. He and his team went through their own harrowing ordeal that weekend as their SUV was tossed, I believe, 200 yards. All occupants survived, though the driver experienced some serious injuries, I believe.

Please click through and read the whole article and/or watch the video: “Storm chaser: ‘I don’t know’ if I’ll go back after ordeal” But here are a couple of comments from Mike Bettes that got my attention… Asked if he thought he planned to continue storm chasing after this, Bettes responded:

“I don’t know,” he told Al Roker on TODAY Monday. “It’s given me perspective on what’s important in my life. It may not be up to me. I’ll talk to my family about it. If they don’t want me to go, I won’t go, simple as that. I have to keep them in mind. It was an eye-opener, it truly was.”

Later in the article, concerning the moment that the car was picked up by the winds, tumbling as it went airborne:

In that moment, he thought of his family. “I just saw my wife’s face and I thought, you know, that’s my life, I don’t want to give that up just yet.”

I can relate to that. I’ve always enjoyed the Five for Fighting song “100 years”, and I suppose I am coming up on the “I’m 45 for a moment” stanza of that song, but the one that has always resonated with me is the “I’m 33 for a moment” stanza:

I’m 33 for a moment.
Still the man, but you see I’m a ‘they’–
A kid on the way,
A family on my mind.

I do find that when I’m on an airplane about to take off, or whenever I wonder about my health at random times, or, in general, in an experience that reminds me of the fact that “[a man’s] days are like grass… the wind passes over it and it is gone” (Psalm 103:15-16), my thoughts inevitably turn to my family: how much I want to see them again and how I wish to be returned to them. I don’t think it’s boast worthy to say such–I imagine it is a very natural reaction and that even the beasts have their lower version of it embedded within their instincts. But to say it is natural is not to lessen the reaction’s force or to lessen it as an object worthy of reflection. And in those times, which can certainly vary in intensity from usually light and wispy to occasionally strong and demanding, I find that no source of comfort can match the ability we have as Christians to pray to God and simply ask, “Father, please return me safely to my family. And should You need to do otherwise, then please take care of them.”

There are those, of course, who believe that such prayers are an illusory palliative–allowing us to ease our minds through a comforting self-deception, but, of course, those who actually know God know better. And to the extent we do know him, those prayers are all the more effective in accomplishing their purpose, because to the same extent we truly know him, we also trust Him.

Sort of a random place to end up when discussing some recent storm chaser deaths, I suppose, but there’s nothing wrong with a little productive wandering while meditating. And as for Mike Bettes and his family, I don’t know what their call will be or, I suppose, even should be, but I appreciate his openness and sincerity about the experience. And if they decide that he should continue his work, I hope he takes the advice that he gives at the end of the article: “Safety comes first. There’s always another tornado to chase.”

Our prayers are with those in Oklahoma

The scenes showing on the news of the tornado in Oklahoma are just heart breaking. As a child growing up in Texas, I only experienced one tornado while I was at school, and it was nothing like these poor little ones have gone through.

We got a commentary up on tomorrowsworld.org and lcg.org on the Oklahoma tornado, and my hats are off to our editorial, legal, and internet folks for working so fast to get it out today. My apologies for taking so long to write it. I did not find out about the tornado until late last night (actually early this morning) and was in a bit of a “news-free bubble” before that. On finding out, it was hard to go to sleep. What a horrible world this is. It is not the world our Father would have it to be, which was part of the theme from the resulting commentary. The commentary can be found here: “This Is Not Our Father’s World.” But rather than reproduce it here (though, please do read it), I thought I would add some additional thoughts.

Although the logical “problem of evil” is generally considered by those in philosophical circles to be an ultimately unsustainable argument against God’s existence with many paths available for resolving the problem (among them, importantly, the one God reveals to be true!) and the ends of theodicy (sounds like a book by Homer, doesn’t it?) have generally been successfully achieved, it doesn’t diminish the emotional problem of evil… It may be fairly easy to understand, intellectually, how such things can happen, it is still hard to grasp emotionally. And part of me wonders if that should always be a struggle. Perhaps it should take us to our edges, which is where struggles take place, as long as it doesn’t take us beyond them. Perhaps that reflects a dissatisfaction with the way things are and is a reflection of our desire that it be otherwise. I’m not sure, and I will have to think about that a bit more.

Regardless, I personally believe that God feels–in a real way–the same way we do, only more so. The apparently machine-like pseudo-consciences of those like the Westboro Baptist crowd are a mockery of how God feels about suffering and His sense of justice, and I can’t but imagine that the “hands off” policy His plan requires of Him during this time is so much harder for Him than we can grasp, even as His knowledge that it is necessary is more sure than ours. By “harder” I mean more painful to go through, not harder to accomplish, and I don’t think that is a contradiction, even if it seems so at first. (I’m open to being shown where I’ve messed up, by the way.) While we reel at the pictures and the video footage, God was so much more acutely and intimately aware of the suffering. He heard every cry–indeed, every fleeting, scared, panicked thought–of every victim, and every anguished sob from a devastated parent is known to him in its incomprehensibly staggering fullness. I truly can’t imagine that He does not want to bring His kingdom and end this madness infinitely more than we do, let alone the passionate desire He must have to raise those lost back to life and to see them once again in their family’s arms in a world where no such things will ever happen again.

Knowing that there will be more of these things–only more so–as pointed out by prophecy, it should truly make us sigh and cry. It is my understand that no Living Church of God members were harmed in this outbreak, for which I am so thankful, though we know that will not always be the case, and it is there but for the grace of God that we go, ourselves. The next one could come right down my own street, and that could be me pulling my children out of the rubble. The thought is almost too much to bear. I pray that I could have the presence of character and walk with God that Job must have had even before his trials such that when those trials did come he could respond in the way he did:

Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. (Job 1:20-22)

While I would know this to be true in my head, how hard it would be to be a parent in Oklahoma and have that come truly from my heart as it did for Job. To be honest, I don’t know if I am there yet in my walk with God, though, should he choose my family for such a trial, I pray that I would be. And, of course, I know Philippians 4:13 is mercifully true.

Sorry for being a bit rambly (“A bit?” you ask…), but I just wanted to post a few thoughts and to highlight the new commentary. In addition, while I don’t normally talk about other Church of God organizations, let me add just one more thing. I don’t know what other organizations may have congregations out there, but I do know that one, in particular, certainly does–namely PCG, the headquarters of which is, I believe, in part of the affected area. I don’t know if any of the few of you who happen to quietly read this blog outside of my own congregations are in PCG, but if you are and if there is anyway in which any of our members can help, please let us know. I know many of the LCG folks in that area, and I believe any of them would be more than willing to do what is necessary to help you and ensure you are safe and out of harm’s way without pressing you with questions or disrespecting your desire to maintain your distance otherwise. I’m not trying to sound magnanimous, because I believe that if any of us were in a similar spot you, too, would reach out. I’ve known just a few people who went to your organization, but all of them were friends and good people. In particular, those brethren in my congregations who have come to us from your organization are some of the most wonderful people I know. I have come to care for them deeply, and they reflect very well on you. Regardless, we’re praying for you and for everyone impacted by these tragic events.

May God bring His kingdom quickly that such events are never experienced again. Again, my apologies for rambling a bit, and I return you to your regularly scheduled surfing.

Evolutionary biologist on the limitations of scientism

There were so many things that came to my attention during the end of December when I was consumed by telecast work and the Charlotte weekend, that my “what I wish I’d have posted” list is long. However, I will remedy one of those items on the list here.

Can Science really explain it all?  (NASA photo)
Can science really explain it all? (NASA photo)

I enjoy the e-mails I get from the Discovery Institute, and one of them had a link to an article on their Evolution News and Views website titled “Evolutionary Biologist Austin Hughes Praises Fine-tuning Arguments, Critiques Scientism” written by frequent contributor Casey Luskin. It concerned an article written by Dr. Hughes, Carolina Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina, for The New Atlantis titled “The Folly of Scientism.”

Dr. Hughes’ article is a long read, and not for the Internet surfer just looking for a quick post before he moves on to something else, but if you would like a “short take,” the ENV article by Luskin does a great job of summarizing the points most of those who read this blog would be interested in. The topic of the article is scientism, and Luskin includes Hughes’ definition of that term: “the belief that “sciences are the only valid way of seeking knowledge in any field.” Here’s the paragraph from the original article where that idea is found:

Of course, from the very beginning of the modern scientific enterprise, there have been scientists and philosophers who have been so impressed with the ability of the natural sciences to advance knowledge that they have asserted that these sciences are the only valid way of seeking knowledge in any field. A forthright expression of this viewpoint has been made by the chemist Peter Atkins, who in his 1995 essay “Science as Truth” asserts the “universal competence” of science. This position has been called scientism — a term that was originally intended to be pejorative but has been claimed as a badge of honor by some of its most vocal proponents. In their 2007 book Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized, for example, philosophers James Ladyman, Don Ross, and David Spurrett go so far as to entitle a chapter “In Defense of Scientism.”

I am sympathetic to this idea of scientism, only because it is easy for me to imagine that of the many paths my life may have wandered down, if God had not intervened in it when He did, a path that included my being beholden to such a scientism-based worldview would have been a very likely one for me. And our culture, today, does seem thoroughly drenched in it. It is essentially the “faith” that led Richard Dawkins to such execrable, irrational conclusions in his overreaching book The God Delusion. Actually, as Dr. Hughes points out, overreach is exactly what scientism leads to consistently.

If you find the concept that science really does have all the answers (or, at least, that all the answers to be had are only reachable through science), then at the very least you ought to read Casey Luskin’s article on the essay. If you have more time or deeper interest, then consider reading the original essay by Dr. Austin Hughes–an evolutionary biologist who isn’t motivated, it seems, to sock ol’ Darwin on the jaw and, thus, carries a credibility and, importantly, a credible sincerity.

Hughes doesn’t seem to pull any punches, making points–similar to points made here–about the very human quality of the practice of science. To wit: “[T]he high confidence in funding and peer-review panels should seem misplaced to anyone who has served on these panels and witnessed the extent to which preconceived notions, personal vendettas, and the like can torpedo even the best proposals.”

Luskin quotes one of the closing paragraphs at the end of his article:

Advocates of scientism today claim the sole mantle of rationality, frequently equating science with reason itself. Yet it seems the very antithesis of reason to insist that science can do what it cannot, or even that it has done what it demonstrably has not. As a scientist, I would never deny that scientific discoveries can have important implications for metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, and that everyone interested in these topics needs to be scientifically literate. But the claim that science and science alone can answer longstanding questions in these fields gives rise to countless problems.

I would like to quote Hughes’ final paragraph, as well:

Of all the fads and foibles in the long history of human credulity, scientism in all its varied guises — from fanciful cosmology to evolutionary epistemology and ethics — seems among the more dangerous, both because it pretends to be something very different from what it really is and because it has been accorded widespread and uncritical adherence. Continued insistence on the universal competence of science will serve only to undermine the credibility of science as a whole. The ultimate outcome will be an increase of radical skepticism that questions the ability of science to address even the questions legitimately within its sphere of competence. One longs for a new Enlightenment to puncture the pretensions of this latest superstition.

Hughes doesn’t seem to be motivated by any negative feelings about science. Rather, he seems to be trying to save science from its abusers. I respect that, and I wish him all the best in that effort.

In the Beginning was Quantum Mechanics?

NASA pic
Can science really explain it all?

The current issue of New Scientist magazine has an article titled “Before the Big Bang: Three Reasons Why the Universe Can’t Have Existed Forever.” It is, effectively, a follow up to their earlier “Genesis problem” story which I mentioned in my Tomorrow’s World article, “Where Did the Universe Come From?” and doesn’t add too much new for those who read up on the topic. I did appreciate the reference to Susskind’s conclusion that if inflation is true and that this universe is simply one of a seemingly infinite number of big bangs that have occurred throughout multi-space and multi-time (something I don’t believe, by the way), then even if there were a beginning it may have been so long ago that there is no longer a detectable imprint of that beginning left in the universe we currently enjoy. It seems, though, an encouragement to stop trying to find a coherent theory for the beginning, which would be a shame given what such searches do to press science into confronting its most fundamental questions. (For a similar reason, I like the research on origin of life issues, because it presses biologists and evolutionists in the same way.)

And on those fundamental questions, I like how the New Scientist article ends. (I’d link to it, but it seems not yet available to non-subscribers. You might try the site after a few weeks have passed.) Earlier, Alex Vilenkin makes the same claim that many astrophysicists to: That there need be nothing in existence before the universe since quantum mechanics allows something to come out of nothing:

In the context of known physics, however, Vilenkin and Mithani conclude that, whatever way you look at it, the universe cannot have existed forever so must have had a beginning. But how did it begin? According to Vilenkin, quantum theory has a solution because it permits something to pop out of nothing–with that something being a small universe that starts to inflate, cycle or hang for an extremely long time before inflating.

He makes the same claim in his book Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes — quantum tunneling and all that stuff. It is, essentially, God-avoidance at its best.

But not exactly “at its best” — not really. After all, the “nothing” mentioned by physicists in such statements is never really “nothing,” regardless of anything Lawrence Kraus might say. There’s always a “something” there. And rather than ignore it (or, at least, rather than ignore it completely), in the NS article the author, Marcus Chown, and Vilenkin mention in the closing paragraph what they must admit existed before the universe of their imagination: quantum mechanical law.

Still, cosmologists have plenty of other big questions to keep them busy. If the universe owes its origins to quantum theory, then quantum theory must have existed before the universe. So the next question is surely: where did the laws of quantum theory come from? “We do not know,” admits Vilenkin. “I consider that an entirely different question.” When it comes to the beginning of the universe, in many ways we’re still at the beginning.

While on one hand, I respect Vilenkin’s willingness to avoid explicit philosophical or metaphysical speculation (something many scientists ignorantly don’t avoid these days. See Dawkins, R. or Hawking, S.), he actually fails to avoid it all together. The idea he champions actually assumes a Platonic view of the laws of physics: That rather than being descriptions of the behavior of the natural world, they are–in his view–apparently magically immaterial entities that exist in their own right.

And that is closer to God-avoidance at its best. There is no real basis for believing that the laws of physics would exist when there was nothing material whatsoever for them to describe. The idea that rigid and exacting laws describing the behavior of quarks, gluons, neutrons, electrons, etc. somehow existed in some timeless magical, immaterial nothingness is not physics–it is metaphysics. It is not the realm of science. It is the realm of religion.

It reminds me of Bishop Berkeley’s biting (and effective) mockery of an “infidel mathematician” (apparently Edmond Halley) for his faith in the “Ghosts of departed Quantities”–a rebuke that helped motivate mathematicians to finally ground the calculus firmly and solidly in the limit of Cauchy and Weierstrass and to jettison the useful-but-dangerously-fuzzy ideas behind Newton’s fluxions and differentials. Perhaps Vilenkin, Hawking, or some other luminary can one day show us the realm in which quantum mechanical law existed in nonexistence, waiting patiently to guide an entire zoo of somehow “more nonexistent” future particles and fields. Perhaps they will show us such a preexistent nether realm and explain the ground for the ethereal existence of these ghostly equations. Perhaps they will show us the immaterial parlor where the Wave Equation and the Laws of Thermodynamics sit for nonexistent tea and excitedly discuss all they plan to do once something finally exists.

And until they do, perhaps they will forgive us for not taking such suggestions seriously. To believe in such fantasies of convenience and to claim that science has done away with a need for God’s existence is to be a hypocrite. The dilemma is a reminder of what David Berlinski has pointed out: “No less than the doctrines of religious belief, the doctrines of quantum cosmology are what they seem: biased, partial, inconclusive, and largely in the service of passionate but unexamined conviction.”

Perhaps Vilenkin must see the ridiculous state of such things to some extent. He does seem pressed in some way when he says at the very end of his book:

The picture of quantum tunneling from nothing raises another intriguing question. The tunneling process is governed by the same fundamental laws that describe the subsequent evolution of the universe. It follows that the laws should be “there” even prior to the universe itself. Does this mean that the laws are not mere descriptions of reality and can have an independent existence of their own? In the absence of space, time, and matter, what tablets could they be written upon? The laws are expressed in the form of mathematical equations. If the medium of mathematics is the mind, does this mean that mind should predate universe?

This takes us far into the unknown, all the way to the abyss of great mystery. It is hard to imagine how we can ever get past this point. But as before, that may just reflect the limits of our imagination.

While it smacks of then-candidate Obama’s comment about certain questions being “above my pay grade”, I appreciate the admission at which it hints, intended or not.

Desktop Debris Potpourri!

Picture of a potpourri
Hmmmm… potpourri (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Howdy! Finally back to the blog after my annual pre-teen camp-related self-imposed exile (additional exiles probably coming in connection with teen camp and the Feast), and it is good to type, again. Though, as usual, I have a lot on my brain and not much time to delve into it all, so I thought I would simply focus on getting something off of my chest.

Or, actually, my desktop. My computer’s desktop has been horribly cluttered for the better part of a year (or two) and I have finally cleaned it off. Over the course of doing so, though, I came across several links I had “saved” there in the hopes of perhaps blogging about them or keeping them for future reference (for which the desktop is not the ideal place). In order to ease my conscience at their passing, I thought it would be great to put up this Desktop Debris Potpourri! If the link looks interesting, feel free to click and read. If not, feel free to skip it. It just feels good to get these things off of my desktop…

Wow! I feel purged! Thanks for letting me get all that off my chest. The sky is clear again! My clean desktop is staring at me from my laptop screen, suggesting that a whole new world of wonder is out there waiting for me to explore! Thanks for your help. And, as always, if you go clicking around any of those: caveat navita stans.

[By the way: Pre-teen camp in Missouri was incredible! Really, the best one ever in my experience, and I am thankful to all of you who may have prayed for it. Thanks much!]

Reflections on my first Council of Elders meeting

Wow — it has been a really long time since I have posted! Things have been terribly busy, so it was a worthwhile absence, and I have been writing, just not here. 🙂 And even now I don’t plan to say much (usually a good sign that this will be a long post, huh?), but I did want to post a reflection on my first Council of Elders meeting, which occurred the week before last. The ministerial conference the following week was amazing in its own way, and I will try to comment on it later, as well. But the Council of Elders meeting was one of the most encouraging experiences I’ve ever had in the Church, though I can’t say that it was full of surprises. However, an experience need not be a surprise to be encouraging — in fact, an experience that confirms one’s hopes and expectations can be pretty profoundly encouraging, itself.

[First, here’s a Tweet from @lcginfo with a picture of the Council meeting. If you aren’t following LCG on Twitter, you should be!]

I could summarize everything I am about to say in one sentence, and for those without the time to read more, feel free and move on after this: What I regularly pray to see in the government and functioning of the Church, I saw every minute of those two days, and it was so very, very encouraging. Why it was encouraging, for those who will read further, I will detail below…

The first thing worth pointing out was that Mr. Roderick C. Meredith was very clearly in charge, and he led the meeting in a gracious and collegial manner. I say this to provide evidence against imagined and (go figure) contradictory criticisms I have heard from a few ignorant voices here and there. (By the way, I say “ignorant” in the strict meaning of the word — lacking any real knowledge of the facts — and not as a lazy insult. Not that all of the few ignorant voices admit their ignorance, but the actual evidence shows them to be ignorant just the same.)

The first ignorant claim is that Mr. Meredith is getting old so he must just be sitting back, too frail to lead, and doing little while others are making all the decisions. I routinely say that anyone who were to think this has not actually spent time with Mr. Meredith recently, and this was no different. (I’ve mentioned this claim before to individuals who work with Mr. Meredith, and they routinely laugh out loud.) While I have seen the opposite of this claim to be true every single time I have gone to Charlotte over the last seven years, the evidence of the mistaken notion of such (thankfully tiny) voices was on display both days of the meetings. Mr. Meredith guided and led every discussion we had, and the role of the Living Church of God’s Council of Elders as an advisory body was obvious. The Council advised and discussed, and the Presiding Evangelist led and decided.

The other ignorant claim I’ve heard is on the opposite side of the spectrum: that Mr. Meredith must be some sort of power hungry, tyrannical figure, like a dictator. Again, anyone guessing such a thing is so far from the truth that you wonder how in the world he or she could come up with such suppositions. As I have said before, every time I have been there, Mr. Meredith has been very deferential and solicitous of the opinions of others, even when his own opinion has been strong. The Council meeting was no exception. Mr. Meredith led the meeting in one of the most collegial and mutually respectful and loving atmospheres I have ever experienced in a meeting like that — and I’m very used to working on teams, both in the public sector (as a high school teacher) and in the private sector (as an actuary for a corporation). He very actively sought out advice and the floor was very open for discussion and comments. I remember just nodding my head at something that was said, not even raising my hand to contribute, and Mr. Meredith asked me to elaborate on what I was thinking. He did that so many times during the meeting with many of the individuals, and everyone spoke numerous times on a variety of topics.

And the composition of the men in the room is worth noting, as well, since all were appointed personally by Mr. Meredith (not a single vote was taken to place any of them there) and serve there at his pleasure: None of them were “yes men.” It was apparent to me that Mr. Meredith has willingly and purposefully surrounded himself with men who will give honest opinions, even if those opinions differ from his. Frankly, the cumulative number of years of experience in living God’s Way and sincerely applying God’s laws that was represented in that room was stirring to me. Some of their stories I knew and others I did not, but of all I knew they were tested and proven men who put God’s Word first, and they gave to Mr. Meredith their sincere and honest counsel. When they disagreed with each other, they (1) acted as though they were free to say so, and (2) always — always — spoke with respect and what seemed like very sincere love and friendship towards one another. I couldn’t help but think that if the boardrooms of corporate America and the committee rooms of Congress functioned like this, the nation would be a much, much better place.

But I’ve gotten off track… The point is that Mr. Meredith has chosen for himself experienced and proven counselors whom he can trust to disagree with him, and I respect that. Again, not “yes men.” They did come across, however, as “‘yes sir’ men.” That is, when the decision is made, then the decision is made. I felt no hint of plotting to undo anything or of secret agendas, but rather one of support and agreement and a desire to be of one mind. Though I’ve only experienced that one meeting (not counting the earlier phone meeting we’d had), I have no reason to believe that this meeting was not rather typical, and, if so, then I believe Mr. Meredith is one of the reasons it was so warm, collegial, and open. The spirit of the head affects the mood of the body, and the tone Mr. Meredith set made me feel welcome to be there and free to speak my mind. He deserves a great deal of credit for that atmosphere. And, again, his critics with their imagined criticisms just look like ninnies when you experience the facts.

Though he’s not perfect by any means )and he is quick to say so, himself) it has been my experience now for seven years that his life and actions — seen as a whole, together — continue to defy the efforts of those who would reduce him to a caricature — all the more, given how their caricatures are the exact opposites of each other. Seems to me that if he’s being attacked from opposite directions, it’s probably a sign that he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be. 🙂

Before moving on to the one thing that, perhaps, impressed me the most, I should explain that I said Mr. Meredith is “one of the reasons” for the collegial atmosphere of teamwork and respect I felt there because there is a bigger reason. Or perhaps I should type, “Bigger Reason.” It seemed so apparent to me that God’s Spirit was present and in active use in that room. The unity wasn’t just because the men in the room were friends and colleagues or just because of the wonderful job Mr. Meredith has done in leading the counsel and creating an atmosphere of mutual respect. It was there because being mutually unified with God is the fundamental source of real unity with others. Any other sort of unity just won’t do — not political, not racial, not ideological, not emotional, not “purpose driven,” not “common enemy driven,” not contractually agreed, not bylaw-dependent or constitutionally-structured… none of them.  In unifying men — let alone men of strong and passionate opinion — nothing can do the job like being first and foremost mutually unified with God and with His Son, Jesus Christ, by seeking His word and His will and then acting on it. And while I don’t know every man in that room personally (though I am thankful that I am beginning to), those I do know are just such men who practice such unity with God, and the result of that was evident in the room to me.

Part of what made it evident to me is the matter I wanted to bring up before I conclude, which I found moving when it happened though it wasn’t really a surprise.

Though much of the discussion was on policy and administrative decisions, since part of the purpose of the Council of Elders is to advise Mr. Meredith on doctrinal matters, eventually the meeting turned to a few doctrinal questions that had been asked, for which Mr. Meredith sought the Council’s input. The moment it did, you saw hands reaching into briefcases and satchels and Bibles being opened.

While, as I said, that isn’t surprising, and it is exactly what I would expect, at the same time it was so thoroughly encouraging. When the questions came to doctrinal matters and to understanding the truth of something, it was clear in that room that there is one source of truth, and it is the word of God. The overriding concern there about the teaching of the Church was whether or not it was biblical. The same book that these men leaned on for their rule of life was being used for the rule of the Church — and that is exactly how it should be. The dedication to the Word of God as the foundation of truth and knowledge that Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong had instilled in his “young men from Ambassador” — including Roderick Meredith — was alive and well in that room, and, again, though it was not surprising, it was a personal privilege to see it happen in front of me with my own eyes.

There surely was not a single, perfect man present in the room. But the atmosphere I experienced there was such that I have no doubt whatsoever that our perfect Savior, the Head of the Church, was very much present in the room and that He must have felt very welcomed there.

I don’t know how long my rotational position in the Council of Elders will last, but I can say that even if it was just for this one meeting I am very thankful for the experience. We hear about these meetings in our announcements at Church and we hear prayers requested that the meetings will be blessed by God. Seeing with my own eyes that this is how the Living Church of God is run emboldened my faith that those prayers are lovingly answered by very active Jesus Christ who is leading His Church. It emboldened my belief that despite our common human foibles and our occasional missteps Christ is big enough to work in and to actively direct His Church for His and His Father’s divine purposes, and His will truly will be accomplished among His people and in the world.

And it will be. God the Father and Jesus Christ have, for almost 2000 years now, stubbornly continued to use human beings, as faulty as we human beings are, in Their Church and Their Work. And They will continue to use human beings until the time comes when those human beings are transformed at the return of Christ — at which time, He will continue to use them for eternity. Between now and that time, we have the chance to be those human beings. What a wonderful hope! And based on what I saw in those Council meetings, that hope is alive and well in the Living Church of God.

When we go to sleep tonight, let’s all thank God and Jesus Christ that this is so.