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Archive for the ‘Knowledge’ Category

Unity of All Knowledge.
There is no dichotomy between Christianity and true science. Truth is truth wherever you meet it, and God’s Word is the root of all truth. This unity of knowledge extends to all things spiritual and physical. It is my intention to communicate the unity of knowledge through examples of where Science meets Scripture. I will call these short essays Scriptural Science Segues.

Four Fundamental Forces.
In our present understanding there are four fundamental forces that hold the universe together. In order from strongest to weakest these are 1) Strong Nuclear, 2) Electromagnetic, 3) Weak Nuclear, and 4) Gravitational. The Strong Nuclear force is attractive, holding protons and neutrons together in the nucleus and the Weak Nuclear Force is repulsive and causes radioactive decay. Both work over distances of a fraction of an atomic nucleus. The Electromagnetic Force is attractive and repulsive, working over distances of up to a few miles. It controls interactions of static and flow electricity, magnetism, chemical bonding, as well as clinging interactions like cohesion, adhesion, and friction.

The Outlier.
Scientists have come close to unifying the first three forces through one explanation, but gravity resists explanation. The first three forces can be explained by force particles that travel between interacting bodies. The theoretical particle for gravity, the graviton, has never been observed. Gravity is one septillion (1 x 1024) times weaker than the Weak Nuclear Force, but operates over distances the size of the universe. How would a graviton work anyway? What particle could travel across the universe fast enough to prevent stars from drifting apart?
We know in great detail what gravity does to the extent that we can send space probes across the solar system for decades and they will arrive exactly when and where we calculated. However, we still cannot explain why gravity works. It continues to be the force that prevents scientists from formulating a Grand Unified Theory (GUT), one explanation for all interactions in the universe.

The Fundamental Force.
The Scripture supplies an explanation of the one force that holds everything together, the very GUT of the matter. Colossians 1:16-17 says, “All things have been created through Him…He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” There is the fundamental force in the universe, as it says in Hebrews 1:3, “He… upholds all things by the word of His power.”

The Skeptics’ Reply.
At this point the proponents of Naturalism, that religion of science which attributes all that exists to physical phenomena alone to the exclusion of any spiritual source, will say, “You are explaining what we do not yet understand by your superstitions about God just like medieval man did in his ignorance about disease.”

A Christian Answer.
We disagree because we know of God’s interaction with His Creation through His Word, through our salvation and life in Him which includes answered prayer and provision, through fellowship with believers, and through the world around us that testifies to His power and attributes. As it says in Psalm 33:8-9, “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done. He commanded, and it stood fast. Specifically, the fundamental force holding the world together is His Word.

Retraction of His Sustaining Word.
In the future “by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire.” (2 Peter 3:7) When He speaks again concerning the created order “the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense hear, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10)

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I recently completed the book, “Visual Theology”, by Tim Challies and Josh Byers. I can recommend the book as a good overview of practical theology and encouragement in godly thinking and living. The book has colorful, well explained diagrams, infographics as the author calls them in keeping with the latest buzzword. A friend at church gave me the book because she knew that I like to teach using diagrams. I pursue diagram making to organize, simplify, help memory, and give insight into complex or voluminous concepts. I think my diagrams and tables have insight and are useful, realizing they may not communicate to all minds. A few examples include “Effort and Empowerment“, “Spiritual Growth“, “God’s Word and Community“.

A number of the diagrams in “Visual Theology” are instructive, convicting, and sufficiently deep to draw you into figuring them out. The one I found most useful and convicting was the one on pages 96-97 that is a flowchart about “How to put sin to death” by biblical thought and action. It rightly does not let one get off the hook with excuses. It does this by directing you to see that either you aren’t a Christian, you aren’t believing what God says about His power to overcome sin, or you don’t believe in the seriousness of sin. The flowchart then cycles back around to how to confront these problems.

Also, the summary diagram on pages 104-105 that shows the spiritual disciplines enabling movement from “putting sin to death” to “putting on the new” is beneficial. The color scheme of red to green speaks death to life. I only wished the diagram had started low with “putting…to death” and come up to “putting on…new”, instead of the other way around.

Perhaps the best infographic is the very simple one on page 108, “True Life Change”. It features two arrows cycling around amongst four major spiritual changes continuously going on in the believer’s life: “spiritual awakening”, “true repentance”, “new behavior”, and “receiving forgiveness”.

I am disappointed with the scope and depth of many of the other infographics in the book for three reasons. First of all, as my son-in-law commented after a cursory glance through the book, “It has too many words and not enough diagrams.” After reading the book, I saw the words were indeed good explanations of the points, but they did make the diagrams seem less useful. Perhaps the diagrams should have spoken for themselves and then minimal explanation given for the purpose of preventing misunderstanding.

Secondly, I feel as though several opportunities to deepen the diagrams’ messages by multiple levels interaction between the parts rendered many of the diagrams monochromatic or merely one-dimensional. For example, in the last section on vocation, the authors have a diagram called “The Work Of A Christ Follower” (page 122) that diagrams the three areas of vocation, “being”, “calling”, and “passions”. These are connected by lines to various vocations of the Christian like artist, father, husband, neighbor, athlete, etc. These vocations are placed randomly on a circle around a center circle labeled “You have many vocations”. Why not rather make the center circle say something like “What God has given you to do.” Then each concentric circle could be a priority list of vocations. In my case I would diagram what God has given me to day in this order from the center outward: Christian, husband, father, grandfather, church member, citizen, neighbor, carpenter, rock climber, writer, etc. Then connect the three areas of vocation to these. The only real difference I have made to the diagram is priority ordering the vocations rather than randomly listing them. To me that gives the diagram more depth.

Thirdly, I reflect that many of the infographics were merely pretty bulleted lists. They did not in themselves communicate or extend the concepts they presented. An example of this is the diagram in chapter 5 titled “Doctrine Leads To” on pages 82-83. These words form the center of the circular diagram with the words “Love”, “Humility”, ” Obedience”, ” Unity”, and “Healthy Growth” surrounding the title. On the adjacent page the words are bulleted with explanation. On the pages before and after this diagram explanation is given for how each of these words proceeds from doctrine. The explanation suggests a much more in depth diagram that shows progression.

Following is my attempt at making a diagram that represents the author’s own explanation of the benefits of doctrine in the life of the believer and the church. Notice that “Knowledge”, “Assent”, “Affection”, and “Trust” are not in the above list of items on his diagram. But these words do appear in his explanation and I think are the key to the sequence of changes that begin to take place in the believer that result in actions. Notice also that I do not say that this process is one-dimensional, always following this single pathway. “Doctrine” results in an acceleration of “Growth” in many areas at once. I also began to see that doctrine changed the will which changes the emotions which results in right actions. The penciled in “trust?” and “humility” are suggestions of friends as to possible changes to the diagram. And that is the benefit of more extensive diagrams of ideas: thought, discussion, musing, critical thinking, deepening.

The husband of the lady who gave me the book reflected that the book was “ground-breaking” in the area of communicating theology using graphics, and it would lead others to do more and better efforts at diagramming theology because the idea had been initiated and because we have become such a visual, quick information acquisition society. He urged me to write a follow-up book, which I said I would call “Theology Diagrammed”. The main problems with that are lack of time and a lack of completeness and coherence to the diagrams I have made. But perhaps with time, encouragement, and help, it might happen.

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Wonderment is a valuable thing. It causes you to ask questions and seek answers. But where might one find answers? For meaning and life, the best and reliable source is the Bible. For beauty and function the best source is the second book of revelation, nature (see “Two Books” for why).

I have been contemplating the idea of wisdom lately. As a grey headed grandfather of seven, I reckon I am supposed to have a bit of that. I have a bit perhaps but feel woefully lacking. By contrast, Proverbs 3:19 says, “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth, by understanding He established the heavens.” Certainly He has no lack of wisdom and did not have to acquire it, deepen it, or perfect it. Out of His abundance of perfect wisdom “the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6) Therefore, belonging to Him, I have hope of obtaining a measure of wisdom.

But what is wisdom, why do we need it, and how do we get it?

As I began to look in Proverbs, I observed in chapter two the use of four words in rapid succession, as if repetition meant they were different words for the same thing: wisdom, knowledge, discernment, and understanding. I wondered, how they are related and how they are different. Do they build upon one another or are they different words for the same idea?

I like to come to some level of completion or satisfaction in the study of an idea. I looked up definitions and key passages. I checked the Hebrew words for the various words. And that was when I realized that I was beginning a study that I will not soon finish. The same Hebrew word was frequently translated as different English words. Knowledge seems to be separate, but the other three somewhat interchangeable. I like for words to have exact meanings. Of course, language develops by usage and exact meanings are never going to happen. Even if someone prescribes a meaning, say Noah Webster for instance, the common misuse or connotative use can destroy any simple, straightforward use of a word. So I set out first of all to define terms as would be helpful in my study of them. Following are definitions I am developing for these four words drawn from dictionaries, the Scripture, and experience. 

Truth is information that aligns with reality. It is the basis of all pursuit of wisdom. “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit.” (Proverbs 12:17) I have added this word because of its foundational status. If there is no truth then seeking wisdom is a fool’s game never to be accomplished. We live in a culture that argues that there is no truth, but then all other discussion becomes meaningless. No one actually operates on the basis of no truth as seen in the fact that most people do life preservative avoidance moves to continue living (you know, things like stopping at red lights and not jumping off of cliffs without aid of parachute or wingsuit).

Knowledge is awareness and familiarity with truth, facts, skills, and propositions. Proverbs 18:15 says, “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Prudence is acting now in a way that prepares for the future. Knowledge is useful for the future.

Understanding is the ability to grasp the meaning and value of knowledge and its relationship to other ideas. Proverbs 9:6 says, “Forsake your folly and live, and proceed in the way of understanding.” It is the man of understanding who may acquire and act by wisdom. Contemplating knowledge and how it should be applied leads to understanding. For this reason, it is rare for those who do not consider and muse to gain understanding.

Discernment is the process of evaluating the causes and outcomes of an event. Proverbs 1:2 says, “To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding.” Instruction is a word meaning discipline and is part of a disciple’s knowledge. In the verse, discernment is making use of understanding.

Wisdom is appropriate action fitted to the situation based on consideration of prudent and right judgement. “Take my instruction and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold. For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her. ‘I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.'” (Proverbs 8:10-12) Wisdom is the goal because it helps the wise and those under the wise person’s care and gives glory to God, the Author of wisdom.

I have defined these terms in this order because I think that they build upon one another in this particular order. Truth is the basis of knowledge which may lead to understanding, allowing for discernment in a situation, upon which wisdom for action is developed.

Or more simply      T -> K -> U -> D -> W

Obviously, these skills develop in fits and starts and various orders as a situation, study, prayer, or illumination occurs, but I think they are well thought of in this order because of increasing complexity and need of the preceding ones to accomplish.

If I develop clarity on how they are differentiated and taught in Scripture, I will try to share that here. Until then, may God give us wisdom for the living of these days so that we might be like “the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times.” (I Chronicles 12:32)

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Knowledge is a tool box
With tools for life within
Add wisdom and discernment
At difficulties grin

Knowledge is not a school box
Housed totally within
But truth and experience
Not mere discussion, paper, pen

Knowledge can be a fool’s box
All plushly lined within
With arrogance and falsehood
Leading astray to sin

Knowledge may be a cool box
Understand workings within
It is so satisfying
To know how and why and when

It was poem writing season recently. Knowledge is a gift from God that may be used for His glory and our good and the good of others or used to promote ones self and deceive and control others. Absolute truth is the basis of knowledge. Sharing ignorance does not lead to knowledge or wisdom. Greater knowledge can lead to greater good or greater evil.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1;7

“The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge, But the mouth of fools feeds on folly.” Proverbs 15:14

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Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18

CreatorWorship

Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains