Pastors Report - 27 Jul 2018

The Unchanging Being:

Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens ...And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail." (Hebrews 1:10-12)

Childhood Memories:

There is an area of north Devon – around the town of Ilfracombe – that is somewhat special for my wife and me. We used to bring our children to a seaside village nearby when they were growing up to visit Judy's parents who'd retired there. For Judy herself the link is even greater. The reason her parents retired to Lee Bay was that they used to take her and her sister on camping holidays there each year since babyhood ... the same bays, the same sea, the same rock pools, the same cliffs – or were they?

The large hotel there closed its doors in the economic downturn of 2008. The shop near the beach and the café selling cream teas have changed hands since the time our children were young. And even the rocks and cliffs have eroded, the beaches configurations moved slightly, the rock pools not quite as they were – and Judy's parents long gone, her father dying 35 years ago, her mother 7 years ago – for the very nature of all physical things is to change over time ... including all of us.

An Eternal Being:

But the Being who is dealing with us is very different:

  • Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. (Psalm 90:2)
  • Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands.
  • They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed:
  • But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end. (Psalm 102:25-27)

This unchanging Being – who created every fragment of all we have experienced, and who was there when the very structure of the cliffs around Lee were first laid down – is described as "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." (Hebrews 13:8) Living in a physical, changing world, it's easy for us to lose sight of this fact. Yet it is vital for us to hold onto, as the very next verse of Psalm 102 illustrates the opportunity for us - and our offspring - to be placed into the same abiding context when it says, "v28 – The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee."

One Family:

This thought is amplified even more in Hebrews when, having quoted at the end of chapter 1 the same verses from Psalm 102 above, Paul goes on to elaborate in chapter 2:

  • For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
  • For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren (Hebrews 2:10-11)

Just think for a moment: To be the very brethren – brothers and sisters, of the same family – as an Eternal Being! For be under no illusions, that is exactly what Jesus Christ was and is today ... The Eternal. The LORD God of the Old Testament. We know that for us to become part of the ever-living God Family, we have to live a life of overcoming and enduring as He did, developing the same Mind. And it's the rough, narrow, hard path, not the wide and easy way (Matthew 7:14). But by meditating more on the Being and Elder Brother who is working with us in the process, we gain vital understanding that gives us the encouragement needed. The God family – our transcendent destiny – is unchanging. The Word of God is totally reliable – as reliable today as it was when it was uttered maybe 6,000 years ago – or even 6 million. God cannot lie, as what He says, IS. And He Himself remains consistently the same. He will therefore fight our battles just as much as He fought for Hezekiah and so many others.

Physical Birth:

Again, thinking deeply about this physical world He created boosts our faith and confidence ... a physical world designed by a Being that even has reality itself under His control. For a start, consider our individual physical begettal and birth:

  • For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
  • I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
  • My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
  • Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16)

The original Hebrew words above translated in the KJV as, "curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth", are perhaps better translated as, "woven in what underlies the solid". There was an article in the February 1979 Good News entitled "The Bible and Ultimate Reality" which quoted Arthur Eddington's famous expression of "mind-stuff" within the context of "what underlies the solid". Eddington was the Plumian Professor of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge. He was arguably the most important astrophysicist of the early 20th century, and became world-famous in 1919, when his observations of the bending of starlight near the eclipsed sun confirmed predictions made by Albert Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity. Here is how he attempted to put his concept of what reality is into "simple" language....

"To put the conclusion crudely — the stuff of the world is mind-stuff. As is often the way with crude statements, I shall have to explain that by "mind" I do not exactly mean mind and by "stuff" I do not at all mean stuff. Still that is about as near as we can get to the idea in a simple phrase."

“The mind-stuff of the world is, of course, something more general than our individual conscious minds.... It is difficult for the matter-of-fact physicist to accept the view that the substratum of everything is of mental character. But no one can deny that mind is the first and most direct thing in our experience, and all else is remote inference.” (The Nature of the Physical World, Arthur Stanley Eddington)

Or, as the Merriam-Webster dictionary valiantly struggles to define it: "the elemental material held to be the basis of reality and to consist internally of the constituent substance of mind and to appear externally in the form of matter ."

Cell Division:

As you will see in the February 1979 Good News article reproduced below, this enigmatic concept gets very close to what the Bible says. And four decades on from that article, it should become even more apparent to all who examine this area of science, that the astounding creation we currently find ourselves within has indeed been designed by the most marvellous Creative Mind – from the foundational material of reality itself .... all the way up to the cellular construction of our own bodies.

Nowhere is this becoming more apparent than in the area of the genome and the information it contains. For the past four weeks my wife and I have had to live out of suitcases as we travelled around the world. I don't know about you, but it seems however hard I may try to keep the suitcase organised, within a couple of hotels and an intervening flight I inevitably find myself back to having no real idea where anything is any more! Contrast that to the astounding effortless organisation found within the nucleus of each of the 30 trillion cells found in your body. If that nucleus were the size of a basketball, then the DNA strand within – containing all the information of the genome – would be the thickness of a piece of fine fishing line, 120 miles long, exquisitely coiled multiple millions of times. Yet, every time that cell divides – in growth, repair or renewal – an automated process of coordinated enzymes precisely uncoils the strand, unzips it down the middle – regenerating each 120 mile half within a new cellular basketball – a process that is taking place within you millions of times a second as you read these words.

No Apologies Necessary:

And every living organism on the planet – from the smallest microbe to the blue whale – uses the same basic means of cell division. And we are expected to accept that life just happened to stumble on this elegant process – one that would remain valid for all subsequent life forms, for billions of years – by blind chance? Ridiculous! Believing in Intelligent Design should not call for an apologetic stance at all – it makes sense! Yes, it is true that totally dismissing all forms of evolution, is simply not valid, as it is quite obvious that something along those lines ... what we might call "micro-evolution" has indeed taken place and is still taking place. Natural selection does indeed occur in the natural world – but the process is only able to select from existing structures. It must already BE there, to be selected. Naturalistic Darwinian "macro" evolution is another matter altogether! To gradually change into a totally different creature – with a totally different design – goes against every natural law that can be witnessed. Survival of the fittest can be demonstrated, but to survive something must have first 'arrived'... and that is where Darwin fails. Some form of intelligent design becomes the only coherent answer to the initial ARRIVAL of the radically differing life forms that surround us.

And behind it all, what we can put our money on, so to speak, is what we are categorically told in God's Word: That in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1,2) And this could have been billions upon billions of years does NOT call for a 6,000 year old planet Earth by any means! We are told He created all things by and through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:9), who spoke the word, and it was (Psalm 33:9). And it also seems that faith is itself very much part of the creating process. (Hebrews 11:3)

But the "how" is virtually impossible to grasp – our human minds are so limited, as God brought out so vividly when putting Job in his place regarding "foundations"!

  • Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand.
  • Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?
  • On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone -
  • While the morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy? (Job 38:4-7 NIV)

And not only Job, but all of mankind:

  • Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and marked off the heavens with the span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?
  • Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as his counsellor has instructed him?
  • Whom did he consult for his enlightenment, and who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?
  • Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales: behold, he takes up the isles like fine dust.
  • And Lebanon would not suffice for its fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
  • All nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing, and emptiness. [especially with their ideas of a Godless creation!] (Isaiah 40:12-17 RSV)
Our Confidence:

But I highlight this GN article in the Pastor's Report to help remind us all, that as we go into what is becoming a more and more uncertain immediate future, mere physical, chemical "mind-stuff" – particularly when in frail human form – can go no further than what is allowed by the ultimate Mind that created it and currently sustains it! And that Eternal Creator God says clearly that His Plan for you and for me is indeed that of, " bringing many sons unto glory", and nothing and no one can thwart that;

  • I, even I, am he that comforts you: who art you, that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass,
  • that you forget the LORD your Maker, who stretches out the heavens and who lays the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction? For where is the wrath of the oppressor? ( Isaiah 51:12-13 NIV)
  • Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
  • Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish.
  • Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.
  • For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.(Isaiah 41:10-13)

This unchanging God has complete control over all of reality, and His clearly revealed desire is to bring us into His Family. For this reason we can have total and utter confidence in His guidance, protection and His will in our life, remembering what He has promised for the very near future:

  • Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away. (Isaiah 51:11)

Good News - February 1979 page 14

The Bible and Ultimate Reality

by Robert A. Ginskey

What is the fundamental "stuff" of creation — the basis of reality? Modern physics is providing some strange and startling answers — and in reaching such conclusions science draws even closer to the biblical view of ultimate reality.

"Of what is the world composed?" is a question that has intrigued men for millennia. Many answers have been proposed, revised, discarded, revived.

Historically, the ancient Greek philosophers proposed that the four basic ingredients of nature were earth, water, air and fire. A glass of wine, for example, was obviously a mixture of water and earth, and if there were bubbles, air. Similarly, a tree was thought to be a mixture of earth and water, with perhaps a little air and fire as well. The sun, on the other hand, was often considered to be pure fire.

Scientific analysis of 'reality'

By the end of the 19th century A.D., science had developed a much more accurate analysis of "reality." Everything, the scientists of that age maintained, could be explained in terms of about 90 elements (oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, iron, etc.) plus various kinds of energy or force such as electricity, magnetism, radiation and gravity.

The basic, irreducible, smallest particle of an element was said to be the atom. The four ingredients of the Greeks, the scientists pointed out, were simply the basic states of matter: solid, liquid and gas, plus radiant energy.

The real, hidden reality, the scientists assured, could be entirely described in terms of matter and motion, i.e., the movements and arrangements of various atoms. If there was a spiritual aspect to reality, it was left to the theologians to find. "From now on," declared the celebrated French chemist Marcellin Berthelot in 1887, "there is no mystery about the universe."

Most of the scientists of the 1890s were indeed confident that they had finally arrived at an understanding of nature that was complete, consistent and useful. All that remained to be done, they half-jestingly lamented, was to improve the accuracy of their measurements, to refine their experimental techniques to "determine that next decimal place."

Yet, by the year 1900, the whole foundation of traditional classical physics had begun to crumble.

Dividing the atom

The discovery of radioactivity in 1896 clearly implied that the atom was not the ultimate reality. Radioactive atoms were found to emit various subatomic particles, such as the electron, proton and neutron.

But these particles were later found to have a wavelike nature. The particles acted more like the waves produced on the surface of a pond when a rock is thrown in. Yet how could something be both a wave and a particle at the same time?

To make matters worse, light, which scientists thought consisted of waves, acted like a particle. In the photoelectric effect, for example, light particles striking the surface of metal can knock out electrons, creating an electric current. This is contrary to what would be expected if light consists of waves.

Compounding the problem was the perplexing fact, demonstrated by scientists A.A. Michelson and E.W. Morely, that light does not require a medium for its propagation. This is in striking contrast to sound waves, for example, which must have air or some other substance to travel through. Light, however, can travel in a perfect vacuum.

Then there was the problem of radioactivity itself, where for no apparent reason an atom would suddenly disintegrate. It was almost as though certain atoms were playing atomic roulette.

The consternation of the world's scientists continued to increase with the discovery of many more "ultimate" particles such as pions, muons and omegas. Other strange and puzzling phenomena also began to rudely intrude into the comfortable, almost complacent world of science.

What was the answer? Could anyone make sense out of the myriad of strange, incredible, even contradictory facts that modern science was discovering'? What was the real basis of reality?

Clearly, no conventional approach could extricate science from its predicament. The bewildering impasse could only be resolved by totally revising many of the very foundations of science itself.

Revolutionary concepts

The first step was taken by the German physicist Max Planck, who in 1900 proposed a revolutionary new assumption — that changes in energy were not continuous but "quantized" in small bundles. This assumption was directly contrary to traditional physics, yet it explained beautifully many experimental facts.

Albert Einstein made even more drastic alterations in the classical scheme of the universe. Boldly applying Dr. Planck's "quantum hypothesis" to light itself, Dr. Einstein solved the riddle of the photoelectric effect by postulating that light is both a wave and a particle . Dr. Einstein's explanation helped establish the wave-particle nature of light — a duality that classical science had considered intolerable.

But more was to come! In 1905 Dr. Einstein set forth his famous theory of relativity. The conclusions he drew seemed preposterous, ridiculous, absurd. Yet one test after another vindicated his predictions.

Was there an interrelationship between mass and energy? Classical science said "no"; Dr. Einstein said "yes"! How? E=mc2 — that is, energy equals mass multiplied by the square of the speed of light. Proof? There are many examples, but surely the atomic and hydrogen bombs — direct application of Dr. Einstein's mass-energy relation — are the most convincing!

Neither mass nor energy

According to Dr. Einstein, matter and energy were not different quantities, but equivalent concepts. James H. Smith, in his text Introduction to Special Relativity, states that the equation E=mc2 "must really be thought of as the conservation equation of some new quantity, neither 'mass' nor 'energy' but having properties of both."

But what is this "new quantity"? Can something be both matter and energy at the same time?

Mathematically linked to Dr. Einstein's prediction that mass and energy are equivalent were several additional conclusions equally strange from a traditional commonsense point of view. Thus Dr. Einstein asserted that mass increases with velocity. Many people objected that "velocity" was certainly unrelated to mass. Yet, once again, repeated careful experiments— including studies with giant particle accelerators — proved conclusively that Dr. Einstein was right!

In addition, the theory of relativity predicted time was related to velocity. Contrary to classical physics? Certainly. Experimentally verified? Yes. Scientists have found, for example, that unstable particles traveling near the speed of light can have their lives extended as long as the proverbial cat — that is, the particles can live nine times longer than normal.

Similarly, Dr. Einstein showed that length is altered by velocity, that change in velocity can be considered equivalent to gravitation, and that gravitation and the properties of space are related to mass. Dr. Einstein's prediction that velocity is related to gravitational fields was verified by studies conducted by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of Pasadena using the Mariner VI satellite.

A fundamental essence

So what does all this have to do with the ultimate reality? Simply this: Modern science, largely as a result of Dr. Einstein's theory of relativity, has shown that the so-called ultimate realities — space, time, matter, energy and gravitation — are apparently not separate entities. Rather, they appear to be interrelated, equivalent expressions of a single fundamental essence!

But what is the nature of this "fundamental essence"? Is it physical? Spiritual? Or is it meaningless to even ask such a question?

Scientists are increasingly perplexed. They use terms like "space-time continuum," "primitive material," "primordial essence," or "quantum fields." Thus Murray and Cobb's college physics text states: "Fields are now believed to be the only entities in nature ... all matter merely consists of condensed quantum fields." Some scientists, such as Murray Gell-Mann of Caltech in Pasadena, have theorized that the fundamental basis of reality must lie in even more basic — and elusive — particles called quarks.

But other scientists have questioned whether science will ever really understand the "ultimate reality."

Theoretical physicist Sir Arthur Eddington analyzed the discoveries of modern science and concluded: "The stuff of the world is 'mind-stuff.' Yet this mind-stuff is not spread in space and time: these are part of the cyclic scheme ultimately derived from it."

Physicist Eddington maintained that space and time are not separate entities, but are derived from the basic essence he calls "mind-stuff," for want of a better term!

Similarly, the famed English physicist and astronomer Sir James Jeans concluded the basic realities of modern science "seem to my mind to be structures of pure thought, incapable of realization in any sense which would properly be described as material."

In other words, physicist Jeans concluded that the ultimate reality, as deduced from the facts of modern science, is not physical or material, but nonphysical.

The ultimate reality

But isn't this what the Bible has proclaimed for nearly 2,000 years? "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear" (Hebrews 11:3).

The Phillips translation makes it even clearer: "And it is after all only by faith that our minds accept as fact that the whole scheme of time and space was created by God's command — that the world which we can see has come into being through principles which are invisible."

The apostle Paul died 19 centuries before the discoveries of 20th-century science; nevertheless, he knew, or at least was inspired to write, that the visible, physical, tangible creation was made from the invisible, the nonphysical, the intangible — which manifests itself in terms of matter, energy and time.

"It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter," according to the book of Proverbs. Yet as scientists have probed deeper and deeper into the ultimate constituents of the universe, it seems increasingly evident that science is dealing with an essence that cannot even be visualized in the imagination — at least not as physical human beings!

Space, time, matter, energy and gravitation have been shown to be interrelated, even equivalent manifestations of a single fundamental essence — but to describe that "essence" seemingly defies the capabilities of even modern science. As scripture says, "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God ... " (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Perhaps it is premature to say that modern science has absolutely proved that the ultimate basis of the physical universe is spiritual. Perhaps some people are not yet ready to believe that God created the universe by means of a spirit essence known as the "spirit of God" (Genesis 1:2).

But the undeniable fact remains that the scientific view of the universe increasingly sees nature as a unity — as tantalizingly elusive as it may be — and in reaching such conclusions science draws closer to the biblical view of ultimate reality.