Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Natural and the Super-natural?- Article published in the Augusta Chronicle, Jan. 2011

The ancient Greek word physis we translate into English as “nature” and from which we get the word “physics.” Physics is the study of nature, matter, energy, force, motion, and the way these things relate to each other.   I am reminded of my long and challenging hours spent studying physics as a requisite for my engineering studies at Clemson University, but I am also reminded of how much I loved learning about the workings of this universe into which God had placed me.

It is not uncommon in this day and time to find people who consider the “natural” all that there is, but is it the whole show, or is there a much larger reality at transcends the natural, what we call the supernatural?  Exceedingly few of our ancestors would have dared to deny or ignore the supernatural, but it is different today. We explain today’s pervasive discounting of the supernatural by telling ourselves we live in a scientific age, and to believe in something beyond nature is antiquated, unscientific and even superstitious.

But is this the truth?  As an engineer, as an applied scientist who is fascinated by the wonders and working of the physical world, you would think I would be drawn in this direction, into some sort of “scientism” in which science provides all the answers.  The fact is, my scientific background has had the opposite effect.  The more I know of the physical world, the more its incredibleness points me to God.  Is it reasonably the best answer to conclude that the system of interlocking natural forces and realities of our world can exist without a complementary system of supernatural forces and realities?  To me it is like asking if a watch can exist without a watchmaker, or a finely tuned orchestra can function without a conductor.  Perhaps one can reach this point if at the outset he or she philosophically rules the supernatural out-of-bounds for the modern thinker.  That in itself strikes me as unscientific.

Therefore, it has been a life-long quest of mine to understand the supernatural with the same diligence I have sought to understand the natural.  The result has been my Christian Faith.  It is in my Christian Faith that I have discovered a wholistic worldview that spans both the natural and supernatural.

But why Christianity?  Is it because in this western culture that is my heritage?  Surely, yes.  Is it because it is reasonable and rational?  Again, yes, although this might surprise some who stand outside Christianity looking in.  But far beyond these considerations, I am a Christian because God has revealed Himself to me both naturally and supernaturally.  Christians who have come before us like Thomas Aquinas and Richard Hooker can speak to this reality more eloquently than I, but God’s natural and supernatural revelation of Himself to me have created a personal relationship in me with my Creator.   In fact, I have discovered that it if for this personal relationship with Him that God created me in the first place. 

An engineer and a Christian… what a powerful combination for comprehending the world and our reason for being in it!

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit

(2 Cor. 13:14)
Years ago I heard The Rev. Dr. Terry Fullam, an itinerate teacher in the church, teach on 2 Corinthians 13:14.   I recently listened to that tape once again and thought I would share it with all of you.  2 Cor. 13:14 is, “ The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”  

One of the great truths revealed in the Gospel is the utter uniqueness of Christian fellowship compared to other concepts of fellowship the world may offer us.  This is reflected in the Apostle Paul’s phrase, “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.”  “Fellowship” in the original Greek is Koinonia.  Its root, koinos, means “common,” such as “our common salvation” (Jude 3), “the faith we have in common” (Titus 1:4), or the common “fellowship we have with Christ” (1 Cor. 1:9).   Paul tells us the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is not a product of ourselves or of this world; it is a fellowship made possible through Christ and into which we are called by God’s Holy Spirit.  Paul writes elsewhere, “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:13).

Note that our commonality, the only commonality that matters in the Body of Christ, is the one Spirit that binds us all together. We are diverse otherwise, but those diversities do not count for anything for those who are in the fellowship of God’s Spirit.  That is why Paul can write,As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:27).  The Gospel truth is that the Church, then and now, is the only institution where these things do not matter.  All other institutions erect barriers and define their commonality accordingly.  For instance, in the patriarchal society of Paul’s time, it had to amaze the recipients of Paul’s letters to hear him say that gender does not matter.  This is a prime reason I cannot speak against women’s ordination which is so hotly debated in the Church today.  How would I deal with this divine revelation about the true nature of Christian fellowship?

What does this mean to this local fellowship, The Church of the Holy Trinity?  It tells us we can erect no barriers.  People can erect their own barriers of sin and sad choices, but there is no one this fellowship can decide to do without.  This is not our fellowship, it is God’s fellowship… it is “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.”