Lazarus Died

25 02 2009

I was nearly four years old when I first learned that my birthdays had an annually recurring pattern.  The first three were a serendipity to me.  A month before that annual event, I tried very hard to remember my third birthday, but it seemed like centuries past.  Four years seems like nothing, now, but at that age it was a lifetime.  I also remember being four months old.  I didn’t know at the time how old I was, but I remember events from that time in my life.  I remember not knowing how to roll over on my own.  Back then, I felt as though I had been alive forever.  Four months is nothing, now.  It’s just four changes of the calendar and four new laboratory notebooks.  It seems that as time goes by, the measure of a day shrinks to nothing.  When I pass someone in the hallway at work, I hardly feel the need to say, “Good morning,” as it seems like I had never left.  If I could live a thousand years, a decade would seem like a year.  If I could live forever, all finite time spans would diminish to nothingness in their significance.  Well, that’s all fine and good, but at no point will I have ever lived an eternity.  Even the immortal never really get there.

Which brings me to an interesting point.  For God, who has already existed forever and has forever yet to live, a finite time span is, already, like nothing.  A day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day, for they are both as nothing.  The importance of this is in the value that he places on different things.  A thing which does not last forever is as good as a thing which never existed.  Consider it this way, and very little of what we have here on earth has any value at all to him.  What lasts forever?

Heaven lasts forever.  Hell lasts forever.  The human soul is here to stay.  Anything that we can take with us when we die has lasting value, including relationships and faith.  Everything else has no value.  Understanding this goes miles toward understanding the nature of God, I think.  What God does, therefore, will always be toward furthering things that he values, which will always relate to things that last forever.  Life and death are nothing.  It’s the eternity that follows that must be considered.

(Matthew 11:4 ) Jesus used his miracles as proof of who he was.

(John 9:1) When asked why a man was born blind, Jesus replied that it was so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.

From the human perspective, all miracles are for immediate gratification.  A blind man is healed, because blindness is bad.  (John 11) Lazarus was raised from the dead, because death is bad.  The lame were made to walk, because lameness is bad, and so on.  Looking back on it with the advantage of a couple thousand years under our belts, we might assume that not all blind were made to see, so not all blindness is for the purpose of displaying the work of God in people’s lives.  Lazarus…is he still alive?  If Lazarus died, then the miracle of his resurrection has become undone, hasn’t it?  It flies in the face of the assumption that God does all things for an eternal purpose.  The lame that Jesus healed, have they walked at all in the last millennium?  The immediate gratification felt by those who received Christ’s healing has been utterly lost.  All healing is ultimately undone by death.  Lazarus is dead.

But God does nothing for any purpose which is not eternal.

To understand the miracles, one must understand God.  The blind man was made to see, that the glory of God would be displayed in his life.  Why?  That in so doing, people might believe in the one who performed the miracle.  The purpose of blindness is not miraculous healing.  Blindness is just the product of living in a once-dead world.  That particular man, however, was blind for the purpose of the miracle.  All of Christ’s miracles were for a purpose that went beyond the miracle, itself.

(Luke 13:18 , Matthew 17:20)  If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can tell a mountain to move, and it will.  Why?  A seed can grow into a full-sized and flourishing plant.  A little bit of faith is enough for a miracle, because it takes a little bit of faith for a miracle to transform it into a lot of faith.  Faith, destiny and prophecy are the only three ways I know for cause and effect to happen in reverse order.  The miracle does not happen because someone has a lot of faith.  It happens because in so doing it causes faith to grow.  A person without any faith would look upon a miracle as a hoax.  He needs at least a little bit of faith to begin with, or the impact of the miracle never hits him.  It’s the faith that happens after the miracle that causes it to happen in the first place, though.  Destiny, likewise, is an instance of cause and effect in reverse.  It is the purpose that you were destined for that drives your actions today.  If God intends for you to be in Dallas tomorrow, then you will do things today that get you there, whether you realize it or not.  Prophecy is a perfect example of cause and effect in reverse.  They are the events of the future that drive the prophecies of today.  Predictions are only good if they accurately describe events of the future.  Hence, it is the future which drives the present when it comes to prophecy.

(Matthew 9:1-2)  The purpose of a miracle is to drive faith, but the purpose of faith is the forgiveness of sins.  We are saved by faith.  Through salvation comes everlasting life, which means living forever in Heaven with God.

So then, it all comes back to Heaven, Hell, and the human soul.  People often ask how a good and loving God can let so much pain and suffering exist in the world.  The initial response is that this world only has evil for the same reason that Hell has no good.  This is this first death and Hell is the second.  We are one step removed from what God intended for us, but we are fortunate enough not to be fully removed from it.  The second answer is that, unlike Heaven, this world is temporary.  To God, all temporary things are like nothing, because he has already lived forever.  Pulling a loose tooth is torture if done slowly.  The faster you pull it, the happier you’ll be.  For God, this life is practically instantaneous.  The suffering in this life is not the issue.  It’s the suffering or joy of the next life that really matters.

What is pain, anyway?  Pain is the motivation that God placed within our bodies to motivate us to avoid harm.  It’s not the pain that’s bad.  In fact, pain is good, if it works correctly.  It’s the damage to the body, which causes the pain, that is really the issue.  Clearly, we were meant to preserve ourselves from harm, at least for the time being.  Some time, at least, is necessary for the events which lead to eternity.  At the very least, time is necessary for us to find and share the faith that leads to Heaven.  We’re living on a sinking ship.  The more slowly it sinks, the greater our chances of survival.

Death undoes the miracle.  Lazarus died again one day, but death does not undo the purpose of the miracle, which is to increase faith that leads to salvation, which lasts forever.  God does not fail.



The Butterfly Swatter Effect

14 02 2009

Somewhere in Brazil a butterfly flaps its wings, and somewhere in Texas a tornado forms.  Somewhere, some meteorologist is wondering whether the former caused the latter.  It sounds absurd at the outset, but the idea took root and made for some magazine articles and a full feature film.  I wish I could say that the idea never took root, but it did, and it did so among some of the brightest minds in America.

It’s based on a more rational theory called chaos theory, which, in a nutshell is hardly more than “stuff happens.”  Every so often, the hard drive writes a bad bit on the disc, and unless the information was stored redundantly, in triplicate, the entire file might be ruined.  Granted, it can write thousands of bits correctly the first time, but every so often it messes up, and for no apparent reason.  It’s not that anything happens outside of cause and effect.  It’s simply that some causes have greater effects than others, due to the sensitivity of the system.

If you try to balance a pin on its pointy end on a hard surface, though there theoretically should be some perfect balancing point, you’re not likely to find it.  What’s more important, though, is that when you let go of it near that point, it may fall in a variety of different directions.  It’s easy to get confused when people talk about it in technical terms, but there’s really nothing more to it than that.  Chaos theory is simply a study of highly sensitive relationships of cause and effect.

The butterfly effect, however, goes a little beyond that, I think.  A man had a computer model of the dynamics of a weather system, and he discovered that very small changes in the initial factors had huge effects on the weather systems that developed from it.  The question that came out of it was, can the flapping of a butterfly’s wings lead to a tornado?

Yes, and no.  Firstly, it’s important to know the difference between a mathematical proof and a mathematical model.  The first one has all of its variables from real sources, takes all factors into account, and leaves no room for unexpected error.  If you put five apples into a barrel with five more apples, then you probably have ten apples.  That’s a mathematical proof.  A mathematical model assumes certain variables to be true and proposes a possible explanation for what we know, or what we think might be true.  String theory is a model.  It assumes a rather large number of dimensions to the universe, though we only know of three, and it attempts to explain the fundamentals of existence.  The problem is that we have no reason to believe that the universe actually has that many dimensions, and if we found them, it might be because we twisted our minds to convince ourselves that those dimensions could exist.  Even if there were that many dimensions, there still lies the possibility that string theory might not be true at all.  The same is true for weather models.  If the assumptions are true, then the model might accurately predict the outcome, but if there are any variables unknown, then the model might fail.  What’s more, though, is that if the system of cause and effect is far more complex than the computer can handle, then we really have a problem.  If the weather model were precisely true, then there’s still one fundamental problem: the world has more than just one butterfly.  Any model that a computer works with is only going to have a very small fraction of the factors involved in a real life situation.  The smaller the sample set, the more exaggerated the error.

Otherwise, we might have stopped Hurricane Katrina with a boatload of  DDT.

In theory, the cycle of cause and effect never stops.  You spin a top, and eventually it slows down, but it doesn’t really stop there.  That energy is lost through the creation of heat, and the stirring of the air.  Molecules bounce against each other, and a chain reaction of events takes place that never stops.  Ultimately, the end result is the same.  Entropy increases and useful energy is lost.  When entropy increases on a molecular level, it’s simply that chaos increases.  Molecules in the air are going in all different directions, and the energy spreads out evenly overall.  In a room where everything is completely at rest and at the same temperature, there is no interface between one level of energy and the next.  There is no cold front.  There is no sound wave.  There is no mass action of cause and effect.  If you make a wave in the water, you can observe how the many different molecules are working together in the same direction to form the entire wave.  When there is no wave, then all of the molecules are doing their own thing, in a highly chaotic state.  The greater the chaos, the more factors you have working independently of each other, the more impossible it is to keep track of everything.

The irony of it, though, is that while there is much more to keep track of on the molecular level, in the grand scheme of things nothing is really happening at all.  Chaos at it’s highest level is the entire universe at two degrees Kelvin, burned out and dead.  There is no mass effect, because there is no useful energy.  You don’t have waves of molecules moving in the same direction.  All large-scale causes have been broken down into a vast number of tiny and useless ones.

Yes, a butterfly can cause a tornado, if it works together with a vast number of other causal relationships, not the least of which is the sun and the topography.  Yes, my car might hit a bug that was going to feed a bird than might feed a larger bird, that might have…lived to a ripe old age and died anyway.  And that same bird might have found some other bug to eat that day, just because I happened to drive by.  The end result, though, is that the chain of events leads to things that don’t matter, and dissipates into countless other chains of events that couple with things that have nothing to do with me and have absolutely no significance in the grand scheme of things.

The end result is that the butterfly still dies.

In a way, it’s a sad reflection of humanity’s desperate attempt to grasp eternal significance without having to acknowledge the existence of God.  Yes, what you do is part of cause and effect, and those effects will lead to other effects, and it will go on forever.  No, it doesn’t matter.  Entropy still increases.  Everything dies.  The universe slowly grinds to a miserable stop.  The net overall effect of the life of any human is ultimately absolutely nothing.

…unless there’s a God.

Only things of an eternal nature can have eternal significance.  The life of a human can only matter in the long run if humans have an eternal soul.

Unless God intervenes, all things in this world will perish, and nothing we humans do, crawling on the face of this rock like ants on a candy, can change the final outcome.