Category: Christology

Does God run our world like a clock?

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  (Colossians 1:15-17)

As we move towards Spring, I have noticed the daily increase in daylight, enjoying both the brighter mornings and brighter evenings that occur in late winter each year.

public sunrise

In the 1700s, there was an explosion of interest in and discoveries in natural science. Scientists discovered that there are orderly “laws of nature”. It looked like the universe displays an intricate machine-like order—indeed, the exact times that the sun will rise and set as the seasons change, or when the next eclipse will be, can be charted out years in advance.

Coming out of this interest in natural science, some thinkers created a new view of God. Picture an old-fashioned Grandfather’s clock that has been carefully designed and crafted. You wind it up and set it running….it will run for many days with no further intervention required. This new view of God said that he is like a clockmaker who set the universe in motion, but who now has a hands-off attitude towards personal intervention in the creation. This new view changed God from being a powerful, intimate, supernatural-acting moment-by-moment sustainer, to being an impersonal Creator who never intervenes in supernatural ways.

But let’s push back against the clockmaker God. What if the laws of nature only keep working because of the second-by-second personal decree of God? Note the end of today’s passage: and in him all things hold together.   This implies that the laws of nature only continue the way they do because of Jesus’ good pleasure and grace.

Another amazing implication of today’s passage: God reserves the right to overrule the normal order of operation of anything at his good pleasure. There is no guarantee that the laws of nature will continue to run indefinitely as they do now. Indeed the Bible seems to say that they will not—-especially when you read passages about stunning celestial changes during the end times:

All the stars in the sky will be dissolved
     and the heavens rolled up like a scroll;
 all the starry host will fall
     like withered leaves from the vine,
     like shriveled figs from the fig tree. (Isaiah 34:4)

I don’t exactly know what’s going on in this passage, but somehow I don’t think your local TV weathercaster’s description of when sunrise will be will be on that day will be particularly valid!

How does this affect our daily lives? Well, it sure is easy for us to drift into a clockmaker mode of living, where thoughts of God go to the back of our minds. When that happens, we still know that he exists, but we lose the sense of his intense personal caring about what is going on in our lives, we lose sight of it being God and not scientific farming and our great economy, that provides our daily bread. We may even think our economy, our country, will go on pretty much the same and not change………..or even that we don’t need to change !

For now I am glad that when I am flying in an airplane, God is keeping the natural laws like the laws of aerodynamics working, so that the plane does not fall from the sky. But these laws come far from explaining everything, and I am glad that there are times when God overrules the normal ways that things work—look how often answered prayer defies the natural explanations for things.

The more we experience how much our loving God is no clockmaker, how he sustains us by His loving grace moment by moment, the more we can grow to better express who he is, and through the grace of Jesus, love those he brings into our lives.

Two pictures of Jesus

I’ve been thinking of two seemingly different pictures of Jesus in the scriptures. First is Jesus in the Gospels walking on earth, talking to the disciples, teaching people, healing people, calling them his friend.

Second is the raised and exalted Jesus who we see in the book of Revelation with “eyes of flashing fire, feet like burnished bronze.”

At first glance these two pictures of Jesus are so different that we wonder how to connect them!

It’s easy to think of Jesus walking on earth as a warm, friendly, easy going buddy, but there is more than just a sentimental feeling of closeness in Jesus’ idea of friendship. One of the keys to connecting the two pictures of Jesus is what He says about friendship in John 15:14 “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

In Revelation in John’s vision of Jesus he “fell at His feet as a dead man.” But then Jesus “laid His right hand upon me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One”.

So these pictures of Jesus are both true at the same time : Jesus is my friend but not my easygoing buddy AND Jesus is exalted and glorified and almost terrifying ; yet at the same time he puts his hand on me and urges me to follow his commands.

Jesus’ shining brightness in John’s vision makes me think of how the Lord has a refiner’s fire—wanting to burn off and purify any slop and sin in my life that would be an obstacle to doing what He commands.

The same Jesus who is my friend is the exalted Jesus who wants to purify me.

So the two views of Jesus are not contradictory at all! The Jesus who walked the earth in the gospels is the same as the Jesus who rules in heavenly places in Revelation, and He intensely desires that we each respond to his touch and follow him well!