190. transistors and dating

A friend posted this comment on my blogger site in response to my previous post:

“I’m no Bible scholar, so I ask sincerely: Is there anything in there that tells of a demon AND the holy spirit living concurrently in the same person?”

And the answer, as far as I can tell, is “no, there isn’t.” And this is another reason why it was hard for me to accept what was happening to T.

But the people who pray for freedom from malevolent spiritual influences do have an answer to this challenge. (And I’m still new to – and still a bit skeptical of – their understanding of spirituality, so the views expressed here as relates to their reasoning rests solely on my shoulders.) I think they would say that what T was going through was not so much demon possession as it was demonic oppression. And again, I’m not the best spokesperson for their beliefs, but my understanding of the distinction is that a full on possession is…well, actually I myself don’t know what it means to be possessed, but demonic oppression is kind of like those remoras – those fish that stick to the sides of sharks. Because the host is a Christian, the demon can’t get completely inside to possess the person and so they do the next best thing which is to kind of latch on to the outside and hang on for dear life (life?) until prayer and fasting and laying on of hands pries that sucker loose.

That’s my understanding of what they believe.

“So what do you believe?”

Me? I’m still trying to figure that out. However, there’s a handy little phrase that I like to keep in my back pocket for times like these where I don’t quite understand what God is doing. And I remember the circumstances that led to me uttering that phrase. See, there was this really smart and really cute half Asian, half Polish girl that I met in church. She was visiting from Chicago and was staying in Hawaii with a couple who knew one of her parents.

I really dug hanging out with her because she was whip smart and articulate even though English was her second language (she was born in Poland). And we’d have these amazing conversations about religion and God and truth and philosophy and morality. And it was quite the intellectual sparring match because she was an atheist and her atheism wasn’t just some anti-establishment idea that she latched onto because she thought it sounded cool. It was reasoned, researched, and thought through, but at the same time, she was an open minded atheist who had a lot of questions.

“Randall, only you could make an atheist friend in church.”

Yeah, so anyway, I remember that we went to see some movie and afterwards I was driving her home and we were having yet another conversation about the existence of God. And then somehow we started talking about the Bible.

“Hey, wasn’t there some phrase or something you wanted to share with us?”

Yeah, chill. I’m getting to that.

So this girl and I start talking about the Bible and how I believe it’s the revealed word of God written through specially anointed writers and she was talking about how there were useful ideas from other religions on how to live life. And we’re going back and forth with this when a phrase fell from my lips like a verbal epiphany.

I told her, “everything in the Bible is true, but not everything that’s true is in the Bible.”

Now some Christians might look askance at the second half of that sentence, “not everything that’s true is in the Bible,” but if you think about it, that has to be the way it is. Two examples to illustrate, one long (feel free to skip this one) and one short: transistors and dating.

1. Transistors

Before I started going to my home church, I was part of a midweek Bible study group. Well at one of these Bible studies, this guy starts going off about what he referred to as, “black hole theory.” Now I’m no physicist, but I like to read about physics (books like The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene and Hyperspace by Michio Kaku) and from what this guy was describing, I think he was referring to quantum theory, the science of the subatomic where the rules of classical physics break down and incredible, otherwise impossible things happen. And I think he called it black hole theory because the absurdities and complexities of quantum theory come into direct conflict with the more stable, elegant theory of relativity when one studies black holes.

See, quantum theory deals with things that are very small whereas the theory of relativity deals with things that are very huge and because they operate on such different scales, the theories normally don’t affect one another. However, a black hole is basically a large massive object (like a star) that has been squeezed down into a very tiny space. So small, in fact, that quantum effects start to appear. And so in order to understand what’s happening in and around a black hole, you have to use both the theory of relativity and quantum theory. But the two don’t mix. When you scale up the formulas that describe quantum phenomenon to relativistic levels, they fall apart and the same happens when you try to squeeze the math of relativity down to the subatomic level.

So this guy keeps going off about black hole theory, about how it conflicts with the Bible because the Bible describes an ordered world, not a chaotic one. He accuses scientists of trying to debunk God’s design and starts going into a whole conspiracy theory about science dismantling the world-view described in the Bible. He was working himself into a frothy, passionate mess and at the same time he was getting me pissed off because this is just the kind of anti-intellectual, irrational, non-reasoning that makes Christians look like such idiots.

Because here’s the thing. All the scientists who work in the field agree that the findings of quantum theory lead to some pretty outlandish conclusions. The theory says that particles can exist in two places at once. And they’re not talking about two particles in two places, they’re literally talking about one single particle in two separate places at the same time. It also says that particles can pass (more accurately, tunnel) through solid barriers, like magic. In fact, things get so strange in quantum theory that one of quantum theory’s pioneers, Richard Feynman, is quoted as saying, ” . . .the only thing that quantum theory has going for it, in fact, is that it is unquestionably correct.” And he can say this because the theory has passed every experimental test scientists have thrown at it with flying colors.. Data in some quantum experiments corresponds to theoretical predictions with an astonishing 99.999 percent accuracy.

“Yeah, but that’s in the lab. What does that have to do with the rest of us in the real world?”

Well, let’s go back to my friend at the Bible study. I hope he doesn’t have a cell phone or a computer or a CD player or anything else that uses semiconductors because the diodes and transistors that are the bread and butter of modern electronics would not be possible without the findings of quantum theory. And heaven forbid if he has an iPod because without transistors, it would have to be powered by vacuum tubes which means he would need a pocket the size of the Empire State Building to carry it around.

2. Dating

There’s no mention of dating in the Bible, certainly not what we know of today as dating. In both Old and New Testament times, marriage was an arranged affair. And I don’t know about the rest of you, but the idea of my parents picking out a bride for me makes me more than a little bit queasy. I think I’d
rather rip my toenails out with pliers.

“That’s not why you’ve been single for 34 years is it?”

No, and let’s not go there.

My point is, neither transistors nor dating are in the Bible, but they’re a part of everyday life. if we are to restrict ourselves to the things we can find in the Bible then we’re going to have to do away with a great deal of the modern conveniences we’ve become accustomed to. And we’re also going to have to ask the parental units to start setting us up with dates, and how fun do you think that will be?

Thankfully, not all things that are true (things that work) are in the Bible.

“So what’s the Bible good for?”

Well, that’s where the first part of the phrase comes in brilliantly: “everything in the Bible is true. . . .”

“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV)

No, it might not contain the secrets locked within the heart of a black hole, but it does contain the information we need to know what we need to know about God and how to live our lives and how to get along with one another. And because everything in the Bible is true (though not always literally true), the things we glean from it can be trusted as a reliable source of guidance as opposed to physics textbooks which need to be revised on a yearly basis (for example, if the textbook you remember from high school or college had a picture of an atom with a nucleus in the center and electrons orbiting the nucleus in neat little circles, it’s wrong. Most textbooks today describe the electrons as circling the nucleus in shells or clouds).

And finally, to end where we began, even though we can’t find examples of Christians being possessed in the Bible, that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t happen.

Phew. How’s that for too much information?


4 thoughts on “190. transistors and dating

  1. Okay, you’re right about not everything true being in the Bible. I’d never dispute that.But c’mon. There’s all kinds of stuff about sex, menstruation, wet dreams, and all manner of issues important and not quite so important. The way a lot of Pentecostals talk, every minute of every day is a war between demons and believers. If it’s so easy for a demon to “latch on” to a believer, and if God knew it, wouldn’t there be something in the Bible to cover it in SOME way?So much of what Christians believe was made up by people like Dante — artists who attempted to explore these complicated issues — and these things become such huge parts of our cultural literacy that we forget to question where they came from.You know what the Bible says about the Spirit? That it was there In The Beginning. That when it came upon us, we were filled with power. That it gives us the ability to heal, to raise from the dead, and even to “cast out demons,” whatever that means.And that’s just stuff that’s specifically about the Spirit. The fact that the Spirit is GOD opens up a whole new file-cabinet of evidence of the power of God’s presence.We’re not talking about some magic trick. We’re talking about God living in us. I just don’t see how anything as repugnant as a demon could even “latch on” to us, what with all that spirit in us.”You have no authority,” your friend’s prayer-warriors said to the demon. Well, if the spirit gives us authority, and the demon has “no authority,” how does it get in there? And why does it take so much (pun intended) damned work to get it out? Jesus just said, “Begone,” or “Lazaraus, come out of there.”One more thing: When Jesus said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” did he mean that Satan was actually there, or was he talking figuratively? Every Bible teacher I ever had says figuratively. If references to Satan and to demons can be figurative once, how do we know they weren’t figurative other times?

  2. Okay, one more thing.The reason I go on about this is not to discount what others believe. It’s just that you sound as if you feel a bit guilty for not believing, and I say that not believing is an altogether appropriate response. I don’t see how affirming the Nicene Creed leads to believing in demons possessing spirit-possessed believers. On the contrary, it seems to me that affirming the Nicene Creed makes all the rest of this stuff wholly unnecessary.If there’s no comfort in that, at least you and I and T and T’s prayer-warriors can be comforted in knowing that one day, we can stand together in God’s presence and ask him for real what all of this was. Plus whether or not Adam and Eve had navels.

  3. I’m not sure if you’re getting this from what I’m writing, but I actually do side a lot more with your point of view than with that of the ghost busters. While I was there watching my friend get prayed for, I was thinking two things (when I wasn’t praying): this can’t be real and maybe I shouldn’t be here because if it is real then I’m probably not helping.And even my prayer that night wasn’t, “Lord, cast out the demon,” it was, “Lord, I know it isn’t your will to see T acting this way so please help my friend.”Honestly, if I had to quantify what I thought about the matter, I’d say I’m 90 percent sure that it wasn’t demonic forces at work. But I don’t know for sure.And the other thing at work here for me is that I know there’s a spiritual side to life. Something appeared to Mary and Elizabeth to let them in on what was going to happen. Something went out from the man in Gerasenes and into the pigs. Something happened at Pentecost that fired up the apostles. And then there’s the story in Mark 9:14-24 where even Jesus seems to hint at the idea that some possessions are stronger than others.But what about believers? Well what about Saul? He was God’s anointed and while that’s not the same thing as being a Christian, it’s probably as close as you could get in Old Testament times. But even Saul was tormented by “an evil spirit.” (1 Samuel 16)Again, I actually agree more with you than with the ghost busters, but to me the bottom line is, even if my friend wasn’t experiencing something demonic, something happened that night to make him feel free and closer to God and that sounds like a good thing to me.And as long as they’re not stepping outside the fundamentals of the faith, I say it’s all just different ways of talking about the same thing. Maybe what my friend really needed was a good shrink. But then maybe by going through that cathartic prayer session he somehow dealt with the underlying psychological problems, thus saving him a lot of money. Or maybe all the drama was the end result (or long term side effects) of all his drug use when he was younger.I don’t know. Maybe it’s just like Sheryl Crow says, “if it makes you happy (and doesn’t violate the fundamentals of the faith), it can’t be that bad.” You gotta listen real close to hear that parenthetical section.

  4. Yes, something happened that night to make him feel free and closer to God. But by itself, that’s not necessarily a good thing.Remember when you were in high school, and every year during CEW the same people responded to the altar call? They came out of that week feeling “rededicated” and closer to God.That’s a good thing, of course. Teenagers are going to be tenuous in their dedication to anything, and since most of those people weren’t doing any of the work it takes to reach any kind of level of assured faith, of course they needed to go back to the well every year.I’m sure you know people in church who seem to move from one crisis of faith to another, each time practically begging everyone around for prayer, and then it seems that as soon as God helps them through that, there’s another crisis, just as stressful and just as bad.When you are young in your faith, you find yourself on that roller-coaster naturally. When you are immature in your faith, you pretty much pay the admission fare for that roller-coaster, just so you can keep experiencing that “closer to God” part.The danger-junkie trait of your friend T seems to explain it all to me. The memory of one thrill wears off after a while; soon, one must seek another.

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