190. transistors and dating
“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.
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.
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?