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sea

In ancient literature, the sea is at times an image used to depict chaos and evil. The ancients, in common with their predecessors, had a hard time justifying and understanding the dark that seemed to exist inappropriately in their world. The Sea was a powerful and mysterious thing, completely out of human control. The great armies of the most powerful rulers on earth were powerless and themselves at the mercy of the sea. It was thought that monsters lived there and great storms could come out of nowhere, seemingly under the command of the gods, and swallow the largest and best equipped of ships, or entire fleets.  Every great people tells of their difficulties with the sea. From the mighty Egyptians of ancient times to our own Gulf Coast in recent years, it is known that the sea is powerful to destroy any who are too close or too comfortable. It is vast and even with modern technology and incredible amount of focus on it, the sea is still as much a mystery and out of human control as it was tens of thousands of years ago. Mankind is no match for the sea.

The Christian story is one full of this imagery. In the opening scene of Genesis there is nothing but the sea and the Spirit of God “moving over the waters”, Genesis 1:2. God’s power is displayed when he, with just a word, places the mighty sea within its boundaries therefore creating land. This is a reoccurring praise of God’s power and authority in Scripture as seen in Job 38:10, Proverbs 8:29 and Psalm 104:9. God is Lord of the sea. He alone has established its limits and he alone has authority over it.

The Exodus narrative acknowledges this with powerful and dramatic displays. The first plague in Egypt is one such example, Exodus 7. The mighty and life-giving Nile was the domain of Hapi, a favored god of the Egyptians. He was responsible for the waters flowing and bring the soil enriching silt every year. The annual flooding was known as the “arrival of Hapi”. He was, at a time in Egypt’s history known as the creator of all things. The Nile was turned to blood by the God of Israel as a direct overthrowing of Hapi from his place of authority. Even the god of the Nile, the loved and worshiped, Hapi, was not able to control the sea. This plague demonstrates that Yahweh alone is Lord. Indeed all the plagues of Exodus were direct challenges to and victories over the major deities of Egyptian culture.

The Red Sea would be a dead-end, resulting in death and misery, for any who found themselves between it and a vengeful and pursuing Egyptian army. The Israelites themselves saw their own death sentence as they stood before the waves of the sea, “they became very frightened”, Exodus 14:10, and they cried out to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” vs. 11. God was victorious over Hapi, he had demonstrated his authority over the Nile. What now of this enormous sea that expanded out before them? We know the story and indeed it is repeated and re-imagined all throughout the rest of Scripture. God has Moses raise his staff and the waters part before the people allowing them to cross unharmed. The Egyptians do not have the same experience, they are swallowed up by the deep as God brings the waters down upon them. It was believed by the Egyptians that Pharaoh was a god, yet he was not able to safely pass through, nor deliver his mighty army. He was no match for the sea, vs. 28.

There is a story about Jesus and the sea. His disciples are fishing and a storm breaks out over them suddenly. The storm was causing water to fill the boat and fear grips the disciples. They seem to be angry with Jesus who is sleeping, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”, Matthew 4:38. Jesus tells the storm to ““Hush, be still”. And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.”, vs. 39. The disciples were afraid of the storm, and who could blame them? What is interesting is that they were more afraid once all was calm. For it is then they realized that they had with them in their boat one who could command and control the sea, “Who is this?”. But the story of Jesus and the sea does not end there.

Elsewhere in the New Testament the mission of Jesus is described as an Exodus.  Paul teaches this idea in Ephesian, Romans, I Corinthians, Titus, his letters to Timothy and even in Philemon. The author of Hebrews as well conveys that Jesus is a better Moses, Hebrews 3. Jesus delivers all Peoples, not just those of Israel. The Gentiles were in need of exodus from the bondage of their idolatry, and the Jews were in need of liberation from their worship of the Law as that which could make them God’s possession. Paul argues this in his letter to the Romans, chapter 3. Jesus would do more than deliver from political oppression and slavery, he would make all the nations free from sin and death. If death itself were to be defeated, then so also would all the lesser evil powers of the world. If he were to defeat death, then what would follow would be the obedience of the nations, Romans 1:1-5.

Jesus himself would enter the sea. He played this out with his own baptism and his time in the wilderness. As Israel went through the sea and then spent forty years wandering, so Jesus went through the waters of his baptism and into temptation, Matthew 3. It is on the cross that Jesus faced the great sea, evil itself. All of its fury and terror, injustice, betrayal, misery and death would come against Jesus as a great wave, smashing and breaking him. It did not hold back, it did its worse. The broken and bloody body of a would be King, washed lifeless upon the shore as so many before him. It seemed as though the sea would always be a scourge to humanity and a chaos to insult and denounce God’s authority and justice.

In his Gospel, John tells the story of Jesus and his ministry in a series of sections. These sections are to be seen as “days” of a week to make a point that Jesus is the means through which a new creation is coming. God’s new age of salvation has finally appeared. According to John, Jesus is laid in the tomb, he rest on the Sabbath. The week is over, ending in the tragic death of the one who would be both a new Adam and the Creator of a new world. John 20 is one of the most exciting texts in all of literature, for here John reveals that though one week has ended, a new one has begun. On the “first day of the week”, vs.1, it is discovered that the body of Jesus is not in the tomb. When the disciples are told this they run to the empty grave site to be met by an Angel who tells them that Jesus has risen. Jesus later on appears before them. Every one of the Gospels tell of Jesus eating and feeding, teaching and praying, appearing to a few on the road or even to a group of over 500 at once, I Corinthians 15:6. The phrase in John 20, “the first day of the week”, is to point us forward. The new world has come. Each of the Gospel writers invites regardless of where (or when) one may be, to join them in the new age, a world that has come as a result of the apocalyptic event(s) known as the ministry, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Jesus has come and since he has risen nothing has ever been the same. The world, as it was known before him, has ended.

This brings us back to the sea. In John’s Revelation he tells of a new heavens and a new earth, ch. 21. The prophet Isaiah also tells of this, Isaiah 65:17. Like Isaiah, John’s vision of the new world is of a world very different from the old. Isaiah says that there will be no more weeping or infant death. There will be long life for most people. A world of justice and plenty, without calamity or famine. All will be as God originally intended for his world. In accord with Isaiah, John simply says,

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.” Revelation 21:1

No longer any sea. Other translations say, “the sea was no more”. When one observes how the image of the sea is used in the biblical narrative, what John is saying here is extraordinary. It has been demonstrated that in John 20 Jesus is the one through whom a new creation week has begun and that week has not ended. He is currently active in his mission, which is directly stated in Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I am making all things new”! The New heavens and New earth are being created now as Jesus is reigning from the throne of God. This new creation will be a place where, upon its completion, there will be no sea, evil will be evaporated from God’s good creation once and for all. The sea with all its chaos, terror and monsters, the sea that drowned the Son, has itself been swallowed up in his victorious resurrection. It is being evaporated from the earth through the activity of Jesus as King.

The sea is no more. What does this mean for his Spirit filled people? They too have come through the waters of baptism and now find themselves in the wilderness of a broken world. The Gospel is about the justice and power of God through the reign of Christ over the nations, Romans 1:5, 16&17. How does the power and the justice of God, revealed within the Gospel, go forth and do its work? It works through his obedient people. The Church has been given the very presence of God. The Shekinah that led the former slaves of Egypt through their wilderness now inhabits the Israel of God as they are sent into theirs, see John 17:22. Since the victory of Jesus, evil and death have no authority here. Fear and lack of faith must be cast away, since the saints are set apart as ones sent to complete the work of the King. An evaporating and diminishing sea seems to convey that Christ is working through his people to subject all authorities and powers, both earthly and spiritual, to himself (see I Corinthians 15:24-28). When the sea rages and floods communities and even a society, the faithful are called and equipped to stem the tide. They are the ones who are called to stand between an oppressive authority and defenseless people. They are the ones who are called to feed the hungry and poor, clothing them with all they have. They are the ones who must stand and demonstrate the liberty and beauty of God’s Law as the standard for all human societies for the civil government, Church, family and the individual. There exists a power and a liberation in the truth of the Gospel of King Jesus, the good news that his Kingdom has come. It is a Kingdom that is everlasting and will never be defeated, Daniel 7:14. In his Kingdom the sea is no more.

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law of god love pic

God’s Law is perfect. The Law of God is the foundation and source, as well as the preserver, of life, liberty, justice and love. This Sermon, given at Grace Church of Dunedin, presents a survey of the Biblical Narrative as the Story of God’s Law. This Story is of a God who creates and redeems a people for his own precious possession. He is a jealous husband and and good King.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-law-of-god-a-love-story/id487084986?i=326059332&mt=2

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kuyper portrait

Kuyper on Science by René van Woudenberg

Abraham Kuyper believed faith and science were not at odds, in fact he believed that “science presupposed faith”. Here is a great article highlighting this thinking in Kuyper by René van Woudenberg. Enjoy.

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Science vs faith? Or Telos vs Causality?

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Lesslie Newbigin sums up the Enlightenment as the birth place of the Western Culture as we now know it. It was a movement that was also an entire culture’s “conversion experience”*. Among the many paradigm shifts that we see during and since is that of a scientific one.

The thinkers of this age had come to conclusions that the old “explanatory framework”* in science and reality, what the Greeks called, telos, or purpose, was to be replaced by another. The “real world disclosed by the work of science was one governed…by natural laws of cause and effect”*. So purpose was stripped from science, math and really all of reality. The idea of a Creator or God was relegated to the private realm of an individual’s “religious experience” and had no actual say or part in the true explanation or running of things in reality.

Causality is not only the premise adopted by scientists over the past centuries, but it is seen in the politics of Francis Bacon, the historical theory of Progress supported by the epistemology of John Stuart Mills and sociologist, Herbert Spencer. It is a challenge indeed to find an ideology, or aspect of our society that has not accepted the premise of Causality and Progress as the foundations upon which to build ethics, politics, educational systems, and of course, science.

Recently the physicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, has been getting a lot of attention. This is due to the success of his Television series, ‘Cosmos’ as well as his very vocal objections to “religion having any say” in “his science classroom”. My case is that his thinking, and this thinking is the common one amongst most, is based on the Enlightenment premise that Cause and Effect, not Telos, is the explanatory framework through which reality is understood. According to the thinking of the Enlightenment, any science that does not work from Cause and Effect, is invalid.

My purpose is not to argue against this but rather demonstrate what I believe is the real problem, one of antithetical presuppositions. Abraham Kuyper during his Stone Lectures at Princeton in 1898, laid out one the most poignant and precise observations during his talk on Calvinism and science. He says that the there is never a problem between faith and science, Science always presupposes faith:

“… [F]aith in self, in our self-consciousness; presupposes faith in the accurate working of our senses; presupposes faith in the correctness of the laws of thought; presupposes faith in something universal hidden behind special phenomena; presupposes faith in life.”

The real issue is that Science is something that comes through our observations. These observations are being made by two very different types of people, the believer (Theist) and the un-believer (Atheist). The believer has a presupposition that God created the world and therefore will interpret the data through that paradigm. The unbeliever will interpret the same data through their presupposition that there cannot be a God. According to Kuyper, there are two sciences competing with each other.

Is a science that presupposes the existence of God a valid one? This can be answered in a couple ways depending on how the question is understood for it can be demonstrated that even the most avid atheist cannot escape a deep down theistic presupposition. But the answer on a surface level is also, yes, of course it is.
If science is a method of investigating evidence through observing and testing data, then the one who affirms causation cannot claim exclusive rights to the term “scientist”. He is merely a scientist who interprets his data and evidence through his worldview, he sees the world through atheist colored glasses. The theist uses the same method yet his data and evidence is seen through his worldview, God colored specs.

One more thing that I would like to challenge Tyson and the Atheist on: His call for religion to stay in the Church and out of the science classroom is usually argued from a radical and inconsistent interpretation of Separation of Church and State. How does separation of Church and State mean that it is possible to not be a theist in the science classroom? Why is it that they have exclusive rights to teach their science but the theist is not allowed to teach theirs? One cannot demonstrate that a certain science is more valid, yet it is assumed that the one affirming causality is, therefore telos is relegated with religion as something only for “private religious experience”.

Tyson and others need to be consistent. Their Atheism is a worldview that speaks about all of life, it is not something that can be turned off or kept away during “science” or baseball. An Atheist is an atheist always and in every situation. The same is true for the Theist. The Theist is a theist when testing their hypotheses in the lab, or while brushing their teeth before bed. A worldview is all encompassing and holistic.

Church and State are separate for the purpose of freedom of religion and to keep the State from controlling and influencing religion. It is in our Constitution due to the debacle our forefathers saw with the State Church of England. It has nothing to do with the ideas and views one has regarding science.

So Tyson’s claim of “my science classroom” is false. The science classroom belongs to all who are in it, both atheist and theist alike. The issue is not one of science vs. faith, but an issue of what premise one has from which they observe and test the data?

*quotes are from Newbigin’s ‘Foolishness to the Greeks’

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