Posted by: robertartemenko | February 20, 2011

Black Holes and the Whitewhole

Yale University’s Peabody Museum is currently running an exhibit on Black Holes produced by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. My recent visit inspired a deeper look into this astounding phenomenon. The Hubble Telescope recently uncovered a “dust disk” in a distant galaxy (NGC7052) resembling a giant hubcap (Oldsmobile, Toyota?). This starry host, nearly 4,000 light years across, is being wolfed-down by a black hole at its center that has a mass 300 million times that of our sun.

The hubcap, likely originating from two ancient galaxies colliding, will be consumed, without Rolaids or Tums, over the next few billion years. Go figure … neither myself nor my golden retriever Duke have the bandwidth to comprehend this, though at least I can sense someone out there might have a bad day because of it.

The premise here is that while we embrace concepts of such mind numbing dimensions, we only infrequently associate them with the divine. We are generally stricken with a finite and marginalized concept of  God.  To make matters worse, our culture indoctrinates us in a way that presents the Hitlers and Napoleons as titanic, whereas God or Jesus are sort of homeless Andy of Mayberry types – wise, meandering in a daze, cajoling people to play nice. As curious pilgrims we possess few strategies and seemingly lesser interest in refining how we conceive of God – to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep”  He actually is (Ephesians 3:18). To know He who, during a break, on an off day, tossed that “hubcap” into the void, left-handed, yawning, one eye open…(if He had a hand, an eye, a break or an off day – which I think He does not ;  ).

By contrast, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) had definitive perspectives on the greatness of God. Today’s data explosion frustrates our ability to go deep – we find ourselves just skimming through the day. Plato, Augustine and Edwards himself, were philosopher-theologians who plumbed the mind and the heart, finding the infinite sans Hubble or Hawking. Like Tom Hanks castaways, their thought life involved examining the “unwired” world around them, ingeniously achieving insights through continuous application of simple truths until right combinations unlocked the profound.

A framework for God-think which Edwards and Augustine explored was the concept of the Trinity, the proposition that God is one divine entity in three inseparable persons. This was better defined in the first few centuries AD, and made official church doctrine in the release of the Nicene Creed in 325. Debate surrounding the doctrine continues. Whenever man attempts to look outside of his mortal space toward the immortal, his eyes cross, his tongue is tied and it is hard to reach consensus. While this is bad for writing encyclopedias and wiki’s, it is all together appropriate when the creature attempts to comprehend the creator, when we attempt to explain “Another,” that is wholly “Other.” I would emphatically assert that this debate about God’s essence should be embraced and not avoided. The tension arising from disagreement on how to describe it is not so much like contradictory witnesses at an accident scene, but instead multiple viewers struggling to comprehend a spectacular sunset.

Jonathan Edwards in fact incorporated the spirit of competing theories in his own theology. He toggled between two of his own models of the Trinity, this multiplicity primarily driven by the complexities in comprehending God’s implicit “otherness.” It also seems that his general openness to different thinking and tolerance of  creative theological propositions, accidentally enrolled him in intellectual Pilates that enriched both his models and expanded his capacity to process divine mysteries. He clearly did not have all the answers, but he does set an example of the level of intentionality, creativity and perseverance required to go deeper into better understanding God.

What about his two Trinitarian models?

INTERNAL SELF COMMUNICATION MODEL : IMMANENT GLORIFICATION – This model characterizes the Trinity as a totally contained, indivisible divine atom. Impregnable bonds of loving goodwill, holiness and beauty seal its singularity. He presents the hypothesis that the Father as “Fountain of the Deity” can contemplate Himself so perfectly, that His reflection duplicates Himself in the form of the Son, “the Express Image of the Father’s Person.”  This relates to our general understanding of the Son as Logos, the Word, the overflowing expression of God’s love. The Holy Spirit is seen as the boundless love binding affection between Father and Son. This Pair continuously switch from Lover, to Beloved of the Other, while their connection, as mentioned before, the Holy Spirit, is the “Love” Itself, the DNA of this mystic Triunion.  Augustine attempted to explain this along the lines of human brain function. Consider please … We all have a MEMORY, we can WILL to focus on something in our memory, then after we have remembered and willed ourselves to focus on that something, we can actually be THINKING about it. While there is only one “something,” in play, there were three indivisible aspects of it, the (1) memory of it, the (2) will to consider it and the (3) thinking about it. Consolidating Edward’s theory, memory is associated with the lover (Father), the thought is associated with the beloved (Son) and the will to love, with love itself (Spirit).  This makes my head hurt!  One wonders, “why exercise these mental gymnastics?” Of all the things that are to be known, ultimately  “Who Creator Is,” is first on the list. Our view of who He is drives our relationship with Him – also our loves, fears, hope and our plan for this life. In my small brain, I think that if I can conceive of a form of the divine, it could not possibly be accurate, because God’s Kingdom would always be “more,” always beyond my comprehension. That said, no intellectual journey is as important as the one to determine who God is and what His relationship is to me.

THE SOCIAL MODEL : TRANSCENDENT COMMUNITY – This model characterizes the trinity as a community unified by a perfect confluence of love and purpose. Because God is perfect  love, it must exist with its beloved, and a third to validate the relationship between the lover and beloved. Amy Platingua Pauw summarizes Edwards assertion in an essay on the Trinity, saying that ” the perfection of any person is found in loving another person. A mere duality of persons would not suffice, because there would be no opportunity to  communicate and share the delights of their mutual happiness. Therefore the Trinity must contain three persons.”  Edwards references 1 John 4. It is good to restate that portion of Scripture here:

7 Dear friends, let us love one another,  for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

In his “Miscellanies,” Edwards asserts per this passage “that there are more persons than one in the Deity: for it shows love to be essential and necessary to the Deity, so that the nature consists in it; and this supposes that there is an eternal and necessary object, because all love respects another, that is, the beloved.”

Remembering the reference above to the Trinity as Lover/Beloved/Love, as Father/Son/Spirit, consider the role of a Notary Public as the third element of the Trinity that, “seals” a document. An agreement is similar to “love” because at a minimum you need two parties for each to exist and to manifest themselves. That said, most agreements must be validated with a “seal” from a third person who “stands” for the agreement (as the Holy Spirit “stands” for the “love” between Father and Son.) In fact we see in Ephesians 4:30  that you should, “not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” The Godhead then follows through logically as a community that is LOVE, and the only proper, orderly and right way for it to “be Love” is not flying solo. The Bible logically aligns with this framework, a unified swirl of Lover/Beloved/Love, because otherwise He who is  Himself  LOVE, would not be exhibiting it, projecting it, in his nature.

Edwards carried these two views of the Trinity according to Pauw “not as two conflicting blueprints of the inner life of the Godhead but as complementary linguistic resources narrating God’s saving work.”  This goes back to the validity of exercising multiple descriptions of a sunset because we have an inadequate vocabulary to capture its total form. To help ourselves and others understand, we create a set of descriptions which, while they each can standalone with their own internal consistency, having both in play contribute to our total understanding.

Back to the premise of this essay, which is that while we might take time to go to an exhibition on black holes and develop a framework to conceive the enormity of the universe, we seem to have little energy to exercise due diligence to appreciate the hugeness of the creator.  As said before, we are generally complacent with a finite and marginalized concept of God.

This was certainly not the case with Jonathan Edwards. He invested the work required to better understand God. The good news for us is that we have conceptual-farmers like Edwards who have plowed the rocky soil before us. Yes we should do our own tilling, but we have other input to complement how we build our worldviews, the scope and truth of which shape our destiny.

Edwards’ use of these two trinitarian models and the ruminating behind each created a platform from which he would take his God-think even further. For me, I have been blessed with drafting in the wake of his thinking related to our redemption through the Father’s love and Christ’s loving sacrifice, underpinned by the Holy Spirit before the world was created. This infinite Godhead had a plan from before the beginning, had love from before the beginning, had consent among themselves before the beginning, had a covenant with us before we were born, that had as their purpose to invite us into Their community. The punchline ==> The (Model 1) perfect image of God’s Glory mirrored within Himself, revealing the other members of the Trinity, and (Model 2) God’s being Love itself which requires Him to be socially connected beyond Himself,  combine to OVERFLOW AND ABSORB US INTO DIVINE COMMUNITY. Are we to become God(s), … certainly NOT. Are we to join in this infinite overflowing-with-love-and-grace community for an eternity, absolutely YES. Just as all matter within the event horizon of the black hole is drawn back toward the center of blackness, so all the believers abiding within the covenant of God’s grace will be drawn into the center of Community Light, the Kingdom of God, and the wholeness therein.

So while some of us may have sought to understand black holes which are so great – so powerful – so enormous – so beyond our thinking, and yet still strain to get our minds around them because of the exhilaration we feel as new thoughts ignite neurons on the fringes of our comprehension, spawning radical ideas that are so beyond ourselves – PLEASE ALSO INVEST YOUR THINKING IN THE WHITEWHOLE.

What is THE WHITEWHOLE? The Whitewhole is the Godplace toward which we are pulled by the gravitational force of the Father’s covenant,  available to us in Son, by the Power of the Holy Spirit, through our faith in that covenant,  TO  JOIN  THEM in divine community. God so overflows with Himself. God so overflows with love. God so overflows with wanting to be in community. God So overflows in wanting to see Himself in our eyes. God so overflows with wanting to us to see ourselves in His eye/eyes/whatever (can you imagine that for or a moment) that His WHOLE plan for history, HIStory, is not complete until believers are all gathered back in his warm, peaceful, protected, fear free, anxiety free, joy filled embrace.  An eternal place where we know more about Him each day, and yet have still infinitely more to know about his goodness and love for us.

This is a Call to stretch our minds. These days, we stretch them to buy a new phone and get off  AT&T once-and-for-all, to Skype with distant loved ones, to calculate how much money the government gets and … how terrible those black holes are.

Commit now to pursue The Whitewhole, to elevate your trajectory… and be pulled toward the a community of Wholeness, a Kingdom where there is no darkness, just light from the Persons of the HugeGOD.

Edwards recognized the Whitewhole, contrasting it with the “pleasant accommodations” of earthly life:  “These are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops; but God is the ocean.”

The Apostle Paul throughout Romans 8 recognized the Whitewhole and in its summary verses described our New Community with God:

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[c] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Tim Hughes in his song Almighty God recognizes the Whitewhole:                                                                                                                                                                                          

The rising Sun that fills the sky
The starry host that lights the night
Reflecting Your glory

The mountain heights, forever stand
The rain that falls to soak the land
Respond to Your glory

The vast expanse of earth and sea
Held by You in harmony
Speaks of Your glory

All You’ve made, since time began
Life itself; Your perfect plan
And it’s all for Your glory

Almighty God, in every way
You are above and beyond understanding
If we did not praise, the rocks would cry out
Glorious God, high above understanding

Creation joins as one to sing
“What A Glorious God.”
So far above all earthly things

Almighty God, in every way
You are above and beyond understanding
If we did not praise, the rocks would cry out
Glorious God, high above understanding

+++   +++   +++

Thank you Almighty God for being so You, and desiring, from before time, to live in community with us.

Lets pray that the noise and busyness of the day do not distract us from rigorously pursuing a better understanding of the love, joy and peace of the Whitewhole.

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