Category Archives: Dogmatics

What the Church Believes

THE SPEED OF LIGHT AND SPIRITUAL LAWS

642736_76463569Einstein famously said, “God doesn’t play with dice.” Observers of our created universe note predictable patterns that govern the motion of physical matter. Over time, scientists test hypotheses and develop theories. Theories, given enough testing and widespread acceptance, become laws.

There are a variety of fundamental scientific laws / principles that have been discovered, and they often bear the names of the human discoverers. Naturally, as a Christian I believe that the creator of these laws is Yahweh himself, who through his wisdom established every aspect of the physical reality we inhabit (Proverbs 3:19).

Here are a few examples of scientific laws:

Newton’s First Law of Motion: The velocity of a body remains constant unless the body is acted upon by an external force.

Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics: If two systems are in thermal equilibrium with a third system, they are also in thermal equilibrium with each other.

Einstein’s Principal of the Constancy of the Speed of Light: The speed of light in a vacuum is a universal physical constant.

These scientific laws appear to accurately and predictably describe how our physical universe operates and will continue to operate. Proponents of multiverse theories argue that such laws may be totally different in other universes. The speed of light may not be 299,792,458 meters per second in another universe. With an infinite number of universes, the argument goes, we just happen to be in one with an essentially randomized speed of light. Now, I am not convinced as to the existence of a parallel physical universe, but I do believe in a parallel spiritual reality.

For whatever reason, God actualized a universe (the physical reality we live in) in which we observe the speed of light as indeed being 299,792,456 meters per second. Like it or not, that is just the way it is. You can’t change the facts. This may even be an inconvenient truth, because no matter how much I would like to fly a spaceship to Polaris, it would take me 434 years if I could somehow travel at light speed. I could never arrive sooner. Warp drives don’t exist.

What many people do not realize is that there are spiritual laws in place that govern our spiritual reality just like scientific laws govern our physical reality. Regardless of our opinions, beliefs, understanding, or desires, they remain true and timeless. One such spiritual law is as follows:

“… without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22b)

Many people do not understand the atonement. ‘Wait… why did Jesus have to die to forgive our sins? He’s God, right? Can’t he just snap his fingers and make everything better? Why are Christians so obsessed with the blood of Christ?’ In fact, many lay Christians do not know that there are many competing and intersecting theories of atonement debated in theological circles about what the sacrifice of Christ accomplished. Regardless of all that, there seems to be a very real spiritual constant in much the same way that the speed of light in a vacuum is a physical constant. Sin can never be forgiven unless blood is shed. This is a spiritual law, presumably established as a wise design decision of God, which predates any of us and cannot be altered. No human can use a spiritual warp drive to shortcut this unavoidable fact about their sinfulness.

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” (Leviticus 17:11)

A CATHOLIC CRITIQUE OF THE FIVE SOLAS

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The following is an excerpt from a flawed but thought-provoking Catholic critique of the so-called Five Solas of Protestantism:

“During the Protestant Reformation, the Reformers invented five Latin solas (sola means only), that summarized their protestant belief system about getting “saved”.  They are :

Sola fide (“by faith alone”)

Sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”)

Sola gratia (“by grace alone”)

Solus Christus or Solo Christo (“Christ alone”)

Soli Deo gloria (“glory to God alone”)

Let’s take a look at these and see if they are still viable today.  The first thing that is striking is that if they are all “alone”, then why do the other 4 even exist?  In other words, if we are saved by scripture alone, then why do we even talk about grace or faith?  Why do we need scripture when we are saved by grace alone?  And are any of these “alones”  in the Bible?  A quick search shows that only one of the solas, the words “faith alone” does appear in the bible, as follows:

James 2:24: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

Strange that the one sola that does appear in the bible contradicts the very sola itself.  Works (good works, not useless Jewish works of the law) are part of being justified.  The Catholic Church teaches that justification begins at Baptism, when the Holy Spirit comes to us, even while we are infants.  And “being saved” is a lifelong journey that doesn’t end until we die and are allowed into heaven.  A lot of Protestants talk about “when they were saved”, as if it’s in the past tense.  Catholics would agree that whenever you began taking your faith in Christ seriously was certainly a great time, but it was only a first step, not the entire journey. What really counts is your faith at the time of death, not your faith when you first started believing 20 years ago.”

You can read the entire article here: catholicbible101.com/thefivesolas.htm

I say this critique is flawed because, for example, the Reformers did not claim that we are saved by “scripture alone,” but rather that scripture is the only infallible and authoritative text which guides our religious life. This article does not accurately depict the opposition’s position. Ultimately though, many lay Protestants / Evangelicals accept religious language such as the Five Solas without necessarily thinking the issues through on their own.