In Memory of Molly Holt – A True Hero

Hey TD,

Especially in light of our focus on Downward Engagement, you need to read the moving biography of Molly Holt, a life so well lived.  Molly is the daughter of Harry and Bertha Holt, the pioneers of international adoption and founders of Holt International, through whom we were able to adopt Stella.

Her life is an inspiration to us all and needs to be emulated by more Christians, to the glory of God.  Please read and then pray for God’s will to be done in your lives. – Arthur

In Memory Of Molly Holt

It is with profound sadness that we share the heartbreaking news that Molly Holt, daughter of Holt founders Harry and Bertha Holt, passed away early in the morning on May 17 in Korea. She was 83 years old. 

In South Korea, Molly was known by many names, from the Mother Teresa of Korea to the Mother of all Korea’s Orphans. Although she devoted her life to caring and advocating for children and adults with medical, developmental and physical needs in Korea, she leaves a legacy that is felt around the world.

Born on November 24, 1935 in Firesteel, South Dakota, Molly was the second eldest daughter of Harry and Bertha Holt, who pioneered international adoption in the mid-1950s and later founded Holt International. Molly attended high school in Creswell, Oregon, and later graduated from both the University of Oregon and Sacred Heart Hospital, where she earned a nursing degree in 1956.

The summer of that same year, Molly traveled for the first time to South Korea — fresh out of nursing school, and ready to help her father care for children left orphaned and abandoned in the wake of the Korean War. A devout Christian like her parents, Molly had a vision for her future while in Korea. “I felt that this was where the Lord would have me be for the rest of my life,” she later said.

Molly would go on to spend most of her adult life at the Ilsan Center in Korea, a nurturing, long-term care home that her parents built in the early 1960s for children and adults with special medical, developmental and physical needs. As a nurse and foster mother to the residents of Ilsan, Molly worked to ensure they received the specialized care they needed to reach their potential and live as independently as possible. Through her tireless advocacy, Molly also made it possible for many children in care at Ilsan to join loving, permanent families through adoption. Today, hundreds of families adopt children with special needs every year from countries around the world. But long before it was common, Molly actively sought families for the children who others considered “unadoptable.” Like her parents before her, Molly helped change the culture of adoption by showing that every child is equally worthy of love and acceptance, and that every child deserves to be part of a family.

Only a few times in her life did Molly leave the Ilsan Center for extended periods, and only to pursue additional training so that she could better meet the needs of the children and adult residents of Ilsan. She studied at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, attended Korean language school and Multnomah School of the Bible, did post-graduate work in special education at the University of Oregon, and in December 1991 she earned a master’s degree in special education and rehabilitation from Northern Colorado University. Throughout her life, she received many honors, including a presidential award, the National Order of Civil Merit from Korea in 1981, World Vision’s Bob Pierce award in 1984 and in 2009, for her lifetime of dedication to orphans and people with disabilities, she received the Royal Order of Merit from the king of Norway.

Diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2013, Molly nevertheless remained steadfast in her commitment to the children and adult residents of the Ilsan Center. Despite her declining health, she said that she would devote her remaining life “to the things that she loves with her whole heart.” Molly never married or had children, but to the residents of Ilsan — many of whom are now in their 50s and 60s — Molly was their only family. They called her “Unee,” or big sister, a name that Molly cherished.

“Molly Holt moved so many with her tireless and admirable efforts, especially for those children with mental and physical disabilities,” says Stephen Noerper, senior director of the Korea Society and senior advisor to the United Nations. “As a brother of adopted, special needs siblings, I salute and admire her legacy of service. She offered six decades of tireless devotion, stood as a credit to her brave parents, and touched, formed and grew many through her compassion. The Korea Society and the entire community of those bent on international friendship and support extend deepest condolences to her family and friends and the entire Holt organization. To Molly Holt’s nobility, spirit and service, all tribute and our love and heartfelt prayers.”

Of Molly’s passing, Lee HongKoo, former prime minister of the Republic of Korea, wrote, “The contribution of Molly Holt to humanity and humanism … is a historic achievement. The modern history of Korea will record her achievement with gratitude and admiration. Many of us in Korea join the Holt adoptee community in recording our love and farewell.”

“I am saddened to hear of the passing of Molly Holt,” says Oregon senator Ron Wyden. “Although she lived most of her life in Korea, all of us in Oregon consider her an exceptional Oregonian.  Molly leaves a legacy of caring and compassion that will endure for generations to come.  Her devotion to orphaned children in Korea and around the world touched the lives of thousands of children and families and changed the hearts and minds of many more for the better.”

Steve Stirling, president and CEO of MAP International, lived at the Ilsan Center in Korea before he was adopted in 1966, at the age of 11. “I thank God for Molly for faithfully serving those in need through Holt and living in Ilsan to care for disabled residents,” he says. “While we will miss you now, I will rejoice when we unite for eternity in Heaven with our Lord and Savior Jesus. So long for now until we meet again in our forever home.”

Please pray for Molly’s family and for the many people who have loved her that they might find peace and comfort in their memories.

Services for Molly will be held in Korea at 10:00 a.m. on May 21 at Holt Ilsan Center of Korea. Molly’s family requests that gifts be made in her honor to the Molly Holt Fund for Children With Special Needs. If you would like to share memories or photos of Molly Holt, please email them to photosubmission@holtinternational.org.

By Robin Munro

How Online Dating Impacts Health

By creating a seemingly endless choice of romantic partners for its users, online dating apps have facilitated a "hook-up" culture that's not conducive to settling down and is driving loneliness, anxiety and depression. (Composite: Letty Avila. Image source: iStock.)

Hey  TD!

I read this article by USC Dornsife’s Susan Bell and thought it an interesting topic of discussion.  It’s not an article written from a Christian perspective, but I think brings up some good points to think through, pray about, and discuss.

What do you think of online dating? What do you think of the research results?  Many in our church have used online dating services, while others swear against it.  What guidelines do we find in the Bible that would help us think about this more clearly?  Does this research have broader implications than just for dating?

This would be great to discuss with your small group members and leaders on several levels!

For better or worse: Looking for love in the internet age

Online dating and social media have revolutionized how we look for love. USC Dornsife’s Julie Albright reveals how this digital technology has far-reaching effects on our health and well-being. [4 ¾ min read]

By creating a seemingly endless choice of romantic partners for its users, online dating apps have facilitated a “hook-up” culture that’s not conducive to settling down and is driving loneliness, anxiety and depression. (Composite: Letty Avila. Image source: iStock.)

When online dating began, there was no swiping left or right, no photo-shopped selfies or alluring videos, just lonely singles pouring out their hearts in internet chat rooms.

Initially, there was a certain shame attached to online dating, Julie Albright says. “But people were really opening up and talking about things, maybe for the first time. It was all about getting to know the inner person, and many people felt like they’d met their soul mate.”

The original stigma may have gone as online dating went mainstream with the dawn of the mobile internet era, but Albright, a lecturer in psychology at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, says everything else has changed, too, as the app economy commodified people and relationships into something far more superficial.

Online dating is now the second or third most common way — depending on age — for Americans to meet romantic partners. In Albright’s upcoming book, Left to Their Own Devices: How Digital Natives are Reshaping the American Dream (Prometheus Books, 2019), she describes how it has altered the landscape of love and romance in the 21st century and reveals how the ways we now look for love are affecting our relationships, our health and our well-being — even the very fabric of society.

 

The loneliness paradox

Online dating creates the idea that there are thousands of romantic possibilities available to us. However, that brings problems of its own, Albright warns, because when faced with a vast array of choices, paradoxically, we’re unable to choose.

“We keep thinking there are endless choices, that maybe someone better will come along,” she said. “But at the end of the day, people who don’t choose are going to end up lonely because they’re not in a relationship. You have to choose and you have to commit to build something.”

But by facilitating a “hookup” culture, dating apps have created an environment that’s not conducive to settling down.

Dating has become a sport, Albright argues, rather than a means to build a long-term relationship.

“You couldn’t talk to 300 women in a night in a bar, but with a dating app, you can throw out a thousand hooks and get 300 bites.”

Traditions like marriage or buying a home, she says, provide a guiding north star by which people can navigate their lives. Now, young digital natives, hyper-attached to digital technologies and no longer choosing commitment and marriage, are unhooking from traditional social structures and are cast adrift — a process Albright calls “coming untethered.”

“Taking the endgame out of courtship changes the dynamic of what dating is about. If you’re just dating in a constant churn, there’s no future and no hope on the horizon,” she said. “Instead, it becomes all about experience.”

The result, Albright argues, is that people find themselves lonely or anxious without knowing why.

“You would think we’re more connected than ever,” Albright says, “yet paradoxically, as we become increasingly enraptured and mesmerized by our devices, we’re separating from one another.”

A warped sense of self

 

Noting that we develop our sense of self through the reflected appraisal of others, Albright warns that people are drifting far from their true selves in constructing their dating profiles. The end result can undermine self-esteem because others are giving validation for a self that the person knows to be false.

This “virtual mirror” is also causing anxiety and depression, Albright notes, as people feel they can never live up to the images they see, even although they’re comparing themselves to an “other” that doesn’t really exist.

Doubly addictive

Even if we know online dating is making us depressed, it’s not easy to stop, Albright argues. She compares using dating apps to playing one-armed bandits in Las Vegas. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and that’s why you keep going back for more,” she says, noting the power of random reinforcement as a behavioral driver.

And that’s not all. Dating apps and social media also fuel a narcissistic desire for attention, satisfying primitive psychological needs for attention, affirmation and validation.

“People can get very hooked on that,” Albright says.

Even if we can overcome our addiction to dating apps, abandoning them in favor of real-life encounters isn’t so easy either. Meeting in real life now makes many people nervous, Albright says, as subtle conversation and flirting skills are lost through lack of practice, causing people to feel increasingly anxious and socially awkward.

As a result, many younger people prefer texting to talking. This can translate into fewer partners as digital hyper-connectivity replaces physical relationships.

The good news

Albright does see some positive aspects to online dating.

Early indicators show that relationships started online may be more successful. Online dating and social media can help people meet someone based on common interests and values that can predict a lasting relationship. They can also enable users to meet potential partners outside their normal social sphere, leading to more interracial relationships.

Postponing marriage may mean couples are more mature and marriages later in life tend to be more stable — good news, too, for older women, who tend to be more successful dating online than younger women.

“Online dating does open up new doors for people by giving them a place to begin again,” Albright says. For older people coming out of a divorce or a long relationship, particularly, and unused to dating, it offers hope.

And Albright’s advice for finding true love?

Avoid creating a false online persona, and take time to develop intimacy. But above all: Switch off your phone.

“Spend time together, get to know each other, look into each other’s eyes and make building that relationship a sacred space. Just make sure it’s without the intrusion of a device.”

Easter Reflection from Ravi – “No More or Not Here?”

Hey TD!

The Apostle Paul said that if Christ has not risen from the dead, we (Christ followers) are to be most pitied.  He’s absolutely right.  Jesus’ bodily resurrection makes all the difference in this world and the next. That’s Easter hope.

World renowned apologist Ravi Zacharias shares some reflections on Easter hope, a hope I hope you’ll have soon.  Enjoy. – Arthur

 

No More or Not Here?

An Easter Reflection from Ravi Zacharias

There is a hotel where I have stayed frequently over the last thirty years. I know many of the staff and every time I return, they give me the best and kindest hospitality. I have found that when you talk to people, you learn so much about life at different economic levels, but all with the same challenges.

One of my favorite people was a bellman called Raj. He took particular care to make sure I never violated my doctor’s orders to not lift heavy suitcases. Whenever I checked in, he would bring my bags and set them up in my room. We often talked politics and spiritual issues. He was a very intelligent gentleman and a great conversationalist. I’ll never forget his statement on politics in his country. “They are not political parties, Sir. They are cartels scheming and manipulating. We pay the price for our foolishness,” he said. Fascinating take.

This time when I stayed there, I didn’t see him the first day so I assumed it was his day off. When I didn’t see him the second day, I asked one of the other bellman if Raj was on vacation.

“Oh no, Sir. He is no more,” came the reply.

Quite surprised at the phrase, I asked if he didn’t work there anymore. The reply came repeating the phrase: “No Sir. He is no more. He died last month.” I was shocked because the man was in his fifties. Evidently he had gone home one night after work, told his wife that he was not feeling well, and went to bed after a very light snack. When she tried to wake him up for breakfast, he had already breathed his last.

“He is no more.”

That phrase is pretty defining, isn’t it? The famed writer Nikos Kazantzakis, who had his run-ins with the church over his very controversial “The Last Temptation of Christ,” asked that the following words be put on his gravestone:

Den elpizo tipota.
Den fovumai tipota.
Elmai eleftheros.

I hope for nothing.
I fear nothing.
I am free.

Very cavalier statements, except that he is not there to defend those propositions. So it is much more meant to impress the reader than tell you anything about the departed one, whether he was justified in what he said or not. And as to his state of mind after death, all of those sentiments are an ultimate category mistake. If he doesn’t exist, attributing those sentiments brings to mind what Aristotle would have said in defining “nothing”: That which rocks dream about. A rock never hopes, fears, or seeks freedom. That is for the living.

The whole message of Easter defines this longing to be. After Jesus rose from the dead, the women went to visit where they had placed the body. The angel they met did not say, “He is no more!” He said, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here: He is risen” (Luke 24:5-6).

That statement defines everything about who we are. For the one who has given his or her life to Jesus, we will never ever “Not be!” We are meant to be in his presence eternally. The very phrase “goodbye” is a contraction of “God be with you.” It is the same with “adios”: “Go with God.”

Our hearts long for intimacy. Heaven is the consummate intimacy of the spirit. That is not a category mistake; rather, it defines the ultimate expression of life in its essence. Our spirit in communion with his. The closest thing to a touch felt by the Spirit.

The time will come when we also will have to say goodbye or adios for the last time. When that happens, how wonderful to know that those who speak for us do not have to say, “He is no more.” They can victoriously say, “He is not here; he is risen.”

The gospel message from beginning to end is dependent on this promise of Jesus that he would rise again. That unsealed tomb is the seal of his promise as the giver of eternal life. Over the centuries, skeptics have gone to ludicrous lengths to try and explain why his enemies could not present his body. That would have been all they needed to quash this rumor of his resurrection. But it wasn’t a rumor. It was a fulfilled promise seen by vast numbers, and it changed the course of history.

Luke was a physician. He knew what happened to a body when it died. He writes of the resurrection and the work of the early church. The resurrection was seen and lived out. It was the event that told the world that ultimately history is His Story of what life was meant to be.

The noted writer and atheist turned follower of Jesus A.N. Wilson said that he was at an Easter service when he saw the sham and the hollowness of his life without God. He described his conversion to atheism as “a Damascus road experience” and his return to Jesus as a slow arduous process through doubt and struggle. Part of that struggle made him see the difference of the logic that drove Hitler to his mission and Bonhoeffer to his. The belief and its consequences were worlds apart. He clearly saw the value of life in keeping with the message of Jesus and the hope and the joy of the Christian message. The faith that he once attacked, he now embraced. It all happened in a small church as he heard the message and listened to the hymns. Death was no longer to be feared, not because we are brilliant or daring or write prize-winning books as Kazantzakis did, but because Jesus lives to give us life everlasting. Even the atheist Anthony Flew granted that this was the litmus test of the Christian faith, and if true would define life.

Billy Graham tells the story of German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer looking at the ruins of war and saying to Mr. Graham, “Outside of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I know of no other hope for mankind.”

The conversion of Saul to Paul and the skeptic Thomas showed how two of the finest thinkers of their time were willing to pay with their lives after seeing the risen Jesus. One went east and the other went west. Today, more bend their knees to Jesus than to any other name.

This same trip that began in one country for me ended in Bangkok, Thailand, two weeks later. Every day as I looked outside my window, I would look scrutinizingly across the Chao Phraya River, because it looked to me like a cemetery on the other side. So I inquired of the bellman if indeed there was a cemetery on the other side of the river. He said he thought so. I hailed a ride and went over there. The main reason was to see perchance if my dear friend Koos Fietje, who was murdered in Thailand in 1981 at the age of 38, could be buried there. Bangkok is a massive city. But I was sure the Christian burial sites would not be many. As I entered, I noticed there were gravestones going back to the 1800s. I walked through the cemetery looking in every direction. Suddenly I came upon the stone you see here in the United States. I was shocked. Koos and I were very close in our undergraduate days. He paid with his life for the gospel. The last time we met was in Bangkok in 1974. He died in 1981. This was 2019. He died at the age of 38. I was standing by his grave 38 years later. Koos served as a missionary with Overseas Missionary Fellowship.

I placed some flowers at his grave and thought back on what a powerful life he had lived. Yes, there were tears.  When I went back, the bellman asked me if I found it. I showed him the picture. He looked at it and said, “What this means?” He was pointing to the verse on the stone, “For me to live is Christ but to die is gain.” I did my best to explain it to him. I saw a tear in his eye.

Two bellmen. Two weeks apart, two countries apart. Both had a tear. One because of a loss. The other because of a gain. The resurrection of Jesus makes the difference.

The hymn writer said it triumphantly:

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And he lives forever with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!

That is why the Easter greeting is not, “He is no more.” Rather it is, “He is risen!”

And the joyful reply, “He is risen indeed.”

Happy Easter!

Ravi, on behalf of all of us at RZIM

How Could All the Animals Fit on the Ark?

Ark Animal Care

Hey TD!

As Stella and I were discussing Noah’s Ark this week, I found myself not only wondering how Noah was able to get all the animals on the ark, but what animals he really got on the ark, and, to be honest, … was this really possible … at least as I understood it?

Lo and behold, I received this article in my inbox this morning from Answers in Genesis and thought that some of you would be interested in reading it.

Feel free to discuss it with one another or with a leader, for good discussion helps sharpen and refine our thoughts and understanding. – Arthur

How Could All the Animals Fit on the Ark?

by Michael Belknap and Tim Chaffey on April 2, 2019

One of the most important issues relating to the Bible’s flood account is the topic of animals on the ark. The estimated numbers, sizes, and types of ark animals impact nearly every aspect of the vessel’s interior operations, including time and labor expenditures, food and water needs, space and waste management, and enclosure design.1

The subject of fitting the required animals on the ark is a significant point of contention between biblical creationists and skeptics. However, properly addressing these concerns is more complicated than a mere compilation of data about different animal species. First, we must answer some fundamental questions.

How Large Was the Ark?

ACCORDING TO GENESIS 6:15, THE ARK WAS 300 CUBITS LONG, 50 CUBITS WIDE, AND 30 CUBITS HIGH—THE PROPORTIONS OF A GENUINE SHIPPING VESSEL.

According to Genesis 6:15, the ark was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high—the proportions of a genuine shipping vessel. A cubit is typically considered to be the length from a man’s furthest fingertip to his elbow. While various cubit lengths have been used throughout history, the Ark Encounter calculated the size of the ark based on a 20.4-inch (52 cm) cubit. The result is a vessel 510 feet (155 m) long, 85 feet (26 m) wide, and 51 feet (16 m) high. Accounting for a 15% reduction in volume due to the curvature of the hull, an ark this size could contain the equivalent of 450 semi-trailers of cargo or about 1.88 million cubic feet (53,200 m3)—a truly massive ship.

Which Animals Were Required on the Ark?

The Bible informs us that the ark housed representatives of every land-dependent, air-breathing animal—ones that could not otherwise survive the flood (Genesis 7:21–23). Conversely, Noah did not care for marine animals, and he probably did not need to bring insects, with the possible exception of delicate insects like butterflies and moths—since most insects could survive outside the ark. Also, insects take in oxygen through spiracles in their skin, and the Bible specifies that those creatures targeted outside of the ark were those “on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life.”

How Many Species Are in the World Today?

Skeptics often assert that there are millions of species in the world— far more than the number that could fit on the ark. However, according to estimates published in 2014, there are fewer than 1.8 million documented species of organisms in the world. Consider also that over 98 percent of those species are fish, invertebrates, and non-animals (like plants and bacteria). This means that there are fewer than 34,000 species of known, land-dependent vertebrates in the world today.2

Species or Kinds?

Though wild animals today are often considered according to their species, the Bible deals with animals according to their min, a Hebrew word usually translated as “kind.” We can infer from Scripture that God created plants and animals to reproduce after their kinds (Genesis 1:11–25), and it is clear from various texts that a kind is often a broader category than the current concept of a species. This means that a kind may contain many different species. Since Noah was only sent select representatives from relevant kinds, all land-dwelling vertebrate species not present on the ark were wiped out. Therefore, if we see an ark kind represented today by different species (e.g., horses, zebras, and donkeys of the equid kind) those species have developed since the time of the flood. Therefore, species are simply varying expressions of a particular kind.

What Is an Animal Kind?

There are numerous approaches to defining a kind, but one of the simplest is a distinctly created type of organism and all descendants. Kinds are often referred to as baramins (from the Hebrew words for “created” and “kind”), and the study of created kinds is called baraminology.

What Are the Criteria for Identifying Kinds?

In 2011, Ark Encounter researchers began in-depth animal studies with the goal of identifying the maximum number of ark kinds.3 The researchers applied three primary criteria in estimating the ark kinds: hybridization, cognitum, and statistical baraminology.4

Hybrid data is the favored method in identifying kinds. Researchers believe that only closely related animals can successfully produce offspring, and this is consistent with the Bible’s emphasis on the relationship between reproduction and created kinds. Since only animals in the same kind are related, hybrids positively identify which animals are part of the same kind. The usefulness of hybrid data is limited, however, in that not all potential crosses have been tested or reliably documented, and some organisms have gone extinct. Hybridization is also strictly an inclusive criterion, as not even all related animals can produce offspring together (i.e., they have lost the ability to reproduce with certain others of their kind).

The cognitum approach estimates animal kinds using the human senses of perception. This method assumes that animal kinds have maintained their core distinctiveness even as they have diversified over time. Presently, extinct animals are most often classified using this approach. For example, woolly mammoths are extinct, and no hybrid data are connecting them with elephants. However, their extreme similarity to elephants has resulted in their assignment to the elephant kind.

In statistical analyses, continuities and discontinuities of animals are identified by comparing physical traits using statistical tests called baraminic distance correlation (BDC). Like the cognitum approach, this method assumes that the physical similarities and dissimilarities identified in the tests are reliable indicators of relatedness. It also assumes that the traits selected for comparison are baraminologically significant.

What Are Some Safeguards Against Underestimating the Number of Ark Animals?

The Ark Encounter researchers put several safeguards in place to avoid underestimating the number of animals on the ark. These include a tendency to “split” rather than “lump” animal groups. Also, all “clean” and all flying creatures—not just “clean” ones—were multiplied by fourteen instead of seven animals.

What Are Splitting and Lumping?

Estimating the number of animals on the ark depends upon several factors. Near the top of that list is the decision to split or lump the animals that may or may not be related as a kind.

Coyotes, wolves, dingoes, and domestic dogs can generally interbreed. Thus, they can be lumped into the same kind. So, Noah just needed two members of the dog kind on the ark.

On the other hand, there are approximately two dozen known families of bats, living and extinct. Based on anatomy and other features, many of these families probably belong to the same kind (e.g., if we used the cognitum criteria). In fact, it is possible that every bat belongs to the same kind. However, since breeding studies have not yet confirmed this idea, the Ark Encounter researchers split the bats into their various families. So instead of including as few as 14 bats on the ark, the team accounted for over 300 of them (14 from each family). In keeping with the worst-case approach to estimating the number of animals on the ark, the animals were split into separate kinds whenever the data was insufficient to support lumping them into a single kind.

Why Fourteen Instead of Seven?

Some Bible translations indicate that Noah was to bring seven of each flying creature and clean animal. Yet other Bible translations state that seven pairs of these creatures were on the ark.

Seven of Each Kind Seven Pairs of Each Kind
KJV*
NKJV
NASB*
NET*
NIV (1984)*
NLT
ESV*
HCSB
NRSV
NIV (2011)
* Asterisks indicate that a textual note appears in these Bibles that mentions the possibility of the other view.

The Hebrew text literally reads, “seven seven—a male and his female” (Genesis 7:2). Does this unique phrasing mean seven or fourteen?

In favor of the “seven” view is that Genesis 8:20 states that Noah sacrificed clean animals and birds after the flood. While it doesn’t say that Noah sacrificed just one animal of each clean kind, those who hold to the “seven” view could point to the common “six and one” pattern seen in the Old Testament. For example, God created the world in six days and rested for one (Genesis 1; Exodus 20:11). Perhaps six of each clean animal were for man’s use, and one was dedicated to the Lord.

In favor of the “seven pairs” view is the text’s mention that there would be a male and “his female” for the clean animals. If an odd number was brought to Noah, then plenty of animals did not have a mate. Furthermore, the Hebrew text does not use similar wording with the unclean animals in verse two. That is, readers can know that one pair of unclean animals was in view, but the text does not say “two two, a male and his female.” It just has the word for two.

Since Hebrew language scholars do not agree about this issue, it seems wise to be tentative about which view is accurate. Since a worst-case approach is being used regarding the animals, these calculations are based on the “seven pairs” position.

What Is Meant by a “Worst-Case Scenario?”

The Ark Encounter depicts a worst-case approach when estimating the number of animal kinds. Some people believe Noah brought two of every unclean animal and seven of every clean animal. The text seems to indicate that Noah cared for more animals than this (Genesis 7:2–3), particularly when it comes to the clean animals and flying creatures. The Lord may have sent seven pairs of the clean animals and seven pairs of all the flying creatures (not just the clean varieties).

Although this worst-case approach more than doubles the total estimated number of animals on the ark, this model shows that even a high-end estimate of total animals would have fit on board. Obviously, if the Lord sent just seven of each clean animal and seven of just the clean flying creatures, the ark would have had plenty of space to accommodate this lower total.

How Big Were the Ark Animals?

People often wonder how all the animals could have fit in the ark, particularly when considering the massive dinosaurs. We see so many illustrations of large creatures packed tightly into a little boat. But this image is inaccurate. Noah’s ark was much larger than it is usually depicted, and many of the animals were probably smaller than shown in popular pictures.

NOAH’S ARK WAS MUCH LARGER THAN IT IS USUALLY DEPICTED, AND MANY OF THE ANIMALS WERE PROBABLY SMALLER THAN SHOWN IN POPULAR PICTURES.

It makes more sense to think that God would have sent to Noah juveniles or smaller varieties within the same kind. Consider the following advantages of bringing juveniles or smaller versions of a creature:

  1. They take up less space.
  2. They eat less.
  3. They create less waste.
  4. They are often easier to manage.
  5. They are generally more resilient.
  6. In the case of juveniles, they would have more time to reproduce after the flood.

Indeed, even when the giant dinosaurs and elephant-sized creatures are factored in, the ark animals were probably much smaller than is frequently assumed. According to Ark Encounter estimates, it is projected only 15 percent of ark animals would have achieved an average adult mass over 22 pounds (10 kg). This means that the vast majority of ark animals were smaller than a beagle, with most of those being much smaller. Starting with a mass category of 0.035–0.35 oz. (1–10 g), the animal groups were distributed into eight logarithmically increasing size classes. Amazingly, the size range with the highest projected number of ark animals was 0.35–3.5 oz. (10–100 g).

How Many Animal Kinds and Individuals Were on the Ark?

Based on initial projections, the Ark Encounter team estimates that there were around 1,400 animal kinds on the ark. It is anticipated that future research may reduce that number even further.

The Ark Encounter team projects that there were fewer than 7,000 animals on board the ark. The wide discrepancy between the number of ark kinds and individuals is due to the relatively large number of flying and “clean” kinds—each estimated at 14 animals apiece.

Extinct Groups Kinds (est.) Per Kind Total Animals (est.)
Amphibians 54 2 108
Reptiles 219 Flying: 24 x 14 = 336
Flightless: 195 x 2 = 390
726
Non-Mammalian Synapsids 78 2 156
Mammals 332 Clean/Flying: 15 x 14 = 210
Unclean: 317 x 2 = 634
844
Birds 89 Flying: 69 x 14 = 966
Flightless: 20 x 2 = 40
1,006
Living Groups Kinds (est.) Per Kind Total Animals (est.)
Amphibians 194 2 388
Reptiles 101 2 202
Mammals 136 Clean/Flying: 31 x 14 = 434
Unclean: 105 x 2 = 210
644
Birds 195 Flying: 190 x 14 = 2,660
Flightless: 5 x 2 = 10
2,670
Total 1,398 6,744

Conclusion

It is worth noting that the numbers included here are only initial estimates drawn from currently available information. On the other hand, a hypothetical 3D-digital ark created by the Ark Encounter design team, complete with all enclosures, interior structural elements, food, and water storage, showed that everything fit extremely well with little space left over.

JUST AS NOAH TRUSTED GOD CONCERNING UNSEEN THINGS, SO TOO SHOULD WE TRUST GOD IN THE THINGS WE CANNOT WITNESS.

In the end, the most important reason to believe that all the right animals fit has nothing to do with spreadsheets and 3D models—as helpful as they can sometimes be. We find this reason in Hebrews 11:7, where the writer says, “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” Just as Noah trusted God concerning unseen things, so too should we trust God in the things we cannot witness. Since God provided both the ark specifications and the creatures sustained within the vessel (Genesis 6:20), we can know just as surely as Noah that they all fit and were spared the watery judgment.

Adapted, with permission, from Tim Chaffey and Laura Welch, Inside Noah’s Ark: Why It Worked (Green Forest, Arkansas: Master Books, 2016), chapter 3.

Footnotes

  1. See Inside Noah’s Ark: Why It Worked, ed. Laura Welch (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2016).
  2. IUCN 2014. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. . Downloaded on 9 November 2016.
  3. See the following articles:
  4. These last two methods are admittedly subjective and play off the assumption of common design indicating common ancestry within a kind. Even though these methods are utilized, the results are seen as highly tentative since they have proven inaccurate in certain instances. But due to the limited amount of hybridization data, these are presently our best alternatives.

Doers, Not Hearers Only

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Hey TD,

Here’s a great reminder and charge to go and put our faith into practice in our everyday lives.

James wrote his letter to Diaspora Jews who had become Christians (1:1). As Jews living outside Jerusalem, they had developed a great appreciation for listening to the reading of the Law in the synagogues, especially because they could not attend the temple services. They considered hearing the Law to be a proper substitute for the temple sacrifices. After becoming Christians, it appears, they continued to think in the same way: to hear the Word of God in their meetings was enough for them to remain God’s people.

James, however, says to them that merely hearing the Word will not save them:

Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. (James 1:22–24)

If the people did not practice what they regularly heard in their meetings, they were deceiving themselves. “To deceive” here means to make an erroneous assessment of something and then lead someone else to error through this assessment (Col. 2:4). James’ readers were deceiving themselves by having misjudged the value of hearing the Word, as if merely listening to sermons could save them. The Word is powerful to save, and when the Word saves people, it causes them to bear the fruit of obedience. However, because they did not make this assessment, they were content with being mere hearers. They were deceiving themselves.

James exhorts them to be “doers” of the Word. Doers go forward with something, as part of what they believe. Doers obey the Word of God, putting His teachings into practice, in contrast with someone who is content at merely listening to that Word.

James introduces a comparison to explain the uselessness of hearing the Word without acting on it. There is a similarity between the mere hearers of sermons and someone who looks in the mirror and soon forgets his face. Both the mere hearer and the forgetful contemplator do nothing about what they have heard and seen. Therefore, the hearing and seeing do not result in anything. They are useless and fruitless exercises, even if done with great attention and dedication.

What is the use of hearing the Word of God if we are not corrected and encouraged to do what is right? How can we have been saved if we do not practice what we hear? Through the prophet Ezekiel, God denounced His people under the old covenant for exactly the same mistake: “They hear what you say, but they will not do it” (Ezek. 33:31–32). The Lord Jesus compared the one who hears His words and does not do them to a house without a solid foundation (Matt. 7:26). Many Christians do not so much need to learn new things but need instead to put into practice what they have already heard and learned.

The Beauty of the Dandelion

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Hey TD!

Love One Another Night was a truly blessed time for all and something we will be doing more of in the future.  We have to.  The reports of blessing we’re getting confirm this.  But we shouldn’t be surprised at the blessing we got, for this what God promises us … “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25
Kathy shared this poignant and meaningful piece with TD’s leadership after Love One Another Night.  We’d like to share it with you as well, in hopes it will both broaden and deepen your understanding of life.
by Vaneetha Rendall Risner

Sometimes I feel useless.

I once felt accomplished, serving others rather than needing to be served. I brought meals to people in need but now I can’t even make my own coffee, and sometimes my husband even helps me lift my cup. When Joel is out of town, someone needs to stay with me because I can no longer stay alone. Nothing seems easy anymore, and I look back on my days of independence with longing. At times, I feel I have little to offer.

I know in my head that usefulness isn’t what the Christian life is all about. God doesn’t need me, and I am not indispensable in the kingdom- none of us are. God delights in us, not because of anything we bring or do, but simply because we are his beloved children.

Additionally, usefulness isn’t for us to measure; God often uses us in ways that we never see or know. This life is not about our glory – the impact we make on this world – but about God’s glory. His grace is sufficient for us and his power is made perfect in our weakness. So when we look weak, we really are strong (2 Cor 12:9, 10b).

The dying dandelion, which is embedded in my logo and on my website, reminds me of strength from seeming weakness. While dandelions are unwelcome on my lawn, their beauty at the end of their lives has captivated me.

In its heyday, the dandelion is bright and rugged. It grows in harsh conditions, often in places where no one sees or knows but God. Some people see it as unstoppable, its bright yellow petals visible from a distance.

But as it is dying, being stripped of its strength, the dandelion is often hard to see. It has given everything and there seems to be nothing left; the vibrant color that once defined it is gone. In this stage, it is preparing to reproduce, doing its most glorious work.

Sometimes, like the dandelion, we feel we are most useful to God when we are sunny, strong and resilient. People notice us. But when our health changes and we feel delicate and dependent, we wonder what good our lives are. And society reinforces that doubt by ignoring the elderly, encouraging euthanasia, shunning the disabled, aborting the unwanted. It seems as though we must prove our usefulness for society to value us. And when we can’t, we may feel like a burden to others, wishing we could be more productive.

But when does the dandelion do its most important work? When it’s dying. When the fragile seeds are blown away by the wind. When it’s surrendered itself and is sowing seeds of new life. And the stronger the wind blows, the farther the seeds will go – to places that the lone flower could have never gone itself.

Lilias Trotter, an artist and missionary to Algeria in the late 1800’s said this:

This dandelion has long ago surrendered its golden petals and has reached its crowning stage of dying – the delicate seed globe must break up now – it gives and gives till it has nothing left… There is no sense of wrenching: it stands ready, holding up its little life, not knowing when or where or how the wind that blows with where it listeth may carry it away. It holds itself no longer for its own keeping, only as something to be given: a breath does the rest, turning the “readiness to will” into the “performance.”

In John 12:24, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” A grain of wheat may be useful and majestic when it stands tall and alone, but it doesn’t reproduce or bear fruit then. Its influence is only multiplied when it falls into the ground and dies. When it’s bruised and buried and the external kernel rots away underground, carrying the seeds of new life.

When we die, whether it be physical death or the death of our dreams or dying to ourselves, something remarkable happens. God brings new life.

No one looks forward to dying. Or being stripped bare. Or feeling useless. Most people say they want to die in their sleep when they are capable and healthy; they don’t want to face the ravages of aging and disability. But watching others trust God as they struggle with debilitating frailties is sacred. It inspires me in my own struggles. I know that God will be sufficient for me just as he has been sufficient for them. Their stalk may be bare, but it stands firm. And those people are a marvel to me.

I have the privilege of being in a Pain Pal group with friends who are enduring unspeakable physical suffering. Many of them have caregivers because they cannot care for themselves. Yet their radiance is profound; they speak of an intimacy and joy in Christ that carries them through the worst pain imaginable. They are my heroes. Their willingness to praise God and encourage others amid their own struggles has changed me.  Struggles like stabbing, mind-numbing relentless pain, waking up constantly through the night in agony (if they sleep at all), quadriplegia, multiple amputations, lying in bed in a dark room all day unable to do anything. Compared to most of them, I know nothing of suffering. And yet they constantly reassure me that my pain matters – all our pain matters.

These friends remind me of the dandelion. They are completely yielded to God and their lives are a testimony of his grace. They may feel they can do nothing but lie in bed and pray, but they are bearing more fruit than most do in a lifetime of serving. Their influence is greater than they can imagine, and the wind is carrying their witness to faraway places. It’s being carried by God who is using it for his glory.

Lilias Trotter has a sketch of the dandelion with a quote by Ugo Bassi beside it. It reads:

Measure thy life by loss and not by gain; not by the wine drunk but by the wine poured forth, for love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice, and he that suffereth most hath most to give.

SideBar-Vaneetha
Vaneetha Rendall Risner – http://www.vaneetha.com
Vaneetha was 3 months old when she contracted Polio.  Within 24 hours she was paralyzed due to a doctor’s mistake.  She has had a lifetime of immense suffering … and ensuing God-given joy.  Her blog Dance in the Rain is a powerful source of truth, sharing, honesty, vulnerability, and hope, as is her book, The Scars That Have Shaped Me

A Christmas Devo from Angela – “The Paradox of the Present

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The Paradox of the Present 

by Angela Hsieh

In this Christmas season , songs filled with general holiday cheer are echoed everywhere proclaiming “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” “tis the season to be jolly” and the like. Though lighthearted, these sentiments in cultural may subtly influence our expectations of what this season is supposed to deliver. For many people, however, they are left with deep disappointment, and the holidays are far from “the most wonderful time of the year.” For if Christmas is not grounded in the hope which Christ brings, it can be the most depressing time of the year – it can be a time where the presence of unfulfilled longings and the absence of loved ones may be felt most of all.

Yet Christmas is not just for the healthy, happy, and prosperous. The blessing of Christmas is for those who realize their need for a Savior.

Many dear families that I know have tragically lost loved ones this year. When death hits home, gaping wounds are left which cannot be soothed by any well wishes or holiday cheer. In fact, they may make it sting even more. As it often is, there is a strange contrast between the simultaneous life experiences of people. For some, this Christmas is tainted by grief as it marks the first year without a loved one, yet for others, it is joyfully celebrated as the first Christmas for a new arrival. While many gather in warm homes for Christmas parties, others are homeless on the street. While many appreciate the warmth of familial love and companionship, millions of children are in orphanages without a family to call their own. While many feast, others are famished. While people give and receive a bounty of gifts, others lack the basic necessities of life. The human existence is filled with paradoxes like these.

Yet Christmas is not just for the healthy, happy, and prosperous. The blessing of Christmas is for those who realize their need for a Savior. Jesus says in Matthew 5:3-8, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” God bestowed this message of blessing through the person of Jesus Christ. God drew near to a broken and needy people in a marvelous way – by becoming one of us. Truly Christmas is about how He broke through darkness to “give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6).

The present of His Presence is the most wonderful and paradoxical occurrence in history. Christ, the Lord of all and yet the Humble Servant, reaches out to save all people – those drunk with pleasure and those overcome by sorrow, those enamored with success and those who’ve hit rock bottom, those who are seeking and those without hope. He is the One who fully knows each person’s experience and offers to speak meaning into it. The King of Kings (Rev. 19:16) was not born in a lofty palace but a lowly manger. The Prince of Peace’s (Is. 9:6) arrival would cause the uproar of a nation. The Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32) became the son of a young girl and carpenter. The One robed in majesty (Psalm 93:1) traded His garments for infant swaddling clothes. Christ knows exactly how to address the human condition and bring reconciliation that every person desperately needs.

He is the Present of infinite worth that we could only receive if we come with empty and open hands. This Christmas, will you open up your heart to receive the greatest Present ever given?

Immanuel, God with us.

 

Galen Jee (1950 – 2018) – My Pastor

Galen Jee

Galen giving some pre-marriage counseling to Arthur and Sandra during TD in the ’80’s

Hello TD,

It is with deep sadness that I must inform you that Pastor Galen Jee, our English Department pastor for about twenty years, passed away suddenly yesterday from cardiac arrest.  He was doing what he loved to do – walking in nature and capturing it in photographs.  An avid and talented photographer, he loved capturing God’s creation.

I want you all to know that our English Department wouldn’t be what it is today without the foundation-laying, seed-planting, and personal investment into people that Galen and his wife, Eunice, provided.  What God has done in our congregation in the years since he moved on from our church has been built upon the foundation that God had Galen and Eunice lay; it’s a foundation that was committed to the gospel rather than gimmicks, to people rather than programs, to integrity rather than ingenuity, … to a saving God rather than to self-glory.  This is absolutely true.

Often times, people embellish the facts and persona of someone’s life after they have passed on, out of deference and respect, and sensitivity to the surviving family.  Galen would not have that, nor would want me to do that.  Anyone else who was under his care and leadership would whole-heartedly affirm what I just wrote above.

Pastoring our congregation during the heyday of the “seeker sensitive” church growth movement in the ’80’s and ’90’s, Galen felt the external pressure to grow our numbers more quickly, which forced him to look within and to continually check himself in order to stay faithful to our Lord and His Upside Down Kingdom, where measures of true success rarely look like what we think it looks like (even church goers).  Having his success as a pastor often gauged by others according to the metric of numeric success, Galen stayed faithful and true to what he knew the true church to be, Christ’s Bride; not a platform or a stepping-stone for feeling good about oneself and achieving some sort of self-worth and self-satisfaction through serving and through church-y “success,” which he rightly knew was still, in fact, worldly.  He wouldn’t do that.  He just wanted to be found faithful and obedient, plain and simple.  That was success.

Personally, it was Galen who not only was the official English Department pastor when I arrived at MBCLA, but who became MY pastor.  He saw a young, unchurched, worldly high school graduate and met with me in my home before baptizing me not too long afterwards (announcing to the congregation that I graduated from Marshall HS rather than my alma mater, South Pasadena HS).  Over the ensuing years, he saw something in me, investing in me and showing me the ropes.  As the years ensued, his belief in me grew and he entrusted me with the opportunity to serve our congregation in many ways.  He gave me my wings in ministry, as it were.  Though young, inexperienced, and “wet behind the ears,” he allowed me to make mistakes, and more importantly, he trusted me; for that, I will always be humbled and grateful.  I had the privilege of preaching several times at the pulpit of the church that he shepherded after he left MBCLA.  Knowing that he would only let people he trusted to preach from his pulpit, I always counted it a great honor to do so.

He preferred the private impact of personal ministry over the public show of it.  There is a place for everyone to minister, whether in public or in private; he was quite aware of the potential traps of public ministry.  He was understated in personality and not the dynamic “life of the party,” by any means.  I’m not sure he could’ve actually drawn the attention to himself that other more vibrant, boisterous, magnetic personalities can; nonetheless, he knew that even desiring to do so is tantamount to doing it in God’s eyes.  He knew himself and knew that he could “go there” if he wasn’t alert and careful.  So, he ordered his life to make sure he didn’t “go there.”

I appreciated his down-to-earth humility in that way.  He didn’t want anything to be above the Christ of the gospel, nor anyone to be out of His reach.  Galen was a personal minister who cared about the person and cared about that person living life truthfully, according to the way God ordained, as revealed in Scripture.  He was committed to the sufficiency of Scripture for all of life.  He was not one who could get himself to bend the rules, shade the truth, or to go against conscience, having to turn various people down for different requests, even though he hated to do so.

When Sandra and I got engaged, I remember him asking both our parents how they really felt about it.  Since Sandra and I have a large age gap, he was a little apprehensive of whether our relationship would really work out.  He loved us both and didn’t want to see us take a hasty step that would result in disaster down the road.  He did our pre-marriage counseling with us and gave us his blessing, eventually marrying us.

I spoke to him last week, and as usual, his eyes were ultimately on the Lord.  Over the last couple of years, he often spoke frankly and realistically about the tenuousness of life on earth, saying that God could realistically take him at any time.  A lifelong diabetic, he had to constantly inject himself and was constantly experiencing new ailments in his later years.  He reminded me that he was not scared of death and that he would be with the Lord.

Well, Galen is with the Lord now. and I bet he wishes he had his camera equipment with him.  It won’t be long, however, before realizes that he doesn’t need his camera to capture the splendor of what he is experiencing and seeing.  It’s permanent now.  He lives it 24/7.  I have an idea of who he’s making a beeline toward, who he’s anxious to meet and ask questions of.  Most of all, I know that he is overwhelmed and humbled to be in God’s immediate presence, as we all will be when our time comes.

I will miss my dear friend and pastor.  I’m thankful for his investment in my life and for handing the baton to me.  I pray that I will be faithful to carry that baton well and to faithfully hand it off to those such as you.  Amen.  – Arthur

“We Must Play” (a must read)

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Chloe closely guarding her mom while Elijah tries to help – 2018 TD Ultimate Tourney

Hey TD!

One of the virtues of our Asian heritage is the valuing of hard work.  And yet, like anything else in life, a virtue can become a vice if emphasized too heavily.  In this humorous and compelling Slice of Infinity, dear friend, Jill Carattini, draws upon the mischievous side of CS Lewis to highlight our God-given need to play; and play we must.  Looking forward to playing with you more in the months ahead! – Arthur

We Must Play 

In August of 1963, due to his ailing health and increasing responsibilities, C.S. Lewis announced his retirement from Cambridge. His stepson Douglas Gresham and friend Walter Hooper were sent to the university to sort out his affairs and bring home the two thousand or so books that lined the walls of his Magdalene College office. Knowing the house was already filled to its bursting point with books, the pair wondered all the way home where on earth they would find the space to put them. But Lewis had already contrived an intricate plan for their use.

A nurse named Alec had been hired to stay up nights in case Lewis fell ill and needed his assistance. As the men returned with the enormous load of books, Alec was asleep in his room on the ground floor. As the truck pulled into the driveway, Lewis appeared, cautioning them to silence. “Where’ll we store the books?” Hooper whispered, to which Lewis responded with a wink. Carrying each stack with tedious concern so as not to wake the sleeping victim, the three men piled the works around the nurse’s bed, sealing him in a cocoon of manuscript and literature. When they were finished, the books were stacked nearly to the ceiling, filling every square inch of the room where the snoring nurse still slept.

Much to the relief of the anxious culprits who were waiting outside, Alex finally awoke. From within the insulated tomb, first came sounds of bellowing, and finally the tumbling of the great literary wall. An amused nurse emerged from within the wreckage.

The characters in this story are every bit as spirited as some of the playful personalities from Lewis’s imaginary worlds. These are the whimsical scenes—fiction and non-fiction—that seal in my mind the many weighty lessons I have wrought from him. But perhaps namely: Christianity is a religion with room—and reason—for life and laughter.

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Banjo Lesson, oil on canvas, 1893, Hampton University Museum.(2)

Much of the thought and work of C.S. Lewis wrestles with the existential evidences of the life-giving presence of God and the winsome invitations around us that beckon us to participate in this life. I am not alone in saying it was Lewis who first taught me to move toward the questions that reappear though we bury them and to at least be honest about the logical outworkings of the philosophies we hold, even loosely. It was Lewis who taught me to search after God with both heart and mind and energy, but with the wonder and imagination of a child who is able to be startled by the very thing she is looking for. A former atheist, Lewis came to believe with everything in him that Christianity gives an explanation—and a face—to the joy we stumble across, joy that “flickers on the razor-edge of the present and is gone.”

On the one hand, if life is but time and happenstance, why do we laugh or wonder, or experience a desire to play, however fleetingly at all? Is the encounter of delight simply the mind’s attempt to distract us from pain? What good is joy, what purpose is humor or laughter or beauty, if life is but a series of instincts to survive and the universe at a cosmic level is meaningless? On the other hand, if we are made in the image of a holy, loving, imaginative God, how wonderful that God has made us with both logic and laughter, with intrinsic worth and immortal wonder.

Nearing the end of one of his most remarkable lectures, in which he spoke hauntingly of the glory of the God and the immortality of the soul made in God’s image, Lewis added a word of warning: “This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously.”(1)

The resurrected, vicariously human Son of God invites us in to such a story, a creator who made us to live fully, coming in person to confront our desolation and to be our consolation, that we might encounter what the very word means. What if the door on which we have been knocking all our lives will one day open at last? Seeking and playing, finding and living may well be among life’s greatest efforts.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

A Distinctively Christian Appreciation of the Arts

Andrew Wyeth, one of America’s most renowned realist painters of the twentieth century, had an uncanny ability to capture the solemn nature of the rural American life with painstakingly controlled brushstrokes and a muted color palette. One of Wyeth’s most intriguing and iconic paintings is titled Christina’s World (1948). The central focus of the work is a brunette female lying in a field with her left hand struggling toward her far-off farmhouse. The figure in the painting is modeled after Wyeth’s neighbor, Anna Olson. Olson suffered from a degenerative muscular disorder that limited her to crawling around her house and family land.

There is nothing loud or wildly fantastic about the subject matter of Christina’s World. The power of the painting is held in what might be called the familiar whisper of beauty, a sense of the deep struggle in longing for home. It is a whisper that we cannot ignore. Like Christina’s World, beautiful art is never viewed with indifference. As philosopher Roger Scruton has noted, “Beauty demands to be noticed; it speaks directly to us like the voice of an intimate friend.” There is a sense in which all good art gives a certain voice to beauty. As C.S. Lewis reminds us in The Weight of Glory, beauty and art point beyond themselves. Beauty comes through as “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

R.C. Sproul’s apt observation of the place of art in the life of a Christian still rings true today: “In the Christian community,” he argued, “there seems to be a negative attitude toward art.” Many believers think that art is unworthy of a Christian, as if art were something worldly, an illegitimate enterprise for Christians to engage in and reflect upon. Yet, as Hans Rookmaker rightly pointed out, art’s justification is found in the way God made the world. To put it plainly, art is its own justification. Why else would it be that humanity alone has been endowed with the ability to appreciate art and experience beauty? Why has God made it so that art like Christina’s World provokes a deep longing that is found in all of us? No living creatures other than human beings would be deeply moved by standing before Wyeth’s painting at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. These reflective questions call for a distinctly Christian answer. What is the deep soul stirring that beautiful art brings to the surface of our conscience?

As Christians, we understand that the beginning of art is found in the act of creation in the Genesis account. In creation, God uniquely fashioned human beings in His image as aesthetic creatures possessed with a distinct capacity to experience and appreciate beauty and the ability to cultivate and create beautiful things. The artistic instinct is a universal human phenomenon. Art is embedded in our image-bearing nature. However, the Christian understands that art does not originate from man apart from God. Beauty in art is, therefore, a gift of common grace from God that has been made accessible and comprehensible to all people.

For the Christian in particular, art can be experienced as an analogical signpost bearing witness to the Author of all that is beautiful. As human beings, we care about beauty and the arts because our Creator God is beautiful and is the source of all beauty (Pss. 27:4, 50:2). Moreover, in creation, God intentionally fashioned our world as an artist—a divine artist who benevolently chose to endow our earthly experience with beauty (see Rom. 1:20). As an act of self-disclosure, creation itself declares the beauty of God (Ps. 19:1). In the creation of art, the artist mimics the creative work of God in disclosing a particular viewpoint of the world to be apprehended by the viewer. The interaction between the artist and the audience is that of mutual consent. There is something to be communicated, and art is the vehicle of communication.

If art truly serves as a signpost, a map, then we as Christians are called to be the guides.

Throughout human history, the arts have played a significant role in man’s effort to build a meaningful world. One could argue that the history of civilization can be traced through the arts. Nicholas Wolterstorff argued that the act of creating beautiful things involves the presentation of an alternative world or worldview to be considered by its audience. Implicit in this idea is that beautiful things stand between the artist and the audience and communicate by evoking emotion, conveying truth, and illuminating human experience. The best of art is, among other things, presented for contemplation. Art is a place where meaning can be created, explored, and discovered.

At the same time, art is to be discerned. In Acts 17, when Paul was confronted with the idolatrous art of Athens, he became deeply distressed and pointed them to the one true God in whom all of their longings could be met. In examining the things that their artists had created, Paul was able to exegete their culture and uncover the deep desires of their hearts. One principle implicit in this Acts 17 exchange is the truth that art helps cultivate the ability to discern a deeper sense of our human existence and experience. Art allows us to transcend ourselves and see things as they are from different perspectives, thus enabling us to find common ground for interaction. Art, therefore, inclines us to respond more sensitively to the world around us for the purpose of understanding. When specific pieces of art, music, and literature resonate with the masses, it should provoke our attention and study.

Even so, art is not exempt from the fall; indeed, it is often an instrument of the falleness of the world. But art can also be an instrument of redemptive dialogue in our world that is fallen yet undergoing cosmic redemption. As Abraham Kuyper reminded us, “in spite of sin by virtue of common grace, [the arts] have continued to shine in human nature, [so] it plainly follows that art can both inspire both believers and unbelievers, and that God remains sovereign to impart it, in his good pleasure.” What we must understand is that the beauties of this world and even the longings expressed in art are a whisper to our souls that there is something beyond the physical order.

Therefore, art, like beauty, is both a gift and a map. It is a gift to be enjoyed and a map to be followed back to the source of the beauty with glorious praise. The Christian must appreciate art because it is often the vehicle for which truth, experience, and longings are expressed. Christians must seek to engage in understanding the arts because they provide a window to see how the God-given longings of humanity are expressed from generation to generation. Beautiful pieces of art such as Christina’s World may bring to the surface the shared sense of longing for home that all human beings feel deep within their souls, but the Christian is the one who can point beyond the longing itself toward the God who can fulfill all of these desires in “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16). If art truly serves as a signpost, a map, then we as Christians are called to be the guides.

Dr. Matthew Z. Capps is senior pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, N.C. He is author of Hebrews: A 12 Week Study.