Tag Archives: Genesis

Prayer for Scientific Insight

Book XI of Augustine’s Confessions consists almost entirely of him trying to figure out the nature of time based on a few clues in Genesis.  Despite working from a bad Latin translation and having just a few phrases to work with anyway, Augustine describes several remarkably modern theories about the nature of time.

I’ll admit that this book was a bit hard to read.  Augustine has some complicated theories that English just wasn’t built to handle, and at times he seems to chase himself around in circles.

However, there are some gems to be found.  I was especially struck by this passage, where Augustine cries out to God for understanding about time:

My mind is on fire to solve this very intricate enigma.  Do not shut the door, Lord my God.  Good Father, through Christ I beg you, do not shut the door on my longing to understand these things which are both familiar and obscure.  Do not prevent me, Lord, from penetrating them and seeing them illuminated by the light of your mercy.  Whom shall I ask about them?  And to whom but you shall I more profitably confess my incompetence?  You are not irritated by the burning zeal with which I study your scriptures.  Grant what I love. For I love, and this love was your gift.  Grant it, Father.  You truly know how to give good gifts to your children.  Grant it, since I have undertaken to acquire understanding and the labour is too much for me until you open the way.  Through Christ I beg you, in the name of him who is the holy of holy ones, let no one obstruct my inquiry.” – Augustine’s Confessions, XI, xxii (28)

Wow.  I’ve prayed for scientific insight before (including the night before my IB physics test), but never with the fervor Augustine displays here.  I love his hunger to understand and his understanding that God is the one who can provide it.

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Augustine on Truth and Interpretation

I’ve been slowly making my way through Augustine’s Confessions over the last few months.  I’ve been surprised by how contemporary many of his concerns are!  Here’s an interesting passage from book 12, where Augustine spends an entire book musing on Genesis 1:1.  (Note: Augustine addresses his entire Confessions to God.)

 “So what difficulty is it for me when these words [of Genesis] can be interpreted in various ways, provided only that the interpretations are true?  What difficulty is it for me, I say, if I understand the text in a way different from someone else, who understands the scriptural author in another sense?  In Bible study all of us are trying to find and grasp the meaning of the author we are reading, and when we believe him to be revealing truth, we do not dare to think he said anything which we either know or think to be incorrect.  As long as each interpreter is endeavouring to find in the holy scriptures the meaning of the author who wrote it, what evil is it if an exegesis he gives is one shown to be true by you, light of all sincere souls, even if the author whom he is reading did not have that idea and, though he had grasped a truth, had not discerned that seen by the interpreter?”  – Augustine’s Confessions, XII. xviii.

Things I thought were interesting:

  1. It doesn’t matter if the original author had in mind a certain understanding when he wrote the passage.  Your understanding can be true or false independent of the human author’s intent.  (For example, if I understand Genesis 1 to have somehow included the dinosaurs, the truth or falsehood of the dinosaurs is independent of if Moses knew about them when he was writing or not.)
  2. It’s okay if you and I have different interpretations of the text, as long as both are true.

Being a Christian in a biology-related field, I have heard thoughts on the meaning of Genesis 1-3 ad nauseam.  While the issue is settled in my own mind and I’m tired of hearing about it, I recognize that the supposed conflict between creation and evolution is a stumbling block for many people.  I like Augustine’s statement that we don’t need to argue about what Moses thought when he wrote the words of Genesis, nor do we need to argue that my view is right and yours is wrong: we need to focus on finding the truth.  Additionally, for a passage like Genesis 1-3, we can acknowledge that multiple truths (perhaps one symbolic and one scientific and one narrative and …) might come out of the text.

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What’s in a Name?

I’m really enjoying One Thousand Gifts – a reflection on living out ευχαριστεω every day.

In one section, Ann tells the story of her Farmer Husband trying to figure out why the new litters of pigs are stillborn. He’s sent off samples to various labs, had the vet out numerous times, and generally exhausted every option for diagnosis. Finally, researching on the internet one night, he narrows it down to a particular (nasty) disease.

Expecting him to be frustrated or downtrodden, Ann asks if he’s alright. The Farmer says, “Yes… and no. I don’t like what it is, or that is looks like it’s nearly impossible to eradicate, but you know what? … I’m strangely happy… Just naming it… When you don’t have the name for something, you’re haunted by shadows… But when you can name something…” (pg 52).

Ann goes on to reflect that “Naming is Edenic.”

Man’s first task was to name things.  No wonder so many ancient mythologies associate a power with naming something!  It was our first task as caretakers of the earth to name the things in it.

Adam naming the animals. Wall painting in Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery (Greece), 16th century.

In a sense, medical diagnostics offer this power.  After five years of illness, when I finally heard the words, “You have West Nile,” I was giddy.  I remember skipping to the coffee house as I met my friends that afternoon, nearly shouting my diagnosis.  It didn’t matter that naming my disease offered up no new treatments – there was power in the name itself.  I had a name for the monster that hounded me.  I had a peace – I didn’t have to look anymore for what else the monster could be.

Heck, with a name, it can feel more like a pet than a monster.  It’s like I put a collar around it.

My colleagues’ and my research in diagnostics offers up names for the mysterious.  Some of the diseases we work on have treatments – knowing the name opens the door to healing.  Other diseases have no treatment.  But rather than being a fruitless exercise, identifying the disease provides some peace: no more searching for other diseases, no more fear of a nameless monster, no more treatment for a disease that’s not present.

 

I love that God tasked us with naming His creatures before the fall.  It is a good profession.

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Dust

“Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return,” says the priest as he smears last year’s palms on my forehead.

Since this was my first year where people would actually see me with a cross on my head (we went to the noon service), I was pondering how to explain what Ash Wednesday is.  It’s not a religious holiday, per se, in the same way that Easter and Christmas are.  Those celebrate specific events in the life of our Lord.  Ash Wednesday, however, was created by the Church when it decided that we needed a time of penitence and preparation leading up to the grand celebration of Easter (my friend Christina has an AMAZING post on this theme here).

But still, why the ashes?  I’m sure there are plenty of explanations, but this year I liked the one found in our church bulletin.  Ash and dust have always been a reminder that we are made of dust and destined to return to it (Genesis 3:19).  As we approach Easter, we remember that Easter – Christ’s resurrection! –  allows this frail dust to live forever.

Wow.


English: Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Ch...

Image via Wikipedia

Walking around with a cross of ashes on my head, I felt a little self-conscious and a little proud.

It opened up four conversations.  Nothing profound, but a small door.  My Lord is important to me, and I’m not ashamed to explain it or to wear His symbol.

I enjoyed the feeling of being “marked” as a Christian, and feeling a measure of camaraderie with the other people so marked.  For one afternoon, our faith was literally written on our foreheads.  Today, we return to being marked by our actions and our words.  Lord, let mine show you!

 

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Valentine’s Day Fudge: It Takes a Village

This post is part kitchen adventure, part musings on the community that surrounds us.

Since my husband has started announcing the quantity of sugar in all of his meals, I naturally decided to make him red velvet fudge for Valentine’s Day (following Six in the Suburb’s recipe, which has an obscene amount of sugar).

First, sugar and chocolate. (Pot from my hometown hostesses!  I’m not sure where the spoon came from, but we used it to fold our wedding invitations.)

Then, red gel food coloring to turn this velvet red.  It got brighter the longer it sat!  (Food coloring inherited when Rachel moved to Hungary, and never returned.) (Oh!  Don’t panic – mind the comma.  Rachel returned, but I never gave the food coloring back.)

Look at those convection cells in this boiling, viscous, chocolaty mass!

Checking the temperature with a meat thermometer (should have gotten a candy thermometer, but too late) from Lisa and Eduardo.

Waiting for the chocolate to cool to the requisite 110* was the most time-consuming part of this process.  Chocolate apparently has a very high specific heat!  On the plus side, I took a lot of pictures and cleaned the house.

Valentine's Day roses from my hubby decorate the kitchen.


Once the chocolate finally cooled, the recipe told me to blend in butter and vanilla.  Unfortunately, it cooled into such a hard mass that I couldn’t do it!  Enter manly man to whip up his own Valentine’s Day treat.

Between the time Greg stopped blending and I was prepared to pour, the chocolate had hardened into this.  I finally resorted to re-melting the fudge on the stove so I could pour it!  If I make fudge again, I’ll not let it cool down so much before adding in the other ingredients.

Making the cream cheese layer. Mixing bowl from Caroline!

White baking chocolate preparing to go in the cream cheese layer. Bowl from Natalie!

Pretty patterns! Mixer from Aunt Beth.

Okay, now that everything was made, it was time to put it together.  The recipe called for four layers, and thus for two identical pans to put the red velvet layers in to cool.  I didn’t have matching 8×8 pans, but I did have two identical 9″ pie plates, and I calculated that the areas were fairly close.  (“Pi” plates from my math friend Ben.)

The red velvet layer was too viscous to spread out in the pan on its own.  I ended up covering it with wax paper (to keep it from sticking) and a dish cloth (to protect my hands from the still-hot chocolate) and mashing it into place.  (Dish cloth from Julie & Rick.)

Making layers. Back plate shows the layer already mashed out; front plate shows chocolate ready for mashing.

Because it was so hard already, I didn’t wait very long for the red velvet layer to cool before spooning on the cream cheese/white chocolate layer.  Flipping the second red velvet layer on top was no problem – it didn’t stick to the wax paper at all, and its high viscosity meant that it kept its shape easily!

Finished product.

It turned out really sweet, and on the first night I thought it was pretty much a complete failure.  However, this fudge, like a fine wine, seems to improve with age.  The next day at lunch I could taste fudgy-ness underneath all the sweet!  After a day or so, it also got softer and easier to cut.  We’ve given away a lot of it (a 9″ pie plate is a lot to eat!), but my Valentine has quite enjoyed it.

While I was waiting for the chocolate to cool, I realized how many people had physically contributed to Greg’s Valentine’s gift this year.  Mentioned in this post for just physical wedding gifts are eight people!  Even the simplest thing like cooking in the kitchen can remind me of what a community surrounds and supports Greg and me in this wonderful adventure.  We’re not alone!

God said that it was not good for man to be alone before He created Eve.  I think the Bible’s teachings on marriage would say, too, that a man and woman aren’t meant to be on their own in marriage.  God has given us the Church to surround us, challenge us, and uphold us as Greg and I journey through this life together.

I might switch up the old proverb to say: “It takes a village to support a marriage.”

Thank you, our dear friends.  Happy Valentine’s day!

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