August 18th 2010

What Are You Made Of?

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

I John 3:2 (NIV)
I am reading the Narnia books to my children who (though they persist in calling the alternative world Banania) are really loving the story.  We get some nice theological, hypothetical, and metaphysical discussions out of it too.  We’re on to the fifth in the series, the one that begins, “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it”, and five pages later suddenly drops the three English children into a voyage between Narnia and an unknown eastern sea of that world.  On an island they meet and talk with someone who says he is a retired star.

    “In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”
    “Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of.”
    (Lewis, C. S.: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, HarperCollins 1997, p. 159.)

Anxious to avoid a long discussion on nuclear reactions, solar flares, and the vital statistics of the sun, I took a quick tangent and asked the children what they themselves are made of.  They are made of “molecules”, “lots of water”, “bones and skin”, and “muscles and stuff”.

Then I asked them what they are.  One of them is “a Christian” and the other eventually said something about “my thoughts”.

It struck me that we know more than ever before about what we are made of, from general body composition and structure, down to DNA… but it is harder than ever to think in terms of what we are.  Even if we roll out the mechanistic clichés like “the whole” being “greater than the sum of its parts”.  The whole entity or identity in our case, actually has very little to do with its sum of body parts.

Science identifies us by what we are made of.  That is the purpose of science—to discover and categorise facts.  Science tells us quite correctly that we are made of the same stuff as animals.

God sees us a different way, and points us towards truths that we cannot grasp in reductionist terms. God tells us we are a new creation.

Holy Creator, we cannot measure what you are creating, but we believe in and submit to your work in our lives.

Study by Fiona Jones 

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