Commentary

Cliff Goldstein

is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His next book, Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity is set to be released this fall by Pacific Press.

Cliff’s Edge - Do Angels Cast Shadows?

Despite my ignorance of the demonic forces behind it, my first foray into the occult showed me how narrow and inadequate philosophical materialism, as a depiction of reality, really is. Just as one black swan nullified the belief that all swans were white, one supernatural experience nullified my disbelief in the supernatural. To pilfer a metaphor from Plato, a materialistic only world-view is like having spent your life chained, face-first, to the back wall of a cave, which makes you believe that reality consists only of the shadows cast on the wall before your eyes.

In contrast, from “In the beginning” (Gen. 1:1) to “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20), Scripture portrays reality as fantastically deeper, richer, and more multi-faceted than someone locked in materialism could ever approach. Imagine being visited, in person, by the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:26-29), only to write off the experience as the onset of schizophrenia.

The concept of prayer alone, for example, defies everything we know about the natural world. How could a prayer uttered here (silently or out loud) possibly be heard in heaven, when, according to the Special Theory of Relativity, the fastest information can travel is 186,000 miles per second, the speed of light in a vacuum? At that rate your petition would take 4.6 hours to reach Pluto, much less the throne of grace. If spoken prayer is anything more than protoplasm vibrating molecules of air, reality must be layered in ways that, for now, our imaginations aren’t broad enough to grasp.

Scripture portrays reality as fantastically deeper, richer, and more multi-faceted than someone locked in materialism could ever approach.

And the act of creation itself? By having spoken (spoken!) matter, especially living matter, into existence, the Lord has revealed to us a reality so deep that probably no configuration of human neurons in any conceivable bath of neurotransmitters could translate that into something our consciousness could now comprehend.

And yes, mathematics might be the language of nature, but what numbers, even eight digits to the right of the decimal point, are going to describe, “And God said, ‘Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky” (Gen. 1:20)? However effective numbers might be in depicting creation, they’re surely too crude, sloppy, and ethereal to mathematize the act of creation itself.

Meanwhile, one would be hard-pressed—working from atheistic materialistic presuppositions—to explain how someone in a dream 500 years before Christ could so accurately depict the 1,260 years of Papal hegemony depicted in Daniel 7:23-25.

Then, too, a cosmos in which the One through whom “all things were made” (John 1:3) became a fetus in the womb of Mary is way too grand and multi-layered to fit into scientific literature. And of all the exabytes of stored human knowledge, which bits or bytes can begin to explain how Jesus healed the paralytic (Mark 2), or gave sight to the boy blind from birth (John 9), or raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11)? Accounts like these, and others in Scripture, reveal how paltry is our grasp of the world. It’s as if we float on the sheen above a deep ocean but never penetrate the depths below because we’ve been programmed to believe that the sheen is all there is.

Though we exist in a material world, Scripture reveals to us a reality much greater and deeper than the materials that electromagnetic waves impinging upon our eyes can show us. Answered prayer, miracles, providence, the intervention of angels, fulfilled prophecies—all burst through the narrow parameters of materialism and point to realms of existence beyond subatomic particles and quantum fields.

But this greater reality shouldn’t be just metaphysical speculation (Do angels cast shadows?). Dust we are now and dust we will ever be if our world is only what science books tell us. Scripture doesn’t just reveal this grander reality, it tells us that our only hope arises from it. Yet we don’t need to wait until the Second Coming to avail ourselves of what God offers now. How often, looking only at the seen, only at the natural, we forget the unseen, the supernatural, and that God and the reality He has created isn’t limited by matter and the laws that govern it.

True, it was through the occult, the dark side of this grander reality, that I was first exposed, at least consciously, to this grander reality, one far beyond what physics and biology could ever reveal. But now, thanks to the Scriptures and my own experiences, I know that behind the cold materialist forces that seem to engulf everything, the grace and smile and power of the God who spoke our world into existence and, then, later hung on the cross, overshadows it all, intervening in this world and in our personal lives, manifesting a love that pervades physical reality but remains unconstrained by it.

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His next book, set to be released in the fall by Pacific Press, is Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity.

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