Psalm 139:7 “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?”
Beware: odd theological musings ahead!
Because of the massacre at Virginia Tech, I was thinking about the nature of evil. And because I tend to believe that evil is better defined by the absence of good (rather than some particular substance called “evil”), I found myself thinking of other powerful forces that are defined by what they are not. Like cold—the absence of heat. Or dark—the absence of light. And then my mind turned to vacuums. I don’t mean vacuum cleaners, although there do seem to be times when mine gives me the evil eye. I mean the power behind a vacuum cleaner—the vacuum itself—an absence of matter that desires so much to be filled that it sucks in what is around it. Except, of course, for the cat hair.
I went to Google and searched on “vacuum.” The first hit was Wikipedia, which had this interesting sentence: “Space can never be perfectly empty. A perfect vacuum with a gaseous pressure of absolute zero is a philosophical concept that is never observed in practice, not least because quantum theory predicts that no volume of space is perfectly empty in this way.” I had a theological moment and quickly looked up “dark.” It said, “The scientific definition of light includes the entire electromagnetic spectrum, not just visible light, so it is physically impossible to create perfect darkness.” Cold? “Scientists cannot fully achieve a state of ‘zero’ heat energy in a substance.”
Science seems to tell us that while the total and complete absence of light, heat, and matter are theoretical possibilities, they haven’t been able to manufacture such conditions in a lab. I felt hopeful. If evil is truly the absence of God—or good, or love, or whatever adjectives you would use for God—then maybe it works the same way. Maybe the witness of Creation as observed in scientific laboratories is hinting that no person can truly reach a state where God is completely absent from them. The Bible gives us the image of God as a fire in the burning bush and as the light of the world in Jesus. When Moses asks God’s name, God responds, “I am.” God is defined by being, by substance. The one who is, as opposed to the one who is not. Biblically, God is heat, light, and has substance. Evil is the opposite.
What God created out of the formless, dark void was light and life the Gospel of John tells us. And it cannot be undone or overcome. Even in a soul as twisted and tortured as Mr. Cho, the image of God within him cannot be completely obliterated, and neither can his loathsome act erase the light and love of the precious young lives he ended. We Christians go on celebrating Easter until the feast of Pentecost on May 27 and here, in a bit of science lesson, it would seem that perhaps its message is true after all. Death isn’t the end. Evil can’t win. God—and therefore life and love—can’t ever be completely, totally and absolutely absent from a person.
Oh, it can be dark enough and cold enough, and empty enough to make us think that evil has the upper hand. Good Friday wasn’t fun for anybody. But down at the core, there in the tiniest puff of energy is the hope that we cling to when the darkness swirls. God is there. God is here. He lives. Alleluia!
Come, Lord, and bring your light. Amen.
SpiritWalkers is available in audio as a podcast. Visit www.annerobertson.com/poddevotions.html to subscribe or to listen online.
My new book, God’s Top 10: Blowing the Lid Off the Commandments, has shipped. Order now on Amazon.com or check local bookstores.