From days of great antiquity ancient peoples have recorded the natural patterns and cycles that they observed. Deer antlers from the Paleolithic era have been found with the progressive phases of the moon carved into them in the form of a crude calendar. The constellations of the night sky have very ancient origins as primitive peoples organized what they saw in the sky as pictures and images of the deities that they believed ruled the world. The megaliths at Stonehenge in Britain dating from five thousand years ago were constructed to form a structure that accurately predicts solar eclipses. In recent times, the achievements of the Mayans in creating a highly accurate calendar have finally been appreciated and marveled at by modern researchers.
This human trait of discerning patterns and cycles is apparently rooted in our very genetics. Human beings appear to be programmed in their DNA for speech and for using all the coded patterns of written language including symbolic letters, sentence structure and grammar.7 This mental capacity has manifested itself since the dawn of civilization in a flair for writing that produced great written creation epics such as Genesis and Gilgamesh. The ancients then pushed beyond trying to understand their origins and actually attempted to decode the heavens through complex systems of astrology and augury.
After examining human history over many centuries, it becomes apparent that to be human is to be the discoverer of majestic cycles and the creator of fluent coded information systems like language and even today’s internet. To be human is to be the builder of great libraries and information storage systems where knowledge can grow at exponential rates. It is human beings who have decoded the mountains of genetic information contained in the human genome. And lastly, it is human to wonder and dream if there is a greater intelligence other than ourselves revealed in all that we see and investigate.
The Logos of God
Of all the ancient cultures who pondered their origins and the intelligence beyond the fabric of the universe, the Greeks of classical antiquity probably thought about it more than any other. Their philosophers didn’t content themselves with passing on myths about their pantheon of gods, but attempted to construct a philosophy based on how their minds worked and what they actually saw and understood of the natural world. Plato and his pupil Aristotle and later Plotinus and Philo built up systems of philosophy which were foundational to the way that men in the west thought about their world until the time of the renaissance. Roman Catholic theology to this day remains strongly influenced by the philosophy of Aristotle as interpreted by Thomas Aquinas.
The Greek philosophers saw an inherent intelligence and reason revealed in the natural world which they called the logos or word of god. The cycles of the planets and stars, the mathematics of geometrical forms, the power of logic and the harmony of nature all convinced them that a transcendent god and his logos existed beyond the natural world. The great mind of this god was the originator of all the great ideas and thoughts that men have. The logos was the highest idea or idea of ideas which proceeds from the mind and reason of god. 8 Philo even referred to the logos as the son of god or a second god who had a separate existence from the transcendent god from eternity.9
The apostle John knew about the Greek logos concept and was definitely influenced by it when he wrote in the first verse of his gospel, “In the beginning was the word (logos) and the word was with God, and the word was God” (John 1:1). John decisively parted company with the Greek philosophers, though, when in his first letter he went on to describe his personal fellowship with the logos saying, “what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the word of life” (1John 1:1). John claimed to have had living personal fellowship and even physical contact with the word incarnate, Jesus Christ.
Such personal knowledge and fellowship was an impossibility according to Greek philosophy. The god of philosophers was utterly transcendent and neither he nor his word could ever be born as a man or known in a personal way. John again refutes this thinking when he declares in his gospel, “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). None of the Greek philosophers believed that the logos was equal to the transcendent god or shared his essence. Jesus of Nazareth didn’t shrink from claiming this equality when he said in John’s Gospel, “I and the Father are one” and “before Abraham was born, I am” (John 10:30, 8:58). The gospel of John goes on to describe Jesus as the creator of the world endowed with transcendence declaring, “all things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life and the life was the light of men” (John 1:3-4). John had no hesitation in calling Jesus God incarnate and the logos who reveals God to men (John 1:18)
Jesus Christ as described in John’s writings is both transcendent and fully incarnated in human nature. He is the maker of all things and yet was born into the world and lived and died for those that he loved. The Greek philosophers could not have recognized this Jesus as God incarnate and neither did their philosophic descendants at the time of Christ, the Gnostics. Their tradition attempted to embrace the Christ, but defined Him according to their own presuppositions in opposition to the early church.
Greek philosophy and the Christian faith parted paths irrevocably over the issues of the incarnation and the claims of Christ. This great divide remains today as seen in the modern tension between Islam and Christian West. Islam rejects the divinity of Christ and its God, Allah, is much like the god of the philosophers in his transcendence and unknowability. There is little that men and women can hope to know about him, except for his will and their place in it. The Qur’an says that Allah determines everything that happens in this world by his sovereign decree.10 This fatalism inherent in Islam has always been in conflict with western notions of free will and self-determination, particularly for women. It remains to be seen how this difference in world views will be resolved.
It is universally agreed by historians that the life and ministry of Christ marked a great crossroads in the history of philosophy and religion. All of the world’s great religions have tried in their own ways to come to grips with it and yet the great historical divide remains. Jesus Himself once asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15). The issue of who the Christ is continues to be the crux of history.
The Logos Revisited
A visit to any large bookstore will reveal that humanity hasn’t given up its relentless quest to decode the higher meaning of life and our future. The Da Vinci Code, The Bible Code, and now, numerous books about the Mayan calendar’s decoded predictions for 2012 have all taken their place on the best seller’s list. To one degree or another, these books have been debunked and disproved by critics including one researcher who claims that he used the text of Moby Dick to replicate Bible code predictions!11 I’m sure that Herman Melville would have been dumbfounded to know that his book was being used for this purpose. The Bible code also predicted a nuclear holocaust in 2006 which thankfully did not occur. The Mayan calendar’s end date has been hotly debated, and according to astronomers, predicting even the approximate date of an “apocalyptic” solar/galactic center alignment is impossible.12 These contemporary efforts at reading between the lines of history have been lucrative for their authors, but are mere child’s play when compared to the efforts of thinkers in the past to decode the universe and man’s place in it. Just take the time to study Plato’s Republic or Augustine’s City of God and I think that you will agree with this assessment.
The ancient Greek attempt to understand the world through the logos concept was a noble attempt that ultimately failed because the Greek concept of God was too ethereal and transcendent to connect with the lives of ordinary men and women. The god of the philosophers was a logical first cause to the universe, but was far removed from being a moral guide or a savior for the common man. There were no temples in Greece where men worshipped or offered incense to the prime mover of Plato.
As I mentioned before, thinkers in the early Christian church appreciated Greek philosophy and they saw aspects of it as being compatible with biblical revelation. 13They appreciated the logic of Greek argument that a world based on cause and effect needed God in the form of an uncaused first cause to start the ball of existence rolling. They also were influenced by the logos concept because it asserted that God and his word were revealed in and through creation. The apostle Paul stated this succinctly in the book of Romans writing, “For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen being understood through what has been made” (Rom 1:20). Paul, being a Jew, certainly received the Old Testament scriptures which declare, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Ps 19:1). His teaching in the book of Romans added more clarity and detail to the general revelation of the Old Testament on the subject.
The clarity of Paul’s teaching can now be much better understood than in the past because of discoveries in the science of physics in recent times. These discoveries are exciting and reveal the imprint of God in the world in unprecedented ways. They also bear witness to a three dimensional structure in the universe that mirrors the triune God of the Bible.
The Creation Code
Even a casual observer should be impressed with the three dimensional structure that pervades our world. Examples of this natural characteristic are everywhere, whether on looks at the smallest atom or to the farthest reaches of the known universe. Space, for instance, is measured in three dimensions: height, length and width. The ordinary states of matter are solids, liquids and gases. Visible light consists of three primary colors: red, yellow and blue. Time, a fourth dimension according to Albert Einstein, is still experienced as the past, present and future.
On the subatomic level, the material world consists of three basic particles: protons, neutrons, and electrons. Even protons and neutrons themselves are three fold as each is made up of three subatomic particles called quarks. Quarks themselves exist in three different classes based on their charge. All of the other known families of subatomic particles also come in three classes. 14Our universe, whether it is observed on a grand scale or at the vanishing point of subatomic particles, retains this curious three-dimensional structure. Is this an incredible coincidence, or does this leave us clues as to the origin of the universe?
The God revealed in the Bible is also a three dimensional being, a trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.15 This God in His wisdom and love created time and space and the world we live in. The Bible reveals that all three members of the godhead participated in the creation event, making it a three dimensional event, and our present world bears the indelible marks of its origins.16
The visible universe is virtually infinite in its scope and power and this reflects the eternity of God. The invisible fabric of the cosmos, the world of atomic particles, also reflects the triune nature and unchangeable perfections of God. (Rom 1:20)
Many people reject the idea of the trinity; saying that it is illogical and impossible. Their objections might be answered, however, if they took the time to consider that every proton and neutron in the universe is a trinity, consisting of three quarks. The simple heavy hydrogen atom is also a trinity in itself, made up of a proton, neutron and electron. One element, one atom, but three distinct particles. The most basic and primordial substances in nature reflect the image of the creator! It is quite reasonable to believe in the triune God of the bible if one examines the world that he has made.
In saying this, I am not in any way implying that God is an atom or that the godhead is atomic in nature. I do believe, however, that atomic structure and activity reflects the imprint of God in remarkable ways. Consider the example of the simple electron. Electrons proceed from an atomic nucleus to combine with other atoms to form molecules and compounds. They also transmit the energy of electricity and lightning into nature. This activity of the electrons mirrors the work of the Holy Spirit who is sent out from the trinity to indwell believers and join them to Christ. The Spirit is also the one who conveys the power of God into the world.
The world we live in is built on a three dimensional foundation of protons, neutrons and electrons. This design extends from the level of quarks to the expanse of galaxies. Is this a pattern or a code embedded in the universe that can point us to God? I believe that the answer is yes. It is both logical and wise to believe that a Trinitarian God is the source of the beautiful and awe inspiring universe that we live in.
The Light of God
The Greek philosophers believed that the logos of God was manifested in the very fabric of the universe. They may not have been far wrong when the properties of light are examined. Light is yet another image of the trinity revealed in nature, being composed of three primary colors. Light also has two different properties or natures operating in it. It is composed of particles called photons, but it also has the property of a wave of energy that can be measured. Light is a particle and a wave simultaneously. It all depends on how it is measured and observed. Orthodox theology maintains that Jesus Christ also had two natures combined in him, the human and the divine, through the incarnation. This will never change just as the properties of light will never change. Visible light’s unique qualities mirror the trinity and the two natures of Christ in a dazzling unity. I don’t think that it was any accident that Jesus referred to himself as the light of the world who gives the light of life to men. (John 8:12) It was completely within his power when he revealed himself in blinding light on the Mount of Transfiguration. (Matt 17:1-2) He is the light of God sent from the Father in whose light the true nature of things is revealed. (Heb 4:12-13)
The early church fathers also used this analogy of light to describe Jesus Christ and the trinity. They likened the Father to the physical orb of the sun out of which the word of God radiated like beams of light to enlighten the world. The Holy Spirit was likened to the heat energy which also comes from the sun to give life and energy to the world. This analogy was ingenious as the light and heat of the sun have a distinct existence in themselves and cause effects very far away from the sun itself. They do this while remaining a projection of the sun that shares its very nature. This ancient analogy contained within it the seeds of later Trinitaraian doctrine. The writer of the book of Hebrews was influenced by it when he described Jesus Christ as the “Radiance of God’s Glory” and the “Exact representation of His nature”. (Heb 1:3)
Some Final Observations
The Trinitarian imprint of God pervades the universe, and is revealed in many beautiful ways. Everyday as we walk about, we are surrounded and bathed in sunlight, the greatest Trinitarian analogy of them all. Whenever we gaze upon a vast ocean or trek through a mountain snow pack, we should remember that fully 70% of the earth is covered by liquid water, H2O. Water is another amazing Trinitarian imprint in nature, being composed of two hydrogen atoms joined to one oxygen atom. Our lives in this world would be impossible without water as it composes up to 60% of the human body. When we look at living organisms, all of earth’s green plants and forests depend on another of nature’s “trinities” for life. Carbon Dioxide,CO2, when combined with water and sunlight energizes photosynthesis, a process essential to plant metabolism. The biomass produced by photosynthesis provides food for a multitude of living organisms. As a by-product of this process, oxygen is released into the atmosphere, which is the breath of life for all living things.
When I consider these things, I have a deep sense of wonder at the beauty and efficiency of natural systems. I think it is a valid observation that Trinitarian structures and systems in nature make life possible on this planet. We live in the midst of a great ongoing revelation of the divine that becomes more compelling the deeper that we look into it. Long ago, the apostle Paul spoke of this when he told the Athenian elders that God is not far from each of us, “for in Him we live and move and have our being”. (Acts 17:27-28) The revelation of God continues everyday if we have the eyes to see it.
All of these analogies taken from nature that I have described are less than perfect. The infinite God cannot be adequately described by finite examples. I do believe, however, that the unmistakable imprint of God is revealed in nature for any honest man or woman to see. Of all the codes in the world that are waiting to be decoded, the creation code is by far the most important one to understand. Many men and women have spent their lives decoding the secrets of history, but have never understood this code. My prayer is that the reader will allow the witness of the creation code to lead them into a living relationship the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ, who created the code.
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1 Time Magazine, “Origins: A Gene For Speech,” August 26, 2002.
2 Gordon H. Clark, Thales to Dewey, (Jefferson, MD. The Trinity Foundation, 1985) p. 201
3 IBID., p. 202
4Qu’ran 6:59b 57:22-23
5 Skeptical Inquirer Magazine, Hidden Messages and the Bible Code,” Nov/Dec 1997.