Meditating on the Wonders of Light - Part 2

by J. D. Watson

Editor's precede: Last month Dr. Watson began his discussion of some of the properties of light, and their spiritual significance.  This installment concludes his observations.

Fifth, light is a constant—the only constant in the physical universe, in fact. It was for that very reason that Einstein said that he could construct the Theory of Relativity. Today the speed of light is known with near certainty to be 186,282.396 miles per second. That's almost seven and one half times around the world at the tick of a clock!

More amazing, however, is that that speed is always the same. The term "relativity," as Albert Einstein used it, derives from the fact that the appearance of the world is relative—that is, it depends upon our state of motion. This is actually easy to illustrate. Picture yourself standing on a train that is moving 50 miles per hour and that you throw a ball in the direction the train is moving. Now, relative to yourself and the train, the ball leaves your hand traveling at twenty miles per hour; but relative to the point of view of a spectator standing alongside the tracks, how fast is the ball moving? Of course, at 70 miles an hour—the combined velocities of the train and the ball.

Now picture the train going really fast, say half the speed of light, approximately 93,000 miles per second. Instead of throwing a ball, however, you turn on a flashlight. How fast is the light traveling relative to the observer standing alongside the tracks? Would it be 279,000 miles per second, that is, 93,000 (your speed on the train) plus 186,000 (the speed of light)? No, because light always travels at the same speed. Likewise, how fast is the light traveling relative to you on the train? The same speed. The speed of light remains constant for all observers.

What a profound and wonderful truth this is spiritually! God's light is always the same; It remains constant for all observers. As the Psalmist declares, "O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles" (Ps. 43:3). God's "word is truth" (John 17:17) and in "the Father of lights [there] is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17).

Tragically, we have another form of "relativity" in our world today, but this one recognizes no constant. Everything is supposedly relative to each person's position and nothing is absolute. Worse, this has spilled over into the church where Scripture is not the sole and sufficient authority. How we need to recognize that whether we are moving or standing still, no matter what our environment, God's light is the only constant. This leads to one other aspect of the nature of light:

Sixth, light travels in a straight line. This is nowhere better illustrated nowadays than in the fascinating world of lasers. Teachers use them as pointers, builders use them for leveling, the military uses them for targeting weapons, and the uses go on. All this is possible because light travels in a straight line.

In the mysteries of the universe, however, there is an exception. As Einstein also theorized—and which was later confirmed through scientific experiments—strong gravitational fields produced by massive objects, such as the sun, actually "curve" space so that light no longer travels in a straight line but is bent.

Likewise, if I may take the liberty of stretching the analogy, there are countless individuals today who bend and warp the light of Scripture the way they wish, who twist Scripture to say what will justify their actions, attitudes, and lifestyle.

But God's Word is to be "cut straight," which is the literal idea of the Greek behind "rightly dividing" the word of truth in 2 Timothy 2:15. The verb orthotomeo\ (orthos, "straight" and temno\, "cut or divide") appears only there in the New Testament. It is often observed that this refers to plowing a straight furrow or cutting a straight seam, but more accurate is the idea of "cutting a path in a straight direction." The idea behind temno\ (which does not appear by itself in the NT), "is that of cutting a path through a forest or difficult terrain so that the traveler may go directly to his destination."1 This is the picture, in fact, in its use in two instances in the Septuagint, where it's translated "direct": "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Prov. 3:6), and "The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way" (11:5).

What, then, is Paul saying? Simply this: Keep the Word of God straight. Never misuse it, or bend it to your thinking, or twist it to prop up your own opinions.

May we rejoice in the wonders of Light.


1. Brown, Vol. 3, p. 352, quoting Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 584.

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