The Speed of Light, Standing Waves, and Judgment

 

 

If you studied physics, you may remember that the speed of light is 186,282 miles per second. Most scientists use the metric system for computations. In metric terms, the speed of light is 299,792 kilometers per second, or 299,792,000 meters per second. Whether expressed in metric or English standard units, the speed of light is…well…fast. Light is one of many forms of energy that exist in the universe. Radio waves also travel at the speed of light. 

Because waves travel at the constant speed of light, there is a relationship between frequency and wavelength. Imagine a radio wave moving through space. If one picks a point in space for observation, as the wave passes by our observation point, it passes at the speed of light. If we could see the wave, it takes the shape of a sine wave with peaks and troughs. A full wave is the process of a wave moving through each intermediate state until it returns to the same value. For example, one wave might look like this: 

 

 

For a wave at twice the frequency, the picture would look like this:

 

 

 

  

Notice how, for the higher frequency, the wavelength is shorter. 

 This physical principle becomes very important in radio because we want the radio signal to be transmitted through the air. There is a relationship between they physical dimensions of the antenna and the frequency, and therefore, the wavelength. If the antenna is sized so it is properly related to the wavelength, the signal is transmitted into the air. For reasons that are too complex for our purposes today, antennae are not always one wavelength long. Other relationships also work, but for today, lets assume a one wavelength antenna. 

If the signal frequency (and, therefore, wavelength) is properly related to the physical length of the antenna, then the waves happily leap off into the ether. If the antenna and the wavelength are not properly matched, as the radio energy gets to the physical end of the antenna element, instead of “leaping” off into space, the signal bounces back and travels backwards down the antenna element and is manifest in heat flowing back into the radio transmitter. If the antenna length is only a tiny bit off, then only a tiny bit of heat is reflected back to the transmitter. If it is significantly mismatched, then a huge amount of energy expressed as heat is channeled back into the final stages of the transmitter. When there is enough heat, the transmitter is destroyed from the excess. Here’s how it looks in graph form: 

 

 

Measurements are taken that show the energy that is transmitted to be radiated from the antenna and also measuring the energy being reflected back down the transmission line to the transmitter. The physical relationships that exist in radio transmission are an interesting metaphor for some things that are happening in the Anglican Communion right now. 

The underlying problem is deviation from the dictates and order of Scripture. The presenting issue is abuse of human sexuality. Sexuality in itself is created by God and is good. In its proper expression in the marriage of one man and one woman in a lifelong marriage bond, God blesses it and it is fruitful. It is how the human race procreates in the best way. Other expressions of sexual “energy” that are not matched to the Scriptural standard for which sexual expression was created result in a kind of “holdback.” This is why there is a problem with sexual intimacy outside marriage. It doesn’t match God’s design, and so there are negative consequences. The negative consequences cannot be eliminated by people wishing that they didn’t exist. Neither can they be removed by re-defining physics. There is only place where sexual intimacy prospers and is blessed. In any other setting, there is a mis-match. It is neither hate or fear that motivates some people to reject certain behaviors. Those of us who live under the authority of the Holy Scriptures should apply the Scriptural “plumb line” in the same way that instrumentation can be attached to an antenna to determine how it measures up. It is possible to describe the efficiency and propriety of an antenna in clinical terms that is not hateful. 

It is also possible to speak about sexual behaviors in a way that is not hateful. The classical position that “progressives” have taken is to say that whatever choices a person makes need to be affirmed. The problem is that there are behaviors (sexual and others) that are not helpful and should not be affirmed. In the area of sexual behavior, many practices that are proscribed in Scripture have extremely negative consequences—including death. 

What we must not do, however, is judge. How is it possible to declare something out of bounds or less than helpful without judging? There is a difference between recognizing that a behavior is not helpful and declaring that a person is an "XYZ.” The only One Who has the right to declare who and what someone is, is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is He Who has won the right to sit on the judgment throne. Any time we judge, we are sitting in His throne and we are “dethroning” Him. This is not to say that we cannot comment on practices that the Bible forbids. We should not, however, declare negative things about people. It is OK to say that such-and-such behavior is outside Scriptural bounds, but not OK to say that this person or that is bad, or a reject, or degenerate. It may seem like a distinction without a difference, but it is not. People are precious. Jesus shed His blood for each of them. Even those who unrepentantly engage in destructive behaviors should not be labeled with pejorative labels. 

A few weeks ago, I made the observation that I did not expect grace from liberal activists with regard to the Lusaka meeting, saying, “I have never met a gracious liberal activist.” Someone wrote and challenged me on that comment, so I thought about it. In retrospect, I remembered that I actually have met one liberal activist who is gracious! I have amended my previous remarks. What would have been more accurate is to say, “I have never experienced graceful behavior from a liberal activist.” The best way is to say, “I have experienced grace from a liberal activist, but that is not my normal experience from them.” Do you see the distinction from my previous remarks?  One is describing behavior, whereas the other is declaring a judgment about who someone is. Many from the liberal/progressive perspective will insist that disagreement is hate. That is simply not the case. That said, conservatives really need to watch our step so that what we say and do is both accurate and loving. Real love, however, is not just affirming what someone wants. It is desiring and working for the best for people. Love is often robust and hard. It is not just lollypops and rosebuds. 

With the upcoming ACC meeting in Lusaka, we need to view the proceedings with objectivity. Rather than assigning motives to people (virtually always a mistake), we need to see if we can accurately describe the situation of what people are doing. If we can be found faithful in what we do and say, good can come as a result. The complexities of the Kingdom are that it all matters. Not just how those who are trying to innovate on Scripture act, but how we act, interact, and respond is also important. We are ambassadors for Christ. 

There are many things that have to be addressed. None of them is helped by labeling people. Neither are they helped if we abdicate Scriptural standards.