It’s Time

I reserve seven thousand in Israel – all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal.

The Lord (I Kings 19:18)

By Dr. Jim Ferguson

Have you ever thought about how many times a day you check the time? If you’re like me, it’s a lot. You could argue that we are all time-bound. Humans used to orient their lives by the cycles of day and night. We moderns live by the clock. When my grandson Oakley was four years old and asked to recall events of his pre-school day, in frustration he told my wife that he could only handle “now.”

Throughout the 1990s Becky and I did mission work in Guatemala. Our work was centered in the fairly sizable town of Chichicastenango. I remember looking out over the town and mountains at night and seeing nothing but blackness. Later, as prosperity came to the region, the night was broken by the earthly stars of twinkling electric lights. The people were no longer bound by night and day.

Time is a challenging concept for me. I understand the three dimensions of space (length, width and height). Einstein threw a wrench into conceptual gears with the notion that time is a fourth dimension which we now call space-time. I am occupying three dimensions at my desk, but as I write my body is moving through time.

I’m less confused by yesterday, today and tomorrow than I am by “deep time,” a concept often used in geology. The problem arose when science demonstrated that the earth was millions of years older than the Biblical account of the earth’s age as 6000 years.

Geological deep-time concepts are daunting, but cosmic time is even more challenging. Light travels at 186,000 miles a second. We measure the distance to celestial objects in light years. Light from Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, has been traveling 8.6 years by the time we see it. And as I gazed upon Betelgeuse last night – not the movie, “Beetlejuice” – the light from that star had been traveling for over 500 years. My next novel will deal with time and the constraints imposed by God’s cosmic speed limit.

On a more practical level, last week I dealt with the biannual daylight saving time (DST) conundrum. Ben Franklin satirically proposed DST was an economical way to conserve candle usage in temperate latitudes. (There is no benefit of daylight saving time near the equator or the high latitudes.)   We live in an industrial society, largely oriented by the clock rather than sunlight. Therefore, I argue that there is little, if any, benefit to “springing forward” or “falling backward” twice a year. When I practiced medicine I did like springing ahead while on-call each spring; although I didn’t like an additional one hour of night-call in the fall!

Recently, I got to thinking about time as I watched Day Dog (Lulu) sleep at my feet. (Since my daughter and son-in-law are at work during the day, and my grans go to school, their big dog spends the day with Becky and me, hence the moniker, Day Dog.) I wondered, “Do animals experience the passage of time?”  Researchers have explored that question with conflicting results. Lulu remembers things, but I don’t believe she contemplates yesterday or looks to tomorrow.

Years ago, I read a book by Thomas Cahill titled “The Gift of the Jews.” In it, he posits that God gave humans the concept of time when God entered our space-time reality. In other words, there arose the western linear concept of time: before God came, the moment He came and when He might come again. I once read that CS Lewis imagined heaven as an eternity of present moments in the presence of God. Furthermore, Lewis imagined Hell as an eternity of past regrets and future anxieties. These concepts are captured in Lewis’ beautiful allegorical book “The Great Divorce,” which I heartily recommend.

By the time you read this we will know whether our Nero will have speed limits placed upon his rush to destroy America. If the anti-Democrat party forces are victorious, Republicans will hopefully stem the tide and begin to unravel the anti-American policies of the last two years.

I am not prescient; I don’t know what will happen. I find it an indictment of our so-called democracy that we cannot hold an election, count the votes, and have a result by the next day. I have hope, but this has been tempered by the repeated failures of our leaders and voters blinded by hatred. Memphis just reelected a Democrat state representative who has been dead for a month!

As a student of history, America is now doing what has been done before, and always with disastrous consequences. We think more highly of ourselves than we should. We think we will be smarter than those of the past. We think our technology and power will bring us through the storm. I disagree.

Some years ago I happened on a concept called panentheism (not pantheism). Look it up. Apparently, Paul knew of this ancient concept. I have stood on the Areopagus where Paul delivered his Areopagus sermon of Acts 17:22-33 before Athens’ Sophists and Epicureans. Paul defines panentheism for me in verse 28. “In Him we live and move and have our being.” So as I write on a beautiful fall afternoon, I bow my head and heart, and I pray to the Creator of all that is, including time.

You can’t put lipstick on a pig and it would seem that a once proud people are now to be ruled by fools and ghouls. There is a precedent for what we are now doing. In the ninth century BC, there were upwards of five million people in ancient Israel before the slaughters. Tragically, they did not listen to the prophets who railed against their apostasy, injustice and idolatry. As a result, God sent repeated invading armies and utter destruction resulted. Sound familiar? Better hope you are counted as a remnant.

But for all their faults, the Hebrews fought the Assyrians, Babylonians and then the Romans. Americans just gave barbarians keys to the gate.