Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Skeleton of a Question

Many people have asked this question: Why do the laws change from the “Old Testament” to the “New?” And why do we not follow literally all of the New Testament teachings (such as women not cutting their hair)? And if we do not, is there no solid foundation by which to guide our behavior?

I have never myself felt a terrible disconnect between the teachings of Moses and Jesus, Isaiah and Paul. The understanding of calculus requires a foundation of algebra, though it does seem disconnected to some (that is all I will say about math, thank you). The theory of relativity does not prove Newton incorrect. One must suffer through Dick and Jane before one can enjoy War and Peace. But, as I was re-reading the wonderful book: “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, I thought that chapter 12 might help those that struggle with the God and the Laws of Abraham, Isaac, and Moses. Here is a sampling, the book is really worth the time if you haven’t read it:

Bones. At first glance, it appears that bones are the solid, unchanging struts of the body. One sort of bones for one sort of person, another for another sort. But what of children? How do their bones grow? And how do they heal when broken? We must look to the microscopic level. There we see two types of cells, constantly active throughout the life of the individual: the osteoblast and the osteoclast.

The osteoblasts are pothole-filling repair cells that attach themselves for example to fracture sites and lay down bone crystal. But the Blasts do not wait around for accidents. Billions of them labor diligently, replacing overaged bone. When you are young, 100% of all the bone is replaced each year. In the adult, only about 18% of the bone is replaced each year.

Old bone does not surrender territory easily. It must be dynamited and vacuumed out, and for this job the body has osteoclasts, the demolition team. The Blasts are large, with an average of ten to thirty nuclei, as if they need all the instructions they can get for their sensitive task.

If I tried to renovate a brick wall by removing a line of bricks in a horizontal row, the entire wall would quickly collapse. If, on the other hand, I removed a brick over here by my left elbow and replaced it, then replaced a brick by my knee, then one up by my head, I could in time safely reconstruct the entire wall. Similarly, Clasts scavenge a bit of bone at a time.

As old bone is renewed, Blasts factor into their design necessary adjustments for stress. All bone elements are arranged in perfectly engineered, intersecting lines of stress, like the girders on a steel bridge. If I break a foot and the pain of healing makes me adjust my walk so I take shorter steps, gradually those lines of stress in the heel bone will change and will end up at a new angle to the leg. The Blasts will accommodate to meet the new challenges.

When I consider the spiritual Body of Christ, and especially its skeleton of rules governing human behavior, I am conscious of a parallel type of renewing, adapting activity. The principles God has laid out, sometimes capsulized as in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, do not change, but their specific application certainly changes as the Body of Christ encounters new stresses. Many of the laws and observances of the Bible were geared to a society and culture alien to our own. A continuing need exists for prophets and teachers to interpret unchanging principles in light of the peculiar conditions of their day.

Issues of the day do not call for sweeping revisions of creeds and beliefs, but they do evince a need for some members of the church to reflect, study the Bible, and pray, and then lead the way in reinterpreting the will of God for their own generation. These people, prophets and teachers, serve as living bone cells in Christ’s body, laying down the inorganic minerals that go into our frame. They should possess humility and a commitment to preserve the great principles of the Christian faith. Yet they should have equal concern that the principles be relevant and give strength just where it is needed.

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