|God & Nature Magazine||
The Cross as a Cosmic Filter: a Metaphor
By Ken Touryan
The cross plays a central role in the Christian faith. For example, the composer Gustav Mahler observed that the sign of the cross of Jesus Christ pervaded the culture and folklore of Tsarist Russia, other Slavic nations, as well as the nations of Europe – their literature, music, art, and architecture – as no other symbol had.
In his first letter to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 1:21-24), the Apostle Paul describes how God used the preaching of the cross as the chosen method to provide salvation to humankind, a method that was foolishness in the eyes of the contemporary Greek intellectuals and a sign of weakness for the Jews. The same has been true with Muslims, according to the Qur’an. Muslims consider Nabi Issa (Jesus) as a great prophet not worthy of an ignominious death on the cross. And yet one finds a depth of wisdom in God’s choice of the ignoble cross that surpasses the greatest intellectual achievements of humankind! In fact, the cross bears witness to God’s genius in dealing with an intractable dilemma: how to reconcile His wrath against evil with His love for His fallen creatures. The cross has become the unique and only means whereby God’s righteousness and love can be properly reconciled, as implied in Psalm 85:10: “Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” We now attribute this to the cross.
Earth, one of the planets in our solar system, revolves around the Sun and receives almost all of its energy from it. Most of the Sun’s radiant energy is emitted in the frequency ranges from the infrared (IR) through the ultraviolet (UV). In addition, charged particles in the form of high energy electrons and protons, emitted from the solar corona, form a solar wind that streams past Earth at high speeds. The IR radiation represents the thermal component of the solar energy emitted, and the visible spectrum stimulates our eyes to give us sight. Both are essential for nurturing life. In contrast, the UV radiation as well as the electron/proton solar wind destroy life.
How then does life exist on Earth and why is it present in such abundant form everywhere on this planet? The answer lies in the presence of two delicately tuned filters that surround Earth and protect it from harmful radiation. The first of these is the ozone layer, which absorbs UV radiation and prevents large quantities (flux) of this harmful radiation from reaching the surface of Earth. The second is Earth’s magnetic field, which is just strong enough to trap the electrons and protons that keep bombarding the upper atmosphere as part of the solar wind, and prevents them from reaching Earth’s surface and causing harmful mutations in living organisms. However, the ozone layer and Earth’s magnetic field do not stop the visible and thermal radiation essential for life from reaching Earth.
In contrast, Mars is a planet that is comparable in size to Earth (somewhat smaller), further away from the Sun, and, according to present studies of its geology, once had abundant water flowing over its surface. However, there is no life on Mars as we know it today.
Reasons that make the discovery of life on Mars unlikely are: (1) it does not have an ozone layer, so UV radiation freely reaches the surface and inhibits the formation of large organic molecules essential for life, and (2) it has a very weak magnetic field unable to stop the solar wind and hence the bombardment of electrons and protons on its surface, which are harmful to organic life.
The Sun/Earth radiation phenomena described above provides a metaphor of the relationship between God and humankind.
Just as our Sun generates both life-giving radiation (infrared and visible) and life-destroying radiation (ultraviolet radiation, electrons, protons, x-rays), the God of the Bible by His very nature as a Holy God “radiates” rays of life and death. The Bible describes God as He “who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:16).” The Sun’s rays of life represent God’s rays of love and mercy. The rays of death, on the other hand, represent His wrath against sin, and His righteousness that demands punishment for evil. We, in our fallen, sinful state are subject to God’s righteous judgment. But just as in the case of the Sun/Earth system, God chose the cross of Jesus Christ to operate as an “ozone layer” or a “magnetic field” to filter out his anger against sin and human unrighteousness, allowing His rays of love and life to penetrate, reach us, and give us abundant life. God offered His only begotten son Jesus Christ, holy and blameless, as a ransom for our sin. God’s holy son was lifted up on the cross and made sin for us that we might live (John 3:14-16). Through his death, Christ absorbs God’s rays of wrath. Through the cross, God’s love and mercy are transmitted to humankind. Anyone who stands behind the cross of Jesus sees God’s love and mercy rather than His judgment. All the deadly rays are stopped at the cross. Christ’s death absorbs God’s punishment for sin. As he absorbed the death rays of sin, Jesus cried on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” With this act of love, Christ took upon himself the rays of our death. When we take our place behind the cross, we enjoy only his love and mercy.
At first glance, the cross, a Roman “gallows” and an instrument of torture, seems a foolish and weak means of reconciliation. And yet, its simplicity belies the depth of God’s wisdom. God uses this instrument of death to restore man’s broken relationship with Him, a relationship broken by our disobedience and rebellion against God. He restores us to Himself without violating His holy nature, which demands justice, and without relinquishing His love for us.
Therein lies the very heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Kenell (Ken) Touryan retired from the National Renewable Energy laboratory in 2007 as chief technology analyst. He spent the next eight years as visiting professor at the American University of Armenia (an affiliate of UC Berkeley). He received his PhD in Mechanical and Aeronautical Sciences from Princeton University with a minor in Physics. His first 16 yrs were spent at Sandia National Laboratories as Manager of R&D projects in various defense and advanced energy systems. He has published some 95 papers in refereed journals , authored three books and co-owns several patents.