Breakfast Club: Chaos, Control, and The Christ

There is a dilemma that every human faces: deep in our soul we long for order, for control, but we find ourselves trapped in a seemingly chaotic world. We live in a world of where people are routinely trapped by the chaos, the randomness, of storms, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes. Just this week, it is estimated that over 50,000 Haitians perished in the earthquake that rocked Haiti. Countless others feel trapped in the chaos of broken homes, or an addiction that will not let them go, or the chaos of disease. Just this week I received an e-mail from a member of our congregation who said that his wife, who is fighting cancer, has been given three to four months to live. Even at the sub-atomic level, it seems that we cannot escape from chaos. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and Quantum mechanics reveal the indeterminate, probabilistic, seemingly random nature of the fundamental building blocks of matter, what everything is made of.

Is there an underlying order in our universe (to speak of a universe implies that there is an overall organization and unity to the world)? Or is chaos, randomness, chance, the fundamental reality; the building block underneath all reality?

Chaos and Life, by Professor Richard Bird, is an interesting critique of modern science's failure to satisfy people's longing for a sense of order, personal meaning, spiritual unity by someone on the inside of the scientific community (Bird is senior lecturer at Northumbria University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK; and past president of the Society for Chaos theory in Psychology and Life Sciences). Bird asks why, in a scientific age, do people routinely turn to astrologers, mediums, cultists, and every kind of irrational practitioner rather than to science to meet their spiritual needs? He suggests that the answer is that science, especially biology, has embraced a view of life that renders meaningless the coincidences, serendipities, and other seemingly significant occurrences that fill people’s everyday existence.  Bird proposes an alternative view of “evolving complexity”: randomness means not disorder but infinite order.

In two stories in Gospel of Mark, we see Jesus face-to-face with chaos. And in the display of his sovereign control we are invited into the good news that the foundation of all reality is not chaos, randomness, probability, or chance but the Personal, Sovereign Creator-God.

In the first story, we see Jesus facing off with the chaos of the natural world. In Mark chapter four, Jesus and his disciples are crossing the Lake of Galilee in an “Ginosar” fishing boat - which has a raised section on one end and low sides vulnerable to high waves. Jesus is asleep in the stern when a sudden, violent storm, which the Lake of Galilee is subject to, hit. The waves broke over the boat so that it was almost swamped.  Jesus’ disciples, sturdy fisherman, are terrified by the power of the storm and the dark, unknown, chaos of the water below. They wake Jesus: “don’t you care if we drown!” Then he [Jesus] got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” (Mark 4:35-41)

In the second story, we see Jesus facing off with the chaos of the spiritual world. Jesus and the disciples arrive in the region of the Gerasenes where a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet Jesus: “This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain….No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.” (Mark 5:1-5).

Before this man, possessed by a host of demons, stands Christ, sovereign in authority. He casts the demons out of this man, into a herd of pigs, and about two thousand pigs rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned, leaving the man “sitting there, dressed, and in his right mind.” (5:15).

And before all of us stands a philosophical divide.

On one side of this philosophical divide is the belief that chaos, randomness, chance, is the fundamental reality, the building block underneath all reality. To embrace this perspective and remain intellectually honest you must accept the implications: at the end of the day your thinking is irrational (just a product of natural selection), your emotions, like love, are meaningless (just chemical reactions), your life devoid of cosmic purpose (just a blip surrounded by epochs of chaos behind and ahead of you), your virtues purely pragmatic (just a matter of survival). Few can accept the hopelessness of these implications.

On the other side of this philosophical divide is the belief that there is an underlying order in our universe.  But still we are left with this dilemma: while every human heart longs for order, for a sense of an underlying unity and control, in ourselves, we can’t escape the chaos that surrounds us. What is the solution to this dilemma?

In the Person of Jesus Christ, we have the solution to this dilemma. In Jesus, we see the Sovereign Lord – the one who is under and over all things, the one by whom all things were created and in whom all things exist, the one who is in control. In Jesus we learn that chaos is not ultimate, that randomness does not reign. In Jesus, we discover the “good news” that the Creator-God, the Lord of the Universe, has come into our world to push back the chaos, to heal the sick, to destroy the work of the devil.

Ultimately, on the cross, we see Jesus submit to the forces of natural chaos (his body torn apart) and the dark forces of spiritual chaos (the hatred, blood-violence of the “powers” of this world and Satan) so that, by his death and resurrection, he could set in motion the consummation of the “reign of God” which will, one day, result in the healing of the universe, the shalom of the world, the unity of all things under one King. 

Come join us for a discussion of this topic (over a great pancake breakfast) at our "Breakfast Club" that takes place in the "Hank and Dolly Gallery" on Sunday morning, 10:00am.