The Great Conjunction

The Great Conjunction

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

There’s a reason why we know who Galileo is. In 1610, with his telescope, the astronomer discovered four moons orbiting Jupiter. The same year, he discovered a strange oval around Saturn eventually known to be its rings. Then, in 1623, he observed an astronomical event, happening once every 20 years, known as the “Great Conjunction.” This is when the two giant planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, travel together across the sky and appear aligned. In fact, they are so close that to the naked eye they almost appear to be one giant star (known popularly as “The Christmas Star”)(Bill Keeter, Nasa.gov). Tonight, 12/21/2020, is the closest our two biggest planets have appeared together since that night 397 years ago when Galileo dubbed this phenomena with its popular name. The last time most of the earth had the view it will have tonight was March 5, 1226. A popular theory for “the star” of Matthew 2:2, which drew the Magi from the east, was the “Great Conjunction” (which happened three times in 7 B.C., in May, September, and December)(Joe Rao, space.com). 

Did God, in His providence and the process of holding all things together (Col. 1:17), make the “Great Conjunction” part of His fulness of time (Gal. 4:4) that brought about the events surrounding the wise men and Herod in Matthew two? We cannot know that, but it is a powerful demonstration of the order and design of an omnipotent creator.

This God of order has made known some other “Great Conjunctions” through His eternal word:

  • Belief and baptism (Mark 16:16)–Together, they bring salvation
  • Faith and works (James 2:14-26)–Together, they ensure life
  • Repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38)–Together, they effect remission of sins
  • Faith, hope, and love (1 Cor. 13:13)–Together, they are the “abiding” things
  • Repentance and belief (Mark 1:15)–Together, they form the gospel of God
  • Righteousness, peace, and joy (Rom. 14:17)–Together, they constitute the kingdom of heaven
  • Life and peace (Rom. 8:6)–Together, they are consequences of the mind set on the Spirit
  • Spirit and truth (John 4:23-24)–Together, they form the essentials of true worship
  • Goodness, righteousness, and truth (Eph. 5:9)–Together, they form the fruit of the light)
  • Deed and truth (1 John 3:18)–Together, they demonstrate true love

There are actually so many more of these “combinations” or conjunctions that God has brought together. As compelling and awe-inspiring as His creative power is, as shown in tonight’s incredibly rare celestial occurrence, it simply builds our faith in His ability to fulfill the many great promises that saturate His Word. I hope skies are clear where you are tonight and that you will take the time to view the southwest sky right after sunset. Why not take a moment, as you gawk, to thank and praise the God who has so thoroughly revealed to you who He is and what He wants for your life?

Sources consulted:

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/the-great-conjunction-of-jupiter-and-saturn
https://www.space.com/great-conjunction-jupiter-saturn-2020-fun-facts

The Virtue of an Investigative Mindset 

The Virtue of an Investigative Mindset 

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Socrates famously said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Obviously, Socrates did not say that one cannot learn since that would sabotage his career as a teacher and philosopher. Instead, Socrates meant one could not take what he believes for granted, understanding that his “knowledge” may be incorrect. Socrates told us always to investigate. There is a certain humility arising from this mindset.

Consider an example of two such people who questioned: Copernicus and Galileo. For how many hundreds of years were people taught that the earth was the center of the universe before Copernicus showed them otherwise? Even so, Catholicism banned Copernicus’ book after his death. Within a few decades, Galileo, who assumed Copernicus’ mantle, stood trial for teaching the same heliocentric model. Galileo was forced by the Catholic Church to recant his life’s work. Yet, we know how the story ends. The Ptolemaic geocentric model of the universe, embraced by Catholicism, would not withstand future scrutiny and would be abandoned, vindicating both Copernicus and Galileo.

This virtue of the investigative mindset should not surprise Christians engaged in a study of God’s Word. We are encouraged to be noble Bereans, checking what we hear by the standard of Scripture (Acts 17.11). Furthermore, we must test the spirits to see whether they are of God (1 John 4.1). There is a warning to us that we should reject even an angel’s message if it is contrary to the revealed Gospel (Galatians 1.8). The father of lies is Satan, who used one lie to murder humanity (John 8.44). Since he works to deceive, and his ministers can take on the appearance of servants of righteousness, Paul encourages us to take our confidence in our weaknesses, which highlight God’s strength (2 Corinthians 11.13-15, 30).

Unfortunately, we seem to live in an era encouraging lockstep conformity in thought. There are those calling this “progress.” Critics rightfully call it “cancel culture,” pointing to a desire of “social justice warriors” to cancel contrarian viewpoints. If beliefs can only persist within an ideological vacuum, how is it any different from Catholicism forcing Galileo to recant? It is not. So, those ironically crying “fascism” in the streets act as the brownshirts of Hitler’s fascism in Nazi Germany. (I apply this truth secularly and politically since it is evident on the news and in the streets.)

In regards to politics, of course, the end is inconsequential for the Christian, since he or she must submit to the governing authority (Romans 13). Note we are not told to waste our time trying the political spirits, but those purporting to be spiritual. It may be that in making a stand against false religious doctrine, though, that we will enter into conflict with a political ideology glorifying what God calls abomination and permitting infanticide. However, that is not our principal task.

Praise God that our struggle for wisdom is much simpler than that of Socrates. After all, we believe in an infallible God who gave us His Truth within the Bible (John 17.17). We can admit our ignorance of what that Word says and test those things we hear from preachers, but we are not left to grope blindly for truth. Indeed, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”  (Proverbs 9.10 NASB). Ultimately, it comes down to adopting the mindset of Paul, who determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2.2).

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