Herbert the Trillionaire – Chapter 3

The committee had returned to the board room, though all the blinds were drawn down. Light leaked around the edges, drawing lines on the far wall that touched and then were absorbed into the deep obsidian. No one could clearly see each other, but no one turned on a light. It was better this way.

“What are we doing to do about this?” a man asked in a deep, rolling voice. It was the sort of voice that implied a double chin, and it originated from near the foot of the table, opposite the windows. His customary position was off-kilter slightly where he had scooted to the left, avoiding the blade of sunlight and crowding his neighbour.

“If we let him keep on like this, we’ll be bankrupt in no time!” a woman cried out, though her voice was faint. The committee always found it difficult to be heard in this room, as if it had been built to favour the currently vacant seat at the head of the table. That seat was always heard clearly, but everyone else’s voice faded before it reached all of the walls.

“Maybe…” the questioning man began. He swallowed audibly, and the next words jumped out as if his Adam’s Apple had kicked them into the open, “maybe we can claim it as a PR stunt, the company investing in the city, helping locals, building business, keeping money at home, strategic diversification…”

His voice faded away.

The first man sighed–even his sigh was deep–placed his hand over his eyes, leaned his elbow on the table, and replied, “Herbert just paid a hot dog man Seven. Hundred. Thousand. dollars for his hot dog stand.”

“Well,” the questioning man replied after a long pause, “at least… at least he’s the majority stockholder, ha ha… ha.”

The committee all turned to stare at the man. If the blinds hadn’t been closed, he felt like they would have thrown him out the window.

“We will have to have him” the double chinned man stated, drawing all attention back to himself as he stood, “psychiatrically evaluated.” He walked to the head of the table and placed his hands on the back of the empty chair. Staring down at Herbert’s vacant chair so forcefully that a few other members of the committee felt compelled to glance at it hesitantly, he continued.

“He has clearly gone insane. We will make sure the good doctor says so, and then we will make sure that the company is relinquished to us.”

He grinned, his eyes casting around the shadowed faces of those he would lead.

“For safe keeping,” he concluded maliciously.

A New Light

Sometimes you read a verse and you gloss over it. It seems like a transition sentence between ideas, or you’ve already read it and thought about it before, or maybe you’ve just never heard a sermon on it so you assume it’s unimportant. None of these are terribly absurd or unlikely.

But sometimes you force yourself to go back and read it again, to dig in and really think about what God is attempting to communicate with that verse. Sometimes your mind is blown.

1 John 2:7-8

7Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 8Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

[podcast]https://mstublefield.com/podcasts/newlight.mp3[/podcast]

In God There Is No Darkness

[podcast]https://mstublefield.com/podcasts/ingodisnodarkness.mp3[/podcast]

1 John 1:5-7

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

In Buddhist philosophy, everything in this world is conditioned. It is more than Newton’s third law, and far more complex than recognizing that our actions have consequences. Put simply, everything is dependent on something else. I exist because my parents begat, and they because of theirs, and so on. You have money because you have a job because you have an education because the tax system provided it because… We breathe because we have oxygen, and the trees create oxygen from our carbon dioxide.

As Christians, we believe in an all powerful, all knowing, all good creator God, but such a statement raises questions about the things we see in creation that we detest. If there is pollution, murder, thievery, backbiting, adultery, and what have you, did God create those as well? If God created everything, that must mean that God created evil.

Some people attempt to rationalize this conclusion as Confucius or a Taoist would, by stating that good is found in balance and it is in God’s perfect balance that harmony is most fully realized. That we should strive for balance rather than “complete good,” for in striving for the latter we will upset our natures and cause evil. This concept of balance is one I used to believe quite fervently, even until long after I became Christian. There is clearly evil in humanity, so we should accept it and just try to reign it in. Nothing more can be accomplished.

Plato’s Republic repudiates this idea, however, as he seeks to define Good. True, pure, complete Good would have no evil in it, for then it would defy the definition of Good. Just as the perfect ruler would be just, generous, kind, and gracious, a being of perfect Good would have no evil in it. As I mulled over this idea, it was like a bowstring snapped into place for me. To put it another way, it was like I had finally found the square hole for the square peg, which clicked home with quiet satisfaction.

No, God did not create evil, nor is evil found in God, as John writes in verse five. We have followed a logical progression of 1) God Created Everything, 2) There is Evil, 3) God Created Evil, but our logic is flawed. We have a very limited view of “everything” and a rather stilted definition of “created.”

In truth, there is no darkness in God, so what is darkness? I read an anecdote ((Yes, the original rumour of this being by Einstein is false, but that makes the anecdote no less helpful.)) recently that I think best makes this point. Though I first read this in a note on Facebook, I will link to it on another page by way of accreditation and paste the text here.

Malice of Absence

Does evil exist?

The university professor challenged his students with this question. Did God create everything that exists? A student bravely replied, “Yes, he did!”

“God created everything? The professor asked.

“Yes sir”, the student replied.

The professor answered, “If God created everything, then God created evil since evil exists, and according to the principal that our works define who we are then God is evil.” The student became quiet before such an answer. The professor was quite pleased with himself and boasted to the students that he had proven once more that the Christian faith was a myth.

Another student raised his hand and said, “Can I ask you a question professor?”

“Of course,” replied the professor.

The student stood up and asked, “Professor, does cold exist?”

“What kind of question is this? Of course it exists. Have you never been cold?” The students snickered at the young man’s question.

The young man replied, “In fact sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold is in reality the absence of heat. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-460 degrees F) is the total absence of heat; all matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this word to describe how we feel if we have no heat.”

The student continued, “Professor, does darkness exist?”

The professor responded, “Of course it does.”

The student replied, “Once again you are wrong sir, darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can study, but not darkness. In fact we can use Newton’s prism to break white light into many colors and study the various wavelengths of each color. You cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Isn’t this correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present.”

Finally the young man asked the professor, “Sir, does evil exist?”

Now uncertain, the professor responded, “Of course, as I have already said. We see it every day. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.”

To this the student replied, “Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is not like faith, or love that exist just as does light and heat. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.”

The problem is that so many of us are walking in darkness, and because of that same darkness, we can see nothing. It is a simplistic, almost laughable statement, but it is likewise important to note that those who are in darkness can not find their way. This is one of the justifications for missions work and evangelism, where we must take the light of Jesus into the world to help people find God.

Gifted by the Holy Spirit with God’s laws and a conscience, we can have a relatively good idea of whether we are currently walking in darkness or not. Before I was Christian, I was very sure of myself, confident in all my ways. I knew that I was right and my chosen path was correct… and yet, “knew” is perhaps too strong a word. There was always this nagging doubt, and I would hear myself whisper, “But if I am wrong, I am surely going to hell.” I rationalized and justified my actions, feeling that though they might condemn me to hell, I knew I had helped at least one person and so my life, or my self-styled sacrifice, was worthwhile. I comforted myself in the darkness by trying to be my own light.

But I wasn’t helping people on God’s terms or in His way; if I had been things would have been far better. Moreover, I have not the capability to be the light in the darkness, or the lamp on the path, as Jesus is. None of us do. We might pretend, but we’re just flailing around in the dark, lying to ourselves and everyone else.

The wonderful promise of these verses is what we find in the light. I have written elsewhere that our generation (as I imagine all generations have, to a greater or lesser extent) is seeking community and fellowship with one another. When we walk in the light, we find that community and are joined in fellowship with the Church. What’s more, we are forgiven and come under the sanctification of the blood of Christ. Adopted into God’s family, we are assured of an eternity with Him.

I was once given the image that humans are walking in darkness because we all live with sin, but what’s important is the direction we are walking. If we are walking towards God, towards the light, it does not matter where we are on the path. We are forgiven and with him, no matter our circumstances, because we are heading the right direction. However, if we are ever standing still, that is just as bad as walking away from God. We’re either going towards him or we’re falling away.

As I reflect on 1 John 1:5-7, I feel that this image does God’s forgiveness an injustice. If we are truly in the light, having been chosen by God and duly accepted his grace, and if we are in fellowship with each other and God, we are no longer walking in darkness towards a distant light. No, God’s light is all around us, inundating and filling us, and we can be sure in the blood of Jesus and the purification of sin. The Word of God was but a simple ray of light, but it broke into a world of darkness and illuminated it. We have been found.

All The World is Shiny

On the walk to work yesterday morning, I was mesmerized by the grass. Brilliant green, the lawns and hills had a depth to them I hadn’t noticed before, lit by the morning sun reflecting off points of dew on every blade. Everything was covered by a fine sheen of water, and the sun cast the world in light that pulled the eye along sweeping curves and deep into the green sea of the ground we walk over but so rarely notice.

I wanted to stop and smell the grass, to sit on the sidewalk and the lawns and just stare. I wanted to capture the light and the images, because I knew they would fade as the sun rose and melted away the dew. That its light would turn harsh and the beauty would fade, burned away by beams more suited for searching out the truth than for softly drawing out the beauty inherent in these stunted blades.

It is a stereotype of thieves and pack rats that they are hypnotized by shiny things. But this was a beauty I could neither steal nor harbour the desire to do so. I wish you could have sat with me and run your hand over the grass, letting your eyes follow the sweep of its rise and fall over the small hills in front of the dormitories. I wish I could have captured that light to share it with all the world, that we might stop and sit awhile together, learning what it is to be beautiful.