The Body of Christ is Irreducibly Complex

Among the various camps in the debate between creation and evolution is a set of ideas called intelligent design (ID).  A key part of ID is “irreducible complexity,” a term that comes from the book Darwin’s Black Box, by Lehigh professor Michael Behe.[1]

In short, irreducible complexity argues that evolution by chance, without an intelligent designer driving it, is unreasonable because the multiple systems in a complex organism like a human body – circulatory, digestive, endocrine, muscular, respiratory, and so on – are all interdependent on each other.  The circulatory system alone, with the heart pumping blood through an elaborate system of arteries and veins, is difficult to imagine developing by chance occurrence, but a chance evolution of that system alongside all the other parts it is dependent on is even more far-fetched.  All systems evolving together in lockstep without failing is a much more difficult problem to explain scientifically without a Creator.  The circulatory system takes what the respiratory and digestive systems take in and deliver it to the other systems that use it.  Without the other parts, it has no function and cannot survive and further evolve.

An isolated, inanimate, heart. Photo by Ali Hajiluyi on Unsplash

However, my intent here is not to prove intelligent design, but to consider the apostle Paul’s words about the church as the body of Christ.  In 1 Corinthians 12:12, he wrote: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”  He continues that no part of the body can say it is not a part of the body because it has a different function than another part (1 Cor. 12:15-16), and also that no part of the body can say it doesn’t need all of the other parts (1 Cor. 12:21).  Those who are in Christ Jesus cannot be divided.

Paul follows his description of the body with 1 Corinthians 13, a powerful statement on the supremacy of love, and in context a gentle rebuke to the idea that a body can survive as individual, unrelated units.  In a human body, any part can only survive by serving the other parts.  Even an organ as incredibly complex and important as a heart cannot survive if it decided to pump blood only for itself.  Where would it get its nutrients?  How would it flee from danger?  As Paul wrote: “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?” (1 Cor. 12:17).  Even an organ as important as the heart is useless in isolation.  It gets its very life and purpose by what it does for the body.

As Jesus said to His disciples in John 13:34-35 – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

As the song says, they will know we are Christians by our love, and the church Jesus came to build is irreducibly complex.  There is no appendix[2] in the church, which is the body of Christ.


[1] Behe, Michael.  Darwin’s Black Box (1996).
[2] While we commonly think of this organ as useless, God as our Maker didn’t put it there by accident.

Participating in the Psalms IV: Thanksgiving Edition

Often the writers of the Psalms aren’t just trying to teach us about God, but they are trying to share their experience of Him.  As in Psalm 96 and 100, included in earlier posts, Psalm 136 opens with encouragement, or even instructions, to join the Psalmist in thanksgiving:

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
     for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
     for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
     for his steadfast love endures forever” – Psalm 136:1-3

All 26 verses of this Psalm end with the phrase “for his steadfast love endures forever,” following something about God that is worthy of praise and thanksgiving.  This constant repetition is a reminder that it is “his steadfast love” for His people that drives His acts of creation, His works in history, and ultimately His death on the cross.  His works are all done by a person, for a people.  What God really desires is relationship with us. We are not alone in the universe.

Giving thanks only makes sense if someone exists to thank, who is good, and has the power to provide what we are thankful for.  If creation is a mere accident, if wicked acts are never corrected and righteous acts are never rewarded, and if mankind can only hope in themselves, there is no reason to give thanks to someone, or something, else.  Many religions seem to acknowledge this, giving personality and reverence to created things – trees, the sun, the harvest, and so on – but in Christ we can know the Person who is behind it all, and who actually is a Person that loves us.

Therefore, today give thanks to the Lord who is good, and is above any god or lord of this world.  As we celebrate Thanksgiving today in the United States, be thankful above all else that Someone exists to thank, that He is good, and that He has the power, and love, needed to care for His people.  Now and forever.

Amen.


Earlier posts on Participating in the Psalms are here, here, and here.

Called to Be Our Consecrated Selves

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

People have moments where they wish they had a greater role in the world around them.  We see other people around us, or in stories from the Bible or in the news, and think we’d like to be more like them.  More influential, more effective, more powerful.  For example, what if I could be a prophet or an apostle?  Or in our modern world, maybe a “social media influencer”?  “Be yourself” is often the advice for finding contentment when we feel like this, but the Bible says we are “to be conformed to the image of his Son.”[1]  So, should we be ourselves, or should we be like Jesus?  What will give us contentment?  While not a full answer, the call of Jeremiah the prophet offers some help.

Jeremiah was not a prophet by accident, because Jeremiah 1:4-5 says:

“Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
            and before you were born I consecrated you;
            I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’”

Here, God calls Jeremiah both to conform his ways to God’s, and also to his own specific task.  Like Jeremiah, every Christian is known by God and called to do His will.  Only God knows why we were each made the way we were made, and in a way God calling us to serve Him is like Him saying “stop living like you’re an accident of a random, purposeless world.”  It is because we were made, not just evolved, that we have purpose, and God has “consecrated” us to that purpose.

Stop living like you’re an
accident of a random,
purposeless world.

But each of us was made differently, also on purpose.  Unlike Jeremiah, my fellow travelers on this blog probably aren’t prophets, and that is part of why Jeremiah needed to be a prophet.  His job wasn’t to call everyone else to be a prophet, but to serve everyone else by calling them to find their own purpose in God.  Jeremiah wanted all of God’s people to take whatever He has endowed them with and dedicate it to Him.  Likewise, being “conformed to the image of” Jesus does not mean we should all be carpenters, but that we should apply His righteousness to every task He puts before us.

Therefore, God’s people should never live like they are an accident.  We are all a valuable work of creation, made to find our good and His glory in His amazing design.  We will find our true selves in the One who made us, and God’s people will have unity in Christ’s character, combined with diversity in the infinite creativity of the people He created.

Be yourself, and also be like Jesus.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10


[1] Romans 8:29

Broken, But Not Beyond Repair

Actual disaster footage. Viewer discretion advised.

A doctor friend of mine said there’s an inside joke that “if you put two bones alone in a room together, they’ll find each other.”  I heard this after breaking my left collarbone in the summer of 2011.  Even when I was young, I wasn’t a great athlete, but I did always hustle.  So after a decade of not doing much athletically, I joined my work softball league and thought at least I would try hard and have fun.  But when I hit a weak ground ball to the shortstop and decided to “hustle,” disaster saw its opportunity.  The fields we played on were poorly maintained, with holes where the hitters stand.  Instead of doing the smart thing and stopping after I tripped in this hole, I tried to keep running (because hustle!) and soon ended up falling hard on my shoulder with a loud snapping sound.  The picture above is my actual X-ray from that night.

This isn’t a great memory, but it’s also a reminder of the miracle of healing. I had the option of surgery or just letting it grow back together, and I chose letting it heal.  However, it didn’t “just” get fixed. It was by design and no accident.

My collarbone was broken clean through, with the two sides of the bone not even touching any more.  I could feel them moving around independently.  When I think about the millions of “decisions” the cells in these bones, interacting with the tissue around them, had to make to do something they’ve never done before, I have to be convinced something beyond my own anatomy and genetic history was at work.  An impersonal evolution may have never seen these bones break in just this way before, so how did the bones know what to do?  I certainly wasn’t aware of telling these bones what to do.  They didn’t “just” fix themselves.

I can only credit the creative power of my Maker, along with David, who wrote:
For you formed my inward parts;
            you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
            my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
            intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
            the days that were formed for me,
            when as yet there was none of them.” – Psalm 139:13-14

Everyday Miracles
Miracles happen every single day in every human body, yet we often miss them or refuse to call them miracles.  Maybe we do that because calling them miracles would mean we have to give credit to the power behind the miracle, and we’d rather not.  Ever since Adam and Eve looked at God’s good creation and decided they’d rather make their own decisions, mankind has persisted in acting like bones that would rather grow apart than follow their Creator’s design.  As a result, the world is broken into billions of personalities that don’t know how to connect, that don’t know how to knit agape love into the trillions of decisions they make, and interactions they have, each day. 

We all have a choice in every moment: do we “just” do whatever we think is best and expect the right outcome to “just” happen, or do we look at nature and think that maybe the Person who knows how to make bones fix themselves knows how to guide our lives to the best outcome.

Our heavenly Father wants to knit us together once again, in a world that isn’t broken and where we aren’t broken.  None of us are beyond repair, and our Maker will restore us if we let Him.  Every human being in history has been bad at love, except One, and He is calling to every one of us to trust Him.  “Just Do It” is not a good motto.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
            but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
            not one of them is broken.” – Psalm 34:19-20

Will Green Be Greener in Paradise?

Psalm 98:7 declares: “Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it!” In Romans 8:19 Paul adds that “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”

Pastor James Montgomery Boice connects these ideas and says, “The world will one day be renewed.”  Nature already shows God’s glory, but it also, like mankind, is not yet as it shall be.  Boice adds: “I think of the way C.S. Lewis developed this idea in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the first section of that book, when Narnia was under the power of the wicked Witch of the North, the land was in a state of perpetual winter. Spring never came. But when Aslan rose from the dead, the ice began to melt, flowers bloomed, and the trees turned green.”[1] Creation shares the hope of mankind – regeneration in a future paradise at the coming of its Lord!

Even now, we get an occasional glimpse of nature that’s somehow better than what we’re used to, and perhaps it is a glimpse of the paradise beyond the renewal of all things.  We were recently in Wales, on Mount Snowdon and a nearby trail in Llanberis, and below are some pictures from that day.  Some of these show the many brilliant shades of green, which seemed more glorious than the greens near our home in the U.S. We don’t often see rocks interact with the greenery like this here.

So, will paradise be even greener than this?  Will it seem like a perpetual winter has finally lifted?  I’m eagerly waiting to find out someday. In the meantime, enjoy these:


[1] From “April 19.” James Montgomery Boice and Marion Clark. Come to the Waters: Daily Bible Devotions for Spiritual Refreshment.  (2017).