Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Oblateration Run

There is oblation. There is obliteration. Now, there is oblateration. What once was a noble idea of a living offering of all that is humanly perfect and pure has been obliterated by human folly. We – no, they – call it Oblation Run.

The ancient Jews, chosen by Yahweh as a special nation and people, began as a colony of Hebrew slaves in ancient Egypt. Led by the pillar of fire through the wilderness, they were disciplined and purified for forty years before they could claim the Promised Land. In their triumph, God reminded them constantly of that miraculous, historical event through burnt offerings (oblations) of animals. Centuries later, that sacrificial rite would be replicated on a cross by a human being born of God.

A Filipino national artist who was also a strong believer of the Hebrew God, sculpted the Oblation as the University of the Philippines’ symbol of its mission and a reflection of our country’s destiny, as envisioned by our greatest heroes. Every incoming UP student learns this as his or her first lesson of the heart. All the other lessons learned by the mind pale in comparison to it.

For each struggling student for two or five years in one of the many campuses of UP, the Oblation stands as a mute witness to the unspoken vow every parent ostensibly makes on behalf of a youth on whom the promise of a bright and glorious future has been endowed -- both by family and country.

Such ideals seem hard for the youth of today, brainwashed by decadent thoughts and practices from western cultures, to understand, much less internalize. What started as a naked streak by anti-Vietnam-war protesters in the 70's has given birth to this despicable bacchanalian display by misguided youth claiming academic freedom of expression.

Expressing what principles and ideals of academic excellence? Brotherly devotion? That is, taking the shame upon one’s self on behalf of your frat brothers? And done at a time when people celebrate supposedly the birth of the Messiah of the Jewish nation and of the world? And with masks to hide even their own shame?

And so, the institution tasked with bringing to life those lofty ideals in the lives of its products has failed. By allowing the media to sensationalize this shameless practice and making it even an acceptable social and campus tradition as if it were a harmless festival to be followed and cheered by innocent children and gullible men and women, it has established a precedent for citizens to throw away the cherished symbols of our ideals. If it cannot protect mere symbols of our values, how can it hope to protect and promote the very values themselves? And if a university can’t do it, can the lower schools and the smallest institution – the family, that is – be expected to do it? Chaos retains its image from the great to the small.

But we, as one people, share the shame and ignominy of those among us who would demean themselves facelessly and their bodies before the public. Our common shame before the world and before God, however, must lead us to rectify the guilt we all bear by our individual sins. Not by our own power but by our faith in the One Who promised to give back to Adam his honor. The same honor he lost by his own sin. The same honor he lost and tried to reclaim by covering himself with fig leaves. And yes, the very same fig leaves Oblation wears permanently to hide his own shame (our shame) until, together as one, we can stand again with innocence and holiness before our Creator.

A symbol is not a dead ideal. It lives because we live it in truth and with faith in the righteousness and holiness of God.

(Photo above: The Oblation, done by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino, stands in every campus of the the University of the Philippines System.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Removing Our Blindness to Eternal Things

(This is the Preface to my forthcoming book entitled Preparing a Body for Eternity: From Adam to Christ to All Believers)

“It all started with the Big Bang!”

So goes the theme song of the popular, bone-tickling sitcom “Big Bang Theory”. Four genius (“geeky”) friends regale viewers with their idiosyncratic views of the Universe – and of each other. They sort of help us forget or laugh at our problems, which is what sitcoms do and should do. Laughter, of course, is the best medicine in life and for many of its mishaps.

This book, however, will not give us answers about the Universe nor bring us fits of laughter with well-phrased and well-timed tech-loaded puns and gags. It only hopes to provide readers with some apt views and, well, useful answers to many of life’s sublime and even not-so-sublime issues and, hopefully, some stress-relieving laughter.

To illustrate further the parallelism and differences between this book’s purpose and that of science-oriented programs and publications, let me deal with one of the biggest issues between theologians and scientists -- and even among theologians themselves: the firmament or, in Hebrew, raqia’.

Gen. 1:6 says that God created the firmament that separated the waters that were below (i.e., the seas) from the waters that were above (apparently, what poured down during the Great Flood).

Job 37:18, further:”With Him, have you spread out the skies, strong (or firm) as a cast metal mirror?”

Psalm 19:1, on the other hand, states: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.”

Put together, these verses will lead, as they have, many to conclude that the firmament is a solid or firm material that made up what the ancients described as the vault of the sky. Since this solid, metal-like firmament no longer exists (if it really did), we have no way of proving whether the ancient writers of the Old Testament were talking of one and the same object or if they were at all referring to something that really existed before. Hence, later translators referred to the firmament as the “expanse” between the waters to remove apparent confusion in our times. Our reluctance or resistance to the elementary, unsophisticated or unadorned accounts of those scribes has somehow led many to eventually invent their own newer views.

It is easy then to see how this old “science of the day” produced the ancient vocabulary and the concept that naturally arises from following those “scientific observations” (the ancient writers wrote what they saw or what people said they saw). Modern interpreters, however, have clever ways of going around the science that the ancients based their writings upon by using our “latest science” to explain away the evidence, hence, distorting or totally rejecting the facts and, ultimately, the truth.

In my book, Noah’s Ark and the Earth Rebuilt, I gave biblical and scientific proofs that there really existed a layer or canopy of water above and around the Earth. In essence, the book fused all available solid evidences and without rejecting the eyewitness accounts of the ancients in arriving at a more convincing picture of the past. Applying this method, we can come up with this workable and plausible picture of the ancient sky.
Here are the facts that arise:

1. God did create the “firmament” to separate the waters above and those below. Gen. 1:6 clearly states that.

2. Logic should tell us that this firmament could have been a visual illusion or a seeming material reality produced by the curved body of water (most probably liquid, as the upper and lower surfaces would enhance the illusion of solidity) that stayed above the atmosphere. Job 37:18 seems to prove this idea of the firmament appearing to be like a “molten looking-glass” (per King James Version). That is to say, the writers did not really mean that the firmament was solid but that it appeared like a solid, curved bronze mirror that held up the waters that lay behind or above it. Furthermore, the fact that it stayed there motionless must have made them think it was as solid as the ground they stood on.

3. As such, Psalm 19:1 is in keeping with that idea of a literal translucent mirror up in the sky which actually reflected the surface of the Earth at daytime and even at night-time while letting the stars and moon shine through. The fusion of the glowing images of terrestrial and celestial bodies in one encompassing canopy throughout the evening is a magnificent vision we can only imagine but which the ancients saw daily as a reality. This is the only way the firmament effectively, logically and scientifically “shows or declares the handiwork of God.” No one can see beyond several kilometers beyond the horizon; but the literal mirror up in the sky reflected the seas, the mountains, the fields and the valleys in a multicolored display via a circular, panoramic, blown-up image of the Earth’s surface due to the concave-shape of that mirror.

4. The vault of the sky was, therefore, not like a gray-cement-plastered cathedral dome but a majestic Sistine-Chapel-like canopy daily and nightly exhibiting the grandeur of God’s handiwork to either humble or haughty human eyes. The Sun’s shifting light and position (in the absence of clouds, the canopy may have refracted sunlight variably) made a moving show of the Earth’s surface, something we cannot see today but can appreciate from the photos taken by astronauts in outer space.

Do we still see this today? No, and it is no wonder why so many people do not know God nor give back glory to Him. He left us a record of His grandiose work and we do not even believe it. Well, even those who saw it during Noah’s time did not really feel compelled to obey God, so there is not much value in trying to convince people that the canopy really did exist. But we try just the same, as obedient servants should. (Unfortunately for those unbelievers, what they saw and thought would not fall on them, did fall and kill them. Today, what we do not see and do not also believe will also kill us.)

Is there science and logic in this interpretation? There is and it is because the Old Testament writers have provided us with the real, basic framework that allows us to apply our own modern science to come up with an acceptable universal concept.

This then is the dilemma in our modern era: our blindness to eternal things and ignorance of the reality of the eternal God. With this book, I hope many will feel compelled to look at God’s written evidences with more openness, honesty and humility.

That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Highlighting provided) - Col. 2:2,3

(Photo simulation above done using Google Earth image.)