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Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Die is Cast

When I was in my twenties, and grappling with the truths of the Christian faith, I wanted to be part of the local Christian church, which fortunately for me, happen to be a "live" church close to where I lived. This was against the so-called "dead" churches, which was defined by the traditional Sunday service attended by formally-dressed senior citizens long retired from their professions - singing melancholic hymns, chanting prayers, and reciting the liturgy, then after a sleep-inducing sermon, dismissed with a blessing, but with no more fellowship than a formal limp handshake, together with the question of mandatory church etiquette:
And how are you today, sir?
In which the answer must never be any other than Fine, thank you. The very thought of admitting that you're upset because of a massive row with the wife earlier that morning, or your grandson is down with measles, or you are faced with a debt you are unable to repay, or that the breakfast toast was served burnt, would be anathema in such an environment. After all, here in England, showing or expressing emotion is just not on.

So in this "live" church I could not help but mix with plenty of graduates - along with a variety of older families with young children, middle aged couples and pensioners as well, all assembled for the "modern" live service with more upbeat music (yes, even drums!) - along with more individual prayers and an attention-grabbing sermon on practical living, and of course, about midway through the service, the whole congregation reciting the Lord's Prayer - the only remaining link with tradition, and that most likely for the benefit of the elderly. But it is the fellowship which followed after the end of the service which sets apart the "live" church from a "dead" one. Far more positive conversation among the people with, heaven forbid, even an occasional hug, but still again, negative emotion frowned upon. When the question was asked, How are you today? The stock answer must always be, Fine, thank you. Oh, how tradition and English church etiquette never dies! And so the years roll by, and I believe, from American churches across the Atlantic, the idea of coffee and doughnuts being introduced after the service was a sure way of maintaining growth of the congregation as well as preserving its numbers.
So it goes, after any one service, I approach a young newcomer and ask him where is he from.
I have just graduated from Loughborough University.
"That's a very good uni, with first class reputation. What subject did you study?"
"Huh-uh, good on you. Sorry, but I'm in a bit of a rush. I speak to you soon. Ta-rah!"
The graduate watches for a moment as I walk off, then catching sight of a married couple standing nearby, I pause to open a conversation with them "for a quick hello" but twenty minutes later I'm still chatting happily with them. The  graduate has seen it all before. The subject of mathematics as a degree had turned several away in the past, and maybe he can't help feeling a little left out, probably even lonely. No doubt, there are many who had struggled with the subject at school, perhaps just scraping through a G.C.E. pass with scant success. That in itself looks to me of something of an achievement. Some years after leaving school, I enrolled at day college to study maths at G.C.E. level. After sitting the final exam, the result envelope dropped through the letterbox of my apartment. Inside, a piece of paper had the word written ungraded. That means absolute fail. In those days a General Certificate of Education consisted of a pass grade of A, B, and C, with D and E equivalent to a secondary certificate. I couldn't even get an E. I have always found the subject daunting, let alone someone with a university degree!
Yet numbers does hold a degree of fascination for me, because they feature well in the Bible. I guess we have all heard of the Trinity, the seven days of the week, and the twelve tribes of Israel together with the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ. And that despite that one of the disciples turned out to be a loser, and he had to be replaced with another candidate to keep the number to twelve. And yet the Biblical numeration weren't expressed in the way we understand them at present. In Hebrew, of which most of the Old Testament was written, a letter from the alphabet represented the number. In Greek as was the original New Testament, words represented numeration, such as tessera for four, hepra for seven, dodeka for twelve, eikosi tessares for 24, to name a few. Yet as I see it, it was no accident that we now have numbers which nothing else could express the character of God so explicitly.
As in my last blog, the Bible indicates that seven is God's unique number. For example, it is recorded as God creating the earth and everything in it, including our first parents, in six days, with the seventh day God had rested. In Exodus 20, the Sabbath rest given to Israel was the seventh day of the week, after the order of Creation. God had also commanded the elders of Israel to make a seven-branch candlestick, which at present we refer to as the Menorah, and place it inside the Tabernacle. It is also interesting that the Hebrew name for Israel is actually YISRAEL - an anagram of initials of the nation's founding parents: Yacob, Isaac, Sarah, Rebekah, Abraham, Elohim, Leah - with six human names and one divine name, making a total of seven. All six were buried in the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron, while the seventh was the nation's founder and finisher, and lives forever, as opposed to being buried in a cave. In the book of Revelation, its author John sees a vision of the risen Christ holding a seven-star Menorah, representing the seven spirits of God and the seven churches in Asia to which the book is addressed.

Seven is one of three special numbers representing God, the other two being three and twelve. Three is the triune essence of God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - which makes up the divine Trinity. From it, many aspects of his creation can be seen or experienced. For example, space has three dimensions: length, area and volume. Time is past, present and future. Water, which sustains life, can be of ice, liquid or vapour, as with our planet's surface - land, ocean and atmosphere.  Even a human being is a trinity - spirit, soul and body. In the way all living fauna move: walk on land, swim in water, and fly through the air, with man-made modes of transport using the same triune means to move both themselves and their cargo. Three is the very essence of God, which also include his Omnipresence, Omnipotence, and his Omniscience.
Twelve is what I can see is the third numeric character of God. In the Old Testament, twelve was the number of the tribes which made up the nation of Israel. In the New Testament, Jesus selected twelve disciples, and there are twelve months in the year, globally, as well as twelve constellations in the Zodiac.
Twelve is a double-figure number: 1 and 2. Add these together and you get 3, the number of the Trinity. Also multiply 7 by 3, and you get 21, which double figures also add up to three. And this is an eternal fact, as God himself is eternal. No matter how quantity was expressed in the ancient past, whether it was by a letter or series of letters, a Greek word, Roman numeracy, even modern binary used for computer programming; the  ability to count and to use the science of space and quantity remains the same. Two plus two will aways be four. Multiply seven by three, and you will always get 21. Time can never change these.
I have played board games using a die many times throughout my boyhood and adolescence, as well as an adult. But how often does one observe that the number of dots on each face of the die (plural dice) opposite sides always add up to seven? Six is always opposite to one, five is opposite to two, and four is opposite to three. Three even numbers opposite three odd numbers, and each combination adds up to seven. Every die has a total of 21 dots, the two and the one adding up to three. Even a single cube, particularly a fairly large one, say six inches on one side, represents the Trinity. You can look at it direct on one face, and you see one square. Turn the cube carefully 45 degrees, and you see two faces. Then lower it by another 45 degrees, and you see three faces. But you will never be able to see more than three faces of any cube at any one time without turning it. And that is true regardless of the size of the cube, from which angle is viewed from, or from what distance. Whether it was the intention or not, the die has always represented God, in addition to when it is thrown, the casting number is decided by providence, outside the power of human choice. In the Bible, a set of dice has been known to be the final decision of God, a good example was the choosing of a candidate to replace Judas Iscariot.

In the last couple of weeks there has been a nature programme shown on BBC2 about the wonderful senses many animals have, for example; such as the incredibly complex, 360-degree vision of insects, how the nearly blind bats uses sonar to see in total darkness, and how sharks can detect blood through smell over a comparatively long distance through water. To me, such a broadcast screams out the reality of divine creation, yet the two presenters, one a doctor, the other a biologist, still insisting that these marvels in nature were the results of Evolution by chance. Yet I can't help marvel at the two presenters whose educational levels are worthy of national respect, yet still be so blind to the obvious. Although not a biologist myself, nevertheless I seemed to have observed that I have no awareness of any animal species which can walk, swim and fly in its lifetime, although some birds such as the seagull comes close, with its superb diving ability to catch its prey. But a seagull does not swim in the way a fish does. Some fishes may leap out of the water, but they don't actually fly, and no marine animal can walk (save the turtle, but it cannot fly). Bats can walk and certainly fly, but cannot swim. In turn, penguins are marvellous swimmers but they are flightless. As for the mammals - quadrupeds and bipeds - including mankind, all can walk and run, and many can swim, but none can fly.

This seems to connect with the great men of God in the Bible. Of all who ever lived to please God, particularly in the Old Testament, none fulfilled all three roles as Prophet, Priest and King (or national leader). Only Jesus Christ has, and will fulfil all three roles. Moses was a leader and prophet, but not a priest. His brother Aaron fulfilled that role. Jeremiah was a prophet and a priest, but not a king. King David was also a prophet but not a priest. Samuel was a prophet and priest, but not a king, for he appointed Saul as king, then later David. Many of the prophets from Isaiah onwards were also priests as well, but none were kings or national leaders. All indicating that creation as a whole is less than the triune God who made them all.

God is way above us. He made us as a trinity of spirit, body and soul, and he gave us the ability to walk, and also a limited ability to swim, but still with the inablily to fly. God, the all powerful, divine Creator will always be greater than us, his crown of creation, forever. 


  1. Great post, Frank!
    As you know, I too am fascinated by numbers in the Bible, particularly the number 3. I hadn't thought of your cube illustration before -- great observation!
    Seven is my second favorite number in the Bible, representing completion or perfection, and 8 representing new beginnings, as in the musical scale having 7 notes and starting over on 8.
    We have been blessed since we were saved to be at "live" churches, although the church we belonged to at the time we were saved was not one of these. Our son, 10 years old at the time, used to say that the congregation singing hymns there was "like Druids chanting."
    God bless,

  2. Like you, I listen to men who seemingly have such wonderful educations and yet don't understand that the things they are addressing are in direct contradiction of the position they are seeking to prove,

    As far as your struggles with Mathematics, I have my degree in Math, Over the years, I have helped a number of students with math, even teaching it for a brief period. In the process, I became convinced the problem is more often that the teacher doesn't understand the subject well enough to explain it clearly than that the student can't understand. As a result only a small percentage are able to figure out what he is trying to say.