Jesus’ Artifacts, Part 7

I’m not saying one word against the truth of the Bible, even its universal absolute truth.  Believers, however, rarely argue among themselves that the Bible in all its context is the universal absolute truth.  The arguments are over someone’s understanding of some part of the Bible, in other words we argue over sermons.  I don’t even intend to argue against the absolute truth of a sermon prepared and delivered as the Lord intended for a particular congregation that has produced actual obedient results.  I am simply saying that it is not necessarily universally applicable to every other congregation on the planet any more than the absolutely correct protein for, say, a liver cell is necessarily (for that reason alone) the absolutely correct protein for eyes, skin, teeth or lungs.  So I am using my current knowledge of the DNA-RNA-protein complex as an analogy to demonstrate how even absolute truth might not be universally applicable and might appear to be completely contradictory when that universality is tacitly assumed.

So how true is this analogy?  Or, another way of saying essentially the same thing is, How binding should  this analogy be in your thoughts and actions?  Guess what?  For you, it is only as true and binding as you believe it to be.  In this sense faith (and its consequent commitments) is a protection against wild swings of trajectory or action.  So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes,[1] is how Paul put it.

I am working not only with my acknowledged understanding of the Bible but with my understanding of others’ understanding of microscopic physical phenomena.  That is at least two, probably three, times removed from the simple goodness of “God said it; I believe it; that settles it.”  No matter what your current belief about the validity of my analogy is, it is likely to change.  Human knowledge of the DNA-RNA-protein complex will undoubtedly change.  Our current knowledge is the first knowledge of a rather small piece of the whole genome.  As we learn more about the rest it may reinforce and exalt our current understanding, or it may demonstrate that what we now know is relatively insignificant or even fundamentally flawed.

But for me, having gone through the process, I’m going to stand for the time being by what I have learned.  Perhaps the most obvious stance I am taking is that this is not called PREACHERS DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT THE BIBLE, it is called WHAT KIND OF CARPENTER IS JESUS.

Well, have I learned anything about that?

I’ve already mentioned that I recognized Jesus as a cleverer programmer than I am.  (And perhaps now is as good a time as any to acknowledge that any of my inferences will be about Jesus as a craftsman in general rather than a carpenter specifically.)  I am so taken with the DNA-RNA-protein complex I would love to wax poetic in my praise of his excellent craftsmanship.  The only thing that stops me from doing that here is the recognition that it is faith that allows me to see things that way.  James Watson, for instance, looked at the same DNA-RNA-protein complex and did not conclude that it is “absolutely the best and most efficient way”[2] to do things.  “‘Why does the information in DNA need to go through an RNA intermediate before it can be translated into a protein?”[3] he asked.

Frankly, I’m not wise enough to criticize the Lord’s creation like this.  All I know of DNA, RNA and proteins comes from James Watson and a few others like him.  So I am compelled to fall back on my one little skill, that philosophical bent of my mind.

Watson pointed out that DNA can store information but can’t catalyze chemical reactions.  Proteins catalyze chemical reactions but can’t store information.  DNA and proteins are each dependent on the existence of the other.  RNA on the other hand “can store and replicate genetic information” and “can catalyze critical chemical reactions.”  So Francis Crick imagined an RNA world that pre-existed the DNA-RNA-protein complex understood presently.  RNA persists today as a kind of piecemeal vestige of that evolutionary history, according to Watson.  For Watson, apparently, a DNA-protein complex would be more efficient than the DNA-RNA-protein complex.  An RNA-protein complex would be out of the question because RNA is not a very stable molecule.  DNA is a definite improvement for long-term information storage.  Why proteins came into the picture is not entirely clear, except that the only chemical reaction Watson mentioned that RNA catalyzes is the bonding of the amino acids that make the chains that fold into proteins.  But remember, DNA is not able to catalyze these chemical bonds.

Even after Watson’s explanation I was left scratching my head and still thinking that the DNA-RNA-protein complex sounded like the best thing for the job at hand.  You see, James Watson and I have different agendas.  If the DNA-RNA-protein complex proves to be the irreducible level of complexity necessary for the existence of life, I’m unconcerned.  God is smart enough to handle that level of complexity from the very beginning.  Watson’s faith in the theory of evolution, on the other hand, would be called into question.  This is an awful lot to ask of chance-directed processes.  So in my opinion it is Watson’s faith that prompts him to question the efficiency of the DNA-RNA-protein complex while my faith prompts me to praise Jesus.

So while engaging in poetic praise of Jesus’ craftsmanship is a good and necessary thing for me to do as a matter of worship, here I’ll limit myself to a simple observation.  What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit,[4] Jesus told Nicodemus.  We have known for nearly two thousand years that this life “born of the Spirit” had some relationship to the Bible.  We’ve argued over the details of that relationship for most of that time, but generally agree to some manner of relationship.  It is interesting to me at this late date to find an information storage and retrieval system like the DNA-RNA-protein complex in some relationship to life “born of the flesh.”

I didn’t create the DNA-RNA-protein complex out of my imagination.  In fact, I learned about it from people who might reasonably be called hostile witnesses.  Yet even in the descriptions of hostile witnesses I can recognize enough of the hallmarks of a particular individual’s craftsmanship—in both the Bible-Preacher-obedient-congregation complex’s relationship to life born of the Spirit and the DNA-RNA-protein complex’s relationship to life born of the flesh—to be willing to modify my views about the former by reference to the latter.

What kind of carpenter is Jesus?  He is the kind of craftsman whose handiwork displays the individually recognizable traits of his craftsmanship.  In other words, whatever those distinguishing features are that make it possible to recognize a favorite composer’s music, or a favorite artist’s paintings, or a favorite architect’s buildings, those features are also evident in the artifacts of Jesus’ creation—the DNA-RNA-protein complex and the Bible-Preacher-obedient-congregation complex, life born of the flesh and life born of the Spirit respectively.

[1] Ephesians 4:14 (NET)

[2] DNA: The Secret of Life, James D. Watson with Andrew Berry, Copyright 2003 by DNA Show LLC, published by Knopf, a Borzoi Book, August 2004, pg. 85

[3] ibid, pg. 83

[4] John 3:6 (NET)