Monday, May 16, 2011

The Analyst

Our Creator is an Analyst.

It wasn’t enough just to launch the “big bang,” when “what is seen was made out of things which do not appear” (Hebrews 11:3). In the beginning there was nothing but light. But light reveals nothing if there’s nothing else to reveal. So the Creator took a further step. He “separated the light from the darkness.” As the older translations say, He divided. That’s what an analyst does, for analysis is the process of differentiating things into their components. God continued His analysis until the created order began to take shape, no longer “without form and void.”

In other words, God created information. As Gregory Bateson pointed out, information is “a difference that makes a difference.” There’s no information in sameness; information is the difference between one thing and another. That’s the principle of the digital computer. A “bit” is either on or off, and everything the computer does for us is based on the difference between what’s on and what’s off. God is the original Programmer-Analyst.

In a day of post-modern skepticism about the possibility of knowing what’s true and what isn’t, the Christian thinker needs to emulate the Creator in His digital differentiation. As Harry Blamires wrote five decades ago, “The thinker hates indecision and confusion; he firmly distinguishes right from wrong, good from evil; he is at home in a world of clearly demarcated categories and proven conclusions; he is dogmatic and committed; he works toward decisive action.”

A Christian intellectual may well acknowledge nuances and “gray areas,” but works through them to a firm conclusion. He or she is like the men of the tribe of Issachar “who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).

In submission to the Creator, we pursue His analytical ways. We learn to differentiate and distinguish, in order to contribute to His purpose for human civilization. The English Old Testament begins with God’s differentiation of the created order. It closes, in Malachi 3:18, with an admonition to carry the process of analysis into the realm of human conduct: “Then once more you shall distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.” With our culture in moral meltdown today, we need this type of analytical skill more than ever.