Thursday, September 10, 2009

Way beyond, Google, X-rays, MRI's and PET SCans to the knowingness of God

It has been said that if Psalm 139 finished at verse 18 it would be the most beautiful psalm of all.

It has been said that Psalm 139 takes the big theological words we use like omniscience and omnipresence to try and describe the incomprehensible grandeur of God and brings them out of the text books out of the dry corridors of academia and makes them pragmatic and personal.

Its a psalm in four stanzas or stropes. So here are a series of reflections on the Psalm in the context of our weird wired twenty first century.

1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

psalm 139:1-6.

In our world today search has taken on a whole new level of meaning. Google is a search engine that scorers the Internet for web pages and references to a certain topic or person or event that you type into it. It’s become so much a part of our culture that people talk about Googling someone as a way of starting to find out about them. If you’re mentioned on the web Google will find you. Maybe we could translate the psalm 'Google me O God’. But the psalmist says that God knows more than just our cyber-presence, our public side that God knows about our real time and private side: He knows when we sleep or when we wake, when we sit or stand, and he knows those things even if we are online or off.

Modern technology has changed the way we see things. Medical imaging technology can probe deeper and deeper into the human being.
An x-ray can see the bone structure inside our heads,

An MRI scan can pick up the soft tissue that makes up our brains.

PET scans pick up the chemical reactions and energy used by our brains as we think. It can even show that men and women think differently. Just in case you needed scientific evidence to prove it.

Electron microscopes pick out the individual blood cells that course around our bodies.

We are beginning to unravel the DNA code that lies like computer code at the heart of our being.

The psalmist says God knowing of us is way beyond that. X-ray’s and MRI may look inside our heads, PET scans can see brain activity but God knows our thoughts even before we think them God knows what words will come out of our mouth even before we speak them. This for the psalmist is cause for wonder and praise. It’s mind-blowing and beyond our comprehension.

While there is a genre of films and literature based around the abuse of power in our surveillance culture (eg Enemy of the State, End of Violence) and concern about the social engineering and behaviour modification promoted by Jeremy Bentham's 'Panopticon' ( ; that those who hold such power can be corrupted by it, for the Psalmist it is the nature of the one who is truly all knowing that turns it from a possible oppressive presence to a place of freedom and life.

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