Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The manifold wisdom of God

"His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known ... according to his eternal purpose ..." (Ephesians 3:10-11)

What a colorful concept, the "manifold" wisdom of God. I always imagined a sheet of paper folded many times into a tiny fraction of its former size, getting unfolded over and over to reveal something much greater than it originally appeared. Until today. Courtesy of the Tipping Point, I now have a far greater understanding of this verse, one that awes and overwhelms me. Of course, the Tipping Point is not an overtly spiritual book (although there was a rather odd reference to Billy Graham in a chapter called "Suicide, Smoking, and the Unsticky Cigarette" at p. 224). But a passage describing the power of exponential growth recounts that a single sheet of paper (if sufficiently large), folded in half fifty times, can reach from the earth's surface to the sun. Reread that carefully. One sheet of paper, folded just fifty times, can reach the sun - a distance of 93 million miles! Conceptually, we have a tough time grasping the depth of that scientific fact. Here's another illustration that may be easier to comprehend, with the help of a calculator. Double one penny every day for 31 days (not fifty), and your original $.01 becomes $5,368,709.12 (.01+.01=.02; .02+.02=.04; .04+.04=.08; and so on). Do the math 19 more times (totaling 50) and see how far one penny can stretch. Incredible.

Back to the paper folding for a second. Take a single sheet of newspaper, fold it in half 8 times, and watch how fat it becomes. It's a far cry from the sun's surface, but notice how few folds are necessary to start amassing some serious depth. Ephesians describes God's wisdom as "manifold." This awes me. If just fifty folds can extend 93 million miles, imagine how deep and wide "manifold" can get. Making matters more mind-boggling, the verse continues to say that God intends to make that wisdom known through the church. The church. The spoiled, whiny, largely ineffective, church. That's the part that overwhelms me. I'll never figure out God's fascination with the church, but at the same time, it's encouraging because it offers me hope.

Spoiled, whiny, and ineffective though I may be, God has something to say through me. "According to his eternal purpose."


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