The Great Spectrum
I dream in color. I think in pictures. Is that normal? Whatever, it’s handy! Visualizing a parable, imagining a consequence, remembering a Biblical truth—all are facilitated by pictures in my mind
The word “Law,” though, evokes more than a single image. At its mention, a whole collection of pictures parades through my imagination. First, I see walls lined with heavy, forbidding, leather-bound tomes in an attorney’s library; the atmosphere is studious, silent, dedicated to finding what is right. Quickly the mental picture changes to a traffic sign—a speed limit notification. Then I am seeing a sculpture of The Ten Commandments in a Town Square. All of these indicate some aspect of law.
Finally my imagination comes to rest in a picture that more nearly encompasses The Law, though it isn’t yet complete in every detail. It is the phenomenon of a grand spectrum, stretching clear across the North American continent
It all began with my husband Jim. He likes to build models to illustrate Truth—if not from tangible goods, at least with logic and imagination. He can tell you how many atoms are in a drop of water, multiplied by how many drops of water are in you, and that information far outstrips the number of hairs on your head…but God cares about it all. He can tell you how far away from our sun its nearest star-neighbor would be if Sol and Proxima Centauri were both the size of an orange—on the other coast of the Atlantic Ocean!1 Jim is interested in how many thousand years it would take to count all the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy at one per second2—just to help us grasp some idea of how big it is. He’s a numbers man, no doubt about it.
One afternoon, Jim decided to build a scale model of the electromagnetic spectrum. In textbooks, the spectrum is usually represented by a logarithmic3 scale along the edge of a page—usually about ten inches. (A logarithmic scale, he explained, is a way to compress huge amounts of data into a chunk of information that we can grasp.) His model would be built a model on a linear scale, one that would stretch diagonally across, say, a large auditorium. What a fabulous teaching tool! As with printed pictures of the spectrum, it would begin with TV and radio waves at one end and move through microwaves to infrared light, before encountering the “visible window” of light that we can see. “White light,” as it is also called, would be followed by ultra-violet light, x-rays, and gamma rays. (Some lists include cosmic rays on the far end.)
Jim took his calculator out of his pocket and started figuring. Then he found his calipers for measuring microns, and consulted the calculator again. Finally he looked up. “Honey, you’re not going to believe this,” he said. “There’s no way we could get a linear scale model of the spectrum into any building in this country. In fact,” he looked at his notes again, “do you know how big the ‘visible window’ would be if we were to stretch the spectrum clear across the United States, three thousand miles from New York to San Francisco?” Of course I had no idea. “The band representing visible light would be about the width of the thickness of two sheets of notebook paper!”
Oh, wow! To think that everything we detect with our eyes, of the whole electromagnetic spectrum, is wavelengths represented by the width of seven one-thousandths of an inch!4 Truly we see in part!—“We know in part, and we prophesy [teach] in part”5—and we humans think we know so much!
We do know that the universe runs according to law. Various laws have been identified and defined, and have been named for the scientists who discovered them. But scientists didn’t originate the laws. God put those laws into operation. The order that humans have discovered in the world of science has been written down and called “law.” Because they are so constant and so interrelated, they seem an integral part of the entities they govern. It is only in that way that some can even come to grips with their existence—the laws must have developed simultaneously with the matter, or where else could “information” have come from?
But no, they are laws that God has made, descriptions of how God created things to work. And how much are we still missing of the whole? Does science even know all the laws? But does our knowing them, or not, interfere at all with their effeciency? Might these laws of operation be what Solomon referred to as “wisdom” when he said, “The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens”?6
Solomon’s father was King David, the psalmist who wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.”7 The second half of the chapter seems to change the subject quite dramatically: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”8 Or maybe it’s not a change of subject, but a clue that the laws of nature are somehow connected to the Moral Law.9
Consider again Jim’s imaginary, logarithmic scale model of the electromagnetic spectrum, spanning the North American continent. Since this model is fabricated from logic and imagination, it’s relatively easy to turn the whole thing into one grand continuum10 to illustrate Law. Let’s replace the TV and radio waves at one end with laws of gravity and attraction. We’ll continue with laws of motion and heat, light, sound, and electricity, moving on to laws of chemistry and biology, physiology and psychology and behavior, laws of reproduction and growth and health—even down to the minutest levels. Let’s not forget laws of mathematics and aeronautics and astronomy, and laws that extend beyond the farthest reaches of our scope. It’s plain to my mind, at least, that there is no end to the information encoded in what we call science. In fact, “Without law, nothing would be safe.”11
But humanity didn’t create one of those laws. We found them, already in operation. The fact that they work so well and so consistently is what constitutes their being “laws.”
Here I would like to propose an inclusion into this continuum of law, this grand spectrum. In the approximate location of laws of psychology and behavior, I see Moral Law. It is true that scientific laws are formulated from observable data. In contrast, God personally and specifically gave us the Moral Law. We usually think of it as embodied in the Ten Commandments12—and it is, but not restricted to it, as Jesus illustrated in His “Sermon on the Mount.” He taught that if a man looks on a woman to lust after her, he has committed adultery with her in his heart, and one who hates is as guilty as one who kills.13
If the Ten Commandments are only specific rules, basically a list of do’s and don’ts, then Jesus doesn’t make a whole lot of sense extrapolating from lust to adultery, or from ungrounded anger to killing. After all, while I don’t relish the idea of having enemies at all, I would much rather that someone hated me than killed me! But Jesus seems to be saying something else, here, about the Ten Commandment law. He is applying the underlying principle He discussed later with a lawyer, who tried to trip Him up by asking, “Which is the great commandment?”
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with thy entire mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”14
Paul in the book of Romans addresses this same issue when he said, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love [is] the fulfilling of the law.”15
The Decalogue, as part of the grand continuum of law, moves beyond a list of commands—”Do this and don’t do that”—and becomes, like the laws of science, a description of how things were created to work. It is how we will behave when the law of love is written in our hearts.
Others might murder, but you won’t; you will love your neighbor as yourself. Others might steal, but you won’t. In fact, you won’t even want to. You won’t covet anything that is your neighbor’s.9 You will take from “the system” what you need, enrich it with something of yourself, and return it for the good of others in the same system.16 You will take to give.17 You will live to bless. You will love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself,18 always treating him as you would want to be treated.19
Obedience, then, is the outworking of the principle of love that has been implanted within.20 This is the “new heart” God promised in Ezekiel,21 the new covenant in Hebrews.22 It’s the same as the “new birth” He told Nicodemas about in the book of John.23 It is even intimated in the very first promise: “I will put enmity between thee [speaking to the serpent, impersonating the devil] and the woman [Eve, specifically, but representative also of all her children to come], and between thy seed, and her seed.”24 God goes on cryptically to foretell the coming of Messiah who would be “bruised” by the power of evil, but who in that very bruising would crush its power. Humanity would become free!
Yet, here we are…still. Evil reigns, to all appearances, rampantly and virtually out of control. But it doesn’t have to rule you or me. We are free to choose which law we will live under, even here.25 Because we are still here, evil still surrounding us, we must choose again and yet again which system has our loyalty. But we have been given insight into which law works; we know which system will win. We can choose intelligently
Looking again at the Great Spectrum of Law, the Ten Commandments correspond very nicely to the colors of the rainbow, broken out of “white” light. A prism is necessary in order to see the connection between colors and light. It is Scripture that directs us to the great principle of love underlying the Decalogue. That love is as enduring as eternity; it is the foundation of the throne of God and the essence of His character. It is everlasting
At the risk of oversimplification, might I suggest that the cyclical nature of so much in the world around us indicates a level of cooperation with this law of love, of unselfishness. Water rises to the clouds, to fall in refreshing rains on the earth; from there it flows to lakes and rivers and oceans only to be drawn back up to the clouds. Plants take in carbon dioxide and return oxygen to the air for us to breathe. Everything seems to have its place in the grand scheme of taking to give—everything but the selfish heart of humanity.17
Could it be that the core of sin is living for one’s self?26 Might sin be, in its very nature, a rebellion against the laws by which the universe was created to operate? If this is so, could the nature of the consequences of sin be seen in the results of disregarding other laws?
It is true that when comparing the workings of various types of laws, there are marked differences in the time required to see results. For example, the consequence of stepping off the edge at Cold Shivers Point in the Colorado National Monument could be seen at the bottom of the canyon in a matter of seconds. The precise number of seconds, even, could be figured mathematically if we knew the exact distance of the drop at that point. Such is the nature of the laws of physics. On the other hand, a festering hatred for my neighbor might only manifest itself in ulcers, or shingles, or in one of many stress-related illnesses. Does anyone know what sin actually does to the human individual, how it intrinsically changes us, eventually causing death? Obviously, it is not nearly so quick or dramatic as walking off a precipice, but it is no less sure.
Ignoring laws of health, in general, tends to be less predictable than disregarding laws of physics. That’s why a person who smokes for 40 years can be shocked when he is diagnosed with cancer—“I didn’t think it would happen to me.” Risky behavior sometimes brings a swift result, or sometimes the “reward” is a long time coming. The important lesson is that it will come. Neither moral law nor the laws of nature can be ignored with immunity.
A familiar Scripture and very key to this discussion, “Sin is transgression of the law.”27 As it is often simply put, “Sin is breaking the law.” But is that an accurate portrayal? Could it be misunderstood to refer to a mere breaking of rules? Are God’s laws to be equated with mere human rules, which are sometimes quite arbitrary? Or might another translation or two shed light on the question?
In The New Living Translation the verse reads, “Those who sin are opposed to the law of God, for all sin opposes the law of God.” The New Revised Version says, “Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” Do you get the picture of someone bent on doing his own thing, having his own way, determined to shake off all responsibility, all law, no matter what anyone else might say, or in spite of whatever dire warnings he received? Sin is an attitude. Sin is what we are, the root of the sinful things we do. It looks an awful lot like rebellion, to me
But could anyone truly break the law of gravity? Would it be possible that any part of the Great Spectrum of Law could be broken? Is there any way one could damage it, stop its operation, touch its existence, or even destroy it
For example, a person can disregard gravity, but in so doing he would only illustrate and prove its existence. He would not be breaking the “law,” he would be breaking himself—where he landed. Or would God send an angel to make sure he was punished by death for jumping from such a high place? How ridiculous, we think. But put that way, it’s obvious that death would not be a “sentence” as much as a result.28
Is it possible, then, to “break” the Moral Law? Does it remain untouched, in spite of anything I might do? Could anything I say destroy its real power or existence? Or in disregarding the law, am I myself changed for the worse?29
If I put myself out of harmony with the law that runs the universe, what can be the only result?30 Does the same cause/effect situation that pertains to the law of gravity also apply to the law of love? If the Moral Law is part of the Great Spectrum of Law, might it be that the operation of consequence at one end indicates the same operation of consequence at the other end? Would eternal death, then, be a “punishment” meted out, or a consequence of my own self-centered choices?31
Turning a corner, what then is obedience? Is it cooperation with law? All law? Could it ever be blind, unthinking compliance with an arbitrary set of rules, or is obedience whole-hearted cooperation with the way the universe was created to work, because I’m convinced it’s right?20 Which do you think best portrays God’s great heart of Love
But I’m still stuck here on earth with the law of gravity. And disregarding gravity only lands me in the grave. O, wretched soul that I am! Who shall deliver me from this bondage of death? The good news is that there is another law than gravity—the law of buoyancy. Think of it as a type of “grace.” Buoyancy doesn’t do away with the law of gravity, but it operates with and overrides gravity. It provides the possibility of flight!
In the spiritual realm, Christ has made a way of escape for us. He writes the law of love in our hearts—or the law of enmity against sin, if you will—so that we can love what He loves and hate what He hates. He gives us a new heart in harmony with His heart, heals us from the consequences of having been born here on this planet and involved with its plague of sin, and gives us the gift of Eternal Life with Him.
There, where we will know as we are known, we will explore with Him the marvels of His creation. He will explain the laws of The Great Spectrum in all their complexity, and show us the relationship of their various properties to His own character. Might it be that the order and harmony of God’s universe, the cycles of sharing, community, and mutual interdependence, are representative of His own great love? In that sense, might “Law” be seen as a facet of who God actually is? And still, in the tangible and the intangible, we will always be finding something new and wonderful to pursue—always, continually, and forever.32
Do you suppose He might also give us better eyes for a wider “visible window”?
1 If the distance between Proxima Centauri and our sun is 4.3 light-years [C2], the diameter of the sun is 695,950 km. [B2], and the oranges are 3.5 in. [A2], the distance between the oranges [D2] in the imaginary scale model is about 1600 miles, which is the shortest distance across the Atlantic Ocean between Brazil, South America and Senegal, West Africa. To calculate on a spreadsheet, [=C2*31560000*186000*A2/(B2*2/1.609*5280*12)] is the formula for cell D2.
2 Two hundred billion (20011) is a good estimate of the number of stars in our Milky Way galaxy—no one has ever counted them. With 31.56 million seconds in a year, counting the stars in only our own galaxy would require 6,337 years! If Adam had been given that job six thousand years ago and had been counting one per second, day and night, without eating or sleeping—and, of course, without dying—he would not yet have finished the job.
3 On a linear scale, when we go from 1 to 2, we have added one—the same ratio as when we have gone from 5 to six. But on a true logarithmic scale, when we go from 1 to 2 (or from 5 to 6) we have multiplied by ten. The Richter scale for measuring earthquakes is a logarithmic scale, with a 6 ten times worse than a 5—and a hundred times worse than a four. Applying this comparison to the electromagnetic spectrum, Jim translated it from a ten-inch logarithmic scale to a linear scale that stretched 3000 miles.
4 The “ends” of the spectrum are not precise. One estimate for the width of the electromagnetic spectrum in Hertz (cycles per second) is 1025 Hz. An estimate of the width of the visible window is 3.55 x 1014 Hz. To calculate the width of the visible window if the model spectrum is three thousand miles: divide 3.55 x 1014 Hz by 1025 Hz and multiply by 3000 miles. When the result is changed into inches, it is about 7/1000 of an inch.
5 I Corinthians 13:9
6 Proverbs 3:19
7 Psalm 19:1, 2
8 Psalm 19:7
9 White, Ellen—Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 453 “We should do well to read often the nineteenth psalm, that we may understand how the Lord binds up His law with His created works.”
10 There is a major difference between the two “spectrums.” In the electromagnetic spectrum, the continuum is smooth from one end to the other: the waves are all the same kind of energy, varying only in length and spacing.
The “spectrum” of law, on the other hand, is essentially only a convenient model for arranging collections of dissimilar laws relating to various aspects of nature, but it is not a true continuum. There are, however, truths that can be better understood as we acknowledge all law as coming from a wise and loving God.
11 Walton, Lewis—The Lucifer Diary, p. 16
12 Exodus 20:2-17
13 Matthew 5:28
14 Matthew 22:37-40, KJV
15 Romans 13:10, KJV
16 Walton, Lewis—The Lucifer Diary, p.39 [This imaginary conversation between God and the fallen Lucifer, written by an attorney, offers insight into universal law.] “‘If you have been watching carefully, you should realize by now that I have built a basic principle into everything that I have made. It is called the Principle of Return.
“‘Everything in my creation is designed to take only so that it can give again. Everything receives from the cosmic system whatever it needs for life; it then enriches, with its own creativity, what it has taken, and gives back to the system more than it took….And that, my beloved Lucifer, is where you went wrong. You wanted the throne, but you did not have life inherent within you—life to send out through the fiery stones, life to energize the cosmos. You wanted more than you could give back. That is why the Mystery was so puzzling to you….You were trying to solve it backwards. It can’t be done. When you try, you introduce a horrifying imposter called death.’”
17 White, Ellen—The Desire of Ages, pp. 20, 21 “There is nothing, save the selfish heart of man, that lives unto itself. No bird that cleaves the air, no animal that moves upon the ground, but ministers to some other life. There is no leaf of the forest, or lowly blade of grass, but has its ministry. Every tree and shrub and leaf pours forth that element of life without which neither man nor animal could live; and man and animal, in turn, minister to the life of tree and shrub and leaf. The flowers breathe fragrance and unfold their beauty in blessing to the world. The sun sheds its light to gladden a thousand worlds. The ocean, itself the source of all our springs and fountains, receives the streams from every land, but takes to give. The mists ascending from its bosom fall in showers to water the earth, that it may bring forth and bud.”
18 Luke 10:25-37
19 Matthew 7:12
20 White, Ellen—Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 97, 98 “The man who attempts to keep the commandments of God from a sense of obligation merely—because he is required to do so—will never enter into the joy of obedience. He does not obey. When the requirements of God are accounted a burden because they cut across human inclination, we may know that the life is not a Christian life. True obedience is the outworking of a principle within. It springs from the love of righteousness, the love of the law of God. The essence of all righteousness is loyalty to our Redeemer. This will lead us to do right because it is right—because right doing is pleasing to God.”
21 Ezekiel 36:26 “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”
22 Hebrews 8:10 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.”
23 John 3:3-17, esp. v. 3, 6, 7 “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
24 Genesis 3:15
25 White, Ellen—The Desire of Ages, p. 466 “In the work of redemption there is no compulsion. No external force is employed. Under the influence of the Spirit of God, man is left free to choose whom he will serve.…
“The only condition upon which the freedom of man is possible is that of becoming one with Christ. ‘The truth shall make you free;’ and Christ is the truth. Sin can triumph only by enfeebling the mind, and destroying the liberty of the soul. Subjection to God is restoration to one’s self,—to the true glory and dignity of man.”
26 White, Ellen—The Faith I Live By, p.221 “Pride, selfishness, vanity, worldliness—sin in all its forms—must be overcome, if we would enter into a union with Christ. The reason why many find the Christian life so deplorably hard, why they are so fickle, so variable, is, they try to attach themselves to Christ without detaching themselves from these cherished idols.”
27 1 John 3:4, KJV
28 Galatians 6:7 “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
29 Proverbs 5:22, 23, TEV “The sins of a wicked man are a trap. He gets caught in the net of his own sin. He dies because he has no self-control. His utter stupidity will send him to his grave.”
30 Ezekiel 18:4; see also Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
31 White, Ellen—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 84 “Every seed sown produces a harvest of its kind. So it is in human life. We all need to sow the seeds of compassion, sympathy, and love; for we shall reap what we sow. Every characteristic of selfishness, self-love, self-esteem [self-worship], every act of self-indulgence, will bring forth a like harvest. He who lives for self is sowing to the flesh, and of the flesh he will reap corruption.
“God destroys no man. Everyone who is destroyed will have destroyed himself. Everyone who stifles the admonitions of conscience is sowing the seeds of unbelief, and these will produce a sure harvest.”
32 White, Ellen—The Great Controversy, pp. 677, 678 “All the treasures of the universe will be open to the study of God’s redeemed. Unfettered by mortality, they wing their tireless flight to worlds afar—worlds that thrilled with sorrow at the spectacle of human woe and rang with songs of gladness at the tidings of a ransomed soul. With unutterable delight the children of earth enter into the joy and the wisdom of unfallen beings. They share the treasures of knowledge and understanding gained through ages upon ages in contemplation of God’s handiwork. With undimmed vision they gaze upon the glory of creation—suns and stars and systems, all in their appointed order circling the throne of Deity. Upon all things, from the least to the greatest, the Creator’s name is written, and in all are the riches of His power displayed.”