Wednesday, October 09, 2013

This week's lesson: "Heaven" on earth

Imaginary numbers are real.

And if you're like me, then this is where algebra started to get weird.
  • I mean, ordinary numbers (as in 1, 2, 3, 4) made sense.
  • Negative numbers (as in -1, -2, -3, -4) made sense.
  • The idea that ordinary numbers had square roots (as in the square root of 4 is 2) made sense.
  • But the idea that negative numbers had square roots called imaginary numbers (as in the square root of -4 is 2i) . . . 
Okay, that didn't make sense -- but it was useful. Even if I couldn't picture imaginary numbers, in other words, I could still use them to solve problems . . . and in that sense (at least), I was happy to call them "real."

Unimaginable, but real.

In much the same way, it's difficult to understand just exactly what The Adult Sabbath School Quarterly means by its insistence on "the physical reality of the heavenly sanctuary" -- and any attempt to do so quickly gets bogged down in questions of where this sanctuary is located, how it was made, and is there a souvenir stand nearby where you can buy postcards and chocolate.

Yes, the heavenly sanctuary is unimaginable.

But just like those imaginary numbers, it's still useful.

It's a sanctuary, remember. As such, it reminds us that "God has pitched His tent among us" -- and as such, it provides a useful metaphor for God's presence in Creation, the Tabernacle, the Temple, the Incarnation, and the Church.

Then again, it's a heavenly sanctuary -- and as such, it reminds us that God's presence does not depend on these things. No, Creation may disappear. The Tabernacle may be replaced. The Temple may be destroyed. Jesus may be caught up into heaven. And the Church may sorely disappoint us . . . but God is still with us; His sanctuary still remains.

In short, the heavenly sanctuary is real . . .

At least for some values of "real."

1 comment:

Pastor Greg said...

And yes, I'm aware that imaginary numbers are not "real numbers" in the sense that mathematicians use this phrase. So sue me.