A starry night breaks into eternal day

I run this blog at direction of the Holy Spirit. It is aimed at lukewarm Christians to examine themselves in the context of the times, and repent so they will not be left behind. It also examines the signs so that a non-believer wandering by might be moved by the many proofs that God is active in the world and is winding down the clock. Sometimes the emotions evoked by the times, the signs, and the reality of judgment is pretty brutal. But brutality and reality is not the only thing the Lord shows me.

Do you have an idea of how fiercely I love Him? Of glorying in the opportunity to plumb His umplumbable depths? Of the mystery and majesty of the relationship of man to Savior through His blood? Of how I am in eternal gratitude to the work and grace of the Holy Spirit?

I’ve been on a run lately. I have been listening to John MacArthur’s series on Creation, as well as reading some books on it, discussing it with friends, and defending it in public. The Spirit also gives me a lot of science interests to study up on. Given the way I came to the Lord, through rationality and science, I see God in science more often than not. I got interested in quantum physics a few weeks ago. Also nanotechnology. I wrote about a quantum leap and its relation to the Rapture an also the dissolution of the universe as prophesied in 2 Peter 3, just a few weeks ago, here. Lately I’ve been studying about Richard P. Feynman, the Nobel winner for quantum electrodynamics, and also the father of nanotechnology.

In the Genesis sermons, we were up to Creation Day 6. The testimony of God in the book of Genesis 1 is incredible and humbling, and…words fail me in thinking about the creation. But the more I study it, the more it makes my heart beat in love for our Creator. The sermons for Day 6 were split into part one and part two, because the text is so rich. MacArthur was preaching on the trinity, the “Executive Divine Council” as he calls it, and the reasons for the creation of the earth and humankind in the first place. We learned about the Personhood of the LORD, and about His relational capacities, and man’s place within them. The creation series of sermons build, and build and build toward this one singular moment where God personally made man. God did not say in the passive tense “Let there be”, as He had in the previous Days, He said “Let Us make…”. MacArthur used a LOT of science in his lessons, which is one reason why I like Him. The crescendo of the weeks of listening and study were bearing down on this moment.

You know how you feel when you are inside a crescendo…a symphony or a lecture or a book or a cooking lesson…something you are doing that is reaching its denouement. As I was listening and pondering, a sudden flash of insight came around the corner of my brain. Like a comet streaking into view, I call these flashes “incoming!” and revel in what they have to reveal.

As I was immersed in science and theology, listening to the words tumble out of the laptop speakers art came to mind, clearly and with force. Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” came to my eyes. It is a piece of Post-Impressionism I had never gravitated to nor examined very much. The very painting has itself seemed to achieve a cliche and in so achieving, is more easily dismissed. Which I had done.

I am not a huge fan of the Impressionists nor the Port-Impressionists, preferring the structured scientific styles of the early Renaissance painters and sculptors. But all of a sudden as I was listening to the purpose of the creation the answer came to me in Starry Night. It is a picture of eternity, of the relational communications between and among the Holy Spirit, Jesus and God. It is a picture of active and moving atoms in the unrolling of creation and man’s place within it. I can’t bring you into the thought any further because it was more of an insight in the comet’s vaporous tail than solidly examinable as the ball of ice that is its head. It just seemed suddenly to me that the painting was a study in matter, and molecules, and eternity, and creation, and relationship of the Divine and man’s smallness in all that context, but of his uniqueness, too.

Of course, I was intrigued and studied the painting and its origins further. I found Professor Albert Boime of UCLA, lecturing in the Social History of Modern Art. In his paper, “A History of Matter and a Matter of History” (can be read in .pdf, here) the following phrases in his famous paper discussing “Starry Night” seemed to me to capture the essence of what Van Gogh was showing us and was consistent with the insight given to me in the flash:

“apocalyptic exaltation”
“the celestial pageant as a source of moral energy”
“astronomical metaphors for religious experiences”
“work under the great starlit vault of heaven a something -which after all one can only call God and eternity- and its place above the world”
As Van Gogh said, “I was thinking of eternity the other night…”
“threshold of eternity”

The son of a pastor and deeply religious but as we know, troubled, Vincent Van Gogh showed us a glimpse of eternity in that painting, an insight into the mind of God. I wonder what it was like for the thinking population at that time. Evolutionary theory with all its pointlessness and Godlessness was beginning to permeate society. Evolution versus new advances in astronomy that showed the parade of celestial bodies in their courses. At the same time scientific advances with the telescope and photography of the heavens was making astronomy more interesting than ever. Jules Verne was writing books about trips to the moon and spiritism was coming into play to fill the religious vacuum caused by evolution. At the time when scientists were looking within and looking up, there was a disconnect with what evolution was telling them and what the heavens were telling them (Romans 1:18-22).

The truth of Romans 1:18-20 must have created a cognitive dissonance unlike at any other time in history.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

In the painter’s own words, he said of Starry Night, “…A kind of painting giving greater consolation.” It does give greater consolation. It does. Van Gogh was seeking a “divinity manifested in everyday life” we are told, and in Starry Night, I believe he found it.
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