The Musical Scale: Does God Do Things in Sevens?

Seven -- there is something special about this number.

Now, before I go any further, don't worry, I'm not going to get spooky on you. I am strongly against the occult practice of numerology.

Numbers, like the constellations, like the mountains, like any created thing, testify about the nature of God -- just as Romans 1:20 claims. I believe people involved in the occult instinctively know this in a vague sense, and so they search for deeper meaning in created things and concepts found in creation -- such as numbers -- and they are right to search for meaning. Where they end up in their search is where I differ.

In the Bible, we see that the number seven is strongly associated with God's perfection or His perfected works. Because Jesus, the perfect Son of God, created the heavens and the earth in obedience to His Father, the universe and everything in it communicates something about Jesus -- even in a prophetic way. We won't go into this now, but things in Creation are clear metaphors of Christ's death and resurrection.

There is something miraculous about what's called the "octave" in music -- and the seven degrees of notes that divide it, called a scale. I'm referring to the thing that Julie Andrews sings in Sound of Music -- do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti, which are the seven notes of a musical scale. It leads logically to the eighth note, which is called the octave. It sounds exactly like the note that started the scale ("do" in do-re-mi) only higher in pitch. It's an odd and amazing thing, if you stop to think about it. After seven pitches move upward in a methodical step-by-step movement, you arrive at an eight note that "completes" the journey of the seven notes because it sounds the same as the starting note, only higher. I believe there is meaning in this little miracle far beyond just an interesting phenomenon in the physics of sound. I believe God designed it that way to express spiritual truth.

Even Paul Cooper, in his Perspectives in Music Theory: An Historical-Analytical Approach, called the octave the "basic miracle of music" -- though he certainly wasn't thinking about a spiritual corollary. But his comment confirms that there is indeed something special happening. When the frequency (the speed at which the air vibrates when a note is struck/sung) is double the rate of another frequency, it is an octave, and the pitch is moving twice as fast -- the air molecules are excited into more rapid movement.

As you see in the Bible, God likes to do things in sevens or multiples of seven -- whether it's the seven days of Creation, the Sabbath law of resting on the seventh day of the week, the seven feasts of Israel, the seven bowls, trumpets, and seals in Revelation, the 49 years (7 x 7) of the Jubilee cycle, the 14 stations of the Cross, the marching around Jericho seven times, and many other instances.

Of course, the seven-note scale came from European musical tradition, but let's not give humans too much credit. When you look at how and why Western music rested all of its musical laurels on what's called the "diatonic" scale, you see that Western thinkers were stumbling on a natural phenomenon already inherent in the physics of sound, thanks to the harmonic principles behind the octave.

The history and details of how the seven-note diatonic scale came to be will be the subject of the next post. Once that's covered, I'll offer my opinion about the spiritual truths that God has embedded in the diatonic scale.

For now, it is enough to ask: does God do things in sevens?


Refuting the Monomyth: Why the Prophetic Foreknowledge of Christ's Death and Resurrection Has Amazing Implications

This post is necessary. It helps complete the foundation of this blog's premise (click here to read the first foundational post): that the universe exists as a metaphor for Jesus and also -- and this is extremely important -- as a metaphor for what Jesus would do, specifically what He would do on the Cross and in the tomb three days later. It's useless to assert that music/sound were created to be metaphors of Jesus and His spiritual truths if we haven't been convinced that the universe itself was created for the very same purpose.

Here is where it all hinges:

Revelation 13:8 describes Jesus as He "who was slain from the creation of the world."

1 Peter 1:20 says, "God chose Him [Jesus] as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days" (NLT).

Ken Ham, the man who recently debated Bill Nye about Creationism vs. Macro-evolution, explains Rev 13:8 this way (the full article on his site is here):

"Think about this: before the universe was created, before time existed, before man was created, God knew that we (in Adam) would sin. He knew we would rebel against our Creator. And in the wisdom and love of God, in eternity, He predetermined a plan so that we could receive a free gift of salvation. In eternity, God planned for the Son of God to step into history to provide the ultimate sacrifice—the sinless Son of God would suffer sin’s penalty of death, be raised from the dead, thus providing a way of salvation. Hebrews 10:10 declares: 'By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.'"

The theological truth that God has embedded the Cross and His plan of Jesus' life -- which is the ultimate hero "story" -- into the very fabric of Creation is essential to refuting the attacks of postmodernism.

Let me explain.

If you're a Christian, you should know something about the current philosophical flavor of the age. Postmodernists scoff at your claim that the "myth" of Jesus and the narrative of Christianity is absolute truth. Yes, our friends the postmodernists are the ones who came up with the idea that "all truth is relative," and there "is no absolute truth" -- though their claim is self-refuting because their statement is itself a declaration of absolute truth. Essentially, they're saying, "I declare with absolute truth that there is no absolute truth!"

Postmodernists do not believe that your little story about Jesus dying and rising from the dead is historical.

They even have a theory about it.

If you haven't heard about it yet, you should be aware of postmodernism's Monomyth theory. Interestingly, just as pagans involved in earth worship are searching and hungering for the divine in nature because they're instinctively sensing God in Creation (as Romans 1:20 said they would do), in a similar way, some postmodernists (I believe) are instinctively sensing God when they hammer out their theory of the Monomyth, which was penned by Joseph Campbell -- though the term was coined by author James Joyce.

In brief, the Monomyth -- at least as it is concerned with Christianity -- states that Christ and the Gospels are 1) not historical; and 2) are simply one of many versions of the same "hero's journey" -- or the monomyth -- that pops up in many civilizations and time periods.

However, William Albright, one of the most respected and accomplished historians in, well, history, concluded that the Gospels are the most well-documented historical events in ancient literature in terms of having documents written in the time of the events, documents scrutinized by eye-witnesses. The Gospels are documents that are verified to have been written within a few years of when the events happened, which is unheard of the study of ancient history. The Gospels as historical texts are far more reliable than many other historical documents upon which textbooks declare without hesitation to be factual accounts of history. Josh McDowell, when he tried to refute Christianity for a paper in his law studies in college, explains why he finally had to admit that the resurrection of Christ was indeed a historical event. Read his arguments here. C.S. Lewis, an Oxford don and one of the greatest thinkers and writers of the 20th century, also believed the resurrection was historical, which he wrote about in Mere Christianity.

"Like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien agreed, the story of the Cross is a myth that actually happened. It is the one true "myth" that the Creator has written into the stars before time began, and then He introduced it into history when Jesus Christ was born."

Secondly, Campbell's observation of the same hero story -- the same Gospel-like  Hero's Death-Resurrection narrative -- in other cultures and time periods is just what we would expect to see if God's plan of the Cross has been embedded and symbolized in the basic elements of the universe. In other words, the Bible asserts that it is not just a coincidence that, for example just off the top of my head, the sunset and sunrise provide a startling picture of the Cross story of death and resurrection -- complete with the crimson color of blood in the sky. The Bible asserts that the Cross has been written into Creation and is perceived and sensed even by people who have never heard or read the Gospel account. This is why remote tribes have been found to have a crude understanding of Jesus even without ever having heard the Gospel. They have deduced, on their own, that the God of Creation covered our sins by sacrificing Himself. They perceived this in the nature of Creation.

Other cultures in other time periods who have similar hero stories that echo the Gospel come from societies who instinctively sense the story of the Cross that God has written in creation for them.

Yes, there is a Monomyth -- one epic hero death-resurrection story that all other stories are derived -- except it is not a myth. Like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien agreed, the story of the Cross is a myth that actually happened. It is the one true "myth" that the Creator has written into the stars before time began, and then He introduced it into history when Jesus Christ was born.

My Brief Chat with Dolly Parton: Her Southern Charm and Her Southern Music

A few days ago I had the honor of chatting with Dolly Parton a little over the phone. Now, the what/when/why/how of that phone conversation will not be disclosed until a certain article is published on RockinGodsHouse.com the week of May 13th. Look for it then, it will be a very cool article -- especially if you're a fan of Dolly.

What I will say now about it is that she has the most sincere Southern charm I've ever witnessed in a human being. She makes you feel like she's known you your whole life -- that you've been a neighbor down the street from her for 40 years or something. That being said, she's extremely guarded about her private life -- which is a good thing for celebrities to be. It gives them a chance to remain sane in a sea of insane press. She's been married to one man -- a fella named Carl who ran an asphalt paving business in Tennessee when they met and married 40+ years ago. By all accounts from what she shares in public, the two are both very much in love. Some people doubt he exists because he has shunned any and all publicity. There are only a few existing photographs of him. But Dolly and Carl jump in their RV every weekend (when she's not touring, etc), go on road trips and eat fast food like any old married couple.

So, my point is, all of this down-to-earth charm zings right through every word she says to you. And, even more importantly for the purpose of this article, her personality imprints itself wholly onto her music. Her songs are made in her image just as man is made in the image of God. She bends and sculpts the mechanics of music theory and sound production until the songs are identical twins of her personality. This dawns on people often, once they meet her in person or talk to her.

What blows me away is how human beings can take sound waves and manipulate them into something that is so undeniably human. The simple fact that the laws of sound permit this sort of flexible shaping is evidence (to me) that Jesus created sound to be a container and conveyor of human personality, yes, but ultimately He created it to convey His personality. Dolly's shaping of music to perfectly capture her personality is just a small shadow compared to how music speaks of Jesus. If the universe is a metaphor and a portrait of Jesus and the suffering/darkness of the Cross -- as I posit in the foundational premise for this blog (see the next post down) -- and if God created us in His image, then we should expect to see things like this, where a person can shape sound to almost be a metaphor and image of their personality. What Dolly does is a small piece of evidence that the universe was indeed created as a metaphor to convey spiritual truth.

And it's not just Dolly. It's amazing how a community, like the "mountain folk" (as she calls them) of the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, could create a style of music (bluegrass) that captured their personality as a people.

All of this is making me want to take a vacation to the Smokies!


The Universe is a Metaphor for Jesus: The Foundational Premise of this Blog

I need to apologize.

No, not THAT kind of apologize.

The meaning of the word "apology" used to be a defense of some assertion of truth.

This blog asserts the following the truth: Jesus Christ, a member of the Triune God, the Son of God, i.e. Jesus is God Himself, created the heavens and the earth. The universe is a metaphor for Jesus. Everything, from the way wood grains were created in a tree to the way the constellations are arranged -- and yes, even the way sound waves in music behave -- point back to Him. They point out some facet, no matter how small, of Jesus Christ and His eternal, divine nature. Colossians 1:15-17 says it this way (NIV):

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Romans 1:20 says it this way:

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.

Paul said it again in Ephesians 3:8-9 (NKJV):

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ.

This assertion, that the universe is a metaphor for Jesus, takes the premise of intelligent design a step further and says, "Not only do we see evidence of an intelligent personality within the designs of Creation, we see evidence that this intelligent personality is Jesus Himself -- and the Father and the Holy Spirit, since they all partake in the glory together.

It is from this broad foundation, this presupposition of the Father's grand plan for Creation, that I focus in on one specific corner of creation -- the laws of sound and music theory -- to search for Jesus.

Join me in that search!

The Most Beloved Chord in Music History: Part 1

It's the perfect fifth.

That's the most beloved chord in music history. Don't know what the perfect fifth is?

Well, let George Lucas and John Williams introduce you to this truly perfect chord. It is used (well, it's sketched in the intervals of the melody) in the legendary Star Wars theme -- that gargantuan mass of awesomeness that explodes from the speakers when the storyline text scrolls slowly up the movie screen to introduce the plot of the movie:

Duh-duh-duh-DAH-DAAAH...

The two notes in the Star Wars theme that are DAH and DAAAH above are the notes that form the perfect fifth chord.

So what makes this two-note chord so special? And how on earth can something like that exemplify a spiritual truth that is nourishing to the soul?

To answer that, first let's re-think how we perceive musical "notes."

It's dominoes. Just dominoes. A musical note is a vibration -- but not just any vibration; it's a vibration of air molecules that are getting slammed with some kind of force -- maybe a singer using his vocal chords to force air out of his mouth and sing or maybe a bassist yanking on a string to make it snap and force pressure into the air around it. Whatever force it is, it hits the air molecules, and the molecules vibrate and hit the ones next to it, and they vibrate and hit the ones next to them. It's a domino effect. When you hear a note, you're hearing the dominoes of air molecules slamming against each other until they spread out across the room and hit your ear. 

So why does a note sound "higher" or "lower" than another note? Some sound waves vibrate faster than others. The dominoes fall faster than others. They have what's called a higher "frequency," and it sounds higher to our ears.

With the perfect fifth chord, you got a high note -- the fifth -- and a lower note -- the one (tonic).  The fifth has a higher frequency -- a higher rate of vibration -- than the other. It's two lines of dominoes falling at the same, but one line is falling at a faster rate than the other.

In the perfect fifth, the two notes have a ratio of 3:2 in their frequency. For every three dominoes falling in the high note, two dominoes are falling in the low note. It turns out the brain really likes the 3:2 pattern in music. Of all the frequency patterns in Western music, the 3:2 is the simplest pattern for the brain to pick up, and our brains prefer simple frequency patterns because the nerves in the ear can transmit more information to the brain -- like getting a clearer picture on the TV.

Part 2 will explain what this has to do with, well, anything else -- particularly our souls, our relationships with others, and our relationship with Christ.


Music is a Metaphor

Changing themes. This blog started as a mash-up of topics -- including the four loves. Now it is honing in on something more specific: the way God has designed the laws of sound and music to reflect His glory and His love, with an occasional look at the four Greek words for love and how their natures have an uncanny resemblance to the way music works. The first post on this topic will be published next week.

Movies Present an Opportunity for You to Change People's Lives

One of the four loves, affection ("storge" in the Greek) essentially means the love we feel towards the familiar -- whether familiar people, familiar places, familiar routines, or actual family. This love of the familiar -- especially of familiar routines -- makes the unpredictable nature of evangelism unattractive. It also makes the experience of watching a movie with opposing worldviews angering and uncomfortable.

But this is where we can't let the human love Affection -- the love of the familiar -- rule us.

For example, the recent movie Noah brought opportunity. I know some Christians disagree, but I think it was a great movie to watch for the purpose of having meaningful conversations with others about faith, the Bible, and the differences in various worldviews. And if you know the techniques that a filmmaker uses to wrap their worldviews into a film reel, you can go see a movie like Noah, divide the truth from error, and use it as an opportunity to point others to the Bible. Tell them what God the Father -- the One who sent His own Son to die for us -- is really like. There's a book by Brian Godawa called HOLLYWOOD WORLDVIEWS: WATCHING FILMS WITH WISDOM AND DISCERNMENT, and it is one of the best books I've ever read. Check out why here:

http://rockingodshouse.com/brian-godawas-hollywood-worldviews-why-every-christian-should-read-it/

Easter from a Jesus Freak's Perspective

I wrote the following on Easter 2008:

"This morning I stepped out my front door to go to church, and was greeted by a brilliant sunny blue sky, and green coastal mountains lining the horizon. The distractions from the little trinkets and trappings of preparing for the day, the frittering to and fro, doing this and that, had been competing for my attention all morning, but at the moment I stepped outside, Creation spoke one single Name to my heart:

'Christ.'

He is risen! He is alive! He rose from the dead! He walked among the people (witnessed by hundreds - Jews, Romans, Gentiles of the first century), breathed life into His followers, gave them instructions to wait for the Holy Spirit after He had gone up to be with the Father, and then, on the top of Mt. Olives, went "further up and further in" to the Father's Presence, into the Heavenly dimension where the Throne of God sits above all worlds and beings that lay claim to existence. There He reigns now - with all authority given to Him, remaining ever-vigilant, ever-watchful, seeing and hearing all (He sees me even now as I am typing this), and through the Holy Spirit (Who came down to earth to guide and fill us after Jesus left), He still interacts and speaks to us. And someday, He will return to the earth, and establish His government over the earth. When, and only when, that happens, will this world know true peace."

 

Extravagant Love

if there is any prerequisite for doing ministry, it is the extravagant love of Jesus. Without it, all else fails. The defenses will fall. The walls will be breached. The safe houses will be compromised. If the love of God is not there to cover a multitude of sins, the swarming clouds of our imperfections will overwhelm our ministries until nothing good is left.

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Pray For Peace Between China and Japan

Some of you might be aware of the trouble brewing in the East between China and Japan, but you might not be privy to what's happening behind-the-scenes that's provoking these tensions.

And, to make a long story short, China has been claiming that Japanese islands in the East China Sea belong to them. China has claimed the territory as a no-fly zone. Japan has defied this by ordering its commercial airlines to maintain their flight paths through that region.

However, there is more than meets the eye.

Here is an excellent summary on some of the forces behind the China-Japan tensions, from www.ToThePointNews.com (written by Dr. Jack Wheeler):

You're going to hear a lot about 1914 this year, and various "hair-triggers" that if pulled will plunge us into a 21st century World War I.  The finger on the most dangerous such trigger is Chinese. 

Xi Jinping is making very loud noises about reforming his economy - getting rid of corruption and profitless state-owned enterprises, etc. - as the Chicom economy is in trouble.  In the last four years - 2009-2012 - the Chicom credit system has exploded from $9 trillion to $24 trillion, or 400% of a $8 trillion GDP.

The result is that China is running out of cash, with businesses and bankers now using a shadow currency.  No wonder that at the end of 2013, China has the worst-performing stock market in Asia.

Little wonder that Xi is ramping up the jingoism, demonizing China's favorite foreign devil, the Japanese.  Yesterday (01/02), Xi's Ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, compared Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to - believe it or not - the arch villain of the Harry Potter books, Lord Voldemort. It's called Juvenile Diplomacy.

Japan under the evil Abe, you see, has become "a serious threat to global peace" according to Liu and Xi for having the intolerable effrontery to stand up to Chicom imperialism.  So China claims Japanese islands in the East China Sea, threatens war if Japan doesn't surrender them - and Japan is the aggressor, the "threat to peace."  Yep, that's the Chicom way.

And Zero is egging them on with his ridiculously incompetent, feckless foreign policy.  That's why the Chicoms almost have to precipitate a war with Japan - because they are sure that Zero doesn't have the spine to back Japan, thus precipitating a China-US war.  China's defeat of Japan and humiliation of America is a prize too tempting [for them] not to go for.  So the odds are they will.

There are somewhere around 150 million Chinese Christians in China. Japan has a smaller percentage of Christians, but it is a fertile mission ground. Many missionaries are there. Please pray for peace between China and Japan. Pray that war does not erupt -- if only for the sake of the Body of Christ that live in those two lands.

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Operation Torch: Our Small Part in Completing the Great Commission

In October 2013, eight guys from Jubilee Christian Church got together in a billiard hall in downtown Santa Barbara and plotted how they would conquer the world.

We all committed to a project called Operation Torch -- a remote evangelism mission in which we would use Internet technology to plant the Gospel in each of the 68 nations in what is called the 10/40 Window.

Read More

Remembering My Mom

My mom passed away three years ago today, and I am posting this picture of Virginia Lakes Resort in the Sierra Nevadas -- one of her favorite places in the world -- in her honor. To Mom: you never stopped hiking up the summits of steep mountains, and you never stopped pursuing joy in life. Even during the tough times, you always walked with the Lord with a sense of humor. And now you are hiking the REAL high country in Heaven, experiencing joy greater than anything on this earth. You are my inspiration, Mom!

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Why Does Jesus Always Have Girly Hair In Pictures? (Deep Thoughts for Silly Christians)

Why is it that most Western artist illustrations make Jesus look like a hair model, as if he and Troy Palamalu were doing a Head & Shoulders commercial:

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Then there's Tom Cruise Jesus:

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Then there's the rock star Jesus:

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In all seriousness, Jesus likely did not have light Caucasian skin, movie star blue eyes, and feminine long hair. For one thing, it was forbidden for male Jews to wear long hair, and he was an observant Jew his entire life. He was a Middle Eastern 1st century Hebrew -- not a 21st century American hair model. Ultimately, the Bible never gives a detailed description of Him, which means it's not a dogmatic issue.

All that being said, This is a fantastic article about a balanced Biblical view of Jesus' physical appearance.

Lucy Pevensie, the Star of Bethlehem, and Christmas Eve

At this moment, on Christmas Eve, a thin pane of glass separates me and this warm living room from thousands of snowflakes parachuting to earth, adding layers of white to lawns, streets, sidewalks, and tree branches. All the rigid right angles of the human world -- corners of fence posts, square houses, neat rectangle lawns -- are softened and rounded with the curving slopes of snow mounds that encase everything in sight.

I've begun reading the Narnia Code, and the wintry scene outside reminds me of the one inside these pages: "Do you remember when you first heard the story of Lucy Pevensie pushing her way through the back of a wardrobe and finding herself in a snowy wood? Do you recall how you felt when Lucy had tea with Mr. Tumnus and learned that his world, the kingdom of Narnia, was ruled by an evil White Witch, who had banished the old days of jollification? Undoubtedly, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe contains one of literature's greatest fairy-tale openings."

I think the feelings experienced in the Narnia story -- those vague aches and longings in the heart for something hard to describe -- come close to the feelings one has when they think of the Christ's birth. Except in the latter case, the stuff of the supernatural -- of prophecies fulfilled, of God entering the human race through a womb, of Jupiter and Venus drawing so close together on the night of His birth that they formed the brightest object in the sky in history -- is all a part of human history.

The childlike wonder that Lucy felt when she walked through the wardrobe into Narnia captures what we feel when look through the centuries and see the Nativity Scene in all its wonder, grandeur, and timeless mystery.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Oh, How I Love Oxford, England

The amazing pics below were taken by an Aussie named Michelle Dennis, aka "saine" at www.sxc.hu, at Magdalen College in Oxford where C.S. Lewis and Tolkien taught their tutorials.  Thanks to my brother Ian who was a grad student there, in high school I visited Oxford, and got to hang out with the Oxford Poetry Society at Magdalen (and attend a reading there at the college).  My brother and I also had lunch with the president of the poetry society, a girl named Gillian.  I got to show her some of my poetry and she critiqued it and gave me advice while we ate lunch at a pub called King's Arms.  I've never forgotten that trip - such an amazing city.

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