Order From Disorder

“When will I ever use _________ in real life?”  Students (and sometimes their parents) ask this question about algebra, trigonometry, calculus, chemistry, grammatical parts of speech, literature, history, or other subjects that they find difficult to learn.

As human beings created in the image of God, one of the ways we reflect God’s image is by creating order from disorder.  Although God created ex nihilo (which we as humans cannot do), part of his creative effort was to create order from disorder.  Genesis 1:2 tells us that the initial state of the earth was “formless.”  The first thing God did was to separate light (day) from darkness (night).  Next he separated the waters above (sky) from the waters below, and finally he separated the waters below (sea) from the dry ground (land).

When humans “create,” we use our God-given faculties to put things in a meaningful order or structure.  Scientific and mathematical discoveries are all about discovering the order that God has instilled in the universe, and utilizing that order to discover yet more and harnessing that order in ways that benefit us.  Learning about, and helping to define the order of our world isn’t just useful for those considering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers (although this is certainly a very good reason for learning these subjects).  It is also an exercise in understanding and reflecting our Creator.

It’s fairly easy to see how science is a means of discovering and utilizing the order that exists in the physical world around us, while mathematics may be described as a logical structure explaining and predicting what we observe in the physical world.  But this exercise in observing and creating order is not limited to just the fields of math and science.  Language and art is also about creating order and meaning.

Without organizing thoughts and meanings into words and language, our communication would be limited to pointing and grunting.  Assembling words with no regard for their order and structure is what we call “gibberish.”  This is why all students should welcome the opportunity to learn sentence structure, parts of speech, and how different ways of organizing words can enhance meaning.  A sonnet, a haiku, a pun, a limerick, etc., are different ways of organizing and structuring words and thoughts that may elicit a different response than if they were organized differently.  So, even if the language arts are not “your bag,” there is value in understanding how words are ordered and structured.  Again, putting random words into a meaningful order is a creative process that reflects our Creator and it gives Him glory when we follow Him in creating order from disorder.

It should be clear by now that the visual arts and musical arts are also creative outlets for producing order and structure in a way that reflects and glorifies our Creator.  A piece of artwork keeps colors and lines separated and ordered in a way that creates meaning.  A musical composition arranges notes and sounds in a certain order.  Whether someone finds that order “pleasing” or not, it’s still a creative effort that can be distinguished from random, unordered sounds (aka “noise”).

Proverbs 25:2 says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.”  Even those of us who are not kings can partake in the glory of kings and the glory of God by seeking to find and create order in the world around us.  Keep this in mind the next time you are struggling to solve a quadratic equation or remember what a dangling gerund is.


“Weird Al” Yankovic is an amazing talent.  One of my favorite videos is “Bob.”  Despite being a non-stop string of palindromes, it makes about as much sense as the original.

Here is the original Bob Dylan video, “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”

"Christian" Music

“Christian band” or “just a band with members who are Christians”?

Originally posted 3/15/2005 on bibleforums.org:

There is a difference between “Christian Music” as a genre, and “music by Christians.” It does seem to be true that snagging a record deal with a Christian label does not require as much talent as snagging a record deal with a secular label. That’s not to say that artists on Christian labels are always less talented than artists on secular labels, but as a general rule, if you’re a Christian who is gifted at music, it’s easier to sign with a Christian label.

I suspect some Christian artists are a bit conflicted. By signing with a Christian label, their audience is primarily evangelical Christians, but they feel a call to spread the gospel. How do you spread the gospel if everyone listening to you is already saved? Not everyone has the same motives though. Some artists in the Christian Music world see their mission as encouraging fellow Christians in their walk. Others who are Christians who happen to also be musicians may not necessarily see their music as a ministry tool; to them it’s just what they do for a living, and bits and pieces of them will come through in their music, but they have no desire to preach to either Christians or non-Christians.

I think it’s too bad that some artists feel “trapped” in the evangelical subculture and feel the need to avoid association with it. It’s too bad that the label you sign with determines how your music is categorized. To some extent, I think if an artist is truly talented enough, they can surpass these artificial boundaries. Mercy Me, Jars of Clay, and others have received airplay on secular radio with songs from “Christian” albums.

One thing I really don’t like is the demand from the Christian Music market that every song have saccharin-sweet, happy-happy, feel-good lyrics. I have pretty much stopped listening to Christian Radio. One of the local stations here recently changed their motto from something Christ-centered to something family-friendly. Now it’s basically the same as that of a local pop music station: you can listen to us at work or with your kids without worrying about hearing anything offensive. Is that what makes good Christian music these days? Something uplifting that won’t offend anybody?