Saturday, May 14, 2011

Matt 24 watch, 124: On the Laminin Cross and the Hubble Cross -- signs to our times?

A correspondent recently brought the Laminin story to my attention, through this Evangelist Louie Giglio video which he linked in an email:

Laminins "are major proteins in the basal lamina (formerly improperly called "basement membrane"), a protein network foundation for most cells and organs. The laminins are an important and biologically active part of the basal lamina, influencing cell differentiation, migration, adhesion as well as phenotype and survival."

What's the excitement?

Pardon a spoiler, here is a diagram of the laminin molecule:

And (it's important . . . ), flipped on the side:

So, it looks like a cross and/or a sword, and/or the caduceus of Hermes (recently traditional, but erroneous, symbol of the healing art of Medicine): what's the big deal, and why is it that many are so busily debunking away? (And by the way, the proper sign of medicine is the rod of Asclepius, as shown. It seems that somebody made a boo-boo when symbols were made up for the US Military medical corps about a hundred years ago.)

Before we try to answer, let's pick up another "sign" this time in the heavens, courtesy the Hubble Space telescope, the Hubble Cross in the middle of M 51, a whirlpool galaxy some 23 mn light years away:

Wiki helps us understand:
A black hole, surrounded by a ring of dust, is thought to exist at the heart of the spiral. The dust ring stands almost perpendicular to the relatively flat spiral nebula. A secondary ring crosses the primary ring on a different axis, a phenomenon that is contrary to expectations . . . 
So, what is going on?

1 --> Louie Giglio is in effect appealing to this remark about Jesus the Crucified and Risen in Paul's Epistle to the Colossians, and applying it to a key molecule -- laminin -- that helps hold our cells and bodies together:
Col 1:15[Now] He is the [o]exact likeness of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible]; He is the Firstborn of all creation.
    16For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [by His service, intervention] and in and for Him.
    17And He Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things consist (cohere, are held together).(A)
    18He also is the Head of [His] body, the church; seeing He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from among the dead, so that He alone in everything and in every respect might occupy the chief place [stand first and be preeminent].
    19For it has pleased [the Father] that all the divine fullness (the sum total of the divine perfection, powers, and attributes) should dwell in Him [p]permanently.
    20And God purposed that through ([q]by the service, the intervention of) Him [the Son] all things should be completely reconciled [r]back to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, as through Him, [the Father] made peace by means of the blood of His cross. [AMP]
2 --> This is immediately theologically legitimate, at the generic level, and should be no big thing in and of itself.

3 --> But, there is a rhetorical left hook: laminin, as we have seen, is shaped like the classic crux immissa, the type of Latin cross on which Jesus is usually held to have been crucified.

4 --> Similarly, in the heart of the very first identified spiral nebula, the Whirlpool, M 51, is: a cross; similarly a crux immissa.

6 --> In a visual age with many who are utterly hostile to the gospel, such striking images have high impact, and will attract heavy flak to shoot them down. Especially on the Internet.

7 --> So, Lesson 1: nothing is rhetorically "simple" anymore.

8 --> As a good example, we may excerpt laminin existed long before the use of the cross, it is uncertain what shape the cross of Jesus was, cross shapes can occur easily (as they are "simple"), and so forth. (At least, they acknowledge that Christians recognise the teaching in Col 1, about how the cosmos holds together in Christ.)

9 --> Similarly, Answers in Genesis warns:
The main problem with this type of argument is that it appears that something outside of Scripture (in this case, laminin) is vital to know the truthfulness of a biblical truth. Laminin is used to prove a biblical truth. However, we should never use our fallible, finite understanding of the world to judge the infallible Word of God. What we observe in the world can certainly be used to confirm God’s Word (and it does), but our finite observations are not in a position to evaluate the infinite things of God. Only if we start with the Bible as our ultimate standard can we have a worldview that is rational and makes sense of the evidence . . . . many Christians before that time have trusted the truth presented in Colossians 1:17 because it is God’s Word. Would Colossians 1:17 be any less true if laminin were not in the shape of a cross?
10 --> Immediately, we note that the biblical teaching in Rev 13:8 is that Christ is the Lamb  "slain from the foundation of the world." That is, God anticipated and had the solution to sin before creation. (And BTW, that too triggers another loaded tangential debate, including on the problem of evil. [Cf. here for a response.])

11 --> Similarly, the side-issue on the shape of the actual cross can first be responded to by noting that in John 20:25,  Thomas, in objecting to the testimony of the other disciples, speaks of how he would not believe unless "I see in his hands the mark of the nails . . . " So, on the eyewitness lifetime records, the cross had to be one of the shapes: Y, X, T or t, and not the l that some (e.g. the Watchtower Society) have suggested.

12 --> Similarly, the gospels speak of how Jesus bore his cross, i.e. the cross-beam to be slotted across the upright. This means the cross was a T or a t.

13 --> Finally, Pilate had a sign affixed to the cross, and Luke 23:38 informs us that it was "an inscription over him," with Matt 27:37 saying similarly that it was "over his head."

14 --> This leaves the traditional t-shaped crux immissa as the most reasonable shape. A conclusion supported by recent discoveries of an early Christian tomb at the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem, including a cross shaped headstone and this cross on the ossuary of Shapphira (a rare name only known from Acts 5):

15 --> It may seem overkill to spend several points on this, but one of the ways this type of "gotcha" rhetorical talking point works is by suggesting that those who accept the traditional imagery of the cross do not know what they are talking about, so (in the minds of such objectors) the commonly used image of the cross is cynically and triumphalistically taken as a "proof" of the ignorance and docile sheepish folly of Bible-believing, church-going Christians.

16 --> So, it is unfortunately necessary to point out and correct this sort of well-poisoning rhetorical tactic, if we want people to actually be able to listen to the gospel message.

17 --> Next, from the days of the rods of Moses and Aaron that turned into snakes, and of the bronze serpent on the pole that brought "life for a look," which last Jesus echoed in John 3:14- 15 when he said that "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life," God has in fact used signs and wonders -- not as proofs but to draw our attention to his word.

18 --> One of the most striking cases is in Daniel 5:
Dan 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 
 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father1  had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. 
 5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king's color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together . . . . 

13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king . . . .

18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled.

20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will.

22 And you his son,6  Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven.

And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed.

25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. [That is, a riddle: two pounds, one shilling and sixpence, presumably as a weight of silver.]

26 This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered7  the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 TEKEL, you have been weighed8  in the balances and found wanting; 28 PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”9 [ESV]

19 --> Just so, it is fair comment to say that in our day of arrogant defiance of God, there are little signs that keep on cropping up in the heavens above, and on earth below that serve to gently remind us of the God, Lord, Saviour and Judge whom we are so often ever so busily defying, deriding and dismissing.

20 --> So, let us give the last word to the Apostle Peter at Pentecost, when the Spirit descended in wind and fire as in the days of Elijah:
Ac 2:14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.2  16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

      17 ​​​​​​​​“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
        that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
        and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
        and your young men shall see visions,
        and your old men shall dream dreams;
      18 ​​​​​​​​even on my male servants3  and female servants
        in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 ​​​​​​​​And I will show wonders in the heavens above
        and signs on the earth below,

        blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
      20 ​​​​​​​​the sun shall be turned to darkness
        and the moon to blood,
        before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.

      21 ​​​​​​​​And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ [ESV]
So, the challenge goes out to us, just as it went from the Apostle's lips on that pivotal day:
"Save yourselves from this crooked generation." [Ac 2:40b.]
Will we observe and understand the signs of our times, then heed the call to repentance? END


  1. I know your article is old, but I wanted to commend you on such well-reasoned and well-stated thoughts. Until now, I hadn't heard of either laminin or the Hubble photo. I think these would make very good object lessons (particularly the protein - healthy protein like right doctrine = life; mutated protein like false doctrine leads to physical/spiritual illness or even death/eternal death.) I don't think we need to be finding crosses or the icthus in toast or potato chips or black holes or proteins and calling it a sign from God. Every answer we need is in Scripture and in God's final Word, Jesus. Let's look with wonder on creation and focus on how great our Creator is.

  2. SM, thanks. It is a pleasure to deal with you.