The Road to Emmaus

This Easter, the “Road to Emmaus” story from Luke chapter 24 hit me a little different. It’s the story of two disciples who unknowingly encounter the resurrected Christ. Something about the way my pastor read it, or the translation he used made me hear it in a whole new light.

With those feelings in mind, I decided to write my own “translation” of the verses. It’s a method I’ve used a bit in critical and creative writing in the past. I pretty much take a pre-existing text and change a few words to alter the whole meaning. Here though, I’ve altered much of the “original” (the NIV is an original text, right?) But my hope is not to alter the original narrative’s message, but to change it just enough to make it easier to imagine ourselves in such a scenario.

If you put my version next to the original, you’ll find the most glaring change is that I’ve replaced the physically resurrected Christ with a participatory/relational Holy Spirit – because today we often don’t realize we’re encountering Christ when we commune with others; it’s a reminder that when ‘two or more are gathered’ there is an opportunity to encounter Him.

I think the changes point toward one of the ways we can experience the resurrected Christ today, which promotes personal resurrection in this lifetime. Enjoy!

Luke 24:13-35

(13) Now that same day, two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven or eight miles from Jerusalem. (14) They were in a deep discussion about all the things that had happened in the past week. (15-16) As they got more and more in depth in the conversation, in a sense trying to find God’s purpose in their recent experience, they, without knowing, had created a miniature two-person church. As the Holy Spirit filled them, becoming a companion in their journey together, (17) their primary question became clear: “What are we really talking about here?” As the reality of their situation became more apparent, it stopped them in their tracks. (18) One of them, Cleopas, finally said it aloud. As he did, it was almost as if he were accusing his partner, but deep down he knew it was a rhetorical question, and meant just as much for him as the other: “Are you the only one in Jerusalem that doesn’t understand the gravity of what all this means?” (19) “All what means?” asked the other, a little confused because he was sure they were on the same page just seconds earlier. (19) Before he could continue, they both said, “About Jesus of Nazareth,” in unison. The other proceeded, recounting the events, “He was a prophet for sure. He was powerful in word and deed – before God and ALL the people. (20) But the heads of the religion we grew up with and our government, handed him over to their government knowing they would destroy him. And sure enough, they killed him in the most humiliating and disrespectful way possible.” (21) The other continued, morose, “But we had hoped that He was the One. The One who would return things to the way they were meant to be. The way they were created to be. What’s more, it’s starting to seem like a long time since all this happened – too long for anything miraculous to happen now.” But as the other continued, his voice quickened, more excited but still perplexed, as if in the deepest of thought – sensing their being on the brink of an ‘ah-ha’ moment, (22)”In addition, some of the women told us things that were too good to be true. They went to the gravesite this morning (23) but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels who said He was alive! (24) [As faithful as these women were, we needed to know for ourselves.] Some of our companions investigated. The gravesite was just as the women said, but our friends did not see the angels – or Jesus.”

(25) Suddenly, the the Truth struck them both like a bolt of lightening: “How foolish have we been?!?! So stupid to not see that this is what was in all the scriptures we were raised on?!? Did not the Messiah have to suffer all these things before we would recognize Him as such. Only then would He be glorified?!?” (27) They connected all the dots (jots and tittles), beginning with Moses and sweeping through the whole Old Testament, seeing how it all pointed to Jesus as the Christ.

(28) Lost in conversation, they were seemingly instantly at their physical destination, but the Holy Spirit was pushing them further spiritually. (29) They were not ready, and suppressed the Spirit, saying, “We have almost got this worked out. We essentially understand. We need to stop here.” So Christ met them were they were. (30) As they sat to eat, they gave thanks for their food, remembering what Christ commanded them. The Spirit continued to move amongst them, and it began to dawn on them that everything they had was given to them: their loss, their journey, their food, their community, their communion. (31) Then their eyes were fully opened; God was with them the whole time. In their fellowship,Christ was resurrected. But just as they began to name it, it escaped them. (32) They laughed, asking each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while we talked, as if He were there with us on the road, revealing God’s self to us through the Scriptures?”

(33) They got up and returned at once to their larger community. There, they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together (34) and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Christ was recognized by them when He broke their bread.

3 The Relativity of Stained Glass and Math: Epilogue

A History (and Future) of Disbelief

Can literacy go too far? What happens when a system gets too large? What does this have to do with Singularity?

In the last post, we looked at how fluent literacy can lead to a type of authoritative rebirth that we called re+authoring. We discussed the end of the Dark Ages and the beginning of the a Renaissance. (The word, “renaissance,” literally means rebirth.) Marking this historic transition was the restoration of various types of literacy. 

Since then, in the Western world, there has been a general increase in literacy. Paired with the ideas of the Enlightenment, naturalism and the birth of modern science, over time myriad doubts about the accuracy and viability of the Bible began to spring up, both from inside and outside the Church. (Speaking of Christianity after the Reformation, I feel like I should say “the Churches,” plural, but it just comes out awkwardly.)

Not only do we get skepticism and relativism from thinkers such as Hume and Kant, but we also get dog-piled by the loss of traditional authority in Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche. In this same time frame, a budding new middle class was thirsty for status of any kind. This meant that ideas could spread rapidly by attaching the knowledge and understanding of such philosophies to aristocrat-like intellectual status. Further, the (semi-)dismantling of the feudal system gave many, if not most, some sense of hope for upward social mobility. As the traditional pairing of education and wealth persisted, each socially lower class reached upward, not just in the capitalist sense, but also “intellectually,” getting drunk on the trickle down of a more and more watered-down version of the newest ideas. In sequence, as a result of the spread of secular philosophy, we see a deterioration of the authority of the Church and Christian religion.

I could be wrong, but I think that each of these philosophers distanced themselves from Christianity in one way or another for the sheer fact that Christianity was failing to deliver on the goals and ideals put forth in the Gospel. I don’t think it was an impatience with the eschatological, but with the failure of the Church to exhibit, practically, the lessons of the Sermon on the Mount (among others). It’s as if these thinkers sought to scaffold the morality and metaphysics of Christianity without the mythology. For example, Nietzsche’s “Death of God” is as much a critique of the absence of activated belief and the lack of morality that logically follows, as it is a denial of an actual Being. (Tangentially, what purpose would an ubermensch serve if everyday Christians practiced the Golden Rule?)

The Two Barriers

…But I digress. When a young literate, but perhaps only semi-fluent, person who has not had their needs met by the Church reads or hears a phrase such as “God is dead,” it rings true without needing to inspect the details that lead to such a conclusion. These details were readily available to the one passing down such ideas, and because the messenger is inherently more fluent than the receiver, he/she is capable of choosing whether to re+author or re-write the text as he/she passes it down. To put it another way, the teacher always knows more than the student, therefore the teacher has the power to skew the lesson to his/her motives. This power dynamic can create a barrier to true fluency.

There seems to always be at least 2 barriers to fluent literacy: getting the illiterate literate, and finding benevolent authority for those who remain illiterate regardless of efforts to educate.

The remedy to the first issue, getting the illiterate literate, seems to be a no-brainier – education… … … But I’m just gonna leave that alone for now because of the mess that the American education system is. Maybe this isn’t even a barrier in other countries…

The second issue, which is really, ‘how do we govern the ignorant,” is even stickier. (Does a statement such as that provoke a fight in the comments section?) My original wording has my answer built in: the perpetually illiterate need a benevolent authority to guide them. The problem remains: where to find this ‘benevolent authority.’

The simple, Christian answer is, as always, Jesus! But because He is no longer physically present, finding a human proxy is quite the tall task. While no human is purely good or completely evil, the continuum of theologies developed from the mixture of re+authoring and re-writing the Gospel has divided Christianity into hundreds of denominations. The overlap and disagreement between any two could be both miniscule and infinite. Nowadays, to speak of the authority of the church could mean something different for almost everyone who speaks of it.

None the less, Christianity at least has a model for benevolent authority in its Christ. How about secularism?

How Science Will Fail.

Contemporary Science has as it’s biggest strength it’s biggest weakness: decentralization. Looking at the way that the Reformation took absolute (corrupting) power from the centralized Catholic Church’s hands, the decentralized nature of Science prevents such a circumstance from occurring in the first place. At the same time, the overwhelming project of science demands multiple authorities, each  so specialized in increasingly siloed disciplines, that to make generalized practical statements, much less a coherent cosmology, is nearly impossible. Further, the limited resources for research grants has introduced capitalistic competition to the field, along with all its trappings and temptations.

All that aside, the literacy issue poses the largest threat to science as a cosmological competitor to religion. As Galileo would have it, mathematics is the language of science, and many of us do not have the ability to become literate enough in math on the scale necessary for full scientific understanding. Likewise, because of specialization, scientists from one discipline may be (are probably) only partially literate in another. A zoologist probably doesn’t fully grasp subatomic physics, and vice versa. To understand all of science, one must only understand the basics of most of it – any truly universal cosmology faces the challenge of not being an inch deep and a mile wide. So far, the solution to this problem has been to forgo a unified theory, and allow each discipline to be it’s own authority, because they seem to overlap decently. This potentially creates another problem: who gets to be the authority where disciplines overlap? What happens when two disciplines that should overlap don’t? What happens when the links in the chain of authors doesn’t hold together?

Mathematics is like a big building with many apartments. We have at least Arithmetic and Analysis, Algebra and Topology – and we have Geometry and Probability-Theory. Very often the tenants of these different apartments seem not to understand each other.

Paul Lorenzen, “Constructive and Axiomatic Method.” Protophysics of Time: Constructive Foundation and History of Time Measurement (Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science Book 30)

Although the quote is about math, it also highlights the current problem of macro and quantum physics. The scientists understand each other, but their equations don’t – the equations that work for large objects don’t work for small objects. Currently, all attempts to create a Unified Theory have resorted to a sort of metaphysics (ahem, I’m looking at you, multi-verse). Interestingly, most people don’t recognize it as a metaphysics because the language is advanced mathematics, which is not easily comprehended. And when it get translated to literature, something gets lost in translation.

While there are numerous important and critical scientists in every field, the names we all know – Arthur Eddington, Stephen Hawking, Brian Greene, Neil deGrasse Tyson, etc. – are mainly popular because of their ability to translate such math into the language of the laity. They have become the apparent authority not only for their scientific achievement, but because they are so fluent in their language that they can translate/re+author, it into another. These authors give their subject new life;  in their re+authoring, their subjects are reborn.

But up to what level can we trust these authorities? If we do not, cannot, read the language of their ideological foundation, what is to stop them from misusing the trust and power we give them? Could the limited number of them precipitate into a scientific oligarchy? Can the peer review process prevent a conspiracy toward malevolent authorship?

Just as the overreach of papal power was prevented from within the church, science might just take care of itself.

The Cyborg Reformation

If human-machine integration is to truly take place – if the augmentation of humans with computers is to reach it’s full potential – then one day, our brains will be bio-digitally synchronized with the complete catalogue of scientific information.

But will we be able to glean meaning from it? Will there be any meaning left- or just information?

Just as verbal literacy led to widespread critical viewing of the Biblical text, will universal mathematical literacy promote cynicism toward the lack of a unified Science? Will there be a unified science by then? Is unification and/or computational singularity an eschatological dream?

Let’s examine the problem of cyborgism – augmentation of computers into the human animal – for just a moment. When humans have a supercomputer in/with/as their brain, everyone should be fluent enough in mathematics to translate the various math equations that explain the big bang, or Higgs Bozon Particles, or gravity, etc. Once fluent, what if we can all easily deconstruct the construct of physics, what if we can all find the inconsistencies that derail any unification theory? What if we find out the multi-verse was all just a mathematical metaphor, equational poetry for the actual physical world? What if it’s just a “play on numbers” that tricks our logic into following a valid syllogism based on false premises? What if we recognize that the numbers still don’t add up to our conscious experience?

Will the same system that created the technology create a technology that undermines that system?

You may recognize these proposed questions as slight variations of the criticism of Christianity (or any religion.) The analogy only works if one accepts math as an actual language, just as Hebrew, Greek, Latin or English are. Many people, especially mathematicians and scientists, believe that math is more than a language; they see it as the essence of reality. Some believe that we can break down the physical world to a point where only numbers would remain. To an extent, many believe that underneath everything, there is (only) math.

I disagree. I don’t believe there is an “underneath.” More precisely, I think the physical world is the underneath. Not necessarily in a fully Platonic way, but in that if physical matter is broken down, I think one will only find more physical matter. I believe that only when physical matter is added together do we get something more.

The physical must be added to in order to get a metaphysics!

‘Meta’ + ‘physics’ literally means “after the physical.” One must have a “protophysics” to be under or before the physical. But before we get too deep into a discussion about if Math is a first principle, or whether the chicken or the egg came first, let us just look at what makes a chicken come from an egg, and what makes a viable egg come from a chicken…

Here, unfortunately and for many reasons, I must leave you with a cliffhanger. First off, I’m not sure how to wrap this up quickly and neatly, if at all. Second, this is a good place to launch into a much larger discussion of emergence.

The next posts will begin a sort of typological cosmology that I am still working out. It will try to explain how singularity is synonymous with non-being, while at the same time claiming that a trinity (the Trinity) is the bare minimum for existence – an existence that goes from zero to infinity instantly. For now, a respite…

“The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be. When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before he made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the earth. I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind. “Now then, my children, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not disregard it. Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For those who find me find life and receive favor from the Lord . But those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death.”

Proverbs 8:22‭-‬36 NIV


Hi, thanks for checking out A Critical Image. I find it extremely important, critical if you will, to examine our world and ourselves with a critical, yet open, eye, mind, and heart. As a Christian, I believe we all are all images of God; made in His image to carry out His will here on Earth, as it is in Heaven. I see the Bible as offering a Divine critique of humanity, which gives us an opportunity to be transformed by that criticism and conformed to the perfect image, Jesus.
I am a critical image, and so are you.

I’m not a preacher. I don’t have a PhD. I’m not a philiosopher.

I do have an MFA and BFA in visual art, and a BS in Psychology, and I have taught at the college level. I think I have some interesting things to say, and I hope you’ll agree.

I do feel compelled to do this. As weird as it sounds, even to my own mind, I feel called to do this. It’s embarrassing for me to say that. I can’t say exactly why it’s embarrassing, but it is. Maybe because I don’t feel worthy or capable, maybe because I’m being too open and honest for my own comfort level. (I will spend the first installment working through this.)

Honestly, I don’t feel adequate to be doing this, but I do believe God is adequate in all things.

But I do feel called, and I want to obey.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

Philippians 2:12

I’ve struggled with this verse ever since I first really noticed it. I struggled because I don’t really understand it, but think I’ve experienced it- as I’m experiencing it now. Although God, through Jesus, has my salvation fully worked out, I am, in a sense, working out my understanding of salvation here in front of you. Further, the “your” in “your salvation” is plural (in the original Greek), so I’m hoping for others to join; with constructive criticism and dialogue in the comments, or maybe others contributing to primary content; working out our salvation together.

As I turn a critical eye to my beliefs, I possess fear – fear of failure (whatever that would mean), fear of misrepresenting the Good News, fear of not knowing enough. When I get the feeling that I have to do this despite the fear, I tremble.

I try to take some comfort knowing that there really is no pressure. I can’t save myself or anyone else, and the Gospel doesn’t necessarily need me in order for it to be true, good, or fruitful.

Recently, I have been coming to the realization that not everyone thinks like I do; not that they don’t agree with me, but that they have different thought patterns, cares, and abilities. I like to think that I am above average, but as a (partially) self-realized-Gen-X-Millenial-cusp (a Xennial, if you will,) I know that we are all above average (Advanced Australopithecus was average.)

[Average, median, mean, mode – something like that! Did I mention I have weird sense of humor? I’ll try to keep it at bay, maybe.] Seriously though, I am doing this because I like it. I love it. I like to think about these things. It fulfills me. Without downplaying the effort I’m putting into this project and the seriousness with which I Believe, ultimately I am having fun. I get joy from seeking Truth, or maybe more accurately, rummaging around in it.

I believe truth is a framework in which one may exist, not just a code to which one must adhere. For example, an infinitude of songs may be played on the framework of a guitar, and each instance (song) edifies the validity of the instrument. For the guitar player of any level, playing is a serious, yet enjoyable display from which the player and listener can learn and gain appreciation. In a similar way, I am playing in, and enjoying, God’s creation. I believe that as a Christian I exist in the framework of Truth.

I know that I won’t always be correct, and sometimes I might be flat out wrong. I would love corrections, feedback, and discussion to help foster personal growth for myself and anyone willing to engage, regardless of their beliefs. In challenging myself, I hope to challenge others, both believers and skeptics.

… Present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to the Lord, this is your spiritual worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:2 New King James Version

In the end, I am doing this as a form of Worship – glorifying God through the enjoyment of Life. This is an attempt to use what I understand my gifts to be in His service, and I would love for you to join me. I will try to take this advice from the writer of Ecclesiastes:

Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise— why destroy yourself?

Ecclesiastes 7:16

I’ll leave you with this, from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, to which I relate.

My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, […] Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers [and Sisters], I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. […] In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.

Philippians 3:10, 12-14 and 16, Holman Christian Standard Bible

Thanks for stopping by!