Newton or Einstein?

David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. 25 God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. 26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.

2:1 I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally. I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments. For though I am far away from you, my heart is with you. And I rejoice that you are living as you should and that your faith in Christ is strong.  – Colossians 1:24-2:5 [New Living Translation]

“Alligator Lava” [my name for this unusual lava tube] | Hawaii | March 2022

Isaac Newton is said to have “discovered” gravity while sitting in his mother’s garden, thinking about the forces of nature, and saw an apple fall from a nearby tree. The rest, as they say, is history. Well, of course he did not discover gravity. But he did postulate several laws of nature, gravity, mass, and movement. These are extremely helpful in day-to-day life. 

Einstein, on the other hand, delved into the physics behind the apple’s fall. He thought on deeper atomic levels about motion, relativity, and quantum mechanics. While we give little thought to applying Einstein’s theories on a day-to-day basis, we owe much to him when it comes to using our cell phones, or watching astronauts do spacewalks around the International Space Station. There is much deep science behind both the walks themselves as well as the means by which we are able to observe them at all.

Paul – at least in this passage – exhibits a deep appreciation for the whys our our salvation, the deep theological truths of the incarnation, and the profound mystery of Christ’s presence and impact in our lives. So much so that I decided to utilize the New Living Translation for this passage to try to grasp the meaning in plain English. The Greek itself or the more difficult-to-understand English Standard Bible or New American Standard Bible translations reveal some of the intricacies of Paul’s thinking and teaching. 

Paul was a well-educated man, a student of Gamaliel. Gamaliel held a leading position in the Sanhedrin and he enjoyed the highest repute as teacher of the Law. Paul had been taught well. In addition to Gamaliel’s teaching, he had been in the wilderness for 14 years, studying and learning. It seems that the Lord had given Paul some specific instruction during that time, for Paul speaks of having “received from the Lord…” (1 Corinthians 11:23) the words of Jesus at his Last Supper. 

Paul could have simply said that Jesus is the only One in whom is true hope, life, and salvation and left it at that. But he goes well beyond that here. He speaks of Christ in us as the hope of glory. He writes of the fullness wisdom and knowledge residing in Christ. He explains that God’s mysterious plan is Christ himself. 

As he does so he explains that he is enduring his own suffering and hardships so that the Colossian Christians would realize just how important it is that they know and believe this. In a way, he is predating Newtonian and Einsteinian thinking. Newtonian: I’m hard pressed, suffering, and agonizing for you because I want you to realize just how important this message is. Einsteinian: This message is important because only in Christ is true hope, life, salvation, knowledge, and wisdom. 

OK…I realize this may not be the best analogy for understanding this passage. But it is good to know both: the message of Jesus is of vital importance because he is the only source of life, hope, wisdom, knowledge, and salvation. 


  1. rgboepp said:

    Being an engineer and having studied both Newtonian and Modern (Einsteinian) Physics, I think the analogy is spot on! I thank God for you brother!

    • Thanks Brother! That’s high praise. I had actually heard of that distinction from some very smart people at Concordia Seminary. We Lutherans tend to be more Einsteinian than our Newtonian Baptist brothers and sisters, FWIW.

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