St. Paul wrote:
[God] has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Colossians 1:13-14 – May 14, 2012)
I was reminded just this morning in something else I read that there is no positive attribute “darkness”. Darkness actually is nothing; it is simply the absence of light. We cannot and do not measure darkness; we measure light and when there is no light, that’s nothing. The only purported measurement of darkness I know of is the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, but in truth the Bortle Scale is a nine-level numeric ranking of night sky’s brightness. There is no negative side of the scale. Once one reaches the bottom of the scale where there is total absence of light, there is no greater (or perhaps one should say, lesser) degree of darkness. There are degrees of light, but not of darkness. ~ So how is that modern scientific people who know this can make sense of a phrase like “the power of darkness”? If darkness is simply the absence of light, then darkness is nothing . . . literally “no-thing”. And no-thing can have no power. I can imagine someone saying, “If darkness is no-thing, and no-thing has no power, then God’s rescue is meaningless.” Of course, I don’t believe that, but I can certainly imagine someone in today’s world working through that line of thought. ~ I think one of the failings of our age is the loss of a poetic or metaphorical understanding of reality. I know that Paul is using “darkness” as a synonym or a metaphor for evil, but the trouble is that our spiritual or religious language is so often at odds with the physical reality we know around us, and in a world which has lost an appreciation for the poetic that is a problem. The English satirist Malcom Muggeridge said, “There is no such thing as darkness; only a failure to see.” Shakespeare wrote, “There is no darkness but ignorance.” Perhaps in our time, we need to understand Paul to be saying that God rescues us from our own callowness and incomprehension. Perhaps in our time, the human problem is not so much sinfulness as it is willful stupidity! ~ American author and neurosurgeon Ben Carson once wrote, “God has given us more than fourteen billion cells and connections in our brain. Why would God give us such a complex organ system unless he expects us to use it?” I believe St. Paul would have agreed. Failure to use those brain cells in every possible way, both in science and in matters of faith, is giving into “the power of darkness” from which God has rescued us.