What falling into a black hole is like

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What falling into a black hole is like

May 9, 2024 -

An illustration of what a black hole with an accretion disk may look like based on modern understanding. By JamesThew/stock.adobe.com.

An illustration of what a black hole with an accretion disk may look like based on modern understanding. By JamesThew/stock.adobe.com.

An illustration of what a black hole with an accretion disk may look like based on modern understanding. By JamesThew/stock.adobe.com.

Black holes are objects in the universe with a gravitational pull so strong that not even light can escape from them. “Stellar” black holes are formed by the collapse of individual stars, while “supermassive” black holes are found at the centers of most galaxies. The one at the center of our Milky Way has a mass of around 4.3 million times that of our sun. Now NASA has produced a simulation in which the viewer begins around four hundred million miles from a supermassive black hole and rapidly falls toward it. Light and time both warp around you. Unfortunately, however, you have only 12.8 seconds before you die by what physicists call “spaghettification”—your body is pulled apart atom by atom.

There are days when it seems this is happening to our culture.

For example, I was shocked to read that pro-Palestinian protesters disrupted a solemn remembrance march to honor the victims of Nazi atrocities at Auschwitz. Some of the protesters even wore yellow badges resembling those forced on Jews by the Nazis.

This time last year, could you have imagined such a horrific scene?

One reason antisemitic protests persist is that there has typically been so little accountability for them. Many protesters even wear masks to hide their identities; others insist on amnesty for their actions. By contrast, where authorities have enforced their “time, place, and manner” restrictions, order has prevailed.

There’s a lesson here Christians can especially embrace and offer our broken culture.

“The most civilizing force in all of human history”

Criminology experts tell us that deterrence measures discourage people from committing crimes to the degree they guarantee swift punishment with a severity proportional to the crime committed. The certainty of being caught has proven to be an even more powerful deterrent than the punishment that follows.

Here’s one reason our post-Christian society is breaking apart: when we no longer consider God to be relevant to our lives or even to exist, we ignore the moral accountability such faith brings to our lives and our world.

Cultural commentator Jonah Goldberg wrote in Suicide of the West: “The notion that God is watching you even when others are not is probably the most powerful civilizing force in all of human history.” He adds:

If you think God is watching and speaking to you through conscience—or through what Adam Smith called ‘the impartial spectator’ within us—you’re going to think twice about your actions. Or at least it will give you a strong incentive to think twice.
Believing there is something outside of you, judging you by an external ethical or moral standard, gives you a standard to think about yourself that is outside yourself.

This is why “the fear of the Lᴏʀᴅ is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). Scripture is clear: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). On that day:

Each one’s work will become manifest, for the [Judgment] Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation [of Christ] survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:13–15).

If Jesus is your Savior and Lord, your eternal salvation is assured (cf. John 10:28), but your eternal rewards or loss of rewards are not. Even when we confess our sins and are forgiven for them (1 John 1:9), we lose the rewards we would have received had we chosen obedience rather than disobedience.

“In this Little Thing I saw three properties”

My purpose today is not to evoke a “sinners in the hands of an angry God” reaction (though Jonathan Edwards’ homiletical masterpiece should be required reading for us all). Rather, it is to suggest that God’s warning of judgment to come is not only a necessary expression of his holy nature (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8), but also a great gift from the One who “is” love (1 John 4:8).

Like any good father, it is because God loves us that he warns us away from all that is not best for us. Because he loves us, we can always know that his will for us is “perfect” (Romans 12:2) and that violating his will is therefore harmful for us.

If your doctor was omniscient and omnibenevolent, would you not obey her medical directions whether you understood their purpose or not?

In Revelations of Divine Love, Julian of Norwich (1342–c. 1416) records a vision in which she saw “a little thing, the quantity of a hazel-nut, in the palm of my hand.” It seemed small and fragile, but she came to understand that it was the entire universe, “all that is made.”

Then she reported:

“In this Little Thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loveth it, the third, that God keepeth it.”

All three “properties” are completely true of you.

How obediently will you respond to such grace today?

Thursday news to know:

Quote for the day:

“The whole duty of man is summed up in obedience to God’s will.” —George Washington

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