Deluding Influence

Delusion is defined as:

De·lu·sion /dəˈlo͞oZHən/ noun: delusion; plural noun: delusions

An idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument, typically a symptom of mental disorder.

“The delusion of being watched.”

“Was her belief in his fidelity just a delusion?”

The action of deluding someone or the state of being deluded.

“What a capacity television has for delusion.”

And, perhaps more directly:

De·lude /dəˈlo͞od/ verb: delude; 3rd person present: deludes; past tense and past participle: deluded; gerund or present participle: deluding

Impose a misleading belief upon (someone); deceive; fool.

“Too many theorists have deluded the public.”

In the second letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul speaks of deluding influences and the man of lawlessness:

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness [emphasis added].

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 English Standard Version (ESV)

Calvin has much to say about these verses: 1–2, 3–4, 5–8, and 9–12. We’ll concentrate on what he said about verses 11 and 12:

Verse 11 – The working of delusion. He means that errors will not merely have a place, but [that] the wicked will be blinded, so…they will rush forward to ruin without consideration.

For as God enlightens us inwardly by his Spirit, that his doctrine may be efficacious in us, and opens our eyes and hearts, that it may make its way thither, so by a righteous judgment he delivers over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28) those whom he has appointed to destruction, that with closed eyes and a senseless mind, they may, as if bewitched, deliver themselves over to Satan and his ministers to be deceived…

Verse 12 – That all may be condemned. That is, that they may receive the punishment due to their impiety. Thus, those that perish have no just ground to expostulate with God, inasmuch as they have obtained what they sought.

For we must keep in view what is stated in Deuteronomy 13:3, that the hearts of men are subjected to trial, when false doctrines come abroad, inasmuch as they [the false doctrines] have no power except among those who do not love God with a sincere heart. Let those, then, who take pleasure in unrighteousness, reap the fruit of it.

When he says all, he means that contempt of God finds no excuse in the great crowd and multitude of those who refuse to obey the gospel, for God is the Judge of the whole world, so that he will inflict punishment upon a hundred thousand, no less than upon one individual.

The participle εὐδοκήσαντες (taking pleasure) means (so to speak) a voluntary inclination to evil, for in this way every excuse is cut off from the ungrateful, when they take so much pleasure in unrighteousness, as to prefer it to the righteousness of God.

For by what violence will they say that they have been impelled to alienate themselves by a mad revolt from God, towards whom they were led by the guidance of nature? It is at least manifest that they willingly and knowingly lent an ear to falsehoods.

But none of this is new. Throughout history and in all lands, God has given over the disobedient.

Roughly seven hundred years before Christ and more than a century and a half before their decreed release by Cyrus the Great, the prophet Isaiah encouraged the future Babylonian exiles to flee from there and, by faith, return to the Promised Land. Speaking of their spiritual blindness, he says to them:

They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. Isaiah 44:18 (ESV)

Speaking to His disciples about the crowds gathered by the Sea of Galilee to hear Him, the Lord Jesus Christ cites Isaiah (Is. 6:9–10):

And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that

“they may indeed see but not perceive,

    and may indeed hear but not understand,

lest they should turn and be forgiven.”

Mark 4:11-12 (ESV)

Later, during Lord’s entry into Jerusalem prior to the Passover, John recounts what Isaiah said about God’s hardening of hearts as a commentary on those who did not believe in the Lord:

“He has blinded their eyes

    and hardened their heart,

lest they see with their eyes,

    and understand with their heart, and turn,

    and I would heal them.”

John 12:40 (ESV)

Later still, Paul, in his letter to the church in Rome says:

So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. Romans 9:18 (ESV)

This is a clear expression of God’s sovereign kindness and severity.

And yet, He sets Eternity in the heart:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 (ESV)

Truly, His ways are past finding out:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33 (ESV)

Even though we deserve ruthlessness, He Himself seeks to persuade us with rational arguments:

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;

Though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land;

But if you refuse and rebel,you shall be eaten by the sword;

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Isaiah 1:18–20 (ESV)

Then, of course, He speaks to us of an unmerited gift:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29 (ESV)

With Paul (and Isaiah), I say to you: sleeper, awake!

Fall of Rebel Angels - Brueghel

The Fall of the Rebel Angels (1562), Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/1530–1569), PD in US

The Snowman Cometh

Snow Shovelling

Snow Shoveling – Photo in the Public Domain by Jeff the quiet

I prepare this morning for battle with liner gloves. I think no frostbite for me. Valiantly, I shovel my way to the mailbox, around the cars, and into the lawn as a path for the meter woman. One of my outer gloves jumps off my hand; perhaps to frolic in the newly raised banks? I coax it back to service. The liners approve. And I heave another shovelful through the air.

Midway, I stand back to assess my progress and realize I’ve made the snow fort of my adolescent dreams. Towering battlements rise here and there. They guard the castle entryway. However, white powdery missiles fly my way no longer, once directed by a cohort on to better things now. But really, what could be better than a snow fort. Then I shovel a little more reality over the embankment.

Looking back at my masterpiece of excavation, I dread the snow still overhanging my head. The many feet of it huddled in a corner of the roof over the front porch. I can hear it crying out for quarter. Yet I intend it no quarter, it must fall, all convention’s judgment flung aside. In all this play, I harbor no maudlin or nefarious secrets from that Broadway stage. Oh, Neil, how sad you could not dream harder of better days to come.

I Don’t Know Clouds At All

A while back, I was asked if I could write something light and fluffy; something buoyant and uplifted. So I got to thinking. I always wondered how clouds, those 500 ton shape shifting behemoths that patrol our skies, float in the air. Or do they hover? I guess I really don’t know clouds at all…

Clouds – taken from a plane flying over China by Axel Rouvin

That led me to remember the Joni Mitchell song off the album Clouds called “Both Sides, Now.” As recounted in Rolling Stone magazine, when Joni Mitchell read Saul Bellow‘s Henderson the Rain King, Henderson, like Mitchell, was looking at clouds from a plane. Her lyric: “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,” was a symbol of the ambiguities and mysteries of life.

In a 1967 radio interview, she related a quote from the book: “I dreamed down at the clouds, and thought that when I was a kid I had dreamed up at them, and having dreamed at the clouds from both sides as no other generation of men has done, one should be able to accept his death very easily.”

We disagree vehemently with Bellow’s sentiment. Death was never meant to be accepted so blithely. But I digress. There is more than enough on this blog to explain our position. That insight into her intended meaning proved to be a disappointment. I like the song otherwise. I guess you have to pay attention to the lyrics. Where were we? Light and fluffy…

Getting back to our premise for this entry, do clouds float or hover? By float, I mean like a rubber duck in a bath tub. By hover, I mean something like what a helicopter does (but possibly in reverse like an umbrella blowing away). Turns out it’s a little of both. Wikipedia has very detailed articles on water vapor and clouds that I hope to summarize below.

It turns out that water vapor is less dense than dry air. At the same temperature, water vapor floats in dry air like a rubber duck in water. The article on water vapor crunches the numbers. But it’s even better. Since both are gases, a volume of moisture laden air will rise or be buoyant if placed in a larger volume of dry air.

As the temperature rises, the proportion of water vapor in the air increases and its buoyancy will increase along with the added vapor. In air without particulates, water vapor density can reach 300% before condensation occurs under normal conditions (a principle used in cloud chambers).

The increase in buoyancy gives rise to strong, moisture rich, upward air currents when the air and sea temperatures reach 25 °C or above. This is the driving force behind tornadoes and hurricanes. In fact, under the right conditions, water vapor can lift a “steam balloon” with approximately 60% the lift of helium and twice that of hot air.

Clouds form when one or more sources of vertical lift causes air containing invisible water vapor to rise and cool to the temperature at which water vapor starts condensing. Atmospheric pressure decreases with altitude, so the rising air expands in a process that expends energy without heat loss to the surrounding air and causes the rising air to cool. If the air is cooled enough, the vapor condenses into a cloud.

Water vapor in saturated air is attracted to condensation nuclei such as salt particles, dust, or even bacteria that are small enough to be held aloft by air circulation alone. If condensation occurs below the freezing level, the average size of a newly formed droplet is around 0.02 mm (0.0008 in). Clouds that form just above the freezing level are composed of supercooled liquid droplets, while those that condense out at higher altitudes where the air is much colder generally form of ice crystals.

There are three main sources of vertical lift. The first is a combination of frontal and cyclonic lift. It occurs when stable or slightly unstable air, exposed to little or no surface heating, is forced aloft at weather fronts and around centers of low pressure. Cloud droplets form when the air is lifted beyond the condensation level where water vapor condenses on nuclei and droplets grow to a size of typically 0.025 mm (.001 in). In a cloud the droplets collide to form larger droplets. These larger droplets remain aloft as long as the atmospheric drag force of the air below them is larger than the gravitational force on them.

If the cloud droplets continue to grow past this size, they become too heavy to be held aloft and fall as rain. When this process takes place just above the freezing level, with additional lifting and growth in size, droplets can turn into freezing rain. At temperatures well below freezing, the vapor turns into ice crystals that average about 0.25 mm in length. With continuing lift, ice crystals combine with the vapor and each other until they are too heavy to be supported by the vertical air currents and fall out as snow.

The second source of vertical lifting, buoyant convection, is caused by daytime solar heating at surface level, or by relatively high absolute humidity. Air warmed in this way becomes increasingly unstable and it rises and cools until its temperature equals that of the surrounding air aloft. If air near the surface becomes extremely warm and unstable, it can result in rapidly rising clouds that cause severe weather. Strong convection updrafts enable droplets to grow to nearly .075 mm (.003 in) before precipitating as heavy rain from active thunderclouds. Occasionally, very warm unstable air is present around fronts and low-pressure centers. As with non-frontal convective lift, increasing instability promotes upward vertical cloud growth and raises the potential for severe weather.

A third source of lift is wind circulation forcing air over a physical barrier such as a mountain. This is called orographic lift. If the air is generally stable, nothing more than lenticular cap clouds will form. However, if the air becomes sufficiently moisture laden and unstable, orographic showers or thunderstorms may appear.

Storm – Rolling thunderstorm (Cumulonimbus Arcus) by John Kerstholt (Creative Commons license)

Additionally, there are three other mechanisms for lowering the air temperature to the point where water vapor condenses. All of these occur near surface level and do not require lifting of the air. Cooling by conduction, radiation, and evaporation can cause condensation at surface level resulting in the formation of fog.

Conduction cooling takes place when air from a relatively mild source area comes into contact with a colder surface, such as when mild marine air moves across a colder land area. Radiation cooling occurs due to the emission of infrared radiation, either by the air or by the surface underneath. This type of cooling commonly occurs at night when the sky is clear. Evaporative cooling happens when moisture is added to the air through evaporation, which forces the air temperature to cool to its wet-bulb temperature, or sometimes to the point of saturation.

So clouds float and hover. Who would have guessed? Aren’t they pretty?

Sunrise – The Twilight Sky just before Sunrise by Jessie Eastland (Creative Commons license)