“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life [the life that was in him] was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
--John 1: 1-5
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”
--John 8: 12
“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’”
--John 8: 31-32
“You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
--Matthew 5: 13-16
My father was a student of light, a student of optics and the energy contained in that light. Much of his military career was centred around the research and development of focused energy and how that energy might be exploited for advancing the strike capabilities of the US Air Force. So intense was he in this endeavour that he could say with confidence that he knew as much as an ophthalmologist about the physics of light and how we see.
Whenever dad was exposed to new technologic developments or if there was an unfamiliar area of scientific research dad would take several weeks and scour the library for technical literature on the subject and, within 3-4 weeks, he would be as knowledgeable regarding that subject as those who had spent their entire lives working in that discipline.
It was our custom to gather around the table after Sunday dinner and discuss current events and many other subjects as they arose. I was always amazed at the breadth of dad’s knowledge and how he was able to satisfy the curiosity of our collective minds. He was keen to bring truth to our every question, as if he was arming his subordinate warriors with the necessary light to engage the forces of darkness wherever it was discovered. Dad emphasized the importance of pursuing and applying truth to every area of study and endeavour.
Sitting at his knees we learned that light could be used as a metaphor for how we should approach life in general. The light of truth was to shine upon every endeavour we might pursue. There are truths that we can discover and know regarding history, polity, economics, and about life in general. That there are absolute, knowable truths that can be discovered was a radical concept, especially in this post-modern age when our culture has rejected the idea of absolute truth. We learned that ideas have consequences, that “good ideas have good consequences and bad ideas victims.”
Scripture teaches “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). This was dad’s starting point. He had a reverential awe regarding his Lord and Saviour and recognized his duty to serve God—fulltime—in every undertaking. A military colleague once quipped that he was retiring from the Air Force so that he could devote his life—full time—to vocational ministry. Dad’s response was, “I am already engaged in full time ministry”. Dad’s ministry centred around his endeavours to cast the sanitizing effect of light upon darkness, wherever it was found.
Dad had huge fuses and a circuity in his mind that made it possible for him to interpret current events and their implications; he could “connect the dots”. Often, this meant he had to carry in his heart the burden of foreseeing and understanding these developments while labouring to bring them to light so that effective countermeasures might be employed. Dad was a “watchman on the wall” and the sound of his trumpet was clear and unmistakable. He, like the sons of Issachar, knew the times and what he ought to do (see I Chronicles 12: 32).
One of my favourite quotations is that of Alexander Hamilton, III, regarding the nature of light and darkness; darkness is the absence of light. Darkness fills the space wherever light is withdrawn, individually and culturally. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (Sir Edmund Burke).
“Darkness is not an affirming power; it simply reoccupies the space vacated by the light.”
Alexander Hamilton, III
Dad was a student of truth and understood the connection between light and truth. His intention was to push back against the darkness, wherever it was found, with the light of truth. Dad understood that it only takes a little light to overcome the darkness. He understood that there cannot be freedom apart from truth and there cannot be truth apart from light, and, according to Scripture, there cannot be life apart from light.
In closing I will retell an urban legend to underscore the function and purpose of light and our responsibility to let our individual “lights so shine” wherever God has planted us.
This is the transcript of a radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operations 10-10-95.
The chief attribute of lighthouses is they don’t move. Dad was an immovable light in his generation. The challenge before us, as dad lays down to rest from his labors, is who amongst us will pick up his torch and carry the light of truth to this generation? May the Lord find us so doing when He returns.