The Whole is Greater than the Sum of Its Parts
“That they may be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You; that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that you sent Me. -John 17:21
I love science. I am neither scientific nor do I understand half of what is collected in science textbooks. I did not grow up asking for chemistry or electricity kits and, while I am a teacher by trade and have taught science, I do not consider myself to be a great science teacher. So, where does this appreciation for science come from and to what end does its admiration lead? The only connection I have dissected is that science, to me, is one of the languages of God. I realize that Almighty God is multilingual and speaks to us through varying sources and subjects, but next to the Bible (and the woods), science is the language through which He most readily communicates with me. I think it’s because of the elements we find in science that align so closely with their Creator. Where else are we not only asked but required to use our five senses to gather information about that which we are examining? And then, to increase our bank of personal knowledge, we are asked to measure and record that which we have found. Once this has been done, we are led to formulate a hypothesis and then to test it for accuracy. In some cases, our tests are inconclusive and we realize more information is needed; in others, the accuracy is such that it results in laws that govern and guide. Oh my goodness, how can science not be a means of communication from God Most High? I love it! I don’t always understand it, but I recognize the voice of the One who is speaking.
There are a few lessons from past science classes that stand out in my mind. One of them was when I was in a college biology class. Now, at this time, I didn’t “hear” science the way I do now. What I heard then was merely the professor and what I felt led to record was only the necessary information for an upcoming test, but for some reason…perhaps for this writing…a portion of the lesson stuck in my mind. The lecture was on the transformation of energy during chemical changes. (Now why would that stick in my brain? Of all the things I’ve forgotten, why not this? Because it’s God’s language and it has a way of sticking even when we don’t realize it.) At some point, the professor made this statement, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” He then went on to explain that, though it might be possible to reassemble dispersed pieces after they have been decimated, the energy that was used in their demolition could not be re-contained and would therefore be absent from the new formation. The energy was not lost, but since it could not be reinserted, the sum of the pieces would always be less than the original whole. There would always be a missing component.
Today, God brought this lesson back to mind. As I continue to wait to see what He will do with the fragments of my life and how He will make all the pieces fit, I remembered, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”, and I finally heard the truth in this statement. Within this declaration, we see their association to two of the four overarching narratives of Scripture: Creation and the Fall. (The two remaining categories, Redemption and Restoration, show us how God continues to speak into the chaos and gives us the gift of both grace and hope, two elements outside and far above the laws of science). In the Garden of Eden, when God created our known world (an infinitesimal part of His world), everything was perfect…complete…whole. We know this because God walked with Adam and Eve; there was no separation between God and man…no disorder…nothing was missing. Everything was as God had created it to be because He was in the midst of it holding it all together. Then came the fall, the great shattering, the alteration of the perfectly complete whole. Now, with the insertion of sin, the whole was dispersed into parts and the One who held it all together stepped outside of the chaos. (In this, again, science’s reflection of God’s personage is shown in the first law of energy which states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; therefore it is always present. God stepped out of the entropy that resulted when sin entered His creation; He didn’t disappear; He didn’t cease to exist; He is always present but never bound by or to our lawlessness.)
And here we are. Pieces that were originally designed to part of something that was perfectly whole. Now, in our disorderly state, we seek that which will make us complete, but without the missing piece, without the force that binds all things together, we move without purpose and without hope. For particles randomly moving through space and randomly connecting and separating, the concept of hope is pointless because it is meaningless to inanimate ions; but to people, gifted with the capacity (and sometimes the ability) to reason, hope is a lifeline. What if we could learn that our wholeness, though impossible in this continuum of time and space, was indeed (and even would be) possible in “another world”? What if we could learn that our search for wholeness could stop because it was both futile and no longer necessary? If this could happen, we would know the meaning and purpose of hope. And what if the missing energy reentered the equation and wholeness was reestablished; it would defy the laws of science but for the One who writes, upholds, and executes all laws, the One to whom all laws succumb, there lies no difficulty nor inability.
Well, the “what ifs” can cease because the “what did” has already occurred. Jesus entered the equation; He gave us hope because He showed that wholeness could be had in His Father, through His (Jesus’) death and resurrection. Jesus pointed us to the missing source of our wholeness and let us know that, apart from God, we would never find completeness. Now, we could stop the futile search; now we could rest in our “partialness” because Jesus, and later the Holy Spirit, would hold us together until the day of our release from this world and our entrance into the next; until we step out of the temporal and into the eternal. Then, when in God’s presence, we will once again be complete; we will have returned to our true created, our divinely natural, state. No more a fraction of who we once were, but now (for the first time) the entirety of who we were created to be. Perfect in our completion; whole before, and because of, our Creator. (Jesus’ entrance into our world and His acts of love through His death for our sins, His victory over death, and His gift of the Holy Spirit constitutes the third category of Scriptural history known as Redemption. The fourth section, Restoration, will occur when God restores all things to their pre-Fall, their pre-chaos, state; when He “creates a new heaven and a new earth” [Is. 65:17] “for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away” [Rev. 21:1]. At this time, everything on earth is made whole because His presence is once again in the midst of all He created.)
If we laid hold of this truth, would we live our lives differently? Would we…
- no longer live by chance but with purpose?
- no longer seek completeness in others but find fulfillment in God?
- no longer live without a center of gravity, but allow God’s gravitational pull to “hold us together”?
- no longer view this temporary world of disorder as our home but keep our eyes fixed on, and our hope placed in, our eternal home?
We can. We should. God hasn’t left us to go through life randomly bouncing around looking for our missing pieces. He sent His Son to give us hope and to provide the path that leads us, connects us, with the Source in which we find wholeness. Jesus came into our chaos to lessen our disorderly state by explaining the reason for our unrest; we are searching for that which is missing because, “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in [our] hearts, [though] man cannot discover the work God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) We seek because we are pieces in search of wholeness; a wholeness that can only be found in, and held together by, our Heavenly Father.
Science. It holds no contradictions for the believer. It never violates God’s laws because it is sustained by them; it never speaks in opposition to His truth because it is the language of its Creator.