Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Parables and Protein Crystallography

[picture link]

To find the structure of a protein, once you purify and stack it up in an ordered crystal, you shoot X-rays through it. X-rays are important because they are spaced the right distance apart that they interact with the electron clouds in the protein. The electrons cause the X-rays to shift and coalesce into discrete points on the other side. By measuring the intensity of the X-rays at each point you can mathematically reconstruct the shape of the electron cloud. The interesting thing about this is that every point in the X-ray pattern contains information about the whole electron cloud, but you have to take tens of thousands of points together to be able to figure out the exact shape of the electron cloud (and therefore of the protein).

So look at that X-ray pattern above. Each point contains information about the entire protein. But you'll get nowhere if you try to draw a protein based on one, or even a few, points. What you'll get will be too fuzzy. The more points you collect the sharper in focus your picture will become.

It's the same way with the parables told by Jesus about the Kingdom of God. Each is a point: a picture, with a lot more texture than the points above, but still, just one picture. To see the Kingdom of God through these parables, you need to take them all together and somehow integrate them (this is the work of the Spirit). By looking at all the parables at once, suddenly the Kingdom of God comes into bright focus. It is a mustard seed, and a pearl, and a woman who finds her quarter. It is all these things and more. The more your thinking is shaped by these stories the more the Kingdom of God will structure your very thoughts.

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