Praise God for the eclipse!
Thirty years ago, I was a teenager, and I didn't know half as much as I thought I did. Or at the very least, I hadn't yet figured out how much I didn't know (which as it turns out is nearly the sum total of all possible knowledge). The year was 1987, and a little booklet was circulating at my Christian school: "88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988." I am very glad to say that most of my teachers and pastors were not fooled.
I remember this incident quite well, because it was the first time that I can recall thinking critically about something that was presented as a "Bible teaching." Looking back at how dumb I was, I find it remarkable that I had such cogent thoughts at that age. What bothered me about "88 Reasons" was the clear statements of Jesus. No one knows the day or the hour of Jesus' coming, not even Jesus Himself! Only God the Father knows the day of judgment. When Jesus left this earth, He told us that it was not for us to know when the day of judgment would come. When I heard about the "88 Reasons," I knew immediately that no amount of reasons would be enough to overturn the clear teachings of Jesus Himself. No one knows the day of judgment, and we shouldn't be worried about precisely when it will happen. We just need to be ready.
I've been thinking of this today as I prepare for the Great American Eclipse one week from today. I'm excited about this eclipse. It's a once-in-a-lifetime event. A complete solar eclipse will go right over my house! I just have to step outside to see it! Our local Christian school is having a big event in the afternoon. I personally bought eclipse glasses for all the students and staff, and we've got a sponsor who is donating Moon Pies for everyone!
And then Anne Graham Lotz rained on my parade. In a blog post of her website, Lotz claimed that the eclipse is a portent of judgment on the United States and that those who celebrate the eclipse are like drunken Belshazzar on the eve of his own destruction.
Well, thanks. How nice.
Now, I know Billy Graham's family is as close as American evangelicals will get to beatifying saints, and I'm not happy about publicly disagreeing with her, but...
Come on. People have been prognosticating imminent divine judgment for almost 2,000 years now. When I was a kid it was "88 Reasons." Then it was Y2K. Remember Harold Camping? He made a prediction that it would happen in 1994, and inexplicably gained a huge amount of attention again in 2011 with the same false prophecy.
Yes, I said false prophecy. Jesus' words still apply. No one knows the day or the hour, not even Jesus. It will happen like a thief in the night. No one will expect it. It is not for us to know when judgment will come. Those who claim to have special knowledge or have figured it out are basically claiming that they know better than Jesus. And when their predictions fail, they are exposed as the false prophets that they are. They should thank God that we don't follow the ceremonial law of the Old Testament any more.
Will this eclipse be a sign of judgment? No! I can say that with absolute certainty based on the teaching of Jesus. Jesus says that no one knows. Now that someone claims to know that the eclipse is part of the judgment, you can be assured that it isn't, because no one knows the day or hour.
This doesn't mean that Lotz is wrong about the fact of God's judgment or the sin of modern culture. There is much evil in today's world, and God is not pleased. We have much to repent of. That said, Lotz is wrong to be "speculating" on the day or time of that judgment. We should leave the judgment to God and stop trying to tell Him when to act. He will take care of it, and it's none of your business when He'll do it.
Now, let's talk about eclipses and why you should be excited! Our moon is in a remarkable position that it occasionally passes between us and the sun at just the right distance to cover the disk of the sun perfectly. At any one point on the earth, the totality (the darkness) of the eclipse lasts only a few minutes. The entire transit of the moon across the face of the sun can last for hours though, but you'd have to be moving really, really fast to experience any lasting darkness.
There's nothing special about the solar radiation during or around an eclipse. Staring at the sun for any prolonged period is just difficult. Doctors recommend eclipse glasses so you can see the moon moving across the face of the sun before totality. Like the photo at the top of this post, the moon covers only part of the sun during most of the eclipse. Eclipse glasses block out all but the brightest of light. If you have eclipse glasses already, you shouldn't be able to see anything except the sun when you put them on.
During totality, you'll see a black disk ringed by the faint corona of the sun. If you're not in the path of totality, you might not even notice the eclipse without the glasses. Most of the eastern US will be able to see at least a partial eclipse, so you should get some glasses.
There's also nothing special about the darkness of the eclipse. It'll be like twilight. The temperature will drop, and a few minutes later, it'll be over. The sun will begin shining again, and the temperature will go back up.
Solar eclipses happen about every 18 months or so, but most of the surface of the earth is uninhabited, so it's unusual to see one without traveling. The last time we could see one in the US was 100 years ago, but in the next seven years, we'll get two! What a blessing! It is a tremendously exciting time to be alive. I am immensely grateful that God has allowed me to see this and has given me this wonderful gift of sight and a solar system that produces total eclipses! You should be too!
So get out there, buy some moon pies, get some eclipse glasses, and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience! And praise God for it!
Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.