Light From Light (The Conservation Of Energy In The Nicene Creed, Heat Pumps, & Steve Perry Of Journey)


Don Chaffer, of the most excellent band Waterdeep, is one of my favorite people, and not just because he’s my neighbor. Well, he lives a few miles away, but we’re in the country so it feels like he’s in hollerin’ distance. He blogs over at the Waterdeep site, and after I read this piece I rode my virtual sorrel mare down through the vale to seek Don’s blessing on posting it in the Rabbit Room. He obliged with a wave of his straw hat and went back to tilling. —The Proprietor


“We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

the only Son of God,

eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, Light from Light,

true God from true God,

begotten, not made,

of one Being with the Father.

Through him all things were made.”

-The Nicene Creed

When the heat pump crapped out at our new house, I started researching heating systems. Turns out that one of the big things you have to pay attention to is what they call an efficiency rating. The efficiency rating measures how much energy you’re putting into the heater against how much energy you’re getting out of it. Heads up, it’s never 100%. You always lose some energy.

Compliments of inertia, friction, and black holes, everything loses energy. [Author’s confessional note: Truth be told, while I’m confident that inertia and friction play a big role in inefficiency, I’m not so sure about black holes. However, I wanted to throw a little something Einsteinian in there. I’ve got a feeling about that guy. He seems like he ought to be part of this conversation somewhere. Plus, he’s got cool hair.] And because everything loses energy, we all cast about, trying to figure out how to compensate for what’s missing. It’s the way of the earth.[Additional author’s note: we ended up getting the heater repaired under our home warranty. This has temporarily solved the problem, but I’ll have to re-visit it sooner than I’d like, I’m sure.]

Believe it or not, I thought about all this in church this morning as we were reading the Nicene Creed together. We recited, “…God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made…” and I started thinking about how the Father’s “creation” of the Son is perfectly efficient, that there is no God-ness lost in the “transfer” of power. This is because there is no real “transfer” of power. The Son does not borrow anything from the Father. He is the Father, and the Father is Him. They are one being, perfectly efficient—if it’s not too crass to say so—with all energy conserved.

By contrast, this got me thinking about normal human communication, and how often the speaker’s intent is lost on the listener. The meaning is not equal to the message intended. I’m talking, for instance, about drive through transactions:

“I’ll have a number three with a medium Pepsi,” you say.

“A number three with a medium Dr. Pepper?” the attendant says.

“No. A medium Pepsi,” you say.

“Okay. A medium Pepsi. Will that be all?”

“No. A NUMBER THREE with a medium Pepsi?” You say, and, even though it’s happened plenty times before, you can’t believe it’s happening again.

Or arguments between two people:

“Why do you always say that about me when it’s clear that I’m making an effort?” he said

“Well, first of all, I don’t ALWAYS say anything, and second of all, I don’t know what you call an effort, but that doesn’t look much like one,” she said.

“Oh. Okay, so it doesn’t count that I stayed up late the other night working on that thing for you?” he said, the sarcasm fairly obvious, at least to him.

You get the idea.

It also happens in art. As a musician, songwriter, and producer, I work hard at creating delicate little songs that suffer an encoding process that gets them shuffled around from one device to another. They tumble out of speakers and headphones at the most inopportune times: between breaking up with your girlfriend, and making your big pitch to the new client, and showing up unprepared to the final exam, and picking up your kids at soccer practice. The agony and the ecstasy of the song is treading water in the ocean of your life, but it’s sputtering, taking in gulps of water with the air. The song often doesn’t get the time it wants from you, and when it does, you misunderstand lyrics, musical intent, and even, sometimes, the overall point of the artist. Again, hardly a 100% transfer.

steve-perryThe artist might be me. Or it might be Steve Perry from Journey. A friend of a friend supposedly sat down with Perry, and asked him why he’d dropped out of music. Steve said he’s been disappointed by how ironically his band’s been re-interpreted in today’s culture. He never meant anything as a joke, as overstatement, as bombast. He was dead serious, and if no one wants to take him and the music seriously, well then it’s too painful to try anymore. When you listen to “Don’t Stop Believin’,” you see what he’s saying: “Some’ll win/ Some will lose/ Some’re born to sing the blues… Don’t stop believin’/ Hold onto that feelin’.” If nothing else, that’s a work of utter honesty and sincerity. And his voice, for crying out loud, is full of pathos. I know. Journey. Dude, it’s just Journey. But, as my wife said, upon me telling her about how Steve Perry supposedly feels about his problem, she said, “Poor Steve Perry—bless his heart—everybody misunderstands him.” She was not, you see, being ironic. She was as serious as Steve was when he was telling us about the shadows, searching, up and down the boulevard.

Yep. Everybody misunderstands everybody all the time. We all superimpose our own stories on one another. We hear what we want to hear. We placate Hitler. We crucify Jesus. We ignore the poor. We give no time to our own dreams and visions. We are half-conscious at best.

And then we stumble into church, and hear “…God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made…” and it’s kind of unbelievable. The Father begets the Son, and there is no intent lost between them? Well, yes, because there is no intent between them; they’re one. No intent. No misunderstanding. Just one-ness.

I like that quite a bit. It makes me want to go order a #3 with a Pepsi all over again, and, on the way, to listen to Steve Perry sing, and not to stop believin’, but to hold onto that feelin’.


  1. D'artagnan

    “Yep. Everybody misunderstands everybody all the time. We all superimpose our own stories on one another. We hear what we want to hear.”

    Nice post, which is also relating on why the Nicene Creed needed to be created, as well as why if one objectively considers the un-biblical idea of Sola Scriptura, they can’t help but realize that no intelligent or loving God would use that as a means for his flock to be “one” John 17:21

  2. Bill Raab

    This is an awesome post. Loved it and am going to post the link on my FB page. Well worth everyone reading. Thanks for sharing. Found this via AP’s tweet.

  3. Sid

    Very cool thoughts! I was just rockin’ out to “Sweet River Roll” and “Wicked Web” on my way into work this morning. Glad to see Don in the Rabbit Room.

  4. Laura Droege

    As a writer, I’ve noticed the varied responses of my readers. Some will get an entirely different meaning from what I’ve said than what I intended. I can blame myself…or them…or the curse of communicating through such fragile, easily misinterpreted words.

    So as you said, it is incredible for us to hear that the Father and Son completely understood one another. That’s a unity I cannot fathom because it cannot truly exist between two humans.

    Thanks for your thoughts, Don. Hope you get that heater working soon.

  5. LauraP

    Ah, Journey — part of the soundtrack of my life. Loved that band, and there was this one New Year’s Eve…. but that’s another story.

    “Everybody misunderstands everybody all the time.” Yes, we sure do. And that is why words and grace must be handled with such care.

  6. JennC

    So true about misunderstanding, and loving the thought of the unity of Jesus and the Father. I was thinking on the ‘begotten’ bit just today, but missed this angle. Glad you showed it to me!
    I’ll be thinking about bits of this as I fall asleep, and Steve Perry will be singing to me in my dreams. All very good, and thanks.

  7. Chris Yokel

    Wow, there’s some deep theology going on there. “The Perfect Communicability of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” That sounds like a heady title for an interesting theology article.

  8. Ron Block


    Don, great thoughts.

    Do you think that the divine download of Christ’s Spirit into us, and the subsequent agonies of having our false selves stripped away, is an insight into God’s desire to get rid of the friction? The Spirit of Christ is within us, wanting to pour out rivers of living water to others, but his outflow is mitigated by ingrained fears, hopes, and flesh-desires for ease and comfort? This is the reason for what Norman Grubb termed “A muddy trickle” rather than a river of living water, abundant life pouring through us.

    Taking up our Cross daily and following Christ is what breaks the dam. We do it bit by bit, of course, under the Spirit’s direction. And we must do it – true joy and power in this earthly life depend on it, and that for-others life is what we all really want anyway.

  9. Bobby M

    I love Waterdeep. They played a show in my little hometown ten years ago or so. I was probably 19 and instantly fell in love with their songwriting. It was the first time I had found lyrics that asked questions honestly without throwing away faith in God. Now I always have time for anything from the Chaffers

  10. jb

    being so often misunderstood…neat to think that Christ is God’s perfect translation. also, neat to think of the Spirit being manifest in me as Ron alluded to.

  11. Adam Bennett

    So great to see your post here, and an awesome one at that. I’ve been a fan of Waterdeep (and The Khrusty Brothers!!!) for a long time. Thanks for your thoughts.


  12. Pracades

    Can we please add the word “Einsteinian” to the dictionary! Great post. Makes me think how much God’s intent is lost in me everyday, even though he has every capability of transferring perfect light into all His beings, we are the Fast–food server getting the order wrong. Ron, I love the description of the ‘muddy trickle.” Describes my receiving of his Holy Blessings exactly.

  13. Sarah Clarkson


    Ooh, I love all the connections and the way they weave together. Pretty wondrous!

    This makes me think of the Psalm I read a couple of mornings ago where it said: the law of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple…. and the law of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes…

    It made me think about how complicated and muddied most human relationships/thoughts/decisions are, and God in contrast, is simple. He clarifies everything because He is entirely undivided. I love thinking of how this extends to Christ.


  14. Peter B

    Wait, who thought Journey was anything other than serious?

    Thanks, Dan; this God-as-Carnot-engine analogy really hits the mark. There’s so much that creation can teach us about the Creator.

    Pracades, I think “Einsteinian” may already be in the dictionary. It’s gotten quite a lot of use over the decades.

  15. Pracades

    Really, interesting! Well, don’t I look sheepish… I’ll have to look it up! Which reminds me. I read a great quote by Eistein the other day, which certainly applies to all the creative energy that buzzes around the Rabbit Room…, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

  16. Peter B

    Slow me… just noticed the first comment (D’artagnan). Forgive my ignorance, but how is Sola Scriptura unbiblical? It always seemed pretty simple: God’s inspired, infallible word is the authoritative standard for truth. Does the Word say otherwise?

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