It wasn't until recently that photos with strange looking balls of light became a hot topic of discussion among some of my friends. According to them, these orbs are apparently angels sent from heaven to look after us. They claim that orbs can be easily seen around holy anointed people, and are especially prominent during times of worship or deep prayer...
Or around yours truly... =)
When I first heard about it, my initial reaction was pure skepticism. It wasn't something that I've noticed before, and even if I did, I would never have thought it had anything to do with angels. These are the kind of orbs that people would usually associate with those shown on paranormal documentaries of spooky cemeteries and haunted homes.
And admit it, when you first saw my photo, it wasn't the thought of why I was taking a photo of myself wearing a Mexican hat indoors that first crossed your mind. It was those strange looking balls that were seemingly floating around me.
As a Christian, it was never about the things that I could see that increased my faith. It was the things I couldn't see, like the love, kindness, peace and joy of the Lord that makes my life so worth living. But as a man of science, I can't help but be aware of the underlying principles of the everyday phenomena.
Take the case of a rainbow... How can a small drop of water create such a magnificent sight in the sky? Thanks to science, we've now come to understand that the white warm glow of sunlight is actually made up of a wide range of colours. A rainbow basically forms when sunlight gets separated out into its different colours when it passes through a rain drop. This is a perfect example where a complex phenomenon has a very simple and elegant explanation.
How about orbs then?
Orbs are simply the distorted out-of-focus images of tiny particles being caught in the flash zone of the camera. When a photo is taken, the camera automatically focuses its lenses to capture the distant object. If dust particles are present in the air, they are usually too small to be seen by the camera's photo sensors. However, if they are really close to the lens, they can produce a distorted circular image on the resulting photo. This effect is similar to that caused by dust on your glasses when you're out in the sun.
To prove my theory, I carried out a simple experiment with my Olympus digital camera. The next 3 shots were taken with the camera mounted on a tripod during the afternoon. The 1st shot was a control shot, the 2nd was taken just after I ruffled my hair and the 3rd was taken right after beating 2 pillows together like a madman.
I don't know about you, but this experiment proves to me that orbs can be caused by dust particles in the air. It also proves that I really need to wash my pillows and switch to an anti-dandruff shampoo.
So why don't we see this effect in the more expensive professional SLR cameras then? Most compact digital cameras have the flash unit located just right next to the lens. While this may help in taking photos at dimly lit areas, it has a profound effect on the dust particles near the lens.
The flash overwhelmingly illuminates the surrounding dust particles near the lens at about 10 times the brightness of the Sun, and this can be easily captured by the photo sensors in the camera. Professional photographers use SLR cameras with sophisticated lenses and dust covers to overcome this problem. Furthermore, their flash units are quite a distance away from the lens opening, so the dust particles around the lens aren't as brightly illuminated as compared to the compact cameras.
This is the simple and elegant scientific explanation. But how about from a Christian perspective?
Orbs are no doubt a fascinating sight to a believer, especially when captured during moments of worship and prayer. Sometimes preachers use this as evidence of God's support of their ministry. And sometimes the presence of orbs brings a source of hope to those who see photos of their loved ones surrounded by them.
But the fact is, orbs do not pass the 3 rules of discernment.
Firstly, it does not glorify Jesus Christ. It turns the supernatural into something paranormal and mystifying. Orbs reduces the glorious nature of God and His angels into something that only a digital camera can see, but something His own creation cannot. It says nothing about Jesus but boasts about our ability to finally see into the spiritual realm with a man-made device.
Secondly, it does not increase or edify one's faith. To believe in orbs actually destroys the roots of faith. Our faith should be rooted firmly in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, that by His perfect sacrifice, our sins are now forgiven; and that by His resurrection, we can now lead an everlasting life with our Father in heaven. Our faith should not be based on something that appears randomly in dusty places. In some cases, the presence of orbs can even promote fear because it can now be used as a spiritual yardstick to judge if someone is praying enough or worshipping properly. I know this is ridiculous, but a dusty unkempt church building could very well appear to be more "holy" than a clean and tidy one.
Finally, it is not biblical. There is no verse in the bible that comes even close to suggest that orbs are angelic beings. Some dare to quote from the Book of Ezekiel and claim that the orbs are actually the wheels of the four living creatures. I wonder why have they chosen to focus on Ezekiel 1:16 which describes the wheels that sparkled like chrysolite but totally ignored Ezekiel 1:13 which tells of the fire that moved back and forth among the creatures, which was bright, and had lightning flashing out of it.
Surely the lightning and bright fire should be more noticeable than the sparkle? o_O
I didn't write this article to embarrass my friends or insult their spiritual discernment. If I have, I am truly sorry. I don't deny that God and His angels can use orbs as a means to manifest themselves, but there is a point where being too spiritual actually becomes silly.
My aim is for this article to create awareness on the deception currently plaguing the Church and hopefully this will help others discover the error of their ways. As a Christian myself, I believe that my friends will do the same for me if my spiritual walk is in error.
Bless you my friends, and may this passage from 1st Timothy edify you and keep you in Shalom peace always.
1 Timothy 4:1-16
1The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons...
6If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 7Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly...
9This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10(and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. 11Command and teach these things. 12Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity...
16Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.