Chernobyl meltdown

Meltdown: A Reflection

By Paul Bright

The Worst Meltdown in History

Recently, I had the privilege of watching the dramatic miniseries Chernobyl, an interpretation of the events surrounding the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl. The series is a horrifying presentation of the arrogance of man, not in the pursuit of science, but in the self-deception of his own pride at pushing the limits of known quantifiers while placing a false faith in a failsafe that can be readily pushed at any moment if something goes wrong.

The Critical Moment of Explosion and Meltdown

As the personal ambition of men pushed a dangerous test, administered by unqualified persons with incoherent instructions, the moment began when the reactor surged out of control. The nuclear engineers, thinking that the boron control rods could instantly be lowered into the out-of-control mix of xenon gas, radioactive uranium, and superheated water, pushed the failsafe button, AZ-5. All the control rods, which should have instantly stopped the nuclear reaction, caused it to explode. The reason? The boron rods themselves, were defectively made. The result was an explosion of the nuclear core, the ejection of nuclear material and radiation, and death and destruction, which no words in a simple paragraph could describe. Obviously, this article will use “meltdown” metaphorically, not literally.

The Arrogance of Unbounded Liberty

All motives and decisions of life individually and together are driven, it seems, by what is uncritically defined as a yearning for liberty. Assuming that the yearning itself is always good, the human spirit pushes ever closer to the edge of every limiting agent to find its ultimate expression of freedom.

“It is unbounded, uncontrolled, and uncontained. It is radioactive libertinism.”

It is unbounded, uncontrolled, and uncontained. It is radioactive libertinism. Whether this occurs in an individual’s mind, the family unit, in church, or in government and culture, the pursuit of liberty for liberty’s sake is justified, celebrated, and pursued. Slogans abound as eternal testaments to liberty, in Declarations of Independence, in state mottos, on statues, in art, and by echo chamber populists. While simultaneously praising liberty, these depictions are flooded with the vilification of authority. And thus, over time, in the conscience of man, in the family, in the church, and in the government and culture, the building up of heat and friction, hatred, anger, vainglory, and self-centeredness start emitting as radioactive fuel, damaging rather than energizing. The control rods of authority are unnecessary, unneeded, unwanted, and counter the nature of the progress of liberty.

The Deception of Instantaneous Authority

And once the danger of the radioactive liberty is seen, the voice of men start calling for instantaneous solutions to halt the ever-growing, out-of-control trend. Demagogues and autocrats rush down into the mix. They present themselves as the only ones who can stop the destruction, and capitalize on every misfortune and evil deed to expand even more influence and power for themselves. Churches become dominated and ruled, not by those who understand the words of Christ that the greatest of these are the least of all and a slave, but the greatest of these are those who are like the gentiles, ruling and reigning and exalting themselves over others. Because God needs His strong leaders on earth, not an absent king in heaven. Families are no longer examples of sacrifice and voluntary submission for the nurture, admonition, and edification of all, but an extinguishing experience of excision from all relationships that exasperates everyone.

“Families are no longer examples of sacrifice and voluntary submission for the nurture, admonition, and edification of all, but an extinguishing experience of excision from all relationships that exasperates everyone.”

Man replaces general welfare for others with the false righteousness of self-love, self-care, and self-rest under the auspices of self-improvement while at the same time being overly critical about other’s selfishness and never understanding why self-inwardness never satisfies. 

The Explosion

But, just like Chernobyl, the authorities operating as independent instantaneous solutions are defective themselves. When Israel wanted a king like all the other nations after centuries of direct salvation by God through judges against the “liberty of man” for idolatry, He warned them how the king would abuse his authority and consolidate riches, power, possessions, and glory for himself at their expense. Everything God said came to pass exactly and repeatedly. The results were a divided kingdom, war, generational animosity, violence, and the final covenantal curse of the discipline of losing their nation. This explosive ejection and meltdown are the inevitable ends for the present course of our country, churches, families, and ourselves. 

The radioactive liberty in the heart of man is not squelched, but instead, the authoritarianism accelerates the whole toxic and heated and destructive mix of rebellion. The explosion, ejection, and meltdown happen once the unconstrained pursuit of liberty is pushed to its very edge as a human right. At the same time, the desire for immediate, instantaneous authority slams down into the whole reactor of men’s hearts. Boom!

“The radioactive liberty in the heart of man is not squelched, but instead, the authoritarianism accelerates the whole toxic and heated and destructive mix of rebellion. The explosion, ejection, and meltdown happen once the unconstrained pursuit of liberty is pushed to its very edge as a human right.”

How to Prevent a Meltdown

What can stop the explosion, ejection, and meltdown of all good things that one receives from the image of God in oneself, in families, in churches, and in government? The answer seems easy, but requires an impossible work that one cannot achieve for oneself.

The first answer is not to pursue liberty as the most basic of all human rights. The great lie from the enemy of all is to pursue liberty because it is good and beautiful and true, and the only One who is worthy of all authority is none of those things and should never be trusted, loved, believed, and obeyed. Changing that in the heart of man is not a human work. It cannot be achieved by a desire for self-improvement. It is not natural to humans. To liberate oneself and enslave others is human; to serve others and enslave oneself is divine. Therefore, repent from the idea that the purpose of man is liberty uncontained.

The second answer is to understand that liberty and authority are interrelational and interdependent. The cultural tenet that liberty and authority are mutually exclusive and should only be used as such is a faith in a failsafe that does not exist. Liberty drives invention, imagination, and service towards a progress of edification and unity. Authority regulates the tendency of liberty to go beyond the beneficial into self-determinationism. Liberty challenges the tendency of authority to go beyond the protection of all to willful edicts and aggrandizement. This is what checks and balances should mean.

Finally, the third answer is that the solution itself might be slow. Patience in re-establishing the balance between liberty and authority might take time and effort. Instruction in the nature of liberty and authority in all spheres of the image of God (conscience, family, church, and nation) should be intimately connected with a biblical anthropology and a robust understanding of hamartiology.

The divine work of balance between liberty and authority will happen in one heart, one family, one church, and then one nation.

Paul Bright profile headshot

Paul Bright currently works in the field of Biotechnology. He is a native of Evansville, IN, and an alumnus of Purdue University and The Master’s Seminary. Paul was a Systematic Theology and Ancient Hebrew professor in Samara, Russia. He and his wife, Jennifer, homeschooled their daughter all the way through high school and currently reside in Covington, Louisiana. You can read Paul’s other contributions here.

A young man bowing his head down on a church alter at sunset

Behold, How Sinners Disagree

by Paul Bright

The following is a modified and expanded version of Isaac Watt’s Behold, How Sinners Disagreewhich was composed for the purpose of discipling our hearts into humility and grace.

Paul Bright also contributed the blog “Swamp Fire: A Reflection” which was published on January 24, 2024.

Paul Bright currently works in the field of Biotechnology. He is a native of Evansville, IN, and an alumnus of Purdue University and The Master’s Seminary. Paul was a Systematic Theology and Ancient Hebrew professor in Samara, Russia. He and his wife, Jennifer, homeschooled their daughter all the way through high school and currently reside in Covington, Louisiana.