November 29, 2009

A Slice of PIE: Quantum Physics and Christ

It has been said: “The quantum universe is not a universe of things but a universe of relationships.” (THE PRESENT FUTURE by Reggie McNeal, c 2003).

I respect this author immensely. I’ve taken his work seriously and started to incorporate his theology into my life mission as well as looking for it in the mission of the Church I work to serve.

I’ve also been a science teacher for nearly 30 years – a ninth grade physical science teacher for the past 11 years – and I know as much as any lay person about physics of both the classic and quantum variety.

So does the statement in THE PRESENT FUTURE and the definition of quantum physics really line up? Wikipedia has this to say in defining our subject: “Quantum mechanics is essential to understand the behavior of systems at atomic length scales and smaller. For example, if classical mechanics governed the workings of an atom, electrons would rapidly travel towards and collide with the nucleus, making stable atoms impossible. However, in the natural world the electrons normally remain in an uncertain, non-deterministic "smeared" (wave-particle wave function) orbital path around or "through" the nucleus, defying classical electromagnetism.”

So far, so good: the concept of a “universe of relationships” seems to be supported by the fact that “electrons…would collide with the nucleus…However in the natural world the electrons normally remain in an…orbital path”.

Now the litmus test – which is a test done in chemistry (which I also teach at a beginners level) with a slim piece of paper that changes to one color when dipped into an acid and another color when dipped in a base (in chemistry parlance, it’s called an “acid-base indicator”. We actually use a broader-based pH paper now rather than actually litmus paper, but the idea’s the same) – is to see if BOTH line up with what the Bible says about the world.

Philippians 2:5-6 says: “In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage”. (TNIV)

In the Gospels, John 1:18 reads, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only [Son], who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (TNIV)

How about the Old Testament, that fount of gruesome stories, pages and pages of rules and prophecies of the promised Messiah? Could it have anything to say about quantum relationships? In First Kings 10:1, we read: “When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the LORD, she came to test Solomon with hard questions.” (TNIV) (Purists of course will note that the word “relationship” is not used in the King James Version, but that’s all right here. Grammar, word choices and common usage has changed over time and the words we used then are not the same we use today…)

I would conclude then that the analogy is a good one and that the Church today is in fact a quantum mechanical Church – one of relationships between Jesus Christ and His people; you and me and anyone else who claims Him as their Savior and Master.

Therefore, in relationship with Him and others, we can continue to serve Him in a world that includes hot debate about global warming, Large Hadron Colliders and the everyday, unconscious use of light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation devices (LASER for those of you unfamiliar with the expanded acronym…)

Comment, anyone?

(image of a Tokyo laser Christmas Tree taken from:


Vidad said...

Relationship is certainly key. God is first of all a personal God, unlike the various forces/energy being/world soul/cosmic energy type of gods in other religions. This allows relationship. However, I'm not quite ready to ask the elders to change our church name to Quantum Christian Fellowship. (On a side note, I always picture Jesus in a lab coat when I pass those "churches" with names like "Church of Christ, Scientist.)

GuyStewart said...

I don't know what happened to your other post. I think cyberspace ate it. But I read it before I posted

Paul said...

I've read that quote many times. It doesn't seem to notice that in order to have relationships, you've got to have things in the first place. Or maybe it'd be better to say that you can't have one without the other. Things that aren't in relationships to each other are just as meaningless as relationships without things among which those relationships occur. The question quantum mechanics raises is: Just what are things, anyway? Luckily, I don't think this question will be on the final.

Michael said...

Relationships give us religion, but they don't give us God. A more appropriate word for "relationship" in Philippians 2 is "attitude" - the passage as a whole talks about how the more you love God, the more you act in a godly manner and thus the less distinguishable from God you become. This is JUST THE OPPOSITE of a relationship, which distinguishes the two interacting entities. Jesus didn't have a relationship with the Lord, he WAS the Lord. To have an attitude like Jesus is to not have relationship with others, but to realize you and others are one and the same.

This is why, in the beginning of Genesis, the Devil was cast out of Heaven. He was interested in a relationship with God instead of being with God. His fall required the formation of the earth, a reality based primarily on relationships.

If you want to get all quantum, however, God does take ownership of light. Light can only be detected by instruments as a particle. However, it has the behavior of a wave. That means light is all particle and all wave, just as Jesus is all man and all God. There is no relationship, just duality.

...gosh, you have a thought provoking blog. I hope you don't mind my comments.