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Paradox and the Science of Grace (2)

May 22, 2009

It seems as if science itself has progressed so far that it has shut the door on absolute-ness, thanks to the study of sub-atomic particles and time-space relativity. Quantum Mechanics, which studies these tiniest of particles, is a scientific discipline wrought with paradoxical issues and weird ideas. Take, for example, electrons and photons. Electrons are the smallest particles of matter that make up everything that exists. And Photons are the particles that make up light. Now consider this fact: The reality at a sub-atomic level when you are dealing with these tiny electrons and photons is that they can’t be directly measured. Or located. And they can’t really be precisely defined, either. (Doesn’t that remind you of God?) But they are still mathematically and scientifically proven to be true.

Stick with me here. I’m getting to the part where this relates to God in your life.

Let’s take a closer look.

Scientists have concluded that an electron is both a particle and a wave, even though the two are mutually exclusive. It’s like saying my cat is both a cat and an oyster. Not one or the other, it’s both. Scientists tell us that the behavior of electrons is consistent with the behavior of waves (they have continuous movement and momentum), but they also act like particles of mass (that have a fixed place and position).

You: “Brad, are you saying that these electron things can be hanging out in one place, but also be continuously moving at the same time?”

Me: “Yep. Two place at once, dude.”

And here’s the other thing. You can’t really directly measure an electron, because by virtue of the very fact that you are simply trying to observe it, you are changing its position (it’s called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle). Instead, physicists tell us we can only deal in probabilities when measuring electrons. Now, here’s the fun part. What this all boils down to is that the electron particles are basically in an infinite number of places at once – until you measure it. Scientists can only give us a probability of where it’s going to end up. If we never looked, it would still be potentially in many places at once – with just a probability of it being in any one specific location.

I know, I know, it all sounds totally wacko, like I’m talking in circles. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. We can barely grasp it – it’s just that the math works out, so scientists can keep going with it.

So, now that we are all experts in Quantum Physics, let me explain how I think it relates to theology. Let’s start with a personal question about your doctrinal beliefs:

Q: Which do you think is true? Do we have free will, or is everything predestined by our sovereign God in advance?

A very fundamental question, indeed. One that has been discussed and debated for centuries, with varying conclusions based on differing interpretation of scripture. The different answers have also conveniently led to the formation of very distinct Protestant denominations, so that our brains might be able to rest on either one side or the other of the argument (which also accommodate our Western thinking very nicely). Now, I’m no theologian, however, I would suggest the answer is that probably both are true. Just like the electrons in quantum physics, it’s in two places at the same time.

A: We have free will AND it’s all predestined by God.
God is pretty tricky. He went and made that free will and predestination thing get all scrambled up by creating those pesky paradoxical electrons. Who knows what else He’s been up to? If those subatomic particles are really pinging around as two completely different forms of matter (which is impossible), and are located both everywhere and still in one place (also impossible), then why couldn’t God have a system where he pre-determines everything that’s going to happen and still allows us to have a probability of influence over our destiny, both at the same time?

Gosh, no wonder we feel so unsettled sometimes.

As a practical example of this paradox, let’s talk about what we are doing this exact moment. Right now I am typing these letters in my computer, completely of my own free will and initiative. Yet God knew that it was going to happen, but He didn’t force it and I could have chosen to sleep on the couch all afternoon. The couch was a probability, but the writing became the reality once I sat down at the computer. And you, dear reader, are reading this now of your own free volition, yet it was always meant to be that you and I have this little chat. God knew ahead of time. Like Quantum Mechanics, it’s all about probabilities.

To be continued…

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott permalink
    May 22, 2009 8:52 am

    This really makes perfect sense. Thanks for sharing and not sleeping on the couch.

  2. May 22, 2009 6:12 pm

    i can dig it.

  3. May 22, 2009 10:06 pm

    I love science, especially the fuzzy kind. The whole faith vs. science thing isn’t something I worry about. Let science do it’s thing, I say. Because it’s kind of fun watching them both run away from God and run right toward Him at the same time.

  4. shrinkingthecamel permalink*
    May 23, 2009 9:44 pm

    Hey, Billy, that sounds like a paradox!

    Thanks for the nice comments, guys.

    Still amazed anyone is still reading… I think my version of science is causing my readers to run away from STC and NOT run back towards the Blog at the same time.

  5. June 6, 2009 12:27 pm

    Wow. That make so much sense.

    I mean, of course, that it makes absolutely no sense, but that doesn’t stop it from being exactly the right way to look at things.

    Well written, and only 75% long and boring. I don’t know what your friends were complaining about. 🙂


  6. shrinkingthecamel permalink*
    June 7, 2009 9:27 am

    Thanks Sharkbait. You are 25% my new best blog friend.

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