Since the dawn of the nuclear age, scientists have been struggling to understand the behavior of subatomic particles. The world as we know it has always been governed by Newtonian physics, which is dominated by natural laws that are very predictable. We all learned the laws of gravity and geometry in school. What goes up must come down. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. The problem that has vexed scientists for a century now is that these laws do not apply in the subatomic world. What goes up is already down as particles can be in multiple locations at the same time. The shortest distance between two points is to cease to exist in one place and instantaneously exist in the other without passing through the space in between. To study and understand this behavior that seems so bizarre to us required the development of an entirely new field of science known as quantum mechanics. In the subatomic world, sometimes referred to as the quantum field, particles do not exist as tangible objects, but as pure energy in potentiality. What causes the potentiality to exist in what we think of as the real world is the act of observation.
If you and I are sitting in a room conversing with each other, we appear very real and solid. In fact, everything appears very real and solid. We can sit on chairs, drink from coffee mugs, and set our books on the table in front of us. However, in the quantum world, sub atomic particles of pure energy are moving about, exchanging places with other particles between you and me and the table, waiting for the act of our observation to pass from potentiality to reality in the form we expect to see. So this energy is everywhere and in everything at the same time. We just do not see it that way.
Ever since I began learning about quantum physics, I have been struck by the similarities between the quantum field and the spiritual world. As “Christ is all and in all”, energy in the quantum field exists in all things and connects all things. As the Spirit is “like the wind with no one knowing where it comes from or where it is going”, so the quantum energy is constantly in motion passing between people, objects (some scientists theorize between universes) in their own quantum dance beyond our comprehension. As observation is required to make quantum potentialities into physical realities, faith is required to give “substance to things unseen.” Is the reason that the quantum field does not answer to the physical laws of the universe that it is the realm of God, omnipotent and omnipresent?
The reason this sounds heretical is because we have millennia of anthropomorphic religious expression to overcome. God sits on his throne and saves with the power of his arm. However, which seems more true: to see God as possessing human qualities, or to see God as the divine energy that permeates, animates and interconnects all beings and objects in the vast universe?
In this 21st century, antiquated expressions about God are quickly becoming obsolete. God has not changed, but humankind has. If God is to be relevant, we need to broaden our understanding and expression of God just as we have broadened our understanding and expression of the natural world. When I was a kid, we sang a song in Bible school, “Somewhere in outer space, God has prepared a place for those who trust him and obey.” That concept just seems silly to a generation raised on Hubble telescope images of a trillion galaxies containing a hundred billion stars each. It is not surprising that the median age of regular church attendees is over 50.
In fact, it was looking at the deep field image of the Hubble telescope that started me on this journey. When I realized that the thousands of dots of light in the photograph were not stars but galaxies of stars, I remember thinking, “Your God is too small.”
To expand my understanding of God, I had to set aside my old anthropomorphic language about God and see God as Saint John describes in the prologue to his gospel. “In the beginning was the Logos, the sum of all things, and the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us.”