Science & Faith Friday

SchrÖdinger’s advent

Welcome to the 1st episode of Science & Faith Friday!!! The 1st Friday of every month we will walk together down a path addressing a topic with one foot in science and the other foot in faith.  Albert Einstein once said, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”  This is the beginning of Advent and a new year for the Church.  What better time to begin a journey and each journey begins with but a single step.  So… Let us begin. – Vicar Avery

The Christian faith can be quite confusing at times.  The very nature of our faith requires us to look at God, the world, and ourselves in multiple realities all at the same time.  For instance, we say that God is a trinity (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit) while at the same time saying that there is only one God.  We live in a world where death and sin are very real and yet, at the same time, death and sin can no longer hold their icy grip because of God’s grace through Christ.  Because of this we live every day in two realities, that of Saint and Sinner.  Additionally, as you can see from the title of this post, I am writing this during Advent; a season in which we wait for the arrival of Christ and yet Christ has already come.  How confusing!!!

As those of you who have sat through one of my classes on science and faith know, I tend to look at my faith through a scientific lens; not that science can ever explain our faith, nor faith explain science.  As Rabbi Johnathan Sacks says in his book entitled, The Great Partnership, “Science takes things apart to see how they work.  Religion puts things together to see what they mean.”  Both science and faith ask questions about the universe and the realities in which we exist.  Therefore, it is not surprising that not only faith, but science as well, raises and wrestles with questions of co-existing in multiple realities at the same time.

In the early part of the 20th Century, physicists discovered that all of creation exists simultaneously in multiple states as illustrated through the nature of light itself.  Light exists as a wave with both magnitude and frequency, while at the same time, existing and being composed of quantum particles called photons.  They discovered through a series of experiments that you could only observe light as a wave or a particle, but never both at the same time; in other words, you could know the speed the particle was moving or you could know its location, but never both; this is known as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.  Even though you could only see light as one or the other, the reality was that it is both a wave and a particle at the same time.

erwin_schrodinger_1933In 1935, Erwin Schrödinger  proposed an imaginary experiment involving a cat, a box, a radioactive device, and a vial of poison.  For the record, Schrödinger would never have carried out such a morbid experiment in real life as he was a great lover of animals.  The entire premise was theoretical and something of a physics joke.  In this (imaginary) experiment, a cat is placed in a closed box with a device that has a 50% chance of killing the cat.  The cat, now and until the box is opened, can be understood to exist in two separate realities at the same time; the cat, for theoretical purposes exists in one reality where the cat is alive and simultaneously in another reality where the cat is dead.  The observer of the experiment does not know which reality they are experiencing, or you could say they are experiencing both realities until the box is opened.  Is the cat alive or dead prior to opening the box?  The answer is yes!

Advent is also a time of dual realities for the church and Christ.  We exist in one reality where we are awaiting his arrival (both his birth & his return); while simultaneously existing in another reality where Christ has already come and we can experience his presence with us through the sacrament of Communion in the bread and wine and the presence of the Holy Spirit whom he sent to be with us until his return.  Is God the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit?  Does sin & death still affect our lives or has Christ defeated sin & death?  During Advent, are we awaiting the birth of Christ, the second coming of Christ,  or is Christ already with us?  The very confusing and yet simple answer to all of these questions is a single word… Yes.

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Avery Carr

Vicar, 2016-2017

R. Avery Carr was called to serve as pastor of First & Trinity Lutheran Churches in Iron River, MI.

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