Embracing Grace: The Uncertainty Principle

A 365 Day Devotional Journal

Day 69

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 8:14-17; Exodus 3:14; John 18:37-40; Isaiah 1:17-18; Psalm 119:160; Ephesians 4:21-24; Hebrews 11:1-3.

The Thinker (1902), a bronze and marble sculpture by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) displayed in Musée Rodin, Paris.Rodin based his theme on The Divine Comedy of Dante. The Thinker was originally meant to depict Dante in front of the Gates of Hell, pondering over his great poem. Public Domain.

According to Steven Holzner’s online Quantum Physics for Dummies Cheat Sheet (yes, they really do make cheat sheets for the Dummies’ guide books),

“In quantum physics, you encounter the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which says that the better you know the position of a particle, the less you know the momentum, and vice versa.”¹

The general equation for describing this phenomenon is:

 

What Heisenberg was saying is that the uncertainty occurs upon the detection of the particle, for to do so radiation has to “bounce” off it which disrupts the position of the particle, thus limiting the objectivity of scientific observation.²

Scientists and Philosophers, theologians, and yes, movie producers, have all taken advantage of the Uncertainty Principle to make their point on various issues. One of the more piebald³ uses was in the creation of the Movie, A Serious Man, a Joel and Ethan Coen’s film which painted an approach to life that could have been penned within Ecclesiastes something like this:

And this is not all that is meaningless in our world. In this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. This is so meaningless! So I commended pleasure, for there is nothing good for a man under the sun except to eat and to drink and to be merry, and this will stand by him in his toils throughout the days of his life which God has given him under the sun. When I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the task which has been done on the earth (even though one should never sleep day or night), and I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover; and though the wise man should say, “I know,” he cannot discover.4

The ancients of the Bible recognized that many aspects of God were unknowable, not because they were unenlightened or stupid, but because they acknowledged that much in the universe is beyond man’s comprehension, no matter how well it is searched out.

Materialism is “the philosophical theory that regards matter and its motions as constituting the universe, and all phenomena, including those of mind, as due to material agencies.” 5

Not until the latter half of the 18th century did the belief that much about God is unknowable begin to resemble the current mix. Today, God is for many an anachronism. He is relegated to mere idea, a myth belonging to a different time and place in history but not relevant to enlightened man. Replacing God is the two-fold prong of materialism and the quest for “secret knowledge,” the re-defined mystery of 21st century Gnostics who place self on the throne where once sat Divinity. Contemporary man has from this foundation narrowed down his options to perceiving eternity through lenses clouded by the three “R’s” of unbelief: rationalism, relativism and reason.

Though I know in generalities the definitions for some of these terms, I always find seeing it in print helps my understanding…

Gnosticism is “the doctrine of salvation by knowledge. This definition, based on the etymology of the word (gnosis “knowledge”, gnostikos, “good at knowing”), is correct as far as it goes, but it gives only one, though perhaps the predominant, characteristic of Gnostic systems of thought. Whereas Judaism and Christianity, and almost all pagan systems, hold that the soul attains its proper end by obedience of mind and will to the Supreme Power, i.e. by faith and works, it is markedly peculiar to Gnosticism that it places the salvation of the soul merely in the possession of a quasi-intuitive knowledge of the mysteries of the universe and of magic formulae indicative of that knowledge. Gnostics were “people who knew”, and their knowledge at once constituted them a superior class of beings, whose present and future status was essentially different from that of those who, for whatever reason, did not know.”6

It is “a religious movement characterized by a belief in gnosis through which the spiritual element in man could be released from its bondage in matter: regarded as a heresy by the Christian Church.”7

The cornerstone of modern society is founded on these three “R’s”…

1. Rationalism – “the principle or habit of accepting reason as the supreme authority in matters of opinion, belief, or conduct; the doctrine that reason alone is a source of knowledge and is independent of experience; (in the philosophies of Descartes, Spinoza, etc.) the doctrine that all knowledge is expressible in self-evident propositions or their consequences; the doctrine that human reason, unaided by divine revelation, is an adequate or the sole guide to all attainable religious truth.” 8

A phrase summing up such belief is one by René Descartes, the father of modern philosophy and founder of analytic geometry, “I think, therefore I am.”9 He was a man who, I believe, thumbed his nose at God in these words. Consider his statement in light of what Moses asked of God to say when he approached the children of Israel,

And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”10

2. Relativism – “the doctrine that no ideas or beliefs are universally true but that all are, instead, ‘relative’ — that is, their validity depends on the circumstances in which they are applied.” 11

Relativism is not something that magically jumped into public thought in recent times. Pilate struggled with it at the trial of Jesus before His crucifixion.

Pilate said to Him, Then You are a King? Jesus answered, You say it! [You speak correctly!] For I am a King. [Certainly I am a King!] This is why I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the Truth. Everyone who is of the Truth [who is a friend of the Truth, who belongs to the Truth] hears and listens to My voice. Pilate said to Him, What is Truth? On saying this he went out to the Jews again and told them, I find no fault in Him. But it is your custom that I release one [prisoner] for you at the Passover. So shall I release for you the King of the Jews? Then they all shouted back again, Not Him [not this Man], but Barabbas! Now Barabbas was a robber.12

3. Reason – “to think or argue in a logical manner; to form conclusions, judgments, or inferences from facts or premises; to urge reasons which should determine belief or action; to think through logically, as a problem (often followed by out ); to conclude or infer; to convince, persuade, etc., by reasoning; to support with reasons; the intellect regarded as a source of knowledge, as contrasted with experience; grounds for a belief; a premise of an argument supporting that belief.”13.14

I heard it said once that the only place in scripture God tells men to reason is when we consider our sins. Rather than assume this correct, I decided to conduct a word search of my own and, sure enough, this is the only instance I found:

Learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.15

Redeemed man walking in a renewed mind recognizes that Truth is not intellectualism and that it is the only worthwhile pursuit in life. Psalm 119:160 states “the sum of Your Word is Truth.”16 King James words it like this: “Thy word is true from the beginning.”

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.17

God is not surprised by man, as though this were some fluke of nature He did not anticipate, for He sees the bigger picture. Before we were in our mother’s womb, He knew us. Long before the dawn of modern science or the age of reason, ions before humanism, relativism or rationalism sunk its claws into society; God knew the uncertainty principle and named it.

He calls it faith.

Read:  Ecclesiastes 8:14-17; Exodus 3:14; John 18:37-40; Isaiah 1:17-18; Psalm 119:160; Ephesians 4:21-24; Hebrews 11:1-3. Journal your private thoughts.

Father God, thank you for the gift of faith and for Your Holy Spirit, who leads and guides me into all Truth. The sum of all Your thoughts and precepts is Truth. Grow Your Word in me, that I may be found fully pleasing in Your sight. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.18

_____________________
¹“Quantum Physics For Dummies: Cheat Sheet. ” Dummies.com.  http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/quantum-physics-for-dummies-cheat-sheet.html (accessed May 2, 2011).
²“What is the Uncertainty Principle?” Ask Kids: How Stuff Works. http://answers.askkids.com/How_Stuff_Works/what_is_the_uncertainty_principle (accessed May 2, 2011).
³Piebald in this sense means “of mixed character.” Piebald. Dictionary.com. Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/piebald (accessed: May 04, 2011)
4Ecclesiastes 8:14-17. Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. www.tyndale.com
5“Materialism.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/materialism  (accessed: May 03, 2011)
6“Gnosticism.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. John Arendzen. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06592a.htm  (accessed May 3, 2011).
“Gnosticism.” Dictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/gnosticism (accessed: May 03, 2011).
8“Rationalism.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/rationalism (accessed: May 03, 2011).
9Wikipedia contributors, “René Descartes,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ren%C3%A9_Descartes&oldid=426813410 (accessed May 3, 2011).
10Exodus 3:14. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
11“Relativism.” Dictionary.com. The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/relativism (accessed: May 03, 2011).
12John 18:3740. Scripture quotations taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
13“Reason.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/reason (accessed: May 03, 2011).
14“Reason.” Dictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/reason (accessed: May 03, 2011).
15Isaiah 1:17-18. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
16Psalm 119:160a. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
17Ephesians 4:21-24. Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. www.tyndale.com
18Hebrews 11:1-3. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com

Copyright © 2011, Érin Elise

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