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  • Ross Moughtin

The cross of Jesus subverts our every assumption


The cruel and lingering death of Jesus, the Son of God, would upend our entire view of reality, subvert our every assumption of how we are to live. As the apostle Paul explains “This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written, “I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head, I’ll expose so-called experts as shams. (1 Corinthians 1:18, Message translation) I’ve just finished reading an astonishing book of how a collection of very clever men in the opening decades of the last century completely revised our understanding of the universe and formulated our best theory of reality from the microscopic level: Quantum mechanics. Over the years my understanding of God has been enriched by all those incredible facts from astronomy, from the Very Big. Only two days ago a new black hole was located, some 55,000 times the mass of the Sun and goodness knows how many million light years away. Awesome. And yet this was created, along with billions of others, by God, our heavenly Father. He truly is awesome and we would approach him with fear, even with terror - if he didn’t run towards us, declares Jesus, with open arms and forgiveness in his heart. Similarly, the Very Small, the quantum world – where reality is not what it seems. Quantum mechanics emerged one century ago as “the deepest, most comprehensive reality we have,” to quote theoretical physicist Sean Carroll in his book which I’m reading on Kindle, Something Deeply Hidden. Not that I understand hardly anything, but that’s no problem, no one does. As one of the pioneers, Richard Feynman concluded: “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” For quantum mechanics appears crazy, entirely counter-intuitive – a particle, for example, can be in different places at the same time. Moreover, the action of one particle can affect that of another in a totally different part of the universe. And just by observing how a quantum system works changes its behaviour. “The enigma at the heart of quantum reality,” explains Carroll, “can be summed up in a single motto: what we see when we look at the world seems to be fundamentally different from what actually is.” To quote Albert Einstein, quantum mechanics is spukhaft, spooky. Maybe at this point, a joke is in order, featuring one of Einstein’s esteemed colleagues who gave us the uncertainty principle . A police officer pulls over Werner Heisenberg for speeding. “Do you know how fast you were going?” asks the cop. “No,” Heisenberg replies, “but I know exactly where I am!” (If you don’t get it, don’t worry) Now there is no way I can do any justice to quantum mechanics. Even though it is ubiquitous in modern technology, such is its impenetrability that most physics students are told simply not to ponder but “to shut up and calculate.” But nevertheless God has given us the desire to understand, however intractable the problem and inconvenient the outcome: we are made to follow the evidence. Which is what Albert Einstein and Danish physicist, Niels Bohr, did a century ago. As Albert explained: “It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer.” I was saddened to hear last month of the death of theoretical physicist and priest, John Polkinghorne. As it happens Jacqui and I had him for tea some years back when he came to preach at our church – he packed them in for our 6.30 pm service. He clearly was someone who married his faith in Christ with this search to understand, though I don’t recall our discussing Everett’s many-worlds theory over our sandwiches. However, he contends: “Quantum theory also tells us that the world is not simply objective; somehow it's something more subtle than that. In some sense it is veiled from us, but it has a structure that we can understand.” And this is what the cross of Jesus does – to challenge and radically change the way we understand reality, how we see the world around us and especially, how we see ourselves. The world as we experience it, with so much sorrow and suffering, is writ large at the cross. Calvary would show that might is right, that there is no point in living for others, that love is a dangerous delusion. As the nails are driven into Jesus’ wrists, we ask “What’s the point?” Today we stand at the cross, knowing that the man nailed to its timber is the Word made flesh, flesh which is torn and bleeding but a Word who speaks of a new Kingdom, an altogether different reality. If that is true, then everything changes. Everything. For this is no detached event in history, yet another example of man’s inhumanity to man. This event 2000 years ago and 2000 miles away involves me, directly and immediately. Simply, Jesus died for us, for me. To quote the apostle Paul in the Message translation: “When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did.” (Romans 6:11) #reality #cross #quantumtheory

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