Our goal is to show that there happens to be an analagous relationship between quantum physics and Christology. There can be peace in the minds of non-believers and believers alike that it is intellectually viable to believe that Jesus Christ is God. Because just as science and scientists have encountered and embraced the paradoxical field of quantum physics, so can non-believers and believers encounter and embrace the paradoxical dual divine-human nature of Jesus. We will investigate paradoxes in quantum physics by examining parallels between the historical discoveries in the areas quantum physics and Christology.
Dr. John Polkinghorne, a distinguished physicist holding a Ph.D. in theology as well as a Ph.D. in physics, advocates that science and theology move from experimental/experiential data to models to theories to a more refined theory that has greater explanatory power & scope.
Around 1900, initial models in physics were developing to explain the phenomena of light. Light seemed to posses wave like properties – meaning that light seemed to have an oscillating spread out flow to it. But later on when Einstein and Max Planck studied it, they studied light as a particle phenomena – meaning bullet like concentrated dots. So wave/particle duality became a topic of major interest very quick. Is light a wave or is it a particle?
Scientists like Niels Bohr tried to figure it out with Newtonian Classical physics. But that turned out unfruitful and unwise. Other challenges continued. In 1900, Planck showed that light energy must be emitted and absorbed in discrete ‘quanta’ to explain blackbody radiation. In 1905, Einstein showed that the energy of light is determined by its frequency, where E=hf. In the 1920s, de Broglie and Schrodinger introduced the concept of Standing Waves to explain these discrete frequency and energy states of light and matter. In 1925, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrodinger, Paul Dirac, and others made different important discoveries related to the quantum field. Interestingly Einstein spent a lot of time trying to disprove theories of the quantum field. Turns out that a great thinker like Einstein focused in on this because of his scientific commitments to general and special relativity theory. Yet, today, both relativity theory and quantum physics somehow have their established place in science.
It turns out, that for the last 80 years, perplexed physicist have had to live with this paradox as well as the fact that light seems to behave like a particle at times and like a wave at other times. Keeping in mind that paradox does not mean contradiction, rather it means mystery or something not fully known.
Whether or not Jesus Christ is fully God has proved to be an intellectual barrier of belief for many people of the last 2 millenium. Many cannot get past such a paradox. But the theology of Christ’s nature (Christology) has developed with challenges moving from the different models to preliminary theory to overarching theory that has explanatory power and scope. Theories, such as, Adoptionism, Docetism, Arianism, Semi-Arianism, Nestorianism, Apollinarianism, Eutychianism.
The Bible teaches a self emptying of certain divine characteristics, in Philippians 2:5-11, to assume humanity. The Bible also teaches clearly that Jesus was fully human. So in theology we are left with a Paradox: a pre-existent fully divine Logos in human form with infinite divinity and finite humanity in 1 person. In that Jesus is 100% God but 100% Man. Similar to the paradox in quantum physics with the wave particle dual nature of light. If the quantum physicist experience mysterious paradoxes in his field of research why would belief in the paradox of the divine-human nature of Christ be difficult?
But the paradox is beautiful in that it reveals a depth to a God that is inexhaustible and will keep us thinking about him forever! Polkinghorne says that “The essential thing about seeming paradox, whether in science or in theology, is that it should be forced upon us by experience and not just embraced in a fit of unrestrained speculative exuberance.” Just as the basic location of an electron is not determinable and all we have as knowledge of it is based in probability – until we find it. This is a good analogy for our quest to Jesus. Perhaps all of Jesus seems improbable for us to figure out and he isn’t known fully until we experience him fully. – Perhaps this is why Paul says no we know in part but then we shall know him fully.
The scientist and theologian must be an advocate and an explorer into the realms of reality that he knows not. Perhaps then, without fear and reservation, the scientist and theologian will find each other in the same spot. In front of the real God that is the source of all reality and truth.