When Scientific Ideas Change Our Theology

ScienceOur theology changes with scientific and cultural advancement. Even those who insist they are part of an unchanging religious tradition established by an unchanging God  must admit that the development of the heliocentric model (the earth revolving around the sun), the invention of the printing press, the emergence of religious liberty, and the increasing value of human equality have all had an effect on the way we view God and the way we understand the Bible. More and more understanding about the development of the universe is continuing to shape our theology.

Most of our understandings of the universe are fairly Newtonian. We have a mechanistic, cause-and-effect view of the way the world works. We know that if we do one thing, we can expect a predictable response. If I step on the brake, the car will stop. If I sit on a chair, the chair will hold me up. If I hit my thumb with a hammer, I will feel pain.

In a mechanistic world the outcome of everything is set from the start. This is at the root of Calvinistic Christianity. God set the world spinning and then knew exactly what would happen from the beginning until the end of time. He preordained it all. Cause and effect.

Quantum physics is giving us a new understanding of the universe and perhaps it will give us a new understanding of God. Particle physicists are finding that the world is not as predictable as we thought it was. In fact as things get smaller, it seems that they become terribly UNpredictable. It may even be the nature of sub-atomic particles to avoid predictability. Just because a particle behaved a particular way last time does not mean it will behave the same way this time. Scientist are able able to identify possibilities, but not predict the specific route a particle will take.

For those of us who have existed in the Newtonian world of cause and effect, this chaotic realm of quantum physics can be rather disconcerting. It is not only our scientific understanding that has been mechanistic. It is also our religion, our sociology, our philosophy, and our world-view. What will happen when quantum understanding begins to inform the way we view the world?

I believe that we will shift from believing that we have God all figured out to accepting that He is even more unpredictable than the weirdest parts of nature. I believe that we will shift from believing that the future is set in stone, to understanding that there are many possibilities still open. I believe we will find the nature of God to be something more than we imagined.

2 Responses to “When Scientific Ideas Change Our Theology”

  1. I read a book (fiction) a while back that captured quite well this concept of a future with many possibilities that God still knows …Ted Dekker’s “Blink”. I recommend it. It is fiction, but well thought out in how this concept might be understood (or not) by our human minds.

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