New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
May 21, 2017
|Questions to the Rescue by David Hayward|
The term “both/and” can be difficult for us humans. Most of the time we much prefer “either/or”. “Both/and” is messy, incongruent, seemingly impossible. Take for example, the thought experiment or “what-if” proposition that we know as Schrödinger’s cat. Erwin Schrödinger was an Austrian physicist in the early part of the 20th century. He won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1933. Quantum mechanical theory was just getting off the ground. One aspect of quantum theory, called the Copenhagen interpretation (scientists have as much complicated lingo as theologians), states that a subatomic object exists in all its possible forms simultaneously until it is observed and then collapses into one form. For instance, light can be a particle or a wave, but which one and when?
Schrödinger thought this was nonsense and sought to prove this theory wrong. So he devised a thought experiment in which there was a cat, a Geiger counter, some radioactive material, a hammer, and a vial of cyanide, all sealed within a steel box. And presumably enough air for the cat to breathe. There would be enough radioactive material, just a few atoms, that within an hour there was a 50/50 chance some of it would decay. If that occurred, the Geiger counter would detect the decay, setting off the hammer to break the glass vial of poison and thus kill the cat. But there was only a 50/50 chance that any of this would happen. Theoretically, without being able to observe what was happening in the box, the cat would be both alive and dead. Both possibilities would exist until the box was opened.
I think this capacity for ambiguity would have driven the apostle Paul nuts. Here in the book of Acts he’s been preaching in Thessalonica, then Berea, and now Athens. He hasn’t exactly had an enthusiastic following as yet; he stirred up such emotion and passion in the synagogues he visited that mobs threw him out of town. Yet in Athens he finds people to have a more open mind. They are keen to hear or tell of something new. He debates with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. These Athenians seem to know little of the history of Abraham and Sarah and their descendants, of God’s covenant with the Hebrew people. The Jews were not known for their evangelism—Peter, Paul, and the rest of the apostles are the first. But people gather to listen nonetheless, to hear this new teaching.
|The Areopagus as seen from the Parthenon|
Back in 1988 when Campbell and Bill Moyers were discussing The Power of Myth, both of them were probably considered heretics. A heretic is someone who chooses to believe something other than the accepted norm. Every time we move forward in human history it is because of heretical thinking. In their conversation, Bill Moyers said that “there are Christians who believe that to find out who Jesus is, you have to go past the Christian faith, past the Christian doctrine, past the Christian church,” and that many would consider that heresy. Campbell agreed and replied that “you have to go past the image of Jesus. The image of God becomes the final obstruction. Your God is your ultimate barrier.”
Inclusive Language version of the text:
an altar inscribed, 'To an Unknown God.' Now, what you are worshiping in ignorance I intend to make known to you.
'For the God who made the world and all that is in it, the Sovereign of heaven and earth, doesn't live in sanctuaries made by human hands, and isn't served by humans, as if in need of anything. No! God is the One who gives everything life, breath—everything. From one person God created all of humankind to inhabit the entire earth, and set the time for each nation to exist and the exact place where each nation should dwell. God did this so that human beings would seek, reach out for and perhaps find the One who is not really far from any of us - the One in whom we live and move and have our being. As one of your poets has put it, 'We too are God's children.'
If we are in fact children of God, then it's inexcusable to think that the Divine Nature is like an image of gold, silver or stone—an image formed by the art and thought of mortals. God, who overlooked such ignorance in the past, now commands all people everywhere to reform their lives. For a day has been set when the whole world will be judged with justice. And this judge, who is a human being, has already been appointed. God has given proof of all of this by raising this judge from the dead.'