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Monday, 4 February 2013

Ineffable Glories

Beyond Fear and Wonder

We have a hard time conceptualising the smallness of atoms and, therefore, the number of them.  The Guardian, in a piece entitled 20 Amazing Facts About the Human Body contained the following factoid:
It is hard to grasp just how small the atoms that make up your body are until you take a look at the sheer number of them. An adult is made up of around  7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (7 octillion) atoms.
The number of atoms in the material universe is finite but uncountable.  The number of atoms in just one human body is hard enough to reckon with.  But it gets even more difficult.  Particle physicists--both of the theoretical and experimental kind--tell us that that the standard model of the atom now consists of a dozen or so particles and four forces.  This would suggest that one human body is made up of far more than 84 octillion atomic particles (since there are multiple sub-atomic particles of the same type in each atom). 

All of these particles are behaving in exactly the way they are commanded to behave.  There are two ways to think about these commands.  The first is the dominant view of our time.
  Unbelief postulates the commands that keep all of these atomic and sub-atomic particles in place doing what they should do are impersonal causes that just are.  It is the ultimate "just so" story.  The Bible, however, reveals that the commands are personal: they come from God Himself.  His speaking and commanding keep every atom and every sub-atomic particle, and every force in existence and in place--all the time. 

The Unbelieving materialist--that is, vast majority of human beings upon the planet in our day--have a strange binary view of the situation.  For some bizarre reason they argue that if there is a natural cause of particular matter or a material phenomenon it serves to disprove the existence of God.  Natural causation, therefore, means no divine causation--a remarkably banal idea.  All this does is beg another question which runs something like this: since both Unbelievers and Christians alike acknowledge the existence of natural causes as self-evident, the real point of division between Belief and Unbelief must lie elsewhere.  And it does.  The real point is to explain why natural causation exists at all. 

Christians talk about primary and secondary causes.  We can illustrate as follows.  A man lifts a billiard cue and strikes a billiard ball, sending it careering into another, which then shoots off in a tangential direction. The primary cause (in this illustration) of the balls' movement is the billiard player; a secondary cause is Newton's laws of motion.  The Bible reveals that the Living God has created and providentially maintains all things.  He is the primary cause of all things; He also has established and maintains all secondary causes.  The existence of secondary causes is due to the grace and goodness of God.  That is the Christian's explanation as to why natural causation exists.  Unbelief has no rational explanation.  It's only recourse is to resort to chance. 

Atoms and sub-atomic particles and the forces which keep them together and control their movements exist, and exist in perfect harmony, because God unceasingly speaks these things into existence.  But there's more.  Particle physicists tell us that
. . . electrons are confined to specific orbits--as if they run on rails.  They can't exist anywhere between these orbits but have to make a "quantum leap" from one to another.  
But within those rails the precise orbit or position of each electron appears to be random: influenced and controlled by no secondary cause whatsoever.  This is what led Einstein to grumble about God "playing dice with the universe."   If this is correct--future experimentation may be able to make predictive sense about the precise path and location of each electron in an atom--it implies that the precise positioning of electrons is subject to no secondary causes whatsoever, but the direct, fiat command of God as the alone cause.  God, of course, does not play dice with the universe. Einstein simply was blind to the One True God who has revealed Himself as the all conditioning Conditioner.   The precise location and path of each electron in the human body, and of all electrons existing in the universe is commanded and known by God at all times.

God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.  His greatness and majesty and power is on display without ceasing.  When the Psalmist declared, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" he was speaking the truth.  But we, in our days, are privileged to apprehend the truth of that statement in ways that the Psalmist could never imagine. 
 


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