Knocking on the Door of Mystery

Quantum mechanics is really weird.

Now, I’m not a scientist, and I don’t claim any expertise in the realm of physics (other than being a nerd and endlessly binge-watching The Big Bang Theory TV show).

But the more I learn about the field of quantum theory, the more fascinating and mind-bending it seems. Recent discoveries have blown our conceptions about the nature of reality out of the water. The farther down that scientists push into the subatomic depths, the more confusing and contradictory the world becomes. Reality, it turns out, isn’t a fixed point. Instead, reality is a series of probabilities, with subatomic particles seemingly phasing in and out of existence, rippling in and out of our dimensional space*. This leads scientists to conclude that what we think of as “reality” is only a tiny sliver of a vast quantum universe, the tip of an inter-dimensional iceberg, that exists outside our ability to perceive. All our experiments and ideas and theories can only scratch at the surface, dipping our toes in an ocean of mystery. Beyond what we are able to study or identify or even imagine is an immeasurable and incomprehensible reality.

And so the modern field of physics, with all its billion dollar particle accelerators, stands at a locked door with no handle, knocking. Scientists peer through the cracks, squinting for a glimpse of the truth on the other side of the door. We know the world shining through is far more than finite, four-dimensional beings like ourselves will ever know or experience. And yet we still knock on the door of mystery.

But like I said, I’m not a scientist, and I honestly don’t really understand any of this. So why am I sitting here pondering quantum mechanics on a Sunday afternoon?

Because, as a pastor, I’ve had several conversations in recent weeks that keep coming back to that same locked, handle-less door. Students struggling with their faith asking hard questions like, “How can a good God permit evil?” “If God is sovereign and knows everything, how can we have free will?” Knocking on the door, demanding answers.

As I’ve walked students through those questions– and wrestled with them myself– I’ve had two seemingly-contradictory thoughts. One: I’m increasingly thankful for the answers that the Bible does give. I want to follow divine revelation as far as it goes, plumb the depths of God’s Word for truth, think God’s thoughts after him, and help others do the same.

But perhaps even more than that, I’m also increasingly thankful for mystery. Because, after exhausting every Bible verse and theological resource, I find myself standing on the shore of the ocean of the mystery of God. Where answers run out and questions pile up, I run aground on imponderable, incomprehensible Reality. And, surprisingly, there’s something strangely comforting in that shipwreck. It’s evidence I’ve bumped into Someone bigger than me.

The existence of mystery in the Bible doesn’t shake my faith; it strengthens it. Like scientists sifting through the results of a particle accelerator test, I know there is an entire universe outside of my ability to understand, and I only see in part. Of course, those scientific experiments doesn’t prove our understanding of physics false; if anything, the strange working of quantum mechanics show that physicists are hot on the trail of something real. In the same way, mysteries like predestination or God’s sovereignty over evil don’t shatter the Christian faith. They prove that we’ve run up against something real.

C.S. Lewis, in his masterful treatise Mere Christianity, connects the dots between mystery and truth. He wrote, “Reality is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have.”

The locked door of mystery is “one of the reasons I believe Christianity.” The Bible doesn’t present us with the kind of God we would have guessed, a comfortable pocket-sized deity. Instead, it cracks open that door to give us a glimpse of the other side: the strange quantum-mechanical God who is, who exists far beyond our ability to apprehend. Vast, incomprehensible, ineffable, wrapped in inaccessible light… yet who wrapped himself in flesh and entered into the world on our side of the door. The Revealer become revelation. The mystery unveiled.

“The secret things belong to the LORD,” Deuteronomy 29:29 asserts, “but the revealed things belong to us and to our children forever.” The God of mystery has come to us in Jesus, and he promises that though now we see through a glass dimly, one day we shall “know fully, even as we are fully known.”

So though there is much we do not understand, we continue to stand and knock at the locked door of mystery. One day the door will open, and wonder of wonders: we will be ushered in.

*Yes, I know that explanation so lightly scratches at the surface, and so barely summarizes our current knowledge, as to be hardly true at all. If you’re a scientist, you’re probably cringing at my ham-fisted attempt to explain a complicated scientific idea. Cut me some slack; quantum mechanics is weird, okay? Feel free to comment with a more accurate explanation.

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