Quantum Theology

“Creative Commons parallel worlds” by Alice Popkorn is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Quantum physics has led us into a new world of understanding (and incredulity). Separate a particle into two parts and they communicate faster than the speed of light no matter how much distance separates them. And, what you choose to observe determines what you actually see — that is, an atom can be investigated in terms of its locality or measured as to its speed (one or the other, but not both).

In a like manner, what you expect to see / experience with reference to God determines God’s actuality. Classical theologians take a snapshot of God (locality) and generalize from that snapshot to God’s being. Process theologians examine how God functions (speed) over time and generalize God’s function. John Cobb is a pre-eminent process theologian. Ironically, in his recent work (Jesus’ Abba) he sounds more like a classical theologian who has taken a snapshot from which to draw his conclusions.

Radical theology suggests a more sweeping approach — a pox on both your houses. Instead of God’s essence or God’s processes, Nicholas of Cusa says “God is possibility itself (posse ipsum).” John Caputo says “God doesn’t exist; God insists.” What is at stake here, drawing upon quantum physics, is not what we observe about God. Instead, my primary concern is for the relationship between us as observers and that which we observe and name as God. Relationality becomes primary in the quantum world, and in anything involving human beings.

To observe God as possibility itself is to suggest that for me — as one who stands within the tradition of Yeshua — compassion, peace, and justice are not only possible, but they constitute the highest aspirations for my life in community. Once I mention aspirations the possible has become inspirations; the possibilities have become potentials. Possibilities in God have no force, no demand, in and of themselves. They are simply indiscriminate possibilities. When I apprehend one or more of these possibilities as being for me, they begin to take on a passion (a potency) which is not implanted in me from an external God, but from within. They become God having taken up residence within me. Because those potentials are bound with an inner passion, I am likely to move to actualize them. When the possibility that has become a potential is becoming actualized, then it can be said that God is alive and active in the world in and through my activity.

It is possible that I might take up where Mother Theresa left off, caring for the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. It’s a possibility, but has no potential for me. A 30 day silent retreat is certainly a possibility for you. But when I talk about my 30 day silent retreat, you may know immediately that you have no aspiration for such a journey. Together you and I may explore the possibility of engaging in a mission with the homeless, only to learn that the possibilities to which you are drawn don’t appeal to me, and likewise my favorites are not on your list of favorites… until you suggest that we join a project to build 20 Habitat for Humanity houses. Your aspiration and my passion found a common potency and a possibility became a potentiality and is awaiting our putting it into action.

God does not have a pre-determined plan form my life that I am to discern and follow obediently. Instead there is a divinely-rooted possibility that I may discern and act upon such a possibility (and of course, I might not). The other reality is that my enactment of the possibilities of compassion, peace, and justice may be different from yours (less complete, more complete, or even in a different direction). My hope is that we may find some common ground so that our actions might complement and build upon each other. 

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