Bishop Nicholas Knisely of Rhode Island talks about God, quantum physics, and the nature of eternity in a sermon featured on Day1, as part of their series of broadcasts on “Faith & Science in the 21st Century.”
Here is an excerpt from his sermon for Proper 24:
…To make sense of this idea that God, that Jesus, has all the future as present, and all the past as present as well, we might do well to take a moment and talk about what we know about time.
Our modern experience of time is relatively novel. We have machines strapped to our wrists or computers in our pockets, that slice time up into exactly defined moments each marching equally past us as we watch the seconds tick by. At least that’s what seems to be happening. There’s an innate belief inspired by the design of a clock face that each second is like each other second, each one representing the same duration of time.
It’s more than just the clock face that communicates that idea. All of our language about how we experience the world, how we measure things like speed or acceleration or growth or decay, depend on the assumption that time is “flowing” at a constant rate for all of us. When you and I agree to meet for dinner at 6 p.m., we are tacitly assuming that 6 p.m. for me is the same for you.
Isaac Newton, following Galileo’s lead, described time as a river, with a steady current that flows from the future, to the present and on into the past. Newton’s laws of motion, which undergird all of classical physics, are dependent on this assumption. And our own daily experience of time, with our watches and atomic clocks and GPS devices, seems to neatly fit into this metaphor.
But it’s wrong….
In the accompanying interview, Peter Wallace asks Knisely how thinking about space-time and quantum mechanics can help us know God in Christ more deeply.
Peter Wallace: You’ve written a lovely and thought-provoking Lenten devotional called “Lent Is Not Rocket Science, An Exploration of God, Creation, and the Cosmos.” And in another book of yours, Entangled States,you say one of the fundamental insights of quantum physics is that our reality isn’t limited to our physical boundary but extends throughout time and space–which means we are all interrelated, completely entangled in each other’s lives, a harmonious connectedness, you put it. How does this help us understand not only ourselves but God?
Nicholas Knisely: I think we’re moving in the latter part of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21stcentury from an understanding of human being as individual only to an understanding of human being as part of community. And in a sense, community becomes the dominant metaphor; the network becomes the model for how we understand what it is to be human. Somewhere in that network God exists and is completely entangled up with us. And it’s that idea that we had extent beyond our own boundaries; we are connected one and another. It redefines what it is to be human, redefines what it is to experience life.
Bishop Knisely was one of the founding members of the Episcopal Café.