Pastoral ponderings . . .
Easter Sunday we remembered together that The Resurrection is not a matter of science, logic, or reason. It’s not a matter of fact. It’s a matter of hope. It’s a matter of trusting God, and the promise God made in the empty tomb of Jesus.
The resurrection of Christ is not something that can be known empirically. It cannot be proven. It is a mystery. It is a matter of faith that we trust will only be revealed to us in the moment of our death. We all have a place in that story, because all of us just as we are, are part of God’s family: Peter the denier, Judas the betrayer, Thomas the doubter; Mary the mother, Magdalene the outsider, Paul the persecutor. Every one of us is there, in the story of God’s resurrection of Jesus.
What's interesting to me is that by and large, this particular body of disciples at Mount Tabor is overwhelmingly made up of professional doubters (!), people of faith whose profession is among the natural sciences. Tabor is a community of seekers, doubters, and questioners, in the tradition of Martin Luther. And what fundamentally brings us here is a mystery that has somehow, some way, enfolded itself in our consciousness. A mystery that continues to invite us onward into greater mystery. A mystery that somehow continues to make more of who we are, and what our lives can possibly be. Maybe we should just go ahead and name Thomas the Doubter as our patron saint of Mount Tabor!
Before Easter, we remembered that faith without doubt is certainty, and certainty is the fuel of fanaticism. Christian fanaticism is just as ugly as Muslim fanaticism. Both lead to fear and hatred, and death. Our Muslim cousins on Abraham and Sarah’s family tree remind us that the Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him) doubted his own sanity when the Koran was first revealed to him. His first reaction was to throw himself off a cliff. He thought he had lost his mind. Muhammed’s profound experience of doubt was essential in the revelation of the faith of Islam. His was a profoundly human response to revelation. And I believe the Prophet would be appalled by the fanaticism of today.
Faith without doubt is not faith, it is certainty. And certainty leads to fanaticism. And fanaticism is not faith. Doubt is essential to faith. Without it, our faith becomes dead. What more would there be to discover? We already have all we need. But doubt draws us deeper. It spurs us onward. It keeps us asking “Why”and in the asking, we continue becoming. Doubt shoves aside certainty, and makes room for wonder and mystery in our lives. Doubt is essential to faith. And essential for science.
Somehow, the general public has forgotten that science is not infallible. Society has come to believe science can answer any question in a definitive way. It doesn’t matter what someone else might say because at least in popular culture, it’s all about “what scientists now say.” The New Atheist movement today believes that objective, rational certainty and logical science is the key to human salvation and world peace. If only we do away with the world’s religions, they say, we as a species would quit fighting each other.
But scientists of faith whom I have met, have something to say about what I am calling this “super-elevation of science.” You may have heard of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. It’s a result of the experimental observation that all particles have an associated wavelength and wave behavior. This means that it is impossible to ever know everything about even the simplest part of the universe. Even the location of a the most basic, well-understood part of the universe. If we try to say exactly where an electron is, we no longer have the ability to say anything about its motion. In terms of absolute knowledge, the more complicated and massive the system the more impossible the situation becomes.
Truth, scientifically speaking, just isn’t the absolute we want it to be. The best we humans can do is offer a best estimate to any simple question in the natural world.
This scientific principle causes me to keep doubt close at hand in the life of faith. Certainty is not a part of the natural world. That’s what the discovery of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle tells us.
Science is telling itself then, through its own discovery, that nothing is certain. Anything can happen. And if anyone would convince us otherwise, we have reason to doubt. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle tells me it is just as likely that Christ rose from the dead, as it is that he did not. Doesn’t that make room for wonder? For mystery? For joy?
Christ is risen. Alleluia! Anything is possible.