Saturday, January 09, 2010

You need quantum physics like you need a friend

Chapter 6 in Reggie McNeal's book 'Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders' has a good section explaining the relationship of quantum physics to the church (and you didn't think this stuff mattered in school). Since I am no scientist, let me just give you a lengthy section from pp. 122-124...
Quantum physics provides the underlying scientific foundation for the postmodern world, just as Newtonian physics supplied the understanding of the universe that supported the modern era. Quantum scientists have a different view of the created order from that of their predecessors. In the modern world the universe was treated like a giant thing - a gargantuan machine, really - that could be torn apart for observation and analysis. The assumption was that if we could understand the parts we could understand the whole. And if we could explain how it worked, we didn't need God. Modernity attached the supernatural, determined to drain mystery out of the universe, eventually replacing it with skepticism. The modern world's epochal achievement was the splitting of the atom - the ultimate rendering asunder of the basic "building block" of the universe.

Scientists of the quantum variety [on the other hand] see the universe not as a giant thing but as a complex network of relationships. Take, for instance, quantum physicists' discoveries of the atomic structure. They have now discovered a host of subatomic particles that populate the subatomic universe (quarks, muons, gluons, weak gauge bosons, gravitons, and photons make up a much more detailed set of elements than the three I grew up with: protons, neutrons, and electrons). Nuclear physicists now say that inner space is as infinite as outer space, with more subatomic particles being discovered all the time. None of these particles exist in isolation. They are all in relationship with other particles. This is the fundamental reason quantum physics sees everything as connected.

This notion of connectivity finds expression in the World Wide Web. Both "worldwide" and "web" underscore the proximity we share, no matter how spatially separated we might be. Two or three clicks and we are "there." In quantum spirituality, postmoderns assume they are connected to God and to other people. This poses an intriguing dilemma to spiritual tribes whose evangelism strategy begins with the declaration to people that they are separated from God!

Community is also one of the themes of the emerging missional church. As opposed to a worldview and ministry approach where the church could exist practically unconnected to its surrounding community (and many do!), the missional church is turned outward toward its community. Missional congregations and their leaders strategize ways to connect with people who are not a part of their congregation. Again, a sense of collective "belonging" permeates this approach.

A kingdom theology is also in ascendancy that helps missional congregations see themselves as part of the larger work of God in the world. This stands in sharp contrast to the perspective of many in the old church culture who practiced church as a "silo" religious experience isolated (and insulated) from the rest of the world, with the church considered to be both the focus and recipient. A kingdom view sees God's redemptive mission being carried out in the world (extended beyond the church culture).

Spiritual leaders who want to practice greatness today operate within the quantum universe, emphasizing connectivity, belonging, and community. The insight that the universe exists as a series of relationships is not news to them. After all, the central tenet of Christian theology is that God exists in community. Father, Son, and Spirit enjoy a relationship that has spilled out into the created order, all the way into the subatomic region. The search for belonging is part of what it means for humans to be created in the image of God. People need each other. We are relational beings. We not only want to belong, we only come to a true understanding of who we are in our relationships with God and with other people. We must belong to be fully alive...

Wow, so this is what I missed while sleeping through all those science classes. Great stuff.