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Einstein And The Nature Of God
A telescope, as you know, has two ends. Paul Johnson in his book “The Modern World” dates modernity from 1919, when experimental evidence was obtained to verify Einstein’s theory of special relativity that had been published fourteen years earlier in 1905. This most astonishing theory, which overturned the ideas of Isaac Newton, which were the ground bed of physics, said that time and space were not absolute but relative and that under certain circumstances “lengths could contract and time could slow down.” The Times commenting on this at the time said that “it was an affront to common sense” yet here, in an objective experiment made during a solar eclipse, was proof that Einstein was right. The world of physics, a world of straight lines, right angles and certainties was toppled on its axis and replaced by a new curvilinear universe.
Now Johnson, a renowned critic of modern times takes the move from an absolute to a relative world as the starting point for our moral decay. He suggests that people of the time reacted by imagining there were no longer any absolutes, neither knowledge, nor good or evil or indeed any immutable values. I should add that he blames many other thinkers for this as well, but Einstein is where he starts.
Einstein though was very much in search of the truth. It is a marvel to me that his theories were applicable to the very large, the planets and the cosmos, as well as to the very small, laying as he did the foundations for modern atomic physics. He spent the rest of his life in search of a set of equations that would unify our understanding of the forces in the world around us struggling with the later ideas of uncertainly famously saying to his scientific colleagues “I do not believe God plays dice.” He was instead convinced that there were mysteries as yet un-revealed and unresolved.
Our passage from the book of Proverbs is a beautiful piece of poetry expressing the mystery of God from the very beginning:
Today, on Trinity Sunday we are challenged to consider the nature of God. We see the signs of God everywhere; in the beauty of the earth and nature, in our inherent sense of justice and what is right and in the birth of a baby. However, looking intently for God is like staring directly at the sun. There is brilliance, warmth exceptional brightness but so much unknown and unseen.
So I wonder, if Paul Johnson in this instance was looking through the wrong end of the telescope; for far from Einstein’s overthrowing of our previous certainties being the beginning of the end and the decline of values and religion in particular, I see it as the beginning of a renewed appreciation of the mysteries of creation, of the mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of God and his meaning in the world, and of the mystery of Wisdom: