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Higgs Boson, “God Particle”, & The Bare Necessities

July 5, 2012 2 comments

Today the research from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider was announced to suggest the existence of the Higgs boson. It’s kind of difficult digging through all the articles online because the certainty of the boson to be the Higgs or not varies quite extremely. Some quotes from notable scientists say it is the Higgs others say it’s a boson and whether it’s the Higgs (or something very similar) isn’t certain. What I think is more important than what it is exactly or not is what the implications are for the advancing our understanding of the world around us and how that relates to the existence of God.When talking about theology and science I do not wish to defend

my god, necessarily, but rather attempt to reconcile our understanding of the natural world to the possibility of a God. This is mostly because followers of science tend to jump on new discoveries in biology, physics, astronomy (and whatever else they can) to say that a god(s) is no longer  necessary. These people however, also claim that God was no longer necessary after the microscope and also the telescope. If they truly believed that why would then claim that this new discovery is what proves the lack of necessity for a god(s)? Just look at the Facebook quote status and comments below:

I thank the Person who wrote the post for repeating what has been said for quite a long time. In that time I don’t think the influence of religion has gone extinct (though I know that’s not the way he phrased it). I am quite sure that in a few years the face of religion will be very similar to what it is today, and Christianity may be smaller or greater in number, but will be truer, whatever that means- quantum mechanics are quite naturally irrelevant to the existence of God.

Well, let’s get back on track with the Higgs boson. A boson is a subatomic particle, like quarks, gluons, photons, electrons… you know em’. There are two types of subatomic particles- fermions and bosons. The difference in definition, from my understanding is that bosons have whole integer spins and fermions have half-integer spins. The two groups differ in properties, but as I hardly understand I would suggest further reading for any information. What I can tell you is the Higgs boson is the name given to an idea that is a possible explanation for the existence of the clumping-together of particles. What the Higgs boson creates an invisible forcefield through which passing subatomic particles that would otherwise be massless gain mass. Necessary for atom formations and essentially all material beyond the subatomic level.

My Facebook friend as well as other seem to think this disproves -the necessity and therefore the existence of- God. My question is simple: why? This is a simple case of the straw-man argument I see science voyeurs repeat over and over. I have never heard any argument from a Christian or any other theist saying “God exists because the universe needs him to- how else would subatomic particles get together and create matter?” I certainly haven’t heard of any holy book or divinity making that claim. So why does the existence of the Higgins boson disprove anything about the existence of God?

There are a few other things I stumbled upon while doing some [light] research. I thought I’d share these unrelated thoughts.

“It is unclear that it is exactly the boson Higgs foresaw, which by bestowing mass on other matter helps explain the way the universe was ordered after the chaos of Big Bang” from this article.

Is this boson really what we think it is? Theories are based on evidence. This Theory sounds like it is based on what would be necessary to make another theory (the big bang) possible with evidence only to come later. That’s evidence based on theory, and the oposite of scientific method. Now I’m not critiquing the research or researchers or anything, I’m just saying what comes to mind. I am not a quantum physicist, so I’ll leave the big boy talk to the big boys. I do think it is alarming that the properties of this new boson are not yet known but many scientist don’t seem to think it could be anything other than the Higgs. I will be thoroughly unsuprised if it does not have the properties of the Higgs boson theoretical particle. Check out the wisdom of one of the researchers in the discovery of the new boson:

“We know it is a new boson. But we still have to prove definitively that it is the one that Higgs predicted.” Oliver Buchmueller, from the same article as above.

I stumbled across a very interesting bit of commentary between the facts in one article. It stuck out to me because I was researching with the intent of finding anything an actual scientist said about theology concerning the new boson. Instead I found something much more golden to work with:

“Confirmation of the Higgs boson or something very much like it would constitute a rendezvous with destiny for a generation of physicists who have believed in the boson for half a century without ever seeing it.” from this NY Times article.

I love the passion that men like Peter Higgs have. It’s a beautiful thing to read about them, and the hope of confirmation. But isn’t it funny that they “believed in the boson… without ever seeing it.” I find it odd that it’s completely okay for someone to believe in an arcane particle that is theorized only as a necessity to explain the aftermath of another theory of the possibility of some event within the history of the Universe (of course I am referring to the Big Bang Theory). All the while it is absurd in the eyes of some to believe in a deity for whatever reason.

So, what are your thoughts?

The Disciples became Apostles

July 1, 2012 5 comments

John 20:21-23 confuses me. But I also love it- that is until the last little bit. Do you ever read the bible saying “yes! Yes! YES!” and then you read the rest of the section and say “….” That’s my relationship to this little bit of Jesus’ teaching. Even as I’ve started studying it I find myself in the same cycle. The first two verses get me excited, but then verse 23 is still there tripping me up each time. Here’s the text from the NIV:

“21Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.'”

Okay let’s break this down verse by verse. 21 starts by saying ‘Peace be with you’  that could also be “The way of Salvation be with you” or, what I most prefer, “calm down”; there’s a lot of room for interpretation on that one. If you know the context of the story Jesus was just murdered and came back to life. He then went into a locked room where his old buddies were hiding for fear of their lives. What I usually do when I go visit my friends in hiding for fear of their lives is knock on the door and tell them who I am and come in only when invited. Jesus on the other hand just walks straight trough a locked door. Imagine the disciples and how scared they would be to see a 13th person in the room (I’m assuming Mary was among the 11- although I suppose it’s still only 12 because Thomas isn’t there yet). So naturally when they start screaming Jesus says “calm down”. What I think is more interesting is that John records Jesus saying “peace be with you” twice during that encounter, and once 5 verse later. Once when he first comes in, once here in verse 21 and once when Thomas joins the party eight days later.

Jesus sends them in this verse as well. This sending is the mark of apostleship. By sending them he gives them the authority of Jesus as messengers carrying their master’s message. That’s very important. Let’s put it this way if a guy named Gary Bobston comes up to me and says “you’re a great guitarist”, Then I would be flattered and shake his hand and be grateful. If Gary Bobston comes up to me and says, “I’ve been sent over here by Glen Hansard to say you’re a great guitarist” I would fall over and die from joy. That’s the power Jesus gives the disciples here and in John 17:18, and other places as well.

In verse 23 Jesus breathes on the disciples (most likely Mary as well). Can I be the one to say it? That’s weird. I usually don’t like it when people breathe on me. I find it discomforting and all together unpleasant. However, after I read Genesis 2:7 I get the giggles and a big ass smile on my face: “Then the Lord formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Here scholars all agree that this was Jesus’ symbolism for a new holy creation mirroring the first creation. What trips up the scholars, however is the implications of Jesus’ words that follow: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This seems to contradict the baptism of the Holy Spirit they receive on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. I personally don’t think so. But merely disagreeing doesn’t mean anything.  So, I’ll share some thoughts. The word translated ‘spirit’ in English is in the Greek actually the word for “breeze” which is used figuratively to mean ‘spirit’ but the word is not a separate thought entirely like it is in English. If we accept a connotative definition of “breeze” to mean spirit it could be translated, “He breathed on the, and said, ‘Receive the Holy Breeze.” a little  bit of dual meaning on Jesus’ part, possibly even a humorous play on words to lighten the mood while still referring to the original creation and being a weird breathing on his friends. I like to think of it as a not so serious moment mixed in the drama. Maybe that’s just because I like a funny Jesus more than the stick up his ass Jesus.

Through all this I’ve been super excited, but then we get to verse 23. In verse 23 Jesus says that when I (reading you as talking to me) forgive anyone’s sins they are forgiven; if I do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. First I want to talk about grammar. When Jesus says ‘they‘ and ‘them‘ is he referring to the people or to the people’s sins? I think that’s an important question. Young’s Literal Translation says “if of any ye may loose the sins, they are loosed to them; if of any ye may retain, they have been retained.” This seems to put the emphasis on the sins rather than the people. Still there’s more grammar discussion to be had. Bob Utley has an online study of John 20. In this study he says “This grammatical construction is a PERFECT PASSIVE INDICATIVE” I think I know what that means, haha. It refers to the act of forgiveness, not the condition. The NIV says “the are forgiven” not “they will be forgiven”. This would make the forgiveness already to have taken place but the reception of the forgiveness to be incomplete. Does this mean that forgiveness is actually contingent on repentance, or acceptance of the forgiveness itself? I would like to says so, but that’s not what the bible says. That’s why I’m stumbling and fighting for this. I want the responsibility of salvation to remain in the individual or even with the opinion of Jesus, but not with a messenger of Jesus. That’s too great a responsibility, as a messenger, and as one in need of forgiveness. So in conclusion: AHHHHH!

Moving on. This is, inevitably, about intercession. Let’s look at John 17:17-19. Here Jesus is praying before he’s arrested and murdered on the cross. ‘Them’ is the disciples and ‘You’ is God the Father. “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you send me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too maybe truly sanctified.” Notice that Jesus here is talking to his Dad about the disciples being like himself. If you read the rest of John 17 that’s all Jesus talks about. He wants his

followers, his messengers, to be like himself and the Father. If apostles (messengers) of Jesus have the same relationship to Jesus and Jesus did to God, then there is a holiness and submissiveness. In that situation the apostles do not forgive based on their own systems of merit, but by Jesus’ standard of grace. We know from the grammar of John 20:23 that the forgiveness is already complete, Jesus on the cross said “it is finished”- whatever “it” may be (reconciliation to the Father perhaps). So then, the messengers are merely bringing the message of love and grace to the world. In doing so they forgive those who accept the word of truth, that sanctity, you know. The disciples, who are no longer disciples (followers) but are now apostles (messengers) treading new ground, they are not forgiving sins. Forgiveness is complete. The apostles are now stretching the forgiving hands of God to the world. I must see them not as men of their own accord living by their own passions, but as Jesus’ messengers, their words carry the authority of Christ, their forgiveness carries the authority of Christ, their doing of justice carries the authority of Christ, and their lives submit entirely to the authority of Christ.
I think that’s just about right. It makes these three verses a whole hell of a lot harder to swallow, as one sent by Christ to extend his work of forgiveness through intercession. It makes me want to rethink my life. I need my life to be submissive to the authority of Christ.