Physics and Faith

By: Wes Loewer (High School Mathematics Teacher)

You can learn about an artist by studying their artwork. You can learn about God by studying His handiwork. While “handiwork” could refer to a number of fields, physics has the unique role as the most fundamental of all the sciences. It seeks to discover what is happening at the most basic physical level.

The study of physics reveals how very vast and complex our universe is, yet at the same time how very simple it all is at the lowest level. I find it exceedingly profound that every physical phenomenon that we have ever observed is the result of only four known forces (Gravity, Nuclear Weak, Electro-Magnetic, Nuclear Strong). Every sunrise, every breath of air, every flittering leaf, can be explained in terms of these four forces. (There very well may be more forces—these are just the ones we currently know about.)

One of the perks of studying physics is the insight that it can provide on weightier issues. Consider the concept of time. We can measure time; speak of the past, present, and future; and maybe even feel likes it’s moving too fast, but it is very difficult to define what time actually is. We tend to think of time as this universal thing that extends forever in both directions. One of the implications of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is that time is relative—that objects can pass through time at different rates. Another implication is that time is intricately woven together with space itself. Space-time consists of length, width, height, and time. Our minds can easily grasp the concept of God creating space, but this implies that time is part of that same creation. The question, “What was God doing before He made the universe?” is a meaningless question. There is no “time” outside of the created universe. It was more than just a figure of speech when Peter wrote, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

In Mere Christianity when addressing the issue of how God could hear the prayers of everyone at once, C. S. Lewis wrote:

Almost certainly God is not in time. His life does not consist of moments one following another… Ten-thirty—and every other  moment from the beginning of the world—is always Present for Him. If you like to put it this way, He has all eternity in which to listen to the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames.   

The idea that God is “timeless” is a profound one. Our finite minds seem to be able to handle the idea that God can be at all places simultaneously, that is “every where at once.” We have a bit harder time grasping that God can be at all times simultaneously, or as I like to say, “every when at once.”

Physics tells me that time is simply a part of space. My faith is enlightened by the implication that God is not constrained by time any more than He is constrained by space.