I was re-watching the famous "Double Split" experiment on YouTube tonight (for about the tenth time!) and I later found myself pondering the mystery and the beauty of the event. If you have never seen the experiment, watch it and then return to this post.
In the experiment physicists fire electrons toward two rectangular holes in a wall to see what kind of pattern will be produced on the opposite side. The problem is that electrons behave as both particle and waves. Thus, depending on "who's watching," the electrons may produce a particle-like pattern, or they may produce a wave-like pattern.
As one can see in the video clip, the wave-like pattern is produced when intricate supervision is not happening. However, when the experiment is closely observed so that physicists might "figure it out," the electrons produce the particle pattern.
This got me to thinking about the difference between particles and waves as an analogy for the difference between propositional statements and stories. I was working on a statement about my Christology tonight and I realized as I was writing it that I did not want to simply list statements about Jesus; I wanted to write a narrative of Jesus' life. That, I thought, is how one comes to know Jesus; not through propositional statements but through story.
Propositional statements are like the scientist who wishes to observe the Double Split experiment up close so as to figure it out and possess the truth. The problem: that makes things boring and less beautiful. In fact, quantum physics suggests that reality actually behaves differently under these circumstances.
But when mystery is embraced reality creates beautiful wave-like patterns and shares more light! I wonder if this too can be said of theology. Perhaps what we need is a bit more comfort with mystery and stories rather than propositions and doctrine.