Biblical Inspiration and Quantum Mechanics

You wouldn’t think two topics could have less in common than quantum mechanics and the inspiration of scripture, but I suspect they are intimately connected. As I’ve said before, all it takes for God to be God is for him to have retained control over his creation at the quantum level of our reality. Our physical universe is constructed in such a way as to make that quite plausible. Everything that is begins at the tiniest scale, an arena of seemingly chaotic, random events that somehow cohere into the world we experience. Even we imagine that one day humans will learn to build from the quantum level in a small way. Every trekkie knows that each time Captain Picard orders “tea, Earl Grey, hot”, his replicator is doing just that. So why shouldn’t the God who created us have that same ability, albeit on a grander scale?

Scripture is integral to our knowledge of God. As Christians, we believe that scripture to be inspired. God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, in some way manifests the truth to the writers of the Bible. Some believe this happens in the form of automatic writing where the writer is unaware and not in control of his hand. I think that’s too simplistic. Others envision the role of the writer as a stenographer copying down exactly what God says. Certainly that is how it is often presented. “Thus sayeth the Lord” is used over 2,000 times in the Old Testament. I think a fuller description includes that the writer is raised up in learning and experience to be the perfect vessel for what God intends to impart. Then the writer is brought to the very moment in his life where what flows naturally from him is exactly what God would have him say. Yet, even with that, have we exhausted everything that can be said?

We commonly accept the idea that our brain is the seat of our consciousness as well as the controller of our actions. If the consciousness of the writer is what drives the brain that controls the hand that writes the scripture, and if my thesis of God working at the quantum level of our existence is feasible, then we should expect to find a connection between consciousness and quantum activity in our brains. Just such a connection is postulated by Roger Penrose of Oxford.

Penrose is an expert on general relativity and quantum mechanics, and has been studying the problem of consciousness for years, writing extensively on the subject. He differs from the usual idea that the brain is simply a mass of neuron connections out of which consciousness arises. Instead he argues that a much grander view is needed, one in which quantum activity plays a central role. He has joined with Stuart Hameroff of the University of Arizona to identify structures of the brain that are so tiny they may play host to quantum effects, which may in turn be connected to consciousness. These microtubules are tiny hollow tubes about a ten-millionth inch in diameter and bundles of them play an integral role in the activity of neurons. In the Penrose/Hameroff view of consciousness, the quantum level activity in these bundles of microtubules may be the point where a thought begins.

This theory generates a great deal of interest and not a little controversy, but it is far from proven. However, look at the theological implication if Penrose is right. If the source of thought is found to have quantum beginnings and if God has control of that quantum level of our brain, then he would have control over our very thoughts. Consider what this does for the framework of the inspiration of scripture. God guides the thought of the writer who experiences and processes the thought as he does all others. He is the legitimate human writer of scripture putting his actual thoughts into the words he writes. At the same time, God is also the ultimate author of scripture, giving us exactly what he deems necessary for us to know. Both man and God may rightly be called the author of scripture, and God’s providence insures that the words are infallible in accomplishing his purpose.

2 Timothy 3:16 describes all scripture as being “God-breathed”. I think looking at the writing of the Bible through Penrose’s lens is compatible with that description. However, the exact method God uses to inspire scripture is unimportant compared to the inspiration itself. Such inspiration is the only explanation for how some forty-odd men, writing independently over a millennium from differing cultures and in different languages, each tell the same story. Conventional wisdom may insist that the Bible is full of contradictions but no contradiction ever claimed stands up to scrutiny. These writings combine to form a single tapestry that is unlike any other document ever produced by human hand. Such is exactly what we would expect from Almighty God.

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