Sunday, December 16, 2018

Infinity

"It is impossible for any procedure to lead to the isotherm T = 0 in a finite number of steps." - Nernst, 1912

When we say that God is infinite, I can't help but reflect back to mathematics and want to clear something up. In mathematics there is no concrete thing called infinity which happens to be larger than all other numbers. There is no such thing. Infinity is a formulation, a theoretical arrow pointing in a direction. There is no real number which you can divide into 1 and get 0. No real number, hear that? None at all. The entire, infinite world of numbers does not, itself, contain infinity. This is important.

Because God is bigger than the world, bigger than His creation. Bigger than math.

This implies something important about the manner God appears within the world, i.e. through Christ's human nature. It is... get ready for it... finite. Like us.

When we look out on the vast, apparently infinite universe, and wonder, "how can God care about us, we are so small?" I think it's important to remember that, besides the fact that He is everywhere present and filling all things, He also has deep, intimate familiarity with finitude. He made it, after all.

And, it's also important to remember that even finitude is infinite, so to speak. There are an infinite number of numbers, but every one of them is finite, bounded, limited, constrained in its essence. Jesus was (and is) God's expression into a finite canvas. An expression which completely embodies the fullness of the Father, yet is expressed in terms of the finite.

Does this mean that Jesus's human nature was bound to the constraints of finitude? By no means! There is a bridge at work here between the finite and the infinite. The finiteness of the finite is, in some respects, made illusory, or rather transcendable through Christ. We do not exchange our finiteness for infiniteness (in this life) but rather we are carried across this bridge through faith in Christ, being pulled along as it were, by the cords of relatedness, by His renewal of our nature through the Resurrection. Or, more simply put, God's Love, through Christ, transforms us as we enter into it, cleanses us of the corruption of finitude, and returns our nature to its original created state ("that ancient beauty"). No longer purely finite, mortal and corruptible, but now a finite expression of God's infinitude. No longer the muddied and turbulent water reflecting the image we become the reflection of the image in the pure, still water.

The opening quote is one I've always loved to hear. As I see it, in this quote, physics admits something elusive but very important. If the physical world does not contain zero (or, it requires an infinite amount of energy to reach zero, same thing), then physics is not describing the "ground of being". We can't see absolutes through physics. No, we can't just not see them, we can't experience them. We can't reach zero by forcing something in the world to look like zero. Long ago we agreed that we were not able to reach infinity through the world. But it took a while to acknowledge that we can't even reach zero.

One more bit of physics that pairs nicely with the third law of thermodynamics: scalar fields, namely the Higgs field. It is another example, an even more stark example, of our admission that the physical world is permeated by mysterious force. It is not built from nothing, it is built on mysterious forces. Nothingness (and therefore the ground of being, and the roots of something-ness) is therefore much deeper.

"... the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine" - James Jeans

Something is more fundamental than matter, energy, time and space. As a medium of expression, the 'universe' can only approximate truth, can only point to it. But the universe is at its core a creation of, i.e. an expression of truth. So it is in fact possible to genuinely express and point toward truth through this universe. Genuine truth that is symbolically represented 'in the world' points to real truth. When we pass over that bridge and enter into God's likeness, we do not exit the finite and enter the infinite. Rather, we become cognizant of the Theophany of uncreated light shining through us and sustaining us. The finite is renewed through contact with the infinite.

The point, I think, is that to the extent we think God is out of our reach because He is infinite, we are wrong. Any increase in our awareness of the size of the universe detracts not at all from God's accessibility. And to the extent we think that any expression, even of the infinite, within finitude is doomed to corruption and decay, we are also wrong. Truth, even Ultimate Truth can, has, and does express Itself in tangible ways. And, perhaps most importantly, our finitude does not bar us from the Kingdom. There is a Bridge, humbly and generously offered to us in loving self-sacrifice, by which we may pass.

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