Lesson 13: Truth and the Unified Theory

The Unified TheoryRecently, a wonderfully kind young man, whom I respect greatly, was explaining to me why he was not religious. He indicated he thought scholars would come up with a unified theory in the next 25 years. Obviously, he regarded me as an old, traditional kind of fellow who lived in the past as he gently asked, “Do you know what that is?”

Although we were speaking in a place that was not suited for extended conversation, the few words that passed between us have continued to haunt me. My young friend echoed the large number of intelligent people who think God’s role is to explain everything for us. When we ourselves are able to analyze all that happens, we shall no longer have a need for the divine. Those who are presently worshipping a god who fills in the gaps will find no need for Church.

I find the promise of a unified theory to offer little more than Ray Kurzeil’s expectation of the Singularity that incidentally is also supposed to happen in about 25 years. The Singularity will mark the time when a computer will be smarter than a human. In other words, the ability to analyze or explain everything is to think like a computer, not like a human.

God’s function in the scriptures was never to explain everything, but rather to enable us to find our true humanity. The Old Testament Hebrews worshipped because God delivered them from the inhumanity of Egyptian slavery. Everything the Pharaoh did was based on the same kind of practical analysis that the unified theory, the computer, and our present society offer us. If the foreigners can do good work, ask them to do more with less pay. If their growth threatens our power, kill off some of them. God offered the Hebrews a better way, a more humane way. His way led to freedom and a caring society based on love rather than efficiency.

Only later did the Jews realize this God who offered them a creative way to live now must have been the Creator of the whole thing in the first place. Creation is secondary to redemption. Explanation is secondary to salvation. Analysis of what is now is secondary to what can be. Knowing the problem is secondary to knowing how to get out of this mess.

The New Testament Christians also worshipped because Jesus offered a more humane way to live. The Christ refused to be precise because that was not what he was about. When asked to explain exactly what this Kingdom of God was, he told a story about caring relationships. When pushed to clarify, he told another story. In other words, ambiguity is an essential aspect of the kind of religious truth that goes beyond analysis and explanation. As another friend observes, real Christians are not engaged in the kind of wicked zeal that insists we have the one and only way to live and that it is our God-given duty to impose it on everyone else.

It is that kind of wicked zeal that seems to be growing as we get closer to a possible unified theory or Singularity. If the promise of the theory and the computer is to be more than increased power for the zealots, it is time to spend more time and energy on that other kind of truth. If we hope to overcome the violence, addiction, meaninglessness, and egomaniacal behavior that has grown as we get nearer to the unified theory and Singularity, we must learn to converse with each other and God once again.

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