Note: This post first ran in July 2015
By Heather Judd
By Heather Judd
Quantum mechanics, the science of matter and energy on the smallest scales, is a field bulging with mind-boggling paradoxes. One of its counterintuitive principles is that at the subatomic level there is no certainty about a particle’s state until it is observed. In effect, it can simultaneously be both here and there, both yes and no. To illustrate this bizarre principle, twentieth-century physicists introduced thought experiments such as Schrodinger’s Cat, which is theoretically both alive and dead until a sealed box is opened revealing its actual state.
The idea that the act of observation can actually affect the state of reality seems slightly less outlandish if we consider how this so-called Observer Effect is evident in everyday measurement. If you wish to measure the air pressure in your car’s tires, it is impossible to do so without releasing a small amount of air, thereby changing the pressure by your act of observation. But this phenomenon is much more pronounced on the tiny quantum scale. Strange as it seems, when we look at things on the quantum level, we change their behavior or nature.
Sanctification has its own kind of quantum mechanics. As Christians we must and we do carry out good works (see Augsburg Confession VI), but as soon as we look at those good works, they turn in some degree into works of pride. Our observation changes the nature of our works, and when we try to start measuring our good deeds, we turn them back into works of the Law, and consequently our means of justification.