Modern Physics in the Bible

A curious agreement.

Matthew 20:20–23

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.

And He said to her, “What do you wish?”

She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”

But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

They said to Him, “We are able.”

So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”

This is hilarious. Jesus gets them to agree to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with, but says that He can’t give them the seats they want anyway.

Gee, tough luck guys.

And the reason He gives is important. Those seats are preassigned by the Father. Jesus's role in the Godhead does not include seat assignment.

And it’s not just who assigns them; it’s how. They are for whom they are prepared. The Father has them all planned out in advance. The people aren’t just assigned to the seats; the seats are assigned to them, even prepared for them.

This is a key principle in the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. God doesn’t just foreordain the big things; He foreordains all things. The details are part of the plan.

This aspect of reformed doctrine (that God foreordains the fall of every sparrow, the vibration of every atom) connects two different views of reality—modern physics and the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Modern physics doesn’t allow for a single rogue atom. Anything less than a completely specified system will degrade into a totally out of control system. If there are any unknowns, control can only be maintained though intervention. Such intervention would violate free will.

God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. — Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 3, Paragraph 1 (emphasis mine)

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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