scripture readings

I believe in the Holy Spirit.

I have a significant announcement to make: I can levitate. In fact I am levitating now.

You are not touching anything. You are not touching the chair you are sitting on. If you think of yourself as a pile of particles you might think that the particles – the marbles that make up my finger are now in contact with the particles, the marbles, that make up the plastic of the keyboard of this laptop. Well, even under standard particles theory, remember that on the outside of everything is electrons – no protons or neutrons on the outside. OK so far? Electrons are negatively charged, and repel all other negatively charged electrons. So this finger never actually touches this keyboard. The electrons of my finger repel the electrons of this keyboard. There is always a gap between them. And the reality of this repelling is interpreted in my brain as the experience that we call touching. Even though there is always a gap. Always.

Most of what we call “stuff” is actually gap. 99.9999…9999% – some people count 13 nines after the decimal point, of an atom is empty. It’s gap. Well sort of.

Let’s pretend we have hugely enlarged a hydrogen atom. If a squash ball is the proton here, then the electron would be half a millimeter in diameter and located 2km away (that’s more than a mile and a half for Americans!).

But wait – there’s more! Our idea that a proton or an electron is a particle, a marble, is a simplification. Particles are just a model – like a metaphor. You can just as well image an electron as a wave. So an electron doesn’t actually have “size”. It’s a bit like: Put your location on your phone and you end up with a big circle on Google Maps. We are reasonably certain that this circle indicates my location. The size of the circle is all that the map knows about me. My height or weight have no real meaning whatsoever. It’s the same with talking about electrons.

It’s more complicated. The electron might be 2km away North, it might be 2km away South-by-south-west, it might be 2km away North-east. In fact the particles are coming in and out of existence, and the closer you get to measuring where the electron is – the less they exist there. And that’s nothing to do with the quality of our instruments – that will always be the case.

Our particles are constantly coming into and out of existence – what you see is the average of this process.

More: the “particles” in the universe can be subdivided into smaller “particles”: six, that we humorously call “flavours” of quarks: up, down, bottom, top, strange and charm; six types of leptoms, twelve gauge bosons including eight gluons, and of course – the famous Higgs boson.

But wait there’s more. Some of these can be in different places at the same time. And then there’s string theory. I have a perfectly good science degree but when it comes to string theory I don’t know what I’m talking about. That’s perfectly fine – if you ever meet someone who says they do know what they are talking about in relation to string theory I’d be very suspicious of them. I try to keep up with 11-dimensional M-theory, but I admit, I struggle.

In the Creed when it was produced at the Council of Nicaea in 325, we’ve been discussing:
“We believe in one God… and in one Lord Jesus Christ … ascended into heaven,
and will come again
to judge the living and the dead.”

And we believe in the Holy Spirit. Full stop. In 325 that was the end of the Creed: “We believe in the Holy Spirit.” The less said the better. Especially when it comes to God. The Holy Spirit. There’s a great saying – speak only if what you are going to say is better than silence.

Belief in God, belief in the Holy Spirit, it seems to me, is really declaring “there seems to be something more going on here”; there seems to be something else going on here.

Some people think Science is solid, and concrete, and that spirituality and religion are about models and metaphors. But Science is also about models and metaphors.

In one of the debates I had this week I was asked how does the I, whom I think freely moves my hand, affect the particles that get my hand moving? I don’t know.

Now the danger with putting God in the “I don’t know” corner is that that corner is getting smaller and smaller. That’s called a “God of the gaps” – God then just ends up being the bit I cannot explain. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to paint God into a shrinking corner.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way: I do want to say with John’s gospel (3:8) that we can see the effect of the Holy Spirit, but we can’t really say how it all works. And the explanations we do have for how the universe works – when we question these explanations – we have to be honest that they are models and metaphors. We can’t even explain electricity – and don’t tell me it’s a pile of electrons zipping around a circuit at about the speed of light – because I’m sorry, it certainly isn’t that! You can’t even explain electricity; let alone how your phone works; let alone beauty, or goodness, or love.

There is something else going on. There is something more going on. I believe in the Holy Spirit.


This is the twentieth post in a series on the Creed.

The first is Apostles’ Creed.
The second is I believe in God.
The third is a source of the Apostles’ Creed.
The fourth is I believe in the Father.
The fifth is Handing over the Creed.
The sixth is I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son
The seventh is Don’t use the creed in worship
They eighth is Truly God truly human
The ninth is Conceived by the Holy Spirit
The tenth is Don’t use the creed in worship (part 2)
The eleventh is Born of the Virgin Mary
The twelfth is Don’t use the creed in worship (part 3)
The thirteenth is Crucified under Pontius Pilate
The fourteenth is crucified
The fifteenth is Holy Saturday
This sixteenth is He descended to the dead
The seventeenth is on the third day he rose again
The eighteenth is Seated at the right hand of the Father
The nineteenth is Judge the living and the dead

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