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Dialog: A Journal of Theology . Volume 43, Number 3 . Fall 2004

Quantum Theory and the Resurrection of Jesus

By Anders S. Tune
Abstract: Ever since the time of Hume it has been a truism that the worldview of empirical science, and Christian assertion of the resurrection of Jesus, are antithetical to each other. Yet post-Newtonian science, and especially quantum theory, suggests the need for a reappraisal of this truism. This reappraisal will first examine the implications of the indeterminism of the quantum world, to consider the physical possibility of Jesus resurrection. Second, an appraisal of the historical evidence will suggest the likelihood of Jesus resurrection. Finally, I will consider some implications of all this for contemporary Christian thought. Key Terms: contingency, determinism, indeterminism, miracle, modern physics, probability, quantum theory, resurrection of Jesus, resurrection traditions

The title of this article might, at first look, seem incongruous to contemporary theological sensibilities. How might quantum theory and the resurrection of Jesus belong together? These scientific and theological notions would seem, at first, to have very little to do with each other. This apparent disjunct between scientific inference and Christian confession is a legacy that Christian thought has contended with since the time of David Hume, whose skepticism about religious claims, and especially the miracles of the Bible, was based on the successes of Newtonian physics. Yet, because of this very basis in a Newtonian view of the universe, it is appropriate to revisit the assumption that the discoveries and worldview of empirical science, especially quantum theory, and Christian assertion of the resurrection of Jesus, are antithetical to each other. This reconsideration will proceed in three steps. First it will examine the view of the fundamental nature of the universe as formulated in quantum theory, and interpretations of the apparent indeterminism of the quantum world. Here the possibility of Jesus resurrection as a physical event will be considered. Second, it will look at the historical evidence of Jesus resurrection, as found in the Gos-

pel narratives, to determine the likelihood of Jesus resurrection. We need to split the questions in this manner since otherwise it might be impossible to give fair consideration to the strength of the historical evidence of Jesus resurrection. It is too tempting simply to dismiss it out of hand, assuming that such things simply cannot happen. But such an assumption needs to be tested. In the third and last part, this study will examine what this reconsideration of the resurrection of Jesus might suggest for contemporary Christian thought.

Quantum Theory and the New View of the Creation

The worldview of modern physics, founded on quantum theory and the theory of general relativity, allows a new opportunity to examine the Christian claim of Jesus resurrection in the context of a new view of creation; this is because quantum theory is so different from Newtonian physics. Why is this so? In the legacy of Newtonian physics, it was felt that there was really no room for miracles, let alone the

Anders S. Tune is a campus pastor at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, where he also occasionally teaches courses. He holds the Ph.D. from the Catholic University of America.

Quantum Theory and the Resurrection of Jesus

Anders S. Tune


chief miracle of Christianity. David Hume wrote that A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature . the proof against a miracle is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined.1 Humes assertion was categorical, and Newtonian physics gave him good reason to be categorical. Newtons theories, Hume and others recognized, implied that if all the proper initial conditions could be determined, any action or reaction in the universe could be described according to these laws, because the universe acted in an essentially deterministic fashion.2 True, Newton himself believed God still intervened in the creation, to make necessary corrections in the course of things.3 But Hume and others could see the full import of Newtons theories, that, at least theoretically, all the physical processes of the universe, and eventually even mental processes, could ultimately be explained in terms of the interactions and behavior of particles, according to certain fundamental physical laws. Many of the gaps that Newton believed existed in the universe, to be filled by God, were gradually filled in by the further discoveries and theories of physicists, chemists and biologists.4 But by 1900 serious questions were being raised about this Newtonian view of the fundamental nature of the physical universe; and since then quantum theory has demonstrated that the universe is, in fact, much more complicated than the Newtonian view suggests.5 Beginning with Max Plancks quantum hypothesis in 1900, a new view of the dynamics of the subatomic world began to emerge. As he considered the phenomenon of the black-body radiation curve, Planck proposed that energy was absorbed or emitted by atoms only in discrete amounts (what Albert Einstein would later term quanta), rather than in a continuously variable way as Newtonian physics assumed.6 Subsequent experiments would support his proposal. Plancks hypothesis was a remarkable intuition; yet he described it as an act of sheer desperation, and he spent the rest of his career trying to reconcile the Newtonian and quantum views.7 However, others saw a different theoretical potential in the quantum hypothesis. In 1926 Max Born presented a paper in which he proposed that the waves describing the movement of quantum particles are waves of probability and that they

dinger are not material waves at all, as Erwin Schro 8 and others were still assuming. Borns proposal caused an uproar in the physics community because, if true, it would be the death-knell to determinism in physics. Born realized that quantum theory was describing a new idea of causality, in which it is probability that is causally determined into the future, not individual events.9 The most critical judgment on this new idea of causality came from Einstein himself, in a letter to Born. Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing, Einstein wrote. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the old one. I, at any rate, am convinced that He is not playing at dice.10 Einstein and others wondered: if the mere probability of the behavior of subatomic particles was the best one could discover, then how could such particles behavior be described as predictable and certain? And how would their behavior relate to the predictable and seemingly determined behavior of larger entities like billiard balls and planets and galaxies? Nevertheless, Niels Bohr, Max Born, Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli and others continued to develop their probabilistic interpretation of quantum theory. Their achievement, the Copenhagen interpretation, rested on two pillars: Heisenbergs uncertainty principle, and Bohrs principle of complementarity.11 Heisenbergs insight, which he described mathematically in 1927, was that it is impossible to describe, at the same time, the precise position and momentum of a subatomic particle like an electron; the best you can get is a statistical or probabilistic description.12 The uncertainty Heisenberg described in his equation was implied by Borns waves of probability. Bohr then showed that knowledge of these physical phenomena depended on the type of experiment used to observe them. Some experiments will show electrons behaving as waves and some will show them as particles. Bohrs principle of complementarity recognized that the same subatomic particle can, paradoxically, demonstrate mutually exclusive properties, depending on which apparatus is used to study it.13 Thus the Copenhagen interpretation asserted a reality that was, instead of determined and objective,


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a) statistical and probabilistic, and b) partly dependent on how it is observed.14 To describe photons precisely (are they waves? particles?) is impossible, since our instruments are incapable of measuring both properties simultaneously. Indeed, our instruments will affect the outcome of our observations. Thus, held Bohr, only a principle of complementarity, which holds the wave picture and particle picture together while not resolving one in favor of the other, is adequate to describe this paradox imposed by the rigorous mathematical requirements of the uncertainty principle. Einstein came back with arguments attacking the Copenhagen interpretation. In 1935 he and others proposed the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) thought experiment, which seemed to show that the Copenhagen interpretation violated the theory of special relativity, by requiring a signal between particles to travel faster than the speed of light.15 dinger added his own opposition to Bohrs Schro view with his ingenious paradox of a cat that seems to be both alive and dead at the same time, if one were to accept the Copenhagen interpretations notion of a superposition of wave and particle states.16 Other interpretations since then have also been proposed to try and preserve determinism in quantum behavior. These include David Bohms theory of hidden variables,17 Eugene Wigners theory of the collapse of the wave function in consciousness,18 and Hugh Everetts many-worlds interpretation of quantum behavior.19 Yet none of these have shown themselves to be adequate alternatives to the Copenhagen interpretation.20 And when the EPR thought experiment was experimentally tested by Alain Aspect and his colleagues in 19811982, its assumptions were found to be invalid.21 So it is that Borns wry comment, from 1949, still captures the success of quantum theory, and its radical implications for our understanding of the fundamental physical universe:
if God has made the world a perfect mechanism, he has at least conceded so much to our imperfect intellect that, in order to predict little parts of it, we need not solve innumerable differential equations but can use dice with fair success . . . . it is still we mortals who

are playing dice for our little purposes of prognosisGods actions are as mysterious in classical Brownian motion as in radioactivity and quantum radiation, or in life at large.22

The consequences of quantum theory for modern science have been astounding. Quantum theory has, in the words of Heinz Pagels, become the most powerful mathematical tool for the explication of natural phenomena that ever fell into human hands, leading to the development of new inventions, such as the transistor, the microchip, lasers, and cryogenic technology.23 At the theoretical level, it has provided the basis for understanding chemical bonds, molecular chemistry and molecular physics (groundwork to the discovery of DNA), superconductivity, nuclear physics, and astrophysics, among others. It is hard to overemphasize its importance in contemporary science and technology. But almost all of these consequences pertain to the microworld of photons, electrons, gluons, and other subatomic particles. What about the macroworld of billiard balls, planets, galaxies, or of human events and the movement of time, where randomness seems less prevalent and intrinsic to things? Clearly, there is a stability to the macroworld that appears to be explicably causal and even deterministic, or at least nearly so. The human mind averages out the various probabilities of events in everyday life, giving rise to a commonsense understanding of regularity in human experience. Still, in principle, there is no absolute certainty for events. The reason for this lies ultimately in the statistical interpretation of quantum mechanics.24 Even in the macroworld events have probabilities associated with them, and the presence of probabilities is inescapable, partly because the macroworld is founded upon the microworld of quantum mechanics. The probabilistic nature of chaotic systems, while not indeterminate in the mode of quantum interactions, nonetheless also contributes to the uncertainties found in events in the macroworld, like the flows of fluids, predatorprey population fluctuations, or weather patterns.25 Thus the certainty of future events is always a relative thing, even if an event has only an infinitesimally small chance of occurring or not occurring.

Quantum Theory and the Resurrection of Jesus

Anders S. Tune


Miracles, Again?
This is pertinent to the issue of extremely unlikely events termed miracles in Christianity. Consider the example under study in this article. What is the probability of a person dying and then coming back alive from the dead? First consider the microworld of quantum states. Here there is complete reversibility of interactions. Quantum state A can readily become quantum state B, as well as B become A. It is only in observation, an event in the macroworld, that the change in states is known to be irreversible.26 Thus in theory it is possible, even if only infinitesimally likely, that a certain set of quantum states and higher-ordered structures (such as a living human body) could change (become decaying flesh, water, and various gases) and then spontaneously return to the previous conditions (the living body). However, in the macroworld this seems to be impossible. In the macroworld the phenomenon of entropy, and its expression in the arrow of time, makes such reversibility extremely, almost infinitely, unlikely.27 In the macroworld we see a collection of trillions of molecules spontaneously going from order to disorder (the increase of entropy), and not vice versa. True, statistically speaking, there is a possibility of the molecules spontaneously reversing themselves from disorder to order; but this probability is on the order of once in billions of billions of lifetimes of our universe.28 Its likelihood is perhaps something on the order of the probability of the right quantum conditions coming together in a vacuum to produce a universe that can support life in the first place, according to the view of some.29 It is not impossible, but it is extremely unlikely. Thus it is possible, but only infinitesimally likely, that a person could die, and then in a few days time return to life, spontaneously reversing the decay and disorder of an organisms death into the order of life. At this point it would seem that we are back at Humes conclusion, that the proof against a miracle is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined. Yet one key difference remains between the assumptions of Humes Newtonian worldview, and the worldview of modern

quantum theory. The determinism of Humes view precludes the possibility of an event like a human being coming back to life from the dead. The indeterminism of modern quantum theory cannot preclude this possibility. While it is only infinitesimally likely, it is still not impossible. There can be exceptions to what otherwise appears in the macroworld to be the iron law of physical necessity. A judgment about the likelihood of its occurrence then depends on a study of the evidence. But the possibility cannot be precluded, since denial of this possibility would be inconsistent with the indeterminism of the physical universe manifest at the quantum level, as described by modern physics. Bohr, Born and Einstein understood what was at stake in the view of the physical universe proposed in the Copenhagen interpretation. Is the fundamental order of the physical universe deterministic or indeterministic? Today most physicists conclude that such indeterminacy is indeed how things are.30 And several scientist-theologians provide interpretations of this new view of the universe. Ian Barbour finds that the uncertainty principle indicates an objective indeterminacy in nature, with similar contingencies in other aspects of the world, such as evolution and human freedom; still, the evidences of randomness at different levels may have no necessary connections with each other, even though they might influence each other at times.31 Arthur Peacocke comes to a similar conclusion, that indeterminacy and chance, operating within a lawlike framework, from quantum fluctuations to evolution to human behavior, provide the basis of the inherent creativity of the natural order.32 John Polkinghorne emphasizes the importance of the structural randomness of the physical universe, in which the intrinsic unpredictability of chaotic systems leaves room for the operation of top-down organizing principles.33 While their precise characterizations might differ, each writer concludes that indeterminism is intrinsic to the physical universe, and that it is theologically meaningful.34 But what do these traits of indeterminacy and contingency mean theologically?35 They can suggest that the universe is, by its very nature, porous to Gods intervention. While God does not require such a structure to the universe for divine intervention (as


Dialog: A Journal of Theology . Volume 43, Number 3 . Fall 2004

will be discussed later), the universe in fact does appear to have, at certain points, in theological perspective, an indeterminate nature that is porous or open to unusual divine actions. Certainly, such a porosity cannot preclude, or prove, Gods miraculous involvement with his creation. God is always free to act as God sees fit; and, as a rule, Gods actions are mysterious, and hidden, to us. But, in theological perspective, miracles can be understood as remarkable, unexpected interventions by God in the universe and in human history, instead of violations of the laws of nature, as Hume would have it.36 The universe allows for such interventions because it is full of indeterminacies and contingencies, and is not a closed system.37 Thus, while the probability that such a vast number of indeterminate and contingent interactions could occur to produce a miracle is extremely low, such an occurrence cannot be categorically precluded. In saying this, I am not arguing that such a miracle, like the resurrection of Jesus, was a fluke of nature; as a miracle, it would be Gods act. I am arguing that its occurrence cannot be precluded by the perspective of modern science. Still, to a nonbelieving observer of such an event, if the historical evidence were strong enough, it might appear to be a highly anomalous and irregular physical event, a physical aberration. But the person who believes in God would probably see it differently, as a physical expression of the Creators creative and saving goodness. Other views of it would also be possible. What such an event might mean will be further explored at the end of this article.

Historical Inquiry and the Likelihood of Jesus Resurrection

The argument just made establishes, I believe, the possibility of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, even if it is only a very, very small possibility. But the likelihood of his actually having risen from the dead must be found by looking at the historical evidence. Here historical critical study of the New Testament is at its most critical, because it is dealing with a claim by early Christians that something happened

which is truly singular, without any precedent and contrary to all we know from our experience about how the world is. For this reason, the traditional Christian assertion of the bodily resurrection of Jesus continues to be highly controversial. The approaches of Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann in the earlier part of this century, with their emphases on theological meaning rather than historical eventedness, were somewhat eclipsed by new arguments in the 1960s and later over what actually happened after Jesus death.38 Among the most significant of these was Wolfhart Pannenbergs argument for the historicity of Jesus resurrection, and reactions to his argument, and Pannenbergs placement of this assertion at the center of his theology.39 More recently, one need only consider studies which argue against the accuracy of demanns examination of this assertion, like Gerd Lu the biblical evidence, or the more systematic analysis of John Hick, and peruse the variety of responses to these studies, to see just how much is at stake for all the various approaches to Jesuss resurrection.40 Thus, the issue of the historicity of Jesuss resurrection needs to be approached very carefully, with as few preconceptions as possible.41 Which data should be analyzed? This study will examine and compare details in 1 Cor. 15, Mk. 16, Mt. 28, Lk. 24, and John 2021, accounts which comprise at least five different and possibly independent traditions about the resurrection of Jesus.42 The earliest extant tradition, 1 Cor. 15:35, seems to be a pre-pauline proclamation that he adapts for his letter. Mk. 16:18 is probably based on pre-markan traditions. While Mt. 28:110 is based on Marks account, many scholars consider Mt. 28:1620 to be based on an independent tradition. Lk. 24:112 seems to be an independent tradition, edited with reference to Mk. 16, while Lk. 24:1353 holds independent traditions received and reworked by Luke. Jn. 20:118 seems to be independent of Synoptic traditions, though perhaps related; Jn. 20:1929 is an independent tradition, with parallels to elements in Mt. and Lk.; Jn. 21:124 may be independent of the traditions in Jn. 20. Comparing these accounts, it appears that there are some similarities among them, and many dissimilarities. Differences include such things as which

Quantum Theory and the Resurrection of Jesus

Anders S. Tune


disciples were present at the empty tomb; what they found there; what they heard, saw and said; how the authorities responded; how many times Jesus appeared to the disciples; and more could be listed. Such dissimilarities have given many scholars reason to doubt the credibility of these reports.43 But among these diverse traditions, some similarities are found. All except 1 Cor. 15 mention an empty tomb.44 Raymond Brown concludes that this tradition is older than the gospel narratives and likely has a historical basis, and Reginald Fuller finds that it goes back to a time immediately after Jesus death, and a Palestinian context.45 Also, all the resurrection accounts except 1 Cor. 15 agree that Mary Magdalene was among the first witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus.46 All except 1 Cor. 15 and Mk. 16 describe disciples seeing Jesus in resurrected, bodily form;47 and even though 1 Cor. 15 does not explicitly say this, the term ophthe can be reasonably interpreted as implying it.48 All, except perhaps 1 Cor. 15, show that Jesus resurrection was an unanticipated surprise.49 This is demonstrated in the four gospels when the women go to the tomb expecting to find a body that they can anoint, and are surprised to find that the tomb is empty, and that something extraordinary and unanticipated has occurred. One might also list indirect evidence, such as the remarkable boldness and confidence of the disciples after this event, even to the point of martyrdom, or the fact that Sunday, rather than Saturday, became the Christian day of worship in the early church.50 Yet biblical scholars come to different conclusions about the historical events lying behind these New Testament accounts. One conclusion of many scholars is that the original witness of Jesus resurrection was Peter, and that he probably saw him in Galilee, not Jerusalem.51 This is based on the antiquity of Pauls account in 1 Cor. 15:3ff, the oldest extant version of the events surrounding Jesus resurrection. But this conclusion needs careful consideration. Pauls account is rather general, with limited detail, as is to be expected of a creedal tradition; and 1 Cor. 15:35 is probably a creedal tradition.52 This lack of detail should not be pressed too much, to try and elicit implications it might not hold. Further, the resurrection traditions of Mk. 16, Mt. 28, Lk. 24 and John 2021 are more concerned with specific details.

Looking at the Evidence

So when the antiquity of the tradition of Mary Magdalenes presence at the empty tomb is disputed because it is not mentioned by Paul, such an inference seems hasty.53 The tradition of Mary Magdalene being the first witness has strong New Testament support, and it need not conflict with Paul in 1 Cor. 15. In the gospels, the two witnesses of the resurrection (Mary Magdalene and Peter) are close upon each other; and Peter would have a more authoritative reputation than Mary Magdalene for Pauls hearers. Pauls failure to mention her may simply be evidence of his emphasis on the authority of the earliest witnesses, with Peters authority being more weighty. To argue that Pauls silence on these things precludes the accuracy of the gospel accounts seems to be a case of the theory driving the data, rather than vice versa. On the point of the bodily resurrection of Jesus the controversy becomes most intense. What should we make of the New Testament evidence? Gerd demann declares categorically that the fleshly Lu objectification of Jesus is a secondary addition and unhistorical . The original seeing of the Easter witnesses was a seeing in the spirit and not the seeing of a revived corpse.54 Robert Funk concludes that what began in the earliest appearances as luminous apparitions of Jesus became, in controversy with gnostic views, a movement to replace a disembodied supernatural figure with a more tangible, material bodily resurrection, since, [to] the orthodox church, the gnostic view undermined the claims of the Jerusalem authorities and the original disciples.55 In a more moderate vein, Fuller concludes that the early churchs assertion of the bodily resurrection of Jesus should be interpreted in such a way that the Christian cannot be required to believe that the Risen One literally walked on earth in an earthly form , or that he physically ate fish , or that he invited physical touch; rather, it was a transformation into an entirely new (eschatological) mode of existence.56 Yet these conclusions derive from a narrow interpretation of 1 Cor. 15:3ff, without giving due consideration to all the diverse and independent


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resurrection traditions in the New Testament. These conclusions also seem to depend as much on Enlightenment assumptions about Biblical miracles as they do on interpretations of the Biblical traditions. A different approach to these traditions is, I believe, more fruitful. Here I rely on the approach of John Meier to questions about the historicity of material in the gospels.57 He draws on the criteria of embarrassment (or contradiction), discontinuity, multiple attestation, coherence, and rejection/execution.58 One important assumption in his approach is that judgments about the historicity of events purported in the New Testament must be expressed in terms of greater or lesser probability. Thus, the results from such an analysis of the data will not tell us precisely, with certainty, what did or did not happen, from the perspective of historical inquiry. Rather, the results will tell us what likely did or did not happen. To ask more than that from the data, as a historical inquiry, is to ask too much. When examined in light of Meiers criteria, the traditions about Jesus resurrection yield interesting results. The criterion of embarrassment or contradiction highlights how dissimilarities in the accounts, potentially embarrassing for early Christian proclamation, were retained in their transmission, evidencing a conservative attitude toward preserving these traditions.59 The criterion of discontinuity underscores the oddness of the resurrection of one man, and an executed Messiah at that, rather than the resurrection of all the faithful.60 The agreements of the resurrection accounts on a few key points becomes significant because of the multiple attestations involved, especially since these traditions come from several independent sources. The criterion of coherence reveals continuity between Jesus likely prediction of his death, and possible prediction of his resurrection, with what finally did happen, despite the utter surprise of his disciples at this outcome. And the connection between the resurrection of Jesus and his violent death is very clear. Indeed, the only thing that has broader attestation in the New Testament than Jesus resurrection is the fact that he died such a death. From all this it seems clear that from early on the first Christians were convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead as a living human being, in his own

body, that he had appeared to them, shared physical experiences with them, and blessed and commissioned them to bring this good news to all the world.61 It was the same Jesus they had known before his death, now able to be present among them in a transformed, resurrected physicality. All of this taken together, I propose, suggests that even though historical inquiry cannot conclusively demonstrate the accuracy of the accounts, these common elements of the accounts are likely accurate. Thus it can be argued from the historical evidence, though not proved, that the followers of Jesus discovered his tomb to be empty several days after his death, and were surprised by his living, physical presence among them in succeeding days. Such an event, and the openness in the physical universe to Gods interventions implied by it, cannot be precluded by modern science. It must be acknowledged, however, that no matter how much one might agree theoretically that the resurrection of Jesus can be considered in this way, it is in fact very difficult to acknowledge it happened unless one believes it happened. It cannot be proven, scientifically or historically, that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, in a resurrected body. Faith remains the key element in acknowledging, accepting and understanding the resurrection of Jesus. But the argument made here still holds, in a logical sense. Certainly, the central role of faith in accepting and understanding the resurrection of Jesus cannot be diminished. Still, the evidence for his resurrection should be considered on its own merits, neither expecting too much nor too little from it.

The Resurrection of Jesus and Christian Thought

So far I have argued that modern physics allows for the possibility of an event like the resurrection of Jesus, even if this possibility is very, very slight. I have also argued that the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, taken on its own without assuming the impossibility of such an event, is strong enough to suggest it likely occurred. Taken together, these two arguments conclude that the

Quantum Theory and the Resurrection of Jesus

Anders S. Tune


resurrection of Jesus most likely occurred, though it cannot be proven to have occurred. To a modern unbelieving observer, it might seem to be an extremely unlikely and random aberration. To the believer, it would seem to be the intervention of God in a particular time and place, among a certain group of people, in a particular mans life. In this regard it is significant that this event was a complete surprise to Jesus disciples, a point that some New Testament writers, especially Paul, seem to gloss over in their attempts to show that it was predicted in Scripture. It is something that should not happen, yet it does happen. It is only later that the followers of Jesus and the later New Testament writers begin to see the big picture of what it means, and then only in a process they describe as no less than Gods own Spirit giving them understanding. Ideas from the Jewish thought of the time, ideas that would have been common currency for the disciples of Jesus, like Gods creation of the world, Gods justice and mercy, the final judgment, the resurrection of the just, all these ideas still made sense to them. But now they would make sense in a new way, with a new urgency. Now they knew that the promises of God to Israel had been fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus.62 And they would risk their lives to share this good news. What might this mean for contemporary Christian thought?63 The modern scientific discovery of indeterminacy in physical nature at the molecular level and beneath, as well as the role of chance and mutation in biological and other macroworld processes, provides a new opportunity for Christian reflection, especially on the resurrection of Jesus. But theologians do not fully agree on this. Ian Barbour notes correlations between the modern scientific paradigm and Christian process thought, especially the latters acceptance of indeterminacy as one of its basic postulates.64 Yet he also seems to limit Gods activity to natural processes like evolution, interpreted in a theistic and Christian way, without recourse to any notion of the miraculous.65 Similarly, Arthur Peacocke understands God to be involved in exploration of the many kinds of unfulfilled potentialities of the universe he has created, though not likely in the manner of miraculous interventions.66 John Polkinghorne sees evidence for

Gods activity in the increasing complexification in cosmic history demonstrated in cosmic and biological evolution, and in particular critical points at which a divine influence was exercised in particular ways, which are scientifically undiscernible because of the cloudy nature of these events.67 Elizabeth Johnson, working with Thomistic categories of primary and secondary causes as well as feminist insights into relationality, concludes that Absolute Holy Mystery [God] dwells within, encompasses, empowers the evolutionary process, making the world through the process of things being themselves, thus making the world through chance.68 Wolfhart Pannenberg finds that the biblical belief in God as creator asserts the incalculability and contingency of each individual event [as] an expression of the freedom of the Creator, so that the continuation of creaturely forms and states is at every moment miraculous.69 Thus, while many contemporary theologians give significant place to the role of indeterminacy in their understandings of Gods relationship to the universe, only a few emphasize or, in some cases, even allow for miraculous interventions by God. Yet this last point should be revisited, in light of what I have argued here about the resurrection of Jesus, because of what this event suggests about the nature of things. In Christian perspective, the resurrection of Jesus implies that the universe is porous to the interventions of God, a porosity located in the universes contingent nature. Certainly, God does not require this porosity to intervene or interact with the creation, since God is free to do what God wills to do. But the physical realities described by modern physics, in theological perspective, suggest that such a porosity is, in fact, there, as part of the fundamental structure of the universe as created by God.70 The indeterminacy of the quantum world becomes in this perspective a mask for God, hiding Gods continuing creation, suggesting the universes utter dependence on the God who, Paul tells us, calls into existence the things that do not exist (Rom. 4:17). And God does not will destruction for creaturely life, but will remake it, and not let death to be its final word.71 Further, there appears to be a purposeful direction to the course of both human history and natural history, toward a goal suggested by Jesus own resurrection event.72 This is the eschatological horizon in


Dialog: A Journal of Theology . Volume 43, Number 3 . Fall 2004

Jesus teaching highlighted by many biblical scholars. In his resurrection this horizon does not merely remain an idea but becomes a reality God has brought about in this one instance, and promises to bring about in every instance, for all creation. The heat death of the universe described by modern physics, which in millions of billions of years finds entropy ending the possibility of any further physical processes in the universe, is not what God has in store for the creation. Rather, there is a final meaning to the universe, disclosed in Jesus resurrection and his new, eschatological existence: God will make the universe new. Another miracle, even bigger, waits at the end of all things, because of Gods unconditional love for humans and all creation. Finally, Jesus identity is intimately tied to the identity of the God who brought this about, which places Jesus pre-resurrection life and death in a new light. This is the point made by Wolfhart Pannenberg and Karl Rahner.73 Jesus resurrection means that he had, and has, a special relationship with God, whom he called Father. At the very least, it tends to validate the claims he made about himself, that he spoke for God, that he could heal and forgive sins in Gods name, that in his ministry he was bringing in the kingdom of God. The death and resurrection of Jesus suggest that God involves Gods self intimately in the sufferings, tragedies and joys of creaturely life, in surprising ways. And there is also the suggestion of a modern meaning to the sacramental dimension of Christian confession of the resurrection of Jesus. It can mean that, to Christian eyes, because of his resurrection and its eschatological meaning, because of Gods presence to and in all things as creator and redeemer, Jesus Christ is present in every part of the universe, from quarks to planets to DNA to black holes and galaxies, and that he is present in mercy. Is this merely hyperbole? It could certainly seem that way. Yet the event from which this Christian vision and hope gains its bearing should give one pause. For the God who created all things, and freely sustains them in existence, is also free to act in their midst in mercy, for their restoration and salvation. The Christian argument is that God has so acted in Jesus. And modern science, remarkably, can play a constructive role in this argument.

1. David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, and a Letter from a Gentleman to His Friend in Edinburgh, ed. by Eric Steinberg (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1977), 76. 2. In a previous passage in his Enquiry Hume acknowledges just how important Newtons achievements and view of the physical universe were for the intellectual climate in which Humes own views could develop; see Enquiry, 89. Also see Ian Barbour, Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues, (New York: HarperCollins, Inc., 1997), 165166. 3. Dudley Shapere, Newton, Isaac, in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 5, eds. Paul Edwards et al. (New York: The Macmillan Co. & The Free Press, 1967), 490491. 4. Ernan McMullin, Natural Science and Belief in a Creator: Historical Notes, in Physics, Philosophy, and Theology: A Common Quest for Understanding, eds. Robert J. Russell, William R. Stoeger, S.J., and George V. Coyne, S.J. (Vatican City State: Vatican Observatory, 1988), 66. 5. I want to thank William Dollhopf, chair of the Department of Physics at Wittenberg University, for his critical insights and his excellent suggestions for this article. 6. Heinz R. Pagels, The Cosmic Code: Quantum Physics as the Language of Nature (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982), 26. Pagels provides an excellent non-technical account of quantum theorys development, and a lucid explanation of its meaning. 7. Ibid., 26. 8. Physical Aspects of Quantum Mechanics, in Max Born, Physics in My Generation (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1969), 12. The presentation was in 1926; the subsequent article was published in Nature 119 (1927), translated by Robert Oppenheimer. 9. Pagels, 82, emphasis mine. C. J. Isham notes that while probabilities of subatomic behaviors, rather than individual subatomic events, evolve in dynamical systems, the dynamical systems still evolve deterministically; see Quantum Theories of the Creation of the Universe, in Quantum Cosmology and the Laws of Nature: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, eds. Robert J. Russell, Nancey Murphy and C. J. Isham, 2nd ed. (Vatican City and Berkeley: Vatican Observatory Publications and The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, 1999), 65. 10. Albert Einstein, in a letter to Max Born on December 4, 1926, in The Born-Einstein Letters. Correspondence between Albert Einstein and Max and Hedwig Born from 19161955 with commentaries by Max Born, trans. by Irene Born (London: Macmillan Press, 1971), 91. 11. Pagels, 87. 12. Ibid., 91. 13. Ibid., 94. 14. Ibid., 95. 15. Jim Baggott, The Meaning of Quantum Theory: A Guide for Students of Chemistry and Physics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 99. 16. Ibid., 104. 17. Ibid., 162ff. 18. Ibid., 187ff. 19. Ibid., 194ff. The problems posed to this theory by the lack of any evidence of parallel universes is discussed by William R. Stoeger in Contemporary Physics and the Ontological Status of the Laws of Nature, in Quantum Cosmology, 224225.

Quantum Theory and the Resurrection of Jesus

Anders S. Tune


20. See John Polkinghornes critique of these views in The Quantum World (London and New York: Longman, 1984), 5669. 21. Baggott, 139ff. 22. Max Born, Einsteins Statistical Theories, in Max Born, Physics in My Generation (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1969), 63. Originally published in Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist (1949). 23. Pagels, 9798. C. J. Isham notes that for most physicists quantum theory is seen as a black-box that churns out useful results, but which gives no direct picture of (or assigns any meaning to) the reality that is assumed by most scientists to lie beneath their observations. See his article Quantum Theories in Quantum Cosmology, 87. 24. Pagels, 117. 25. One of the best discussions of the philosophical and theological implications of chaos theory is found in Robert J. Russell, et al., eds., Chaos and Complexity: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (Vatican City and Berkeley: Vatican Observatory Publications and the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, 2nd ed., 1997). Contributors propose various ways to understand chaos, but two views predominate. John Polkinghorne argues that chaos implies an openness in physical phenomena that allows for a true kind of top-down causality in which God can affect events in the physical universe (154). Yet others, in the same volume, maintain that chaotic phenomena are essentially deterministic, and do not provide room for divine intervention. Wesley Wildman and Robert J. Russell conclude that chaos theory, rather than supporting metaphysical indeterminism, instead strengthens the hypothesis of metaphysical determinism, arguing that many kinds of apparent randomness in nature should be subsumed under deterministic covering laws (84). Theological implications of this point are delineated by Willem Drees (227228) and Thomas Tracy (313314). 26. Pagels, 131. 27. The phenomenon of life, while perhaps appearing to be an exception to entropy, is not. Life, in fact, uses entropy to its advantage, to build its complexity; on this see Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, expanded ed. (New York: Bantam Books, 1996), 156; and Arthur Peacocke, Theology for a Scientific Age: Being and BecomingNatural, Divine and Human (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 3132. Still, in the natural world of living organisms, there appear to be no exceptions to the finality and irreversibility of the death of an organism. 28. Pagels, 127. 29. Pagels discusses the theory of the universe as a spontaneous conversion of the vacuum into a Big Bang, an event that has an infinitesimal but finite probability; see pp. 318319. 30. On theological aspects of chance in the universe see Elizabeth A. Johnson, Does God Play Dice? Divine Providence and Chance, Theological Studies 57 (Mar. 1996), 318. Ultimately, it is impossible to know whether chance events are truly chance, or if they camouflage Gods interventions. 31. Barbour, 193, 212, 231, 235. 32. Peacocke, 65; see pp. 47ff, 115ff, for his extended discussions of this subject. 33. John Polkinghorne, The Faith of a Physicist: Reflections of a BottomUp Thinker (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 25, 77. 34. Their respective views on whether or not God intervenes through miracles will be discussed later in the article. 35. This is contingency understood as uncertainty of occurrence, rather than as pure chance; see the Compact Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), s.v. 36. Cf. Keith Wards definition of miracles, in the context of quantum theory, as discontinuous emergent events which disclose the underlying character of the divine presence and prefigure the consummation of value

which is the goal of creation, disclosing its spiritual foundation and goal; in God as a Principle of Cosmological Explanation, in Quantum Cosmology, 260. 37. My view differs from William Pollards view in Chance and Providence (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1958), 66, where he identifies the Biblical notion of providence with the appearance of chance and accident in history. While chance in the physical universe might be a cover for Gods determining all things, as Pollard argues, it might also simply be chance as a creature of Gods making. It is impossible to know one way or the other. My view is closer to Nancey Murphys position, that by tampering with initial conditions at the quantum level, God can bring about extraordinary events, events out of keeping with the general regularities we observe Chaos and Complexity, 347. I would emphasize, however, that such a proposal will always be speculative, since the indeterminacies of quantum mechanics hide any evidence of Gods action at this level of the physical universe. And, theologically speaking, God might will and create in such a way, or might not, and is fully free to do as he wills. In another approach, Mark William Worthing, in God, Creation, and Contemporary Physics (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 142146, makes the interesting analogy of miracles to the notion of singularities in physics. Arthur Peacocke, on the other hand, concludes that given the growing ability of the sciences to give intelligible naturalistic explanations no events pass through this sieve, but consideration of this possibility can never be entirely precluded; see his Theology for a Scientific Age, 183. 38. William Lane Craig, Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus, Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity, Vol. 16 (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1989), xixiii. 39. See his work JesusGod and Man, 2nd ed., trans. by Lewis L. Wilkins and Duane A. Priebe (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1968), 53108. demann, The Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, 40. See Gerd Lu Theology, trans. by John Bowden (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994), 174176, 180181; and John Hick, The Metaphor of God Incarnate: Christology in a Pluralistic Age (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), 24. 41. Scholarship on the resurrection of Jesus, including its historicity and meaning, is immense, and I cannot address it all here. Some of the more important works are Raymond Brown, The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1973); Reginald Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980); Pheme Perkins, Resurrection: New Testament Witness and Contemporary Reflection (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1984); Gerd demann, The Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, Theology; Gavin D Lu Costa, ed., Resurrection Reconsidered (Oxford, UK and Rockport, MA: Oneworld Publications, 1996); and Stephen T. Davis, Daniel Kendall, and Gerald OCollins, eds., The Resurrection: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Resurrection of Jesus, eds. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997). N. T. Wrights recent book on the subject, Resurrection of the Son of God, vol. 3, Christian Origins and the Question of God (Augsburg Fortress, 2003), was published too late for consideration in this article. 42. Detailed discussion of these accounts is beyond the scope of this demann, as well article, but can be found in Brown, Fuller, Perkins, and Lu as in various commentaries on the individual New Testament books. I draw on Perkins for the likely provenances of these accounts; see Perkins, 8889, 114116, 126127, 131, 151, 157, 163, 168169, 172178. 43. Some of these dissimilarities, and the problems they have raised for belief in the resurrection, are discussed in Brown, 99102; and in Fuller, 26. 44. Mk. 16:6; Mt. 28:6, 13; Lk. 24:3, 2324; Jn. 20:2, 13. 45. See Brown, 126; Fuller, 4849, 56, 69. 46. Mk. 16:1; Mt. 28:1; Lk. 24:10, 22; Jn. 20:1, 11. Brown, 122, note 204, observes that the mention of women as witnesses seems authentic, since in that culture womens testimony would have less public authority.


Dialog: A Journal of Theology . Volume 43, Number 3 . Fall 2004

47. 1 Cor. 15:57; Mt. 28:9, 17; Lk. 24:1516, 36; Jn. 20:1415, 19, 26, 21:4. Fuller, 115, describes such an emphasis on the bodily resurrection of Jesus as quite contrary to the apocalyptic framework of 1 Cor. 15:5, and to the views of Paul, Mark and Matthew; it is, in his view, a progressive materialization by the Biblical writers (123). 48. See Stephen T. Davis, Seeing the Risen Jesus, in The Resurrection, 134147. A similar point is made by Hans Conzelmann in A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, HermeneiaA Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, trans. James W. Leitch (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), 257, note 74. However, Brown describes the wide variety of meanings the term can have (9092), and that Paul seems to consider his own vision of the resurrected Jesus as on par with that of the other apostles; see Brown, 90, note 153. 49. Mt. 28:5, 8; Mk. 16:5, 8; Lk. 24:34, 12, 22, 37; Jn. 20:2, 9, 13, 25. 50. On the significance of the change from Saturday to Sunday for the day of worship, see Richard Swinburne, Evidence for the Resurrection, in The Resurrection, 207212. demann, 97100, 174. 51. Brown, 108109; Fuller, 3435; Lu 52. On the formulaic and creedal nature of this tradition, see Conzelmann, 251257. ssler Fiorenza, who finds that it 53. Contrast the view of Elizabeth Schu was the women disciples who first experienced and announced the resurrected Jesus; see In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1983), 138140. demann, 163. A similar view, though with more nuance and 54. Lu more sympathy for the early Christians, is found in John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1998), xixxxxi, 550573. 55. Robert Funk, Honest to Jesus: Jesus for a New Millennium (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1996), 269, 273. 56. Fuller, 172173. 57. John Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 1: The Roots of the Problem and the Person (New York: Doubleday, 1991), 168177. Meiers approach has been critiqued; Luke Timothy Johnson comments that criteria for historicity like Meiers can be slippery and subjective; see Johnsons The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996), 129. It should also be noted that Meier himself holds, quoting Gerald OCollins, that while the resurrection is a real, bodily event it is not an event in space and time and hence should not be called historical; see Meier, 201, note 2. 58. Meier, 168177. 59. On the process of the transmission of these traditions, see Brown, 81. 60. Pheme Perkins survey of first-century Jewish attitudes about the resurrection of the dead provides no example of one man rising bodily from the dead, without the other righteous; see Resurrection, 3756; she also highlights the distinctive nature of the Christian understanding of the resurrection, in contrast to Greco-Roman views; ibid., 5663. The same lack of such an example can be seen in George Nickelsburgs survey of the subject in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 5, eds. David Noel Freedman et al. (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 684688. 61. Not all scholars would speak of shared physical experiences. Brown, 111113, 125126, notes that in these accounts Jesus seems no longer bound by the space-and-time laws of ordinary human experience; rather, it is an inherently eschatological event, and thus outside the bounds of space and time. Even so, he concludes (127128), Christians can rightly speak of a bodily resurrection of Jesus, an eschatologically transformed

body. Fuller, 49, concludes that the appearances occurred over a period of some three years or so, first in Galilee to Peter, then in Jerusalem, then to Paul on his way to Damascus. 62. N.T. Wright underscores that the resurrection of Jesus vindicates what Jesus was already believed to be by the disciples; see The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 400401. I would modify this to say that it vindicated their belief in him, and also utterly transformed it. The immediate result of that transformation is the early church and the New Testament. 63. Some fascinating discussion on the theological significance of the resurrection of Jesus can be found in Ted Peters, et al., eds., Resurrection: Theological and Scientific Assessments (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), especially in the essays by Robert nter Thomas, Ernst J. Russell, John Polkinghorne, Nancy Murphy, Gu M. Conradie, and Ted Peters. 64. Barbour, 324. 65. Ibid., 273275, 297. 66. Peacocke, 119, 183. 67. Polkinghorne, 78. Polkinghorne does not see this as a return to a God of the gaps, since his view draws on the intrinsically open character of physical process rather than patches of human ignorance (79). 68. Johnson, Dice, 15. 69. Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, trans. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), 46. Pannenberg has a continuous dialogue with various scientific notions of causality, including quantum indeterminacy, in his section on The World of Creatures, 59136. 70. William P. Alston makes a similar point in his article Divine Action, Human Freedom, and the Laws of Nature, in Quantum Cosmology and the Laws of Nature, 187191. However, while Alstons argument moves from the general philosophical premise (permeability of universe to divine intervention) to the particular case (a man walking on water), my argument moves from the particular case (the resurrection of Jesus) to a general conclusion (porosity of universe to Gods intervention). My approach is, I believe, more consistent with the approach of the NT writers, and their sources. 71. Robert J. Russell makes the interesting argument that God created the universe so that the universe is transformable by Gods new act to produce the new creation, something revealed in Jesus resurrection, which will result in a permanent change in at least most of the present laws of nature; see Bodily Resurrection, Eschatology, and Scientific Cosmology; The Mutual Interaction of Christian Theology and Science, in Resurrection: Theological and Scientific Assessments, 2122. My own view would be similar, with the stress on Gods freedom to act in this way, as revealed in Jesus resurrection. 72. It should be emphasized here that Jesus resurrected, bodily human existence has an eschatological nature, and is thus not a mere resuscitation of a corpse; see Brown, 127128; and Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, 343363. But while I agree with Pannenberg that the existence of the risen Jesus was eschatologically ordered, I differ somewhat in my interpretation of that existence. I would say that Jesus risen, eschatological existence was corporeal in a way that was very similar to his pre-death existence, so that he could be touched and embraced, and eat food. In this sense it is a truly corporeal new creation. 73. Pannenberg made his most complete argument in his JesusGod and Man, 53ff. The resurrection of Jesus continues to be a centerpiece in his systematic theology; see Systematic Theology, vol. 2, 343372. Rahner also sees an intimate connection between the disciples experiences of the resurrected Jesus and the Christologies of the New Testament and early church; see his Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity, trans. by William V. Dych (New York: Crossroad, 1989), 274282. Pannenberg acknowledges the similarities between Rahners views and his own; see his Systematic Theology, vol. 2, 287288.