If you have ever taken a class in modern physics or read anything about quantum physics, you are well acquainted with the Schrodinger's cat thought experiment. It is an extremely interesting thought experiment, and one which I want to use for the Christian as well.
In order to understand it, we need a bit of info about quantum physics first. I am going to super-gloss over the details; if you want more details you can email me (or, perhaps it would be better to read online, as I know just enough to be dangerous!).
Most of us--and most physicists, until fairly recently--believed that the universe was made of something really small. A bunch of fundamental particles which, built in the right way, made up bigger objects and combined into bigger objects and so on. If you have a powerful enough microscope, you will keep getting closer and closer to these fundamental "things". For a long time, this seemed true. But then we got advanced enough that we started looking at things on the quantum level--to use the technical term, that means "really super friggin' small." Anyway, physicsts have found that, in fact, things get a lot weirder when you start looking into what the universe is actually made of.
One of the weirdest things is that quantum "objects" seem to exist in dual forms, and do not seem to take a form until observed. That is, the act of observation makes the reality occur. The universe does not seem to be some static 'thing' independently real and waiting to be observed; instead, it exists as possibilities, and the act of observation makes it so. Physicists would say, that the observation "collapsed the waveform". You have probably heard the puzzler, "If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" If the tree were a quantum object, we would say that it both produces sound and does not produce sound, until someone observes it to find out.
Anyway, physicist Erwin Schrodinger used what he called a "ridiculous" example in order to try and explain it. Instead of quantum objects, let's talk about a cat. He says to imagine a cat in a box. Inside the box with him is a flask of poison, with a 50% chance of being trigger. Time passes. You are about to open the box to observe--is the cat dead or alive? Quantum physics shows that for a quantum object, the answer is both--it is simultaneously dead and alive. Its waveform exists in both states. Only when it is interacted with by an observer does it collapse and take on what we would call a "real" (i.e., static) form.
Okay. So, what in the world does this have to do with Christianity?
I cannot help but think of how quantum physics informs our view of the world. In my post yesterday, I discussed how scientific advancements can help us better understand the world God made for us. If quantum physics is right, then the fundamental universe is a mass of potentials rather than realities, and the act of observation makes it take form. It's actually pretty fascinating from a Christian standpoint. Think about Genesis 1, when God creates everything. It doesn't say, "God wanted light, so He made light." It says that everything was formless and void and water-like. And then God said, "Let there be light", and there was light. Do you see? God made the universe not as a bunch of subatomic Legos to be assembled, but each 'bit' of space is a grand potential. And when He observes it--say, looking for light--its endless creative possibilities collapse to be one with what the Great Observer desired to see. He made the fundamental "stuff", this great sea of potential, and then observed here and there, collapsing waveforms to create everything around us. That is an aside, though, and not my main point. Sorry.
Anyway, the interesting thing here for me is how Scrodinger's Cat helps explain one of the most basic concepts in Christ's preaching--what is often called "simultaneously sinner and saint."
How is it possible that morally-bankrupt people can expect heaven because of their relationship to God, and good people who happen to be atheists would receive eternal punishment? And, more to the point, how is it that can look at us and see us as righteous when we are all guilty of sin?
Because our souls have dual natures, just like quantum particles. We are simultaneously two natures of potential: that part of us which desires perfect and delights in adhering to God's Law, and that part of us which rebels and seeks out self-serving decisions. As CS Lewis once put it, we all simultaneously believe in universal law, and yet are unable to attain it personally.
That is our true reality--we are neither good nor bad, but a dual-natured waveform, existing simultaneously in both states. Like Schrodinger's cat, we are both dead and alive at the same time. The Bible makes it clear that becoming a Christian does not change that - we still want one thing and do another; yet the Bible calls us 'saints' and the 'elect'. And then the Bible tells us that we will one day stand before the judgment seat of heaven...that is, we will be observed, by the Observer. I propose to you that the Judgment is not a recounting of your past actions or a weighing of who you are. It is literally God the Father looking at you--and, in so doing, your dual-natured waveform collapses, and you take on a full reality: you become either your fully carnal self or your fully holy self. You become literally either your best or worst version of yourself.
And therein lies the question. How will we be observed? The great thing is that we are given the choice. Jesus tells us that by following Him, He will send you a helper--the Holy Spirit--and guarantee that your "holy" aspect cannot be removed. The Bible says that we will be seen as righteous and our souls be washed clean by Jesus' blood. Jesus gives us a way to make the "holy" part of ourselves more solid and real, so that when the waveform collapses it has to go in this direction; He upsets the balance.
Our souls are inside the box with the poison, existing both dead and alive. If you have followed Jesus, then you know what part of your soul will collapse and what part will remain; if not, you just go ahead and take your chances when the Great Observer looks at you.
That is the Gospel. Following Christ does not remove your sinful nature. It does not eliminate one of the two states of your waveform. Your soul is still inseparably woven of these two parts--simultaneously carnal and spiritual. Submitting to Christ does not remove the sinful nature and collapse the waveform. No, what it does is insert that third thing (the Holy Spirit) that makes the "holy" state of the waveform impossible to collapse. So that when you get observed, the decision is already made - the evil part of you will be obliterated and only the good will remain.
For that matter, it explains why your sins will be forgiven and forgotten. The Bible says that God actually forgets your sins...how, if He is all knowing? Well, quite simply--the evil part of your 'waveform' collapses. It does not exist. You become actually real...and the real only involves that part that Christ strengthened. The rest never existed at all, other than as a potential. There is nothing even to forget anymore. Only that which He observes is real.
Admittedly this is a bit out there for one of my normal posts. But certainly intriguing, no?
So I suppose the real question is...are you going to take your chances when you die and the box falls open? Or are you going to follow the Christ and ensure that you know how your soul will turn out when the waveform collapses?