I remember at university (in the 70s and 80s – before the internet) the discussion about knowledge and its expansion. The figure of the polymath was becoming a rare species because knowledge was increasing at an exponential rate. The days were long gone when one could hope know everything. But I was fascinated – still am – by knowledge and all that there is to know.
My mother and maternal grandmother had the same science lecturer at university and my mother would tell of the classes back then (in the 30s) and how the science lecturer read (!) the same lectures he had read to her mother! Knowledge was viewed as more ‘complete’ and ‘whole’ even though new discoveries were happening. (My mother said that on the last lecture with this fellow – on electricity – the lecturer duly read his notes concluding with electrons and how they were moving from positive to negative. When he had finished he removed his glasses and wiped them and look up at the lecture auditorium and said ‘Gentlemen (apparently he never acknowledged the few women in the class), there are some experiments happening that suggest that electrons do in fact move from negative to positive’ and replaced his glasses and left the room.) I’ve got no idea how electricity and electrons are taught today but I’m guessing not like that!
So this week I listened with a great deal of interest (and enjoyment) to a podcast on water. You’d think we know enough about it. Not so. It is full of curiosities. As a gas, water is one of the lightest known, while as a solid it is much lighter than expected (I hadn’t realised that ice floating on water is really a rare thing) and at room temperature as a liquid it is much denser than expected. Boiling is water ‘blowing bubbles within itself’ because of the interplay of pressure, temperature and surface tension factors. (I had never thought of water having ‘holes’ within it.) And I was fascinated to discover that no one knows – but they’re working on it – why ice is slippery! Here is one of the basic ingredients of life and there’s still so much more to learn about it. Fascinating.
Of course I can still live with water while new discoveries happen. I know to stay hydrated (but don’t drink too much), that the plants need watering, and to watch my step when it’s icy. I don’t need to know all the details of water before I ‘use’ it. Nevertheless knowing more will probably mean I can use water ‘better’. Water’s mysteries don’t mean I stay away from it.
I don’t understand the resurrection either. Did Jesus unwind the grave cloths in the tomb or did he ‘pass through’ them? How does Jesus defy physics with his resurrection body? Does Jesus’ resurrected body actually have cells doing the same things as my cells do within me at the moment? I don’t know! But my lack of knowledge doesn’t preclude me from believing that Jesus is alive now and death cannot hold him anymore (or me for that matter). The mystery doesn’t negate the truth.
And where science can learn more about water, here it is God who reveals himself to us through his Word and as we learn more of (and about) his Word so we learn more of the resurrection. It is a message of life. In fact God uses words, water, bread and wine to give this resurrected life to us now! And we learn how to stay strong in faith, that those around us need serving, and that sin is slippery. And that too is fascinating. — GS