Why Rulers Don't Work (Lorentz Contraction)

As mentioned in the previous post, I am thinking through a series of ideas I am picking up from a book by Brian Greene called The Elegant Universe.


Lorentz contraction is something quite peculiar. It is observed when something is measured while standing still and while in motion. You would expect that if you measured your car while it was sitting in your driveway to be 8’ 3” long and then repeated the measurement while it was moving that the two measurements would be the same. When in fact, the moving measurement would be smaller.


However, Lorentz contraction is negligible at everyday speeds. You have to be going a significant fraction of the speed of light to have any noticeable effects[1]. In other words, it is not until you get into realms of speed far outside our normal, every day, human experience that you can even notice it. To measure it at any normal speeds would require precise measurements beyond that which are currently available.


So, what does this have to do with faith? Well, it tells us that our normal, everyday lives are easy to describe and understand using common logic and perception, but once we move beyond the normal (or natural) things do not necessarily operate the way we think, and we must recognize that and look for more precise tools.


God is far beyond anything we experience naturally. It would be quite acceptable to say that describing God is similar to trying to experience/measure something going close to the speed of light with a ruler or tape measure. Sometimes, he is simply too different to measure, and we need to be careful to not treat him as something that should be able to be described with the same tools we use to describe going to the gas station or planting a tomato.


Throughout the faith, we run up against things about God that cause our tools to break down. Consider the way in which his omniscience and our God-given gift of free will cause a breakdown in logic. If you take the idea of God’s omniscience to its simple logical conclusion, God not only knows what we are going to do, but where we are going to go. Simply put, God has already decided whether or not you are going to hell... there’s nothing you can do about it. On the other hand, we believe that the scriptures are just as clear that we have free will, and it is entirely our choice whether or not to go to heaven or hell.


What?!? Those two things do not match up! Either it’s our choice, or God’s. It can’t logically be both. The solution? Lorentz Contraction. We have two great options. Either we say that our measure (logic) is not precise enough to fully describe God, or we must get really precise in our description of this attribute of His person (See my post on Time and God for a crude attempt from me).


Here’s the point. When talking about something as lofty, high, and supernatural as God, we must be careful that we do not limit Him[2] to what can be measured by our natural means. His ways are higher than our ways[3].


[1] At the speed of 13,400,000 miles per second, the length observed is only 99.9% of the non-moving speed.

[2] Though letting Him limit Himself is quite alright. This is how we avoid iniversalism. God makes it clear who he is in the Scripture, and we need not find ways to remove who He says that He is in order to make Him more likeable.

[3] Isaiah 55:9