I’ve been reading Diarmaid MacCulloch’s outstanding history of Christianity (it’s enormously absorbing, and full of fascinating detail) and I’m currently immersed in the factional disputes of the fourth century A.D., when the biggest problem of the day was to work out a good account of the Trinity, and in particular the nature of Christ. It’s tricky — this triune-Godhead business can get awfully knotty, when you get down to details.
Leaving aside the Holy Spirit, about which nobody seemed to have any clear idea at all, the problem was how to assemble a coherent model that included all of these three features at once:
1) God, the First Person of the Trinity, is of the purest, transcendent divinity, eternal and uncreated and beyond real human understanding. There’s nothing human about God.
2) Christ was a man. That’s vitally important to his role as Redeemer: that he suffered as a man would suffer.
3) Christ is divine. Obviously this is a essential tenet of Christianity. In some sense at least, it is necessary to be able to say that Christ is God.
So the question is: what is Christ, that he can bridge, in one entity, the gulf between man and God? If Christ is to be truly identical to God, then he cannot in any meaningful sense be human; to the extent that Christ is human, he is necessarily distinct from God. Broadly speaking, there were two opposing views, neither perfectly satisfactory.
First was the view that Christ was in fact simply God made flesh, and that to the extent Christ had any real human nature at all, it was mixed in him with God’s divinity as water mixes with wine. But if you simply make Christ God Incarnate, then you are saying the the mind of Christ was really the mind of God. This was horrifying to some theologians, as it completely fails to satisfy requirement 2).
Second is the view known at the time as Arianism, which saw Christ as subordinate to God: a created being, partly human and partly divine, in which God’s divinity mixed with Jesus’s human nature in the way that oil mixes with water — separate and distinct, though both contained in the same vessel. The problem with this view is that by binding Christ so firmly to his humanity, it diminishes him in relation to God.
Attempts to untie this knot often descended to plays on language. Were God and Christ one “substance” (homoousios)? Were they of non-identical, but similar “substance” (homoiousios)? Or were they of different “substance” altogether (heteroousios)?
Well, who the hell knows! The one-substance faction gained the upper hand at the First Council of Nicaea in 325, but the problem never went away.
Anyway, Maculloch’s account of all this wrangling, and all the parties involved, is very interesting. As I was reading about it, though, a stray idea popped into my head: why not a quantum Christ?
The way a piece of quantumstuff (a “quon”) presents itself depends on the way you measure it (to be specific, in the way you reduce its eigenfunction): measure it one way, it’s a wave, measure it another way, it’s a particle. Also, the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics specifies complementary pairs of attributes: the accuracy with which you determine the value of one attribute of a complementary pair (position, say) causes a proportional fuzziness in its complement (the complement of position is momentum). If you conduct your measurement so as to have maximum certainty about attribute a, its complementary attribute b is maximally undefined; it just can’t be helped. (And by the way, this isn’t just a problem with measurement, either: making a precise measurement of a forces b actually to become maximally undefined.)
So maybe Jesus the Son of Man is just Christ-measured-as-a-human. And maybe Divinity and Humanity are complementary attributes of Quantum Christ: zero in on his human aspect, and you know nothing certain about his divinity; focus on his Godhead, and you cannot pin him down as a man.
Just a thought. Please don’t ask me what the equations are going to look like.