The borrowed light of God
This year sees the 100th anniversary of the publication of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, where he provided a description of how gravity is explainable by objects warping spacetime, rather like how a heavy ball would warp a rubber sheet when rolled across it. Funnily enough, it’s an illustration that could only be literally demonstrated thanks to gravity itself.
Einstein’s general theory of relativity came ten years after his research on special relativity, where he confirmed that reality cannot be confined to a single perspective. For example, the faster an object moves, the more compressed it becomes, and the slower time becomes. Einstein himself was aware of something like this phenomenon in everyday life – for example, watching a kettle boil for three minutes will seem longer than having a three-minute chat with a fascinating person. Whether you’re travelling at very fast speeds in a spaceship, or sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, time, like reality in general, is about perspective.
Arguably even more fascinating than relativity is the nature of quantum mechanics, which tells us that light can behave simultaneously as a particle or a wave. This was famously demonstrated with two mirrors bouncing light back and forth, creating physical regions in which each cancels the other out. The cancelling effect occurs when an incoming wave cancels out the outgoing reflected wave as energy passes through.
When I first learned of the two mirrors phenomenon, I thought of how it could easily be applied metaphorically to humans being like mirrors that give off the kind of light of that which we face (be it God, self-worship, greed for money, desire for power, or whatever). We frequently reflect onto the world the things to which we attach ourselves.
Central to the Christian message is that we should be attached to Christ, because all instances of goodness, love, grace and kindness in this world are really reflections of God’s goodness, love, grace and kindness bestowed upon us. Alas, we humans constantly stain our mirrors so that those reflections are harder to see. Yet we can be encouraged by the apostle Paul who reminds us that we are being transformed as Christians into the Lord’s image with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). The more Christ-like we become, the more we are like mirrors that reflect the borrowed light of God’s awesomeness and impact those around us.
James is a local government officer based in Norwich, and is a regular columnist for Network Norfolk and Heart 4 Ipswich, Christian Community websites. He also blogs regularly as ‘The Philosophical Muser’, and contributes articles to UK think tanks The Adam Smith Institute and The Institute of Economic Affairs.
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(The views expressed here are those of the author, not of Heart 4 Ipswich, and are intended to stimulate constructive debate. We welcome your thoughts upon the ideas expressed here, posted as comments below)