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CALL : +685 24414
FAX 20429
5th Floor John Williams Building
Tamaligi, Apia

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Wednesday 21 October
 The limitation of language 

 

 

Read Psalm 19:1–6

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork … There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. (verses 1 and 3–4)

 

The first part of Psalm 19 (verses 1–6) articulates how God is made known to humanity through the natural world. Later, in verses 7–10, the psalmist goes on to show that God is revealed through the law or the revelation of scripture. These ‘natural’ and ‘ethical’ sections are linked. The sun is to the natural world what the scriptures are for the person seeking understanding. As the sun warms the earth, so the scriptures give light to human reason. However, the eloquence of the heavens and the scriptures will always be limited by human words.

  

No speech can adequately describe the nature of reality. This is illustrated by the concept of wave-particle duality in quantum mechanics: electrons and light cannot be described as purely particles or waves, but behave like one or the other depending on the situation. An electron is sometimes well-described by the scientific concept of a particle and sometimes behaves like the scientific concept of a wave, but ultimately it can’t be fully described by either.

 

Similarly, we can describe God using many different metaphors – a rock of refuge, a mother hen, a sacrificial lamb – but God’s true nature can never be fully captured in human concepts and language. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics acknowledges a fundamental limit to how much we can know about reality; it states that you can either make a very good measurement of where a particle is or how fast it is going, but you can’t measure them both precisely at the same time. Both science and religion leave space for mystery.

 

† Almighty God, you revealed yourself to Elijah in the sound of sheer silence; grant to us both the desire to know you more deeply, and the serenity to accept your mystery. Amen