WHAT’S DIVINE ABOUT THE “GOD PARTICLE?”

I have enough trouble getting electrons, protons, and neutrons straight, much less the physics of bosons.  However, I do think I grasp why physicists around the world are excited about newly emerging evidence for a very special sub-atomic particle. Perhaps people of faith should be, too.

Named for the physicist who first posited its existence, the Higgs boson is believed by particle physicists to account for everything in the universe’s having mass. One scientist friend recommended my thinking about it as a sticky kind of stuff that fills space and makes possible a thing-y (rather than a string-y?) kind of universe.

But how did this particular boson come to be called a “God particle”? The answer seems to be that it, and only it, performs the function of holding very, very small things together. Somewhat like God’s sustaining of “all things, visible and invisible” in the created order.

The God in the God particle, however, is not the Transcendent, Creator God who produced the primordial Big Bang. Rather, the boson-God is more like an Immanent Presence in the post-Bang transformation of energy into matter in motion. It is a space-filling particle that binds everything that is still proceeding from the originating Explosion. It keeps the furniture of the universe now in place from disintegrating before or along with our very eyes.

There is a passage in The Book of Colossians that nicely links the Christology of early church teaching with the cosmology of post-boson scientific speculation: “all things are held together in him” (1:17). To be sure, the writer could not leave it at that point with respect to Christ; he made Him agent of the universe’s creation as well. But the writer also left us a very powerful idea of a very present God in the midst of indeterminacy and even chaos.

The close-at-handness of a God so understood is a welcome improvement over the idea of an infinitely high and remote God that has so dominated Christian theology. Ancient Stoics once posited the universe as God’s body. It’s an idea worth contemplating that the Higgs bosons are all His, and maybe even Him.

If the search for these bosons is any indication, people soon may be able to take such an idea to their comfort just as much in science as they always have in religion.

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About LEROY HOWE

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