Schrodinger's Calvinism

By Kersley Fitzgerald

I have since found that I am not the first to think of the connection between poor old Schrodinger's cat and the concept of election in salvation. But, really, it is interesting how similar they are.

Schrodinger's cat is a thought experiment meant to encourage the contemplation of quantum mechanics—but don't worry, I won't get too technical. You take a cat and put him in a box. With the cat, you put a contraption that, when it goes off, will kill the cat. But there is no way of knowing when the contraption will spring, if at all. Then you put a lid on everything.

In reality, the cat is either alive or dead. But there is no way of knowing. So, from our point of view, the cat is both alive and dead at the same time.

This, of course, makes our intuition jump up and down and have a holy fit. Of course the cat can't be alive and dead at the same time! He has to be one or the other. But in some twisted way, he is both alive and dead. And the only way to figure out which state he holds is to open the box and look—to observe and measure quantitatively—his aliveness.

Calvinism is like a cat in a box. The concept of election/predestination says that God chooses beforehand who He will save. The names of the saved are written in the Book of Life. There is a list, and it is black and white, and some people are there and some people aren't. The cat is definitely alive or dead.

But we who are outside the box are also outside the book. We no more know the physical viability of the cat than we know the spiritual viability of our grouchy neighbor. And we will not know until we are able to quantitatively measure said viability, by, say, opening the Book of Life and looking up his name.

So to us, our neighbor is in a quantum salvific state of both chosen and not chosen.

On a practical level, as Christians who both accept the Great Commission and, perhaps, like cats, we then choose to believe the cat is alive and the neighbor is chosen. For the cat, we continue to feed and water him in some way that Schrodinger never mentioned, and keep the box in a climate controlled area so he neither freezes to death nor bakes. For the neighbor, we preach the Gospel. God is the only observer who knows the current state of our neighbor (and the cat), but He has given us instructions to follow until He reveals it to us. It is not our responsibility to know our neighbor's salvific quantum state. It is our responsibility to act on what knowledge we have—he is here and he needs God's love.

But can we observe our own quantum state? That is, can we know if we are chosen?

Does the cat know if he's alive? If so, he knows he has the potential to still be alive when the box is opened and his viability is confirmed. What can he do to ensure this? Break the killing mechanism. Sure, that's not part of the original thought experiment, but if you were the cat, you'd be more concerned with practical matters than quantum states of existence.

What if you're the grouchy neighbor? Can you know if your name is written in the Book of Life? That's actually the wrong question. The question is, what action can you take so that your observation will indicate that, indeed, your name is written in the Book of Life? Break the killing mechanism. Accept Christ. If you accept Christ, it is a concrete indication that your name is written there. Just as it would be foolish for the cat to sit around and mope that he didn't know if he was going to die, it's foolish for grouchy neighbor to sit around and mope that he didn't know if he could be saved.

Image Credit: raider of gin; "Cat studying"; Creative Commons

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Published 8-22-13