Cloud of Probability

Christians believe in right and wrong, and that God determines which is which. If you are at variance with what God says, you are wrong. I have no problem with this thinking. Murder? Wrong. (Exodus 20:13) Stealing? Wrong. (Exodus 20:15) Lusting? Wrong. (Matthew 5:27-28

However, this attention to the existence of right and wrong seems to cause many Christians to think that there is a single morally correct (i.e., right) answer to every question; even to questions that the Bible doesn’t directly address.

For instance, to choose two “Christian morality” issues that have been in the news this year: does God want to be mentioned in the American Pledge of Allegiance, and does He want His commandments displayed on the walls of American courthouses?

In an attempt to try to solve this problem of having no direct answer from the Bible, some Christians have grabbed onto the idea of asking WWJD — What Would Jesus Do? This is a good attempt. If the Bible doesn’t directly address a situation, then let’s try to imagine what Jesus might have done in this situation. This question is worth while in that it gets us thinking: if God hasn’t given me a rule for what to do here, what do I think He might want me to do?

The problem, of course, is that we may come up with as many different ideas for what Jesus might have done as we have people trying to imagine them. Further, a better phrasing of the question might be WWJWMTD: What Would Jesus Want Me To Do? But this wouldn’t look nearly as nice on a bracelet. (I’ve also seen WTFWJD — by far the funniest collision of pop culture from within and without the church that I’ve seen in a while.)

In these cases where there is no clear teaching on what God says about an issue — that is, where variance from God’s will is impossible to determine — then variance from the opinions of others in the church seems to take its place as the test for right and wrong. That is, when Christians start asking the question “What would Jesus do,” they seem to start looking for an answer in what other Christians are doing. The positions of Christian church people on many political and moral issues are very cohesive. This is why the news media can report the “fundamentalist Christian reaction” to stories about same-sex marriage or taking the words “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance. Whole wings of the Christian church resonate together, claiming the rightness of a particular side of each issue.

What if, instead of taking the average of what everyone thinks God’s will is, we imagined a system like that in quantum physics where particles exist at each location in a cloud of probability? In quantum physics, the particle can most confidently be claimed to likely exist at the center of the cloud of probability. The further from the center you get, the less likely it is that the particle is there. But it could be…there is a recognized probability that it might be.

So we can experiment with a notion of quantum morality: every moral choice exists in a cloud of probability that it’s what God would want us to do. For lots of things, what God wants from us can be found right at the center of that cloud. For other moral choices, however, we must recognize at least the possibility that God’s will exists to the left or right of the location we’ve pinpointed as being the center of moral goodness.

This systen doesn’t tell us who’s right when it comes to determining God’s will; in fact it’s designed not to tell us who’s right, but who’s probably right. And, of course, being probably right is exactly the same as being possibly wrong. I think that American Christian culture would benefit from a substantial realization of possible wrongness. I don’t want Christians to wander around in the dark, I just want them to admit that things outside of their flashlight beam do still exist.