How a Neglect of Physics Has Turned Christianity into a Myth for Modern Man

April 2013By Anthony Rizzi

Anthony Rizzi, who has a Ph.D. in physics from Prince­ton University and a B.S. in physics from MIT, is the founder and director of the Institute for Advanced Physics ( He solved a long-standing problem in Einstein’s theory of general relativity. He is the author of The Science Before Science: A Guide to Thinking in the 21st Century, which was made into an EWTN miniseries cohosted by Marcus Grodi; two textbooks, Physics for Realists: Mechanics — Modern Physics with a Common Sense Grounding and Physics for Realists: Electricity & Magnetism; and, most recently, A Kid’s Introduction to Physics (and Beyond). This is the first of a two-part series.

What would most Christians say if asked to give a brief summary of the history of the world and the meaning of life? Most of us would likely give an account whose core depended solely on words, images, and analogies taken from the Bible and Christian Tradition. And, if questioned, most of us would quickly reveal how little we understand the meaning of those words, images, and analogies. Take, for example, these queries: What is a body? Why do we have one? Why should we respect it? To the last, we might answer something like, “Because the body is sacred.” But that is a circular reply, invoking another undefined word from the tradition; it appears to say, “It’s good because it’s good.” In what sense are we made in the image of God? What is man’s soul? To the latter, we might reply, in what would probably be among the best of the answers one could expect, “The part of man that lasts forever.” But which part is that? This last answer at least shows some movement beyond the sentiment of “holy words” to some thought, but even this answer does not allow one to conclude that we really understand the words and analogies we repeat. As a result, despite our best intentions, such words and analogies can become more like an incantation than an expression of the rational faith that Christianity is.

Such un-thoughtfulness about meaning is, as we all know at least theoretically, first and foremost an affront against truth and thus against Truth Himself. It is also contrary to Scripture’s admonition to “always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within you” (1 Pet. 3:15).

The cause of this absence of meaning springs from our not starting with what we know first — namely, those simple physical things given through our senses that we all learn, though in a confused way, as children. We should have had these physical principles clarified by our parents and teachers, and made into a thought-out science. That science is the most general part of physics, which is the study of the physical world, and these simple things we learn as children are that upon which all of our other physical knowledge builds, including modern science. But instead of having these principles clarified, solidified, and gradually become a greater and greater part of our thinking, making, and doing, these principles are not even mentioned by our parents and teachers because they do not know them in any clear way either, having also not been taught them. Indeed, things contrary to these commonsense principles are taught frequently: For instance, atoms are said to be mostly nothing, and animals and people are said to be not really wholes but parts put together out of such atoms. Such contrary teaching is subtle and affects our thinking directly and indirectly. This confused thinking is habituated deeply by current cultural norms that reward behaviors that conform to the confused thinking and discourage behaviors that do not. In this way, the confused thinking gets a deep foothold in us. And, of course, since all of our words ultimately get their meaning from these physical principles (either directly, by analogy, or by negation), our words begin to lose clear meaning.

To regain these fundamentals, books that explain these integrated into, and in the context of, modern science are now available for the first time (see Endnote 1). We cannot rest, however, with regaining these principles; they must be applied and brought into ordinary life, including our spiritual life. To underline the severe problem of our neglect of the fundamental physics and the urgent need for it to be addressed, let us look at how we think about the history of salvation and then see how recovering physics in the broad sense allows us to begin to see again the deep structure of God’s plan.

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