The Blue Coat School, where I first taught, had a substantial RE Dept, as you might expect of a large Anglican school. Jim Hall was an esteemed member of that Dept. One year, with the pressure on rooms in an oversubscribed school, he used my Physics Lab to teach one of his lessons, and I usually wasn’t timetabled them, so could hear the master in action. He was a well loved teacher.
I remember a conversation I had with him, because when it came to physics, he was a kind of atheist. Physics was something he had abandoned in his teens, and no longer believed in. It was the Law of Moments that had led to this tragic lapse and subsequent pattern of his life.
At his request, I explained at length my understanding of this law (Force multiplied by perpendicular distance to the fulcrum point gave you the size of the Moment, and if the moments applied around a pivot were equal and opposite, nothing moved.) I elaborated about how this explains how levers work, and the beauty and simplicity of the law.
He smiled, and said seriously, and wearily, “Yes, but why?”
I explained how the law accounts for the observations and measurements we make, and it is irrefutable. “Yes, but why?” I hadn’t answered his question, partly because I didn’t understand it, or thought it was a silly and irrelevant one.
But he is and was right. Physics can’t answer the ‘Why’ questions – it explores the ‘How,’ but mainly by description, and that is usually mathematical.
However, many of my ministerial colleagues are physicists. Our curiosity in the workings of the universe do lead us to recognise that there is an order in creation, and Jesus is the image of the Creator God. Love is the answer to the Why.
I can behold it in the Physics – Jim did not want to see it there. But, as you will have noticed, it is through Jesus that, for both of us, the Why is found.