Relativity and Grace

Next year is the 100th anniversary of the publication of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. It occurred to me that grace is to Christianity what relativity is to physics. You could say that grace is the quantum physics of theology.

First, both are infinitely puzzling and difficult to understand.

Sir Arthur Eddington was a contemporary of Albert Einstein’s and one of the earliest physicists to understand the concepts of Einstein’s relativity. He was genuinely brilliant, and both confirmed and contributed to Einstein’s work. Eddington also had a colossal ego. One time a reporter asked, “Dr. Eddington, is it true that there are only three people alive that understand the theory of relativity?” Eddington paused for a moment, then replied, “I’m trying to imagine whom the third person might be.”

Is grace any less hard to understand? Why should the last be first? Or the last hired worker receive the same pay as the guy that worked all day? Or everyone be forgiven no matter how big their debt? Or a lousy and obvious sinner receive mercy over the guy who gets all A’s in religion? Or why should God love me unconditionally?

Second, though both are very hard to understand, they are undeniably the way things work in both arenas.

For a 100 year old theory, it’s amazing to me that today I still read of new proofs that Einstein got it right. He actually thought he made one mistake, something called The Cosmological Constant. It seems to be turning out that even that was right in some way. A classic example of “the only time I was wrong was when I thought I was wrong but was right.”

With grace, this is the only way to genuinely change a human being at the deepest level. It’s obviously the way God chose. He gave His Son who set aside His divinity, came to serve and give His life. No law, or rigorous religious lifestyle can approach what grace can do in drawing us near to God. Even though we’re tempted to fear God, box Him in, “draw the line” or prove ourselves, in the end we have to return to grace because that is the way matters of the spirit work.

The one difference between relativity and grace is that you just have to accept grace. Relativity should be studied, prodded, and put to the ultimate tests and experiments. Grace…well, it resists analysis, critique, and proof. That alone makes it obviously godly. Relativity is in the realm of equations. Grace is pure story.

I want to be clear, I do not profess to understand grace, but I know that grace is the only way to explain anything about God. It is the only way to relate to Him, to draw close to Him. In fact, it’s the only way to draw close to one another. We can’t possibly even tolerate one another without grace, and we certainly can’t love and forgive one another without grace.

I’m like the blind man in John 9. “One thing I know, I was once blind but now I see.” So while I don’t claim to understand grace, I do have a glimpse of what it is, and that vision has softened my heart and filled my soul.


Dr. Terry Ellis
November 19, 2015