Sunday, April 26, 2015
I guess I'm on a Hugh Ross kick, and I got a second book at about the same time as I received the first. I should have started with this one, Beyond the Cosmos.
Hugh Ross is a Christian and a scientist. He knows we believers wrestle with questions about how we can experience God when He is not available to our 5 senses. We wish He were more tangible and although we might take it on faith that it is better that Jesus left earth, on a physical level, we struggle to understand why.
Ross believes that recent scientific discoveries make God more discoverable and understandable and can deepen and strengthen our relationship with Him.
Scientists have struggled with the number of known dimensions in our universe. Currently we experience 4 - length, width, height, and time - but they knew that was not enough to explain all the things they knew were true. Using complicated math that is way over my head, scientists have come to believe that there must have been at least 10 dimensions at some point in the very beginning nanoseconds of the universe. Six of these dimensions still exist but are hidden. Only 4 remain available to us.
Interestingly, scripture hints at further dimensions. Creation, miracles, Jesus' post-resurrection abilities, and paradoxes seem to require extra dimensions.
Through complicated scientific reasoning, Ross posits the conclusion that God exists in at least 11 dimensions - our 4, plus the 6 hidden, and one extra time dimension available to Him outside our universe. We already see a clear establishment in Scripture for God being "outside of time" or experiencing time differently than we do. (One thousand years are as a day and one day is as one thousand years.)
One area the extra-dimensionality of God comes into play is in apparent paradoxes within Scripture. These are the areas Christians have struggled with for thousands of years. How can two ideas that seem to contradict both be true? The classic example is free will vs. God's sovereignty. Because we experience time in a single line, inextricably moving forward, we cannot imagine experiencing it any other way. But God exists in another time dimension as well. Therefore, rather than seeing time as a line, God sees it as a plane. As such, He can move to any particular place in time and has no beginning or end. He can create an effect before the cause. This is mind-blowing to us, but knowing that God experiences at least one additional dimension of time explains so much that confounds us. He knows us and knows how we will react. He can use this extra-dimensionality to nudge our free-will in the direction He ultimately determines.
God can also use this extra-dimensionality to, in effect, stop time. It is one way to explain how He can "hear" all of us at once. If God experiences time in 2 dimensions, He can, so to speak, "park" in one moment and spend all the time He wants with one individual. Then He can "park" in the next second and spend hours or days with the next. This is an incredible insight into God's great concern for us individually. While time, for us, keeps moving, it doesn't for God. Incredible.
Ross discusses another little mentioned, but whispered idea, will heaven be boring? No time, just sitting on a cloud, doing... what? Because we cannot conceive of any reality beyond our four dimensions, Ross uses the gap between two-dimensionality and three-dimensionality to make it more understandable. If, for example, we put God in the three dimension category and ourselves in the two dimension, we can picture the difference one more dimension makes. We, then are like people on TV - flat screen people who cannot imagine the dimensionality of depth. God is outside the TV. Obviously this makes communication difficult and ideas He may delight in telling us about simply become impossible to describe. (I liken it to trying to explain quantum physics to my dog.) He may invade our world, but to us two-dimensional beings, it only confuses us. Our understanding of the that 3D world is woefully inadequate.
Yet if heaven is in not only one extra dimension, but seven or more, there is no way we could conceive of what that even means! (Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither hath it entered into the mind of man...) We are SO limited, yet in our arrogance, believe we "know" so much!
This also helps explain paradoxes like the Trinity. Ross pictures God poking a finger through the screen. We screen people do not see a three dimensional finger, but a dot. If He pokes three fingers through, we see three dots. We have no idea that they are part on one whole. If he puts His whole hand through, we see an irregular ellipse, but cannot really connect that to the dots we saw before. Extra-dimensionality makes easy work of unbelievably complex doctrines. At the same time, all those extra dimensions make light of our attempts to understand Him. He is literally infinitely more complex than we can know.
Now the Incarnation become that much more overwhelming. Jesus gave all that up, to live like one of us - a screen person. Yet we see in His miracle the ability to access that extra-dimensionality. He calms the waves in the storm with a word. How? In a moment, He transitions back to the other dimensions and exercises control over His own creation and then instantly changes back to a place of submission under it.
We are in awe of Christ when we discover what He gave up, but then we are horrified when we ponder the ramifications. Not only did He sacrifice so much coming to earth, but His death was far worse than we have imagined. Scripture says He was slain before the foundation of the earth and we shall see Him at the end as a lamb just slain. If Jesus can experience the same time extra-dimensionality we've already discussed, it is possible that the time He hung on the cross was almost infinite. He could have suffered for each of us individually. For every sin. For every transgression. It's overwhelming.
What about pre-destination? Clearly Scripture tells us that God predestines us. And yet our lives feel like a series of free-will choice. However a little examination shows that to be suspect. We did not choose where and when and to whom to be born. God, with His extra-dimensionality, is easily able to manipulate circumstances that will direct us to a saving knowledge of Him. Therefore, because of God's extra-dimensionality of time, His foreknowledge and predestination become one and become impossible to separate. Also, Scripture clearly states that once we claim Him as Lord, He will preserve us, limiting the impact satan can have on us. Scripture also clearly states that there is a point of no return, when we have allowed satan's impact to push us to a point where we no longer respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. God makes is clear that each one of us will decide one way or another before we die.
Ross jumps into the question that confounds believers everywhere. What about the presence of evil? He actually turns this question around. He believes that the prevalence of evil actually points to the existence of God. Pure evil would not exist in a purely evolutionary world. It requires something more, something outside our familiar dimensions, to make sense of the suffering and evil we see.
Ross ends by showing that we are like the ancient Israelites on the journey to the Promised Land. They could not conceive of what awaited them and therefore longed for the familiar. They did not understand that the journey was necessary. The pain and suffering associated with it were unavoidable. We too, are unable to imagine all God has in store for us, and cry out for relief, but the existence of extra-dimensions gives us a clue as to His ultimate plan.
John the revelator tries to describe what awaits us in the "New Heaven and the New Earth." Yet, neither he, nor we, can possibly know what will exist when everything is made new. I can't wait!!