Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Plural Universes for a Faith Odyssey

Lift up your eyes on high and see:
Who created these?
He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name,
by the greatness of His might,
and because He is strong in power
not one is missing.

Ten years and four billion miles.

That's how long it's taken the spacecraft Rosetta to deliver its landing craft, named Philae, to a small comet 300 million miles away from us here on Earth.  Today, history was made as the European Space Agency announced that their Philae had indeed landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a nifty bit of spinning rock and ice that travels at about 85,000 miles per hour.

And it wasn't a direct flight.  Rosetta's epic journey of four billion miles over ten years included multiple looping orbits around the sun.  The next time you wonder why your flight from Houston to Chicago involves a layover in Atlanta, be glad you're not traveling four billion miles to reach your destination a mere 300 million miles away!

Indeed, Philae's landing today marks yet another stunning feat in the annals of human imagination, intelligence, ambition, and tenacity.  The numbers and distances boggle our minds.  Humankind marveled when men walked on the moon - and that was with 1960's technology!  We keep talking of going back to the moon, but since it's already been done, it can sound anti-climactic.

Predictably, most evangelicals will likely smirk at the objective of Rosetta's galactic enterprise, which is to study the molecular composition of Comet 67P and attempt to derive theories for the origins of life on our planet, and indeed, the beginnings of our universe.

Modern science is relentless in its pursuit of defining our beginnings, and while on the one hand, the exploration of our environment stokes an understandable curiosity, most of the people doing the exploring have no interest in correlating what they believe they find with far less sophisticated accounts of our origins that we find in God's Word.

Still, it's fascinating that mankind can develop a machine that can travel four billion miles in a decade.  It makes you wonder why Detroit can't make cars that don't start falling apart when their warranties expire.  What's even more fascinating is that God created all of this that seems so limitless.  This vast expanse of our universe is intriguing both for what we've been able to learn about it, and also for what we don't know about it.  Yet, anyway. 

Even we evangelicals can be in awe of what science discovers, even if the people discovering new facts about our universe read false causal narratives into them.  But how about this:  We believe that the God of the Bible has created everything that exists in our universe.  We commonly say "the universe," as if there's only one.

But what if God has more than one universe out there, somewhere?

I'm not the first person to ask such a question.  In scientific terminology, the concept is called "multiverse" in the singular, while in sci-fi lingo, they're called "parallel universes."  But we don't like to broach this subject much within polite, conventional evangelicalism.  Somehow, it sounds dirty, like we're doubting something about God; or excessively weird, like something in our brain may start leaking out of our ears.

Yet it does not deny God's sovereignty to wonder if there's more that He's created out there, beyond our universe.  In fact, don't we acknowledge God's limitless, boundless sovereignty by allowing that He's powerful enough to have more than one universe going on under His auspices?  If, as some creationists say, our planet is only several thousand years old, that's not a whole lot of time for our timeless, eternal God, is it?  What else might He have been doing before time began?  Or at least, before time began for our universe?

Might God have multiple universes out there, beyond ours?  The Bible teaches us that there is only one God, so there aren't multiple gods somewhere.  Science fiction folks wonder if God has created other things and places in our universe that may or may not support human life, but what about other universes?

Have you ever thought about plural universes?  God is omnipotent and omnipresent, so even though He's sovereign over our universe, being so doesn't deprive Him of a scintilla of effort or attention elsewhere... if there is indeed an elsewhere.  Or if anything is an "effort" for God anyway.

I have to admit:  My brain starts to tingle after contemplating these possibilities for a while.  And His Word is appropriately silent on the parallel universe idea.  Obviously, it's not for us to know what else God may have created for His glory beyond the universe He's given us.  Even though it would all be for His glory.

Besides, there's little practical merit in knowing what may exist beyond our universe.  It's not like we're experts on the universe we've got.

As far as Philae is concerned, initial reports from outer space indicate that its anchors may not have deployed properly.  Scientists say they may be able to repeat the deployment activation to try again, but even if Philae can't maintain its stability on Comet 67P, the landing craft has still provided them with significant information for the future.

Which simply proves that science keeps on learning, even from its mistakes and momentary failures.  I wish I could say the same for myself.

Indeed, God has given you and me particular responsibilities for today, for here, and for His creation in this universe - creation to which we're gaining greater and greater access.

To boldly go where no man has gone before may be intriguing, and even prideful, but to know the God Who created all of where we've been, and wherever we've never been, and may never get to go this side of eternity, is humbling.

Humbling for us here on Earth, and for whomever else may be out there.

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