The Believer’s Guide to the Multiverse
by David Williams
Shook Foil Books, 136 pages.
“The Believer’s Guide to the Multiverse” is an overview of the intersection of science and theology from the perspective of a well-informed theologian. The book explores the convergence of emerging quantum physics information suggesting an infinite multidimensional reality and Christian theological inquiry that asks, “Where is God in this?” It generously covers the ground of questioning: mythos and empirical evidence, creation, multidimensional reality, evil, freedom, determinism, repentance, transformation, morality and ethics, the nature of God and Jesus, even a bit on other faith perspectives, and does so with humor and refreshingly understandable language.
For each topical aspect of Christian faith mentioned above, Williams gives both theological and scientific (multiverse) perspectives, emphasizing points of convergence and addressing differences as needed. For instance, eternity and multidimensionality are discussed to illustrate the ways that theology and science describe the same reality. Williams cleverly offers the book’s conclusions for a variety of readers: the absolutist, agnostic, skeptic, scientist, faithful, spiritual not religious and Christian. This conclusion buffet gives readers who choose to nibble on multiple perspectives the opportunity to expand their appreciation of, well, a multiverse ending. As a scientist and a theologian I found this book to be a very thorough and well researched convergence of theological and scientific perspectives. It definitely comes from a more theological than scientific perspective, and convergence of the two disciplines is its priority. To that end, I wish that there were not assumptions made about theologians who don’t subscribe to the multiverse theory and scientists who don’t subscribe to a God. Such presumptions ignore significant nuance, critical to taking a preferred position, or reconciling differences. For example, Williams writes, “Folks like [Francis] Collins [a scientist theologian] assume that a multiverse is antithetical to Christian faith because, first, the atheistic scientific proponents of the multiverse present it as necessarily atheistic, and second, we haven’t from the standpoint of faith fully explored the theological ramifications of a multiverse cosmology.”
There are plenty of non-atheist proponents of the multiverse idea who don’t exclude the notion that the multiverse is a divine creation, myself included. People who can get their heads around multidimensionality have been doing so, and applying divinity or sacred meaning to those thoughts, for several millennia (‘eternal’ appears 47 times in the KJV). So, the theological ramifications of a multiverse cosmology are actually an age-old perception of enlightened thinkers. I have some difficulty with the assertion that Christians think God lies outside of creation and our “worldy” understanding of reality. My theology holds that God, whose nature and limits remain a mystery, is both transcendent and eminent. This does not preclude us from finding God infused into creation and into our very human nature. After all, we are “made in the image of God.” Panentheism is a well-accepted Trinitarian notion in Christian theology. These minor criticisms aside, Williams takes what seems for many to be oppositional reality perspectives and skillfully converges them using eternity, or the multidimensional universe, as a common paradigm. I am grateful for this contribution.
Peggy Beatty is a certified spiritual director who teaches a variety of Christian contemplative practices. She blogs at ecumenicus.org