Apocryphile Press,150 pages
Reviewed by Ruth Everhart
Can you recall the moment in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” when Lucy enters the wardrobe? She expects to touch the back wall so she goes “further in” and finds herself in a world called Narnia, where beavers talk, the White Witch rules over endless winter and Aslan, the not-tame lion, is the true king.
In his new book, David Williams uses C.S. Lewis’ metaphor of “further in” to explore the possibility that multiple universes exist. While we’ve all become used to fictional multiverses (thanks to exercises of imagination such as overlapping narratives and multiple plotlines), multiverse theory is not simply fantasy, or fiction, or science fiction. It is science. Theoretical physics posits that multiple (or even an infinite number of) universes exist in parallel at the same time. This possibility exists because the space-time continuum is a construct of the human mind.
At least that’s how I understand it. Williams invites readers to dabble in the science, but he doesn’t dally there. The fact that he prefaces every chapter with a quote from the Narnia books indicates his approach. Science is fun to explore, but his real interest is this: How does the possibility of a multiverse impact the divine/human drama? He explores this the same rambling way the four children opened the door to the wardrobe. As a war shattered their world, they sought warmth and diversion. They ended up piercing the dimensions of time and space and encountering a deity who roared.
Williams’ writing alternates between a sobering sense of doom, and a light and breezy sense of play — a mishmash of quantum theory and serious theology that uses silly words like “fuddly,” “wackadoodle” and “craptacular.” It’s as if Williams is reassuring readers that this may be serious, but we don’t need to take any of it too seriously.
Williams spends most of his time (whether or not such a thing actually exists) noodling around with the classic concerns of Christian theology. Since any of these can present a sticky wicket when we inhabit a single universe, one might expect the problems to multiply in a multiverse. But Williams demonstrates that the issues play out the same way whether we inhabit a universe or multiverse. Chapters discuss issues such as creation, evil, salvation and grace (though the titles are not that straightforward and I would have appreciated a table of contents).
The section on “the probability of grace” may be especially intriguing to Presbyterians, as it tells the story of one of our 18th-century forebears, Thomas Bayes, who developed statistical methods in order to apply them to the question of who God favors and how. Speaking of bending space and time, he debunked prosperity theology long before anyone “named it and claimed it.”
If you like to traipse through theology that balances the serious and the silly, you will enjoy this book. Seven separate endings address seven intended audiences: the absolutist, the agnostic, the skeptic, the scientist, the faithful one, the spiritual but not religious and the Christian. There is something here for anyone interested in the relationship between science and faith.
Ruth Everhart is pastor of Palisades Community Church in Washington, D.C. Her latest book is “The #MeToo Reckoning: Facing the Church’s Complicity in Sexual Abuse and Misconduct.”