Reasons to Believe

"What’s All This Higher Dimensionality Stuff?", Part 1 of 7

For many years science fiction writers have used the so-called “fifth dimension” (a fourth spatial dimension) to serve as a platform for telling fascinating stories.

For many years science fiction writers have used the so-called “fifth dimension” (a fourth spatial dimension) to serve as a platform for telling fascinating stories. These stories have often been about aliens appearing out of nowhere and having unimaginable powers, or strange phenomena occurring in the presence of ancient artifacts or, more recently, about what might happen in the regions around black holes. One intriguing example is a story authored by Robert A. Heinlein a number of years ago called “—And He Built a Crooked House..” In this piece an imaginative and mathematically inclined architect designs and builds a house in the form of an unfolded four-dimensional cube (referred to in the story by its technical name of tesseract). An earthquake causes the house to collapse and fold into a normal three-dimensional cube. What has really happened (or so the story goes) is that the collapse occurred in the fourth (spatial) dimension, and resulted in the house having some very strange properties, all derived from the geometry of a four-dimensional cube (in a later entry I will discuss some of these properties).

Meanwhile, in the real world of physics, Einstein advanced his theory of relativity where, in addition to the three spatial dimensions of length, width, and height, time itself was shown to have space-like qualities. So the distance between two objects is more correctly described in terms of four “space-time” dimensions rather than just the three spatial dimensions. And then, with the development of “superstring theories” to unify the various forces of nature, physicists now talk about needing ten (or eleven) dimensions of space and time to properly describe our universe. Consequently, the idea of spatial dimensions beyond our normal three has taken on a reality outside of science fiction.

In his book Beyond the Cosmos, Dr. Hugh Ross has proposed the possibility that dimensions outside the four that make up our observable universe may provide a tool for understanding some of the paradoxes found in the Bible. In the same way that science (in some cases) has resolved paradoxes in the laws of physics by formulating them using higher dimensions, perhaps some of the doctrines in Christian theology that many people view as difficult and even paradoxical, can be better comprehended using higher dimensions.

Dr. Ross applies this kind of analysis to such concepts as God’s triunity, human free will versus God’s sovereignty, the security of salvation, and the problem of evil. What should one make of all this? Does the idea of higher dimensions have real explanatory power, or is it, in fact, incoherent within the laws of logic? These and other questions have been posed in response to the analysis presented in Beyond the Cosmos since its publication in 1996. Many have been addressed in the second edition of the book, but perhaps there is some value in giving short responses to a few of them in order to spur further discussion on this topic. In the next few weeks, I will respond to ten questions that came up in lunch discussions here at Reasons To Believe.


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

 

Subjects: Bible Difficulties, String Theory

Dr. David Rogstad

Dr. Dave Rogstad received his PhD in physics from Caltech and worked over 30 years for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Though now retired, Dave continues to serve as an RTB board member and participates regularly in several RTB podcasts.