Reasons to Believe

"What’s All This Higher Dimensionality Stuff?", Part 3 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.

In last week’s entry I responded to 5 (of 10) questions about dimensionality that came up in lunch discussions here at Reasons To Believe. Here are brief responses to the remaining 5 questions.

  1. How would you respond to criticism that attempting to resolve technical theological, philosophical, exegetical, and psychological issues by means of a mathematical model is a category mistake? Even if dimensional theory proves helpful, wouldn’t these complex issues demand multidisciplinary responses?
    In response to the first question, the geometric model is not a full description of a higher-dimensional world, but rather a tool that—by way of analogy—might help the uninitiated to grasp some of the properties of such a world. We are not saying that all the issues named can be solved by “getting the math right.” A response to the second is yes, if such a world exists, its full properties would impact all of these areas and would require a multidisciplinary response.

  2. Is it appropriate to speak of such Christian doctrines as the Trinity (among others) as paradoxes or contradictions in need of rescue through dimensional theory? Is it possible that the problem is rather in the way these issues are formulated? Must the Trinity be viewed as a contradiction?
    Perhaps there are times when theologians describe some particular phenomenon, like the Trinity, in a perfectly consistent and biblical way, but the description still lacks helpful insight (especially for a scientist) into what is being observed. Such a description can lead to misunderstanding. It may very well be that science cannot go any further, and to say that the description is incomplete is to do injustice to theologians who have wrestled with the problem through the centuries. However, scientists are rarely satisfied with incomplete understanding, so we are constantly trying to go beyond what’s known, whether we can or not. But care should be taken not to discredit the work of others who are not moving ahead as fast because they choose to be more careful in their conclusions. Clearly, we need the work and insight of all who are willing to advance understanding of this mysterious, but not contradictory, doctrine.

  3. Is there any merit to the position advocated by Hugh’s critics that extradimensionality defines God in a way that is inconsistent with doctrinal orthodoxy?
    Whether the basic idea itself is unorthodox has yet to be demonstrated. However, any research should be subject to the criticisms of other experts. Any idea should be modified where necessary to ensure that it is orthodox.

  4. Are you confident that extradimensionality theory solves all the problems that you seem to think it does?
    Not at all. Hugh Ross’s analysis is only a beginning that needs much more research. But many people think it has merit and is worthy of further study.

  5. It is often true that certain arguments are “person relative” in terms of persuasion. It seems that science and engineering people find the extradimensional approach helpful. Is this significant? Should this be noted?
    Yes, absolutely! The doctrines and phenomena we are trying to understand are so complex that no single explanation will be adequate for all. Various approaches will be more helpful for some but not for others. However, we should work on all fronts.

Dr. Ross has applied this kind of reasoning to some of the difficulties and paradoxes that we find in Scripture. It should be repeated that those who find these analogies and explanations appealing are not claiming that God Himself is confined to any higher-dimensional universe, but simply that He, being transcendent, may describe things in His word that cannot be visualized by creatures living in a limited universe.

See Beyond the Cosmos for more exploration of extradimensional thinking.


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.