Reasons to Believe is a science-faith think tank that seeks to show that Christianity is a profound source of knowledge. They come out with a number of resources from podcasts to articles to books. One such resource is their “RTB Live!” video series which explores a number of topics on science and Christianity by varied lecturers. I recently had the opportunity to watch “Beyond the Cosmos” which is the third in the series.
Hugh Ross presents this lecture which largely focuses on integrating science and Christian doctrine. He prefaces his comments by letting the audience know that he’s not necessarily suggesting that the ideas he presents are the way things happened, but rather that they show that certain Christian doctrines are possible in light of scientific findings.
God, according to Christianity, is “transcendental.” Ross refers to this as “transdimensional.” He begins his presentation by saying that given that God is beyond the dimensions, a number of interesting scientific findings about dimensions can show how God could bring about certain actions.
Ross discusses the Biblical portrait of God as both transcendent and immanent. God is beyond the universe, but is “everywhere within the universe” and capable of interacting with God. He outlines a number of Bible verses to show these doctrinal truths.
He then moves on to general relativity. General relativity has been confirmed to an amazing degree by big bang cosmology as well as other evidence. Rather than going into detail on this section–which should be familiar to those interested in such a topic–the rest of this review will focus upon the theological implications Ross draws out from current cosmology.
One of the central questions people ask is “If God created the cosmos, who made God?” Ross notes “everybody asks that question!” However, he argues that “these spacetime theorems give us an answer to that question… What these theorems tell us is that there is cause and effect going on before the universe comes into existence.” Ross argues that these cause and effects are due to a causal agent which is itself outside of space and time.
Because God is not confined to linear time, Ross argues, God has access to “at least a plane of time.” It’s hard to convey Ross’ argument here because he utilizes a drawing to depict what he’s saying. But basically if one sees two timelines running independently, they are on the same plane. God could see this plane and therefore interact with all the timelines.
Ross goes on to use a very interesting illustration of “Mr. and Mrs. Flat.” He uses paper cutouts of a male and a female that are two dimensional figures. Now because they are 2D, they exist on a plane. But God, being transcendental, could, in a sense, “poke a finger” through that plane and God would be experienced as a circle (the finger). God could also poke three fingers through the plane and be experienced as three circles. Furthermore, God could see Mr. and Mrs. Flat in their entirety, even though they would appear as straight lines to each other.
This thought illustration was intended to show how God, having access to all dimensions–indeed, being beyond them–could interact with all of spacetime and know what’s happening.
Similarly, because God has access to limitless dimensionality, He could listen to every single prayer on earth by utilizing each point in a “timeline” as an infinite timeline running perpindicular to that moment of time. Thus, God could spend infinite time listening to each prayer.
The atonement is often raised as an objection to Christianity because some ask how God could pay for the sins of the whole world by just suffering for a few hours on a cross. Ross points out that, just as God can expand any single moment of time into an infinite timeline to listen to prayer, so too could Christ have suffered on the cross for a potentially infinite period of time.
Reasons to Believe, as an organization, strives to show that the Christian faith can be put to the test. Ross pointed out several testable predictions that their model brings to the table:
- Evidence for a single cosmic beginning will increase.
- Evidence for finite past time will grow.
- Evidence for general relativity describing cosmic beginnings will increase.
- The grip of spacetime theories will become more “relentless”.
- The case for a transcendent creator will grow stronger.
- The evidence for other miraculous events will increase.
These 6 testable predictions are not strictly hypotheses that could be used in a lab and some criticism from skeptics could come at Ross from this angle. However, it seems clear in the context of the video that Ross was painting in broad strokes here. From his writings, one could see that he parses these 6 predictions into much more precise hypotheses.There are a number of other theological issues Ross touches upon, and as someone who is constantly involved in grappling with these questions, I couldn’t help but have my mind expanded and think on how some of these ideas could affect my perception of Christianity. There do seem to be a number of ways that science can provide possibilities for several Christian doctrines.
Finally, it would be remiss to review a resource like this without commenting on the visuals presented by Ross. There weren’t any extremely flashy slides or demonstrations. Rather, Ross used a whiteboard to illustrate a few things and brought a few objects (some balls, Mr. and Mrs. Flat, etc.) to demonstrate some points. What was interesting was the way he used them. In particular, the aforementioned Mr. and Mrs. Flat was very interesting.
The video was extremely thought-provoking and certainly would be a good watch for a study group on science and religion. As someone who specializes more in the realm of philosophy, I would say that a few of Ross’ ideas have larger implications than is illustrated in the video. For example, it seemed as though the way Ross described God’s interactions in time would entail something like William Lane Craig’s view that God is timeless sans creation and temporal subsequent to Creation. However, from some of Ross’ writings, I am fairly sure he holds that God is in fact “still” timeless (a view I share). Thus, one would have to take the views he puts forth here as perhaps more speculation than reality. Such a discussion over whether God is timeless or in time was beyond the scope of the video, but I think the video could be used to bring up discussions like it.
Overall I enjoyed the video very much. As usual, Hugh Ross was a thought-provoking speaker whose ability to combine his knowledge of astrophysics with theology is often startling. The video would be perfect for a small group and could go hand-in-hand with Ross’ book of the same name (Beyond the Cosmos). Furthermore, the video could be used for a higher-level apologetics group in order to discuss some implications for God and time or science and faith. It is highly recommended.
Disclaimer: I was given this DVD to review by Reasons to Believe. I was not asked for a positive review, nor was I asked to focus upon any particular content. My thanks go to RTB for the video.
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