Theology and the New Physics [3] | Engaging The Maze

by , under Blog Series, Science, Theology

New Physics [1]New Physics [2]

In the previous two posts I’ve been trying to explore some of the implications that the ‘new physics’ might have on our theology. It is worth emphasising that I strongly believe that the new physics must have an impact on our theology. If it, or indeed any new scientific discovery, does not then we are failing in our task as theologians. Which is why there may be an announcement forthcoming about a new venture some of us may be beginning in London to address this specifically: technology/meta/physics – we need to be working to co-evolve these disciplines.

inside-out_torus_animated_smallIn the previous post I shared some thoughts regarding dimensions, and the impossibility of creating an experiment in one dimensional universe to show the existence of a higher dimensional one. It is, however, possible to show what shaped universe we live in. Imagine a flat piece of paper, representing the space-time we exist in. We could fold that paper into a cylinder, and then (and this is lovely flexible paper!) connect the two ends of that cylinder together… to create a hollow donut shape, called a torus. Theoretically, two spaceships could be sent out on perpendicular paths and, if our universe was of this ‘shape’ they would not meet at any point other than the point of departure.

But, while it’s possible for us observing the animation above to consider the space outside of the torus, the space within which the torus exists, for those living within the dimensional space of the torus this is totally impossible. They cannot leave the dimensions they are in to become external observers.

Incarnation: Entering the Maze

reignac-sur-indre-mazeThis is fairly standard stuff, but it is the converse of this fact that I think is of interest to us theologically. Those within the torus cannot properly concieve of life outside of it, but nor can those in a higher dimension properly conceive what life is like within it.

Walking in the gardens of a large country house the other day I was struck by the parallels with solving a maze. To the external observer, looking from above, solving a maze may take time, but is essentially a trivial task: you just look for the route to the middle. But this big-picture perspective is totally unavailable to those who are in the maze on the ground. For them the only possible way to solve it is to engage with it and experience it, to walk it step by step. There can be no abstract solution.

This, I think, is a profound truth about the incarnation: it was necessary for God to enter our dimensional space, because the ‘abstract solution’ from above was insufficient. It was only by walking the maze himself that God in Christ could empathise fully with the human situation. Or, as Zizek has put it in The Monstrosity of Christ:

“Christ had to emerge to reveal God not only to humanity, but to God himself.”

Human experience, God learns, has no abstract solution. It must be lived to be understood. So the incarnation is not simply essential for us, but, strangely, essential for God too.

What this required, put in quantum terms, was the ‘collapse of the divine wave function’ into a specific space-time. And as to what the hell that means, I’ll try an explanation in the next post.


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  1. dan

    what kind of god is this that dwells in a higher dimensional space and is required to travel inter-dimensionally to accomplish this or that?