Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Jesus and the multi-verse… or “Varieties of Jesus versus the Consistency of God”

So right now I’m a mentor for TEY (Theological Education with Youth) a really cool program of the ELCA that engages young adults on a high theological level. The event I’m mentoring is “Summer Academy” where our scholars (the young adults) study college level courses for two weeks at Susquehanna University. The mentors get to sit in on the classes!
One of the classes deals with science and religion. We’ve been dealing with quantum mechanics and “Multiverse theories.” One of these theories posits there are a near infinite number of universes based upon the idea that (I may be botching this—I’m a mere bible student after all) we can only know the probability that an electron is in any one space at any one time and therefore it is possible that electrons are in all these probable places at once, just in different universes.
The implication of multiple universes, at least within some of these theories, is that near identical versions of us are doing near identical, yet perhaps different, things in these alternate universes (think “Sliders”). Some of these differences are small, maybe even non-existent, others are large—think super-intelligent grasshoppers.
So my question related to all of this is whether slightly different Jesuses could still save the world (worlds?). Could there be a world in which Jesus is fallen? CS Lewis posits a soteriology in which a Narnia world is saved by a Lion version of Jesus—Aslan. In another work he wonders if our world alone experienced “The Fall.” Yet it still bothers me—what of a world in which Jesus was beat by Joseph as a child and goes all Alexander the Great on us? A world where Mary was never born? A world where Judas never betrays Jesus?
If there are near-infinite variations of universes for electrons to be reside in within the bell-curve of possible electron movement, which leads to a near-infinite histories/lives it is possible Jesus the man would be “passed over” (I know this isn’t orthdox language—in fact it is rather adoptionist, but dealing with this type of speculation I think it is appropriate) as Child of God? Would God come in another form or person? Save in a different way? As Judas or Paul, Buddha or Muhammad, Joan of Arc or Steve Jobs? (on a side note I’d feel more comfortable with an Aslan or even a grasshopper savior than a non-Jesus human… I imagine that speaks to my own biases in some way)
Or, do we assume that the once-for-all-ness of Christ’s atonement in our universe is cross-universal? That seems rather like navel-gazing—imperialist even—but I’m not sure.


Andy Kaylor said...

I love that this is going on. From what little I remember of my LCA youth experience (yes, I predate the ELCA), all we ever talked about was ethics. I can't remember theology ever being brought up. I was an adult before I even thought about the Atonement.

Anyway, I've got a physics degree but theologically am a total layman, so let me offer a complementary view of your questions.

In the extreme version of the multiple universes theory, a new universe is created every time a quantum event can have multiple outcomes, which gives you an essentially infinite number of universes, everything that can possibly happen does.

In a more toned down version, nothing is resolved into reality until something, some form of consciousness, observes it. Think of the Schroedinger's cat experiment. According to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, the cat is in an indeterminate state, both dead and alive, until you open the box to see what happened. Of course, this raises the question of whether or not the cat observes the result. Who has "enough" consciousness to be an observer? Google John Wheeler delayed choice experiment for a scenario that will really blow your mind. Or better yet, read this article in Discover:

Now merging the above into the multiple universes interpretation of quantum mechanics, we can suppose that perhaps each observer has his own unique universe. Theologically, I think it's quite possible to imagine each of us having a unique universe in which Jesus does whatever is necessary to save just us. It happens that in my universe, a lot of other people's projections into my universe are saved in the process.

But what if we humans are not sufficient observers to resolve the quantum soup into reality? Wheeler, I believe, imagined a scenario in which the universe remained in some vast array of quantum mechanical possibilities until one of the possibilities developed intelligent life which then resolved the entire multi-billion year history to that point. But what's so special about our intelligence?

Enter St. Augustine, from the Confessions (Book XIII, 38): "We see the things which you have made, because they exist. But they only exist because you see them. Outside ourselves we see that they exist, and in our inner selves we see that they our good. But when you saw that it was right that they should be made, in the same act you saw them made."

Nice, huh?

Christopher said...

I'll check out the article you linked to soon. And think a bit more on this! Thank you.

kyla dark said...

Ha! It's a great pleasure to see quantum mechanics lead into St. Augustine