By Maggie Swofford, Marketing & Editorial Assistant
As someone whose interests have tended toward the arts and humanities for most of her life, I admit I was somewhat skeptical of the technical nature of the scientific concepts discussed in Andy Walsh’s book Faith across the Multiverse: Parables from Modern Science. What I was surprised to find, though, is the fun, upbeat, accessible way in which Walsh tackles some incredibly complex mathematical, physical, biological, and technological ideas. He takes these normally unapproachable concepts and not only makes them understandable, but also applies them to spiritual matters in the most relevant ways. He compares parables to parabolas, poems to equations, God’s existence to geometry, and more. What’s even crazier than these seeming paradoxes is that they actually work! In ways like never before, I experienced the Bible, Jesus Christ, and God’s ultimate sovereignty through the lens of science in Faith across the Multiverse. I “solemnly swear” to you that this lens is one that I will never give up, as long as I live.
(Unconvinced, still? Well, then maybe Walsh’s acknowledgement of the extraordinary perspective of this book will comfort you: “Since we will be expanding our language by exploring science, that means we’re going to be talking about some unfamiliar topics; if they were familiar, we’d already have the conceptual tools we are trying to acquire. I suspect these discussions will sound like speaking in tongues to some. But fear not! There will be interpretation. And we’ll discuss observations of the physical world that inform those concepts, compared and contrasted with familiar experiences as appropriate.”)
I’ve always been intrigued by the potential mingling of science and abstract “artistic” ideas. In fact, I love to write poetry about science (mostly astronomy and astrophysics) that includes the uniquely beautiful language used by scientists to describe such incredible ideas. While at certain points in the book Walsh exclusively uses technical language out of necessity for explaining a complex theory, there are points when his writing about spirituality and science becomes poetic and moving. Here is one of those passages:
If God does have a plan for the world, then surely it would be expressed in the natural laws that govern his creation. And since those natural laws are fully specified by initial conditions, then really his only opportunity to influence that plan is at the start. From there, we would seem to have only two options. Either everything proceeds as planned, or else there are other agents which can influence the system, in which case it will then be on a new trajectory requiring further intervention to get back to the original trajectory.
Creation has the genuine freedom to choose other than God’s will. At the same time, the system will tend toward those ends that God desires to see. That does not imply God is indifferent to our choices, allowing those ends to justify whatever means are used to reach them. Rather, God has the means to bring all things to a redemptive end regardless of how grieved he is by our choices.
A gracious universe is also a universe in which life is possible. Life is dynamic; every change holds the potential to make things worse instead of better. A universe that can recover from missteps, an organism that can tolerate error, those are systems that can persist, remaining coherent over time. Our hearts may be one such system. Muscle cells must contract in concert with each other to create a steady beat; nerve cells must fire all together to coordinate those contractions. Yet sometimes a few may go astray, firing just a hair ahead of or behind the rhythm. Nevertheless, the beat persists; those tiny deviations aren’t amplified, they are absorbed by a system that tends toward consistency.
We can practice such grace in our own lives as well. Rather than making plans that require everything to go perfectly, we can expect and allow for disruptions. We can especially prepare for our fellow humans to make their own choices and perhaps even their own mistakes.
Another surprising discovery I made as I read Faith across the Multiverse was the presence of so many nostalgic pop-culture references. For those of us who grew up watching Star Trek or Alien, reading Marvel or X-Men comics, or playing Dungeons & Dragons or video games, this book will be a treasure trove of hilarious and pertinent references that highlight his points. One of the key sentences in the book is the following:
Do you ever wonder what science fiction and fantasy stories, board and video games, and science and technology have in common that makes them nerdy? The usual circular definition—those are the things nerds like—isn’t very informative. What they share is potential for exploring the world, not just as it is, but how it might be, could be, perhaps should be. … Thus to be a nerd is to be in touch with reality, yet not beholden to it.
This idea is central to the whole book: in order to fully experience God, we must learn about the world he created and stoke our curiosity about the ever-changing nature of morality, ethics, and God’s presence in this chaotic universe. In this train of thought, Walsh writes,
The people who appear in the Bible grapple with questions about purpose and seek to understand where they came from and where they are going as they confront the possibility that the world within their immediate experience may not be all there is.
As Walsh consistently proves, fictional stories, characters, and games (even those mentioned in the Bible!) can be powerful tools to better understand our planet, cultures, fellow humans, and the interconnectedness of it all under our Creator’s gentle, powerful hands.
Ultimately, Walsh’s goal is to show how science and our pursuit of God are highly intertwined. While they can seem like opposites, really they rely upon each other in intimate ways, like he explains in this passage:
If God authored both the Bible and the natural world, then both are sources of signals from God that we can receive. Scientists and theologians studying those signals should be able to bring them together to resolve a clearer picture of God than either group could assemble separately.
In reading this book, we get a whole lot closer to understanding the myriad ways God is active on the macro and micro scale in our world and individual lives, as well as how the world we live in affects the way in which we interact with God and others, in both scientific and theological senses. As we come to the end of this blog post, I humbly encourage you to get your hands on a copy of Faith across the Multiverse. It will change your perspectives, and what better way is there to get to know God’s many facets than to broaden our minds and consider a fresh viewpoint on his complicated and awe-inspiring presence in our world.
Maggie Swofford is a marketing and editorial assistant at Hendrickson Publishers. She graduated summa cum laude with honors from Gordon College with a BA in English Language & Literature. She can often be seen ogling Impressionist and Renaissance art and scribbling bits and pieces of poetry and memoir in her writer’s notebook.