Strictly Speaking

[Mild spoilers]

“The room we’re interested in is somewhere back there. At least, it was the last time I was here.”

“Correct me if I am wrong,” suggested Thomas, his steel-rimmed glasses glinting in the faint light as he turned to address Kit directly, “but strictly speaking, you have never been in this tomb.” – The Bone House, pg. 210

As theories of the multiverse gain traction with scientists, the inevitable inquiry begins: Is Christianity compatible with the multiverse? It reminds me of the old question of whether Christianity could handle the existence of aliens. In either case, the answer is the same: There is nothing in Christianity that particularly supports the idea, and nothing that particularly opposes it, and at any rate it’s only an idea.

Still, the fun of speculative fiction is speculating. For Christians, there’s the added fascination of fitting new, strange realities with ancient, eternal truths. The question, properly phrased, is not, How does Christianity work with the multiverse? It is, How does the multiverse work with Christianity? In answering you can find an interesting angle on both.

In The Bone House, Stephen Lawhead revelaed Arthur Flinders-Petrie’s quest to find Christ in the multiverse. Lawhead imagines countless versions of our world and our history. By a necessity people are duplicated along with it. That much orthodox Christianity allows. What it does not allow is the duplication of the Man who split history in two, or of the death and resurrection of God.

For a Christian writer like Stephen Lawhead, and for Christian readers like us, it’s an interesting tension. An interesting resolution is possible. We could, for example, imagine that the Incarnation is the focal point of the multiverse, at which all worlds converge and are one.

This is, I think, the only really urgent question when Christianity meets the multiverse. But I think another, lesser question is raised by the notion of duplicate selves. This is a well-established reality of the Bright Empires Series. When I read The Bone House I kept thinking that Kit could very well run into another Cosimo. After all, who knows how many Cosimos there are, and how many of them ended up wandering the universe? Heck with it – there could be multiple Kits exploring the ley-lines. Kit could run into himself.

You know who really ought to run into himself? Arthur Flinders-Petrie. There has to be more than one of him; there’s more than one of everybody else. It’s wholly possible that there is another Arthur Flinders-Petrie exploring the multiverse. If so, there’s another Skin Map out there, which is good news for our heroes.

What’s bad news for our heroes is that there may also be multiple Lord Burleighs prowling the multiverse. Of course, that would probably be bad news for the Lord Burleighs themselves. They might get in each other’s way. Can you imagine Lord Burleigh giving himself his “We can be friends or we can be enemies” speech? But I suppose Burleigh could have ended up good in some realities. There are more possibilities here than we could ever contemplate without ibuprofen.

Though this is fun – I’m trying to recover from my tangent here – it does have philosphical implications. You have people with the same genetic make-up often leading very much the same lives. But are they really the same people?

The essential dilemma is the one created by clones. Recall C. S. Lewis’ words: “You don’t have a soul; you are a soul. You have a body.” Human beings – or nature – could duplicate DNA and, with it, the bodies. But God would have to duplicate the souls. Do you suppose – or would you, for the sake of a story – that He ever does?

4 thoughts on “Strictly Speaking

  1. I never thought of there being more than one of these people. Rather, I’ve looked at the alternate worlds as alternates. In other words, if Kit chose to do A it would lead to this set of circumstances happening, played out in alternate universe A; but if he chose B, then it would lead to this other set of circumstances, played out in alternate universe B.

    The thing I’m sensing is that no matter what choice he makes, the outcomes end up bringing about the same results — as if Someone had a Master Plan that allowed for choice but still would not be thwarted.

    But maybe I’m reading my own theology into the story. I guess I’m really only hoping this is where Mr. Lawhead is going. 😉

    Enjoyed reading your thoughts, as usual, Shannon.


  2. Somewhere in The Bone House Kit and Dr. Young wonder if it’s possible to meet yourself in another dimension. I hope that’s a sign that Stephen Lawhead intends to get into the question later in the series. I think there’s a possibility that we will be seeing somebody’s doppleganger. It’s certain, however, that we won’t be seeing a half dozen Lord Burleighs. It would be funny, but it would derail the story.

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