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?

CSFF Blog Tour: The Bone House

The universe is big. What’s more, it’s awfully crowded.

It may be hard to tell, but they’re there, just a ley-leap away – countless worlds, people beyond number. Very few people know this; very few have traveled the ley lines to other dimensions. And those few people are constantly running into each other, often in extremely unfortunate ways.

In The Bone House, second book of the Bright Empires Series, Stephen Lawhead continues his grand exploration of the mutliverse. Most prominent of the explorers, but by no means the most adept, is Kit Livingstone. He is driven and pulled into adventure by forces greater than himself – the mysterious workings of ley lines, Lord Burleigh, Wilhelmina Klug.

I read the first book, The Skin Map, and thought it was science fiction, even if unconventional science fiction. It’s strange, then, that The Bone House struck me much more as fantasy. I think it was partially the turn toward Mediavel times, with a priest who talked about the tongues of angels; I think it was mainly that the story, for the first time, fully left our world. Earlier it took us to a different London, a different Prague, a different Egypt – but still London and Prague and Egypt, so that this science-fantasy series has a distinct flavor of historical fiction. But The Bone House goes beyond history.

In one area, however, it is thoroughly, classically sci-fi: going crazy with time. Hence we can simultaneously follow the Man Who is the Map and everyone searching for the Map That was the Man, back when he was alive. Lawhead, dealing with multiple dimensions, plays rather loosely with time. Even some of the characters’ storylines are out of order.

The chaotic mixing of dimensions, chronologies, and characters may bother some readers. I enjoyed it. It was intriguing, it kept me on my toes, and it conveyed the bewildering profusion of the multiverse.

But in the jumble of stories and realities, Lawhead asserts purpose and order. Everything, we are told, happens for a reason; all is as it should be – even for those who travel the multiverse. The Bone House was unexpectedly religious, a quiet but steady stream flowing through the book. Yet there was one incident I must raise that, though religious, was not at all Christian. At one point a hero of the book goes to a pagan temple; its priest perform divination for him  – and it is absolutely accurate. I leave this for your consideration.

The Bone House is not a story with much speed, but it has a lot of depth. It lingers in distant times and strange places, portraying each one vividly and sometimes beautifully. The characters are also diverse, also well-rendered. They are complete and convincing, even when, like Dorian Wimpole’s scorpion, they are not wholly lovable.

Then there is the series’ great adventure – the exploration of the universe. Walking the ley-lines begins to feel, in this second novel, to be only part of it. The philosophical discursions, the breathtaking climax, the talk of lives bound together and threads woven by a master of the loom – all seem to be driving to what is both at the heart of the universe and beyond it. The Bone House is a work of spreading imagination, of breadth and intrigue – a masterpiece of speculative fiction.

Now for the links:

the author’s website, and

The Bone House on Amazon;

best of all, the links for the blog tour:

Noah Arsenault
Red Bissell

Thomas Clayton Booher

Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse

CSFF Blog Tour
Jeff Chapman
Carol Bruce Collett
Karri Compton

D. G. D. Davidson

Theresa Dunlap

April Erwin
Victor Gentile

Tori Greene
Ryan Heart

Bruce Hennigan

Timothy Hicks

Christopher Hopper

Janeen Ippolito
Becca Johnson

Jason Joyner


Carol Keen

Krystine Kercher

Katie McCurdy
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Chawna Schroeder

Kathleen Smith

Rachel Star Thomson

Donna Swanson
Robert Treskillard

Steve Trower
Fred Warren

Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White

Rachel Wyant

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.