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If you said the word 'multiverse' 10 years ago, people would think you're talking about a new form of poetry. Now it's part of our vocabulary, thanks to string theory. Unless something new happens in string theory, apparently the number of theoretically possible universes that might come into existence is huge. I don't know if most of them would last very long - I'll leave that question to the physicists, as I'm no physicist, just a language educator and linguist and lay theologian.

So according to the theory, the number of possible universes would be 10500 (10^500, if the superscripts don't display properly). The name of that number would be 100 quinquasexagintacentillion (ten to the 165th power, times 100) (or 100 tresoctogintillion in the traditional European system). Unless new discoveries or adjustments are made to the theory, then the theory, according to physicists, may imply an eternal inflation. Universes keep popping in and out of existence. Or in one version of the theory, different universes exist in different "branes." Two branes collide, leading to a big bang and the creation of our universe; then the  universes fizzles out due to dark energy expansion over a trillion years time, it collides with another dead universe, leading to another big bang, and it starts all over again - the new cyclic model of the universe and multiverse.

So my question as an amateur theologian is, how does that square with a theological worldview of the cosmos? It is obviously problematic for the traditional Christian doctrine of creation ex nihilo, though this doctrine may not necessarily be crucial to a biblical understanding of Genesis. After all, Genesis 1 is a poetic account of creation that focuses on God's sovereignty over creation, and by no means commits one to a non-scientific worldview that denies what biology, geology, and cosmology tell us about things. So we've adjusted our view of Genesis only slightly to account for evolution, an old earth, an old galaxy, and an old universe. If we have to scrap creation ex nihilo, then how do we adjust our theological worldview to account for multiverses and the possibility (and I stress, only a possibility) of eternal inflation and contraction?

I suspect that maybe string theorists and cosmologists will later realize a need to posit a beginning point to the multiverse and/or branes that form the multiverse. But nonetheless, theologians need to address this, in a way that is not just arbitrary. That is, I think we need a view of creation that is not too rigid or overly dependent on a particular scientific worldview, which might change in a few decades. Nor should it just arbitarily change as the science changes. We need a theology that is robust, that can accommodate the science, wherever it may lead us. But we need a theology that is robust and God-centered, not creation-centered and thus not overly dependent on the current scientific view, so that we don't have to readjust our theology in an ad-hoc manner whenever scientific theory advances and changes.

So what are the implications for theology? I don't know, but I'll probably give myself headaches over the next few years thinking about this.I'd like to hear ideas, especially from people who know physics, cosmology, theology or philosophy well enough to contribute to an intelligent dialogue on this. Until then, as a trekkie chemist might say, live long and phosphor.


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