Hugh Ross's Extra-Dimensional Deity: A Review Article
Craig, William Lane, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Hugh Ross is evangelicalism's most important scientific apologist. An astronomer by training, Dr. Ross is the founder and president of Reasons to Believe, an organization devoted both to evangelism within the broader context of scientific apologetics and to the task of healing the cultural rift among Christians between science and religion. He has vigorously defended scientifically the cosmological and teleological arguments for a Creator and Designer of the universe and has championed progressive creationism over against naturalistic accounts of biological evolution on the one hand and socalled "young earth" creationism on the other. Though a tireless promoter of Reasons to Believe, one measure of Dr. Ross's humility is his unsolicited promotion of the materials of other authors, including this reviewer, in the organization's catalogue. It has been my privilege to share the platform with Dr. Ross in a number of university and church outreaches, and I enthusiastically support his work.
I offer these accolades lest this review of Dr. Ross's most recent book Beyond the Cosmos strike some as excessively critical. But I am convinced that Dr. Ross's attempts to invest the (possible) extra-dimensionality of the universe with profound theological significance is misguided and that a corrective is in order. In his book Dr. Ross advises that "careful scholarship, meticulously reviewed, offers a vital safeguard" against heresy (p. 58). I wholeheartedly concur, and I have been mystified by evangelicals' apparently uncritical acquiescence to some of the positions advocated by Dr. Ross in this book. For I believe that the errors in Beyond the Cosmos are many and that some of them, at least, are serious.
Dr. Ross's basic tenet in Beyond the Cosmos is that certain physicists' suggestion that in addition to the four familiar spatio-temporal dimensions there exist six (compacted) spatial dimensions carries with it enormous theological freight, shedding dramatic new light on doctrines of the Trinity, the incarnation, predestination, perseverance, the problem of evil, and so forth. Such extra-dimensional theories, in Dr. Ross's view, suggest that God also exists extra-dimensionally, which affords him access to our four-dimensional realm in ways unanticipated by human beings.
Now in one sense it is a commonplace of traditional theology that God exists extra-dimensionally in that he transcends both time and space, and theology had neither to await nor to thank modern science for that insight. A charitable reading of Beyond the Cosmos might be that Dr. Ross simply means to affirm God's transcendence-his timelessness and spacelessness-, inspired by the analogy of spatial dimensions beyond the three we experience. In his final chapter, he says, "Extra dimensions are simply new terms to describe truths that have been known for as long as God has been known by any human" (p. 207). In several places Dr. Ross adds qualifying expressions which might be interpreted to indicate that God's extradimensionality is metaphorical. For example, he speaks of "the existence of extra dimensions or the functional equivalent of extra dimensions" (p. 20, my emphasis). He explains, ". . the cause (Causer) of the universe operates in a dimension of time or its equivalent (that is, maintains some attribute, capacity, super-dimensionality, or supra-dimensionality that permits the equivalent of cause and effect operations) completely independent of ours" (p. 23). This is the clearest statement of what it is for something to be the functional equivalent of an extra dimension, and it suggests that divine extra-dimensionality need not be taken literally, but may simply be a metaphor for God's ability to act immanently in creation while transcending it or for his timelessness and spacelessness (supra-dimensionality).1 If this charitable interpretation is correct, talk of the modern discovery of God's extra-dimensionality may be written down to a combination of theological naivete and scientific over-exuberance, and the only corrective in order is that Dr. …