Can Higher Dimensions Help Us Understand Biblical Miracles?We assume there are only three spatial dimensions because those are the ones we sense. What if there are four?
String theory in physics postulates the existence of ten, eleven, or even twenty-six seven spatial dimensions. (Some call time a dimension, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.)
What’s going on? You and I experience only three spatial dimensions. Physicists say these other dimensions are compactified in strings – like a two dimensional plane rolled up into what looks like a one dimensional appearing skinny straw. What if higher dimensions weren’t compactified? What if, say, there were a fourth spatial dimension? Access to a fourth dimension explains some of the miracles described in the Bible.
A classic book about higher dimensions is Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott, first published in 1886. In the novel, life was constrained to a two dimensional world – like a table top. There was east and west, north and south, but no up or down. Occupants of Flatland were two dimensional figures – the type you might draw on a sheet of paper. There were square people, hexagonal people and circular people. The occupants in Flatland lived in two dimensional houses with walls made of lines. There must always be an opening in the 2D house to allow the two dimensional beings to enter and exit. Flatlanders were constrained to live in 2D on the table top. This was their universe.
Since a Flatlander’s world was constrained to two dimensions, the idea of a third dimension was beyond comprehension. Except, of course, to nerds who thought about such things. One of the nerd Flatlanders formed the theory of “UP.” He hypothesized there was an extra dimension beyond that of the 2D table top. But, flatland critics countered, which way was up? Since their universe consisted only of two dimensions, the best the proponent of the theory of UP could do is point north. This did not satisfy the naysayers. Anything beyond their two dimensional universe was beyond their small minded comprehension.
At one point in the novel, a three dimensional being intersects Flatland and explains there is a third dimension. To show this, he lifts a Flatlander nerd off the two dimensional surface and they begin to hover above the planar table top in the third dimension. The Flatlander is amazed. He can see inside of flatland houses thereby violating all rights to privacy. This was not possible in two dimensions where the boundary of any object blocked the view beyond. Even more interesting, the Flatlander could see inside the bellies of his two dimensional comrades and could examine what they had eaten for lunch.
His curiosity expanded by experience, the wide eyed Flatlander asked his 3D host to show him the fourth dimension. If there were a third dimension, the Flatlander assumed there must be a fourth dimension. The 3D host was taken aback and responded as you or I might. There was no fourth dimension, the host explained. The universe has only three dimensions. Anything else was beyond comprehension.
Most Flatlanders thought anything beyond their 2D universe was incomprehensible. Are we making the same mistake thinking nothing exists beyond our three dimensions?
I teach a graduate course entitled Multidimensional Signal Processing. The mathematical treatment of four, five or even an infinite number of dimensions is considered. Visualizing higher dimensions can be aided by understanding what happens in three or fewer dimensions. For example, I teach students how to visualize and play four dimensional tic-tac-toe by interpreting the game as a series of games in three dimensions.
Here’s an example of what can be learned from Flatland about the fourth dimension. On the left figure is shown a bunch of right handprints in Flatland. All of the hands have the thumb to the left of the pinky finger. No matter how you slip and slide on Flatland, each handprint will remain right handed. On flatland, righthanded prints have to always stay righthanded. But if there is access to the third dimension, a right handprint can be flipped and made into a left handprint.
The extension of this fact to three and four dimensions has monumental implications in the game of baseball.
Consider the right-handed batter shown in the left Figure below. If there were access to the fourth dimension, we could flip the batter into a lefty. But the flipped ball player must be on their toes so, if the ball is hit into play, the disoriented lefty batter does not run to third base.
The same flipping applies to a pitcher. A right-handed pitcher can be made a southpaw by flipping him in the fourth dimension.
Access to the fourth dimension would allow transforming a right-handed batter into a left-handed batter.
Some Biblical miracles can be explained if there were four spatial dimensions. When the Flatlander was asked to point in the direction of UP, the best he could do was point north. You and I seem similarly constrained. When we are asked to point to a heaven in the fourth dimension, the best we can do is point up to the sky.
The left to right handprint conversion in the fourth dimension is not a Biblical miracle. Here is an example of one that is.
Consider a two dimensional Flatland chain shown in Figure 3 below. On a flat surface, no link can be separated from another. Drag one link across a flat surface and all of the other links must follow. This is a one-dimensional chain.
If, though, there were access to three dimensions, the chain is easily broken. Simply lift one of the 2D links off the table and place it next to the rest of the chain. The chain is now separated.
Extending this 2D to 3D example to 4D leads to the conclusion that if there were access to the fourth dimension, links of three dimensional chains can be separated without bending or cutting. Learning from the 2D chain, the 3D chain simply needs to be taken to the fourth dimension and separated. No saw or chain cutter is needed.
Such an event is documented in the Bible when the apostle Peter was imprisoned and chained by king Herod:
ACTS 12: 6b-7. Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands.
Was access to the fourth or higher dimension used in this miracle? Possibly. A fourth dimension explanation is certainly compelling.
Another miracle explainable with access to higher dimensions is walking through walls. Consider the Flatland man inside the square shown in the figure below. The edges of the 2D square act as walls. There is no way the Flatland man can escape the room if constrained to two dimensions. But if there is access to the third dimension, the Flatland man can be lifted off of the 2D surface and placed outside of his flatland cell. The Flatland man has essentially walked through a two dimensional wall to escape imprisonment.
Extending this up a dimension dictates that a three dimensional being in a prison cell with no exit can in effect walk through walls if there is access to the fourth dimension. Such an event is documented in the Bible after Christ’s resurrection:
John 20:26b Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
So, like the miracle of breaking chains, walking through walls can be explained by access to a fourth dimension.
Not all Biblical miracles – like turning water into wine of the parting of the Red Sea – can be explained by having access to a fourth dimension. But thus far only a fourth spatial dimension has been considered. It remains unclear whether five dimensions or higher contribute any additional explanatory power. In mathematics, consideration of spaces with a countably infinite number of dimensions is common.
Are higher dimensions responsible for certain Biblical miracles? No claim is made that this is the definitive reason. But both the Bible and physics dictate that the Creator of the universe must exist outside of time and (our 3D) space. So an assumption of a higher dimensional God is reasonable. In any case, miracle explanation using higher dimensions is highly compelling.