ASK Commentary
October 29, 2003 

Is the Universe Flat?

Commentary for October 29, 2003 — Is Science Catching Up with Scripture?

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The method that God used in creating the heavens and the earth is detailed several times in an interesting way in the Holy Scriptures. Repeatedly it is stated that God’s creation of the heavens (and some parts of the earth) were rolled out like a scroll or a tent or a curtain, in other words like a flat surface,

“Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, you art very great; you art clothed with honor and majesty. Who coverest yourself with light as with a garment: who stretches out the heavens like a curtain:”

Psalm 104:1–2

This is interesting because a significant scientific theory about the nature and structure of the universe may substantiate what the Bible has taught all along.
The Scientific American Article

In the August 2003 issue of Scientific American there is what I call a “consensus of science” article, “ Information in the Holographic Universe.” The magazine is available at most libraries. The gist of the article and theory is that research “about black holes suggest that the universe could be like a giant hologram.” The author is Jacob D. Bekenstein, Polak Professor of Theoretical Physics at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Professor Bekenstein is, according to his short biography, “a leading contributor to the foundation of black hole thermodynamics and to other aspects of the connections between information and gravitation.”

By stating that Bekenstein’s article is a consensus of science article, I do not mean that this theory is accepted by all or even by many physicists who understand his theory. It means that he is a serious theorist in the relevant scientific field and that this is an important article and theory that is currently being debated.

I am not a scientist, I am a generalist. However, the article is written with clarity so that it can be understood with minimal scientific jargon and no mathematics. I recommend the article, accessible either from your local library or on the Internet.

Bekenstein points out that the universe has three major components, not two as is normally understood. The usual concept is that energy and mass make up the universe. Bekenstein states that a third component — information — is vitally important. Mass and energy have structure and interact because they contain information. Information binds and provides the instructions that ultimately holds the universe together. “If we have learned anything from engineering, biology, and physics, information is just as crucial an ingredient” as mass and energy.

Bekenstin summarizes his proposed model of the universe,

“Related results [from black hole studies in physics] suggest that our universe, which we perceive to have three spatial dimensions, might instead be ‘written’ on a two-dimensional surface, like a hologram. Our everyday perceptions of the world as three-dimensional would then be either a profound illusion or merely one of two alternative ways of viewing reality. A grain of sand may not encompass our world, but a flat screen might.”
In other words, the universe might be flat not spherical. This is close to a biblical model of creation of the heavens.

Holograms are produced by holography. Holography is a method of using special forms of light in a manner that produces three-dimensional images on a photographic plate or film. (Note that Bekenstein states that the universe is like a hologram, not that it is a hologram.) The universe is composed of mass that has solidity, energy that has force, and a dimensional reality. Holograms are not real, they are illusions of three-dimensionality.

Such a holographic-like structure of the universe, if true, would cause us to observe the universe as being without limits (which Bekenstein says is the understanding of many cosmologists), and at the same time the universe would be finite.

The important component of Bekenstein’s theory to you and to me is that a major purpose for the physical universe is that it contains information, or as the Bible terms it, knowledge.

“Can we apply the holographic principle to the universe at large? The real universe is a 4-D system: it has volume and extends in time. If the physics of our universe is holographic, there would be an alternative set of physical laws, operating on a 3-D boundary of spacetime somewhere, that would be equivalent to our known 4-D physics. ”
One suggestion is that our universe would be “painted” on a spherical surface and projected inward, retaining an appearance of infinity.
God’s Creation Process

Bekenstein’s theory (or a theory similar to it) may be getting close to the truth because it corresponds with information about creation of the heavens as taught in the Bible,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

John 1:1–3

Paul’s ministry toward the end of his life had one purpose which was,
“... to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.”

Ephesians 3:9

The purpose of any word is to communicate information. The Word of God — Jesus Christ — has as His purpose the revelation and communication of the knowledge of God the Father, the will of God the Father and the love of God the Father to all creation. All things consist in the Word of God, perhaps through those very “bits” of information contained in every subparticle of matter or force of energy. As Paul writes,
“Who [Jesus Christ, the Word of God] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”

Colossians 1:15–17

This does not mean that the universe is God (which is pantheism) or that the universe is all in God (which is panentheism), but it does mean that everything comes out from God the Father through the Word, because as Paul wrote in Colossians, “by Him all things consist.” That means that all things maintain their existence and continue in and by Jesus Christ, the Word of God and the Image of God. This is reiterated in Hebrews,
“Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Hebrews 1:2–3

The universe was created by Him and for Him. Revelation chapter 4 says that creation not only took place in the past, but it continues today,
“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for you have created all things, and for your pleasure they are and were created.”

Revelation 4:11

The Holographic Theory of Reality

Bekenstein’s theory of holography as a description of the universe,

“must be concerned not with fields, not even with spacetime, but rather with information exchange among physical processes. If so, the vision of information as the stuff the world is made of will have found a worthy embodiment.”
Bekenstein is understandably cautious about his theory and he acknowledges that the universe could be considerably more complex than we can realize at present. However, let me propose that as we begin the “restitution of all things” which is preliminary to the time of the end before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, should not the truths of God be more and more understood by scientists? Perhaps this is one avenue of that understanding. We shall see. Bekenstein presents a necessary caution,
“But the vicissitudes of a century of revelations in physics warn us not to be dogmatic. There could be more levels of structure in our universe than are dreamt of in today’s physics.”
Indeed, Paul wrote to the Romans about the invisible things. This verse may have more meaning than we realize,
“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.”

Romans 1:20

The Flat Heavens

Besides Psalm 104:1–2, many other verses discuss the heavens being laid out. Job understood this concept of God’s majesty,

“He stretches out the north over the empty place, and hangs the earth upon nothing.”

Job 26:7

God “explained” to Job that the earth and its foundations were precisely measured (Job 38:4–5). This is reiterated in Psalm 136:5–6. Not only the earth but the heavens have been measured and laid out, seemingly in a two dimensional structure. Within the context of God’s grace, comparing God’s care in creation with the salvation of His people Israel, Isaiah mentions the flatness of the heavens several times in several different ways,
“Have you not known? have you not heard? has it not been told you from the beginning? have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he that sits upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent [before it is erected] to dwell in.”

Isaiah 40:21–22

“Thus saith God the Lord, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that gives breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein.”

Isaiah 42:5

“Sing, O you heavens; for the Lord has done it: shout, you lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ... Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, and he that formed you from the womb, I am the Lord that makes all things; that stretches forth the heavens alone; that spreads abroad the earth by myself.”

Isaiah 44:23–24

“I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.”

Isaiah 45:12

“And forget the Lord thy maker, that has stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; ...”

Isaiah 51:13

This is not just poetic language on Isaiah’s part, but a description of the reality of the heavens as God told Isaiah to write it. Jeremiah uses the same concepts when he talks about creation.
“... The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. He has made the earth by his power, he has established the world by his wisdom, and has stretched out the heavens by his discretion.”

Jeremiah 10:11–12

“He has made the earth by his power, he has established the world by his wisdom, and has stretched out the heaven by his understanding.”

Jeremiah 51:15

In Zechariah (likely written by Jeremiah) the same expression is used,
“The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which stretches forth the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.”

Zechariah 12:1

It does not take much understanding to see that these are not just poetic metaphors but rather describing a real situation that neither the writer or the audience fully understood. That is why the analogy is made to things that are known like scrolls, flat tents (before they are erected) or curtains. These verses describe precisely how God “laid out” the universe.
The Time of the End

At the future time of judgment, at the time of the end before the return of Christ back to this earth, the reality of the flatness of the heavens will be visible to all in a tremendous display of God’s power and majesty,

“And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falls off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.”

Isaiah 34:4

“And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.”

Revelation 6:14

Read the contexts surrounding these two verses and note that the events described take place at a time of judgment that is coming in the future. One of the many events of that judgment is that the heavens will be “rolled.” This could not occur unless they had some aspect of “flatness” to them, just as is described in the scriptures about the creation of the heavens.
A Different Spacetime Reality

Bekenstein’s theory even postulates that the known universe has a boundary of spacetime that would contain another reality, another “place.”

“The real universe is a 4-D [4-dimension] system: it has volume and extends in time. If the physics of our universe is holographic, there would be an alternative set of physical laws, operating on a 3-D boundary of spacetime somewhere, that would be equivalent to our known 4-D physics.”
God creates by His Word. He sustains by His Word. Whatever terminology scientists may use, be assured that the Holy Scriptures relate a true description of reality to humankind. Believe the Scriptures. You may not understand what is meant now, but soon God will open the eyes of people in the world so they can know that God exists and that their Redeemer lives. God’s Word will not fail to fulfill His purpose as He intended,
“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:11

While things appear to “continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (2 Peter 3:4), it is important for us all to read and study the Scriptures to know the true nature of “reality” as God created it. We can do this by following the words of Paul and Peter,
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.”

2 Timothy 2:15–16

“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

Colossians 1:9–10

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”

2 Peter 3:18


The article had with it a condensed overview of the contents. I believe it was written by the editors of the Scientific American and not by the author. It is:

“Overview/The World [Universe] as a Hologram.”

David Sielaff

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