Virtual Salvation

Can science now tell us how to get to heaven? According to a new book by a physicist, the answer is yes. Frank Tipler is the author of a book called The Physics of Immortality. In it, he claims not only that science can lead us to God—but that science is the only path to the Almighty. But it turns out the God he's referring to bears more resemblance to that staple of science fiction novels, the human-computer hybrid, than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The way Tipler explains it, billions of years in the future, all human life will have ceased to exist. In our place will be nonhuman offspring: incredibly sophisticated computers in robot bodies. These robots will somehow survive the death of the sun, leave the earth, and eventually colonize the universe. Then, Tipler writes, as the universe stops expanding and collapses on itself, all these computer minds will come together into a single point, which he calls "the Omega Point." And that, Tipler grandly claims, will be the living God: "Omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent." Tipler even predicts that the Omega Point will resurrect our robotic descendants. But the "person" being resurrected will actually be a computer emulation—a virtual reality robot. Our "virtual descendants" will live forever in cyberspace. That scenario may sound like a script from the latest Stephen Speilberg blockbuster. But Tipler claims it's all based on fact, not fantasy. In asking readers to accept his theory, Tipler writes: "I . . . appeal . . . to the solid results of a modern physical science; the only appeal will be to the reader's reason." Solid results of modern science? Which scientist performed the experiment that proves that God is a future supercomputer—one so complex it would scare Bill Gates? If you finish the book, it becomes clear that Tipler isn't simply appealing to our reason. He asks us, quite unreasonably, to reject biblical revelation completely. Nothing that God revealed about Himself in Scripture is acceptable. In particular, Tipler says that we must believe that "God . . . is either the universe or part of it." But of course, that's not the biblical picture of God. Throughout the Bible, God is described as existing beyond space and time. He's the transcendent Creator who designed all that exists, not part of the physical universe. But Tipler rejects biblical truth, because it cuts across the grand pretensions of his runaway science fiction theology. If our salvation depends on God's grace instead of our own intellectual cleverness, then science will never be sufficient to save us. Tipler's Omega Point theory simply serves up a poor idol of Tipler's own devising. And his book is a reminder that Christians should read the new wave of science and religion books with discernment. When physicists come up with spacey theories about a high-tech God, we need to remind ourselves and teach our neighbors that we serve a God who sent His own Son who died a human death for us. One who reveals Himself to us not through science fiction fantasy, but through His grace and by His Word.


Chuck Colson



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