Tuesday, September 25, 2007

POST #8: Theodicy, Standard Christian Arguments

When confronted with the horrible evil of sin and sin’s consequences, rather than launching into an angry diatribe on the injustices of God, or conversely, launching into a defense of the justice of God, we are told that Aaron simply “held his peace” (Leviticus 10:3). For many Jews and Christians, the only appropriate response to the horrors of evil in a universe created and governed by a good, loving, and just God is not to respond at all. They say we must take our place at Aaron’s side, and hold our peace. Many thus object to the very notion of “theodicy”, that branch of theology which seeks to justify God in the face of evil: “as if,” they might object, “God needed us to write his defense brief!” While this approach (or non-approach) to the problem of evil may satisfy some, it fails to move the millions of atheists for whom the very existence of evil is the lynchpin of their unbelief. Nevertheless, if you have found solace and satisfaction in simply accepting evil without giving further consideration to its meaning, then you need read no further. But if like me, you have grappled with the problem of evil, if you believe that the rational minds with which we are endowed naturally seek answers to the riddles of existence, if you are searching for answers that are sensible and satisfying, then I invite you to consider with me the possible meanings of evil in the cosmos.

In this post, we will briefly examine four typical theodicies which have been offered by believers, and we will test them against a set of defined criteria. We will ask, “do they work? have they the compelling force to satisfy the mind of the skeptic? do they give peace to the believer willing to ask the hardest of questions?

Evil is generally divided into two categories. 1. MORAL EVIL consisting of sin, and all the direct consequences of sin. Moral evil is caused by free moral agents. And, 2. NATURAL EVIL consisting of bad things that happen seemingly outside the causation of man: hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, famines, diseases, genetic disorders, etc. Natural evils, it could be argued, all find their origination in entropy, and are thus the result of the very way in which the Creator fashioned the cosmos. Some might find in these categories some cross-over. Certain diseases, for example, may be caused by or exacerbated by the choices of free moral agents. But it is not our intention to draw a sharp line of distinction. Rather, we wish to identify these two kinds of evil as separate categories for the following purpose: a theodicy that “works” must account for both kinds of evil. This is the first criterion for testing theodicies.

For a theodicy to accomplish its own goal, it must uphold the character of God. A theodicy which leaves us troubling about the honor and consistency of God is no theodicy at all. The Greek philosopher Epicurus laid down the gauntlet some 300 years before Christ when he asked, “Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?” A working theodicy must result in an omnipotent, compassionate God with his honor and integrity firmly intact in the face of a cosmos brimming with evil. This is the second criterion for testing theodicies. Examine with me the standard Christian theodicies in light of these criteria, and judge for yourself.

1) “Evil is created for God’s glory.” For many who subscribe to Reformed Theology (or Calvinism), it is enough to say that all evil exists for the glory of God. God created evil (Isaiah 45:7), they say, for his own ultimate glory. He created a cosmos in which evil was not only possible, but assured, right down to the finest detail. This view suggests that the Holocaust itself originated in the mind of the Creator, and was his intended plan written into the blueprint of the cosmos. Though it is beyond our understanding (I can certainly agree with that!), evil somehow maximizes the glory of God. Certainly not all those in the Reformed camp subscribe to this form of rigid determinism. But many do. This theodicy makes God out to be the author of all sin and natural evil. It further suggests that when God created Satan, he specifically engineered him to rebel just as he did. His fall was written into his design specifications. While this may provide a rational, satisfying answer to some followers of Calvin, I find that it fails to satisfy our second criterion. Epicurus would not be placated. No atheist will be compelled to abandon his skepticism by this argument. And few believers will find the God of this argument consistent with the God they have come to love and trust.

2) “Evil does not exist.” Others will insist that evil, in fact, does not exist as an entity, or as a reality apart from goodness. The argument goes like this: just as darkness is merely the absence of light (we cannot “fill a room with darkness”), and is instantly dispelled by the introduction of light, so evil is merely the absence of goodness. Augustine first introduced this concept. He said that all being is good. Evil is the lack of being, the lack of goodness. From this argument, Augustine moved on to #3 below, stating that evil as we know it originated in the rebellion of mankind, and the rejection of the goodness which God intended to permeate the cosmos. The problem with the idea of evil’s non-existence is that it simply fails to live up to our experience. Particularly in the face of the 20th century horrors, most people find it completely irrational to argue that evil has no independent existence. There is an energy and driving force, a “life” we might say, of evil that goes beyond the mere absence of goodness. This argument fails the tests of reason and experience. But it also fails to account for natural evil, for reasons we will apply to #3, below.

3) “Evil is caused by Man.” Augustine declared, “All evil is either sin or the punishment for sin.” This view suggests that all moral evil is the direct result of the Fall, and the sin that it perpetuates; and that all natural evil is the indirect result of the Fall, a consequence of the curses of Genesis 3:14-19. While this argument might have worked in Augustine’s day, we now understand that it cannot account for all natural evil. The earth is filled with mountains of evidence that the pre-Adamic world included natural disasters of every description: diseases, death, meteorites and thousands of species extinctions. If chronology has any bearing upon causation, we simply can no longer lay the responsibility for evil at the feet of fallen man.

Thus, each of these first three lines of reasoning fail to meet our criteria for a working theodicy. But it is the fourth theodicy argument to which most Christians today subscribe. For many thoughtful believers, it is the only option that holds out the hope of resolving evil’s riddle. Does it pass the test?

4) “Evil is necessary for Free Will to have meaning.” (This theodicy has numerous variations, including the more thoughtful “free-process theology” version espoused by John Polkinghorne and others, for which I feel some affinity. Some may wish to present a cogent and convincing case for the more sophisticated versions of this theodicy, and I welcome them to do so in the comments for this post. For the sake of brevity, I will state this argument in its simplest terms.) The typical line of reasoning goes something like this. In order to have a world in which free moral agents would have a clear choice, and thus be truly free, they must be given a viable alternative to God and goodness; hence, evil. A presupposition is that God considered it desirable to create moral agents who would freely choose him. And while he may bring some influence to bear upon his creatures, he does not use coercion. I have read and heard this line of theodicy reasoning all my life. I must say that it has always left me cold! It describes a God so desirous of creatures who choose him that if the cost is unimaginable innocent human suffering, well, so be it. This sort of ends-justify-the-means rationale leaves us with a monstrous God willing to sacrifice Jewish babies on the altars of Nazi bonfires—they are just the collateral damage—for the gratification of his desire that people have a genuine choice.

Has there ever been a single atheist or agnostic “won over” by any of these standard Christian theodicy arguments? Has a single skeptic ever abandoned his problem-of-evil objection to theism after being confronted with one of these lines of reasoning? I’ve never heard of one. Neither have I read any Christian apologist who is satisfied with his own theodicy argument. Whether its C.S. Lewis, Os Guinness, or John Polkinghorne, each writer closes his argument by confessing his own lack of satisfaction. In his own way, each one declares that we do not have an adequate answer to this riddle. Could it be that we have been looking at evil through the wrong lens? In my next post, I want to suggest an approach to evil’s riddle that does meet the criteria, for me at least, and perhaps, for you as well.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Book Review: Beyond the Firmament

“Why another book on science and faith?” Gordon Glover poses the question himself in the preface of Beyond the Firmament, his first book, released earlier this month by Watertree Press. While Glover offers his owns reasons, I would like to add a few of my own.

The motto of the publisher Watertree Press (also new) is Read. Think. Grow. With this book, their first release, readers will likely do all three. Glover challenges us to step outside our comfortable paradigms and think about issues like the big bang and evolution in new and fresh ways. He takes the reader on a journey of discovery to answer such questions as: What do we know, and how do we know it? What can the Bible tell us about nature? What can nature tell us about itself? What about evolution?

Glover's approach to this subject matter is unique. He does not write from the perspective of a trained scientist. This, I believe, is to his advantage. The reader will not be bogged down in the arcane language of the lab or technical terminology. (When it is necessary to introduce terms which might be unfamiliar, Glover defines those terms in simple language using footnotes on the same page.) Instead, Glover employs entertaining analogies and a bit of humor to shake us out of our comfort zones and compel us to think clearly! While Glover is not a trained scientist, he does not lack understanding of the technical issues at hand. But his presentation of those issue to the untrained reader is clear, straightforward and to the point. The result is a book that is easy to read, informative, and enjoyable. I recommend it to all my readers who wish to have a clearer world-view when it comes to the sciences of origins and the Bible.

Glover’s forte is analogy. His analogies open up delightful windows upon the truth. They yield up opportunities to look at things from completely new and fresh angles. This sometimes indirect approach catches us off guard, and gently dismantles our faulty preconceived notions without attacking them head-on. It is hard to be defensive and argumentative when we are smiling! Whether Glover is imagining a fleet of levitating snow machines or exposing the folly of a Christian insistence upon “theistic meteorology”, even the resistant reader will be disarmed and forced to rethink his cherished assumptions.

Another strength of Glover’s is his understanding of ancient Near-Eastern world-views, and how they impacted the writing of the Old Testament. Every believer who struggles with early Genesis and Inspiration should read this book. Glover, a committed Bible believer, makes a strong case that those who would defend the Scriptures must do so with an understanding of the world in which they were written. His approach brings clarity to many of the riddles of Biblical interpretation, especially as they relate to modern science.

Reading Beyond the Firmament was a pleasure for me. I shared most of Glover’s views before I read his book, and he introduced little information with which I was not already familiar. Still, his unique and fresh approach captivated me and gave me an enjoyable experience.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Personal note ...

I am in Canada with my wife for a conference in Vanderhoof, B.C. (British Columbia is more beautiful than Oregon! It is, quite possibly the most beautiful piece of the planet!!) I am also reading Gordon Glover's newly released book, Beyond the Firmament, which I am enjoying very much. I will be reviewing it here soon, and then dialoging (a lot!) with Gordon. Very good book. I recommend it to all my readers. Anyway, all of this to say that it may be a few more days before I am able to finish the next post on the the problem of evil.

~ Cliff

Friday, September 14, 2007

POST #7 Theodicy, Evil's Riddle

With this post, we launch into a discussion of the “Problem of Evil”. This post is part one of a three part discussion ...

From a distance we all have enough,
and no one is in need.
And there are no guns, no bombs, and no disease,
no hungry mouths to feed....
God is watching us. God is watching us.
God is watching us from a distance.

Bette Middler popularized these Julie Gold lyrics in her 1990 hit single, “From a Distance”. In the shadow of the First Gulf War, our nation sang along as the recording climbed the charts to #1. It expresses the highest hopes of many postmodern minds. God, if he exists at all, must be the God of the deist: distant, uninvolved, perhaps even uncaring. Why is God watching us only “from a distance”? Because if he were truly here, he would surely do more to correct the many evils of the world.

Deism is that belief which conceptualizes God as something of a watchmaker. He designs and creates the watch, sets it to ticking, and then never picks it up again. Deism was born in the wake of an earlier war, the devastating 30 year war in Europe. It gained traction from the scientific advancements of the 17th and 18th century. But deism is primarily an effort on man’s part to harmonize the notion of a God with the realities of the evil and suffering we see on earth.

From the standpoint of the skeptic, there is no greater barrier to belief than the problem of evil. It is the issue most often cited by the atheist and the agnostic. It has been called the “rock of atheism” (Hans Kung). All my adult life, I have struggled with this problem, and the standard Christian responses. The problem can be summarized by the following broken syllogism:

1) If God is personal, good, loving and compassionate; and
2) if God is all-powerful, in control of the cosmos; then
3) how and why does atrocious evil, including man on man violence and what is sometimes called “natural evil” (earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, meteorites, etc) resulting in so much human suffering and death, continue to exist.

The problem of evil is by far the most rational and forceful argument in the arsenal of thinking unbelievers against an all-powerful, benevolent God. It is also the most difficult riddle for thoughtful people of faith.

The greatest mind of the last century, Albert Einstein, struggled with belief in a God. His own theory of General Relativity predicted that our universe had a beginning, and thus, a First Cause. But this conclusion he found distasteful, and he tried to overcome it with new theories. But when Edwin Hubble’s telescope established the origin of the universe from a single point, Einstein finally yielded to the necessity of a Creator. His own discoveries led him to abandon his earlier agnosticism, and he become a professed believer in God. But he settled upon the god of the deist, as he could never bring himself to believe in the Christian God or the God of his own Jewish upbringing. Einstein rejected the notion of a personal God. The reason? he could find no way around the problem of evil.

The many horrors of the 20th Century served to deepen this troubling conundrum. The Jewish theologian Eugene Borowitz commented on the Holocaust:

“Any God who could permit the Holocaust, who could remain silent during it, who could ‘hide His face’ while it dragged on, was not worth believing in. There might well be a limit to how much we could understand Him, but Auschwitz demanded an unreasonable suspension of understanding. In the face of such great evil, God, the good and the powerful, was too inexplicable, so men said, ‘God is dead.’”

The horrors of the Holocaust are all too well known. For their evening entertainment, Nazi soldiers trucked small Jewish children to their bonfires, dumping them into the fire. As the terrified screaming children attempted to flee the flames, Nazis armed with pitchforks stood guard, barring their way. The drumbeat of evil touching the lives of our most vulnerable continues to roll: every day, on some street in Thailand, or perhaps another country, some small child is whisked away from his or her parents, and sold into sex-slavery, destined now to die of some horrible disease at a young age. And God looks on.

There is a profound exchange in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamozov in which Ivan relates a very sad story to his brother Alyosha, an Orthodox priest. It is the story of a young boy’s unfortunate scrape with a cruel general in the Russian Army. The boy had thrown a stone which hit the paw of the general’s favorite hunting dog. This enraged the general, and he put the boy in a cold cell for the night. The following morning, while the boy’s mother looked on, the boy was stripped naked, and ordered to run. The general then turned his hunting dogs loose, and the boy was torn to pieces. Ivan asks his brother this searing question:

“Tell me yourself, I challenge you. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature ... and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell me the truth.”

Os Guiness identifies the problem of evil as “life’s greatest challenge,” which is the subtitle of his book Unspeakable published in 2005. Written in a post 9/11 age, Unspeakable offers a chilling discussion of the manifestations of evil which reached a horrifying crescendo during the last century. The answers he suggests for this riddle come from one of the greatest contemporary evangelical thinkers, but I found them to be personally unsatisfying.

Evil’s existence has given rise to a branch of theology and apologetics called theodicy, man’s effort to explain why horrendous evil survives in a universe created and governed by a benevolent Almighty. The word theodicy literally implies an effort to “justify God”. From C.S. Lewis (The Problem of Pain) to Os Guiness (Unspeakable) Christians have sought to make sense of this horrible riddle. There are typical lines of reasoning suggested in Christian theodicy. I have heard and read these proposed solutions from many sources. In my next post, I will discuss the typical Christian response to the problem of evil, including the response that objects to the notion that we should even ask these hard questions. I will let the reader judge if these responses are rational and satisfying. In a subsequent post, I will reexamine the problem of evil in light of the earlier posts on entropy, and suggest a new understanding of the place of evil in this cosmos.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Book Review: The Language of God

I've been reading Francis Collins book, The Language of God. I recommend it for all who are still struggling with the concept of evolution, or for those who want a quick and easy intro to the state of science today as it relates to Christian faith.

Francis Collins is arguably the most prominent evangelical scientist of our day. He was the leader of the Human Genome Project through the 1980s and 1990s. He is an M.D. and one of the world’s leading DNA scientists. In simple and plain language, he gives an overview of the state of cosmology and quantum physics. But his forte is molecular biology, and the science of DNA. He presents a compelling case why it is that Darwinian evolution is accepted fact today among the vast majority of biologists. The evidence streaming in from genetic research is providing mounting confirmation of evolution. Collins writes,

The examples reported here from the study of genomes, plus others that could fill hundreds of books of this length, provide the kind of molecular support for the theory of evolution that has convinced virtually all working biologists that Darwin’s framework of variation and natural selection is unquestionably correct. (page 141)

He goes on to explain that many people are confused by the use of the term “theory”. Evolution is “theory” in the same sense that Newton’s laws of gravity are “theory”. Evolutionary theory underlies the study of biology in much the same way that music theory underlies the work of musicians. We seldom hear people deny belief in gravity. I’ve never heard a musician question the validity of music theory.

With sound reasoning and overwhelming evidence, Collins firmly rejects Creationism, and Intelligent Design. And he does so from the standpoint of a devout Bible believing Christian.

As my blog entries progress, we will visit the significance of evolution in the plan of God. While I will gladly discuss why I believe in evolution, I would much prefer to move on to discuss the meaning and significance of evolution, and the role which I believe naturalistic evolution has played in the plan of God.

POST #6: Entropy, the Implications

Years ago, I adhered to the Young Earth Creationism (YEC) position; that is, I believed creation occurred over six 24-hour days at some point in the last 10,000 years. I was persuaded that this sort of time frame was required by what seemed to be a Biblical teaching that all death was a consequence of Adam’s sin. But I came to see that this theological construct stems from a wooden, literalist reading of Genesis and the New Testament, and that it is not the only reasonable way to interpret these scriptures. I also came to see that the notion of death being non-existent in our universe until about 6,000 to 10,000 years ago is completely untenable in light of scientific evidence. Earth is strewn with a history of death and species extinctions dating back some 3.7 billion years.

I also came to see that death and entropy are intrinsically linked. So, I set out on a search to discover the moment in time when entropy (and, with it, death) entered into creation. It seemed to me that this would be a critical understanding in theology. I soon learned that physics and cosmology have identified that moment, with a high degree of precision. And it dates all the way back to the creation moment (See my last post).

I identify this key passage in Romans with entropy (Many, but not all expositors do. Judge for yourself.):

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
– Romans 8:19-21 (NIV)

Follow this progression of observations:

1) At some point in time, the Creator chose to subject his entire creation to a principle of decay. This “bondage to decay” I understand to be entropy, the law of physics described in Post #4.

2) This subjection of creation to the bondage to decay in Romans 8:19-21 has been almost universally understood as a part of God’s response sin, part of a sin-related curse. So, in traditional Christian theology, this subjection has been connected variously with the sin of Adam, the Tower of Babel, or the Fall of Satan, etc.

3) However, we now know that entropy dates back to very first moments of this universe’s existence.

4) This would suggest that if entropy is God’s response to sin or evil, this sin or evil predates the creation moment, or the creation moment is commensurate with the onset of evil.

5) There will come a time when entropy will have run its course. Creation will be set free from its relentless entropic march toward death. And this moment of liberation, when entropy is halted in its tracks, is precipitated by an event identified as the revealing (or “manifestation”) of the sons of God.

The implications of these observations on theology, the purpose of God in creation, and specifically, the purpose of man, are profound. If the above observations are accurate, they suggest the God may have created this cosmos with the purpose of dealing with and exterminating evil. They suggest that entropy might be one of the tools which God is employing to accomplish this purpose. They further suggest that humankind plays a critical role in this plan.

Being raised in the evangelical church, I had always been taught something like this: God’s purpose in creation, particularly the creation of man, was fellowship. He created us so that we might come to know him, and we might enjoy fellowship with him. Indeed, it had long been a settled matter: “The chief purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

I’ve always loved the elegance and simplicity of that phrase from the Westminister Catechism. But I now question whether it is completely accurate. Without doubt I am to glorify God, and I do believe that eternity will be required to explore and enjoy our infinite Father. But “the chief purpose of man”? I have come to believe that God has a purpose for mankind that transcends fellowship. “The chief purpose of man,” I might suggest, “is to co-venture with God in his overarching plan to exterminate evil.” And far from minimizing the importance of fellowship with God, this overarching partnership in the conquest of evil creates a far deeper potential for camaraderie between God and man.

Some might fairly argue that these conclusions are a bit overreaching, and largely speculative. While I believe that this scenario, the entire cosmos existing as God’s response to evil and as his plan to annihilate evil, does have a foundation in Scripture, science, and reason, I confess that, to a degree, it does venture into the realm of speculative theory.

However, in future posts I will explore how this overarching story, when used as a template for various scriptures and theological problems, is reasonable. We will explore how it relates to the Biblical themes of resurrection, nonresistance, suffering, and the most explicit scriptural statements on the purposes of Christ’s coming, and man’s existence. We will see how it gives a better answer to the age-old Problem of Evil (theodicy) than those typically proposed by Christians. We will see how it relates to evolution, and how evolution ceases to be a feared atheistic threat to faith and becomes instead the elegant and awe-inspiring plan of God. We will discover in it a rational answer to the skeptics’ argument that earth, and mankind, are extremely insignificant in view of the utter vastness of the universe.

In my personal faith journey, I have grappled with these issues. I read the arguments of skeptics. Frankly, they often make more sense than the standard answers Christians offer. I have struggled with the Problem of Evil, and have not found the solutions offered by Christians to be at all compelling. Most atheists site the Problem of Evil as the primary obstacle to belief in God. In this new way of viewing creation, I have found satisfying, rational answers to such faith issues that have taunted me for decades. I invite you to explore these answers with me as these posts unfold.

P.S. This line of thought is often objected to on the grounds that entropy is necessary and good. It is true that within the bounds of this cosmos, driven as it is by the energy flow of entropy, we could not live without entropy. Because of entropy we are warmed by the sun, our food is produced; in fact, everything necessary for physical life is provided by entropy. But entropy is also the source of all natural disasters, of diseases, and ultimately, of physcial death. Entropy is itself a dying process. So while I must be clear in stating that entropy is not evil, we must not forget that it is by its essence, death. Entropy is temporary; it is not part of God's plan for the coming utopian heaven and earth.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

POST #5: Entropy, the Timeline

Scripture teaches that entropy had a beginning, and will have an end. In Romans 8:19-23, Paul gives us some insight into both events. 20th Century physics and cosmology have helped to fill in the blanks with regard to the onset of entropy; we can today pinpoint with a high degree of certainty just when entropy came into being. But while Paul gives us clues about what events will precipitate the end of entropy, we do not know when in the future that will be. We do know there is coming a major upheaval in the laws of physics (see Hebrews 12:26-28, 2 Peter 3:10, etc.). One of the results of this upheaval will be the removal of the need for the sun (Revelation 21:23). Isaiah explains, “The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.” (Isaiah 60:19) Light and energy from our Sun is at the very heart of the human experience of entropy. The removal of the Sun, and the replacing of it with God himself as our new inexhaustible energy source signals the end of entropy. It is not God’s plan that entropy play out to the bleak end described in my previous post. Entropy will not go on forever. Entropy appears to be playing some temporary role in the plan and purposes of God. Just what that purpose might be is not clear. But if we go back to the beginning of entropy, we might pick up on some clues.

So, when did entropy begin?

One commonly held belief among many Christian theologians has been that entropy came into the cosmos as a part of the curse following Adam’s sin. Since death is the inescapable consequence of entropy, it is argued by some that entropy could not preexist the Fall of Man. However, the Biblical account itself give us much evidence that entropy was predates Adam’s sin. The sun, the growth of various life forms, and the references to eating in Genesis 1 and 2 are facts dependent upon entropy. Perhaps of greater significance is that we know the Serpent, that influence of moral corruption, was already slithering about the garden. No matter one’s view of the Fall, the onset of death, etc., Even the most ardent literalist must agree. Prior to the Adam’s sin, all was not well in the cosmos.

Death was the penalty for Adam’s sin. But this death was not physical. Adam did not die physically on the “day” (Genesis 2:17 KJV) he ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The death he suffered is described in Genesis 3:7-8. This death was spiritual, and involved guilt and shame, and separation from God. This understanding is consistent with Scripture, including Romans chapters 5 through 8.

Years ago, after concluding that entropy clearly preceded the Fall of man, my own search for the beginning of entropy took me to the great rebellion of Satan and his army of fallen angels. This event clearly happened prior to Adam’s sin. How much prior is a matter of speculation. However, if biblical revelation is incomplete on the question of entropy’s beginnings, science is not.

Evidence streaming in from many fronts (from such things as the cosmic background radiation) all indicate that entropy dates back to the very beginning of time. So precise is our ability to measuring time, so precise is the evidence and the mathematics, that scientists today are in substantial agreement: Entropy began at 10 to the power of -43 seconds into the life of the Universe! The evidence is overwhelming: this cosmos has been entropic since the Creation Moment, since the very beginning of time.

Dr. Allan Harvey, an evangelical Christian who is also a chemical engineer specializing in molecular thermodynamics has posted an interesting FAQ style article on entropy which you can read (just click here). He has a different point of view on some of the theological ramifications of entropy, but his discussion of entropy in general, and his criticism of how Creationists abuse the “Second Law of Thermodynamics Argument” are very good. With respect to the timeline of Entropy, Dr. Harvey writes:

"Astrophysicists, using data such as the cosmic background radiation, have verified that the universe has obeyed the second law of thermodynamics very well since the time of the big bang."

There can be little doubt about it. In the beginning, God created an entropic universe. We learn from Romans 8:20 that God arranged and ordered (hupotasso) his creation in a condition of “frustration” (NIV), “futility” (NAS) or “vanity” (KJV). The next verse offers clarification: this frustration is defined as a “bondage to decay”. The Greek word for decay (phthora) means “corruption, destruction, perishing”.

God intentionally created the cosmos to be subject to corruption, destruction, and death, though it was not his intention to leave it in this state. Verse 20 and 21 tell us that when he subjected his new universe to entropy, he did so “in hope” that it would, in time, be delivered from entropy. Thus, from the very beginning, before the fall of man, before the creation of man, God subjected the creation to physical laws involving decay and death. And then he stood back and declared it to be “good”. Though not his ideal, and his hope was that it would not remain this way, such an entropic universe was in his view, “good”. Apparently, his plan would best be fulfilled by subjecting all creation to this principle of corruption, destruction, and perishing. Death.

In my next post, I want to explore the possible meanings, the theological implications of a death-driven, entropic cosmos.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Personal note ...

Just a quick note to let my readers know that my wife and I became the pround grandparents of our third grandchild on Saturday. That, together with a Festival of Tents camping weekend with friends, has temporaily slowed my writing. The next post might have to wait for another couple of days. Thanks for your patience!

~ Cliff