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.


Steve Martin said...

Hi Cliff,
Still with you. I think I'm going wait for a few more posts before responding in more detail (to these posts & your comments on my blog).
One quick question (which you can defer answering if its in an upcoming post): That our universe will eventually die is pretty clear - from both scripture & science. Therefore we need to take an essentially negative view of the long-term prospects of our universe (as you say, as John Polkinghorne & others say, and in contrast to teilhard and others).
My question (and I know this is really stepping outside the box): Do you think God will let this universe run its course? ie. Will he let it die with a wimper or will it be destroyed earlier than this as seems to be implied by some NT writings? How does this relate to our hope of Jesus coming again? Note, I am not questioning whether Christ will come again, just that our expectations of when that will occur may be really, really off (the expectations of the early christians was really, really off too). I know this is almost pure speculation, but its something I've been thinking about.
Oh, and congrats on your new Grandchild!

Cliff Martin said...

Thank you for your comment, Steve.

Great question. The most direct answer is that (as I stated in the post) I do not believe that God intends to let entropy run its course to it's predictable dire end. 2 Peter 2, Romans 8, Revelation, Isaiah all seem to indicate a closing of this cosmos in favor of the new coming non-entropic cosmos. And that is what I believe will happen.

However, when I first started out on this journey, I was looking (and am still looking) for some mechanism in the physics of entropy that could culminate in the wind-down and ultimate annihilation of evil. That is what led me into reading about the fascinating world of quantum mechanics, and subatomic particles. In turn, this all arose out of a growing suspicion (still growing!) that the material and spiritual world are not dichotomous, nor mere reflections of each other, but that they are intrinsically linked; that a true spiritual battle is playing out in the ultimate physics of this cosmos, in its very atoms and quarks. (I know ... weird!) But this suspicion is fueled as much by statements in Scripture as by the anomalies of physics. I will have more to say about this as these posts carry forward. But your question is significant because I still entertain the notion that this cosmos might continue on both as the container and the destroyer of evil (in which case the New Heavens and Earth would be a parallel, separate universe.)

So, my more esoteric and speculative answer to your question must be a resounding ... “maybe”

Karl A. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karl A. said...

Wow, the last few paragraphs "In the beginning, God created an entropic universe..." is powerfully written. The concept of God purposely creating an entropic universe (before any rebellion of man and/or Satan) stretches the imagination, let alone the concept of the "curse". No need for you to comment here, I'll just keep reading.

Cliff Martin said...


One quick comment ... as you may glean from reading further, I do not necessarily believe that entropy predates the rebellion of Satan. I have thought that the angelic rebellion may have been the impetus for creating the cosmos as God did. Hence, Satan's rebellion would predate this material creation.