BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 42
Copyright 1992, Biblical Horizons
From time to time we receive questions that are interesting, and that other people would also be interested in. James B. Jordan discusses two such questions in this issue.
- What do you think of the way "creation science" uses the "second law of thermodynamics" to argue that human society will become more and more depraved, and that the universe is running down?
Creation Science is not monolithic, and so it would be unfair to say that everyone working in that area believes exactly the same thing regarding the "second law of thermodynamics." Many of them, if not most, if not all, have placed a great deal of emphasis on the "law of entropy" as a way of justifying a young earth and a usually a short future for the world. The following are my reflections on the matter.
1. The Bible gives us a young earth, and so we as Christians are to believe the earth is young and do our scientific work in terms of that belief, regardless of how the "law of entropy" may fit in.
2. Proverbs 26:5 says, "Answer a fool as his folly deserves, lest he be wise in his own eyes." I believe that the Creation Science critique of secular evolutionism in terms of entropy is a quite proper application of this verse. Creation Science has shown that evolution is internally inconsistent, and thus an impossible hypothesis.
3. Proverbs 26:4 says, "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him." I believe that the Creation Science people have failed on this point, because they have bought into some of the presuppositions of modern science. Not that they are fools! but rather that they have not gone far enough in developing a positive alternative.
4. The particular problem lies in the relation of man, and more generally of life, to the world of matter-energy. While it may be true to say that in the universe as a whole, energy tends toward a constant low state of "randomness," it is not valid to transfer this concept to life. According to the Bible and to the Nicene Creed, it is the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of all life, who pours life into the universe from outside of it. Thus, while the First Law says that energy in the physical sense is not increased, Christianity says that life is increased. The expansion of the human and animal kingdoms since creation is proof. This raises the possibility that the influx of life into the system may result in an increase of energy as well.
5. One creation scientist states: "It’s only our machinery that keeps us from returning to the dust, and eventually that machinery wears out." This statement is problematic, in that it assumes an equation between the laws of energy and the principle of life which Biblically has to do with humans and animals, but not plants. Before the Flood and for several centuries after, human life lasted much longer than at present, and the Bible indicates that long life will return in this world in the future (Is. 65:20). This has to do with the sustaining, life-giving work of the Spirit, and not simply with the mechanics of energy transfers. It is at this point that this scientist and those like him are failing to be consistent with their own presuppositions: that "natural law" is God’s operation, and that life comes into the system from outside via the work of the Spirit of life. The machinery does not have to wear out. It "wears out" because the Spirit withdraws. It is God’s Personal providence, not impersonal processes, that are involved.
6. Biblically, human history displays the following pattern:
1. The creation of an ordered system. 2. The development of that system.
- 3. The wearing thin of that system, for two reasons:
a. Primarily because human beings continually grow and need new, larger clothes. b. Secondarily, after the fall, because of sin.
4. The breakdown and restructuring of the system into a new, larger, better-fitted, and more glorious system.
Thus, the breakdown is an important part of the maturation of humanity and the universe, but it is always a prelude to a re-creation that is more ordered than before. This is because of the work of the Spirit. Thus, in brief, the Garden gave way to the Oasis Sanctuary of the Patriarchs, which gave way to the Tabernacle, which gave way to the Temple, which gave way eventually to the New Covenant. Each of these is more ordered and more glorious than its predecessor. I have discussed this at length in my book Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World (1988).
7. The Bible shows us, then, the maturation and development of humanity, a maturation defected by sin but restored in Christ. I believe that the physical law of entropy is thus misapplied when brought over into the realm of life, of society.
8. What is the relationship between energy and life? From what I have said thus far, it seems reasonable to posit that over the course of time, energy is "decreasing" (heat loss), while life is increasing. Is there a relationship? Yes, the Bible shows us that the Spirit uses the world to communicate life to man. This is seen in food. We kill plants and animals, and then we eat them. How can we get life from dead bread and dead flesh? Obviously, we don’t. The Spirit works with these substances to give us life. The Spirit causes the energy to be released and to be transformed into life. The Spirit moves energy to a higher level: life.
9. This can be seen theologically as part of a system of consecration, sacrifice, and offering. The world of minerals and energy is consecrated into plants. Plants are consecrated into food for animals. Plants and animals are consecrated into food for man. At every point, energy is "lost," but life is increased. Ultimately, man "eats the world" into himself. All things tend to the increase of man.
10. Because of sin, this is sidetracked. Man diminishes himself, since he hates God and hates life. With the restoration of things in the Gospel, however, the system of world-consecration, of energy transfer into life, is restored. Ultimately, because only the Kingdom is open to Life, only the Kingdom can grow. The Kingdom grows by the consecration of the universe into itself; that is, into redeemed humanity.
11. Thus, in terms of constructing a Christian model, I should say:
- A. Left to itself, energy moves toward heat death. B. The Spirit transforms energy into life, however. C. Where the Kingdom comes, life increases. D. The result is the gradual humanification of the universe, the transfer of energy into life, the transfer of the physical world into man.
12. In this model, after millions of years the universe is completely drained of energy, and what stands clear is a glorious (but not yet fully glorified) humanity. Energy has "run down" by being transformed into life. The universe has been "eaten" into humanity, and is thereby transformed and glorified. (I am not saying that Christ will not return much sooner I am only positing a model.)
13. Possibly, however, the influx of life into the system also bears off into a restoration of physical energy. We have to remember that all of Jesus’ miracles were done by the energy of the Spirit. Perhaps in more general ways, the increase of life in humanity spills over into an energetic glorification of the world.
14. I am not prepared to chose between these two models (Nos. 12 and 13), but I do think that Rupert Sheldrake’s two books, A New Science of Life and The Presence of the Past, and similar studies, may point in the direction of life’s recharging of energy.
15. Moreover, human beings work, and work does pour energy and organization into the system of the world. Consider this: At present, the sun pours energy into the world. But in the kingdom of God, there is no sun, because the Lamb is the Sun. It becomes possible to suggest that as history progresses, and redeemed humanity becomes more Lamblike, redeemed humanity will also become more sunlike. The amount of energy released from the simply splitting of one atom is enormous. There may be more energy available from actions performed on the components of the sub-atomic realm. Man will perform those actions. Thus, the energy given by the Spirit to redeemed humanity may lead to man’s becoming the master of new "suns" to replace the old one, miniature "suns" powering all kinds of things. Of course, if the present sun has millions of years left to it, the model I suggest requires millions of years to reveal itself fully; and I am not saying that Christ will not return sooner. I am simply suggesting a model for understanding the relationship between the life poured into the universe by the Spirit, and the available energy in the universe. In short, human action powered by the Spirit may well overcome and reverse the effects of "entropy." A knife grows dull, but then human beings sharpen it again. The same may eventually be true on a much vaster scale. Indeed, since human beings are the very images of God, I think that human dominion over the entire universe must be the destiny of redeemed humanity.
16. The bottom line, however, is that the "Second Law of Thermodynamics" is misapplied when used in social theory, because it does not come to grips with the Procession of the Holy Spirit out of eternity into time, into humanity. Similarly, the application of the "law" of entropy to biology needs to be seriously questioned, for the same reason.