Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Law of Entropy

At “God’s initial creative act,” as I used to describe The Big Bang to my astronomy students, the universe began in its state of highest order, according to Stephen Hawking. His book A Brief History of Time, written in 1988, has become a secular classic. Disorder (entropy) has been increasing ever since the initial creation event. Imagine a completed jig-saw puzzle lying at the bottom of a box, displaying a beautiful complete, ordered picture. If the box is periodically shaken, the puzzle pieces will gradually break apart and lose the image of the initial picture. Disorder will increase. Eventually the puzzle will approach a condition of total disorder. In science, this overwhelming universal tendency is known as the Law of Entropy.

An age progression picture of our universe would show, for example, heat energy diffusing and becoming less useful as the universe expands. Manifestations of decay are everywhere. Infusions of energy from another part of the universe’s closed system could temporarily create an isolated “island” of apparent increased order--when a crew builds a new home, for instance--but at the expense of order and energy in some other place. Generally, the universal trend shows things running inexorably downhill.

New Testament scriptures deal with the phenomena of decay and increased disorder in both the physical and spiritual spheres. Romans 8:21 states the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay (NIV). This surprising verse refers to the physical, material creation. Verse 20 suggests that God, as creator, “subjected” the creation to this condition deliberately. In the spiritual realm, there are several startling verses suggesting that even the redemption of mankind was in the mind of God before the beginning of time (I Cor. 2:7, II Tim. 1:19, Tit. 1:2 NIV). Redemption from what, I would ask? It appears God deliberately designed the universe with an overlay of decay and with the knowledge that man would need redemption from the fallen condition they would willfully choose.

Some scientist/theologians have suggested that the entropy of the universe provides the perfect setting for the eventual elimination of both physical decay and spiritual decay--man’s separation from God. In the coming New Creation (II Pet. 3:13, Rev. 21:1 NIV), the universal tendency toward physical decay and spiritual alienation from God will be banished.