Thursday, December 15, 2011

2nd Law Outcomes

Statements from skeptics that a loving, benevolent God should not permit decay, pain, suffering, evil, or death do not indicate their basic understanding of the advantages of living in a world governed by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Such declarations are motivated by their desire to incriminate God. Scientists, in particular, should be among the last to decry the benefits of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics frontloaded by the Creator into the operating system of our universe at its beginning.

The 2nd Law is sometimes called the Law of Decay. What, we may ask, could be good about a universal tendency for systems to decay, for ordered things to become less ordered? The skeptics, putting themselves in the place of God, sometimes ask why God did not create, according to their guidelines, a “perfect” world where no decay, pain, suffering, evil, or death could exist.

On another level, what could be good about having to keep a garden in order? or maintaining good relationships with our family? or avoiding conflicts with neighbors? or preventing any type of suffering? or working for the good of others? In the perfect world demanded of God by skeptics, there would be no responsibility to exercise human free will or autonomy because every good action would already be pre-accomplished for us. Human free will is a gift of enormous value from our Creator. Such lack of responsibility would not prove personally satisfying.

Human autonomy, and the autonomy of our physical cosmos to operate with the purpose for which God created it, is a double-edged gift. The benefits of the 2nd Law are overwhelmingly positive for the human race. There are virtually no human physical activities which do not involve some application of energy consumption, energy conversion, or energy flow which are not an illustration the Law of Decay. Too often we cite our deteriorating automobiles, homes, or bodies as a deleterious effect of this law. Indeed, these situations are unwelcome handicaps. In other examples, the 2nd Law enables us to think, digest food, stay warm, work, and travel from place to place.

One outcome of the operation of the 2nd Law is the depressing deterioration of our physical bodies and our ultimate death. We would do well not to trivialize the tragic impact of the death of our physical body. Many Christian writers attribute death--the death of all creatures--to the sin of our first parents in the Garden of Eden. Credible scriptural support for this concept is lacking. In the scope of God’s plan for this temporal sphere of existence, scripture indicates the sin of Adam resulted in the spiritual death of all men. Animal death is not indicated: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” (Rom. ESV). The context of Romans 5 is spiritual death and reconciliation. Animals do not sin, so their death could not have resulted from their own sin. Moreover, animal life and death had existed on this earth long before Adam--for many millions of years. Plentiful microbial death on the early earth was the outcome of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics operating since creation. This large scale death has provided generous resources for the sustainment and enrichment of our modern life.

Instructive discussions of these issues have been provided in Why the Universe is the Way It Is by Hugh Ross (Baker Books, 2008): “This universe with all its features, laws, and dimensions represents the perfect theater for enactment of God’s redemptive drama. By its physical constraints, God limits the spread of evil, encourages the spread of virtue, and demonstrates his great love for humankind. According to the Bible, this temporal universe provides an essential proving ground to test each human heart (in the spiritual sense) and prepare those who pass the test for life in a completely new realm, one that includes all the features we long for and more—the perfection we can barely imagine.”

Why would an all loving God subject humans to “the tribulations and tragedies of this present world?” Hugh Ross continues, “One partial answer may be that if evil and suffering are temporary and humans eternal, then each person’s encounters with these troubles and griefs may serve as preparation for some high reward not possible otherwise. This consideration might also imply that humans are part of God’s strategy to bring about a total and permanent triumph of good over evil.”

Finally, Hugh Ross asks, “Why didn’t God just place Adam and Eve in the New Creation to start with?” Ross continues, “It appears that unless humanity is exposed to and tested by the greatest possible temptation, the most compelling attraction of evil, in the first creation—the rewards, pleasures, and relationships of the new creation cannot be made both perfect and permanent.”