We Hope in God, not in Thermodynamics

Secular thinkers regularly reject the whole idea of eternal life, because they reject anything science cannot measure. The Bible teaches that human beings live in the time/space continuum temporarily. No matter how long they live here, this universe is only part of their lives. The Bible teaches that human beings are more than the sum of their measurable parts, that each human being is both body and spirit. Secular people deny the existence of spirit, because it cannot be captured or measured scientifically. They recognize spirit when cheerleaders rouse a crowd to support a team that appears to be losing on the football field, but they deny that this sort of spirit has any real existence. They consign it to the same category of human experience as emotion, and then they pretend that emotion can actually be measured.

Secular thinking considers science to be the measure of all things, giving the laws of thermodynamics a status comparable to the status Christians ascribe to God’s revealed Law. To a secular thinker, emotion is a trait of living things that can be measured. Secular thinkers believe they can measure pain, too. They have scientific measure for such things, because in their view of the world, if science cannot measure something, then it does not exist. Science is the repository of all truth. For people who deny the existence of anything science cannot measure, the laws of science constitute revealed truth, and for secularists, the laws of thermodynamics are viewed with the same awe Christians show for the Ten Commandments inscribed on stone by the finger of God.

For secular thinkers, the notion that the personhood of a human being persists after death is a myth, because the personhood is expressed in the eternal/infinite continuum of heaven, not in the measurable world of the time/space continuum. There are a lot of religions in the world, and to secular thinkers, one is no different from another, because secularists view every religion as a myth. Secularists view every religion as a human attempt to deal with things we cannot understand such as death, evil, and sorrow. They speak of religions as a way to find a god, which means they have not recognized that God actually finds them. To them, Aesop’s fables have just as much value as the book of Isaiah, because both documents represent human efforts to explain the unexplainable. In the secular worldview, the story of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection is simply a story about a good man who suffered.

Secular thinkers consider the first law of thermodynamics to be the only way in which a person continues to exist in the time/space continuum. When I studied physics in high school, the laws of thermodynamics were exciting. In my view in those days, the idea that all the matter and energy with which the universe was born persists till the end of time was a concept for mental exercise. I chewed and chewed on the various possibilities that this “law” might be wrong. My personal intellect was unequal to the task, and in the end, I simply accepted this law as one of the inscrutable truths about life: neither matter nor energy can be created or destroyed. For me, to believe that statement was an act of faith, because it was beyond my ability to test it and determine the truth of it for myself.

Secular thinkers find all their religion in science, and are not at all hesitant to say so. Natalie Angier, in her book The Canon, talks about the place of the laws of thermodynamics in the minds of secularists. She says, “For the nonreligious among us, the law of the conservation of energy offers the equivalent of a spiritual teddy bear, something to clutch at during those late-night moments of quiet terror, when you think of death and oblivion, the final blinding of I. The conservation of energy is, in effect, a promise of eternal existence.” [1]

She is quite serious about the religious and eternal implications of this law. She even used this law to attempt to comfort her school-age daughter when she asked questions about life and death. It is hard to imagine how either mother or daughter was comforted in the least when the little girl said, “After I die . . . I hope some of my atoms can find their way into a cat.”[2] Children must, of course, trust their parents to tell them the truth, but it is difficult to contemplate what a child must think of a world in which her best hope is to live on as a molecule in a cat.

The Bible answers Ms. Angier’s allegations with the experience of people who know God, the infinite, eternal God who created the time/space continuum so eulogized by Ms. Angier. Science, which is Ms. Angier’s answer to the problems of the world, is taught in the holy scriptures of published scientific experiments. Scientists look at the universe, they devise explanations for their observations, they test their explanations against the observations, and then they publish. To people who trust science, those writings are sacrosanct. As a fan of science all my life, I understand the awe rightly felt by people who read the work of scientists. I am impressed, too. I love to listen to scientists, too. I love to learn more about the workings of the universe. I feel that way, because I respect the integrity and accuracy of those scientific writers. That is why I felt completely betrayed several years ago when it became known that scientists were tinkering with datasets that supposedly justified the conclusion that the globe is being caused to warm to an unnatural degree at an unnatural rate because of the activities of human beings. I am happy to learn about any new scientific discovery, but I get angry when the scientists who are supposed to tell me the truth don’t do so. The integrity of science is dependent on the integrity of scientists.

Christians turn to holy scriptures for the truth about God. Those scriptures are written by people of integrity who met God and wrote about their experiences. The scriptures have been preserved and protected for thousands of years, because other people, people who were not inspired to write such works, met God, too, and discovered that the scriptures were true. When secular thinkers reject the Bible, saying that human beings wrote it, so it can’t be holy, they call into question everything science holds sacred, because human beings write science, too. What’s more, there is no way whatsoever that I can personally test and know the truth of the first law of thermodynamics, so I really must have faith in the science writer if I believe in the first law of thermodynamics. However, I can personally know God, the subject and center of the Bible and its truth.

Secularist like to say that science is about reality and religion is about faith, but in reality, both science and religion call for faith. However, faith in science is always faith in a moving target. Every time something new is observed, all the old “stuff” must be discarded. Faith in God is faith in a God whose teachings and revelations do not change, and whose behavior is rooted in his love for all people, no matter what their sin or their IQ.

Some people say that if we believe science, we cannot believe in God. Some people even try to say that if we believe in God, then we must reject science. Both ideas are silly. Science and religion are not actually in conflict, but there are people who find personal advantage in stoking controversy that pits them against one another. Both science and religion are about truth. The worst aspects of both realms are expressed by people who put agendas ahead of truth. Science is about the physical and chemical attributes of the created universe, and God himself applauds every effort to learn and understand this sort of truth.

What most people want more than anything else is truth. Yet as valuable as scientific truth is, few people will find any personal comfort in the first law of thermodynamics. Contrast that truth with this one. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” John 11:25-26 ESV These words of Jesus are recorded by a man who was there, a man who spent three years in close fellowship with God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, and who subsequently spent the rest of his life serving God in Christ and sharing this good news with everyone he met. He was a man of integrity and good character. He was such a faithful follower that he stood at the foot of the cross and took responsibility for the mother of Jesus after Jesus was crucified. This man wrote about his own observations and his own experiences when he put the teachings of Christ to the test. Like the other writers who contributed to the Bible, he presented the truth about our human connections and interactions with God in the “dimensions” of eternity and infinity. And when he says that in Christ we receive eternal life, he does not talk about the migration of molecules from humans to cats.

It is very sad to think that people who make science their religion not only deceive themselves, but they also deceive others. It is deeply disturbing to see that people think that people of integrity who attest to their experience in relationship with God are somehow less reliable in their testimony than people who write about cosmology. Yet here is the only one way to know the truth in either realm: test it. If you are a secular thinker who has always scorned people of faith and the Bible, then I recommend that you simply set yourself a test. Read the Bible with the same attention you give to your scientific books. Read all of it, just the way you read the journal Nature or The Journal of Physical Chemistry. Test what the Bible says and speak to God yourself. Then decide where the truth is. As for me, I hope in God, even though I also love thermodynamics, some of God’s best work.

[1] (Angier 2007) p. 115

[2] Ibid.