The Physics of Sin

The Physics of Sin

“What difference does it make? As long as I’m not hurting anyone else, I should be able to live with my girlfriend.”

“I never loved my wife. Don’t I deserve to be happy?” “I needed that money more than he did, so it’s okay that I took it. Besides, he owes me for the time when…” Justification for sin comes easily to most people—including Christians. However, conscience has an ally: physics. Observation and personal experience suggest that physical laws work on the side of obedience to God’s laws.

When I began studying physics at the age of seven a particular dilemma plagued my mind. I wanted to know why the laws of physics were set up in their prescribed manner. In spite of serious study over the following twelve years, no satisfying answers came forth. Not until I became a Christian at age 19 (the year I also began formal education in classical and statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, and electromagnetism theory), did I recognize that the physics of the cosmos reveal not only God’s existence but also God’s delight in elegance and beauty. Through the physical design of the cosmos, God richly endows a home for humanity.

This answer helped resolve some of my questions about the structure of physics, but it still left me with some major unanswered perplexities. Why didn’t God create a different kind of cosmos for humanity—one elegant and beautiful in its design yet without the hard choices, pain, and suffering produced by evil? God does, in fact, promise a radically different, perfectly wonderful home for humanity after His final judgment against evil (referred to in Revelation as The Great White Throne Judgment).1 So why didn’t He make the universe “perfect” in the first place?

These questions led me to search the Bible for God’s expressed purpose(s) in creating the cosmos. I found these three, among others:

  1. God chose to express His glory through creating the universe, creating life in general, and creating humanity in particular.
  2. The whole of the universe and all life on Earth were created for the benefit of humanity.
  3. God chose to initiate an eternal love relationship with humans.

As a corollary to these three purposes, God gives humans every assist and incentive to turn away from evil’s empty enticement (autonomy) and toward His love. This corollary helps explain why Genesis 1-3 identifies this world and Eden not as God’s “perfect” creation, but, rather, as His “good” or “very good” creation.

Many Christians (and others) believe the Garden of Eden was perfect and that God will one day permanently restore people to an Eden-like paradise.2 An inability to imagine anything better than what Adam and Eve enjoyed in the Garden of Eden (before they sinned) makes this viewpoint understandable. However, the Bible reveals a transcendent Creator who made the universe of matter, energy, space, and time from beyond the universe, completely unconfined by it. Therefore, belief in a transcendent reward becomes a reasonable consideration.

Because of Satan’s rebellion, and because free will must be real for love to be real, the potential for sin necessarily existed in Eden. That potential alone made Eden an insecure environment and, therefore, an imperfect one. The “new heavens and new earth” described in Revelation 21 and 22 remain perfectly secure, because no possibility for sin exists there. This transcendent reward awaits Christ’s followers (see the “New Laws for the New Creation”sidebar).

Advent of Sin—and Physics

The idea that sin (rejection of God’s rightful authority) began with Adam’s rebellion in Eden ignores the fact that at least in one context the fall into sin predates Eden. Satan clearly fell into sin before he entered Eden to beguile Eve. Exactly how much before that time the fall of Satan occurred is unclear. Job 38:7 states that the angels watched as God laid down the foundations of the Earth. Therefore, Satan likely existed at the time when Earth was formed some 4.6 to 3.9 billion years ago.3 His rebellion against God could have occurred either before or after this event.

Advent of Physical Laws

Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, which brought estrangement from God, others, and self, occurred some time after Satan’s rebellion and impacted the entire human race and, thus, the world. Genesis 3 explains that sin leads to more work and more pain, implying that Adam and Eve experienced both work and pain before their rebellion against God. Genesis 2 explicitly states that Adam worked and ate in Eden before he sinned.Such work—including the digestion process—implies that the physical laws of gravity, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics took effect before Adam’s fall. These same physical laws remain in effect today.4

Are work and pain inherently bad? I think not. According to the book of Ecclesiastes, God designed work to be productive and enjoyable. Sin, however, destroys both the productivity and joy of work. This destruction forces individuals to work much harder than would otherwise be necessary. Pain has value, too. It is a necessary partner to physical pleasure. Pain also warns of impending danger. The introduction of sin, however, causes every person to experience more pain than would otherwise be necessary. More work and more pain were part of sin’s curse on humanity.

The existence of stars both before and after Eden tells me that physics did not change as a result of Adam’s sin. Those laws were already in place, prepared in advance to fulfill their important role in God’s grand plan. According to Genesis 1, stars predated the creation of humanity. Stellar burning involves virtually all the laws of physics and is extremely sensitive to the constant and continual operation of those laws.5 Even slight changes or interruptions in those laws mean that stable burning stars of the type necessary for the support of physical life cannot exist, and metabolic reactions, protein synthesis, and protein function become impossible. According to Revelation 20-21, the replacement of the laws of physics (see sidebar, “New Laws for the New Creation”) occurs at that moment when evil is finally and permanently eliminated (the Great White Throne Judgment). This timing suggests that the physical laws were intended to be part of God’s strategy for conquering sin.

Spiritual Purpose of Physical Laws

God’s design of gravity, electromagnetism, strong and weak nuclear forces, and thermodynamics yields this result: the more a person sins, the more work he must perform and the more pain he must experience. All of these laws contribute to the breakdown of a person’s body and the breakdown of everything he builds (e.g., a home, a relationship, or a career). Gravity results in increasing sag and stress over time. Electromagnetic radiation corrodes the surfaces of all structures. Nuclear laws cause change in the fundamental building blocks.

Because of their propensity to defy God, individuals need discipline. God’s act of ejecting Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden to the world outside, where they had to plant their own gardens and deal, for example, with “thorns and thistles,” helped set in motion the discipline they needed to understand that God’s ways are best. The propensity to do things their own way (as opposed to following God’s wisdom), consigned Adam and Eve and their descendents to experience much more work and much more pain.

The second law of thermodynamics guarantees that whatever a man organizes, whatever he designs, and whatever information he accumulates becomes increasingly disordered. However, sin speeds up the breakdown. For example, if a man abuses his tools, they become less productive and wear out faster, leading him to experience more pain and more work when he uses them. If he abuses his animals, his employees, or a woman who might become his spouse, their response to the abuse causes him more work, less pleasure, and more pain.

God designed the laws of physics to gently but firmly encourage humankind to depart from sin. As Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 5 and 6, not all sins bring identical harm. Some sins defile more than others. The way God designed the laws of physics, the more defiling the sin, the more pain and/or work it generates. And the more sin an individual commits, the more pain and work he experiences. The laws of physics, unlike parents, teachers, and supervisors, allocate consistent and timely retribution. Moreover, physics discipline never misses, never forgets. By God’s design, it is neither too much nor too little.

Universality of the Physical Laws

Jeremiah speaks about the fixity of the laws that govern the universe.6 Paul, in Romans, states that the entire creation has been subjected to the law of decay,7 an apparent reference to the second law of thermodynamics. Because the space-time dimensions of the universe are inextricably woven together, the time dimension of the universe cannot be separated from its space dimensions.8 Or, to put it another way, the geometry of the universe is such that time behaves as a space dimension subjecting the entire universe to the law of decay. This fact implies that the entire universe from its very beginning, from the beginning of time itself, experienced decay.

Many references elsewhere in the Bible confirm 1) the ongoing expansion of the universe from the beginning, 2) solar and stellar burning both before and after Adam’s fall, and 3) metabolic function in plants and animals.9 All of these phenomena are physically impossible without the continual operation of the second law of thermodynamics.

Gravity and electromagnetism, too, must be in continual operation since the cosmic creation event. The Bible states that the Sun, stars, Earth, and moon existed both before and after Adam. Likewise, Scripture states that electromagnetic light existed from the beginning of creation and remains the same. It also implies that the Earth and Sun maintain a stable configuration with respect to one another.

Straightforward astrophysics demonstrates that the kinds of stable burning stars essential for physical life cannot exist in this universe unless both gravity and electromagnetism retain their current values and operation for the entire history of the universe. Similarly, stable orbits of planets about stars and of electrons about the nuclei of atoms require the stability and constancy of both gravity and electromagnetism. Physical life also requires that all galaxies, stars, and planets, in fact, all matter and energy in the universe be situated on a three-dimensional surface. That surface must be very large and rapidly and continuously expanding. And thermodynamics require the complementary action of gravity and electromagnetism.

The fact that gravity, electromagnetism, and thermodynamics have continuously functioned since the cosmic creation event implies that God prepared, or preprogrammed, the universe to deal with sin. This occurred billions of years before sin became an issue in the physical universe; that is, billions of years before God allowed Satan to invade Eden. Further evidence, both scientific and biblical, suggests that God’s plan works in the most efficient manner possible.

The nature of the universe and the physical laws limit the maximum longevity of the human species on planet Earth as several thousand years only. Natural phenomena such as supernova eruptions, asteroid and comet collisions, accelerated cosmic expansion, and the inevitable termination of the silicate-carbonate cycle10 guarantee a relatively rapid extinction of the human species. In fact, scientists now see evidence that the pursuit of education and technology, crucial elements in the rapid advance of civilization (thus in fulfilling Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations) actually shortens the extinction time of the human species by escalating the deleterious mutation rate.11 And, increasing affluence produced by educational and technological advances has a negative impact on the human birth rate.

Extent of Sin’s Impact

The connection between the laws of physics and sin explain sin’s far-reaching impact. The groaning of creation in anticipation of release from sin has lasted fifteen billion years and affected a hundred billion trillion stars. The effective and efficient conquest of sin mandates a certain set of physical laws. These physical laws dictate that the universe manifests a certain space-time manifold and an even more highly specified expansion rate. That space-time manifold and expansion rate serve to limit the geographical realm for humanity. With great effort humans can make forays into different parts of this solar system. Visiting planets around other stars, however, is out of the question.12 Likewise, the physics of this present universe put a severe constraint on the window of time in cosmic history during which human existence is possible.13

Sin’s impact extends beyond the space-time manifold (or envelope) of the universe. For about four billion years (at least) of Earth’s history, at least a hundred million angels have witnessed the damage wrought by sin.14 This patient witness is part of God’s teaching the angels about His grace. Given their unique perspective on the breadth and depth of sin’s devastation, the angels can see and understand—more than you and I yet can—how costly Christ’s redemption of humanity is.

When God planned for His ultimate love relationship with humans, He chose to open Eden’s gate to Satan, the most magnificent and powerful of his angelic creations. After facing and—by God’s grace—overcoming Satan’s temptations, humans will never encounter a greater foe. Humanity’s exposure to sin (as devastating as it has been and continues to be) paves the way for Christ’s followers to receive and enjoy the rewards of the new creation and to fulfill their roles there. Without the training and maturation offered by exposure to sin and its consequences, humanity could look forward to nothing better than paradise, the pleasures of Eden. While paradise may seem wonderful compared to this sin-marred universe, it utterly pales in comparison to the future home provided by God for all who choose the redemption from sin Christ makes available through His death and resurrection.

Better Than Eden

God promised His worshippers a reward far beyond what anyone can imagine or comprehend.15 This second creation of God will one day (on an eighth creation day) supplant the first creation. (See “New Laws for a New Creation” sidebar.)

The Israelites’ exodus from Egypt and subsequent journey to the Promised Land offers a helpful analogy. Paradise (Eden) may be likened to Egypt at Moses’ time. Humanity’s journey through life’s trials and temptations resembles Israel’s wilderness (Sinai) wanderings. The new creation is roughly analogous to the land of promise (Canaan). Just as the Israelites struggled to imagine and anticipate the blessings of the Promised Land, people everywhere struggle to imagine and anticipate the rewards of the new creation.

The Israelites grumbled about their suffering in the wilderness and yearned to return to Egypt. People today complain about the training and discipline of this life and long for a return to Eden. Egypt was a land of plenty but also a land of slavery. Eden surely seems idyllic, but it holds humanity captive to electromagnetism, gravity, etc. During the aging process, individuals observe that joints and muscles gradually lose the battle against gravity. Skin and other cells break down under long-term exposure to electromagnetic radiation.

On a spiritual level, perpetual insecurity plagued Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. At every moment they were capable of the willful choice that would shatter their unique oneness with the Creator. In the new creation, everyone who has a relationship with Jesus Christ will forever enjoy perfect security. People will live safely beyond the severe testing of their free will, the testing faced in God’s first creation. It is past. No tougher test can confront them.

Adam and Eve and all humankind had to be confined to a single time dimension, one that can neither be stopped nor reversed so as to limit the fallout from their sin, including the number of people damaged by it. All who enter the new creation will be free from such time restrictions. The time confinement that limits each individual to just a few close relationships will be lifted.

Jesus often refers to believers in the new creation with singular nouns and pronouns.16 Those who join Him in the new creation are called His bride, and He says that all who live there will be one as He, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are one. The aspect of the oneness of God is illustrated in that the Father, Son, and Spirit are in continuous communication and fellowship with one another.17

For humans to experience this type of oneness, each person will be granted continuous communication and fellowship with one another. It appears somehow that all individuals will possess the capacity to communicate and relate simultaneously, intimately, and harmoniously with billions of others.

Our current dimensional limits (and sinful nature) make such communication and fellowship impossible. And yet for now, such limits are essential. One time dimension (in which time can neither be halted nor reversed) currently confines the impact of humans’ sin to only a limited number of people for a limited time. (In the equivalent of two time dimensions or more, a person’s sin could simultaneously impact billions of other people in an undiminished manner for an unlimited period of time.) With the new heavenly capacity for knowing and being known, loving and being loved by all other human beings simultaneously, the need for marriage and the nuclear family will be fully satisfied.

Whether God grants the capacity for continuous simultaneous communication and intimate fellowship with all other believers through the equivalent of two time dimensions or some other dimensional or transdimensional means is not revealed. However, we can know that with the elimination of sin, shame, embarrassment, and physical, mental, and spiritual defects, intimacy becomes safe and enjoyable in a manner impossible in this creation. The risk of being hurt or damaged in relationships will be gone forever.

People will no longer need to focus relationship resources on only one marriage partner, one nuclear and extended family, and a few dozen friends. Continuous enjoyment of all other members of the heavenly family provides something far superior to the pleasures of the very best of earthly relationships, including marriage.18 All this, and much more, awaits.

One day God will release humankind from the “playpen” of this universe with all of its restrictive dimensions and physics. He will usher those who worship Him into a new creation replete with physics and dimensions or transdimensions that permit ultimately satisfying relationships with Him and with one another. We will be rewarded to a degree far beyond what anyone can yet think or imagine.19 Until that time, each person can thank God for the discipline of physics.

Sidebar: New Laws for the New Creation

Revelation 21 declares that the law of decay (i.e., the second law of thermodynamics) will no longer exist in the new creation. The apostle John records that death, mourning, crying, and pain—four consequences of the decay law—will have no place in the new creation.1 In the new creation, people will apparently consume without incurring cost, further evidence of decay’s absence.

The description of a new Jerusalem suggests the absence of gravity (as we know it) in the new creation. This “city” (or structure) measures roughly 1500 miles long by 1500 miles wide by 1500 miles high, and it has corners.2 Thus, the New Jerusalem’s shape (a cube or pyramid) violates the law of gravity. Gravity forces any body larger than about 150 miles across into a spherical shape.

With electromagnetic radiation, light casts shadows and eclipses. In the new creation hot bodies such as the sun and the stars, the primary sources of light in the present universe, will no longer exist.3 Light will pervade all of the new creation, but not electromagnetic light, for there will be no darkness, no shadows.

The limitations of the space-time manifold of the universe are lifted in the new creation. Relationships are nonlinear (see subhead, Better Than Eden, and the paragraphs that follow). Nor will people be geographically limited as they are in the present universe. Physics and space will no longer confine individuals to the environs of one tiny planet. The common yearning to be in more than one place at a time as well as to be unrestricted by time will be fulfilled.

  1. John M. Templeton, The Humble Approach (New York: The Seabury Press, 1981). This is the first of many books and periodicals sponsored by John Templeton in the theme of humility theology.