For a break from my "proof" series, here's a weekend mediation on Lazarus, time, entropy, and hope.
In my last post I spoke of entropy.
Now, I really hate entropy.
See, the law of entropy states that the entire universe is heading toward thermal equilibrium. Right now, due to gravity, we have a low entropy hot spot in our neck of the woods (i.e., the sun). And this local low entropy hot spot allows for energy to be harnessed by chemical systems (i.e., plants and animals) to fight the tidal flow of entropy for a season. But eventually the sun will expand and cool and this neighborhood of the cosmos will settle toward equilibrium. All the lights will dim and go out.
If cosmologists are correct, this local conclusion is, in microcosm, the destiny of the entire universe. Continued expansion, continued cooling all leading to a very cold, thin, uniform distribution of matter. It will be so cold, thin, and uniform no physical system of any complexity will be able to organize and persist over time.
Cosmologists call this general directionality of the cosmos "the arrow of time." That is, our sense of the flow of time seems intricately linked to the increase in entropy, locally and globally. For example, if I hand someone a picture of your car the day you bought it and a second picture of the car today could she determine which picture was taken first? How about these pictures:
Picture A: Your baby picture
Picture B: A picture of you today
Picture A: A broken egg
Picture B: An intact egg
Picture A: Milk in a glass
Picture B: Milk split on the floor
Picture A: Bill's corpse
Picture B: Bill alive and smiling
In each case we can easily find the Before and After picture. How? We place the low entropy picture Before and the high entropy picture After. Because everything tends toward decay and dissolution.
Decay is the Clock of the Universe. Dissolution is how we mark our days, we watch everything around us wind down, stop, and dissolve. Our cars, our homes, our books, our friends, our families, our universe, and, eventually, ourselves.
This is why I hate entropy so much. I'm surrounded, on a daily basis, by dying, decaying things. I myself am a dying, decaying thing. My car is about to hit 100,000 miles. It's a dying, decaying thing. I broke a plate today. It is a dying, decaying thing...
And you can't escape it. It's the flow of time. Death fills every second. Death IS every second.
And theses reflections also bring to mind a weakness in my prior post. Specifically, even if consciousness helps reduce entropy locally, this victory cannot be maintained over the long haul. Even if humans live for millions of years into the future, the sun is still going to go out. Even if consciousness is linked to entropy, it seems a futile and temporary victory.
So, again, I hate entropy.
Which is why I like this particular bible story:
John 11: 1-44
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."
When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
Then he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea."
"But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?"
Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light."
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up."
His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, 15and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."
Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."
And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. "The Teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you." When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied.
Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"
But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. "Take away the stone," he said.
"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."
Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."
Here's what I like about this story. It's not a story about death. Jesus had raised other people before. No, this was a big deal because death wasn't the enemy. The enemy was entropy:
"...for he has been there for four days."
The power of the miracle is not just resuscitation, but reversing four days worth of decay of an unembalmed body: Entropy. The miracle is not just about resurrection. The miracle is about the reversal of the tidal flow of time. Stopping and then reversing the Clock of the Universe.
So, yeah, I hate keeping time by watching things die around me. And I know my argument in the prior post only demonstrates that consciousness creates structure only for finite periods of time; that, in the end, entropy will win out.
But when I read John 11, I have a little hope. After the Clock of Entropy ticks midnight for the cosmos, I hope there will be a final Word.
Have a great weekend!
Welcome to the blog of Richard Beck, author and professor of psychology at Abilene Christian University.Experimental Theology is also available on the Kindle.
The Theology of Johnny Cash
The Theology of Faërie
The Little Way of St. Thérèse of Lisieux
The William Stringfellow Project (Ongoing)
- On Discoveries in Used Bookstores
- Two Brothers and Texas Rangers
- Visiting and Evolving in Monkey Town
- Roller Derby Girls
- A Life With Bibles
- Wearing a Crucifix
- Morning Prayer at San Buenaventura Mission
- The Halo of Overalls
- The Farmer's Market
- Subversion and Shame: I Like the Color Pink
- The Bureaucrat
- Uncle Richard, Vampire Hunter
- Palm Sunday with the Orthodox
- On Maps and Marital Spats
- Get on a Bike...and Go Slow
- Buying a Bible
- Memento Mori
- We Weren't as Good as the Muppets
- Uncle Richard and the Shark
- Growing Up Catholic
- Ghostbusting (Part 1)
- Ghostbusting (Part 2)
- My Eschatological Dog
- Tex Mex and Depression Era Cuisine
- Aliens at Roswell
On the Principalities and Powers
- Why I Talk about the Devil So Much
- The Preferential Option for the Poor
- The Political Theology of Les Misérables
- Good Enough
- On Anarchism and A**holes
- Christian Anarchism
- A Restless Patriotism
- Wink on Exorcism
- Images of God Against Empire
- A Boredom Revolution
- The Medal of St. Benedict
- Exorcisms are about Economics
- "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?"
- "A Home for Demons...and the Merchants Weep"
- Tales of the Demonic
- The Ethic of Death: The Policies and Procedures Manual
- "All That Are Here Are Humans"
- Ears of Stone
- The War Prayer
- Letter from a Birmingham Jail
- Eucharistic Identity
- Tzimtzum, Cruciformity and Theodicy
- Holiness Among Depraved Christians: Paul's New Form of Moral Flourishing
- Empathic Open Theism
- The Victim Needs No Conversion
- The Hormonal God
- Covenantal Substitutionary Atonement
- The Satanic Church
- Easter Shouldn't Be Good News
- The Gospel According to Lady Gaga
- Your God is Too Big
From the Prison Bible Study
- The Philosopher
- God's Unconditional Love
- There is a Balm in Gilead
- In Prison With Ann Voskamp
- To Make the Love of God Credible
- Piss Christ in Prison
- Advent: A Prison Story
- Faithful in Little Things
- The Prayer of Jabez
- The Prayer of Willy Brown
- Those Old Time Gospel Songs
- I'll Fly Away
- Singing and Resistence
- Where the Gospel Matters
- Monday Night Bible Study (A Poem)
- Living in Babylon: Reading Revelation in Prison
- Reading the Beatitudes in Prision
- John 13: A Story from the Prision Study
- The Word
Series/Essays Based on my Research
The Theology of Calvin and Hobbes
The Theology of Peanuts
Reflections on Gender and the Church
- Can Patriarchalists Pray the Lord's Prayer?
- Power and Gender: Among Us It Shall Be Different
- Call No Man on Earth Father
- Head Coverings: Why Female Hair is a Testicle
- A Letter to My Church on Women's Roles
- Pragmatics or Power in Patriarchy?
- Whores: A Meditation on Gender and the Bible
- On Masculine Christianity and Powerplays
- Thoughts on Mark Driscoll While I'm Knitting
- Ambivalent Sexism
- Direct Your Hearts to Her
- Gender, Submission and Ecosystems of Abuse
The Snake Handling Churches of Appalachia
- Part 1: A Peculiar People
- Part 2: The Eccentric God, Transcendence and the Prophetic Imagination
- Part 3: Welcoming God in the Stranger
- Part 4: Enchantment, the Porous Self and the Spirit
- Part 5: Doubt, Gratitude and an Eccentric Faith
- Part 6: The Eccentric Economy of Love
- Part 7: The Eccentric Kingdom
The Fuller Integration Lectures
Blogging about the Bible
- Unicorns in the Bible
- "Let My People Go!": On Worship, Work and Laziness
- The True Troubler
- Stumbling At Just One Point
- The Faith of Demons
- The Lord Saw That She Was Not Loved
- The Subversion of the Creator God
- Hell On Earth: The Church as the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Spirit
- The Things That Make for Peace
- The Lord of the Flies
- On Preterism, the Second Coming and Hell
- Commitment and Violence: A Reading of the Akedah
- Gain Versus Gift in Ecclesiastes
- Redemption and the Goel
- The Psalms as Liberation Theology
- Control Your Vessel
- Circumcised Ears
- Forgive Us Our Trespasses
- Doing Beautiful Things
- The Most Remarkable Sequence in the Bible
- Targeting the Dove Sellers
- Christus Victor in Galatians
- Devoted to Destruction: Reading Cherem Non-Violently
- The Triumph of the Cross
- The Threshing Floor of Araunah
- Hold Others Above Yourself
- Blessed are the Tricksters
- Adam's First Wife
- I Am a Worm
- Christus Victor in the Lord's Prayer
- Let Them Both Grow Together
- Here I Am
- Becoming the Jubilee
- Sermon on the Mount: Study Guide
- Treat Them as a Pagan or Tax Collector
- Going Outside the Camp
- Welcoming Children
- The Song of Lamech and the Song of the Lamb
- The Nephilim
- Shaming Jesus
- Pseudepigrapha and the Christian Witness
- The Exclusion and Inclusion of Eunuchs
- The Second Moses
- The New Manna
- Salvation in the First Sermons of the Church
- "A Bloody Husband"
- Song of the Vineyard
Bonhoeffer's Letters from Prision
Civil Rights History and Race Relations
- The Gospel According to Ta-Nehisi Coates (Six Part Series)
- Bus Ride to Justice: Toward Racial Reconciliation in the Churches of Christ
- Black Heroism and White Sympathy: A Reflection on the Charleston Shooting
- Selma 50th Anniversary
- More Than Three Minutes
- The Passion of White America
- Remembering James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman
- Will Campbell
- Sitting in the Pews of Ebeneser Baptist Church
- MLK Bedtime Prayer
- Freedom Rider
- Freedom Summer
- Civil Rights Family Trip 1: Memphis
- Civil Rights Family Trip 2: Atlanta
- Civil Rights Family Trip 3: Birmingham
- Civil Rights Family Trip 4: Selma
- Civil Rights Family Trip 5: Montgomery
The Charism of the Charismatics
Would Jesus Break a Window?: The Hermeneutics of the Temple Action
- Instead of a Coffee Shop How About a Laundromat?
- A Million Boring Little Things
- A Prayer for ISIS
- "The People At Our Church Die A Lot"
- The Angel of Freedom
- Washing Dishes at Freedom Fellowship
- Where David Plays the Tambourine
- On Interruptibility
- This Ritual of Hallowing
- Faith as Honoring
- The Beautiful
- The Sensory Boundary
- The Missional and Apostolic Nature of Holiness
- Open Commuion: Warning!
- The Impurity of Love
- A Community Called Forgiveness
- Love is the Allocation of Our Dying
- Freedom Fellowship
- Van Ministry
- Wednesday Night Church
- The Hands of Christ
- Barbara, Stanley and Andrea: Thoughts on Love, Training and Social Psychology
- Gerald's Gift
- Wiping the Blood Away
- This Morning Jesus Put On Dark Sunglasses
- The Only Way I Know How to Save the World
- The Reason We Gather
- Anointing With Oil
- Incarnations of God's Mercy
Scripture and Discernment
- Owning Your Protestantism: We Follow Our Conscience, Not the Bible
- Emotional Intelligence and Sola Scriptura
- Songbooks vs. the Psalms
- Biblical as Sociological Stress Test
- Cookie Cutting the Bible: A Case Study
- Pawn to King 4
- Allowing God to Rage
- Poetry of a Murderer
- On Christian Communion: Killing vs. Sexuality
- Heretics and Disagreement
- Atonement: A Primer
- "The Bible says..."
- The "Yes, but..." Church
- Human Experience and the Bible
- Discernment, Part 1
- Discernment, Part 2
- Rabbinic Hedges
- Fuzzy Logic
Interacting with Good Books
- Christian Political Witness
- The Road
- Powers and Submissions
- City of God
- Playing God
- Torture and Eucharist
- How Much is Enough?
- From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart
- The Catonsville Nine
- Daring Greatly
- On Job (Gutiérrez)
- The Selfless Way of Christ
- World Upside Down
- Are Christians Hate-Filled Hypocrites?
- Christ and Horrors
- The King Jesus Gospel
- The Bible Made Impossible
- The Deliverance of God
- To Change the World
- Sexuality and the Christian Body
- I Told Me So
- The Teaching of the Twelve
- Evolving in Monkey Town
- Saved from Sacrifice: A Series
- Darwin's Sacred Cause
- A Secular Age
- The God Who Risks
- The Dark Spell the Devil Casts: Refugees and Our Slavery to the Fear of Death
- Philia Over Phobia
- Elizabeth Smart and the Psychology of the Christian Purity Culture
- On Love and the Yuck Factor
- Ethnocentrism and Politics
- Flies, Attention and Morality
- The Banality of Evil
- Regarding Sex
- The Ovens at Buchenwald
- Violence and Traffic Lights
- Defending Individualism
- Guilt and Atonement
- The Varieties of Love and Hate
- The Wicked
- Moral Foundations
- Primum non nocere
- The Moral Emotions
- The Moral Circle, Part 1
- The Moral Circle, Part 2
- Taboo Psychology
- The Morality of Mentality
- Moral Conviction
- Holiness and Moral Grammars
The Purity Psychology of Progressive Christianity
The Theology of Everyday Life
- Self-Esteem Through Shaming
- Let Us Be the Heart Of the Church Rather Than the Amygdala
- Online Debates and Stages of Change
- The Devil on a Wiffle Ball Field
- Incarnational Theology and Mental Illness
- Social Media as Sacrament
- The Impossibility of Calvinistic Psychotherapy
- Hating Pixels
- Dress, Divinity and Dumbfounding
- The Kingdom of God Will Not Be Tweeted
- The Ethics of :-)
- On Snobbery
- The F-word
- Can you sin on a deserted island?
- Everything I learned about life I learned coaching tee-ball
- Gossip, Part 1: The Food of the Brain
- Gossip, Part 2: Evolutionary Stable Strategies
- Gossip, Part 3: The Pay it Forward World
- Sinning in Your Heart?, Part 1: The Morality of Mentality
- Human Nature
- On Humility
Jesus, You're Making Me Tired: Scarcity and Spiritual Formation
A Progressive Vision of the Benedict Option
- Love and Freedom
- On Hell and Holocausts: Comparing Annihilationism and Universalism
- Being Hopeful and Dogmatic
- Holiness in Heaven?
- Universalism and the New Perspective on Paul
- A Googolplexian Hell
- The Best Ending to the Christian Story: An Exchange with Daniel Kirk
- Universalism and the Bondage of the Will
- Universalism and the Prophetic Imagination
- Universalism and Theodicy
- Universalism FAQ & Answers
- Universalism: A Summary Defense
- Why I Am a Universalist Series (and Resources)
Jesus & the Jolly Roger: The Kingdom of God is Like a Pirate
Alone, Suburban & Sorted
The Theology of Monsters
Original Sin: A New View
The Theology of Ugly
A Walk with William James
- Part 1: The Jamesian Situation
- Part 2: Habit
- Part 3: Belief as Vote
- Part 4: Pragmatism and the Emerging Church
- Part 5: Theology is a Fork
- Part 6: Ontological Emotion
- Part 7: Religious Surrender
- Part 8: Introverts at Church
- Part 9: Bubbles in the Sun
- Part 10: Ghostbusting
- Part 11: The Empirical Trace
- Part 12: Saintliness
Preparing for the Cartesian Storm (Free Will & Souls in the Age of Neuroscience)
Musings On Faith, Belief, and Doubt
- The Meanings Only Faith Can Reveal
- Pragmatism and Progressive Christianity
- Doubt and Cognitive Rumination
- A/theism and the Transcendent
- Kingdom A/theism
- The Ontological Argument
- Cheap Praise and Costly Praise
- Wired to Suffer
- A New Apologetics
- Orthodox Alexithymia
- High and Low: The Psalms and Suffering
- The Buddhist Phase
- Skilled Christianity
- The Two Families of God
- The Bait and Switch of Contemporary Christianity
- Theodicy and No Country for Old Men
- Doubt: A Diagnosis
- Faith and Modernity
- Faith after "The Cognitive Turn"
- The Gifts of Doubt
- A Beautiful Life
- Is Santa Claus Real?
- The Feeling of Knowing
- Practicing Christianity
- In Praise of Doubt
- Skepticism and Conviction
- Pragmatic Belief
- N-Order Complaint and Need for Cognition
The Theology of Humor
Game Theory and the Kingdom of God
- Everything I Learned about Christmas I Learned from TV
- Advent: Learning to Wait
- A Christmas Carol as Resistance Literature: Part 1
- A Christmas Carol as Resistance Literature: Part 2
- It's Still Christmas
- Easter Shouldn't Be Good News
- The Deeper Magic: A Good Friday Meditation
- Palm Sunday with the Orthodox
- Growing Up Catholic: A Lenten Meditation
- The Liturgical Year for Dummies
- "Watching Their Flocks at Night": An Advent Meditation
- Pentecost and Babel
- Ambivalence about Lent
- On Easter and Astronomy
- Sex Sandals and Advent
- Freud and Valentine's Day
- Existentialism and Halloween
- Halloween Redux: Talking with the Dead
- Batman and the Joker
- The Theology of Ugly Dolls
- Jesus Would Be a Hufflepuff
- The Moral Example of Captain Jack Sparrow
- Weddings Real, Imagined and Yet to Come
- Michelangelo and Neuroanatomy
- Believing in Bigfoot
- The Kingdom of God as Improv and Flash Mob
- 2012 and the End of the World
- Chocolate Jesus
- The Polar Express and the Uncanny Valley
- Why the Anti-Christ Is an Idiot
- On Harry Potter and Vampire Movies