The world is going to end. No, really, science proves it. Thanks to the second law of thermodynamics, the universe is rapidly decaying. Some day all available energy will be expended and all motion and life will cease. Astronomers and physicists have tested, and continue to test, this physical law every which way—but thus far, the verdict remains grim. The end is coming and there’s no escaping it.
In chapter 6 of his book, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, astronomer and RTB founder, Hugh Ross, explains that this particular “doomsday” scenario gained ground in the nineteenth century thanks to British physicist William Thomson (a.k.a. Lord Kelvin). According to Hugh, Thomson “pointed out that the universal dissipation of mechanical energy would inevitably lead to a complete diffusion of heat, the cessation of all motion, the exhaustion of potential energy, and a universal state of death.”
Thomson published this prediction in 1851–1852 (see his papers, here and here). Since then scientists have tried to find a way around this imminent, universal “heat death.” But the data consistently support a scenario such as Thomson described. Hugh explains that scientists can now “calculate exactly how the heat-death scenario will unfold.” He adds that they can also “determine how the different death events along the way will affect advanced life-forms, including human beings.”
The latest disaster film, 2012, depicts the world ending in the most spectacularly violent manner computer-generated special effects can provide. Fireballs plummet from space, mega-earthquakes rip continents apart (goodbye, California!), and tsunamis surge over Mount Everest. I guess that’s the type of scenario one might expect to see unfolding at the end of the world. But astronomers have painted a more likely—and far more chilling—picture that includes the eventual decrease in knowledge, the end of consciousness, and the end of meaning. (Astrophysicist Paul Davis lays out these dismal scientific forecasts in his lay-friendly book The Last Three Minutes. The Astrophysical Journal offers a more rigorous explanation.)
These gloomy predictions put a dent in the claims of naturalism and secular humanism. For example, the Council of Secular Humanism, in its Statement of Principles (2002), declares, “We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance.”
“Ironically, if the universe is it, as the Council asserts, then the pessimism and despair they vehemently deplore represents the only reasonable response to reality,” Hugh observes. “The truth we have learned is the inevitability of ignorance.”
But don’t panic…
There’s good news: (1) The universal heat death scenario at least is trillions and trillions of years away; (2) There is an escape route.
Contrary to the implications of the Council for Secular Humanism, the Bible is full of optimism, hope, knowledge, and truth. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus prefaces statements with “I tell you the truth.” And the truth is that Jesus is coming back to this Earth someday to claim those who belong to Him.
Which brings us to the topic of Christian obsession with the End Times (Left Behind, anyone?). In an article published in Christianity Today, Dudley Rutherford, pastor of Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch, CA, reminds believers, “The Bible makes it clear that no one knows the day or the hour…You can know the season when Jesus is coming back, but anytime someone makes a prophecy that this is the day, I know it’s not the day.”
Doomsday prophecies, like the one fueling panic over 2012, attempt to divine secret knowledge that God has deemed classified, as is His right to do so. Even Jesus said in Matthew 24:36, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Therefore, it is foolish to attempt to pin a date on Christ’s return.
Rather than working ourselves into a tizzy trying to calculate the time of the Second Coming, believers should “keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come….because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” It’s our job to obey His commands to spread the Good News.
As for the film, 2012, if the reviews are anything to go by, you’d probably be better off renting Independence Day. Same director, but at least it’s got aliens. And as Sandra pointed out last week, “audiences love aliens.”
And vampires. Check in next week for Sandra’s take on New Moon and an age-old human problem.
The biblical God’s offer of salvation is backed up by plentiful evidence of its validity. RTB offers a slew of resources addressing key aspects of the Christian worldview, such as the incarnation, resurrection, the historical and scientific accuracy of Scripture, and more.