The End


Let’s continue our walk on the Bible-side of the street. God had a purpose in creating the Universe.

The Universe will not always be as we know it. Indeed, The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) is a theme explored by both Science and the Bible, but the eschatology of Science is often far removed from the eschatology of the Bible.

The Bible speaks of how God has intervened in History. First, of course, He started the ball rolling (Gen. 1:1), but of more personal importance to us, He has miraculously intervened in the lives of men. Adam, Noah, Jesus. Each of these were at the center of a change in the order of things as God has steered the course of history, and Christians believe that Jesus will again be central in a final miraculous change that Ends The World As We Know It.

What does Science have to say about TEOTWAWKI? The predictions can be divided into three types:

•  The end of human civilization
•  The end of the Earth
•  The end of the Universe

The end of human civilization scenarios are generally based on either a natural or man-made disaster. The natural disasters can be further divided into cosmic threats and local-to-the Earth events. Cosmic threats are things such as asteroid strikes or the supernova of a nearby star. The local events could be things such as a pandemic, global warming, or a new ice age. [1] Man-made disasters could include severe environmental pollution, nuclear winter, or dysgenics. [2]

The end of the Earth scenarios are even more brutal but have a much longer time scale. In about 1.1 Gy, we can expect that the atmosphere will have lost all of its water vapor. This will be followed by the evaporation of the oceans into space over the next 2.4 Gy or so. At about the same time that the oceans are finally gone, the Milky Way (our galaxy) will collide with the Andromeda galaxy. The result should be very messy. The odds are that the Earth wouldn’t get hit by another planet or a star, but the gravitational/tidal forces will be extreme. If the solar system is still intact after the encounter with Andromeda, the Sun should expand to be a red giant star about 1.5 Gy later. Both the Earth and Mars would be swallowed. So the best Science gives us only another 5,000,000,000 years.

The end of the Universe should take a bit longer. Remember that we said that the age of the Universe is about 14 Gy. Things should keep running more or less as they have for quite a while. But at an age of 1014 years (or about 7000 times the present age of the Universe) things will begin to give out. Stars will no longer be able to form. At 1015 years, the orbits of the planets around the stars will begin to decay, and the last solar systems will collapse. At 1016 years, the orbits of the stars with their galaxies will begin to decay and the matter in galaxies implode. At around 1040 years, the decay will have progressed to the point that protons will no longer be able to exist. Finally, after 101000 years, [3] the Universe will have become so coldly uniform that nothing will be able to be distinguished from anything else. Even information will no longer exist.

Depressing scenarios aren’t they. The Bible has a different view of TEOTWAWKI:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth:  for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain:  for the former things are passed away.

—Revelation 21:1 … 4 (AV)

The Bible is clear that God is not done intervening in this world. Paul wrote to the church in Rome reminding them that Christians are now living though the labor pains of the birth of the age to come [4] that John described in the passage above.

God had a purpose in creating the Universe, and He had a purpose in creating man.  Genesis says that Adam was put in the Garden to tend it. God’s purpose for Man, or at least one purpose, is to care for the Earth. [5] What should we be doing to care for things while we wait for the the new age to be born?

Well, if we’re the caretakers of the Earth in its present form, we should learn all we can about it, and that is the proper role of Science. The knowledge we derive from Science is vital to our proper understanding of our place in the physical world. We must look for God’s truth wherever it may be seen.

Then we must apply our knowledge wisely. Our incomplete understanding of nature has led us to do things that have fouled our environment. While I don’t believe that we are powerful enough to completely ruin the planet God has given us, I do believe that we are capable of making the environment more miserable and less productive. We need to be better stewards.

I wrote in the Introduction that Science and Theology are both attempts to learn true things, but they usually use very different methods. As we’ve gone down the Science-side of the street, we’ve looked at what Science and the Bible have to say of about the origin of space and time. We’ve considered the spectrum of beliefs about the origins of the universe, the Earth, life, and man, and the nature of time and its relationship to God. We examined what our own DNA and the Bible reveal about the origin and nature of man, and at what physics, geology, chemistry, biology, and Genesis tell us about how the earth got to be like it is today. We looked at how astronomy reinforces the New Testament’s record of the life of Christ.

On the Bible-side we’ve seen how the truth of the Scriptures can inform our interpretation of Science. Science and the Bible are not to opposing ways of looking at the world. They are complementary ways of understanding different slices of God’s truth.

A God Who can say “Let there be …” and have things of unimaginable complexity happen is an awesome God. I hope that you leave this series of posts with a deeper sense of awe of the Almighty.

NOTES

[1] We’ve survived every pandemic to date (even the Plague outbreaks in the Middle Ages). Mars is currently undergoing more significant global warming than the Earth without a single SUV on the planet. We survived the last ice age as uncivilized hunter-gatherers.

[2] Most resource exploitation and manufacturing has moved from the developed world with its relatively tight regulation to the relatively unregulated third world. Before global warming became fashionable, some predicted we would freeze under the dust clouds stirred up by a nuclear war. Some worry that the people on the upper half of the IQ bell curve have fewer children than those on the lower half.

[3] 101000 is a 1 followed by one-thousand zeros.

[4] Romans 8:22.

[5] Genesis 2:15.

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