Everything I Know, I Learned from a Bacterial Colony


For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made Romans 1:20

Similar principles operate in physical and spiritual realms.  We are continuing to explore principles of God’s physical creation that are analogous to actions in the spiritual realms as described in scripture.  If we as Christians do not take natural laws into account when interpreting the scripture, we sell ourselves short and cut off much of our own bandwidth to the revelation that God has provided concerning His plan for us. 

Most conservative Christians believe that the Bible is the source of absolute truth, but there comes with this belief a certain sense of obligation to properly interpret the scripture.  Sometimes, however, it is a problem to differentiate truth from our traditional doctrine and interpretations which have been classically considered a direct derivation from the truth. 

It is difficult to maintain a balance between a closed canon and a completed revelation on one side and the other side having spiritual growth and increase in understanding of what the Bible has to say to our lives.  There are differences in the definition of “revelation.”   Does revelation mean additions to the accepted recording of what Jesus said while on this earth and what His apostles wrote empowered by the Holy Spirit (i.e., New Testament) – most notable example being the Latter Day Saints (Mormons)?  Is revelation those insights into meanings of passages that we did not understand before or into new applications to our life situations?  The Holy Spirit may reveal truth to us individually as we are ready to receive and apply it to our lives, but it may be a personal revelation and not one that has application to everyone, or that is intended to be a binding church doctrine.

Three sources of revelation that bear a consistent, true witness.  But we do have sources of revelation of God all around us that has not yet been totally discovered.  Matters dealing with the revelation of God seem to go in threes – three testimonies (1 John 5:7), three holy relationships (Trinity), and three sources of revelation.  They all testify in concert with one another.  The three sources of revelation are the teachings and example of Jesus Christ as contained in the scripture (and other scripture leading up to it), the Holy Spirit that guides us into all truth (John 16:13), and the physical creation – the things that God has made – testifying to the divine nature (Rom. 1:20).  All of these sources bear witness to God.  The Spirit of God moved across the waters (Gen. 1:2); Jesus taught the words of the Father (John 8:28-29); the Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus and speaks His words (John 16:13-16); the creation reveals the divine nature of God (Rom. 1:20); and everything was made through Christ (Col. 1:16-17). 

It is all linked together.  Shall we reject the testimony of the revelation of God that He, Himself, has provided by separating the operation of spiritual principles from those laws within the physical realms?  Who has authorized this separation?  Has the One who created all of it said that we should dismiss some of the revelation? 

But, instead of integrating sources of revelation, we have polarized.  Theologians, particularly Christians, have felt a responsibility to protect the doctrine once delivered to the saints, which is more their own finite understanding and interpretation of ancient writings than the unchanging word of God.  Change has been slow to occur and new discoveries of insights into God’s word have often not been received well.  On the other hand, scientists have generally emphasized discovery, but have been slow to accept or defend sacred immutable truths.  The theological side protects their doctrines and bends discoveries into compliance while those who claim to believe in human reason and wisdom call any belief in a deity superstitious; and the more personal God is to a believer, the more criticism this way of thinking deserves.

Is the word of God living, or not; or is it not dead, but just stagnant?  Is God’s word supposed to be stagnant?  Have we been charged with the protection of God’s word from contamination from alien beings?  The church is the body of Christ, but we are the body guards?  Can we be like the one-talent man who buried his talent when we should be like the five talent man who doubled his investment? 

The scripture says God’s word is alive.  The word through Moses was alive (Acts 7:38); the words from Jesus were from the Father living in Him (John 14:10); the word of God is living and enduring (1 Pet. 1:23).

Heb 4:12  For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

The word is alive because it has to grow into maturity and bear fruit.  The word is living and active, but our doctrinal interpretations are entombed in “carbonite” and we are as sight challenged as was Hans Solo. 

God is the creator of all.  God is the creator of heavens and the earth.  God spoke and physical matter and energy came into existence along with the laws to govern the natural realm.  God created the spiritual realm as we try to conceive of it through the scriptures.  Given the common source, it would seem inconsistent to not have analogies and correlations between how things work in the physical realm and the spiritual realm.  We separate the physical from spiritual to our own detriment.  In doing so, we lose valuable information about how God works, about His will and expectation, and about His plan for us and for His church.  Christians can be so protective of the doctrines and interpretations they have created that there isn’t time to discover new truths in God’s living and active word. 

Spiritual truths illustrated in physical laws.  Jesus used physical world stories to illustrate spiritual principles in parables.  While these stories are physically and biologically accurate in what they say, they used words and plots that were understood in the first century – seeds, soils, orchards, vines, fruit, harvest, weather.  We understand that the parables use relatively simple physical truths to illustrate profound spiritual principles concerning the nature of God.  Therefore, we know it’s not good exegesis to take the parables and try to make 21st century scientific textbooks out of them.  Jesus’ authority to speak spiritual truths in physical illustrations was confirmed by the signs and miracles that showed His authority over all elements of the physical world.  After all, everything that has been created was made through Him (Col. 1:16-17).

There are many more spiritual truths in the scripture that could be discovered, but are waiting to “catch up” with for our human technical knowledge so the analogies can be seen.  A great deal of insight into the revelation of God and His plan for us can be seen when passages of scripture are interpreted in light of correlations with the same principles that were created to operate in the physical realm. 

The church is territorial with its doctrinal turf.  “Quit sitting on your doctrines and get up and attack the gates of hell.”  As the exponential increase in scientific and technical knowledge continues through discovery, more and more of the principles of creation are understood in greater detail.  Our rate of increase of human knowledge derived from natural scientific discovery continues to exceed the rate of understanding of the revelation of God as taught and modeled through the Word of God.  This dichotomy in rate of discovery between the physical and spiritual realms has presented a problem for many centuries.  The church has been slow to accept any change.  The church used to take traditional interpretations of selected scriptures and canonize what was considered at the time to be a scientific fact.  When a scientific discovery was made that opposed these views, sometimes made by clergy who also were scientists, the person discovering the new data was persecuted and the new data were condemned by the church – and sometimes people were killed for heresy.  Ideas that we would consider illiterate today were defended as doctrine, such as a flat earth and the earth as center of the universe. 

Similar tendencies exist today.  Some people still hold to Archbishop James Ussher’s calculation of a traditional time of the evening before Sunday, October 23, 4004 BC for the creation of the world in 6 x 24 hour days.  Although this was considered a scholarly piece of work in 1654, there is little credible scientific evidence known today that could support that date.  This date, or a similar one of a young earth age, is assumed to be correct by many Christians who aren’t familiar with the evidence themselves but are familiar with the theological castigations directed toward “all those evolutionary atheists,” which is a reference often made about scientists in general.  This territorial divide between a traditional interpretation of the Genesis creation account and the scientific evidence restricts people’s appreciation of the necessity of both science and theology in a more complete understanding of the nature of God.   

Carefully defending the right to commit error.  In this way, theologians have committed both of what statistics calls Type I and Type II errors.  One error is making an incorrect conclusion from a sampling of data and the other error is saying no correct answer is there, when it is, but it was missed.  Both types of errors miss the truth – both make the wrong assumptions.  One error finds a conclusion which is not true and the other error can look at the correct conclusion but call it wrong.  Type I errors are made by those insisting on a virtually unsupportable 6 day creation scheme that is preconditioned by a narrow view of scriptural interpretation, and calling it “literal.”   The same people make Type II errors when they claim that almost all scientific evidence consistent with an “old earth” has to be wrong because it doesn’t match their preconceived conclusions.  An outcome of these errors in interpreting Genesis 1-3 is that the same approach is carried over to other passages in both Old and New Testaments, and using scientific knowledge to help interpret biblical passages is either ignored or deemed theologically unacceptable.   As a result we limit ourselves in understanding the revelation of God and in our growing to be like God.  Because Christians fall so short in understanding the magnitude of what God has provided through Christ and through His Spirit, the shortage is often filled with whatever else is handy -- the empty inflated balloon of humanistic thinking. 

The truth of God’s nature is expressed through revelation, and God has given three sources of revelation that are to be used together to add understanding and completeness.  We have not yet discovered all the meanings of every verse in the Bible; we have not yet heard all the teaching of the Holy Spirit; we have not yet discovered everything there is to possibly know about our physical universe. 

Before getting into a discussion of correlating principles between the physical and spiritual realms, there are a few brief definitions of terms that will be needed, although a more complete explanation will be given later. 

Thermodynamics deals with energy, specifically the transfer of energy involving heat.  There are three Laws that govern nature; the first two will be briefly defined here.

First Law of Thermodynamics -- Conservation of Mass and Energy – Energy can change form, but it cannot be created or destroyed.  You’ve got what you started with.

Second Law of Thermodynamics – Entropy – Nothing is 100% energy efficient – In reactions involving energy conversion, some of the energy will end up in a useless form called “entropy.”  This is a dead end – no more useful energy can be extracted.  The natural course is for energy states to go lower, into greater disorder or chaos.  High entropy is disorder; low entropy is order.  If all energy available has been converted to entropy, there is no useful energy left in the system.  This could be analogous to death, at least from the perspective of a living organism.

Isolated, closed or open system.  A isolated system is thermodynamically sealed so that there can be no input of new energy or matter over that which was present at the origin.  An open system has a source of new energy which is continuous or at least over and above that energy placed into the system at creation.  Outside energy, but not matter, can cross into a closed system.

Outside energy source – new energy source outside the system – With the accumulation of entropy in a isolated system, all reactions within an isolated system will eventually come to a halt, since entropy is high and no more useful energy can be obtained.  In an open system, the energy systems do not have to halt because new energy needs are supplied from outside the system. 

The universe.  One simple statement of the second law is “The universe is running down.”  That statement assumes that the universe is a isolated system and that no additional energy was put into this closed system after the initial “big bang.”  Therefore, inside this isolated system, the law of entropy operated without opposition or without any introduction of replacement new energy.  There are natural limits assumed within the universe upon which operational theories and laws are based – such as, there is no speed greater than the speed of light and there is no temperature lower than “absolute zero,” at which point all heat has been removed and all motion stops.

Cycle – a repetitive process, usually continuous, that can be described mathematically in the pattern of a circle, coil, or wave.  The components of a cycle are often predictable because the responses or outcomes of processes are dependent on precursors and substrates in the same relationship as in previous phases. 

As in the case of Newton’s laws of motion, newer mathematical modeling has been developed to define more recent physical observations in the universe – (eg., theories of relativity, bending of time, mathematics of black holes, quantum theory, etc).  However, the principles of the laws of thermodynamics, as those principles of the laws of motion, accurately describe the natural controls that govern our environment within which we interact and those things that affect our lives.  These principles of these natural laws governing our experience of everyday life correlate with, and allow considerable insight into, spiritual principles given in scripture – particularly those of sowing to the Spirit or flesh and reaping life or destruction, transformation into the likeness of God, spiritual growth, metamorphosis, being clothed with Christ, and the genetics of the new creation.

Direction for future posts (as presently envisioned)

That being said, the following few paragraphs give some goals – what we will attempt to show in future posts – using some logic, some data from scientific experiments, some exegesis from the scripture, and some revelation from the Spirit through prayer about the meanings of some very complex things.  This is a work in progress that is being developed and modified along the way and is subject to revision.

God created the physical universe from nothing that can be physically measured in energy, matter, dimensional space, or time.  Perhaps we could assume there was a transfer of power from outside the physical realm – perhaps being from “another universe” or from the spiritual realm where God exists.  But this transfer provided a link between the two realms from the beginning.

Understanding the above principles necessitates deriving truth from the logos of God expressed in creation as well as in the recorded word.  The laws and principles in the physical realm that apply to processes in the spiritual realm include the laws of motion, the laws of thermodynamics, evolution, genetics, sowing and reaping, cycles, and quantum mechanics.

A foundation for understanding many of the above principles can be illustrated by the life cycle of a bacterial colony under specifically controlled tissue culture conditions.


A riddle:  “It was the best of days; it was the worst of days.”  And all in a total of only three days.
What am I?

Common laws govern physical processes.  There are certain processes in nature that follow along specific pathways ending with predictable outcomes.  This occurs because these processes are governed by forces termed “Laws of Nature” that quantitatively describe how matter interacts with energy in the physical realm.  These Laws control simple processes as well as more complex ones, allowing studies of relatively simple processes to help understand the same principles in the more complex.  This similarity allows such things as drugs that effectively treat disease in humans to be first researched using more simple systems, such as bacteria and rats.  Bacteria and rats can also be studied to predict or understand some behavioral outcomes of certain situations involving “natural” human thinking, endeavor, and society.

Generation time.  Many changes in human sociological settings are termed “generational.”  This is because aspects of the environment may be viewed differently by the “current generation” compared to the “previous generation.”  The thinking and attitudes of groups within society may be characterized with terms such as “pre-war,” “post-war,” “baby-boomer,” “generation x,” etc.  Societies evolve and get weaker or stronger based on their response to their environment.  People who can adapt to situations positively usually come out ahead.  People who are destructive usually don’t come out ahead and may, in fact, ruin the environment even for those who are not destructive.  The generational concept can also be used to describe businesses or other types of aggregated human endeavor, such as sports teams and churches.  Sometimes, the offspring of the family founding a business might not have the same zeal and dedication for the work, and the business may be sold or may decline and eventually fail.  A vision carried by those who started a congregation in an area may not be maintained with the same fervor by later members, and the original dedication may become diluted and the focus of the work changed, causing the effectiveness and productivity to decline until the group can’t sustain itself anymore. 

The rate of such changes often follows a generational time frame.  The identification of major society changes in America are often associated with about a 20 year reproductive cycle; in a cage of rats, less than a year; and in a colony of some bacterial strains, as short as every 20 minutes.   The evolution and consequence of change in each of these biological systems are similar because they all must obey the same natural laws.  Therefore, the phases of growth and decline in a bacterial colony over a period of days are in many ways analogous in principle to the changes in a human social structure occurring over years and decades.  In a human society, the rate of change over decades can be so subtle and slow that small changes along the way may be unnoticed.  However, in a bacterial society, it is easier to identify and analyze these life cycle changes because they can occur within as little as 3 days.  If we can see the generational life cycle of an organism in 3 days and compare to our own of about 75 years (+/-), think of the comparison of human generational time viewed by an eternal God. 

Why can we find important information from bacteria?  Is there a secret mysterious message hidden in the bacteria, place there over a million years ago, with its formation programmed in advance over 16 million years ago by a supreme intelligence?  Are we now going to get a series of movies, “Planet of the Bacteria?” 

Actually, bacteria are interesting creatures.  They are among the oldest life forms on earth.  They are highly adaptive to environmental conditions.  Bacteria adapt by spontaneous mutation, survival in a selective and competitive environment, and rapid cell division.  Bacteria have developed chemical signals between cells, growth factors.  Bacterial colonies have developed patterns of differentiation, when some cells specialize in certain phases of metabolism, while other cells develop in other areas, all for the benefit of the survival of the colony.  Bacteria develop antibiotic resistance, which is bad for treatment of human disease but good from a bacterial perspective.  Bacteria continue to exist and survive using whatever method it takes. 

A bacterium metabolizes substrates into products for energy using the same types of organelles and reactions as humans -- the same physical laws apply.  A bacterial colony is a social network with interactions between organisms that affect the entire group.  A question can be simplified by experimental control of the environment – the nutrients and physical conditions supplied to the culture dish.  The time between cell divisions is short enough that answers to questions can be quickly obtained. 

Bacteria in the “wild” (free-growing in nature) have an almost limitless environment compared to those grown under controlled laboratory conditions.  But while bacteria in the wild are freer to adapt as situations change, under certain circumstances, they can become instruments of their own destruction.  Bacteria in the wild can have a life cycle similar to those in culture – it just may take longer and be the sum of many “cultures.”  Although resources are more plentiful in natural surroundings, the supply can still be exhausted.

The question and the experimental setup.  (Some word definitions are in the previous post).   The question is:  What happens to the organized social structure of a life form over time when it is placed in a controlled and closed-system environment and subjected to the same 1st and 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics that God ordained to control the natural realm?

The experiment needed here is one in which all the conditions are carefully controlled to reduce the number of variables so a cause-effect or stimulus-response link can be more validly established.

In this experiment, the bacteria will not have to adapt to a strange new environment – just deal the depletion of the environment in which they start.  The cells will begin on a physical substrate (culture plate) that is suitable for rapid growth; they will be provided the optimal concentrations of all needed nutrients; the medium will be at the exact right pH; the culture plate will be incubated at the optimal temperature.  The environment will initially be made as ideal as possible for the culture to grow and reproduce at maximum capacity. 

The only snag is that, from the standpoint of the bacteria, this is a closed system.  The matter that culture starts with is all it gets.  There are stable and optimal conditions to start with, but the quantity of matter and energy the cells have at the beginning of the experiment will not change.  The system is thermodynamically closed, and no additional energy resource will be added from the outside.  (No matter to convert to energy)  The 1st Law will be satisfied - no matter or energy created or destroyed, but it is held constant in a closed system.  So, the culture is locked up with that troll called the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, and the outcome of cellular negotiations with entropy will determine what happens to the bacterial society over time.  The culture is essentially isolated as well, since without new matter (precursors) there will be no energy production.

 Bacterial cells from an existing viable colony are transferred to a new dish with optimum concentrations of nutrients and other necessities in the medium.  The starting number of cells is measured, and the dish is placed in an incubator.  Culture growth characteristics are measured over time.  The illustrations in the figure to the left use one culture dish.  In an actual experiment, the same number of cells would be added to replicate plates and all incubated together for comparison and to have plates to examine at different time points.   An actual experiment may grow cells in suspension rather than on a plate; cells may be dispersed rather then located in a colony.   A strain of bacterial cells may have a different rate of binary fission (division) than the rate assumed in this description.  The exact details of the results might be different – the life cycle may be a week instead of three days – but, the biological principles are not changed.

For convenience of discussion, the procedure and results are described here; but this is not a new experiment.  It is a classic experiment that has been performed so many times that the results are well known.  The entire experiment and results are described on Wikipedia.  

Results:  Life cycle phases of a bacterial colony grown under controlled conditions

As diagramed in the figure to the left (adapted from Wikipedia), under the conditions of this experiment, the life cycle of a bacterial colony goes through four identifiable stages - A, the Lag Phase, B, the Log Growth Phase, C, the Steady-State (Stationary) Phase, and, D, the Death Phase.  The players in the different phases of this scenario are qualitatively the same: (1) contact inhibition of cellular processes, (2) availability of nutrients for energy, and (3) relative accumulation of toxic metabolic waste.  The difference between the phases is the quantitative proportion of each of these three major factors relative to each other.

Under the assumptions given here, if the bacterial colony were to start with two cells that would divide and each cell thereafter continue to divide every 20 minutes and maintain that rate over a period of 72 hours, and if all cells survived, there would be about 1065 cells in the dish (10 to the 65th power = 10 with 65 zeros after it).  But, instead, the bacterial colony is dead.  What happened?

A. The Lag Phase.  After the initial seeding of bacteria into the new environment, the cells have to metabolically “ramp up” to prepare for cell division.  This is time for an increase in RNA, protein synthesis, uptake pumps for nutrients, energy metabolism, etc.  Since substrates are essentially unlimited, all enzymes can operate at their maximum velocity, generating a maximum rate of product and energy.

B.  The Log Phase – the Exponential Growth Phase.  Once cell division starts under these ideal conditions, it proceeds at a maximum rate, which in our description is a doubling in cell population every 20 minutes.  Get a calculator and program 2x2 with 2 as a constant multiplier times the previous product as the variable, and push the =’s key 216 times.  That is the total number of cells if the initial rate could be maintained and if all cells survived.  But this growth rate cannot be sustained; the environment changes; “let the happy times roll” cannot play forever.  Anthrobacteriolistically speaking, maybe it’s greed or selfishness or “every bacterium for itself,” but the culture as a whole becomes the enemy of the individual cell.   Given a longer period of time and over many generations, bacteria can develop (evolve) many ingenious ways for individual cells to promote colony survival.  But, in this case, each cell individually does its own thing without regard for the effect on the colony as a whole; but then it reaches a depletion point when this cannot be sustained, and the expended resources for the colony become toxic to the individual cell.  The bacteria reap what they have sown.  What begins as "every cell for itself" will end as "we all die."

C.  The Steady-State Phase – the Stationary Phase.  Problems develop in bacterial paradise.  Conditions drop from optimal to rate-limiting.  Total cell number no longer increases but stays about the same because as many cells are dying as new cells are being formed by division.  There are reasons for this:

[1] Overcrowding.  The colony develops layers, with the cells formed most recently nearer the surface.  An older core of cells is buried – those cells once bathed in a total supply of nutrients – those cells that got the colony established.  Like an inner city that cannot be renewed or removed. 

[2] Transportation problems.  Nutrients are move available on the colony surface than in the interior.  Diffusion is limited and most of the nutrients are utilized by more superficial cells.  Cells in the inner core are deprived of nutrients and oxygen. 

[3] Depletion of resources.  Nutrients needed for energy production are utilized over time and are not replenished.  Concentrations of substrates decrease which makes enzyme velocity decrease.  Metabolism slows, including the rate of cell division.  Resources recklessly used at the beginning are now scarce, and no plan for conservation or regeneration was made.

[4] Cell membrane surface covered by other cells.  The cell surface contains the uptake sites for nutrients, and the surface is taken up by contact with other cells.  Chemical signals for “contact inhibition” are released that tell cells to begin reducing their metabolic rate from that necessary for division to that needed for just maintenance.  Later the cells will revert to the minimal metabolism for bare survival. 

[5] Entropy increases as does toxic waste.  As substrates for energy are utilized, products that are metabolically useless pile up.  Entropy is low at the surface and high in the deeper layers.  Entropy is the “dead-end” for molecules that are useless for energy.  Some of these molecules represent “toxic waste” products.  Because of overcrowding, the toxic waste cannot diffuse away from the cells, but is trapped in the inner layers.  Cells that exist in conditions where nutrients are exhausted, oxygen tension is low, and toxic waste is high begin to die. 

[6] As cells die, membrane barriers are compromised and other enzymes are released that break down cell components.  These enzymes utilize cell components as substrates and unselectively attack other cells from the deeper layers of the colony to the surface.

This process continues until more cells are dying than are being newly formed, so the colony population decreases. 

D.  The Death Phase.  As the above processes continue, more cells die than divide, so the colony population declines.  As more cells shut down metabolically and stop dividing, chemical changes become irreversible.  Once the cell death signal has been given, cells would die even if the environment changed.  The cell culture that once was doubling in number every 20 minutes has now depleted its resources, and it dies of starvation and in its own generated toxic waste. 

Pretending bacteria could think, perhaps they were so busy with each cell doing their thing that they didn't have time to notice the climate changes until it was affecting each cell personally, but by the time the bad conditions finally got their attention, it was too late to change.

In a closed system, entropy inevitably wins.  That’s the natural world.  That’s how God created it. 

In terms of cell counts, the graph looks as the log cell # count vs. time (blueish colored graph above); however, in terms of logistics of the life of the colony, it is diagrammed as a cycle (left).

The genetically programmed thermodynamic behavioral dynamic of a bacterial society -- how universal is the application to all natural life cycles?  

Life in the real world is more complex than a bacterial colony cultured under laboratory conditions.  But to understand mechanisms at work in complex situations, it’s useful to reduce the number of variables as much as possible and look at nature at work under more controlled and simpler conditions.  One cell organisms can have the chemical composition that represents almost all other living cells.  Bacteria have the same type of metabolism, enzymes, and social interaction between cells.  The same natural laws apply to a bacterial society in culture also apply to a human society in a culture of people.  They both utilize natural resources that are available to them; they convert resources to energy; they utilize energy to grow and to reproduce; they interact with one another; they produce intermediary metabolites and synthesize proteins; they express their genetic DNA programming; they utilize resources until there is nothing left but entropy; they do work; they do some things that are favorable to their society as a group and some things that are favorable only to themselves and may be at the expense of the entire group; they are both dependent on the quality of their environment to survive well or even at all; in the process of living they both produce toxic by products and waste that must be removed and not allowed to build up; they both need a constant and replenishing source of energy resources.  A bacterium as an individual cell and bacteria as a colony are subject to the same physical laws of thermodynamics as is a person or a society or a nation or a world of people.  

So, what does a simple bacterial colony life cycle in culture tell us in 3 days?  Are there lessons that human society will learn in 30 years, or 300 years, or 3000 years?  Are there any cause and effect, action and consequence information here?  A bacterial colony started and died in 3 days.  Could a human society repeat this, except in a longer period of time?  Does entropy ensure that natural cycles are inevitable?   Is this the “curse” of Adam?  

A life form began in utopia – all resources were supplied in abundance – seemingly inexhaustible.  Everything worked to the max – receive, utilize, grow, reproduce, expand at a logarithmic rate.  It then began to build up the consequences of maximum utilization of resources and producing waste with reckless abandon.  Its lifestyle began to become self limiting.  What was optimal was turning into a problem because of too much success too quickly.  Overcrowding and competition for resources occurred.  Resources became scarce.  Metabolic factories began to shut down from lack of raw energy producing materials and cells began to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.  They left much more debt than assets for the remaining group to have to deal with.  Toxic waste that had been produced from successful utilization of resources began to build up faster than it could diffuse away.  Only a few cells survived, until all the resources were depleted, and then a once-maximally productive society of life forms completely died in the buildup of their own toxic waste.

It was the best of days; it was the worst of days; all in three days.

Start in abundance of resources
Use up resources as if they’ll last forever
Produce excessive toxic waste
Entropy / death

How representative is this life and death cycle in human groups and societies?  We will consider some examples.


The generation of a natural cycle is associated with an increase in entropy

A straight line indicates that things are changing, but in the same direction.  It is like “more of the same.”  But a curve is not a straight line, and it indicates that the changes are not in the same direction.  As a result, the direction is not linear.  If the changes are progressive, then a curve extends into a circle, or a cycle. 

The diagram below describes the components of the life cycle of the bacterial colony discussed in the previous post.   As was discussed, these results were under defined laboratory conditions which address only a small part of the forces operating in cycles in the real world.  But, during the course of evolution, if organisms were to survive and continue their species, entropy had to be dealt with.

A “closed” system

Theoretically, a system that is truly “isolated” is thermodynamically isolated from anything outside of it that could make any energy change inside the system – no new energy or precursor used for energy, no oxygen, no raw materials and no removal of waste or change in entropy.  This setup can occur in a discussion or in a laboratory, but is arguable whether or not it occurs in the real world. 

However, any system in which energy is being utilized faster than it can be supplied or waste products (or damage) accumulate faster than it can be eliminated, entropy increases within the system and by some natural law, the system will fail or the organism or society will diminish and eventually die.  The resources for energy may seem boundless, but everything has to have an outside source of energy to cross into a thermodynamic system.  But if the rate of energy production and the availability of resources do not keep up with the demand or if toxic products accumulate, the same life to death phases will occur within the system as were described in the bacterial colony in the previous post. 

There are cycles within cycles and systems within systems.  A small cycle may obtain energy from a larger cycle.  A smaller cycle might deplete its energy source and build up entropy, but it may obtain energy from a larger cycle system, and the larger cycle represents an outside energy source for the smaller cycle

Let’s say that a person starts a business that is successful until others begin to take management responsibility, and these people care more about themselves than the business.  These people take the profits for themselves and don’t invest in the business.  The people also mismanage the money in their personal lives until they approach bankruptcy.  They turn to the business to get more money to bail themselves out.  If they didn’t have the business, to supply money, they would be sunk by their debts (entropy).  The business is an outside energy source for the people.  But the business isn’t run well, so it begins to accumulate debts (higher and higher entropy).  The financial cycle of the individuals cannot get outside energy from the business, because the business is headed downhill, too.  So they go to a still larger cycle as a source of energy – they get a business loan from a bank.  Now they have a new influx of energy (money) to keep the business going so that the business can supply their money, which they continue to convert to waste products and entropy.  If the bank has a lot of bad loans which can’t be repaid, the bank may run out of energy (money) and have to be bailed out by the FDIC.  So, now the government is supplying the money as an outside energy source to the bank.  The government seems like a bottomless pit because it can print more money – like producing more substrates and raw materials to convert to energy (money) for the smaller cycles.  But the energy efficiency is lower because less energy can be obtained (i.e., the money buys less because of inflation).  What seemed like a bottomless pit turns out to be cyclic itself, and bad fiscal policy affects the government so that the S&P reduces its debt classification.  Entropy has to be accounted for at some point.

The earth is not a isolated system -- Our sun is the physical energy source for the earth.  Every living thing on the earth requires an energy source to live.  Every living thing uses energy for metabolism, some of which is left in the form of entropy.  The second law of thermodynamics says that a system will consume more energy than it forms and that more energy will be consumed than work done, with the difference being entropy. 

Energy precursors are stored in the earth and potential energy exists on the earth.  Temperature differences, wind, water flowing toward lower altitudes by gravity, chemicals that can be burned, etc.  If the earth were a thermodynamically closed system, the entire earth would eventually exhaust its energy supply.  Reactions would stop because essentially everything useful for energy had been used up and converted to entropy.  But, the earth has one primary outside energy source – the sun.  Heat, light, and other radiation from the sun is a source of new energy for the earth that helps compensate for continuing energy-requiring processes with the accumulation of entropy.  However, if the processes on earth used energy faster than the sun could replenish, entropy could still accumulate and stop everything.  The sun has provided energy for the earth for billions of years, and a lot of it has been stored in certain useful forms, such as energy derived from oil and gas.  But these forms of potential energy might be used up by an increasing number of humans faster than it could ever be replenished in that same form.  Perhaps human creativity and intelligence could be considered a form of potential energy, if something could be invented to convert solar energy to energy rich chemicals.  Maybe petroleum products could be formed from light in a few days when it took nature millions of years.

There are other ways to produce a cycle of degeneration.  In addition to a problem of depletion of the earth’s energy, there is the accumulation of toxic waste.  This could be radioactive materials, chemicals that deplete the ozone layer, by-products that contaminate water supplies, increase in spread of infectious agents, and may more things. 

In addition, humans have the destructive capacity to annihilate all life on earth with their nuclear weapons.  All of these events could preclude the natural energy cycle involving the sun.  

What about entropy and evolution?   Evolution of higher species from lower ones involves an increase in complexity in the formation of new living forms, which use even more energy than did the earlier simpler forms.   That does not fit with the second law of thermodynamics, which says that things have a tendency to run downhill in energy, not up.  Processes left to themselves tend to move toward disorder and chaos, not toward an increase in order and complication.  Therefore, it is argued that life forms today could not have evolved spontaneously, but must have been created directly from divine energy.

This argument assumes that the earth is a thermodynamically isolated system, which it is not.  As discussed above, the energy from the earth has ultimately been derived from the sun.  The sun has provided energy since the formation of the our solar system, including the earth, and continues to be the outside source of energy for the earth.  This answers the entropy and evolution argument and for all practical purposes, the sun is an infinite reservoir of energy for us.

But, we know the fate of stars like our sun, because the sun is consuming itself over time and in some billions of years will explode like the supernovas seen out in the expanse of the universe.  So the earth gets energy from the sun, but the sun is building up entropy.  The sun received its energy along with the rest of the universe at the big bang.  So, this raises several interesting questions – does the sun have an “outside energy source?”  Probably not.  What about the entire universe?  Is the universe a isolated system thermodynamically, or it there another energy source outside our universe that pumps new energy into our universe?   If the universe is a isolated system and if all the energy it will ever get was obtained at the time of the big bang, and if the second law of thermodynamics applies to the entire universe, then the universe is running down.  If there is an outside energy source to our universe, what might that be?

What’s one person’s junk is another’s treasure.  Nature has evolved ways to utilize energy resources more efficiently to forestall the effects of entropy buildup.  Symbiotic relationships between bacteria in the wild work by one bacterial strain utilizing byproducts produced by another bacterial strain.  The second strain may produce a substrate that the first strain can use, or the process may go through several strains until chemical are broken down into simple forms that can be building blocks for new synthesis. 

Many cycles in nature combine what would be dead end processes in two areas so that one process makes the substrates for the other to use – for example, the nitrogen cycle, the oxygen/carbon dioxide cycle, and others to be discussed in later posts on this subject.

Life cycles illustrating the effects of entropy – similar to the bacterial colony. 

We will give a few examples of cycles that follow the principle of the bacterial colony life cycle.  Some of these we will discuss in more detail at another time.


Human aging.  We all know only too well what happens during the process of aging – entropy builds up.  It may be in the form of DNA mutations, accumulation of free radical damage, recovery from injury or disease, etc.  We know about “slowing down,” “can’t do what I used to do,” “looking old,” “I forget what I used to remember,” “the ole’ grey mare just ain’t what she used to be,” and all that. 

A number of years ago, one developmental biologist summed up the life cycle as – “Things start off pretty badly; then things get better; then they get bad again.”   Maybe it’s a good thing that we don’t have a choice of whether or not to be born into this world, because if some people had seen that advertisement for what awaited in life, they might have elected not to be born.

The cartoon about “Life on Wheels” sums it up pretty well.  Some years ago this cartoon would have been funnier than it is now.  For some of us, through the eyes of entropy, it may now be a little more depressing than humorous.

Life cycle of a marketed sales product.   One can easily see a resemblance between the shape of the natural bacterial growth curve and the shape of a life cycle of a marketed sales product, under the control of human behavior (compare two graphs below). 

Bacterial life cycle
The product goes through four phases:  (1) when the product is first introduced and people are becoming interested in buying it, (2) when sales of the product are high and market share is rapidly growing, (3) when the market begins to be saturated, and (4) when the market demand and sales are declining as the product becomes more and more obsolete.   In some cases, new markets can be found and sales revitalized, or a “new and improved” product can be marketed.  But, some new energy must be pumped into the system or else the accumulation of entropy will result in the death of the product.

 The sum of many product cycles can become the life cycle of a company, still all related to human behavior and decision, both on the marketing and the consumer sides of the equation.  

Hypothetical business life cycle of a company.

This cycle principle is not limited to businesses or products; it could represent the situation in many different types of groups – volunteer organizations, churches, including an entire society.

Church and congregational cycles.  It is known that churches or congregations exhibit life cycles of about a 30 year period and go through some rather well-defined phases.  An example is in the figure below, showing the change in a measurable variable, such as attendance or contribution, with time.  It also gives the changes in other factors during the same time, such as “passion,” “administration,” and the relative ratio of emphasis on ministry external to the congregation vs. money spend on internal things.  As expected, passion was high and decreased; initial emphasis was external changing to internal; administrative/staff costs started low and ended high with little decline even in the decay phase.  The percent of money for missions and the average contribution/attendee roughly followed the black line.  

A plot of entropy would probably be the reciprocal of the red dashed line (passion=energy), starting low and increasing to high during decay (roughly following "administration/staff").

The human population.   Very similar principles of the bacterial culture (overcrowding, competition for scare resources, energy resource limitation, buildup of toxic wastes, subject to entropy, declining population) have been applied to the future of the human race on the earth over the next about 130 years.  Rex Morrison has predicted a peak in the world’s population in about 2030 and then a decline because of the same factors affecting the bacterial society in culture.  (This is mentioned as an example and not intended as an endorsement of all the published content).

Many more examples of activities involving cycles of human behavior and socialization and interactions based on intelligence and moral decisions.  These include political, economic, stock market, educational, and public interest cycles.  Human organizations from small groups to cities, states, and nations can be described in cycles.  Social organizations, religious institutions, educational institutions, almost any form of human endeavor can be described mathematically as a cycle.  The formulas derived in analyzing these cycles can be used to predict the next phase.

Principles from the life cycle of a bacterial colony.

Some of the principles from the bacterial cell life cycle grown as a colony under controlled conditions are –

Any living organism from bacteria to humans (individual person, collective group, society, nation, world) that operates with the characteristics of a thermodynamically isolated system will follow the buildup of entropy into death and degeneration.  These activities may include,

using resources faster than they can be replenished,

ignoring or rejecting energy from outside their system,

too rapid an expansion that depletes the capacity for supply of energy

building up toxic waste faster than it can be disposed of,

self-annihilating behavior such as destructive conflict between individuals, groups, or nations, and

selfish behavior of individuals at the expense of the group than what the group can absorb, so that the negative outcome for the group is also destructive for the individual.

Do any of these behaviors describe things going on in our society, our culture, our government, or our churches?  Are these behaviors getting better, or worse, with time?

Any individual, group, or society that places itself under the control of the natural human desires instead of the control of the Holy Spirit, sent by God and poured out by Jesus Christ our Lord on Pentecost, voluntarily places itself under the subjection to the natural laws of thermodynamics, including the law of entropy.  The principle illustrated in the life cycle of the bacterial colony directly applies.

Can anything be done about that?  Entropy in this physical world cannot be escaped; that is the way God created it.  But we also have some God-provided choices. 

The observation of the bacterial colony raises a whole series of interesting questions.  Is it possible to defeat entropy?  Is cyclic destruction inevitable?  Where is American society today in this sequence?  Where is the church?  Has the church sold out to the world so now it is also riding in the entropy handbasket?  What are some signs that might identify the narrow path from the wide one?

What relation might a bacterial colony life cycle have to the scripture "Sow to the Spirit and from the Spirit reap eternal life; sow to the flesh and from the flesh reap destruction" (cf Gal. 6:8)?


God created natural laws in control of the physical realm.  These laws are mathematically definable, repeatable, and consistent, so as to be predictable in outcome under given conditions.  Everything that is composed of physical matter is subject to these natural laws. 

Yet, Paul talks about a spiritual realm (Rom. 8:9; Eph. 1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12) and a spiritual control (Rom. 7-8; Gal. 5).  While our mortal bodies are subject to entropy, is there some part of us that is not?  What is the “immortal body” that is not subject to corruption (1 Cor. 15:42-44, 53-54)?  Why doesn’t entropy just wipe out everything?  Has God set up other mechanisms to keep His own plan from being snuffed out by entropy, which is of His creation?  Does God intercede in people’s lives and in the church to keep things going, no matter what happens or no matter what poor choices might be made?  Perhaps God allows us to learn the lessons the hard way by reaping the consequences of rebellion, but He doesn’t allow His people to be completely wiped out by entropy.  Has God set something up that is also part of the physical realm to do this, or does God send a messenger across the interface between the physical and spiritual realms?

Several scriptures suggest that God puts limits on the prince of this world (Satan) and also on the natural course of entropy by protecting a remnant of God’s people even through natural correction and testing.  When God gave Satan permission to put the hurt on Job, God said that Satan could not take Job’s life (Job 2:6).   If Satan had killed Job, there wouldn’t have been much left to bless.  God blessed the remnant of Job that remained after Satan’s testing and restored all Job had and more.  In 1 Cor. 10:13, after giving a warning from Israel’s history when they has sinned and cycled into the consequences of entropy, Paul said that when we are tempted, God would always provide a way out so it will not be more than we can bear.

Returning to the bacterial culture. 

In the description of the life cycle for the bacterial colony in the two previous posts, there are several types of experimental modifications that could have made the story turn out better (for the colony).  Both changes involve a type of intercession by a superior entity on behalf of the bacterial colony.

We have problems

What about an outside energy source?  As described in the previous posts, a bacterial colony demonstrated a natural life cycle in three days.  The bacterial colony started off in a new universe and used their universe’s resources and multiplied and thrived for a time.  Then, the bacteria over-utilized their resources and depleted them, while at the same time generating more waste than the colony could deal with. The bacterial colony acted as a mass of independent cells, each one tending to its own metabolic needs without regard for the consequences the group.  Each cell operated according to its natural genetic programming in the physical world.  In a disregard for the general welfare, the individuals in the colony polluted the environment for everyone, and the entire culture paid the price with its very existence.

Under these controlled conditions, the events of the entire cycle were predictable– the beginning, the middle, and the end.  This life cycle was predictable because the entire sequence of events was already programmed by cellular genetics and the laws of thermodynamics operating in a isolated system within a controlled environment. 

But, what if the system had not been thermodynamically isolated?  What if the system had been “open” and the culture medium had been periodically changed, adding new nutrients and washing away the pollutants?  Would the bacteria have died in their own toxins?   This different condition would have made a big difference in the survival of the culture – an outside energy source, and a plan to wash away the toxins.  Would this be salvation for the culture?

What if the above conditions had allowed the culture to live longer until cells could develop metabolic enzymes and pathways that utilized resources more efficiently?  What if the cells became differentiated and specialized, with different groups performing particular metabolic tasks that, when all combined, worked for the good of the entire colony?  This additional condition would be better for the individual cells as well as the culture.  Perhaps some cells could develop metabolic pathways to utilize chemicals that would otherwise be waste products.  Some chemical recycling would have allowed cells to build up stronger membrane structures.  All for the common good.

What if the some of the bacterial genome were to be exchanged with the DNA from certain cancer cells to make “hybridoma” cells that would keep growing and dividing and programmed to synthesize proteins or other substances needed for drugs or other purposes?  Cell lines that are formed from these hybrids are called “immortal” because they keep growing and dividing. 

All of these changes would depend on the bacterial culture not being in a isolated system, but in an open system with an energy source outside the culture.  This opens a whole new world of possibilities for the future of the colony.  Some of these changes in the bacterial cells involve modifications by a outside higher intelligence, far superior to the capabilities of the bacteria.

There are correlations between these physical aspects of a bacterial colony growing in an open system and the spiritual realm.  Oh, the advantages of an outside energy source!

Transfer of bacterial cells from one culture plate to a new one with fresh nutrients.  Not only can new energy be placed in the culture dish for the benefit of the existing bacterial colony, but cells from the colony can be transferred to another dish to start over again in a new life cycle.  This transfer involves saving a remnant of cells from the coming death and destruction of the previous culture and giving these cells a new life.  This procedure also necessitates the introduction of energy into the system (the mechanics of the transfer) and the intercession from an independent outside entity that is infinitely more intelligent than the bacteria.  In fact, this entity designed the experiment to begin with.

This procedure is diagrammed below:

 This transfer could be diagrammed in the logistical cycle representing the life stages as: 

Cells are transplanted into a new culture environment containing renewed energy from fresh resources.  But, this requires an intervention by a higher intelligence, using forethought, design, and purpose.  In fact, the plan (protocol) was put into motion by this higher intelligence, even before this particular colony’s existence!  The “higher intelligence” in this case is a human being.  This person knows the outcome for the colony if an intervention is not performed.  The protocol is simple. 

The colony is determined to be in the latter part of the Log Growth Phase, based on its age and characteristics.  The Steady-State and Death Phases are next.  However, some cells from the superficial layers of the culture are taken and transplanted into another culture dish containing fresh nutrients at the optimum concentration for growth and cell division.  These transplanted cells are free to continue to generate metabolic energy, to grow, and to divide at a logarithmic rate. 

Only a relatively small number of healthy cells are transplanted to a new medium, leaving the remainder behind to deal with the closing walls of entropy.

Because the original colony was a thermodynamically “isolated system,” starting with a fixed amount of initial energy components, the culture was without hope of any regeneration.  The First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics applied, materials for energy were used up and products useless for energy were produced, producing “entropy.”  When energy, in the form of a fresh medium, enters the realms of the transplanted bacteria, an exception is made to their “isolated system” or environment.  The cells in the old culture dish continue down along their path of increasing entropy, while the transplanted cells get a “fresh start.”  The transplanted cells are in the same situation as the original culture was when it started.  After the new culture is started, they are likewise in a closed system.  An “open system” would involve continued addition of nutrients for energy and removal of waste products by the human experimenter, which would again involve an introduction of an energy source outside of the bacterial culture itself.  This process could be repeated many times. 

Continuous cycles of changing energy and entropy over time would be connected by the transfer of the remnant of survivors from the declining phase of the previous cycle so that the configuration would resemble a coil with time as the z-axis.  

Viewing a plot of a measure of something quantitative, such as cell number, viability, population, ability to thrive, etc. vs the phase of the cell culture, a series of graphs including the transfer of a remnant of cells from one culture dish to a new one might resemble the figure below.

As we will discuss in a later post, these cycles of bacterial cultures are only very simple forms of what can be documented in more complicated cultures, including human social structures.  There are cycles after cycles with remnants in between throughout history in the Old Testament.

Obviously, life in human society is more complicated than in a bacterial colony.  Even in the case of the bacterial colony, both forms of providing outside energy would be used – both changing out the culture medium and transfer to cells to a new dish to start another life cycle.  To make further analogies, we might have to engage in some fanciful anthrobacterialistic thinking.  Maybe some bacteria decided to be rebellious and not accept the outside energy provisions because they didn’t want to be dependent on anything except themselves.  May some bacteria thought they were the highest form of life in existence.  Maybe they decided the outside entity providing the energy didn’t really exist because they never saw it.  Maybe they said that every bacterium who believed in that superstition probably also believed that story about the fuzzy Bacterioclaus who every Christmas slid down the side of the culture plate and deposited some glucose in every colony.  Maybe colonies of bacteria became selfish and tried to hog all the resources for themselves and pumped out toxic products with abandon – it don’t matter; it’s a big dish out there.  

Whether we over-complicate the bacterial culture to take characteristics of a human society or we simplify human social behavior and look for principles, there are lessons, both physical and spiritual, to learn from simple life forms, because the same creator made them all.  

From a physical perspective, human societies consume energy and create toxic waste products.  They can overuse and deplete resources and they can pollute their environment.  These activities produce entropy because they create and utilize energy faster than the environment can renew the resources.  

From a social and behavioral perspective, human societies can be selfish and self promoting or they can be altruistic and look beyond themselves.  They can look toward a better society or they can greedily concentrate on themselves and their profits and their income and their rights and entitlements at the expense of anything else, including the common good.  Cultures of bacterial and cultures of people can both accumulate social entropy.  It will come back to be paid. 

From a spiritual perspective, there is only one energy source that is not controlled by the natural laws of the physical realm.  There is one outside entity that does not bow to the laws of thermodynamics.  But there are laws in the spiritual realm that correlate to those in the physical realm, because the same creator made them all.  

Holy Spirit power vs. natural entropy.


We are continuing to expand on the idea that God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1) and created all things through Jesus Christ (John 1:1-3).  All things means both physical and spiritual.  Sine the physical and spiritual realms both come from a common source (God), we better understand each realm when we consider them together.

At the time the New Testament was written, Greek, Roman, and Jewish philosophers and teachers considered that there were physical and spiritual realms that were mirrored in that one contained representations of what was in the other and things that went on in one realm affected activities and occurrences in the other one.  In most representations, the world were kept separate, except on special occasions such as the legend of the gods having visiting Lystra that impacted Paul’s and Barnabas’s visit (Acts 14:8-18).  But the one thing that was difficult for both the Jews and the Greeks to grasp was the incarnation and bodily resurrection of Jesus (Acts 17:31-32; 26:23-24).  Gnosticism handled that by separating the body from the spirit.  

People can do essentially the same today through misunderstandings of the truth of science and of theology, with perceptions of some religious people that anything of a scientific nature must be suspicious and scientists thinking religious people are superstitious.  The constituents of both groups block out some valuable truth because they can’t see beyond the rhetoric of the other group.  

We are considering the idea that the physical and spiritual realms are interconnected in principle, if not literally, and that we can learn of spiritual concepts by examining physical laws.

The physical is consistent with and represents the spiritual

The Jews knew that Jesus had authority over demons and evil spirits.  The Jewish Pharisees believed that the physical and spiritual worlds were connected, and they believed in signs and miracles, angels, and in the resurrection.  The Sadducees, however, believed more in natural materialism and not in angels or the resurrection (Acts 23:6-10).  The Sanhedrin didn’t question the miraculous sign of healing the lame man, only what effect it might have undercutting their authority with the people. (Acts 4:16-17)

This symbolism of things in the physical realm indicating the true and genuine things in the spiritual realm was also used in Hebrews.  Christ himself bridged the gap between the physical and spiritual by being both fully human and God the Son at the same time (Heb. 9:11-14).  The elements of the tabernacle were copies of the heavenly things (Heb. 9:23), and the law was only a shadow of the realities themselves (Heb. 10:1).

The symbolic elements in the Old Testament tabernacle and temple and animal sacrifices were only shadows of the true tabernacle in heaven which Jesus entered with His own blood, by which we have a new and better covenant than the old one (Heb. 8:6).  But, just because the old covenant is obsolete (Heb. 8:13), it doesn’t mean that the physical symbolism isn’t useful in understanding the spiritual principles of our redemption and atonement by Christ.  In fact, we need to study the Old Testament in order to properly interpret the meaning of the New Testament.  And, on the other side, when we interpret the New Testament we see the link through the Old Testament to God’s eternal plan which He had before the creation of the world.  Both Covenants depend on the other for a more complete revelation of God.

Paul said that all things – the heavens and earth -- were created through Christ and that Christ has the supremacy over all things and binds everything together.  Christ binds in peace and reconciliation all things in the physical and the spiritual realms because He lived fully and bodily in both and He overcame everything on our behalf.  This included natural law, over which He exerted physical authority on this earth, and spiritual law over which He has all authority – in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18).

Col. 1:13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Not only does the authority of Christ bind all things in heaven and earth under one King, but we have also been given the same fullness in Christ – to look past the physical things that testify to the divine nature and to depend on the fullness of Christ Himself.  All the natural and the spiritual realms testify to God, so our faith is grounded in the spiritual, but we use the correlations between the physical and spiritual to help understand both more clearly.   

Col. 2: 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.  9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.

We do not place our faith and hope in Newton’s laws of motion, the laws of Thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, evolution, or the Higgs Boson.  But we also do not isolate these natural sciences to divorce them from the correlations with the spiritual realm – rather, we use them to help us to better understand both realms.

4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.

The words Paul uses for “orderly” and “firm” are “taxin” and “stereoma.”  Both of these words are characteristics of God.  Taxin, also used in 1 Cor. 14:40, is like “taxonomy” which is an orderly classification that makes an understandable index of something that would otherwise be unmanageable, such as the taxonomy of plants and animals.  Stereoma, used only here, is something that is solid, steady, stable, established, or stedfast (KJV).  Like the English word, “stereo,” stereoma implies balance, which is one of the definitions of the righteous character of God.   The opposites of these words are disorder, unorganized, unstable, unbalanced, chaotic – all characteristics of entropy.  Perhaps Paul could have written,

“I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how well you are controlling entropy by your faith in the power source outside the natural realm.”

God has created humans with the capacity to choose to be like Him.  The old law was like a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.  The Old Covenant pointed the way to Christ.  We don’t need the Old Testament to be saved, but we need it to understand the New Testament, which we need to grow into the full knowledge of Jesus Christ.  The Old Covenant prepared us for Christ and the New Covenant; only in the New Covenant is the Old Covenant fulfilled.

In the same way, the study of nature prepares us for the things of the Spirit of God.  The things God has made testify of the divine nature (Rom. 1:20), but that doesn’t mean they totally reveal the divine nature.  They are consistent with it; they point toward it.  The divine nature is completely revealed in Christ and through the Holy Spirit and God’s residence in our hearts, we get to participate in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). 

The study of the natural realm is like the study of the Old Testament covenant and the symbols in the tabernacle.  Like these symbols that point to Jesus Christ, so all the science in the world points to Jesus Christ through whom all things were created.  The Old Testament doesn’t disprove the New Testament any more than science disproves God.  Rather, they both point to something infinitely greater—they both point to the love of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

That is the basis for the present approach of looking at laws of nature and finding corresponding truths in the spiritual realm –that’s why God put them both there.  We live in one, but look to the other for our spiritual power and redemption. 

There are spiritual truth to learn from the law of the “equal and opposite reaction,” discussed in about five posts about Newton’s law.  There are significant truths in the spiritual realm that correlate with the laws of thermodynamics.  When we lack understanding of how God works in this world, we fall short of the glory of God.

That’s why we have been discussing the physical and spiritual lessons that society, Christians, and the church could learn from the life cycle of a bacterial colony.

The ultimate victory over entropy is only by the power of God.

The ultimate victory over entropy is in the resurrection of Christ.  Maximum entropy is death and decay -- going back to the dust of the earth – but the force of the power of God who raised Christ from the dead also operates in us and in the church.  The power of God is the only energy that is not susceptible to the physical law of entropy, because it outside the otherwise closed system of the physical realm. 

Eph. 1:18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Eph. 3:14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

God power and mighty strength raised Jesus from the dead and gave him authority in the present age and the one to come.  This same power that raised Jesus from the dead is for us who believe and is at work in us.  This power will be manifested at our bodily resurrection, as it was with Jesus, but it is also for the here and now.  We as individuals and collectively as the church will work against the natural law of entropy only by using this power of God. 

The extent to which we, individually or collectively as the body of Christ, are under the control of the Spirit is the extent to which we will overcome the law of entropy.  In this life we will not be 100% of this Spirit, so we will always to subject to entropy.  The final victory is at the resurrection at Christ’s coming.  But, the more power of the Holy Spirit that we dilute out with the works of the sinful nature, which lead to death, the more susceptible we will be to the effects of entropy.  We, as individuals and collectively as the church, can voluntarily place ourselves under the control of the natural law of entropy to the extent that we choose to operate out of the natural self rather than the spiritual self.

There are many types of entropy, and there are many processes that are subject to the 2nd law.  

Entropy is defined in terms of heat energy, and it produced by processes involving physical and chemical reactions.  However, there are many other processes, some of which somewhat philosophical in nature, that could be described in terms of the production of entropy.  

In the production of entropy, things go downhill.  Things rot; they decay; they fall apart; they get less useful; they run down; they get slower; they stop working; they die; they return to dust.  Their energy goes down to nothing form which function or work can be obtained.  Everything in the natural realm trends toward disorder and chaos and confusion and division.  From the aspect of usefulness for life and happiness, entropy is bad.  Almost anything that fits this “going downhill” description can be associated with an increase in entropy.  Both physical and spiritual entropy eventually leads to death.

Behavioral entropy.  There is a description of the riot in Ephesus.  The people of the city got caught up in a rumor that “the Way” was a threat to their business involving the temple to their goddess Artemis, so they were incited to riot.  Joining the story in Acts 19:28, 32-35,  39-41 --

When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”  Soon the whole city was in an uproar.  The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there.  The Jews pushed Alexander to the front, and some of the crowd shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people.  But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”  The city clerk quieted the crowd and said …… [paraphrased: “you people take a chill”]  ….  it must be settled in a legal assembly.  As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today’s events.  In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.  After he said this, he dismissed the assembly.

They expended a lot of energy over nothing useful and the behavioral entropy levels were high with disorder, chaos, confusion, and randomness.  The city clerk’s action brought reason and orderly behavior and a reduction in group entropy.

In addition, consider the terms, social entropy, environmental entropy, economic entropy, moral entropy, group/organizational entropy, religious entropy, political entropy.

What value does crime, drug smuggling, addictions, violence have to a society?  These activities increase social entropy

What value does an area of toxic waste twice the size of the state of Texas, containing plastic and other trash dumped over the last 40 years, floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean have to the welfare of the world?  Like the bacterial colony in the production of toxic waste – environmental entropy.  

What value does greed in the banking industry and in corporations have for the common good – being more concerned about the next quarter’s profit margin and stock price than on ethical business behavior, treating employees fairly, or having a quality product?  Individual sectors of the financial industrythat do illegal things to make a little more money, and their greed has an effect on the whole world?  Economic entropy.

What about a congress that is so controlled by special interest groups that they are paralyzed to do anything for the common good of the people?  Division, chaos, lack of direction, greed, selfishness.  What about political candidates and parties that run on a platform of finding dirt on the other candidate?  Political entropy.

What about a church that has as high a divorce rate as the world?  What does that do for God’s covenant relationship that mirrors the relationship betweenChrist and the church?  What about religious institutions that adopt postmodern thinking of the world and rush to be compliant and “tolerant” of everything – compromising the scripture or the divinity of Jesus Christ in order to remove any obstacle from the path.  Throwing Jesus under the bus.  Religious entropy.

Within the church, the energy of the power of the Holy Spirit is compromised by the entropy of humanism.

He who sows to the Spirit, from the Spirit reaps the power and energy of God.  He who sows to the flesh, from the flesh reaps entropy and death.  (cf Gal. 6:7-8).


There is this old round-the-campfire-type story about the man, who is going into a city for the first time and who meets a wise citizen coming out of the city.  The newcomer asked the resident, “What are the people like in this city?”  The wise man replied, “What were the people like in the city you came from?”  Reply:  “The people were ______” (insert (+) great, friendly, helpful or (-) bad, unfriendly, clannish).  The wise man said, “You will find the people in this city are the same.” Often what we see is what we expect through the filter of our preconceptions.

In the natural, we fulfill our own prophecies – whether it be a self-fulfilling negative prophecy or a power of positive thinking prophecy.  In the Spirit, we fulfill the prophecy of God through Jesus Christ – to be “renewed in knowledge in the image of the Creator” (Col. 3:10), having been “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).  In contrast, under the control of the flesh, we fulfill the prophecy in scripture (Gal. 6:7), destruction, death, (high entropy).  

We have a choice – will it be “destiny” or “density?”

Some analogies from the “Back to the Future” movies.

One of the two 1985 scenarios of changes in Hill Valley over the previous 30 years traced back to a 1955 Biff finding the 1985 almanac listing racetrack winners for the next 30 years.  Over 30 years Biff had become rich, organized crime was in control, Hill Valley was a chaotic disordered mess, and Mr. Strickland was shouting, “Eat lead, slackers!” as he fired a shotgun at vandals while wearing a bulletproof vest under his pajamas.  This is an example of developing high social entropy.  The other 1985 scenario, when Biff didn't find the almanac back in 1955, showed a happy and successful McFly family and a subordinate Biff.  This scenario depicted high social energy and low entropy. 

To fix the mess he had made by returning to 1955 from 1985, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) had to get his mother to fall in love with his father all over again.  He appeared to George McFly as Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan and told George to tell Lorraine, “I am your destiny.”  Instead, George said, “I am your density.” 

So, that sums it up.  God has given His highest form of physical creation the capacity for reason, for consideration of consequence for himself and others, for recognition of priorities, to consider the future as well as the present, to observe and evaluate the evidence, to communicate in like manner with others, and to think beyond himself.   Man uses these God-given tools to make a choice.  One option is to voluntary submit himself to God and receive a power source that is spatially, temporally, and thermodynamically unlimited and receive the Holy Spirit for transformation into the likeness of Jesus Christ.  The second option for man is to not submit to God, but to run things out of his own mental abilities and human desires, without divine control or illumination.   Under the first choice, man chooses the full knowledge and maturity of the Lord Jesus Christ as his destiny.  With the second choice, man chooses his own density.  The second choice is to follow the sinful nature, which leads to high entropy.  

We can define power out of existence, for ourselves.  A few decades ago, a group of us were having a discussion about how to interpret some lab results.  Someone said, “This just depends on how you look at it.  It’s like whether or not God exists.”  I first thought to myself, “That is about the stupidest thing I ever heard!  Does this finite human being think that he defines whether or not the God who created the universe goes in or out of omnipresent existence just based on how he looks at it?”  But, then I thought, “Well, in a way he is right.  He could define whether or not God exists in his life – in his little private universe of self-acceptance.”

I then thought of how many times I had heard testimonies of miraculous healing or other powerful events only to hear someone say, “Well, I just don’t believe that God works that way, anymore.”  Those were frustrating statements to respond to, because even though I knew that statement wasn’t true, it expressed what I used to think at one time.  But, again, even though the statement was theologically incorrect, the person did have the right to define the miraculous power of God out of their own lives.

In the above discussion, choosing destiny is choosing submission to God and the power of God, choosing to not define God out of existence in one’s life are all choices for a thermodynamically open system (spirituodynamic) with an outside power source.  Choosing density is choosing to follow the mind and desires of the sinful nature, and defining God and His power out of existence for one’s life are all choices for a thermodynamically closedsystem, and a natural cycle modeled by the life cycle of the bacterial colony is in the future.  There is no availability of energy outside that governed by the 2nd law of thermodynamics of the physical domain.

Garden speculation.  It’s possible that the life of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was a representation of a thermodynamically open system.  God was present in the Garden, and, therefore, His power should have been available.  However, there is no indication that God’s power was available within their hearts in the form of His Holy Spirit.  Whatever good situation Adam and Eve may have had changed when they decided to submit to their own human wisdom and desires and not God’s.  Once removed from the Garden and the presence of God they were in a thermodynamically closed system, and natural human life cycles began to form and become more complex as the population increased and social structures were formed.

Bacteria-ism will fail.  Genesis didn’t say there were bacteria in the Garden, but it would seem likely or else Adam and Eve couldn’t have digested their food.  It is very improbable that there are any examples of a selfish bacterium.  They all would have died out millions of years ago.  "Every bacterium for itself" doesn’t work.  Even bacteria have developed more complex forms of differentiation in a colony so that the entire colony competes better for survival in a challenging environment.  

The bacterial colony growing in the culture dish is a macrocosmic example of the physical universe in action, illustrating the inescapable result of the operation of natural laws.  In the simple closed system of the culture dish, the destiny of the culture is pre-determined, and the bacteria themselves are powerless to change it.  In a general sense, considering the entire planet, complex creatures have dominion over less complex ones and can determine the destiny of the less complex.  Physical evolution involves a change from the less complex to more complex, not the opposite.  The maintenance of the complex forms is dependent on the existence of the less complex forms (eg, food chain).  Regardless of complexity, all life forms are still subject to the natural laws of the physical world.  There are no forms so complex that they can exempt themselves. 

Who was given authority and dominion over what in creation? 

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, [or, over all the wild animals] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.  Genesis 1:26-30

19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.  Genesis 2:19-20

The man named the living creatures; the man gave his helpmate the name “woman,” and the man named her “Eve.”  But God named the man, and the name “Adam” just appears in Genesis, as though that name had no human beginning. 

Man was given dominion and authority over everything that had been created before him, but man was not given dominion over himself.  Adam and Eve usurped the authority from God to have dominion over themselves, and by making this choice they placed themselves under the laws of the physical realm, including the laws of thermodynamics.   Separated from God, they had no external energy source, and they received the consequences of natural law as a bacterial colony would have had.  Humans and bacteria obey the same natural principles. 

Yet some more modern thinking has concluded that people today are so sophisticated and evolved that they have no need for anything greater or more complex than themselves.  They don’t need any so-called “outside energy source,” so they exercise their choice and consider anything greater than man to be nonexistent and an imaginary superstition of the weak. 

What if the bacteria did this?  Let’s pretend that the bacteria in the colony had anthropomorphic qualities, including a choice to be transplanted to a fresh culture medium or not.  “There’s nothing greater than a bacterium, because that’s all I can see.”  “We don’t need this ‘greater than us’ crutch; we can handle our own problems.”  “We are in charge of our own density.”  “Nothing exists except as I think of it.”  “We’ve never done it that way.”  “We are the greatest thing that has ever evolved from the primordial soup.”

So, when the transfer loop was offered by a higher entity and intelligence, most bacteria made fun of it and chose instead to remain in the culture they had made for themselves, because there was nothing greater than themselves, in their own mitochondrial way of thinking.  They thought they were in control of their own future, and by the time they realized they were not, it was too late.  Some, however, chose the higher path of transfer, receiving the energy from outside their universe to continue to grow and develop.

The principle of the bacterial cycle in the account of Noah and the great flood.

This description sounds like Noah and the Ark (Gen. 6-9).   The world was tanking; people were behaving as though they were gods to themselves and becoming more and more degenerate.  Society was headed into the Death Phase of the cycle, and God just speeded the process up a bit.  A way out was given – new energy – a new start – a new culture – a new environment.  All but eight souls chose to ridicule the offer, to poke fun at the one carrying out the orders from a higher entity.  The obedient boarded the ark.  Noah was under the authority of God and the animals were under the authority of Noah.  It is not recorded that some animals refused to board or that Noah had to go interview 77 horses to find enough that would agree to go.  Noah had dominion over the 

animals and God had dominion over humans.  But there was a difference.  Only man, who had been created in the image of God, had a choice whether or not to accept that dominion through obedience.  According to the instruction of God, Noah made the selection decision for the animals.

It is interesting that the only life form in the universe that had been created in the image of God was also the only created thing that was given the right of choice to reject the dominion of God.  All the rest of the earth was put by God’s command under the dominion of man.  Animals were not given the choice to reject the authority of man.  There is no part of creation other than man that has been given the right of choice to reject God and institute the control and reign of self in place of God. 

By faith, Noah accepted the dominion of God, the coming judgment of God, and the deliverance from the consequences of this judgment.  But, the humanists who considered themselves the best thing since sliced dinosaur chose their decadent lifestyle instead of God, and so they were shut outside the Ark, and as a result they perished in the death phase of their culture – the flood.

 There are many lessons from this aspect of nature that can be applied at any level – individual life, group, congregation, large group, society, nation, and world.  Whether at the individual level or at an organizational level, how our life cycle progresses and ends will be determined by the extent to which we operate empowered by the Spirit of God.  We cannot reject God and instead choose ourselves to control our own destiny without also incurring the natural cycle and outcome predetermined by the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  There is no alternative in the natural realm.  The only way out is to receive energy from outside the closed system of the natural realm – energy from the “supernatural,” from the spiritual realm, which is not under any physical law involving thermodynamics, time, 3-dimensional space, physical energy, matter, attraction or repulsion, motion or any other part of natural creation that can be described, measured, or experienced by physical senses.

God injected His supernatural power into the physical realm for all of mankind and for all of time on the Day of Pentecost in the form of the promised Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit of God is the only source of energy by which man can live by the Spirit and break free of the bondage imposed by physical cycles and physical laws by overcoming the world. 

But, consistent with the plan since creation, God allows man to retain the same right given to Adam and Eve to choose the authority and power of God for physical blessings and spiritual life or choose the authority of himself for the result of entropy and spiritual death. 

No one in the natural realm is exempt from the law of entropy.  Entropy eventually defeats itself.  We overcome entropy by the power of the Holy Spirit of God – the same power that raised Jesus from the dead

1 Cor. 15:53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.