Jesus’ Resurrection and the Laws of Thermodynamics

Jesus’ Resurrection and the Laws of Thermodynamics March 30, 2024

Thermodynamics is a branch of physics which deals with the energy and work of a system. Thermodynamics deals only with the large-scale response of a system which we can observe and measure in experiments. In aerodynamics, the thermodynamics of a gas obviously plays an important role in the analysis of propulsion systems (NASA, “Second Law – Entropy”).

As we see in the law of entropy, absolutely everything in this world tends towards disorder. This happens in the universe at both macroscopic and microscopic scales, even explaining how my room always tends towards disorder, no matter how much effort I put into ordering it as some point or another. It showcases itself perhaps most clearly in death and decay when the body quickly begins to disintegrate. The soul is the principle of unity. In Hebrew nephesh, in Greek psyche, in Latin, anima, it is always our understanding that the soul is what gives a unifying principle to the body. When the soul leaves the body, the corpse begins to disintegrate.


So, for things to move the other direction and decrease in entropy–for a body to come back to life there must be some force from the outside. The resurrection is not simply a careful re-ordering of the carbon atoms in the body of Christ; it is more akin to a nuclear reaction. There must have been an outside source of power to bring him back to life. This is the awesome effect of the Resurrection.

The Resurrection is the most scientifically unbelievable of events, yet so well attested to that it is easy to believe. This is one of the arguments that St. Augustine gave in his master work, The City of God:

It is indubitable that the resurrection of Christ, and His ascension into heaven with the flesh in which He rose, is already preached and believed in the whole world. If it is not credible, how is it that it has already received credence in the whole world? If a number of noble, exalted, and learned men had said that they had witnessed it, and had been at pains to publish what they had witnessed, it were not wonderful that the world should have believed it, but it were very stubborn to refuse credence; but if, as is true, the world has believed a few obscure, inconsiderable, uneducated persons, who state and write that they witnessed it, is it not unreasonable that a handful of wrong-headed men should oppose themselves to the creed of the whole world, and refuse their belief? And if the world has put faith in a small number of men, of mean birth and the lowest rank, and no education, it is because the divinity of the thing itself appeared all the more manifestly in such contemptible witnesses. (Augustine, City of God, XXII.8)


Everywhere you go, there are people who believe in the resurrection. Augustine argues that people already know about the resurrection all over the world. There are many things that people the world over believe and we therefore accept them unquestioningly. Sometimes, these ideas can change, such as in the ancient Jewish vision of the cosmos; we certainly no longer believe the Old Testament vision which imagined the heavens as a large disc, above which was the water that comes down in the form of rain and another level above that, the dwelling place of God. Despite our different beliefs about the general structure of the world around us, it is still helpful to know what the consensus beliefs of the time were as we seek to understand the texts of the psalms.

Belief in the Resurrection comes to us through simple, uneducated people. This was one of the stumbling blocks for Augustine, but it eventually came to form part of the bedrock of his faith. He reasoned that if the faith has come to us through men who could not have made it up, this is another argument for its validity.

Jesus rises on the third day | Credit Pixabay

Power of God

The Resurrection is believable because it comes to us through the power of God. This is not some magic trick or some plot by the Apostles to gain credibility after the disappearance of their master. For them, it would have been disappointing to lose their Master, the one for whom they had given up everything, but the Resurrection complicated their lives tremendously. It would have been easier to return home and go back to what was familiar to them. Instead, they spread throughout the whole world, preaching, baptizing, and celebrating the Eucharist. Just as when Jesus called them, once again he turns their worlds upside down and demands from them unthinkable sacrifices for the coming of the Kingdom of God.

In the material world, things tend to fall apart. We notice the same phenomenon in the spiritual world. When we lose the principle of unity, splinter groups rise up quickly, as we see in the phenomenon of the Protestant Reformation and the countless fragmented Christian denominations which have arisen since. If we can celebrate Easter today as a united Catholic Church, let us be grateful to God for this unity and proclaim our faith in Christ. “We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song” (Pope John Paul II paraphrasing Augustine).

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About Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, LC
Fr. Nicholas Sheehy was ordained a Catholic priest in 2013 for the Legionaries of Christ. He has been involved in youth work including missions, retreats and apostolic outreach in Germany, Italy, the United States and Central America. He is passionate about the New Evangelization and formation for young adults and married couples. He is a spiritual director and retreat director, offering marriage preparation and marriage counseling through the Divine Mercy Clinic and Family Center. He is currently Executive Director and Chaplain of the Newman Center at St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Pasadena, California. You can read more about the author here.
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