Sunday, July 22, 2012


Cycles ‘r us. There are many cycles in nature, without which there couldn’t be any life – water cycle, weather cycles, oxygen/carbon dioxide cycle, nitrogen cycle, etc. These cycles are related to the flow of gases or liquids, changes of state, or transfer of heat. They are types of thermodynamic cycles. There are many anatomical structures in plants and animals that have the design of a circle, sphere, or coil. Rotation of planets and moons in their orbits are cyclic. Seasons are cyclic. Moon phases are cyclic. Many insect and other animal life patterns are cyclic. Hormones go up and down in cyclic fashion. Atomic structure is made up of electrons traveling in space in special areas of probability that are cyclic in shape – sphere, ellipse, dumbbell, etc. The smallest cycle on record comes from string theory. All these cycles operate according to natural law. 

The same principles operate both in relatively simple cycles as well as more complex ones. That is why the observations of the life cycle of a bacterial colony isolated from an outside source of energy is relevant in principle to larger, more involved cycles. Cycles of smaller frequencies make up cycles of larger frequencies which make up still larger and larger cycles.  It difficult to conceive that a cycle of seasons in a year would be composed of millions upon millions of smaller cycles that all add up in a very precise way and in an integrated pattern, all under the same laws of nature. Heat transfer – thermodynamics. We get our outside energy from the sun – heat transfer. There are solar cycles, also. 

Thermodynamics. The concept of cycles takes on a metaphysical character in considering economic cycles, business cycles, political cycles, social cycles, cycles of dress style, cycles of moral ethics – all of which are based on human behavior and attitudes – mainly from brain and mind functions of humans. But all these go back to the thermodynamics of neurotransmitter chemistry and how humans think about the environmental cycles they find themselves in. Cycles do not dictate or control human behavior; humans are in control of their behavior by the choices they make based on their reaction and thinking about the physical cycles. 

Perhaps there should be a book written, The Effect of Thermodynamics on the Sociopolitical Cycle Named “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.” The Rise and Fall of Capitalism. The Rise and Fall of Organized Institutional Religion. But social cycles involve the thermodynamic principle of entropy and energy just the same as prevailed over the bacterial culture. Niall Ferguson has written books on the rise and fall of empires with special emphasis on the West and present America – Civilization (The West and the Rest), Colossus (The Price of America’s Empire), and The War of the World (Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West). 

Social cycles seem long compared to our life time but not in the span of civilization .

Some social cycles were mentioned as examples in previous posts – a life cycle, a church cycle, a business cycle, a population cycle, and the cycle of Noah and the Great Flood. 

In this post we will consider two more sociopolitical cycles – a historical one from the period of the Judges of Israel described in the Old Testament and a second one under current public circulation. 

[1] The Period of Judges 

Joshua led the Israelites into an organized and systematic conquest of the Promised Land (Judges 1). The people were faithful to God throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the first generation of elders who outlived him, because they had seen the great things God had done for Israel (Jdg. 2:7). But then another generation grew up that did not know God or what He had done for them, and they began to disobey and to follow idols. Some of the tribes had not completely driven out all of the inhabitants of Canaan as God had commanded, and God said because of this disobedience these people and their false gods would be a constant problem for the Israelites. 

After this declaration, the Israelites went through almost 300 years of sociopolitical cycles with the same repeating pattern – things go well, Israel gets complacent, Israel disobeys and worships idols, God withdraws protection, Israelites get overrun by Canaanites, Israel gets oppressed, Israel recognizes and repents, Israel turns and cries out to God, God hears and raises a judge who fights the oppressors and delivers Israel, Israel enjoys period of peace, judge dies, Israel gets disobedient. Leaders between Joshua and Saul (King) were Othniel (Jdg. 3:9), Ehud (Jdg. 3:15), Shamgar (Jdg. 3:31), Deborah (Jdg. 4:5), Gideon (Jdg. 6:36), Abimelech (Jdg. 9:1), Tola (Jdg. 10.1), Jair (Jdg. 10:3), Jephthah (Jdg. 11:11), Isban (Jdg. 12:8), Elon (Jdg. 12:11)), Abdon (Jdg. 12:13), Samson (Jdg. 16:30), Eli (1 Sam. 4:18), and Samuel (1 Sam. 7:15). 

Typical phrases during these cycles were “the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the Lord;” “the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, so He ………. ;” “…and they were subject to ….. for …. Years;” “and Israel cried out to the Lord who raised another deliverer…..;” “and there was peace in the land for …. years;” “again Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”

Similar cycles persisted throughout the period of kings and captivity. 

[2] The “Tytler Cycle” 

Another example of a sociopolitical cycle with many similarities to a bacterial life cycle is the so-called “Tytler Cycle.” This is the subject of a lot of semi-correct/semi-hoax emails that are used to promote a particular political position under the misname “Tyler Cycle.” Tytler was a real person and he said some real things that are interesting, but the shape of the story has morphed, particularly in the last 12 or so years. 

Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747-1813) was a Scottish lawyer, historian, writer, and Professor of Universal History and Greek and Roman Antiquities at the University of Edinburgh. Tytler was very critical of democracy as a workable political philosophy, not necessarily because the method couldn’t work, but because it would always be corrupted by people who would make it fail. He said the Athenian democracy worked only for upper classes who were in control and could exercise corruption and plunder the public money. He said that a democracy “never did, and never could exist” because man maintains a self interest and love of power characteristics of “inferior animals.” 

Tytler believed that democratic forms of government such as those of Greece and Rome have a natural evolution from initial virtue toward eventual corruption and decline. In Greece, for example, Tytler argues that "the patriotic spirit and love of ingenious freedom ... became gradually corrupted as the nation advanced in power and splendor." Tytler goes on to generalize: "Patriotism always exists in the greatest degree in rude nations, and in an early period of society. Like all other affections and passions, it operates with the greatest force where it meets with the greatest difficulties ... but in a state of ease and safety, as if wanting its appropriate nourishment, it languishes and decays." ... "It is a law of nature to which no experience has ever furnished an exception, that the rising grandeur and opulence of a nation must be balanced by the decline of its heroic virtues." 
 About 200 years later, Tytler was “helped” to express these views a little more “modernly” in the 1970’s by people taking other quotes from 20-30 years before and forming a summary quote and a diagram of a cycle. 
A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:
The diagram below is commonly known as the "Tytler Cycle" or the "Fatal Sequence." The first known, and apparently original, publication was in a 1943 speech "Industrial Management in a Republic” by H. W. Prentis, president of the Armstrong Cork Company and former president of the National Association of Manufacturers. 

Since 2000, the cycle diagram and the editorialized Tytler “quotes” have been posted and emailed in criticism of the person who happened to be President at that particular time. 

Although the cycle diagram and the quotes do not seem to be of genuine verbatim Tytler authorship, the more recent creations do capture the gist of Tytler’s view of the eventual fate of a democracy being related to the moral failings of a human society. Humans begin to impose their basic competitive, selfish, and greedy nature on the structure of the government, and they devise methods of control and corruption to get their way and to get an advantage of power over others. Tytler’s reference to the “law of nature” that a nation’s opulence and prosperity is inversely related to its moral and ethical structure is a description identical with what we are calling social, political, or ethical entropy. That which is isolated (left to itself) will degenerate and decay. 

If Tytler’s statement that "It is a law of nature to which no experience has ever furnished an exception” applies to social entropy, then an eventual corruption and decay within society is inevitable, if the society is left to itself without any spiritual or moral power source outside the isolated system. Things left to themselves naturally run down. 

The purpose of showing Tytler’s cycle is not to discuss the politics of a democracy. There are several points that can be made from the cycles representing changes in society – (1) relationship between cycle characteristics and an energy/entropy cycle, (2) comparison of the progression of behavior in the cycle with the works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit listed in scripture, and (3) comparison between the sociopolitical cycle and the life cycle of a bacterial colony. 

Effects of energy vs. entropy on a society.

As a generalization, society behaviors that are on the right side of the cycle diagram resemble those described as “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5) or characteristics of the “new self controlled by the Spirit” (Eph. 4). Those behaviors on the left side of the cycle resemble descriptions of the “works of the flesh” or the deeds of “the old man of sin.” Works of the flesh are associated with increasing social entropy, while fruit of the Spirit is associated with a supply of energy from outside the system. 

In addition, there are similarities between the progression of the Tytler (or a similar) cycle and the life cycle of a bacterial colony. Both situations have essentially the same cycle characteristics when operating in a system isolated from an outside energy source. To survive, the bacterial colony needs the intervention of an outside source of superior intelligence and supernatural energy; and the colony of human society needs the same. Otherwise they both develop into the death phase of accumulation of entropy – one is chemical entropy and the other more of a social or spiritual entropy. 

But the need for an outside energy source is one of the parallels from the laws operating in physical realm and the spiritual realm. God has revealed how He operates in both realms, but it takes both physical and spiritual discernment to see the relationship.
1 Cor, 2:12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
If any should be able to see these relationships between the physical and spiritual realms it would be Christians. How are we doing with that? Are we too busy protecting our private interpretation from scientific contamination to see the truth? Are people too busy trying to find fault with those people who believe in something supernatural? What about if the truth is in both and incomplete in either one by itself? Both sides of the argument are blinded to anything but their view and cannot see the value of the other side. If a blind man leads himself, he may fall into a pit. “If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” Matt 15:14) 

What about a society that became so successful and resource-rich that it began to credit itself for the accomplishments rather than an “outside source of energy” -- God? What if this “great society” even began to redefine the past to make history in education more consistent with present human self-glorification? What if this society began to reinterpret not only history, but also the law, so that the separation of church and state should become not a protection of religion but a separation and isolation of religion as a clearer target for discrimination? What, if through political, academic, and legal means, the role or meaning of God were removed from public places -- such as in courthouses, parks, and schools -- and this action was favorably portrayed by the media as smart and good? If the outside source of energy for society is removed, what is left to take over? Entropy. The snowball gets larger as society continues to do it to itself. 

1 Cor. 1:17  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

Some observations from the above verses – God’s wisdom and ways are not the same as what humans considered wisdom in their own eyes. Power is represented in the cross of Christ, which is nonsense to those whose understanding is limited by physical thermodynamic laws. These people have chosen to not avail themselves of the power of God that transcends the laws of the physical universe. They ridicule it. Yet, because of their chosen isolation, they are perishing. But they are not aware of it, because they are too “wise.” “Perishing” is in the present tense, not future, as in eternal judgment. Why do natural things “perish” in a system of thermodynamic isolation? They are subject to the destiny of natural entropy. The cycle of human effort, wisdom, and entropy will continue to play out over and over, just as in the past. 

One might ask, “If we have the sun as an outside energy source for the earth, then we are not thermodynamically isolated. We have the sun; why do we need the Son? In the following passages Jesus differentiates between those things that are of this earth, and subject to entropy, and those things which are outside of the physical reaches of natural law. 

Matt 4:4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Deut. 8:3  …man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Matt. 6:19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Show me the sermon. All of this discussion about isolated physical system subject to entropy and supernatural spiritual power which is not subject to natural law are based on the scripture and include examples of sociopolitical cycles that seemed to follow these rules. Everything fits into a nice package of presentation, but by itself it doesn’t mean anything. It’s all theoretical until somebody or some group demonstrates that it is true. “Let’s see your power. Let’s see you be different and have different outcomes than everyone else. Let’s see you rise above entropy. Let’s see you make this real by living it out in front of everyone to see. Let’s see if you believe your own message.” 

Who are we talking to? The church. When the church lives in Holy Spirit power and demonstrates the outside energy of God to overcome entropy in the world as Jesus did and when the world can see the difference between the physical and the spiritual, all of these scriptures and interpretations fall into place. If there is little/no difference between the church and the world, if the values of the world invade the church with postmodern humanism, if the church shows nothing more than what the world can see in itself, then all these scriptures and interpretations about supernatural power can RIP. “If they don’t make any difference in your life, why should I think it would make a dime’s worth of difference in mine?” 

Any signs of entropy? 

The “I’m against that” theology. Christians have established a greater reputation in the world for what they are “against” than for demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ and what difference that makes in overcoming entropy. Christians are known more for being against science, against genetic research, against environmental protection, against discovery, against abortion, against “alternate lifestyles,” against miracles today, against, against, against. “Well, Jesus was against some things.” Yes, but that wasn’t what He was known for and that is not what He prayed for in John 17 --that His followers would be known for their love, peace and unity in the body of Christ. If the church were known are for something that is working so well that it is obvious to everyone (like righteousness, truth, love, peace, unity, and joy), we wouldn’t have to be “against” so many things. In fact, we would be so busy doing what glorifies Jesus that we wouldn’t have time to concentrate on the “Ministry of What We Are Against.” Instead of wearing the letters “WWAA,” Christians could place more meaning behind “WWJD.” 

There are a number of sinful behaviors that are contrary to scripture that the church is (or has been) “against.” But, instead of “speaking the truth in love” (a sign of maturity of the church Eph 4:15), the church comes out “against” certain things, and the church opens itself up to attacks of hypocrisy and intolerance. These are not true but are responses back to the rather judgmental approach that the church has taken. So, what is the church doing? Instead of renewing its approach to conform to the love of Jesus, the church begins to tolerate the sin -- and not only tolerate the sin in the church, but adopt it as such in their doctrine and appoint those with that behavior to the ministry and “clergy.” 

Instead of changing from preaching to the world in an unloving way to a more Christ-like approach, the church responds to charges of being judgmental by slowly adopting what the world does. That’s not the reason to leave behind a condemning attitude – the reason is that Jesus didn’t condemn (John 8:11, 15; 12:47), and not because the church negotiates the scripture and takes on the world’s behavioral standard.  Has this increased the respect of the world for the church?  How many has this approach brought into a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ?

Postmodern humanism has been seeping into the church. Now much of the institutionalized church is opening the door and inviting the human value system to come in so it can be made the standard operating procedure instead of the scripture. What was considered bad behavior becomes more acceptable. More people do it; it becomes the norm. This is like replacing the power of the Holy Spirit with natural entropy. 

Irresponsible use of freedom. Freedom is based on responsible behavior in the use of the freedom. A small fraction of those with bad behavior take advantage of the freedom of everyone else by their selfish immorality. This corruption gets laws passed that place restrictions on the freedom of the entire group (think airport security), or sometimes the freedom may be cancelled altogether. The old law pointed out sin, and that made everyone want to sin or see how close they could get to it. More laws define the limit of behavior, so people push to see what they can get away with, whether it is the athlete trying to get an illegal move past a referee, a person buying booze and cigarettes with food stamps, or a misrepresentation of a product to get more sales. More bad behavior gives more laws which give more bad behavior of a higher sophistication and technology (think identity theft). This is moral entropy. As bad behavior continues, its effects accumulate. It is not self-correcting. The effects of bad behavior in a society build up like DDT in the liver.

Prov. 14:34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.


This post (#111) is the first in a series of five posts about spiritual entropy in behavior, society, and the church.  If anyone wants to read more, these posts have been collected together here:

  • Spiritual Thermodynamics and Overcoming Entropy
  •     (Post #111 is the only one of the five that has been independently published)   


        [115]  THE LAW OF PHYSICAL ENTROPY AND THE LAW OF SPIRITUAL REGENERATION - The Christian’s view of thermodynamics



  1. I can't believe no one has commented on this post in over a year. This is so brilliantly and thoughtfully written. I landed here from a Google search on Tytler but found something I wasn't looking for, but found fascinating. Thank you!

    1. Thank you. I appreciate your very kind comment.

  2. very good considered and in accordance to history, I am impressed


  3. This is great info. It has set me to thinking of every situation I am involved with and how they come full circle. Thank you for the posting and the tie-in with our Christian belief in Jesus Christ our only savior.

  4. Thank you for this encouraging word. God bless you.