General Relativity and Christ

Posted Oct 23, 2010 by Michael in General

I have recently been studying Einstein's theory of General Relativity[1][2], in particular how it affects time. I heard about it only a few days ago while reading my science school book. I had never heard the consistency of time throughout the universe even questioned. It really intrigued me how time is not a constant (nor is space or light), so I decided to do some research[3].


I'm going to quickly explain the fundamental principles at play in general relativity (I suggest have a look at footnote 2 for a better, non-exhaustive, explanation), for those who are wondering. This theory states that space is morphed by objects of a large mass. This means that space (the three dimensions we live in everyday) starts out as a series of straight lines. Add a massive object in, and these lines bend in towards the object, as well as curve around it. Add another, much less massive object in (which doesn't bend space as much) and it will either collide straight into the first object, or spin around it. This is like the Sun and the Earth, and what I have just described is what we call gravity.

Illustration of how the Sun affects space.
Figure 1 - Illustration of how the sun Sun affects space, causing the satellite to change it's path.

Now, relative to people on the Earth, we don't notice that we're moving in a circle; if we just look up at the sky, we could conclude we're moving in a straight line. In a sense we are, because without the Sun, the "lines" of space would be going straight, and the earth is just following one of those lines. This is where the whole idea of relativity comes in, things appear differently relative to different view points.

The really interesting thing is, time, light and other things are also affected by objects of great mass. This means time is not constant throughout the universe, and allows for some really interesting things to happen. The rule for time is, time goes slower near massive objects. Time has been measured moving at a faster rate where the satellites orbit than on earth.


Black Holes

The best objects in the universe to use an example for study on this topic, are black holes[4][5]. Black holes are a single point of infinite density that resulted from the destruction of a large star. Because these things are so infinitely small (a single point in space), yet they have so much mass (what is called, infinite density), they have a relentless gravitational pull, which, remember, is actually the bending of space due to mass. This force is so powerful, that not a beam of light can escape once it is trapped in the black hole.

Illustration of a black hole.
Figure 2 - Illustration of a black hole, a long with how some other stars distort space and time.

All this force does weird things with time. If you fell into a black hole, people watching you would see you start slow down, and completely freeze once you got to the edge of the black hole[6]. On the other hand, you would think time was moving normally for yourself, however if you were able to watch the people who were watching you fall, they would seem to get faster and faster. In fact, if you could hold yourself at the edge of the black hole for a while, you would see the future of the universe (the part that you could see) play out before your eyes[7].

Time is also incredibly weird inside of a black hole. Footnote 7 explains some of the strange rules of time and memory that a black hole sets up. Because of the fact that light gets morphed inside of a black hole as well, you would see the future and past of objects that are also inside the black hole (but not as far in the black hole as you).


Time Travel

The fact that time can be different in different parts of the universe, means that, at least in theory, time travel is possible[8]. If you able to make an object travel nearly the speed of light (traveling the speed of light is impossible), this make an object's mass go up incredibly, almost reaching the level of infinite mass. This affects time around the your vehicle of choice, so that it goes extremely slow. If you were to travel at 99.99999...% the speed of light, you could travel around the universe in your life time, and you would eventually be in the future by millions of years according to earth's time[9].

Another theoretical idea related to time travel is worm holes[10]. These are tunnels that connect two different points in spacetime (spacetime is a way of referring to the four dimensions we know of in the universe: three space dimensions and time). This would allow traveling to two different states of time, therefore invoking time travel.

Illustration of a worm hole.
Figure 3 - Illustration of a worm hole, showing the connection between two different areas of space.


Measuring Rods

Now after all that, what does this tell you about time, distance, space, and what we see? They are not constant throughout the universe! They change, sometimes dramatically, throughout the universe. For all we know there could be a place in the universe where time has stopped or even doesn't exist.

We use time and space as measuring rods (agents, tools, whatever you want to call it) many times a day, which enforces the notion we get that time and space are constant throughout the universe. Based on what I've talked about so far, is it clear that these things are not constant throughout the universe, they are only relative to whatever point in the universe you happen to be in. Since we are all on the earth, time and space can be used effectively to measure things. We cannot, however, gather reliable, detailed measurements outside of earth.

We cannot know whether some of the things we are seeing in the universe even exist. It may be misguided or morphed light. We cannot know for sure whether the scientific laws we have discovered on earth, in our solar system, and in our galaxy, apply to other parts of the universe.

In the end, what is stable universally? What is constant universally? What can we rely on universally?


How God Fits In

God and His word, are the only universally stable, constant, and reliable things we have. We can rely on what God says, and we can be sure that he is constant no matter what happens in the universe (James 1:17).

Another interesting point is that God is everywhere in the universe through His Spirit. Because of the relativity of everything, things appear different from different places in the universe. However, God, through His Spirit, has a view of every perspective, therefore he knows exactly what is really going on. He has a far, far better picture and context than we (or any of His creatures) do, because we see things relative to our position.


Measuring Christ

In the article "The Eternal Question", Dad dealt with the fact that people are measuring Christ by time, in affect making God subject to one of His creations. This measuring is also based on the understanding that time is universally constant, which we know it is not. With the understanding that time is not a universally constant straight line, even for us, this makes the notion of measuring Christ by time seem absolutely absurd.

Knowing how time can be changed and morphed, eternity seems to me even more possible. For example, behind the curtain of eternity time could be going in a loop, it could be making a graph the shape of the Italian alps, or it might not be there at all. And that's only in one place of the universe, it could be completely different in another place. But the question is, does it really matter? Do we really need to know what happens in eternity? If people don't want to accept that Christ is the Son of God, they won't anyway.

Added to this, did not God create the universe, including time? If so, is not God above time? The creator is always above the creation, and cannot be subject to it.



If you have read this far, I congratulate you and also thank you for taking the time to read what I've written. The subject of relativity is a very interesting one, and it adds weight to the fact that Christ is not to be measured by time. I will continue to study relativity, black holes, and these kinds of subjects, and possibly write some more in the future.

The bottom line is, will we accept what God says or not?



[1] The wikipedia article on General Relativity. Has a good load of information on it (no I have not read much of it yet).

[2] The article on General Relativity on the Ask an Astronomer website. Good information, yet not overloading.

[3] The Ask an Astronomer website has a lot of very interesting information on these subjects, and anything to do with astronomy.

[4] The article on black holes on the Ask an Astronomer website.

[5] Black Holes: Gravity's Relentless Pull. A good interactive introduction to black holes.

[6] An interactive experiment, from the website in footnote 5, showing what would happen if you dropped a clock into a black hole.

[7] An answer to a question, on the Ask an Astronomer website, covering a number of details about how black holes morph time, and the rules at play.

[8] An answer to a question, on the Ask an Astronomer website, which covers the possibility of time travel.

[9] An answer to a question, on the Ask an Astronomer website, which covers traveling the universe in a lifetime.

[10] An answer to a question, on the Ask an Astronomer website, which covers the idea of worm holes.