DEATH OF A SAVED SINNER — From Christianity Today: Died: Brennan Manning, Author of The Ragamuffin Gospel. Manning was a sinner, having gone through alcoholism and divorce, among other things. Manning was very open about his failures, which is part of what made his books so worthwhile.
“Don’t think I’m a saint. I’m a ragamuffin, you’re a ragamuffin, and God loves us anyway.” In his bestseller The Ragamuffin Gospel (Multnomah, 1990), he writes that “justification by grace through faith means that I know myself accepted by God as I am.” He explains, “Genuine self-acceptance is not derived from the power of positive thinking, mind games, or pop psychology. It is an act of faith in the grace of God alone.”
Some quotes from his writings:
“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” — The Ragamuffin Gospel
“Real freedom is freedom from the opinions of others. Above all, freedom from your opinions about yourself. ” — The Wisdom of Tenderness
“The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation.” — The Furious Longing of God
“In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.” — Abba’s Child
I’m a sinner too, so I can relate. Saved by grace alone:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. — Ephesians 2:8,9 NIV
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. — John 3:16 NIV
SEXUAL SIN INHIBITS REVIVAL — In Who Are You Sleeping With? My Conversation With Timothy Keller, Christ and Pop Culture quotes pastor and author Timothy Keller, who puts his finger on a significant obstacle to revival in our churches:
Drawing on his experience in urban, culture-shaping Manhattan, Keller responded that one of the biggest obstacles to repentance for revival in the Church is the basic fact that almost all singles outside the Church and a majority inside the Church are sleeping with each other. In other words, good old-fashioned fornication.
Keller says we need to present an alternative view, a view of sex that is beautiful, but different than the one offered in the dominant cultural narratives; affirming of the goodness of sex, but presenting it within a God-intended framework that imbues it with meaning and value.
I suspect the problem is much broader than fornication; it is the entire package of anything-goes sexuality that pervades our culture—pornography, easy divorce, living together, promiscuity, outside-of-marriage childbearing, abortion, homosexuality, polygamy, incest, sexualized entertainment—much of which also infects the church.
JUST HORSING AROUND — Naturalis Historia has a series on the evolving views of young-Earth creationists regarding horse evolution:
It seems maybe horses evolved after all. Very quickly, according to some YECs.
WHO’S KIDS ARE ALREADY GONE? — Genesis and Geology has a review of Ken Ham’s book Already Gone, in which the Answers in Genesis president (along with coauthor Britt Beemer) gives reasons why many of our kids leave the church (evolution and millions of years) and his solution (more young-Earth creationism).
From the review:
The book’s most serious flaw is methodological: common sense tells us that it is difficult for people who have already made up their minds about an issue to carry out objective surveys (Beemer is anything but impartial). Evangelicals have been complaining for years about how easy it is for the media to distort data. Perhaps we should practice what we preach? Furthermore, researchers should publish all of their survey data (that’s standard practice). Ham & Beemer have not done this, and unfortunately much of the data they did publish seems to contradict some their conclusions (e.g., most of the dropouts seem to agree with AiG on most Creation/evolution issues, but they dropped out anyway; when respondents said they were turned off by hypocrisy in the church, Ham conveniently interprets that to mean they were offended by pastors and teachers who “compromised” on Genesis.
CHATTING ABOUT THE CHILL — Answers in Genesis will be having a live chat on Facebook on Tuesday regarding their latest Answers Magazine ice age article, which I critiqued last week. I’ll drop in on the chat if I have the chance.
ABIOTIC OIL — I’ve made a few comments on Jay Wile’s blog about the origin of hydrocarbons in Earth’s crust. While some methane does come from the mantle or deep crust, and there are a few oil and gas deposits in basement rocks, I take the position that most oil and gas is indeed derived from organic material in sedimentary basins.
Around the web — 4/7/2013 — Archean jellyfish? Homeschool uncritical thinking? An atheist’s journey!
Jellied jellyfish — The cover of the April 2013 Journal of Creation has a picture of a jellyfish, with a caption that states “Fossil Jellyfish from Western Australia: Challenging Geological Chronology.” The article is “Fossil jellyfish from the Pilbara, Western Australia” by Philip Worts. The article is not available online yet, but I assume there is a claim that the Archean rocks of the Pilbara Craton—which contain what many believe to be Earth’s oldest known bacteria fossils—contain jellyfish fossils as well. I haven’t read the article so I cannot comment on that aspect.
What is harder to believe, that jellyfish got preserved in quiet, oxygen-poor sedimentary environments, or that somehow the carcasses of these fragile creatures stayed intact in the abrasive sediment-rich slurry that the YECs propose for Noah’s flood?
More unsalty salt — Last week I wrote a critique of a young-Earth creationist proposal that evaporites (rock salt, gypsum, etc.) were formed during Noah’s flood by crystallization from “salt magma.” Now there is a homeschool study guide to go along with the salt magma YouTube video. Most homeschooled kids won’t be harmed by this, but those who do any critical thinking or investigation about the video could be at risk of being “already gone.” This is especially true when they are presented with the false dichotomy of “if YEC isn’t true, then Christianity isn’t true.”
Atheist to deist to Christian — Christianity Today has the story of Jordan Monge: The Atheist’s Dilemma: I tried to face down an overwhelming body of evidence, as well as the living God.
But never once did I have to sacrifice my intellect for my faith.
It was the only rational course of action.
Persecution of Christians continues – Secular Sweden Sees No Problem in Sending Christian Converts Back to Iran?
What is worse, a toy or a bloody conquest? — Lego drops Jabba toy after Muslims complain — So, it’s bad that this Lego set has a building that sort of looks like a mosque in Istanbul, but it is just fine that the Turks invaded the Christian Byzantine Empire, and converted its greatest church, the Hagia Sophia, into that mosque?
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
There are two historical facts that need explaining. The first is that the tomb of Jesus was empty. The second is that the disciples were convinced that they had seen him alive after discovering that the tomb was empty. By alive, we mean with a physical body; they did not believe they had seen a ghost.
N.T. Wright writes about the resurrection of Christ in Surprised by Hope:
Equally, an empty tomb by itself proves almost nothing. It might (as many have suggested) have been the wrong tomb, though a quick check would have sorted that one out. Someone—the soldiers, the gardeners, the chief priests, other disciples, or someone else—might have taken away the body for some reason or other. Grave robbery was well known. That was the conclusion Mary drew in John’s gospel: they’ve taken him away—and perhaps it was the gardener that did it. That was the conclusion the Jewish leaders broadcast, according to Matthew: the disciples took him away. All sorts of similar explanations could have been offered, and would have been, had not the empty tomb been accompanied by sightings of, and meetings with, Jesus himself. No: in order to explain historically how all the early Christians came to the belief they held, that Jesus had been raised, we have to say at least this: that the tomb was empty, except for some graveclothes, and that they really did see and talk with someone who gave every appearance of being a solidly physical Jesus, though a Jesus who was strangely changed, more strangely than they were able fully to describe.
Both the meetings and the empty tomb are therefore necessary if we are to explain the rise of the belief and the writing of the stories as we have them. Neither by itself was sufficient; put them together, though, and they provide a complete and coherent explanation for the rise of the early Christian belief.
Many smaller arguments might be brought in at this point that we can only summarize. To begin with, here are other proposals regularly advanced as rival explanations to the early Christian one:
- Jesus didn’t really die; someone gave him a drug that made him look like dead, and he revived in the tomb. Answer: Roman soldiers knew how to kill people, and no disciple would have been fooled by a half-drugged, beat-up Jesus into thinking he’d defeated death and inaugurated the kingdom.
- When the women went to the tomb they met someone else (perhaps James, Jesus’s brother, who looked like him), and in the half light they thought it was Jesus himself. Answer: they would have noticed soon enough.
- Jesus only appeared to people who believed in him. Answer: the accounts make it clear that Thomas and Paul do not belong to this category; and actually none of Jesus’s followers believed, after his death, that he really was the Messiah, let alone that he was in any sense divine.
- The accounts we have are too biased. Answer: so is all history, all journalism. Every photo is taken by somebody from some angle.
- They began by saying, “He will be raised,” as people had done of the martyrs, and this quickly passed into saying, “He has been raised,” which was functionally equivalent. Answer: no, it wasn’t.
- Lots of people have visions of someone they love who has just died; this was what happened to the disciples. Answer: they knew perfectly well about things like that, and they had language for it; they would say, “It’s his angel” or “It’s his spirit” or “his ghost.” They wouldn’t say, “He’s been raised from the dead.”
- Perhaps the most popular: what actually happened was that they had some kind of rich “spiritual” experience, which they interpreted through Jewish categories. Jesus after all really was alive, spiritually, and they were still in touch with him. Answer: that is simply a description of a noble death followed by a Platonic immortality. Resurrection was and is the defeat of death, not simply a nicer description of it; and it’s something that happens some while after the moment of death, not immediately.
Equally, we may just notice three of the many small-scale arguments that are often, and quite rightly, advanced to support the belief that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead:
- Jewish tombs, especially those of martyrs, were venerated and often became shrines. There is no sign whatever of that having happened with Jesus’s grave.
- The early church’s emphasis on the first day of the week as their special day is very hard to explain unless something striking really did happen then. A gradual or even sudden dawning of faith is hardly sufficient to explain it.
- The disciples were hardly likely to go out and suffer and die for a belief that wasn’t firmly anchored in fact. This is an important point though subject to the weakness that they might have been genuinely mistaken: they believed the resurrection of Jesus to be a fact, and they acted on that belief, but we know (so it would be said) that they were wrong.
(pp. 59, 61-63)
We cannot “prove” that Christ indeed rose from the dead through historical arguments like these, but we can demonstrate that it is a reasonable—and we would say the most reasonable—explanation. If one starts with the presupposition that there is no God, then one would have to find some other explanation than the resurrection. But that would be a conclusion forced on the evidence, rather than something derived from the evidence. On the other hand, if we allow that God could (or even must) exist, then the Christian explanation—that Christ is risen indeed!—becomes the best explanation for the evidence.
Grace and Peace
Around the web 3/22/2013 — The ice age only lasted 250 years, evaporites formed from magma, environmentalism is bad for us, and more
THE ICE AGE (SINGULAR) OCCURRED BETWEEN 2250 AND 2000 B.C. — Answers in Genesis posted an article in February by Andrew Snelling and Mike Matthews entitled When Was the Ice Age in Biblical History? As usual, none of this is necessary Biblically, or workable scientifically.
Here is everything they want to squeeze into 250 years after their date for Noah’s flood (2350 B.C. on the accompanying map with timeline):
- 2350 to 2250 B.C. — Antarctica becomes covered by forests, then gets covered by its ice cap.
- 2250 to 2000 B.C. — Ice age on the rest of Earth.
- approx. 2300 B.C. — First mastadons.
- 2250 B.C. — first human tools in archeological record.
- approx 2200 B.C. — First woolly mammoths.
- approx 2200 to 2100 B.C. — Age of the Neanderthals.
- approx 2150 B.C. — Humans migrate into Australia.
- approx 2100 B.C. — Humans migrate into North America.
- 2000 B.C. — End of Ice age. Abram born.
Again, the Bible says none of this! When Abram is born, he is born into a stable civilization on a stable Mesopotamian plain that isn’t much different than how it is described in Genesis 2. There has been no massive transformation of the Tigris-Euphrates valley!
But the geological problems with the YEC picture dwarf the biblical problems. Not only do they have to squeeze Antarctic glaciation, Neanderthals, the ice ages (there is plenty of evidence that glaciation happened multiple times), and human migration into Australia and the Americas into 250 years, one would have to throw in things like multiple eruptions of a number of “supervolcanoes” (e.g. Yellowstone, Toba, Long Valley), growth of other volcanoes (e.g. Cascade Range), growth of modern coral reefs, and deposition of in some cases many hundreds of meters of ice age sediments around the world. Add in a few biological marvels as well — hyperevolutionary adaptive radiation going from “elephant kind” to mastodons, woolly mammoths, and modern elephants; as well as dispersion of animals and humans throughout the globe.
Don’t teach this to the church or our youth as biblical truth or scientific apologetics!!!!
EVAPORITES (SUCH AS SALT) FORMED FROM MAGMA — YEC geologist Tas Walker has endorsed Stef Heerema’s magmatic model for for the origin of large salt formations. Heerema’s Journal of Creation article is here, and a more recent YouTube video is here. I am writing a longer response to this one, but for now I’ll say that this all shows that, despite YEC claims to the contrary, the Journal of Creation cannot possibly be a peer-reviewed journal.
ENVIRONMENTALISM IS A THREAT TO CIVILIZATION — So says Evangelical writer Cal Beisner, a spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance. There are some good things in the Cornwall Alliance’s Declaration on Environmental Stewardship, but…
Here’s what Beisner recently said about why humans could not be doing any catastrophic harm to the Earth by adding excess greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, as reported at Huff Post Green:
“That doesn’t fit well with the biblical teaching that the earth is the result of the omniscient design, the omnipotent creation and the faithful sustaining of the God of the Bible. So it really is an insult to God,” Beisner said.
Isn’t that sort of like saying that it doesn’t matter what we do to our bodies—smoking, excess alcohol and drug use, etc.—because God has designed us in such a way that the things we do could not possible cause us catastrophic harm?
THE DOCTRINE OF CREATION – The biblical doctrine of creation isn’t primarily about how old the Earth is. See Bigger Than We Think by David Wilkinson.
PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANITY CONTINUES – Iran puts five Christians on trial for their faith, Christian protesters decry Muslim mob’s arson spree following blasphemy charge, Christians, churches dwindling in Iraq since start of war 10 years ago.
I want to write, write, write, but can’t keep up with it all.
Grace and Peace
Many Christian geologists I know began their undergraduate geological training as young-Earth creationists (YECs). They entered their studies having been equipped by reading YEC classics such as The Genesis Flood and Scientific Creationism, had a whole stack of Institute for Creation Research Acts & Facts “Impact” articles, and were certain that they would set the geological world straight.
None of the Christian geologists I know personally were still YECs when they graduated. For some (such as for myself), there was no serious crisis of faith along the way. For others, there were times of severe trial, as everything they believed about the Bible and the Earth was challenged. I get emails from time to time from geology undergraduates who thank me for helping them during that time of testing of their faith, and for this I am very grateful.
Sadly, many Christians who enter geological studies with a YEC background end up as spiritual shipwrecks and leave the faith altogether. They have been taught that if YEC is not true, then the Bible is not true either, and all of Christianity is false as well. When they start learning about how the Earth really works, they are devastated This is the bitter fruit of years of YEC indoctrination through a barrage of books, DVDs, educational curricula, Sunday school, and youth groups. It doesn’t have to be so.
Steve Smith is a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. I had the privilege of meeting Steve a few years ago. We had moved back to the United States after six years of service as missionaries with the Evangelical Free Church, and we were living in Denver while I looked for employment. Steve gave my wife and I a wonderful geological tour of Red Rocks Park. I ended up finding employment in Missouri, so we were not able to get together again.
Steve has done a fantastic job of writing about his experiences as a Christian geologist, from his YEC undergraduate beginnings to his current interactions with young people struggling with science and faith issues. The article is Breaking Away from a False Dilemma, and is posted at Nazarenes Exploring Evolution.
Here are a few clips, but you really should read the whole article:
With a high-school level understanding of science and theology, I was convinced by this “either-or” argument and, to my knowledge, became the first Young Earth Creationist in my local Nazarene church. I knew the enemy and the enemy had a name. It was Evolution.
Although I was fascinated by geology and had found a scientific field that I loved, my faith was in shambles. Based on what I had believed and read in the Young Earth Creationist literature, if the geologic ages were real, if the earth was old, if evolution had happened then the Bible was false, Christianity wasn’t true, and Christ’s death on the cross was meaningless. So what was left? I felt betrayed and seriously considered leaving the church. In retrospect, two factors kept me from leaving: (1) the support of a strong Christian family (and a young lady soon to be my wife) that gave me the freedom to question without condemnation; and (2) the strong witness of my Olivet geology professor, who had not only faced all of the same scientific evidence but was one of the most Christ-like men I had ever met. But before I could move on, I had to recognize that I had been snared by a false dilemma and that the Bible didn’t need to be read as a scientific treatise on how to create a world. That was a time of turmoil and what I needed most was theological support that would allowed me to reconcile what I read in the Bible with what I saw in the rocks.
I have seen students break down into tears as they stood on an outcrop of rock and saw evidence that contradicted what their church had taught them. I have comforted my own daughter when she was told by a Sunday School teacher that she couldn’t be a Christian if she accepted evidence for evolution. I have talked with scientists who were once raised in a church and are now bitter agnostics because the church “lied to them” about science.
Thanks, Steve, for sharing your story.
Grace and Peace
Ligonier Ministries has posted an excellent article which can help us think through how to speak and write about issues that are controversial within the Christian church. Some important values as I write articles for The GeoChristian include that I would communicate with grace and humility, that the body of Christ would be edified, and that non-believers would be pointed to Christ.
The article is Consider Yourself by Burk Parsons. Here are a few excerpts:
Controversy exists because God’s truth exists in a world of lies. Controversy is the plight of sinners in a fallen world, who were originally created by God to know the truth, love the truth, and proclaim the truth. We cannot escape controversy this side of heaven, nor should we seek to. As Christians, God has rescued us out of darkness and has made us able to stand in His marvelous light. He has called us to go into the darkness and shine as a light to the world, reflecting the glorious light of our Lord, Jesus Christ. And when light shines in darkness, controversy is inevitable.
The difficulty comes when we try to discern truth from error in the church of Christ.
“What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made?” — John Newton
Parsons then offers ten questions to help us determine if and how we should engage in controversial issues. Some questions that are most applicable to our debates about Earth science include:
1. Have I prayed?
2. What is my motive?
3. Am I striving to edify others?
6. How will I treat the person with whom I disagree?
9. What is my ultimate goal?
10. Am I focused on God’s glory? (Are we serving God’s kingdom or our own kingdom?)
Doing these things, and doing them well, is more important to me than the age of the Earth, flood geology, environmental responsibility, or a host of other topics that surface from time to time here on The GeoChristian.
Grace and Peace
For most Christian traditions and denominations, the age of the Earth is not a primary issue. It is not even a secondary issue. Nor is it a tertiary issue. In fact it is not even a quaternary issue. For most Christian traditions and denominations, the age of the Earth is a quinary issue! That’s three steps below being a matter of even secondary importance!
This does not mean that what we believe about origins is not important, but it helps to put the endless debate in proper perspective.
C. Michael Patton at Parchment & Pen Blog has a Chart to Help Distinguish Between Essentials and Non-Essentials.
Patton reserves the “Essential for Salvation” circle for those doctrines that one must believe in order to be a Christian by just about any definition. This includes belief in God, Christ’s deity and humanity; our sinfulness, and Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection.
The next circle includes those things that all Christians (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant) have believed from the beginning of the church, such as the doctrine of the Trinity as expressed in the Nicene Creed, the future return of Christ, the eternal punishment of the wicked, and belief that Christ is the only way to God. One might err on one of these (e.g. believe that all will in the end be saved) and still be a Christian, but not be within the standards of Christian orthodoxy.
The third circle from the center is traditional orthodoxy, which is orthodoxy as defined by one of the broad traditions of the Church: Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism. I fall within Protestant orthodoxy, believing in justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. I fall outside of Roman Catholic orthodoxy, as I reject its teachings about Mary.
I am well aware that there will be differences between Christian traditions and denominations about where to place various doctrines. Lutherans will bump baptism up a notch or two compared to most Evangelicals, and Pentecostals might move spiritual gifts more towards the center as compared to where most Episcopalians will.
Where do teachings about evolution and the age of the universe come into this?
Patton places what we believe about origins in the “important but not essential” category. I think I would place evolution and chronology at this level as well.
Most YEC leaders will state that origins are not a primary issue, that is, that one can believe in an old Earth and still be a Christian. I think the highest they could really put YEC is at the denominational orthodoxy level (though they might look at their denominational orthodoxy as the true standard of orthodoxy and throw out the higher levels entirely).
Many YEC followers seem to place YEC at the primary level, as in, “If you are not a YEC, you are probably not really a Christian.” I have actually run into that quite a bit.
What do you think? Where do the age of the universe and biological evolution fit on the diagram?
Grace and Peace
Dr. Duane Gish was one of the most prominent young-Earth creationists back in the 1970s and 1980s, especially popular among YECs for his tenacity in debates. According to the Institute for Creation Research (where Dr. Gish was vice president under Henry Morris) and Answers in Genesis, he died yesterday, March 5, 2013.
Gish was also an author, being the writer of Evolution: The Fossils Say No! and other popular-level books.
I heard Duane Gish in one of his famous debates at Washington State University back in 1987, where he debated WSU anthropology professor Dr. Grover Krantz (who was best known as an advocate of the existence of Sasquatch). Gish’s debate style was a quick-talking overload of facts, taking the time he had to pile on evidence against evolution and an old Earth from a wide diversity of fields—biochemistry (Gish’s PhD field), paleontology, geology, meteorology, astronomy, chemistry, physics, anthropology, archeology, and more. Most debaters were not equipped to answer such an array of “evidence,” and thus Gish could always find something his opponent had no answer for. Some of his arguments were sound; many were not (he was big on the moon dust and 2nd law of thermodynamics arguments—at least back when he was prominent—which have since been abandoned by mainstream creationists).
On the afternoon before the Gish-Krantz debate, Dr. Gish was invited to speak to the WSU Geology Department graduate seminar. I remember being apprehensive, as I was concerned that he would say things that would further harden hearts against Christianity. I was actually pleasantly surprised; he stayed on safer (and stronger for him) subjects such as the origin of life and the gaps in the fossil record at higher taxonomic levels. He did not talk about flood geology or the age of the Earth, and when asked about these things in the Q&A time, he simply stated that he had his own beliefs on these, but many Christians differed on the matter. In discussions after the debate, I remember one of the geology PhD candidates saying that if that were all that creationists were after, he would not have been opposed to teaching it in public schools. If only Dr. Gish had been more consistent in voicing this view, and if more YEC leaders would humbly do the same.
I may have also heard Dr. Gish speak at Montana State University in the early 1980s, but am not sure.
Despite whatever errors Gish taught and whatever sins he committed (just like me), Duane Gish has now heard the Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share your master’s happiness.”
I pray for his family and colleagues in their time of grief (which will not be like the grief of the world).
Grace and Peace
CHELYABINSK METEOR WAS REALLY AN AMERICAN WEAPONS TEST – At least according to one Russian politician, as reported at Russia Today: US tested new weapon, no meteor in Chelyabinsk – Russian LibDem leader.
Astronomy Picture of the Day has a good video of the meteor.
LEAVING THE HATE CHURCH — Two granddaughters of Fred Phelps—pastor of the heretical “God Hates Fags” Westboro Baptist Church—have left the “church.” Here are a few thoughts from an article in Christianity Today (The Westboro Baptist in All of Us):
Most of us wouldn’t go to the same lengths as those at Westboro, but collectively, we have our own prejudices, rigid rules, regulations, and zealotries. These drive us to marginalize, cast aspersions upon and exclude others within our own churches, Christian organizations and institutions who so much as dare to differ, even slightly, from our own political or theological stances.
“Zealotry is conscious zeal to be radically committed, so radically committed that one goes beyond the Bible to defend things that are not in the Bible…. Zealots…convince themselves that, even though the Bible does not say something, what they are saying is really what the Bible wanted after all.” — Scot McKnight
“The underlying assumption is that my thoughts are God’s thoughts; my cause is God’s cause. This divine alliance makes me exempt from obedience in order that I might bring about God’s purposes.” — Tim Gombis
The CT article is directed at Christians, but there is a little bit of Westboro in everybody.
INTOLERANT TOLERANCE – Many “progressives” preach tolerance as the highest virtue, and then act a little Westboro-ish towards anyone who disagrees with them. Ligonier Ministries has a review of two recent books on tolerance: The Intolerance of Tolerance and A Queer Thing Happened to America.
GREEN ELEPHANTS FOR PRESIDENT — The top leadership of environmental organizations such as The Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace were given the opportunity to pick a list of greenest presidents. The top two vote-getters were Republicans: Teddy Roosevelt and Richard Nixon. See America’s Greenest Presidents. (HT: ConservAmerica)
Why Teddy Roosevelt? He clearly loved nature and did much to set aside land for preservation and stewardship.
Why Richard Nixon? The Environmental Protection Agency, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act…
What does the current crop of Republican leaders want to do about all of this?
AT MIZZOU, EVERY DAY COULD BECOME A NO-TEST DAY – No exams on Wiccan, Pagan holidays at University of Missouri? I would feel discriminated against because Good Friday is not a school holiday.
PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANITY CONTINUES — How China Plans to Wipe Out House Churches and Four Missionaries Arrested in Benghazi May Face Libya Death Penalty (post-Arab Spring “democracy” at work).
IF I ONLY HAD A (CHIMP) BRAIN – If my wife sends me to the store with a list of more than three things, I must have them written down. If I were a chimpanzee however, I could do much better. Chimps have better short-term memory than humans.
THE “NOT SCIENCE FRIDAY” SHOW — From Christianity Today: Creationist Pastor Loses to NPR over ‘Science Friday’ Radio Show. Apparently the name of the radio program—Real Science Friday—was too close to NPR’s Science Friday program. It is now Real Science Radio.
THE LAW OF SUPERPOSITION IS WRONG? — At least according to the above mentioned radio program (the law of superposition states that newer sedimentary layers are deposited on older sedimentary layers).
Here’s a quote from Real Science Radio’s Liquefaction Made Most of the Paper Thin Fossils:
The “Law of Superposition” Is Wrong: As a general description of the world’s sedimentary layers, this alleged natural “law” wrongly claims that, “Sedimentary layers are deposited in a time sequence, with the oldest on the bottom and the youngest on the top.” In reality, a tremendous amount of sorting of minerals and fossils occurred underground when the continents’ mile-deep sediments were first deposited.
I guess they are trying to extrapolate from small-scale sediment liquifaction events (e.g. during earthquakes) to explaining large-scale features of the geological column. It appears that much of this is based on Walt Brown’s hydroplate theory, which is not promoted by “mainstream” YECs such as those at Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research.
TUNNELING TETRAPODS — Naturalis Historia has a note about Triassic Fossilized Animal Burrows in Argentina. In the YEC scenario, these were either formed by very busy terrestrial critters who somehow survived the Cambrian to Permian part of the flood only to dig sophisticated burrows during some brief respite before the Jurassic to Tertiary part of the flood, or they only look like animal burrows, complete with horizontal burrows, vertical burrows, and nesting chambers; accompanied by well-developed paleosols (ancient soil layers).
HOW MUCH DID IT SNOW IN THE WINTER OF 22,375 B.C.? – A 30,000-year ice core from Antarctica. The YEC response will once again be, “they only look like annual ice layers,” even though the older layers look just like the layers formed in historic times.
HT: Geology.com News
THIS STATEMENT IS FALSE — Stand to Reason has a post about self-refuting statements, such as:
- “There is no objective truth.” (Is that statement objectively true?)
- “It’s arrogant to assume you know the truth with certainty.” (Are you certain that is a true statement?)
- “Science is the only way to determine truth.” (What experiment did you run to determine that statement?)
- “Tolerance requires us to accept all views equally” (Except, of course, any view that doesn’t accept all views as equal.)
WHAT MANY DO WITH THEIR COLLEGE DEGREE — CNN Money reports that 1 in 4 retail workers, 1 in 6 bartenders, and 1 in 4 amusement park attendants have a college degree, and that “about 37% of employed U.S. college graduates are working in jobs that require no more than a high school diploma.”
THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT JACK — Clive Staples Lewis, that is. Go to 30 Things You Might Not Know About CS Lewis and you will probably learn something you didn’t know about Jack. I think I knew about 12 out of the 30 things; here are some that I did not know:
- 3. He never learned to drive.
- 7. He failed his Oxford entrance exam, twice.
- 22. Mere Christianity never mentions the Resurrection.
- 23. He read every single book from the 16th century.
Grace and peace
The age of the Earth is and should be a secondary doctrinal issue within Christianity. It is not up there with central Biblical teachings such as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, or justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Nor is it up there with doctrines such as baptism, the Lord’s supper, election, and the work of the Holy Spirit, all of which Christians have differences on.
Some young-Earth creationists will say that the reason the age of the Earth is a primary issue is because if one does not interpret Genesis the way they do, one denies the authority of the Scriptures on which all other doctrines are based. This allegation is demonstrably false. Like many other old-Earth Christians, I believe the Bible from the very first verse, and my old-Earth beliefs do not compromise a single core doctrine of the faith.
One example of a young-Earth creationist who looks at the age of the Earth as a primary doctrinal issue is Henry Morris III, CEO of the Institute for Creation Research, and son of ICR founder Henry Morris. According to the ICR article Geologist Claims Creationists Abandoned Faith (an article which brings up another topic I really need to write about), Morris was asked, “Do you believe that you can be a committed biblicist and come up with an old age view as [old-Earth Christian Glen Morton] has done?” Henry Morris’s reply was,
“It’s kind of like asking: Can you be a Christian and an adulterer.”
I’m wondering if Dr. Morris replies in a similar way to Christians who disagree with him on other doctrinal matters:
Christian: Can I be a Christian and differ with you on baptism?
Morris: “It’s kind of like asking: ‘Can you be a Christian and an adulterer?’”
Christian: Can I be a Christian and differ with you on the timing of events in the end times?
Morris: “It’s kind of like asking: ‘Can you be a Christian and an adulterer?’”
Christian: Can I be a Christian and differ with you on the Holy Spirit?
Morris: “It’s kind of like asking: ‘Can you be a Christian and an adulterer?’”
Grace and Peace
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. — Genesis 1:1 (ESV)
“The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” — Carl Sagan, from Cosmos.
Which of these two quotes is a scientific statement, and which is a religious statement?
The initial reaction most people—including Christians— have had when I have asked this question is that the quote from Genesis is a religious statement, and the quote from Sagan is a scientific statement. In reality, both statements are religious or philosophical in nature, but only the Genesis quote is fully compatible with the universe as we know it.
I won’t dispute that the quote from the Bible is a religious statement. If religion is about God and his relationship to the universe and humanity, then Genesis 1:1 is clearly a religious statement.
Carl Sagan’s famous Cosmos statement is also a philosophical—and I would say religious—statement. Sagan had not observed that “the cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be,” nor had he nor any other scientist done an experiment which proved that God doesn’t exist or isn’t necessary. In other words, Sagan had not used anything like “the scientific method” to arrive at his conclusion, and his Cosmos quote is a philosophical statement, not a scientific one.
Atheists such as Sagan would say that science has explained everything from nuclear fusion to sexual reproduction without any need for inserting God into the process and so their faith that there is no God is justified (faith is the right word, even if they would scramble to say it in a different way). But in doing this they are confusing categories. It is one thing to say that stellar evolution or meiosis can be explained without inserting a “God did it” step. Christians do not insert a “God did it” step into these processes either. However, it is an entirely different matter to explain why there is a cosmos at all. This question is outside of science, and is one that theists have a better explanation for than do atheists.
Many dismiss the Christian belief that God created the entire cosmos—matter, energy, space, time, and laws—as coming from a primitive myth. By “cosmos” I mean “everything that is or ever was or ever will be,” which would include the multiverse (if there is such a thing) beyond our observed universe, but but would not include God. Only one of the following statements, however, is actually compatible with the cosmos as we know it:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
“In the beginning, nothing created everything.”
In the universe we live in, things do not pop into existence completely out of nothing. I am not talking about random quantum fluctuations creating subatomic particles here and there, because these particles are not truly popping up out of nothing. By nothing, I mean nothing — no space, time, matter, energy, nor laws. Because of this, it is incompatible with what we know about the cosmos—that is, it is incompatible with science—to believe that the cosmos came from absolutely nothing, or that it somehow created itself.
On the other hand, it is compatible with the universe as we know it (i.e. science) to advocate that it was caused to exist by something completely outside of it. There is absolutely no scientific reason, therefore, for a scientist to not accept that “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Grace and Peace
Here is my belated Martin Luther King Jr. Day post, a quote from How Martin Luther King Jr. Overcame “Christian” White Supremacy by Southern Baptist Russell D. Moore.
On the question of civil rights in the American Christian context, there is little question that, with few exceptions, the “progressives” were right, often heroically right, and the “conservatives” were wrong, often satanically wrong. In the narrative of the dismantling of Jim Crow, conservatives were often the villains and progressives were most often on the side of the angels, indeed on the side of Jesus.
But regardless of personal faith, the civil rights heroes indicted conservative hypocrites, prophetically, with the conservatives’ own convictional claims. And, as Jesus promised, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.”
The arguments for racial reconciliation were persuasive, ultimately, to orthodox Christians because they appealed to a higher authority than the cultural captivity of white supremacy. These arguments appealed to the authority of Scripture and the historic Christian tradition.
This authority couldn’t easily be muted by a claim to a “different interpretation” because racial equality was built on premises conservatives already heartily endorsed: the universal love of God, the unity of the race in Adam, the Great Commission and the church as the household of God.
With this the case, the legitimacy of segregation crumbled just as the legitimacy of slavery had in the century before, and for precisely the same reasons. Segregation, like slavery, was shown to be what all human consciences already knew it to be: not just a political injustice or a social inequity (although certainly that) but also a sin against God and neighbor and a repudiation of the gospel. Regenerate hearts ultimately melted before such arguments because in them they heard the voice of their Christ, a voice they’d heard in the Scriptures themselves.
Grace and Peace
Back in 2009, I posted a six-part review of a series of young-Earth creationist (YEC) articles on “Six main geologic evidences for the Genesis Flood.” The YEC articles appeared in “Answers” magazine, which is published by Answers in Genesis. As part of my “blog recycling program,” I am providing links to my posts:
Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 1) — Fossils at the top of Mount Everest are not evidence for a global flood. Most fossil-containing layers, such as crinoid-rich Mississippian limestones, are extremely difficult to explain using young-Earth creationist flood geology. How did all of those fossils stay together in an ecological package in a global flood?
Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 2) — A global flood is not necessary to explain “fossil graveyards.” In fact, a global flood would scatter fossils vertically and horizontally, and would abrade delicate structures that are preserved in the finest fossil specimens.
Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 3) — There are sedimentary rock layers that cover well over a million square kilometers. Rather than suggesting global-scale catastrophism, the continent-wide extent of these formations makes the deposition of subsequent layers extremely difficult to explain by flood geology.
Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 4) – The YEC claim is that it is impossible for normal geological processes to explain the transport of sediments from one side of a continent to another. But in reality, rivers such as the Mississippi, Nile, and Amazon do that very thing.
Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 5) — Erosional gaps between sedimentary formations are consistent with old-Earth geological explanations. Young-Earth creationists, on the other hand, have a difficult time explaining paleosols (preserved ancient soil layers) and paleokarsts (preserved limestone dissolution features) in the rock record. Because paleosols and paleokarts imply the passage of time, YECs usually resort to an “it only looks like _______” argument, like “it only looks like an ancient soil, despite the root casts, filled critter burrows, and preserved soil horizons.”
Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 6) — The YEC claim is that layers of sediment must be soft in order to be tightly folded. Both laboratory and field studies prove that this is simply not true, and it is usually straightforward to determine whether rocks were consolidated or unconsolidated when deformed.
As you read these, it is important to keep in mind that the Bible nowhere says that the geological record was formed by Noah’s flood. The Bible does not require a young Earth nor does it require a global flood. In light of this, no one should reject Christ or Christianity because of the findings of the geological sciences.
Grace and Peace
A quote from Seven Days that Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science, by John Lennox, p. 99.
“So, both Genesis and science say that the universe is geared to supporting human life. But Genesis says more. It says that you, as a human being, bear the image of God. The starry heavens show the glory of God, yes; but they are not made in God’s image. You are. That makes you unique. It gives you incalculable value. The galaxies are unimaginably large compared with you. However, you know that they exist, but they don’t know that you exist. You are more significant, therefore, than a galaxy. Size is not necessarily a reliable measure of value, as any woman can tell you as she looks at the diamonds on her finger, and compares them with lumps of coal.”
Grace and Peace
I have updated the “Best of the GeoChristian” link up at the top of the page.
There is a good variety: posts on Christianity, geology, creationism, the environment, atheism, apologetics, and more.
I would be interested to hear if there is a post that has been especially meaningful or helpful to you, or one that you think is the best of the best of The GeoChristian.
Thanks for reading,
Grace and Peace
|The following item was originally posted in October 2010. I have added it to my blog recycling program. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my favorite blog entries (sometimes with a little editing).
This “Creation Creeds” post is a statement of what I, as an old-Earth, theologically conservative, confessional, “Evangelical/Presbyterian (PCA)/with a big dose of Lutheran theology” Christian believe regarding the biblical doctrine of creation.
Creation creed — short version
As an old-Earth creationist
I believe that the universe was created by the triune God of the Bible
I believe that the Bible does not dictate when this creation took place
I believe in a real Adam
in a real garden
in a real fall into sin
in real consequences for that sin
and in Jesus Christ as the only solution for sin
Creation creed — long version
As an old-Earth creationist
I believe that the universe—all that is seen and unseen—was created from nothing by the triune God of the Bible: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
I believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God
I believe that the Bible does not dictate when the creation took place, nor does it state the extent or work of Noah’s flood
I believe in a real Adam and Eve as individuals—the first humans in the image of God—and that we are all descendants of this family
I believe that all humans retain the image of God, and are therefore of very high value
I believe in a real Garden of Eden, which was at a specific location in Mesopotamia, and that the Edenic paradise did not cover the entire Earth
I believe that the natural world has inherent value, and that humans are called to be good stewards of the creation that God has given us, for the glory of God, for the good of all humanity, and for the sake of the creation itself
I believe in a real fall into sin through Adam’s disobedience to God’s command, and in real consequences for that sin that continue to this day: human physical and spiritual death
I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only solution for sin, and that those who put their faith in him as their savior will spend eternity with him and with each other in the New Heavens and the New Earth
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 ESV
It is through the Scriptures that we can know God, Christ, ourselves, and how to live in regards to God and our neighbor. I cannot think of any greater thing in life than to know the Creator of the universe and Redeemer of my life.
Many make a New Year’s resolution to read the Bible more consistently than they have in the past, and many don’t stick to that resolution. Here is what works for me. Rather than using a reading schedule, with a listing of what chapters to read each day, I use a Bible reading checklist:
It has all sixty-six books of the Bible with their chapters. I mark off the chapters as I read them.
If Bible reading is new to you, I would recommend starting with the life of Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament Gospels. These four books—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—each present the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but with different emphases and styles. The Gospel of John would be a good place to start.
This system gives me greater flexibility than a day-by-day schedule does, yet still helps me to reach my reading goals. This year I plan on reading the New Testament (much of it twice), the historical books of the Old Testament (Genesis through 2 Chronicles) and the poetical books (Job through Song of Solomon). Two advantages of using this system over a schedule is that I can vary my pace, and don’t get frustrated if I get behind the schedule.
I also intend to do some more intensive study and meditation in a few New Testament books.
The checklist has two pages; I like to print it on two sides on heavy paper, fold it, and stick it in my Bible.
Feel free to download and print this for yourself and pass it on to others:
As important as Bible reading is to me, I realize that it is much more important that the Word be in me than that I be in the Word. One can read the Bible every day and learn lots of facts and end up being a self-righteous hypocrite. So my prayer is that you and I would be transformed by prayerful, humble, meditative reading of the Scriptures. May you know Christ and his salvation better through the intake of his Word.
Grace and Peace
P.S. Here are some good Bible reading schedules if you prefer that over using a checklist:
From Knowing God by J.I. Packer, Chapter 5 (God Incarnate):
It is no wonder that thoughtful people find the gospel of Jesus Christ hard to believe, for the realities with which it deals pass man’s understanding. But it is sad that so many make faith harder than it need be, by finding difficulties in the wrong places.
Take the atonement, for instance. Many feel difficulty there. How, they ask, can we believe that the death of Jesus of Nazareth—one man, expiring on a Roman gibbet—put away a world’s sins? How can that death have any bearing on God’s forgiveness of our sins today? Or take the resurrection, which seems to many a stumbling-block. How, they ask, can we believe that Jesus rose physically from the dead? Granted, it is hard to deny that the tomb was empty—but surely the difficulty of believing that Jesus emerged from it into unending bodily life is even greater.
But in fact the real difficulty, because the supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us, does not lie here at all. It lies, not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of incarnation. The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man.
It is from misbelief, or at least inadequate belief, about the incarnation that difficulties at other points in the gospel story usually spring. But once the incarnation is grasped as a reality, these other difficulties dissolve.
If He was truly God the Son, it is much more startling that He should die than that He should rise again.
Merry Christmas to all who read The GeoChristian,