Around the web 5/17/2013 — A Christian leader who is really a Baal worshiper, Old-Earth Christian homeschooling, and more…
TO REJECT YEC IS LIKE BAAL WORSHIP? — If you don’t agree with Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham, you are a compromiser. You might even be a closet Baal worshiper. Mr. Ham recently singled out Hank Hanegraff (who is “The Bible Answer Man” on the radio) as a compromiser because he doesn’t believe that leviathan and behemoth (in Job 40-41) were something like a plesiosaur and a brachiosaurus, respectively. Ham equates Hanegraff’s “compromise” with the Israelite’s worship of Baal, and states that The Bible Answer Man is attacking and undermining the authority of God’s infallible word by accepting an old Earth and rejecting the YEC reading of dinosaurs into the Bible.
I’m not making this up. If you don’t believe that dinosaurs are in the Bible, you are a compromiser.
I’ve written about the YEC “dinosaurs in the Bible” invention previously: The ESV Study Bible on creation — Dinosaurs in Job?
THE NEED FOR OLD-EARTH HOMESCHOOLING — From Christianity Today: A New Creation Story: Why do more homeschoolers want evolution in their textbooks?
“Many homeschool parents contact me or show up at my office and quietly say, ‘Is there anything besides [YEC]?’ ” said Kenneth Turner, a theology professor at the traditionally YEC [Bryan] college who homeschools.
(It is interesting that Bryan College is a YEC school, while William Jennings Bryan was an old-Earther).
GLOBAL WARMING AND JESUS’ SECOND COMING – Climate Change Study: Religious Belief In Second Coming Of Christ Could Slow Global Warming Action. This doesn’t surprise me, given the “disposable Earth” attitude toward the environment of many conservative Evangelicals. Like young-Earth creationism, this attitude towards the Earth is neither Biblically correct nor scientifically valid.
SAUDI ARABIA ON MY DOORSTEP — The Bakken is booming. Companies line up to drill after survey shows Dakota oil, gas fields far bigger than believed.
“These world-class formations contain even more energy resource potential than previously understood, which is important information as we continue to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign sources of oil,” newly confirmed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Tuesday in a statement.
The new U.S. Geological Survey estimates there are 7.4 billion barrels of oil, 6.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 0.53 billion barrels of natural gas liquids in the Bakken and Three Forks Formations in the Williston Basin Province of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.
For an Earth Day post—Christians and the Environment—Christian blogger Tim Challies drew from Francis Schaeffer’s foundational book on the environment, Pollution and the Death of Man:
Schaeffer begins with the reassurance that as Christians we are able to acknowledge what today’s secular humanists cannot: That mankind has been called by God to exercise dominion over the earth. We are not here by chance and we are not here by mistake. We were placed here by God to care for this planet and have been called to be faithful stewards of it. But like everything else in this world, our ability to exercise this kind of stewardship has been affected by our sinful state. “By creation man has dominion, but as a fallen creature he has used that dominion wrongly. Because he is fallen, he exploits created things as thought they were nothing in themselves, and as though he has an autonomous right to them.” We no longer consistently tend the world in love, but instead ravage and pillage it. Though we may not believe in all of the dire claims being made about the state of our planet and its perilous future, we must at least acknowledge that we have not cared for the world as God has called us to.
The Bible offers us a far better and far higher view of ourselves, our planet, and our responsibility toward it. Schaeffer affirms that our understanding must begin with God’s act of creation through which he created things that have an objective existence in themselves. Despite the claims of pantheism, creation is not an extension of God’s essence. It is only the biblical view that gives worth to man and to all that God has created. How? Because we understand both ourselves and nature when we see that, though we are separate from nature, we are related to it as something God has created. “So the Christian treats ‘things’ with integrity because we do not believe they are autonomous. Modern man has fallen into a dilemma because he has made things autonomous from God.” Because we love the Creator, we love the creation. As we love the creation, we express love to the Creator.
Even in the 1970’s Schaeffer was saying “We must confess that we missed our opportunity. We have spoken loudly against materialistic science, but we have done little to show that in practice we ourselves as Christians are not dominated by a technological orientation in regard either to man or nature.” He warned that “if we treat nature as having no intrinsic value, our own value is diminished.” Ultimately, he calls upon us to treat nature well because we are all products of the loving Creator; we are all creatures together.
While acknowledging that sin and its effects will not be eradicated until the Lord returns, Schaeffer believed there can and should be “a substantial healing,” of the planet and its environment. He says, “we should be looking now, on the basis of the work of Christ, for substantial healing in every area affected by the Fall.” As Christians we of all people are the ones who ought to be treating creation now as it will be treated in eternity. And this, I think, is our challenge: to treat the planet today as we will treat the new earth, exercising dominion without pillaging, exploiting without destroying, faithfully stewarding God’s great gift.
Schaeffer acknowledged that we face an ecological crisis, that human sin has a big part to do with it, and that Christians in particular are often part of the problem rather than part of the solution. This is a far cry from the anti-environmental rhetoric that comes out of much of conservative Evangelical Christianity.
Read Challies’ entire blog post: Christians and the Environment.
Or even better, read Pollution and the Death of Man.
Grace and Peace
HT: Glenn Brooke
Is Earth Day an opportunity for Christians to serve and witness, or a pagan and secular holiday that is inherently anti-Christian?
Many Evangelical Christians are highly suspicious of the environmental movement. Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham wrote about Earth Day on his blog today, calling it “Eliminating All References To Him Day.” To many Christians such as Ham, Earth Day is a pagan, anti-Christian holiday, and an example of humans putting the creation over the Creator.
On the other hand, there is a growing “creation care” movement within Evangelicalism, with groups such as the Evangelical Environmental Network advocating for various environmental issues.
Here are some questions:
- Is Earth Day an opportunity for Christians to serve and witness, or a pagan and secular holiday that is inherently anti-Christian?
- Is the creation out there just for our good, or are we here for the creation’s good as well?
- A central YEC teaching is that Adam’s fall into sin brought radical changes to the Earth. How does this influence YEC perspectives on environmental issues?
- How can Christians advocate creation care without putting the creation over the creator?
- What are ways that a Christian could participate in a community Earth Day fair?
- Can a Christian be a member of the Sierra Club?
- Is it a sin to pollute?
- Is wilderness a good thing, or something to be brought actively under human dominion?
- Is the only good animal a tamed animal?
- Is the only good resource an exploited resource?
- Can humans really harm the Earth, or is it resilient enough to take whatever we can do to it?
- What is our responsibility to our children in regards to natural resources?
- What is our responsibility to people who might live 1000 years from now in regards to natural resources?
- Will the Earth be destroyed or renewed when Christ returns?
- What would Jesus drive?
- Is consumerism and materialism consistent with Jesus’ teachings on wealth?
- Are there limits to economic growth? Is more always better?
- Is it true that only wealthy societies have the resources and leisure to be concerned about the environment?
- If a sparrow falls to the ground, does God care?
- If the global temperature were to rise by 8°C by 2100, and sea level were to rise by a couple meters, displacing millions, how would this impact Evangelical Christianity?
Grace and Peace
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” — Genesis 1:20-22 NIV 1984
Today (April 22nd) is Earth Day. For a variety of reasons, I believe that Christianity offers both the best foundation for proper care of the world’s ecosystems and the only hope for the future of our planet. Those are topics for another time; for now, I want to draw our attention to three things from this passage in Genesis.
The first of these is the inherent goodness of the creation. Here in the opening chapter of the Bible, we see God creating the universe and preparing the Earth—land, sea, and sky—for the vast variety of life that would soon inhabit it. He then commanded the Earth to bring forth vegetation, sea life, birds, and land animals. With all of this in place, God pronounced that the creation was “good.” Being good, the creation is not something to escape from, nor is it something that is somehow less important than the “spiritual.” The biblical teaching is that the creation—rocks, water, plants, and animals—has inherent value, apart from its usefulness to humanity.
The second thing we can learn from this passage is that the living world was created to be fruitful. On the fifth day, starting with Genesis 1:20, God created the sea life and birds, and the earth “teemed” with them. To teem is ”to become filled to overflowing,” to “abound,” and “to be present in large quantity.” When reading this, I think of the abundance of bison that populated the American Great Plains before the 1800s, or the diversity of life that is found in tropical rainforests. We sometimes forget that it wasn’t just to humans that God issued the command, “Be fruitful and multiply.” He also gave this command to sea life and birds, and it is later stated (Gen 8:17) that God created the land animals to be fruitful and increase in number as well.
Thirdly, the goodness and teemingness of creation should guide how we think about our responsibility towards nature. God placed Adam and Eve over the creation to “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air…” (v. 26). It has been pointed out that this dominion is not meant to be domination, but rather a stewardship or vice-regency over the creation, with the responsibility to tend it as God’s representatives on Earth. If the creation has inherent goodness apart from the resources it supplies to us, and if God created the living world to be abundant and fruitful, then it follows that an important part of our responsibility is to act in such a way as to preserve, protect, and enhance that fruitfulness. This means that the world is not here just for us. It is also here for sea urchins, red-winged blackbirds, polar bears, and giant Palouse earthworms. I believe that the thriving of humans and the thriving of the rest of the living world must go hand in hand. Our challenge is to figure out how to make this work.
Grace and Peace
For some reasons why Christianity offers the best foundation for environmentalism, see my summaries of For the Beauty of the Earth by Steven Bouma-Prediger and Pollution and the Death of Man by Francis Schaeffer. These books have shaped how I think about our responsibility towards the creation.
The definitions of “teem” are from http://www.merriam-webster.com/. “Teemingness” is indeed a word.
In saying that the material world is just as important in Christianity as the spiritual, I am saying that all of our good works—acts of love to our neighbors—are done in the physical realm. Even much of what we consider to be “spiritual,” has physical components: prayer, communion, baptism, evangelism. At times Christians have had an unbiblical picture of a future life of escaping from the material world and floating in the clouds, but the biblical affirmation of the goodness of creation is really one of the strengths of Christianity. In many Eastern philosophies and religions, the material is an illusion or something to escape from. An example of this is the moksha or nirvana of Indian religions. In atheistic naturalism there is no absolute reason outside of ourselves to value plants and animals. In other words, there is no reason to judge Eden as a better place than Coruscant, the completely urbanized capital of the Star Wars galaxy. Ultimately, we can choose which type of world—Eden or Coruscant—that we think is best for our purposes. I am not saying that Buddhists and atheists do not care about the creation; many of them do care very much, and are active in what I would call creation care. It is just that they do not have an adequate philosophical foundation for doing so.
I first thought seriously about the teeming of the living world in Genesis 1 while reading The Creation by biologist E.O. Wilson. Wilson is not a Christian, but the book is written to Christians as “an appeal to save life on Earth.”
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
I’m enjoying a good thundersnow (or some call it a snunderstorm); the first blizzard thunderstorm I have experienced in Montana (I have seen it happen in Utah, Colorado, and I think Missouri). The temperature dropped from 59°F to 32° in less than thirty minutes, and it started to snow and blow really hard. I love Montana.
The Billings Gazette has some good pictures of the storm as it approached Billings.
What’s going on in the wider world of the world wide web?
JUST MAYBE PERHAPS THERE COULD POSSIBLY BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOUNG-EARTH CREATIONISM — Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis is concerned that much of the criticism of his young-Earth ministry comes from Christians. Count me in — there are plenty of good reasons why Bible-believing Christians criticize Answers in Genesis. YEC organizations like AiG teach secondary doctrines as primary, take a my-way-or-the-highway approach to these secondary issues, insist on a hyper-literal reading of the inspired Word of God, publish massive amounts of really bad science, and set our young people up for a fall. YEC isn’t Biblically necessary, nor is it scientifically feasible.
“Ham has made it clear that AiG’s main thrust is not “young Earth” but simply biblical authority.”
No, it is not about biblical authority. I, like many old-Earth Christians, do believe the Bible. I just don’t believe much of what comes out of the YEC community. And there is a big difference.
JUST MAYBE PERHAPS THERE COULD POSSIBLY BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE TEA PARTY WING OF THE G.O.P. – On top of the radical anti-environmentalism and xenophobia that pervades the Tea Party, there are plenty of Tea Partiers like the chairwoman of the Yellowstone County Republican Party, who posted what most of us would view as a racist anti-Obama picture on her Facebook page. From the Billings Gazette: Local GOP leader criticized for Facebook post. A screenshot can be seen at Daily Kos and MT Cowgirl (left wing equivalents of the right wing Tea Party).
THE BIBLE AS REALITY TV — A new Bible miniseries is coming to the History Channel. One of their consultants appears to be TV prosperity preacher Joel Osteen:
Osteen said much of his work was confirming if the extrabiblical material stayed true to the Bible.
Ummmmm, I’d prefer if he go back to some of his books to double-check how well they stayed true to the Bible. The message of Christianity is not salvation from unhappiness by doing our best.
DOMINION IS THE OPPOSITE OF DOMINATION — The Ecologist has an article about the growth of the “Creation Care” movement, especially among younger Evangelicals.
“As Christians we’re called to care for creation, because God created it, and saw it was good, and loved it,” [Wheaton biology student Erik Swanson] explains. “Also I think we have a responsibility to care for all of God’s people, and I don’t think you can say you love people if you’re destroying the environment they depend on.”
WALKING AWAY FROM CHRISTIANITY — From Marc5Solas – Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church.
The statistics are jaw-droppingly horrific: 70% of youth stop attending church when they graduate from High School. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church.
Let’s just be honest, most of our churches are sending youth into the world embarrassingly ignorant of our faith. How could we not? We’ve jettisoned catechesis, sold them on “deeds not creeds” and encouraged them to start the quest to find “God’s plan for their life”.
The solution, however, is not to give them more young-Earth creationism, as Answers in Genesis is pushing in their Already Gone book. YEC is part of the problem, not part of the solution. I would put it in the “They got smart” category of the top 10 reasons. When they see that it just doesn’t work, our young people throw away their Christianity along with their Dr. Dino DVDs.
EKALAKASAURUS — The Carter County Museum (in the GeoChristian ancestral home of Ekalaka, Montana) has an excellent fossil collection, and is getting some help from Montana State University (The GeoChristian alma mater). From the Billings Gazette: A FOSSIL MECCA – MSU students revitalizing Carter County Museum.
I haven’t been to Ekalaka for a few decades; it might be time for a road trip. I hope they still have the two-headed calf.
A WORLD OF PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS — In Egypt: Islam or death? Egypt’s Christians targeted by new terror group. In Saudi Arabia: Saudi religious police arrest Ethiopian workers for practicing Christianity. In the Middle East as a whole: Religious Change in the Middle East.
In my previous “Around the Web” post, I linked to a story in Christianity Today about the persecution of house churches in China. CT has two followup stories: China Isn’t Trying to Wipe Out Christianity and Persecution in China Is Very Real.
And to be fair: Atheists around world suffer persecution, discrimination (though the report could not point to a single person who had been executed in the world in the past year for being an atheist).
A GOOD PLACE — The Today Show lists my home town, Billings, Montana, as the third best place in the United States to raise a family. If only we had a Chick-fil-A.
Well, that took two hours. The thundersnow has ended and it has all turned to slush, which will turn to ice. I blame it on global warming.
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
“In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.” – Proverbs 21:20 (NIV 1984)
This proverb condemns the fool who consumes all he has with no regard for the future.
As a Christian who believes that it is as much a sin to be a poor steward of the Earth as it is to be a poor steward of anything else God has given us, I see this wisdom from Solomon as being highly relevant in our age of consumption, greed, and inherent limitations in the world in which God has placed us.
Our society uses many natural resources—energy resources, water, air, soil, forests, fisheries—in a way that violates Proverbs 21:20. One can point to local examples where this is not the case, such as the increase of forested acres in the eastern United States or the cleaner air that exists as a result of the Clean Air Act, but overall these instances are the exception rather than the rule.
Proverbs 21:20 could be used as part of a Biblical case for the sustainable use of natural resources. All “sustainability” means, in terms of ecology, is that we use the resources God has given us in the creation in a way that ensures that we do not devour all we have. It means that we do not live just for today or for ourselves, but for tomorrow and those who will follow after us.
The alternative to sustainability is unsustainability. If we consume all we have, then what future generations will be left with won’t be sufficient to feed and power a world whose human population is predicted to peak at roughly ten billion around the mid-21st century.
Grace and Peace
In between sessions at the young-Earth creation seminar I attended last month, there was a promotion for an upcoming anti-environmentalist documentary entitled “Axed: The End of Green,” created by Montana filmmaker J.D. King. According to the promotional video, the objective of the documentary will be to expose “the dark side of the green movement for what it really is.”
I can tell that Mr. King likes nature; there are plenty of shots of him hiking or driving in the mountains of Montana. This is a very good thing, and actually a point of common ground between him and those in the environmental movement. Here’s the video (less than three minutes long):
The video begins with film clips from radical environmental groups such as this: Earth First! mourning the loss of a tree. When I watch a video like this, my first response is that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I have a little bit of common ground with the Earth Firsters—I like trees—but their biocentric/ecocentric philosophy has a number of problems, and is seriously out of balance in regards to the place of humans in the creation. If all environmentalists were like this, it would be rather easy for most people to dismiss the entire movement. But a strong majority of environmentalists are not like this.
Like Mr. King, I am convinced that there are potential dangers in the environmental movement, such as threats to individual liberty, property rights, and free markets. I would add that the pantheistic underpinnings of much environmental philosophy is not only wrong, but is actually inadequate as a foundation for for a robust ecological understanding.
The shots of Mr. King splashing through mountain streams alternate with clips of mining, oil tankers, and closed logging roads; along with short statements from citizens who are concerned about jobs and the economy.
It would have been nice if the video, at this point, had presented a plea for balance: Not just wilderness, not just development, but a sustainable balance in which the environment is protected for the glory of God, the good of people, and the fruitfulness of the creation, which are all aspects of a Biblically-informed environmental ethic. Instead, there was an urgent call: “We demand that green be removed from the political platform!”
The jaw-dropping quote from the video was this:
“…The farmer, the miner, the foresters; their freedom must be returned to them to manage their affairs the way they know is best, because they are wiser than any bureaucrat…”
Farmers and foresters often take very good care of the land, and can also—even if they own the land and know what is right—sacrifice long-term health of soil and ecosystems for the sake of short-term profit.
It was the inclusion of “the miner” that I found astonishing. I am not opposed to mining, but was rather incredulous that the speaker would say that mining companies would take better care of the land if they didn’t have bureaucratic regulators blocking their way. As my Sunday School teacher said when I told him this, “Has this guy ever been to Butte?”
This is libertarianism run amok. This is conservatism—and I am a conservative—at its worst. What is it that this let-the-miners-mine-the-earth-unhindered type of conservatism actually seeks to conserve? Land? Resources? I don’t know.
The basic problem with this laissez-faire anti-environmentalism is that it, like Marxism and liberation theology, grossly underestimates human sin. Many conservatives have no difficulty seeing the dangers of big government, or the moral decay in our society, but somehow give a free pass to large corporations, forgetting that these too are run by sinful people. Because of this sin, and the Biblical role of government to restrain sin, sufficient regulation of industry, including mining, is necessary in order to ensure the long-term health and flourishing of both humans and the natural world. To say that either people or nature would be better off if government bureaucracy would just get out of the way is neither Biblical nor conservative.
The environmentalists on the left often err by being overly biocentric or ecocentric; leaving God and people out of the picture. The anti-environmentalists on the right often err by being overly anthropocentric; too centered on humans with their individual rights and needs. A more Biblical approach is a theocentric environmental philosophy that acknowledges God as Creator and Lord of all, humans as responsible stewards of the creation, and nature as God’s handiwork: glorifying its Maker, providing for human needs, and worth being protected for its own sake. There is nothing Biblical or good in a conservatism that facilitates abuse of nature rather than seeking to conserve and protect it.
Grace and Peace
P.S. There is no connection intended between the teaching of Nathaniel Jeanson of ICR and the documentary “Axed: The End of Green.”
Mitt Romney’s Environmental Platform — Ummm, Mitt Romney doesn’t seem to have an environmental platform. The menu at mittromney.com doesn’t have “Environment” as an option.
There isn’t anything substantial about the environment that I could find on the site. I am a conservative, and will vote for Romney in November. But why can’t we have a conservative presidential candidate who would actually be interested in conserving?
Richard Dawkins’ sloppy scholarship — Jay Wile does a good job of exposing militant atheist Richard Dawkins’ poor use of quotations. “This situation is very interesting, because creationists are often accused of quote mining, but here is a clear case where one of the greatest evolutionary evangelists of our time is doing it.”
The “Planet Debate” renewed? — A few years back, Pluto was demoted, so now we have only eight planets in the solar system. The debate is certain to be renewed at same point, not only about Pluto, but also about a couple of asteroids. The NASA article NASA Dawn Spacecraft Reveals Secrets of Large Asteroid refers a number of times to the planet-like qualities of the asteroid Vesta, such as having an interior differentiated into layers, including an iron core.
N.T. Wright sings about Genesis – sung to the tune of “Yesterday” by the Beatles. Watch it at the Internet Monk. Wright isn’t the world’s greatest musician, but he inserts a lot of theological issues into a few verses.
Why they had to fall, I don’t know, it doesn’t say
They did something wrong, and we’ve longed for God’s new day-ay-ay-ay
Grace and Peace
Ronald Reagan was the antichrist.
Barack Obama is conducting a war against Christianity.
Anyone who believes humans are causing global warming is a left-wing, socialist, environmental wacko.
Anyone who doesn’t believe humans are causing global warming is an ignoramus.
Christians who accept an old Earth or evolution are either dangerous compromisors, or maybe not Christians at all.
Young-Earth creationists are just plain stupid.
I’ve heard all of these, and much more, from Christians.
I get weary of the “culture wars” that pervade much of our society and the Christian church, whether in politics, the environment, origins (creation and evolution), or even theology.
What I get tired of is not the debate—I have strong thoughts on some of these issues—but the level of acrimony and demonization that characterizes much of the debate, even among Christians.
It is good to be passionate and zealous, as long as we are passionate and zealous about things that are primary, rather than secondary or tertiary in importance, and that we play by Biblical rules of integrity, love, and humility.
C. John Collins has a good section on “culture wars” in Chapter 20 of Science & Faith: Friends or Foes:
It’s pretty common to hear that we’re in a culture war—the traditionalists and the secularists are fighting over who will control the culture. There is a sense in which the image is right: as we will see in the next chapter, there are worldviews that are at odds with each other, and therefore it’s no surprise that we find conflict. The image is a dangerous one, though, because it can lead us to look at everything in combatant terms: people who disagree with us become our enemies, and we have to defeat them. If you are my enemy, and I am a Christian, then—even if you’re a Christian too—you must be morally defective.
Three further dangers follow from this warfare imagery. The first is that we can forget that worldviews involve not just philosophical positions but also moral commitments; and that back behind unbelief there lies a demonic enslaver. As Paul put it in Ephesians 6,
12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm… 18[Pray] at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…
There is a spiritual component to this battle; and therefore, all our intellectual efforts must express our faithfulness to Christ and must be bathed in prayer. We must never use the weapons of unbelief—dishonesty, slander, name-calling, and so on. The second danger, related to the first, is that we can forget that the unbeliever is not the person we’re fighting against; rather, he is the person we are fighting for: that is, the purpose of all this is to free people from their slavery to the Devil. The third danger that arises is that we can forget that any Christian—and any Christian church—always has only a partial grasp of a fully Christian worldview; and even those parts that we grasp rightly, we practice only partly. So some of our “warfare” ought to be against our own imperfections!
The warfare image is a biblical one, to be sure; but we will do well to be careful how we use it.
[bold emphasis added]
I will be passionate and zealous about things that I believe are both true and of supreme importance, such as the existence of God, the sinfulness of Man, and in Jesus Christ as the only bridge between man and God. Many of these “primary” things of life are expressed in the ancient creeds of the Church.
I will also be passionate and zealous about some secondary issues—such as the age of the Earth, the importance of good stewardship of the Earth, political conservatism that embraces things worth conserving (Earth, family) rather than propping up greed—though my level of enthusiasm will vary from topic to topic.
I will try to discern what is primary, and what is secondary. I will fail at this sometimes.
I will not demonize you or hate you if you differ from me. In fact, I cherish diversity in these areas, and am enriched not only by those with whom I agree, but also by those with whom I differ.
Grace and Peace.
From NASA Earth Observatory:
From the description (emphasis added):
In September 2011, sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean declined to the second-lowest extent on record. Satellite data from NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) showed that the summertime ice cover narrowly avoided a new record low.
Melt season in 2011 brought higher-than-average summer temperatures, but not the unusual weather conditions that contributed to the extreme melt of 2007, the record low. “Atmospheric and oceanic conditions were not as conducive to ice loss this year, but the melt still neared 2007 levels,” said Walt Meier of NSIDC. “This probably reflects loss of multi-year ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, as well as other factors that are making the ice more vulnerable.”
The low sea ice level in 2011 fits the pattern of decline over the past three decades, said Joey Comiso of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Since 1979, September Arctic sea ice extent has declined by 12 percent per decade.
“The sea ice is not only declining; the pace of the decline is becoming more drastic,” he noted. “The older, thicker ice is declining faster than the rest, making for a more vulnerable perennial ice cover.”
While the sea ice extent did not dip below the record, the area did drop slightly lower than 2007 levels for about ten days in early September 2011. Sea ice “area” differs from “extent” in that it equals the actual surface area covered by ice, while extent includes any area where ice covers at least 15 percent of the ocean.
Arctic sea ice extent on September 9, 2011, was 4.33 million square kilometers (1.67 million square miles). Averaged over the month of September, ice extent was 4.61 million square kilometers (1.78 million square miles). This places 2011 as the second lowest ice extent for both the daily minimum and the monthly average. Ice extent was 2.43 million square kilometers (938,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average.
Climate models have suggested that the Arctic could lose almost all of its summer ice cover by 2100, but in recent years, ice extent has declined faster than the models predicted.
A few years back, I blogged about a report that the Arctic Ocean may have been ice-free around 6000-7000 years ago, so this may be a natural cycle. Or it may be caused by human-induced global warming. I don’t know. I ended that post with the following:
I’m not a global warming denier, which bothers some of my friends. I do believe that human activities are affecting Earth’s climate. This does point out, however, the importance of geological studies of Quaternary (ice age to present) climate systems. Whatever is happening today, even if caused by humans, can only be fully understood in its geological context.
Grace and Peace
Depending on who’s counting, the planet’s human population either just hit seven billion or will some time soon (my desktop gadget says 6,925,052,273).
Glenn, at Be Bold, Be Gentle, passes along a quote from Dupont VP Jim Borel:
“This month, the global population reached 7 billion. Each year, the world population grows by about 78 million people — equivalent to the population of Germany. By 2050, world population will be 9 billion, growing to 10 billion by turn of the century. Feeding and providing nutrition for this growing population — and doing it in a sustainable manner — may be the defining challenge of this century.”
Feeding the world is going to be one of the critical issues facing us throughout the century. Given current trends, world population could peak at around 10 billion later in the century, and then begin a slow decline.
I need to give more thought to the whole issue of food and population. I’d be interested in your thoughts on these questions:
- Has the human race fulfilled the Genesis 1 command to “be fruitful and multiply?”
- Can we sustainably feed 10 billion people?
- What are the greatest challenges before us as we seek to feed Earth’s growing population? (I think of water shortages, land degradation, apathy, and political will).
- What is the best approach to feeding the world? Genetically modified foods? Large-scale corporate farming? Small-scale family farming?
- In what ways can Christians be involved in being part of the solution to feeding another three billion or more people in this century?
Grace and Peace
There are disasters. There are megadisasters. And now there are complex megadisasters.
From The Christian Science Monitor: Mega-quakes and mega-disasters: Will US heed wake-up call in Japan?
The crisis in Japan could be considered the first “complex megadisaster” the world has ever seen — a potent combination of natural and technological calamities that might become more common in the future.
A megadisaster is a catastrophe that threatens very quickly to overwhelm an area’s capacity to get people to safety, treat casualties, protect vital infrastructure and control panic or chaos, said Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
“A complex megadisaster, which is what I’ve been calling the crisis in Japan, is a natural catastrophe overlaid by a technological situation,” Redlener told LiveScience. “You have four catastrophes in Japan: the earthquake, the tsunami, the continuing concerns about the instability of the nuclear power plant at Fukushima, and the humanitarian crisis of having hundreds of thousands of people displaced.”
God have mercy.
Grace and Peace
Here are a couple quotes:
I frequently get asked how we, as Christians, choose between caring for the poor and caring for creation, as if we have to choose one or the other. As often as I have been asked that question, it still catches me by surprise because my own concern for the earth first grew out of a concern for the poor.
As someone told me recently, creation care seems like a cause for bored middle-class Americans who want to have chickens in their backyard, whereas the poor don’t have the luxury of worrying about their environment. The idea is that environmental issues are primarily aesthetic and fall pretty high up on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
However, if you live in a world in which water comes in plastic bottles and food comes from the supermarket, it is easy to see the environment as purely decorative. In the US, we have been able to use our material wealth to purchase several layers of insulation from the earth. Therefore, I believe we have much to learn from our brothers and sisters in rural communities throughout the world. They recognize that there is a direct connection between environmental quality and the most basic of needs: food, water and air.
We quickly learned that the problem was not one of ignorance, but rather a lack of opportunity. I have had more than one poor, illiterate farmer give me an elegant description of how a watershed works. But, as I was told recently in Haiti, they also have a saying that translates to “Either this tree must die or I must die in its place.” Nonetheless, they are aware of the long-term stakes and would do more to care for the environment if they had the opportunity.
Thus, helping to create opportunity – serving the poor – helps to serve the environment and helping to restore the environment serves the poor. Both activities serve the Creator. We need not make a choice between the poor and the earth.
Grace and Peace
Pope John Paul II had much to say about the environment and human responsibility for good stewardship of the creation. Here are a few quotes:
“When man turns his back on the Creator’s plan, he provokes a disorder which has inevitable repercussions on the rest of the created order. If man is not at peace with God, then earth itself cannot be at peace.” — Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All of Creation
“The seriousness of ecological degradation lays bare the depth of man’s moral crisis… Simplicity, moderation, and discipline as well as the spirit of sacrifice must become a part of everyday life.” — Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All of Creation
“Around the world, we can see the results of exploitation which destroys much without taking future generations into account. Today, all men have a duty to show themselves worthy of the mission given them by the Creator by ensuring the safekeeping of that creation.” — press conference, Antannanarivo, Malagasy Republic
“Christians will want to be in the vanguard in favoring ways of life that decisively break with the exhausting and joyless frenzy of consumerism.” — speech at Yankee Stadium
Quotes are taken from The Green Bible introduction: Teachings on Creation Throughout the Ages
Grace and Peace
Helium. The second most abundant element in the entire universe. And a limited natural resource here on Earth.
From the February 2011 print edition of National Geographic (page 22): the US Government’s helium reserve has dwindled from 32 billion cubic feet in 1991 to 19 billion cubic feet in 2008.
The United States’ (and the world’s) main source for helium has been from natural gas wells in Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Helium produced by radioactive decay in granitic rocks beneath the Great Plains seeps upward and is trapped in the overlying layers of sedimentary rocks along with methane produced within the sedimentary layers. Helium production from those fields has been declining.
The American Chemical Society has a page on the discovery of helium in natural gas in the late 1800s, a few years after the element was discovered through a study of spectral lines in light from the sun. According to the ACS page, townspeople in Dexter Kansas wished to celebrate the drilling of a “howler” of a gas well by lighting the gas flow from the well to create “a great pillar of flame from the burning well will light the entire countryside for a day and a night.” The problem was, the gas wouldn’t light. Further investigation by geologists and chemists revealed the existence of helium in the gas.
What does the downward trend in helium supply mean for the future? The National Geographic article suggests $100 for a helium party balloon.
Grace and Peace
P.S. I couldn’t find the brief article online.