The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

For the Beauty of the Earth — Chapter 3 — Complaint #2

Last week I started summarizing the complaints that some environmentalists have against Christianity as presented in chapter 3 of For the Beauty of the Earth, by Steven Bouma-Prediger. In my previous post on this, I presented the first complaint, which was that the Genesis 1:28 mandate that gave humans dominion over the creation leads to despoilation of the Earth. The second criticism is that Christian theology emphasizes the spiritual over the material, resulting in the material being abused or neglected.

The emphasis within the Christian tradition on dualisms of soul and body, spirit and matter, denigrates the earth and sanctions its misuse and exploitation.

Christianity fosters a care-less attitude toward things material and thus is at fault for the plundering of the earth.

The author points out that even though some Christians may be guilty of this kind of thinking, neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament affirms such a dualism or separation between the spiritual and material.

While the body is separate from and inferior to the soul for Plato, this is not the case for Scripture.

For God, matter matters.

The initial premise is unacceptable– the claim that the Bible promotes a dualism between soul and body, spirit and mater–this argument is not sound.

Some additional thoughts of my own:

  • The original creation was proclaimed to be “very good” even apart from anything “spiritual” in its description. (Genesis 1:31).
  • Christ became fully human as well as being fully God. The incarnation is a sign that the material is good and of eternal value.
  • Christ did not come just to redeem our immaterial souls; he came to redeem our bodies. We will receive new bodies in the resurrection, and all of creation will be made new.
  • The idea that the spiritual is important and that the material is unnecessary or even evil is found in gnosticism, not in Biblical Christianity. This gnosticism was present in an incipient form in the apostolic age–it is argued against in Colossians–and became a major heresy in the second century. (The DaVinci Code tries to paint a pretty picture of gnosticism, but this corruption of Christianity stands in opposition to the Christ of the Bible, the Gospel, and care of the creation).

The second ecological complaint is unfounded. Biblical Christianity affirms the value of the material creation, and holds us accountable for how we take care of the world.

Grace and Peace

September 30, 2007 Posted by | Environment, Quotes | 1 Comment

Knowing God – Chapter 8 Quotes

We took a break from going through Knowing God by J.I. Packer at the dinner table, but now we are back into it. Chapter 8 is “The Majesty of God.” Here are a few good quotes:

How may we form a right idea of God’s greatness? The Bible teaches us two steps that we must take. The first is to remove from our thoughts of God limits that would make Him small. The second is to compare Him with powers and forces which we regard as great.

I can hide my heart, and my past, and my future plans, from men, but I cannot hide anything from God.

‘Your thoughts of God are too human,’ said Luther to Erasmus. This is where most of us go astray. Our thoughts of God are not great enough; we fail to reckon with the reality of His limitless wisdom and power.

‘Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord and my judgment is passed away from my God?’ [Isaiah 40:27 RV] This question rebukes wrong thoughts about ourselves. God has not abandoned us any more than He abandoned Job.

Grace and Peace

September 24, 2007 Posted by | Christianity, Quotes | Leave a comment

Where in the World? #4

Last week I had an image of Toba, a volcano on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia (winner: Ron Schott from The Geology Home Companion). Toba had a colossal eruption 70-75,000 years ago which was probably the largest on Earth in the past several million years; even larger than the eruptions of the Yellowstone Caldera (last eruption 640,000 years ago). The volume of material from the Toba eruption was approximately 2800 km3, compared to 1.2 km3 from the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. The Toba event undoubtedly had a worldwide impact on climate and probably led the the extinction of many species in southern Asia.

This week: one more volcano. What volcano is this?

Grace and Peace

September 23, 2007 Posted by | Where in the world? | 2 Comments

Faux Futures

Paleo-Future has a collection of paintings from 1910 envisioning what life would be like in the year 2000. Here are a few of my favorites:

Go to Paleo-Future for more.

Grace and Peace

September 23, 2007 Posted by | Fun, Future | 1 Comment

The Paleomap Project

Welcome to The GeoChristian. Out of over 600 posts on my blog, this one on the Paleomap Project is in the top five in terms of how many people view it. The purpose of The GeoChristian is twofold: 1. To enhance science literacy within the Evangelical Christian community. 2. To present a Biblical Christianity that is hostile to neither science nor the environment. I invite you to browse around and read some other posts.

Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day refers to a site that I’ve known about for some time but never got around to blogging about. The Paleomap Project shows the configuration of the continents through geologic time as they have moved across the surface of the Earth due to plate tectonics.

Here’s one example–the layout of the continents during the Permian Period, approximately 255 million years ago:

Similar maps–all with better resolution than what I’ve shown here–are available for the Precambrian, Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian…

Grace and Peace

September 22, 2007 Posted by | Geology, Maps | 4 Comments

The Inner Life of the Cell — The Extended Version

This item was originally posted in September, 2006. It is now part of 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. There is a version of this video on YouTube that I don’t think was available last year. The EXTENDED VERSION, with a technical description of what is going on, is absolutely amazing to watch.

The Inner Life of the Cell is a computer animation of the inner workings of a white blood cell. Absolutely amazingboth in terms of the animation, and the processes it portrays. It is a testimony to the wisdom and power of the Creator.

I got this link from my biochemist friend Glenn at Be Bold, Be Gentle.


Image from the movie “The Inner Life of the Cell.”

The movie is also on YouTube.

Grace and Peace

September 21, 2007 Posted by | Biology, Blog Recycling, Chemistry | Leave a comment

For the Beauty of the Earth — Chapter 3 — Complaint #1

A continuation of my review of For the Beauty of the Earth, by Steven Bouma-Prediger. I’m going through chapter 3, which is “Is Christianity to Blame? The Ecological Complaint Against Christianity.”

The author discusses four common complaints that environmentalists have against Christianity, starting with:

The first is that monotheism in general, and Christianity in particular, is the primary if not sole cause of the despoilation of the earth.

Environmentalists point to Genesis 1:28 as a mandate that has led to an attitude of reckless consumption and disregard for nature:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. (Genesis 1:28 NIV)

Here’s an example of how this mandate is perceived by a non-Christian:

some of the major maladies of the present-day world–for instance the recklessly extravagant consumption of nature’s irreplaceable treasures, and the pollution of those of them that man has not already devoured–can be traced back in the last analysis to a religious cause, and that this cause is the rise of monotheism. (Arnold Toynbee, historian and advocate of pantheism)

Bouma-Prediger writes that this complaint against Christianity advocates that:

Only by repudiating the worldview of monotheism and adopting a wolrdview in which God and world are seen as one will we be able to extricate ourselves from our ecological abyss.

Wallace Stegner writes:

Our sanction to be a weed species living at the expense of every other species and of the Earth itself can be found in the injunction God gave to newly created Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.”

How do we as Christians answer this complaint? Bouma-Prediger gives a few ideas:

  • Understand that humans are in some way unique; we are made in the image of God.
  • Also understand that we are not only unique, but are also part of the creation. We are made of the same stuff that the rest of creation is made of, and are embedded in the creation. The name “Adam” is very similar to the Hebrew word for “earth” — ‘adama.
  • Distinguish between dominion and domination. One who has dominion, like the ideal king of Psalm 72, is one who “rules and exercises dominion properly.”

The proper exercise of dominion yields shalom–the flourishing of all creation.

  • Consider Jesus:

For Jesus, to rule is to serve. To exercise dominion is to suffer, if necessary, for the good of the other. There is no question of domination, exploitation, misuse. Humans, therefore, are called to rule, but only if ruling is understood rightly.

And a closing quote from Wendell Berry:

Such a reading of Genesis 1:28 is contradicted by virtually all the rest of the Bible, as many people by now have pointed out. The ecological teaching of the Bible is simply inescapable: God made the world because He wanted it made. He thinks the world is good; He has never relinquished title to it. And He has never revoked the conditions, bearing on His gift to us of the use of it, that oblige us to take excellent care of it. If God loves the world, then how might any person of faith be excused for not loving it or justified in destroying it?

Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Anyone who uses this argument is guilty of oversimplification. There is not just one human cause of environmental degradation.
  • Biblical dominion is stewardship–taking care of something that has been put under our charge. We are responsible to care and nourish that which is put under our care, whether it be our children, our farm, or employees, or the entire planet.
  • A worldview that believes that humans are a “weed species” (see the quote by Stegner above) goes to an opposite extreme. To have a nature-centered view of creation is an error just as much as having a human-centered view of creation (more about that later).
  • Some Christians have no problem with exploiting the Earth and use Genesis 1:28 as an excuse. More about that under Complaint #3.

Grace and Peace

September 21, 2007 Posted by | Environment, Quotes | Leave a comment

For the Beauty of the Earth — Chapter 3

Chapter 3 of For the Beauty of the Earth by Steven Bouma-Prediger is called “Is Christianity to Blame? The Ecological Complaint Against Christianity.”

Among many environmentalists, the strong emotions felt against Christianity is as strong as that which many conservative Christians have against “tree-hugging enviro-wackos.” Consider these statements from the Sierra Club’s magazine Sierra:

To the extent that man fulfills the command to be fruitful and multiply, his assault on this planet will continue. Religions assume that whatever sacrifices may be necessary to accommodate more of humanity should be made by species other than us.

Having created God in man’s own image, Western religion has adopted an anthropocentric mythology that separates God from Creation, soul from body, and man from Earth. It is this dualism that prevents us from relating not only to the natural world, but to ourselves.

The sky-god religions–Judaism, Christianity, and Islam–are the most corrosive forces on the planet. Monuments to irrationality under the guise of faith and spirituality, they focus people’s hatred and distrust of one another as time runs out on the possibility that mutual respect and cooperation can save the Earth from suicide.

I see all kinds of problems with these statements, but that is how Christianity is perceived by many in the environmental movement.

The author’s perspective is that a proper Biblical theology of creation and the environment would not be open to these types of criticisms, but that in practice Christianity is at times guilty of contributing to environmental degradation.

Christian organizations, to this day, remain largely indifferent to the rape and plunder of the world and its traditional cultures. It is hardly too much to say that most Christian organizations are as happily indifferent to the ecological, cultural, and religious implications of industrial economies as are most industrial organizations. –Wendell Berry

Bouma-Prediger gives four common complaints that environmentalists have against Christianity, and I’ll give those in upcoming posts.

Grace and Peace

September 21, 2007 Posted by | Environment, Quotes | 1 Comment

Earth First/Scream Therapy

At my school, we are having teacher in-service meetings on “worldviews.” We’re watching a series from The Biblical Worldview Institute, and as part of today’s session we watched a video clip about trees, starring people from the radical environmentalist organism organization Earth First!

The video can be found here.

We are learning about integrating Biblical thinking into our curriculum. Today we discussed five areas in which anyone has a worldview: God, creation, mankind, moral order, and purpose.

Some questions for thought:

  • What is right in the worldview of the people in this movie?
  • What is wrong in the worldview of the people in this movie?
  • How should we think about trees?

Grace and Peace

September 20, 2007 Posted by | Apologetics, Environment | Leave a comment

Where in the World? #3

Last week’s Google Earth image was Vesuvius, most famous for its 79 AD eruption that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum, near modern-day Naples, Italy. Vesuvius has erupted numerous times throughout history, with the most recent eruption being in 1944. The outer rim on the right side of the photo is from a prehistoric catastrophic eruption that destroyed much of the mountain.

This week, once again, I’m featuring a volcano. This one is a mega-volcano, with the world’s largest volcanic lake. Where is it?

goo005.jpg

Grace and Peace

September 18, 2007 Posted by | Where in the world? | 2 Comments

Tungurahua Revisited

Back in December, I had a short entry about the Tungurahua Volcano, Ecuador.

Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day has an incredible picture from last year’s eruption:

tungurahua2.jpg
photo by Patrick Taschler

The description from APOD:

Explanation: Volcano Tungurahua erupted spectacularly last year. Pictured above, molten rock so hot it glows visibly pours down the sides of the 5,000-meter high Tungurahua, while a cloud of dark ash is seen being ejected toward the left. Wispy white clouds flow around the lava-lit peak, while a star-lit sky shines in the distance. The above image was captured last year as ash fell around the adventurous photographer. Located in Ecuador, Tungurahua has become active roughly every 90 years since for the last 1,300 years. Volcano Tungurahua has started erupting again this year and continues erupting at a lower lever even today.

Grace and Peace

September 18, 2007 Posted by | Geology | Leave a comment

Earthquakes in the News

It has been a year of mega-earthquakes. From today’s US Geological Survey home page:

Sumatra Earthquake—Largest in 2007
The magnitude-8.4 earthquake that struck Sumatra, Indonesia, on Sept. 12, 2007, was the largest of four magnitude~8 earthquakes that have occurred worldwide since January. It is also the largest earthquake in Indonesia since the magnitude-8.6 “Nias” earthquake of March 2005. On average, the Earth produces about one magnitude-8 or larger earthquake per year, and about 15 to 20 magnitude-7 earthquakes per year.

No, I didn’t put this in because of end-times prophecies of earthquakes — I addressed that a while back in my post Earthquakes and the End Times.

Grace and Peace

September 15, 2007 Posted by | Geology | Leave a comment

Biofuel-ishness?

Some present biofuels (e.g. ethanol, biodiesel) as the great cure for our energy and environmental problems. After all, if we grow our fuel, we don’t have to import it from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuela. Additionally, whatever CO2 is released when the fuel is burned was originally removed from the atmosphere when the plant grew, so burning the fuel doesn’t contribute to global warming.

The Evangelical Ecologist has a link to an article in Investor’s Business Daily. Here are a few quotes from the article:

In its most recent report on biofuels, the Paris-based OECD [The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] says the use of fuels such as ethanol made from corn, palm oil and other sources using crops as raw material amounts to “a cure that is worse than the disease they seek to heal.”

“When acidification, fertilizer use, biodiversity loss and toxicity of agricultural pesticides are taken into account, the overall impact of ethanol and biodiesel can very easily exceed those of petrol and mineral diesel,” reports the group, which is hardly a shill for the oil industry.

The organization says governments “should cease to create new mandates for biofuels and investigate ways to phase them out,” avoiding technologies that compete for land use with fuel production. But it noted this would not be easy since politicians have a vested interest in backing increased biofuel use.

In the U.S., you can connect the dots between increasing mandates for ethanol use and the fact that the first stop on the presidential campaign calendar is the corn state of Iowa.

In the rush to develop these alternative fuels, forests in Asia have been burned to clear land for palm oil, and large swaths of the Amazon rain forest are being stripped of diverse vegetation for soy and sugar plantations used to produce the raw material for making ethanol.

Grace and Peace

September 15, 2007 Posted by | Energy, Environment | Leave a comment

Marketing Christian Books

One of my goals when we returned to the States back in 2005 for our “home assignment” was to not go into a regular Christian bookstore. By “regular Christian bookstore” I’m referring to the typical strip-mall bookstore in which you can find a hundred copies of whatever the latest fad book is but cannot buy a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress or a good commentary on Ephesians. (I’m waiting for these stores to stock Your Best Purpose-Driven Prayer of Jabez Now, or perhaps the Mid-Life Introvert Male Study Bible).

I failed in my goal.

Christianity Today has a short article on why mediocre books can become best sellers, while serious theological works are hard to find. Read What’s Not Coming to a Bookstore Near You–How competition to publish celebrity Christians crowds out theology.

I will make some endorsements for fantastic Christian bookstores:

For those of you in the St. Louis area:

Covenant Theological Seminary Bookstore — Near I-270 and Hwy 40.

Concordia Seminary Bookstore — In Clayton, west of Forest Park

You won’t find much “Jesus junk” or theologically-questionable best sellers in these bookstores, but you will find something for everyone, from children’s books to Bible commentaries.

My all-time favorite Christian bookstores are those run by Community Christian Ministries, with stores in Moscow, Idaho; Pullman, Washington; Logan, Utah; and Gunnison, Colorado. These stores are staffed by “mature Christians with a heart for personal evangelism.” When you walk into one of these stores, you will be served by a friendly, knowledgeable, mature Christian who will take a genuine interest in helping you. You will find bookshelves that are stocked with what is best, rather than what sells best. Unfortunately, most of us don’t live within easy driving time of these fine small-western-university-town bookstores.

Grace and Peace

September 15, 2007 Posted by | Christianity | 3 Comments

The Environment and Abortion

From Lifenews.com: “Why Do Some Environmentalists Think Saving Earth Requires Abortions?

If asked what function the San Francisco-based Sierra Club performs, most of its 1.3 million members would probably reply “protecting the environment,” or “raising awareness of endangered species,” or words to that effect. Yet, in their 2007 legislative report for Minnesota, the Sierra Club spent nearly 3 pages describing legislative initiatives that have virtually nothing to do with the environment.

Rather, this section deals almost exclusively with population issues or, to put it more accurately, with population control issues.

“Over 250,000 women need publicly supported contraceptive services in Minnesota,” the section’s first sentence urges. It goes on to complain that “the President’s budget slashes funding for international family planning by $111 million, nearly one fourth of the FY 2007 funding level,” and criticizes Bush’s support for abstinence education.

This disturbing attack on life and family is only one example of a larger trend. Over the past few decades, environmentalist organizations have adopted radically anti-natal stances, often with a dedication and ferocity that rivals Planned Parenthood.

Paul Watson, president of the Sea Shepherd organization (and former Sierra Club board member), posts regular diatribes against population on his web site. In a May 4th editorial, he insists that human beings act “in the same manner as an invasive virus” on the earth. “I was once severely criticized for describing human beings as being the ‘AIDS of the Earth,’” he went on. “I make no apologies for that statement.”

This view of humans being the “AIDS of the Earth” comes from a world view that places nature above humans. It is equally in error to have a world view that has things the other way around, with humans above nature. A Biblically-informed world view doesn’t buy into either of these errors. A Biblical view of nature has humans as part of nature, but humans also being over nature as responsible stewards. The One who is over all is God, and we are accountable to Him.

Grace and Peace

September 15, 2007 Posted by | Environment | 1 Comment

For the Beauty of the Earth — Chapter 2

The second chapter of For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care is “What’s Wrong With the World? The Groaning of Creation.” It is difficult to deny that we humans, though given the divine mandate in Genesis 1 to be caretakers of the Earth, have had a serious negative impact on the world we live in. The author refers to Calvin DeWitt (professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin and a co-founder of the Evangelical Environmental Network), who lists “seven major degradations brought on by our assault on creation”:

  1. land conversion and habitat destruction, e.g., deforestation
  2. species extinction
  3. degradation of the land, e.g, loss of topsoil to wind and water erosion
  4. resource conversion and production of wastes and hazards
  5. global toxification, e.g., oil spills
  6. the greenhouse effect and ozone depletion
  7. human and cultural degradation, e.g., the displacement of agriculture by agribusiness

The author, Steven Bouma-Prediger, goes through these degradations (and others), and I’m not going to restate those here. It is clear that much of human impact on the Earth is not just bad for woodpeckers, wildflowers, and walruses; it is bad for us as well.

I do have concerns with how Bouma-Prediger deals with human population issues. He has a section on “population” as an area of environmental concern, and I have no problem with including this. Having large numbers of people in an area has environmental consequences, and when Christians address environmental issues we cannot just ignore the impact that 6.6 billion humans have on the world today, or the impact that 10 billion humans will have on the planet in 2050. When non-Christian environmentalists bring up “overpopulation,” they often do it in a way that portrays humans as no more than parasites on the Earth, rather than being the only creatures created in the image of God. My concern is that Bouma-Prediger quotes the population-control people in regards to the impact humans have on the environment without balancing this at this point by emphasizing that humans are not a cancer on the Earth. He does address this issue well in later chapters, but it would have been nice to have a short statement at this point.

Many of the environmental problems addressed in this chapter aren’t because there are so many of us, but because the rate at which we consume natural resources to feed our affluence. We consume trees, water, arable land, energy, and mineral resources at a rate that is not sustainable over the long run; and pollute the Earth in the process. Bouma-Prediger asks a very good question in regards to this:

Does our soaring consumption really make us happy?

I don’t think so.

The upcoming chapter, “Is Christianity to Blame?” is the best chapter in the book, and I look forward to sharing some thoughts with you soon.

Grace and Peace

September 15, 2007 Posted by | Environment, Quotes | 1 Comment

Where in the World #2

Last week: Santorini, the site of the 1600 B.C. eruption that helped wipe out the ancient Minoan civilization in the Agean Sea and the island of Crete. Lois and Sheri submitted the correct answer; I would send them a GeoChristian mug or t-shirt as a prize, but there is no such thing.

This week: it’s another Google Earth view of a volcano, somewhere in the world. Note that there is a volcano inside of an older volcano here. The outer ring has more deeply eroded slopes, while the cone built up in the center shows little evidence of stream erosion.

goo002.jpg

Grace and Peace

September 9, 2007 Posted by | Where in the world? | Leave a comment

Deadly Popcorn

Headline: Doctor warns consumers of popcorn fumes

My wife (who likes her microwave popcorn!) said this sounds like Super-Size Me. This guy had several bags of microwave popcorn per day for years!

Grace and Peace

September 5, 2007 Posted by | Health | 1 Comment

Batty Arguments

One way for me to have my faith strengthened is to get in discussions with skeptics. They usually think they know it all and that Christians are a bunch of idiots, but when they speak they expose their ignorance and poor reasoning. Last year I reported on a discussion I had via World Magazine Blog with a skeptic who was convinced that the Bible teaches that unicorns exist. The KJV does use the word “unicorn,” but that is a poor translation of the Hebrew word, as I discussed in the post Unicorns, the Bible, and education.

I got involved in another one of those discussions this week. It started out as a discussion about human evolution, and the fact that it appears that Homo habilis and Homo erectus coexisted. With dozens of people contributing to conversation, it quickly diverged (degraded?). One of the skeptics pointed out that the Bible cannot be true because it classifies bats as birds, while now we know that bats are mammals. The reference is Leviticus 11:13-18:

And these you shall detest among the birds; they shall not be eaten; they are detestable: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, the kite, the falcon of any kind, every raven of any kind, the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind, the little owl, the cormorant, the short-eared owl, the barn owl, the tawny owl, the carrion vulture, the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat. (ESV)

Here was how I responded, with a little additional editing:

Regarding bats being classified as birds: The fact that the Hebrew word for “bird” included bats doesn’t make the Biblical record false. There is no reason to expect the Biblical languages to conform to modern taxonomy. That is like saying the astronomy textbook on my bookshelf is unscientific because it calls Pluto a planet. The definition of “planet” has changed, but the book is still a useful reference book. Likewise, the definition of “bird” has changed, but that doesn’t invalidate non-scientific works written before.

Skeptics will continue to attack the Bible, but don’t let your faith be shaken by their batty arguments.

Grace and Peace

September 5, 2007 Posted by | Apologetics, Origins | 1 Comment

Vacation in Paris

Before our ReachGlobal Europe conference in the countryside of France in August, we spent three nights in an apartment in Paris. For a family of six, hotels are not only very expensive, but we couldn’t find a hotel that would place all of us in one room. My lovely wife got on the internet and found an apartment to rent, and it was wonderful. For a reasonable price (by Paris standards), we got a very nice two-bedroom apartment that could sleep all six of us. It was cheaper than getting two hotel rooms in the city, and we saved additional money because we had a kitchen and didn’t have to eat out every meal. The apartment was on Ile St. Louis, right in the heart of the city, just a few minutes from Notre Dame cathedral. For a visit to Paris, we highly recommend apartments from Vacation in Paris. Click here to see the apartment we stayed in.

Grace and Peace

September 4, 2007 Posted by | Misc | Leave a comment

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