The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

If there were no other options than Ken Ham’s way or Bill Nye’s way, I would choose…

Today, February 4, 2015, marks the one-year anniversary of the Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye “Is creation a viable model of origins?” debate. After the debate, I wrote a post-debate analysis, in which I pointed out that both speakers made some valid points, and both speakers made some blunders.

Ken Ham believes that the Bible requires us to hold to a young Earth, and so he goes about looking for scientific evidence to back up his interpretation. Bill Nye also believes that the Bible teaches a young Earth, and he rejects Christianity.

Both speakers acknowledged that there are Christians and other religious people who hold to some sort of middle ground. I am in that middle ground: I am a Christian who believes the Bible does not set a date for the original creation, and I believe God may have used processes (e.g. biological evolution) to some degree to accomplish his creation objectives.

But what if there were only two choices? What if our only two options really were “young Earth creationism” or “naturalistic cosmological and biological evolution?” Which way would I go?

For me, the choice would be fairly straight-forward. My readers all know that I think young Earth creationism is a complete failure scientifically. Neither its arguments for a young Earth, nor its arguments for Noah’s flood being responsible for most of Earth’s geological features, hold any credibility.

So if given only two choices–young Earth creationism, or atheistic naturalism–I would unhesitatingly pick…

Young Earth creationism.

Why?

Because what I would have to believe in order to be an atheist is even more out of touch with reality than is young Earth creationism.

The statement

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,”

is much more credible than

“The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be,”

or

“In the beginning nothing created everything.”

I find the classic arguments for the existence of God, such as the cosmological argument and the moral argument, to be compelling. Young-Earth creationism functions within a universe that could really exist. Atheism does not. This universe runs by laws–natural and moral–that came from somewhere. Atheism functions in a universe that is run by laws, but has no explanation for where the universe/multiverse, along with its laws, came from.

Fortunately, I don’t have to choose either Ken Ham’s way, or Bill Nye’s way. The Bible does not require a young Earth. Science does not demand naturalism.

Grace and Peace

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Notes:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” — Genesis 1:1

“The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.” — Carl Sagan

“In the beginning nothing created everything.” — Not a quote from an atheist that I know of, but a good summary of one of the very few options open to atheists. The only other option I can think of is that the universe/multiverse is itself eternal, which doesn’t answer the basic question of “Why is there something rather than nothing?”

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Apologetics, Atheism, Creationism, Young-Earth creationism | , | 4 Comments

A reminder — The GeoChristian is now on FaceBook

Just a reminder: The GeoChristian is now on FaceBook:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-GeoChristian/224603031042432

FB_leader

January 30, 2015 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation Care, Creation in the Bible, Creationism, Old-Earth creationism, Young-Earth creationism | | Leave a comment

Video — Can you be good without God?

“Can you be good without believing in God?” is a different question than “Can you be good without God?”

Clearly, an atheist can do good things and abhor certain evil things.

But can an atheist make a case that some things are inherently good, and other things are inherently evil?

Or is Richard Dawkins correct, when he states that the universe is a place of “no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference?”

This video, from ReasonableFaith.org, lays out the basics of the moral argument for God’s existence:

January 29, 2015 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | , , | 4 Comments

Another Christian leader who believes the Bible does not require a young Earth — Justin Taylor

Justin Taylor is senior vice president of Crossway Books, a theologically conservative Christian publishing company. Crossway is best known as the publisher of the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible, along with the ESV Study Bible, perhaps the most comprehensive theologically conservative study Bible ever produced for a general Christian audience.

Justin Taylor believes the Bible. And Justin Taylor does not believe the Bible requires us to believe Earth is only roughly 6000 years old. He has outlined his reasons for believing that the Bible is silent on the issue of the age of the Earth on his blog Between Two Worlds, which is part of The Gospel Coalition‘s web site:

Biblical Reasons to Doubt the Creation Days Were 24-Hour Periods

The arguments Taylor gives for accepting an old Earth have nothing to do with the geological column, radiometric dating, or the big bang theory. Instead, Taylor lays out a completely Biblical case for an ancient universe, mostly following the analogical days interpretation. Here are a few quotes from Taylor:

Contrary to what is often implied or claimed by young-earth creationists, the Bible nowhere directly teaches the age of the earth.

—————

I want to suggest there are some good, textual reasons—in the creation account itself—for questioning the exegesis that insists on the days as strict 24 hour periods. Am I as certain of this as I am of the resurrection of Christ? Definitely not. But in some segments of the church, I fear that we’ve built an exegetical “fence around the Torah,” fearful that if we question any aspect of young-earth dogmatics we have opened the gate to liberalism.

—————

God is portrayed as a workman going through his workweek, working during the day and resting for the night. Then on his Sabbath, he enjoys a full and refreshing rest. Our days are like God’s workdays, but not identical to them.

How long were God’s workdays? The Bible doesn’t say. But I see no reason to insist that they were only 24 hours long.

How old is the Earth? The Bible does not say, so Christians should not dogmatically insist that it is only 6000 years old.

An important conclusion is that the age of the Earth should not act as a stumbling block to someone who is considering whether or not Christianity is true.

Grace and Peace

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Notes:

To be “theologically conservative” means that one holds to the inerrancy of the Holy Bible, and the core historical teachings of Christianity, as summarized by the ancient creeds of the church, such as the Trinity, deity of Christ, virgin birth, crucifixion of Christ, his resurrection and ascension, and the necessity of spiritual rebirth through Christ.

The opposite of theologically conservative is theologically liberal. Liberals usually start by denying the reliability and authority of the Bible, and end up denying many of the core doctrines of Christianity.

January 29, 2015 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Christianity, Creation in the Bible, Creationism, Old-Earth creationism, Theistic evolution, Young-Earth creationism | , , , | 3 Comments

Doubting your doubts

I wish to expand a bit on the concept of “doubting your doubts.” I first came across this phrase in The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. Here is a quote from the introduction (I hope you will purchase the book and read it for yourself):

A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.

Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts — not only their own but their friends’ and neighbors’. It is no longer sufficient to hold beliefs just because you inherited them. Only if you struggle long and hard with objections to your faith will you be able to provide the grounds for your beliefs to skeptics, including yourself, that are plausible rather than ridiculous or offensive. And, just as important for our current situation, such a process will lead you, even after you come to a position of strong faith, to respect and understand those who doubt.

But even as believers should learn to look for reasons behind their faith, skeptics must learn to look for a type of faith hidden within their reasoning. All doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternate beliefs. You cannot doubt Belief A except from a position of faith in Belief B. For example, if you doubt Christianity because “There can’t be just one true religion,” you must recognize that this statement is itself an act of faith. No one can prove it empirically, and it is not a universal truth that everyone accepts. If you went to the Middle East and said, “There can’t be just one true religion,” nearly everyone would say, “Why not?” The reason you doubt Christianity’s Belief A is because you hold unprovable Belief B. Every doubt, therefore, is based on a leap of faith.

Some people say, “I don’t believe in Christianity because I can’t accept the existence of moral absolutes. Everyone should determine moral truth for him- or herself.” Is that a statement they can prove to someone who doesn’t share it? No, it is a leap of faith, a deep belief that individual rights operate not only in the political sphere but also in the moral. There is not empirical proof for such a position. So the doubt (of moral absolutes) is a leap.

The only way to doubt Christianity rightly and fairly is to discern the alternate belief under each of your doubts and then ask yourself what reasons you have for believing it. How do you know your belief is true? It would be inconsistent to require more justification for Christian belief than you do for your own, but that is frequently what happens. In fairness, you must doubt your doubts. My thesis is that if you come to recognize the beliefs on which your doubts about Christianity are based, and if you seek as much proof for those beliefs as you seek from Christians for theirs — you will discover that your doubts are not as solid as they first appeared.

I commend two processes to my readers. I urge skeptics to wrestle with the unexamined “blind faith” on which skepticism is based, and to see how hard it is to justify those beliefs to those who do not share them. I also urge believers to wrestle with their personal and culture’s objections to the faith. At the end of each process, even if you remain the skeptic or believer you have been, you will hold your own position with both greater clarity and greater humility.

(hard cover pp. xvi-xviii, soft cover pp. xvii-xix)

Do I ever have doubts about Christianity? There are certainly things I do not understand, whether in the Bible, theology, ethics, or history. There is so much more that makes sense to me by being a Christian, however, as opposed to being a skeptic or adherent of some other religion, that none of these “doubts” has caused serious trouble for me for quite a long time. Part of this is because I have struggled through some real doubts of my own in the past, and come through at the end with my faith strengthened.

If you are a Christian, what are your doubts? How are you dealing with them?

If you are a skeptic, are you questioning your doubts about Christianity? Do you have doubts about your own doubts?

Grace and Peace

January 19, 2015 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | , , | 5 Comments

Advice for Christians who have doubts

Many Christians go through a time when they are troubled in their faith when confronted with challenges from skeptics and unbelievers.

Christianity today has posted the testimony of Gregory Alan Thornbury, who almost gave up his faith when challenged by the teachings of people beyond the liberal fringe of Christianity such as Marcus Borg, a member of the Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars devoted to cutting the Bible apart to create a new Jesus that is more to their liking. The thing that “saved” Thornbury was a book, in this case God, Revelation, and Authority by Carl Henry. Read more about it on the Christianity Today website: How I Almost Lost the Bible.

My advice to Christians who struggle with intellectual doubts:

  1. Read. Read, read, read. Search for answers as if you were digging for treasure. There are plenty of compelling reasons to stay in the faith. Read apologetics books by Keller, Geisler, Craig, Blomberg, Wright, and many others. There are answers.
  2. Doubt your doubts. The skeptics want you to doubt your faith. It is equally valid–or perhaps more valid in many cases–to doubt your doubts.
  3. Pray. There are spiritual aspects to the battle that you and I cannot see.

If you are doubting whether or not Christianity is true, there are answers. Is there a book that will “save” you from falling away? There is only one way to find out.

Grace and peace

January 17, 2015 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | , , | 2 Comments

Why the latest Newsweek blast against Christianity is nonsense

Think of some idea that you think is loony that other people believe in and adamantly support. My list would include alien abductions, the face on Mars, conspiracy theories about the Apollo moon landings, and thinking that Che Guevara or Hugh Hefner are cool.

Your list would probably differ from mine. That’s OK; I hope we can still have civil conversations. I have friends who believe things that I think are completely wrong.

newsweekcover2015-225x300I consider the latest religious offering from Newsweek to be in the same category as belief in the Loch Ness monster or a flat Earth — The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin, by Kurt Eichenwald. It is common for American news magazines to celebrate Christmas and Easter by printing articles that attack Christianity, and they typically have a sensational news article about something like the discovery of an obscure fourth century manuscript claiming Jesus had a wife. These ideas come and go, but they seem to sell magazines, so we can expect this trend to continue.

Eichenwald doesn’t get off to a good start, lumping Christians all together as hateful bigots:

They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation.

Most of us don’t fit that description. It makes me wonder if Eichenwald knows any Christians (except perhaps progressives who read John Shelby Spong and Bart Ehrman).

As I read the article, my jaw dropped in disbelief that Newsweek would publish an article that contained such blatant errors about any topic, not just Christianity. Eichenwald’s description of how the Bible got to us was the “telephone game,” where one person whispers something in someone’s ear, who passes it on to the next person, so on down the line, until the message becomes completely garbled. That is not even remotely how stories are passed on in oral societies, and is completely irrelevant to how the New Testament was compiled (and one could make a case that it is irrelevant to how the Old Testament was compiled as well). In addition, Eichenwald described our modern English translations as having been produced as translations of “a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies.” Again, this is utter nonsense. I guess the editors of Newsweek don’t know much about the history of how the Bible got to us, and this all sounded like a nice story to them, so they went ahead and published it.

I’m not saying that everything Eichenwald wrote in the article is bad or false. We all need to be aware, for example, of our tendency to pick and choose what parts of the Bible we are going to follow, rather than letting the Scriptures inform our thoughts, words, and deeds.

Rather than going through Eichenwald’s article myself, I am going to refer you to other reviews, written by people better qualified than myself.

The most succinct summary I’ve read is at Internet Monk:

Newsweek (yes, it’s still around) decided to celebrate Christmas by publishing the most insulting and ignorant article I have seen put out by a mainstream publication. If you are a Christian (at least a conservative one), this is your portrait: “They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school…They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.” Yeaaaah. And that is the opener. It goes on for 34 pages, taking every angle to cast doubt on the scriptures and lambast the stupidity of anyone moronic enough to think they actually can be a guide for life. The author, an atheist journalist who writes mainly in the area of finance, seems to have no actual knowledge of the issues except what he read from Sprong and Ehrman. I won’t link to the article, (you can find it easily enough) but I will point out the incredibly measured and patient analysis of the article by Dr. Michael J. Kruger here and here.

Here are some quotes from the Michael J. Kruger articles:

A Christmas Present from the Mainstream Media: Newsweek Takes a Desperate Swipe at the Integrity of the Bible (Part 1) by Michael J. Kruger, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary

However, the recent Newsweek cover article by Kurt Eichenwald, entitled “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin,” published intentionally (no doubt) on December 23rd, goes so far beyond the standard polemics, and is so egregiously mistaken about the Bible at so many places, that the magazine should seriously consider a public apology to Christians everywhere.

Of course, this is not the first media article critiquing the Bible that has been short on the facts. However, what is stunning about this particular article is that Kurt Eichenwald begins by scolding evangelical Christians for being unaware of the facts about the Bible, and the proceeds to demonstrate a jaw-dropping ignorance of the facts about the Bible.

——————————

Eichenwald attempts to discredit the Bible by pointing out problems in its transmission. However, the real problem is not with the Bible but with Eichenwald’s misinformed accusations. For instance, he claims:

About 400 years passed between the writing of the first Christian manuscripts and their compilation into the New Testament.

This is patently false. Collections of New Testament writings were functioning as Scripture as early as the second century (and, to some extent, even in the first).

——————————

Eichenwald seems utterly unaware that this whole course of argument is incorrect and drawn directly from internet chat rooms and books like the Da Vinci Code.

——————————

In sum, the first part of Eichenwald’s article is an unmitigated disaster.

A Christmas Gift from the Mainstream Media: Newsweek Takes a Desperate Swipe at the Integrity of the Bible (Part 2) also by Michael J. Kruger

Notice that Eichenwald offers no historical evidence about the mass killing of Christians by Christians within the first few centuries (we are talking about the pre-Constantine time period). And there is a reason he doesn’t offer any. There is none.

Sure, one can point to instances in the medieval period, such as the Inquisition, where Christians killed other Christians.  But, Eichenwald claims that Christianity began this way: “for hundreds of years after the death of Jesus.” This is another serious historical mistake that needs correcting.

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Up to this point, Eichenwald’s article has been an epitomized by imbalanced and straw-man accusations against the Bible. Unfortunately, in the section on homosexuality Eichenwald reaches a new low. At no point is it more obvious that he is driven by his own entrenched ideological commitments and not by an honest attempt to understand what evangelicals believe.

——————————

By way of conclusion, it is hard to know what to say about an article like Eichenwald’s. In many ways, it embodies all the misrepresentations, caricatures, and misunderstandings of the average non-Christian in the world today.

Some other critiques:

Daniel B. Wallace — Predictable Christmas fare: Newsweek’s Tirade against the Bible — “Eichenwald’s grasp of conservative Christianity in America as well as his grasp of genuine biblical scholarship are, at best, subpar. And this article is an embarrassment to Newsweek—or should be!”

Justin Taylor — The many sins of Newsweek’s expose on the Bible  —

Eichenwald seeks to demonstrate that the Bible is “loaded with contradictions and translation errors and wasn’t written by witnesses and includes words added by unknown scribes to inject Church orthodoxy.” Eichenwald insists his article is not an attack on the Bible or Christianity. Rather, Eichenwald wants to rescue the message of Jesus from “God’s frauds,” those manipulative fundamentalists who don’t read or understand their Bibles but abusively twist it in order to create misery for others.

Even with a generous 8,487 words, Eichenwald reveals he is out of his depth for this subject matter. Though he doggedly advances his predetermined thesis from a mishmash of angles, experts quickly showed online that Eichenwald has not really done his historical homework or read his Bible carefully.

Albert Mohler  — Newsweek on the Bible — So Misrepresented It’s a Sin

When written by journalists like Newsweek‘s former editor Jon Meacham or TIME reporters such as David Van Biema, the articles were often balanced and genuinely insightful. Meacham and Van Biema knew the difference between theological liberals and theological conservatives and they were determined to let both sides speak. I was interviewed several times by both writers, along with others from both magazines. I may not have liked the final version of the article in some cases, but I was treated fairly and with journalistic integrity.

So, when Newsweek, now back in print under new ownership, let loose its first issue of the New Year on the Bible, I held out the hope that the article would be fair, journalistically credible, and interesting, even if written from a more liberal perspective.

But Newsweek‘s cover story is nothing of the sort. It is an irresponsible screed of post-Christian invective leveled against the Bible and, even more to the point, against evangelical Christianity. It is one of the most irresponsible articles ever to appear in a journalistic guise.

My advice to Christians — Do not be thrown off by attacks against your faith, even if they seem to be scholarly.

My advice to non-Christians — Don’t read anti-Christian diatribes such as the Newsweek article and think you can dismiss Christianity.

Grace and Peace

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Notes:

The Internet Monk quote says that Eichenwald is an atheist. I’m not sure that Eichenwald considers himself to be an atheist. [In a comment on Kruger’s second blog article, Eichenwald calls himself a “red letter Christian.”]

I am trying hard to avoid labels. Please note that I feel comfortable saying that I feel certain ideas are “loony,” but am not calling people who hold to those ideas “loonies.”

January 3, 2015 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | , | 2 Comments

The GeoChristian Stats for 2014

I only wrote 23 posts in 2014, so my readership was down a bit. That’s OK; I just have a lot of other things going on. Because of this, nine of the ten most-read posts on The GeoChristian were actually ones written in previous years.

The top ten most-read posts on the GeoChristian in 2014:

10. John Piper and the age of the Earth — a respected Evangelical pastor who is an old-Earther.

9. The stratigraphic column — not a figment of geologists’ imaginations — Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian…  The rocks really are stacked in this order.

8. Creation Creeds — What I believe as an old-Earth Christian.

7. Antarctic ice cores: a window to ice age climate change — We cannot understand the present nor the future if we don’t understand the past.

6. Stegosaurus in Cambodian temple? — Humans and dinosaurs did not live together in Southeast Asia.

5. Augustine: The Literal Meaning of Genesis — St. Augustine did not believe that Earth was created in six literal days.

4. John MacArthur on the age of the Earth and theistic evolution — I use some of John MacArthur’s commentaries in my personal Bible study, but here I point out why he is wrong on the age of the Earth and biological evolution.

3. Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 1) — The first in a six-part series, outlining why the six best YEC geological arguments for a global flood are bad answers from Answers in Genesis.

2. Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye post-debate analysis — Ken Ham and Bill Nye were both wrong about both the Bible and geology.

1. Dr. Dino still in prison — I wrote this post in 2009, and each year since then it has been the most-read post on The GeoChristian. Popular young-Earth creationist speaker Kent Hovind (who does not have a real doctorate) will be released from prison in 2015.

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A few more stats:

The GeoChristian was viewed 72,889 times by 42,740 visitors in 2014. This is down from a high of 153,654 views in 2009.

There were 217 comments made on The GeoChristian in 2014.

I wrote 23 posts in 2014.

My all-time daily high for views was February 5, 2014, the day after the Ham-Nye debate. There were a total of 2,109 views on that date.

I hope that The GeoChristian was a blessing to you in 2014, and pray that I would continue to build up the body of Christ, and point non-Christians to Jesus in 2015.

Grace and Peace

January 1, 2015 Posted by | Christianity, Creation in the Bible, General, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Young-Earth creationism | | 2 Comments

Reading the Bible in 2015

(This is a re-posting from 12/31/2013)

“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. Often what happens is that one starts reading in Genesis, and things go well for a while. A month or two later they hit the latter part of Exodus, and perhaps they make it into Leviticus. Though there is a lot of good material in this section of Scripture, I confess that my eyes can glaze over as I go through chapter after chapter of “He also made the table of acacia wood. Two cubits was its length, a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height.” (Ex 37:10 ESV).

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. Move on from the gospels to the rest of the New Testament. I would recommend Romans as a good place to start after reading the life of Christ in the Gospels.

I read in the Bible every day, and could probably count on my fingers and toes the number of days I have missed in the past thirty plus years. I would like to pass on to you some attitudes and tools that have helped me to do this.

  1. I set realistic reading goals. Though I read the Bible regularly, I have never read the entire Bible in a year. My general goal is to read the New Testament every year and the Old Testament once every two years. There are 260 chapters in the New Testament, so reading a chapter per day (a five to ten minute investment of one’s time) will easily get one through that portion of Scripture in a year. There are 929 chapters in the Old Testament, so I have to average a bit more than a chapter a day to meet my objective of getting through the OT every two years.
  2. Many have been helped by using a one-year Bible reading plan. Here’s a plan that will get you through the entire New Testament in a year. There are many other day-by-day reading plans out there, such as the Discipleship Journal one-year reading plan, or many others listed by Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition. Or if you want a challenge, you can try Glenn Brooke’s Read the Bible in 30 Days.
  3. I usually use a Bible reading checklist to track progress toward my goals. One advantage of a checklist over a calendar-based plan is flexibility. I can speed up my reading or slow down. Another advantage of a checklist is that if one misses a few days, they don’t need to feel overwhelmed because they are behind schedule. One can pick up where they left off without feeling any pressure to catch up.
  4. After doing my reading for the day (which I usually do in the evening), I try to go back and meditate and pray about something that stood out to me.
  5. I take notes on my reading. The way I do it is by writing in the margins of my wide-margin Bible. Others keep a journal.

These things have worked for me. We are all wired differently, but I think that, with modification, there should be some ideas here that will be helpful to most followers of Christ.

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

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Here are a couple of Bible reading tools I have created — a Bible reading checklist, and a reading plan for going through the New Testament in a year.

1. The GeoChristian Bible Reading Checklist – PDF file

It has all sixty-six books of the Bible with their chapters. I mark off the chapters as I read them.

biblechecklist.jpg

Bible_Reading_Checklist

This system gives me greater flexibility than a day-by-day schedule does, yet still helps me to reach my reading goals. 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.

The checklist has two pages; I like to print it on two sides on heavy paper, fold it, and stick it in my Bible.

2. Read the New Testament in a year bookmark

NT_bookmark

NT_bookmark

This can be printed two-sided (I print mine on card stock) and inserted in your Bible.

January 1, 2015 Posted by | Christianity | , , | Leave a comment

Reading Genesis 1-2 — Forward and Introduction

ReadingGenesis1-2I recently acquired Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, edited by J. Daryl Charles. The book gives perspectives of five highly-qualified, Evangelical Old Testament scholars on the creation accounts of Genesis:

  • Richard E. Averbeck (professor of OT and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) — “A Literary Day, Inter-Textual, and Contextual Reading of Genesis 1-2″
  • Todd S. Beall (professor of OT at Capitol Bible Seminary) — “Reading Genesis 1-2: A Literal Approach”
  • C. John Collins (professor of OT at Covenant Theological Seminary) — “Reading Genesis 1-2 with the Grain: Analogical Days”
  • Tremper Longman III (professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College) — “What Genesis 1-2 Teaches (and What it Doesn’t)”
  • John H. Walton (professor of OT at Wheaton College and Graduate School) — “Reading Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology”

Each author’s chapter includes responses from the four other authors.

In the Forward, the editor states that one of the convictions behind this book is that “conversation–indeed, even heated debate regarding contentious issues–can proceed in a charitable manner.” That is what I strive for in my writing on The GeoChristian, and I appreciate their objective.

In the Introduction, Victor, P. Hamilton begins by reminding us that “without Gen 1-2 the rest of the Bible becomes incomprehensible.” This is something that all contributors to this book, whether young-Earth or old-Earth, evolution-accepting or evolution-denying, would agree on. The opening chapters of Genesis lay foundations for a number of critical doctrines in the Bible, including humans created in the image of God, humanity’s fall into sin, and the beginning of the long story of redemption in Christ.

The Introduction also points out that the interpretation of Genesis 1-2 has been controversial throughout church history, with quotes from Origen and Augustine to back this up. He then points out some particularly important modern debates, such as the historicity of Adam and Eve, and the relationship of the Biblical creation accounts to other Ancient Near Eastern creation accounts.

It is important to be reminded that all of these authors “identify fully and unapologetically with historic Christian orthodoxy and embrace wholeheartedly the basic tenets and historic creeds of the one holy catholic church.” Faithfulness to God’s Word does not require that one interpret Genesis just like only one of these authors.

The Introduction ends by laying out three responses readers might have to the book:

  • Confusion — “If the scholars cannot get it all together, what am I supposed to do with Gen 1 and 2?”
  • Pre-conceived conclusions — Like the essays I already agree with, and ignore the rest.
  • “[A]ppreciate the differing perspectives on Gen 1-2 presented in this volume. We need to remember that a divinely inspired and authoritative Scripture does not mean that (my) interpretations of Scripture are equally divinely inspired and authoritative.”

I look forward to learning from each author, and sharing with you my thoughts as I read through this important work.

Grace and Peace

December 28, 2014 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Creationism, Old-Earth creationism, Theistic evolution, Young-Earth creationism | | 6 Comments

Observations about commenting on young earth creationist Facebook pages

I’m not sure what gave me the urge, but I spent quite a bit of time in late November and early December commenting on young Earth creationist (YEC) Facebook pages. I limited myself to the Big Three: Answers in Genesis, the Institute for Creation Research, and Creation Ministries International. Here’s what I learned:

1. Answers in Genesis is the Big One of the Big Three, at least in terms of the number of “Likes” indicated on the Facebook pages.

Answers in Genesis — 312,165 likes

Institute for Creation Research — 88,678 likes

Creation Ministries International — 41,841 likes

For comparison, here are some “Like” statistics for other YEC and old-Earth Christian Facebook pages:

Biologos — 23,675 likes (Evolutionary creation/theistic evolution)

Creation Today — 11,528 likes (YEC site run by Eric Hovind, son of Kent Hovind, a.k.a. Dr. Dino)

Reasons to Believe — 10,218 likes (old-Earth creationist Hugh Ross)

Discovery Institute — 2,363 likes (Intelligent design)

2. Creation Ministries International (CMI) moderates its page constantly.

I don’t mind at all that CMI quickly removes the “creationists are morons” sort of rubbish, but they almost go to the other extreme of “No dissent allowed.” Usually when I left a comment on CMI’s Facebook page, CMI responded with something like

CMI_2

or

CMI_3

The articles usually did not specifically addressed the topics I raised.

3. Answers in Genesis (AiG) and the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) seem to do only a minimum amount of moderating, which means that the comment threads quickly become clogged with attacks by skeptics and counter-attacks by Christians.

4. The typical YEC placing a comment on Facebook doesn’t know creationism very well, much less the “other side.” It is common to read arguments that the mainstream YEC organisations no longer use, such as arguments about moon dust or Paluxy River tracks, as well as fringe YEC arguments, such as hydroplates.

5. Kent Hovind’s imprisonment for tax evasion has not diminished his popularity among YECs. I advise my YEC friends to stick to the Big Three, as they have scientists who have weeded out the worst of the worst (although they still present some really bad science). But many rank-and-file YECs were raised on Dr. Dino videos, and think he’s the greatest apologist alive.

6. A large number of YECs continue to view old-Earth Christians as “so called Christians.” This will not change until the YEC leadership stops labeling those who accept a billions of years old Earth as “compromisers.”

7. YEC Facebook posts get thousands of “Likes” and “Shares.” YEC is alive and well in our Evangelical churches.

8. Facebook is an awful place for intelligent, polite discussion about the issues. There are several reasons for this. A) Too many hot-headed people who are eager to join the conversation. B) Too many people who don’t know what they are talking about who are eager to join the conversation.

9. Facebook is ephemeral, like a stream in the desert. Unlike a blog, there is no easy way to go back to a discussion weeks, months, or years later.

10. I need to remind myself that not all things are profitable.

11. I need to remind myself to speak the truth in love.

So what did I learn that I didn’t already know? Not too much.

Perhaps some young-Earth creationist saw that not all YEC arguments are sound.

Perhaps some young-Earth creationist saw that an old-Earth Christian can be a fellow follower of Christ and have insights into the Word.

Perhaps some skeptic saw that not all Christians accept the teachings of the YECs.

Perhaps not.

I might still occasionally comment on YEC Facebook sites. It won’t be often.

Grace and Peace

———————————————————————————-

Here are some of the Facebook posts I commented on, to give you a flavor of the conversations:

CMI – A Canyon in Six Days! — YECs extrapolate from rapid erosion through unconsolidated silt to rapid excavation of the Grand Canyon during Noah’s flood.

AiG – Where Does the Ice Age Fit? — Squeezing the entire Quaternary and all of pre-2000 BC human history into a few hundred years is an incredible stretch. And it isn’t in the Bible. I pointed out to the AiG readers a major blunder in the article.

ICR – Job’s Icy Vocabulary — YECs try to find the Ice Age in the book of Job. But it isn’t in there.

AiG – Doesn’t Carbon-14 Dating Disprove the Bible? — If you look hard enough for C-14 in a carbon-bearing sample, it will be there. It has nothing to do with the age of the sample.

ICR – Is the Young Earth Model the Best Explanation of the Ice Age? – This conversation was brief, but drew in ICR’s geologist, Jake Hebert, as well as two other Christian geologists. Perhaps there is hope for Facebook.

ICR – The Iconic Isochron — Perhaps I killed the conversation by pointing out some very serious problems with this article on radiometric dating.

December 27, 2014 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creationism, Young-Earth creationism | , , , | 4 Comments

The GeoChristian on Facebook

The GeoChristian now has a Facebook Page:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-GeoChristian/224603031042432

Facebook is not the best place to have a dialog about substantial issues, especially because after a day or two almost no one reads the comments on a post. But Facebook does have over one billion users, so it is a means of tapping into a larger audience.

My hope and prayer is that God would use The GeoChristian Facebook page to build up the Body of Christ, and to point unbelievers to the Savior.

Grace and Peace.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Blogs | | Leave a comment

GeoScriptures — Psalm 90:4 — God’s days are not the same as our days

“For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” — Psalm 90:4 (ESV)

Christians disagree with one another about the age of the Earth and the universe. Some Christians insist that the only possible way to interpret the opening chapters of Genesis is that Earth is only about 6000 years old, and that any other interpretation is an accommodation with atheistic naturalism. Other Christians, equally sincere in their trust in the Bible as God’s Word, have studied Genesis and come to the conclusion that the Bible is not so clear on the age of the world, and that there is room for alternative understandings.

An important principle of Biblical hermeneutics (the art and science of interpretation) is to let Scripture interpret Scripture. For example, there are verses in 1 John that, if taken by themselves, make it sound like a Christian cannot sin (e.g. 1 John 3:9). Well, I still sin, so if all I knew was 1 John 3:9 I would be wallowing in despair. But if I look at other verses in 1 John, I am assured that God still loves me even though I still struggle with sin. I’m thinking of 1 John 2:1-2 in particular:

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Reading 1 John 2:1-2 helps me to understand that 1 John 3:9 is not teaching that only the perfect will be saved.

I think it is fair to say that most Bible scholars interpret Psalm 90:4 to mean that God’s perspective on time is very different than humanity’s perspective on time. God is eternal, but we quickly return to dust. God knows the end from the beginning; we see the present dimly, and can only guess at the future. A thousand years is nothing to God, but is far beyond our personal experience.

The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away. (Psalm 90:10)

My desire in this brief essay is to demonstrate that Psalm 90:4 is relevant as we seek to understand what is meant by the word “day” in Genesis 1. Does Genesis 1 require six literal, consecutive 24-hour days of creation, or is there freedom to interpret the chapter in a somewhat less literal fashion? As we look at Psalm 90:4, I ask you to consider the following points:

1. The Hebrew word used for day in Psalm 90:4 is yom, the same word that is used for day in Genesis 1. In Psalm 90:4, yom is not the daily period of light between sunrise and sunset, nor is it a roughly 24-hour period from sunset to sunset. In Psalm 90:4, yom is clearly figurative.

2. Moses was the author of both Genesis 1 and Psalm 90. The title for Psalm 90 is, “A prayer of Moses, the man of God.” This title is part of the Hebrew text, not an insertion by the English-language translators. It is clear that the word yom is used in a figurative sense in Psalm 90:4, so it is not unthinkable that Moses could write of figurative days, at least in some contexts.

3. The context of verse 4 is creation, so it is legitimate to at least consider whether or not the figurative use of yom in Psalm 90 is applicable to our understanding of the days of Genesis 1. The surrounding verses (Psalm 90:2-6) all speak of aspects of creation:

2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!”
4 For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.
5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers. (ESV)

There are several references to creation: mountains being brought forth, the formation of the earth, man being created from dust, a flood, grass growing and withering.

4. The number 1000 is used in a general sense in Psalm 90; the purpose is to show that God’s view of time is not the same as man’s view of time. It would be just as accurate to say that 1,000,000 years–or even perhaps the entire history of the universe–is as a day or a watch in the night to God.

5. God was the only witness to the events of Genesis 1, and as we have seen in Psalm 90:4, God’s time is not the same as our time.

6. Put these all together, and we get the sense that Moses–and God–is not nearly as concerned with literal 24-hour days as most young-earth creationists are.

I am aware of young-earth creationist’s (YECs) objections to this use of Psalm 90:4, so I’ll mention a few of them.

  • YECs will say that the plain meaning of yom in Genesis 1 is a 24-hour day, regardless of what Psalm 90:4 says. I will answer this objection by saying that yom is used to mean something other than a 24-hour day more than once in Genesis 1-2, and it is by no means plain that the other occurences aren’t meant to be figurative. The very first use of yom in Genesis 1 is in verse 5, where it says, “God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.” Yom in this passage means “the period of time when it is light,” not a 24-hour day. Even the “There was evening and there was morning, the nth day” phrase that is repeated for each of the six days is something other than a 24-hour day, as the Jewish “day” ran from sunset to sunset, not sunset to morning, which is only part of a 24-hour day. In addition, Genesis 2:4 uses yom in a figurative sense, where it refers to the entire creation week.

Perhaps the clincher is that the seventh day is left open-ended; there is no repeat of the “evening and morning” phrase (see Genesis 2:1-3). Hebrews 4:3-11 seems to teach that the seventh day is ongoing, and that some people enter that rest, and others do not.

  • YECs also commonly object that Exodus 20:11 requires us to read the days in Genesis 1 as literal.

“For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

I will reply by saying that the meaning of “day” in Genesis 1 should drive our understanding of “day” in Exodus 20:11. If day is figurative in Genesis 1, then it can be figurative in Exodus 20:11. The reason I say that is because the seventh day of creation is a pattern not only for the weekly Sabbath, but also for the Sabbath year and the Year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25. There is no need for the seventh day of creation in Genesis to be “literal” in order for it to provide a pattern for the weekly Sabbath in Exodus 20, as well as the Sabbath year and Year of Jubilee.

  • A third YEC objection is that Genesis is a historical document, and so the days should be taken literally. I will counter this by saying that Genesis 1 clearly has a structure to it that is not found in other Old Testament historical narrative passages. Genesis 1 is not poetry, such as is found in Psalms or Proverbs, but it is clearly not strictly historical narrative, such as what is found in much of Genesis through 2 Chronicles. This needs to be taken into consideration when interpreting Genesis 1, but in general, YECs simply lump the chapter in with other historical narrative passages.

This does not mean that Genesis 1 is non-historical; I believe it is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth. But its distinctive style, combined with other considerations, causes me to think that there is more flexibility in the passage than YECs will allow for.

In this brief essay, I certainly have not “proven” that Genesis 1 allows for a universe that is older than 6000 years. But it is clear that God’s days are not necessarily the same as our days, and this needs to be taken into consideration as we interpret the creation account given in Genesis.

Grace and Peace

—————————–
NOTES:

All Bible quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

I stated that Moses was the author of Genesis 1. I see no significant reason to reject Moses as the primary compiler of the Pentateuch, including Genesis, though I do not rule out minor later editing, such as the updating of place names or the inclusion of the account of Moses’ death in Deuteronomy 34. Moses certainly may have worked with earlier sources, whether oral or written.

I have been a little sloppy for the sake of clarity. When I write “Genesis 1,” I really mean Genesis 1:1-2:3, which is the complete section. Genesis 1 gives the six days of creation, and Genesis 2:1-3 tells of the seventh day, the day of God’s rest.

2 Peter 3:8 is similar to Psalm 90:4 —

 “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

I chose to focus on Psalm 90:4 rather than 2 Peter 3:8 because Psalm 90 was written by Moses, the same person who compiled Genesis.

The “Report of the Creation Study Committee” (Presbyterian Church in America) gives a good summary of various viewpoints on creation: http://www.pcahistory.org/creation/report.html

The various YEC ministries all have web pages about the meaning of “day” in Genesis 1:

http://www.icr.org/article/meaning-day-genesis/

https://answersingenesis.org/days-of-creation/24-hours-plain-as-day/

http://www.icr.org/article/meaning-day-genesis/

When they mention Psalm 90:4 or 2 Peter 3:8, they tend to brush these verses off as being irrelevant to Genesis 1.

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, GeoScriptures, Old-Earth creationism, Young-Earth creationism | , | 21 Comments

100 reasons the Earth is old — from Age of Rocks

One of the best current blogs on the topics of geology, young-Earth creationism, and Christianity is Age of Rocks, written by Jonathan Baker. Today he published his 100th post, and commemorated that milestone with a fantastic article: 100 Reasons the Earth is Old. I liked all 100  reasons, and think he could follow this up with 500 reasons the Earth is old when he hits his 500th post. Here are five of my favorite reasons from his list:

6. There is no radiocarbon in old samples, despite claims to the contrary. Geologically old samples of coal, diamonds, and graphite, for example, yield finite radiocarbon ages that are consistent with the expected level of contamination invariably introduced during sample collection and preparation.

15. Quaternary deposits and landscapes are far too complicated to have accumulated in the ~4,500 years following the Flood. Everywhere we look on Earth, we truly find evidence for ~2 million years worth of processes, whether at high latitudes (where we find evidence for repeated glaciations and deglaciations, separated by warm intervals) or in the tropics (where we find thick desert dune sequences alternating with humid intervals) or in the oceans (where 2 million+ years of Milankovitch cycles are recorded in only a few meters of silt and clay) or in the high mountains (where alpine valleys have been carved out by rivers or glaciers, then infilled by coarse sediment, then eroded again, etc.). Flood geologists unanimously assert that the Quaternary period represents the ‘post-Flood’ era, but there is good reasons that conventional geologists ascribe a much longer age: 2.6 million years.

26. Volcanic ash beds (sedimentary tuff), frequently used to date sedimentary rock layers, were mainly deposited in dry conditions. Geologists can distinguish between ash layers that settled in ocean basins (marine tephra) and those that fell over dry land (air fall deposits). When volcanic ash is deposited in flowing water, it produces yet different features identifiable in outcrops, such as grain sorting and lamination. Therefore, not a few volcanic ashes in sedimentary strata contradict the Flood geology scenario, especially because these ash falls take time to accumulate from the air and harden to the point that water-lain sediments can be deposited on top without compromising the structure of the soft ash.

27. The geologic column is no remnant of an ancient flood deposit, global or not. Fine details, in the form of thin layers of alternating clay and limestone, or irregular sand deposits that resemble modern river channels, defy catastrophic explanation, which explains why catastrophism has long been abandoned by research geologists.

29. The distribution of sedimentary rocks is weighted to heavily over the continents, which is the opposite of what we’d expect in a global flood. Floods move sediments from high elevation to low elevation, depositing them in sedimentary basins. During the Flood, the oceans would have constituted the largest and deepest basins, but most sediments remained on elevated continents. How did this happen? Did the laws of physics stop working?

Note that I picked my top five from the first 29; there were just so many good old-Earth evidences to choose from. I could have selected all 100 reasons from the list of 100 reasons!

An equally important list would be top reasons why the Bible does not require anything like young-Earth creationism. A few of Jonathan Baker’s thoughts on the Bible and science can be found on his Theology/Scripture tab.

Grace and Peace

============================================

Notes

I said “One of the best blogs” because it is hard to choose between Age of Rocks and Naturalis Historia. Both have been producing top-notch articles.

#26 was near and dear to my heart, as my Master’s degree research involved a study of Quaternary volcanic ash deposits in eastern Washington.

October 28, 2014 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Blogs, Christianity, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Theistic evolution, Young-Earth creationism | , | 6 Comments

Novare Earth Science — an upcoming middle school textbook by The GeoChristian

NovareLogo_2Color_122012

Like their secular school counterparts, many Christian schools offer a full year of Earth Science at the middle school level. These Christian schools, as well as home school parents who wish to offer a year of Earth Science, really have only two sources for curricula: secular publishers, such as Glencoe or Holt, or young Earth creationist (YEC) Christian publishers, such as Bob Jones or A Beka. When I taught secondary-level Earth Science at a Christian school, I went with a secular textbook. I figured it was easier to insert a Christian perspective into a secular textbook than it would be to undo the bad science and dogmatic but questionable biblical interpretations in the YEC textbooks.

I was excited this past summer when I stumbled across the web site for Novare Science & Math, a rapidly growing Christian science curriculum publisher. One thing I was enthusiastic about was Novare’s three Core Principles:

  1. CPF-New-300x300Mastery. Typical middle school and high school science textbooks are 800+ page monsters, filled with a lot of interesting stuff, but also packed with more information about more topics than most teenagers could possibly learn and remember. This leads to a Cram-Pass-Forget cycle, which almost all teachers and students can relate to. The Novare textbooks, on the other hand, take a Learn‑Master-Retain approach, part of which involves publishing textbooks that cover fewer topics, with each being covered in more depth.
  2. Integration. Science classes are often taught in compartmentalized boxes. Novare textbooks integrate their subjects with other fields of science, mathematics, and history, with an emphasis on developing science writing skills throughout (no multiple-choice questions).
  3. Kingdom Perspective. Rather than taking the conflict model taken by many Christian educators, who insist that there is a war between science and Christianity, Novare takes an “All truth is God’s truth” approach. As the Novare website states, “There can be no inherent conflict between faith in the One who made the world, and study of the world He made.” Novare textbooks seek to be thoroughly Biblical in their approach to the study of God’s world, which does not negate what God has revealed in his creation.

Here’s what Novare says about the age of the Earth:

Finally, virtually every Christian science textbook publisher is overtly committed to an agenda of rejecting mainstream scientific evidence pertaining to the age of the earth. For both Biblical and scientific reasons, we believe it is time to put this debate behind us. We find the literalistic model of an earth approximately 10,000 years old to be not only not necessitated by the soundest principles of Biblical exegesis, but to be in conflict with the “other book” of God’s revelation: the creation itself. From Psalm 19 and other passages we believe the creation reveals the glory of the Lord. Since scripture and creation both come from the same God, they cannot be in conflict. And when both are rightly understood, they won’t.

I got even more excited when I read that Novare is planning on publishing a middle school Earth Science textbook in time for the 2015-2016 school year. I contacted the owner of the company, and offered my services for reviewing this upcoming product. To make a long story short, the conversation quickly moved from me being a reviewer to being a co-author, to being the author.

Earth Science01

Writing a textbook in a very short amount of time is a daunting task. Not only do I need to present content from a wide range of fields at a level appropriate for middle schoolers, I need to do so in a way that points them to the loving providence of our all-powerful and wise Creator. I am currently working on Chapter 3 (out of about 15), and appreciate your prayers as I write.

Grace and Peace

October 28, 2014 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Christianity, Environment, Geology, Meteorology, Oceanography, Old-Earth creationism, Science Education | , | 6 Comments

Around the Web 10/23/2014 — Old Earth textbook, No Ham for dinner, inverted smileys

I’ll break out of my semi-monastic lifestyle for a few moments to pass on some good GeoChristian kinds of links…

Old-Earth Classical Christian Middle School Earth Science TextbookNovare Science and Math, a relatively new Christian curriculum publisher, has announced that they will publish an old-Earth middle school Earth science textbook in time for the 2015-2016 school year. Does anyone want to guess who is writing that much-needed textbook?

Ken Ham Rejects Entering Into “Gracious Dialog” With Old-Earthers — Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis and the world’s foremost promoter of young-Earth creationism, has turned down a dinner invitation from the president of BioLogos, the world’s foremost promoter of evolutionary creation (i.e., theistic evolution).

Part 1 — The invitationKen Ham, We Need a Better Conversation (Perhaps Over Dinner?) — BioLogos president Deborah Haarsma, concerned about the level of acrimony among Christians over the topics of evolution and the age of the Earth, invited Ken Ham to have dinner with herself and Reasons to Believe head Hugh Ross:

“All three organizations are also concerned about the departure of young people from the church over origins issues. Each tends to think that the positions of the others are contributing to the problem! But studies have shown that it is the acrimony over this issue that drives young people away. We respect the commitment that Reasons to Believe has demonstrated to gracious dialogue with those of other positions. We completely agree with Hugh Ross that “If we Christians can resolve this issue in a peaceful way it’s going to attract non-Christians to enter into dialogue with us. But if we continue to fight…it turns them off.” Perhaps Ken Ham could join Hugh Ross and me for a friendly conversation over dinner? My treat.”

Part 2 — The rejectionShould I Have Dinner With BioLogos? — Ken Ham compared himself to Ezekiel, warning the people of God against compromise, and Nehemiah, who refused to be distracted by the enemies of God’s people, though he added that he doesn’t consider Hugh Ross to be a personal enemy, only an enemy biblical authority.

“We at AiG are busy “rebuilding a wall.” We are equipping God’s people to defend the Christian faith, and I believe we are doing a great work for God. We are busy being “watchmen”—warning people of those who undermine the authority of the Word of God.”

Ken Ham later wrote that Answers in Genesis “will not, however, send out such a kumbaya message,” by fellowshipping with compromisers.

Part 3 — Hugh Ross respondsAmbassadors for Reconciliation — Hugh Ross is a gracious man, but is obviously disturbed by the discord sewn by those who villainize old-Earth Christians.

“One way we can help people receive our message of reconciliation with God is by modeling reconciliation among ourselves. John 13:35 says, “All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” And yet, although creation beliefs hold a core position in our Christian faith (Hebrews 11:6), no other subject exposes a greater lack of love among believers. Some creationists treat fellow believers with ugly, disparaging disdain.”

“Enough is enough. There are mission fields still to be reached. How can we ask nonbelievers to dialogue with us if we cannot graciously dialogue with one another, if we treat one another as enemies? Unless we make some progress in reconciling our differences, how can we expect to help reconcile a skeptical world to Christ? We are commissioned by God to be His ambassadors. It’s time for us to start behaving as ambassadors.”

It seems strange that someone like Ken Ham can interact graciously with Christians who disagree with him on issues such as eschatology, predestination, baptism, or spiritual gifts without condemning those who disagree with him as “compromisers,” and yet when it comes to a secondary issue such as the age of the Earth (which is an issue of interpretation, not biblical authority), he cannot even have dinner with those who differ from him.

I must add that my limited personal interaction with Ken Ham has been cordial: Do Old Earthers and Young Earthers Agree On Anything?

A Hundred Inverted Smiley Faces — I had moderate success viewing today’s partial solar eclipse with a shoebox pinhole camera and by projecting the eclipse onto the patio with my binoculars. But when I walked back into the house, I was welcomed by hundreds of solar eclipse images on the floor, steps, and walls. Gaps in our horizontal blinds acted as pinhole cameras and projected a multitude of eclipse images:

DSCN7287

October 23, 2014 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Around the Web, Christianity, Old-Earth creationism, Science Education, Theistic evolution, Young-Earth creationism | , , , , | 16 Comments

Natural Bridge Falls

DSCN6983

My favorite waterfall in Montana is Natural Bridge Falls, located on the Boulder River, south of Big Timber. At high water—such as in this photo taken this spring—some of the water flows over the top of the cliff, while a considerable part of the flow comes out of caves in the side of the cliff. Later in a dry summer and into the fall and winter, the flow is restricted to the caves. On the right side of the photo, you can see where the river flows into what appears to be a rather large room of a collapsed cave. The Boulder River likely flowed through this cavern before it collapsed. Shortly around the corner to the right, the river disappears into a rubble of limestone boulders, also partly the product of cavern collapse.

The caverns, waterfall, and downstream canyon are all in limestones of the Mississippian Madison Group.

The waterfall is about thirty minutes south of Big Timber, and has a paved trail with interpretive signs. There are also dirt paths that go along the river and down to the plunge pool. Also of geological interest in the area are some excellent exposures of the Stillwater Complex, one of the world’s most famous layered intrusions. I brought home a beautiful piece of anorthosite for my rock garden.

July 3, 2014 Posted by | Geology, Montana | , | Leave a comment

Around the web 7/4/2014 — Science curricula, ichthyosaurs, and antipodes

A promising alternative for science in Christian schools and home schools? — Christian educators generally have had two choices when looking for secondary-level science curricula — young-Earth creationist material or secular curriculum packages. When I was a high school science teacher, I always opted for the secular. It was much easier to integrate biblical principles into the “secular” textbook than to undo all of the really bad science (and some pretty questionable biblical interpretation) found in the YEC materials. I just stumbled across a link to Novare Science and Math. Here’s what they say about the age of the Earth:

Finally, virtually every Christian science textbook publisher is overtly committed to an agenda of rejecting mainstream scientific evidence pertaining to the age of the earth. For both Biblical and scientific reasons, we believe it is time to put this debate behind us. We find the literalistic model of an earth approximately 10,000 years old to be not only not necessitated by the soundest principles of Biblical exegesis, but to be in conflict with the “other book” of God’s revelation: the creation itself. From Psalm 19 and other passages we believe the creation reveals the glory of the Lord. Since scripture and creation both come from the same God, they cannot be in conflict. And when both are rightly understood, they won’t.

Does anyone know anything about Novare?

Icthyosaurs eat YEC arguments for breakfast — Naturalis Historia blog has had a consistent stream of great articles. For example, in When Marine Reptiles Ruled the Sea: Huge Ichthyosaur Fossil Find and the Age of Reptiles, biology professor Joel Duff outlines the serious problems young-Earth creationists have with Mesozoic marine reptiles, such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. Marine reptiles had similar ecological niches as do Cenozoic cetaceans (whales and dolphins), but the two are never found together. Cetaceans have never been found in Mesozoic strata, and the large marine reptiles have never been found in Cenozoic strata. If the standard YEC attempts to explain the nature of the fossil record were valid, one would expect some mixing of these organisms to occur in the fossil record. YECs try to explain the order in which fossils occur in the geologic column with a combination of differential mobility and ecological zonation, but these processes completely fail to explain why marine reptiles are always stratigraphically lower than cetaceans, and why the two are never found together. An even greater difficulty is that it is not just individual organisms that must remain sorted during the flood, but entire ecosystems.

The problem with YEC is biblical as well as scientific — Here’s a good 30-minute presentation on why young-Earth creationism is not Biblical:

Did you know where your antipode is? — When I was a child, I was told that if I dug deep enough, I’d reach China. Actually, if I dug straight down, I’d come up in the Indian Ocean near the snow capped Kerguelen Islands (we can ignore the inconvenient problems of digging through Earth’s mantle and core). If you don’t know where your antipode is, this dual map will nail it for you: Antipode Map (AKA Tunnel Map).

Persecution of Christians continues — from CNN: Extremism fuels abuse of Christians in Mideast. The atrocities that make the news–such as the acts of Boko Haram in Nigeria–are just the tip of the world-wide iceberg of religious persecution.

July 3, 2014 Posted by | Around the Web, Science Education | 2 Comments

Earth Day 2014 — Conservative environmentalism — seeking balance

Today was Earth Day, 2014. For many, it was a day to celebrate the Earth, to give thanks for its fruitfulness, and to express concern about threats to both the planet and we humans that inhabit it. As a Christian, I also rejoice on Earth Day in the Creator, who has graciously placed us both in and over the creation.

Because we are within the creation–in Genesis it is emphasized that humans are made of the same stuff as the rest of creation–we are subject to the rules of the created order. The planet can be cultivated with care to the benefit of all creatures, including ourselves, or it can be exploited with greed for the benefit of a few people. We can make it better, or we can make it worse. We can live in it as if we are responsible only to ourselves, or as if our ultimate responsibilities are to our Maker.

Being that we humans are embedded in the creation, we have to be concerned about two closely related sciences: ecology and economics. Ecology is all about the relationships between organisms and their surroundings. Economics is concerned with the generation and allocation of wealth among human beings. Human economies would utterly collapse without the resources of the Earth, such as plants, minerals, and fuels, and so economics is dependent on ecology. Ecology, on the other hand, can function without human economics, as it did until sometime in the midst of Day 6 of creation in Genesis 1. But now that people are in the creation, ecology is affected by human economic activities; in some places more strongly than others. There is nothing inherently wrong with this; our influence on ecosystems can be bad, but it was intended in Genesis 1-2 to be good.

One can broadly divide economic systems into capitalist/free market systems, and socialist/communist systems. Many political conservatives–and I am a conservative–like to point out that ecological degradation was more serious and widespread in the communist world than in the capitalist West. I lived in Eastern Europe for over five years, and saw some of this up close. We had to filter our tap water because of its high heavy metal content, and once went through Copşa Mică, the Romanian “black village” infamous for being coated in soot in the communist period due to the production of carbon black.

It is difficult to dispute that communist countries had atrocious environmental records. There were a number of factors involved in this, but I would like to highlight what I think are a few reasons for the ecological catastrophes of the communist bloc:

1. The economy always trumped ecology. The communists had their five-year plans with production goals that had to be met, and “luxuries” like clean air and clean water stood in the way.

2. Short-term goals always trumped long-range goals. Siphoning water out of rivers for massive irrigation projects in Central Asia boosted cotton production, but with grave long-term costs for the Aral Sea, the ecosystems for hundreds of miles around, and the people of the region.

3. The earth was looked at as a commodity or resource for human use, not as God’s good creation that had intrinsic worth.

4. There was no avenue for protest. One didn’t want to stand up to Stalin or Ceaușescu–or to the local party thugs–and say “This is wrong.”

Of these four points, the first three can happen just as easily in a market economy as in a socialist economy.

1. To many “conservatives,” the economy always trumps ecology. This perspective is no different than that of the communist functionaries whose five-year plans ignored environmental issues. If the economy is bad, we need to loosen up on environmental regulations to prompt growth. If the economy is good, we still need to loosen up on environmental restrictions so they won’t drag the economy down.

2. There are plenty of free-market capitalists who are out to earn a quick buck with no thoughts of the consequences for the Earth (or for other people), just as the five-year planners of the U.S.S.R. were eager to meet their quotas. Both are evil.

3. There are plenty of political conservatives–Evangelical Christian conservatives–who effectively deny that the creation has intrisic value, in and of itself. To them, landscapes, ecosystems, or biological communities do not have any true value except in relation to humans. Unmined coal, for example, is worthless, because it is looked at purely from an instrumental (what’s in it for us) viewpoint. Some even go so far as to say that we are insulting God if we don’t use all parts of creation for ourselves. This is an overly-anthropocentric (man-centered) perspective on nature, and ignores the goodness of creation that existed in Genesis 1 even before the appearance of the first humans.

This leaves us with point number four. The main thing we had going for us in the West was the freedom to protest and advocate. Corporations didn’t do anything about the fact that the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland used to catch on fire from the pollutants that were dumped in it until they were forced to, and they weren’t forced to until people raised a stink about it. The same goes for the mining waste at places like Butte, Montana (once called “America’s ugliest city”).

What I want to advocate is a conservativism that is actually interested in conserving the Earth. This includes protecting air, water, land, and biological communities. It means looking for long-term solutions to long-term problems. It also includes a perspective that growth isn’t always a conservative value, and a recognition that limits exist in the world God has placed us in. The key word, in my mind, is “balance.” There are those on the left who have a very unbalanced view of the environment. There are also those on the right who have a very unbalanced view of the environment.

Some of what we see in the conservative movement right now is an over-reaction to some of the pantheist, socialist, and anti-human extremes of the environmental movement. Certainly there are dangerous ideologies on the left, and those need to be assertively resisted. But the solution is not to mine all the coal, shoot all the wolves, eat spotted owls for dinner, drill-baby-drill, or shut down the Environmental Protection Agency.

Grace and Peace

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NOTES:

This article is an expansion of a comment I made on my post There is more than one way to be really wrong about the environment, which was about the then-upcoming documentary “Axed: The End of Green” (which has been re-named Blue).

When I refer to “some conservatives,” I am specifically thinking of many Tea Party conservatives (and those who follow the Acton Institute) who advocate things like abolishing the EPA. Does the EPA need reform? Yes. But those who believe it is in our society’s interest to gut or even eliminate environmental regulations are foolish. Cleaner air and cleaner water did not come about in our society by relaxing environmental regulations. I am not really sure what in the natural world some of these conservatives want to conserve.

Calvin Beisner, perhaps Evangelicalism’s best known anti-environmental crusader, is one who claims we insult God if we don’t use the coal God has given us. My thoughts: 1) This is a great example of the anthropocentrism that is pervasive in this sort of conservatism. 2)Maybe God buried the coal for a reason.

I recognize that free markets generate the wealth that we need to combat genuine environmental problems. My point, however, is that it is not unrestrained, laissez-faire capitalism that accomplishes this. Environmental regulation is necessary in order to restrain sin (Romans 13); in this case the sin of wilfully destroying God’s good Earth. We need balance. Free markets, yes. But not completely free.

I started to write a paragraph about the parallels between elements of the conservative movement (the libertarian types) and liberation theology (which was/is an attempt to blend Christianity with Marxism). Basically, as others have pointed out, there is a liberation theology of the left, and there is a liberation theology of the right. Both are wrong.

April 22, 2014 Posted by | Christianity, Creation Care, Environment, Ethics, Nature, Politics | , , , | 3 Comments

Do you believe in human rights? Then it makes more sense to believe in God than to believe that God does not exist.

Timothy Keller, in his book The Reason for God, demonstrates that while it is fairly straight-forward to make a religious case for human rights, it has proven very difficult to construct a case for human rights from a purely secular foundation. If the cosmos is all there is, all there ever was, and all there ever will be, and if the existence of Homo sapiens is merely an accident, then all of the injustices of the human experience don’t really matter one way or another. This is not saying that non-Christians (or non-theists) cannot really believe in human rights or morality, because it is clear that they can. It is just that they have to borrow—perhaps subconsciously—some of their ethics from the Christians.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 9 of The Reason for God (pp. 155-156 of the hardback edition), in a section called “The Argument for God from the Violence of Nature.”

How would we know [that moral obligation exists]? To sharpen our focus on the significance of this indelible knowledge of moral obligation, consider the observations of writer Annie Dillard. Dillard lived for a year by a creek in the mountains of Virginia expecting to be inspired and refreshed by closeness to “nature.” Instead, she came to realize that nature was completely ruled by one central principle—violence by the strong against the weak.

[…]

Annie Dillard saw that all of nature is based on violence. Yet we inescapably believe it is wrong for stronger human individuals or groups to kill weaker ones. If violence is totally natural why would it be wrong for strong humans to trample weak ones? There is no basis for moral obligation unless we argue that nature is in some part unnatural. We can’t know that nature is broken in some way unless there is some supernatural standard of normalcy apart from nature by which we can judge right and wrong. That means there would have to be heaven or God or some kind of divine order outside of nature in order to make that judgment.

There is only one way out of this conundrum. We can pick up the Biblical account of things and see if it explains our moral sense any better than a secular view. If the world was made by a God of peace, justice, and love, then that is why we know that violence, oppression, and hate are wrong. If the world is fallen, broken, and needs to be redeemed, that explains the violence and disorder we see.

If you believe human rights are a reality, then it makes much more sense that God exists than that he does not. If you insist on a secular view of the world and yet you continue to pronounce some things right and some things wrong, then I hope you see the deep disharmony between the world your intellect has devised and the real world (and God) that your heart knows exists. This leads us to a crucial question. If a premise  (“There is no God”) leads to a conclusion you know isn’t true (“Napalming babies is culturally relative”) then why not change the premise?

Think about that again. The following two statements cannot both be true:

  1. There is no God.
  2. Napalming babies is wrong.

If you are an atheist, which of these contradictory beliefs will you hold on to, and which will you let go of? Or will you just live with the disharmony?

Grace and Peace

 

February 22, 2014 Posted by | Apologetics, Atheism, Christianity, Ethics | | 10 Comments

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