Does going to a secular college drive students away from Christian faith? According to one study, the answer is a solid “No.” See FactChecker: Does College Cause Young Adults to Lose Their Faith? on The Gospel Coalition blog.
Among recently surveyed college students, 2.7 times more report that their religious beliefs have strengthened during their college experience than say their beliefs weakened.
My own faith was greatly strengthened as I went through college and graduate school, and I know a number of people who had the same experience. The Gospel Coalition article gives three potential reasons why many students have their faith strengthened while at secular colleges and universities:
1) The increase in presence and effectiveness of campus-based ministries like Campus Crusade, InterVarsity, and Young Life.
2) The increase of relativism and the decline of strict scientism, which allows for discussion of faith and spiritual speculation, similar to what Paul experienced at the Aeropagus.
3) An increase in committed evangelical and Catholic faculty at secular universities in America who can serve as an encouragement and balance for Christian students.
I would suggest a fourth reason: Christian students at secular universities have interacted with non-Christians and their ideas, and have had to work through issues in the real world rather than in the insulated environment of a Christian university. For many Christian students, facing these challenges has strengthened their faith.
I am curious as to how Christian students who attend secular universities compare in the long run to those who attend rigidly young-Earth schools, such as those listed on Answers in Genesis’ Creation Colleges page.
Grace and Peace
P.S. One of my children graduated from a fine Christian college a year ago (Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia), and has a good foundation for a lifetime of faith and service. Two of my children are currently attending a state university, and are growing in their Christian faith in many ways that didn’t occur in the home or in youth group in high school. Both are active in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
Around the web 7/13/2013 — No response on salt magma hypothesis, nature deficit disorder, thou shalt not criticize Ken Ham, and more
It has been a while time since my last “Around the web” post, and I have bookmarked more articles than I can reasonably make brief comments on. Here are a few…
THE DEATH OF GOOGLE READER — Since the untimely demise of Google Reader a couple weeks ago, I haven’t been keeping up on the fifty or so blogs I followed somewhat regularly. Somehow I have survived. I will have to choose a new RSS agreggator. Any suggestions for one that works somewhat like Google Reader did?
SEASONED WITH SALT — A few months ago I blogged about the latest failed young-Earth creationist attempt to explain evaporite deposits (such as halite, or rock salt): A young-Earth creationist magmatic model for the origin of evaporites. This “salt magma” hypothesis was being promoted on Tas Walker’s Biblical Geology Blog. I was hoping for some sort of response from the YECs, so I placed a comment on Walker’s blog post:
It has been almost two months, so either my critique was devastating and unanswerable, or not even worthy of a response. Or Tas might just have gotten behind on his blog responses, which I have been guilty of far too often.
NATURE DEFICIT DISORDER — Anyone who cares about the environment should be concerned about what author Richard Louv called the “nature-deficit disorder” in his 2008 book Last Child in the Woods. Al Mohler has a good summary of the book: Nature Deficit Disorder — Is Your Child at Risk? Mohler concludes with:
Last Child in the Woods is a fascinating book, though at times, Louv leans toward a form of nature mysticism. Nevertheless, Christians will read this book to great profit, remembering that the biblical worldview presents an affirmation of the goodness of creation. After all, Christians know that every atom and molecule of creation testifies of the glory of God.
This is our Father’s world, and we would do well to receive this world and enjoy it, while giving praise and glory to God for the beauty and bounty it contains. We understand that nature is not an end to itself, and we affirm that the creation exists as the theater of God’s glory for the drama of redemption. All this should help Christians to remember that we honor God most faithfully when we receive His good gifts most gratefully.
Christians should take the lead in reconnecting with nature and disconnecting from machines. Taking the kids for a long walk in the woods would be a great start.
KEN HAM AND SONLIGHT CURRICULUM — We homeschooled our children in their early elementary years, and used a lot of material from the excellent company Sonlight Curriculum. A co-founder of Sonlight had the nerve to criticize Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham for his if-you-don’t-agree-with-Ham-you-are-a-compromiser approach to Christian ministry. I guess he didn’t know that Thou Shalt Not Criticize Ken Ham.
John Holzmann of Sonlight: The conservative (evangelical/fundamentalist) Christian homeschool pope
John Holzman has apologized to Ken Ham for using the phrase “Pope Ham.” I would like to see Ken Ham apologize for his divisive my-way-or-the-highway attitude that causes many of his followers to look at old-Earth Christians as compromisers at best and not Christians at all at the worst.
CHRISTIANS SHOULD BE ENVIRONMENTALISTS — Matthew Tuininga at the Christian in America blog asks the question: Should Christians Be Environmentalists? The answer, of course, is “yes.” But you would never know it from the anti-environmental political positions taken by many Christians and the politicians they support. Tuininga writes:
If there is any area in which a rapprochement would be for the benefit of all, this is it. Eliminating the left’s grip on the environmental movement, and especially on government bureaucracies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), would give it more credibility among the American public, and broaden its influence. It would mitigate the statist impulse that so often informs its political campaigns by encouraging the sort of market oriented strategies that often work best. It would curb conservatives’ tendency to oppose environmental regulation in the name of free enterprise no matter how necessary that regulation in a particular case might be. In short, it would help liberals and conservatives alike to see that Christianity, care for the environment, and commitment to a free market economy need not be, and never should have been, rivals in a zero-sum game.
ZOOMING IN ON PLUTO — The New Horizons probe is still 550 million miles from Pluto, which it will fly by two years from tomorrow (on July 14, 2015), but its cameras are already aimed at the dwarf planet and its moons: NASA Spacecraft Photographs Pluto’s Largest Moon Charon. I have been excited about this mission since it was launched in 2006, back when Pluto was still a planet.
A NATIONAL PARK ON THE MOON? — There is a proposal in Congress to create a National Historical Park on the moon to commemorate and protect the six Apollo landing sites: Moon Bill Would Create National Park to Protect Apollo Landing Sites. Given the historical significance of these sites, I think this is a good idea, even though the sites are not in the sovereign territories of the United States. However, given human nature, I predict that artifacts at these sites will be disturbed and/or stolen by the end of this century.
THE RAT ON MARS — In case you missed it, this may have been a bigger cover-up than the Face on Mars. NASA has completely ignored clear evidence of mammalian life on Mars: Curiosity Rover leaving ‘Mars rat’ behind.
NOT A GOOD TIME TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN THE MIDDLE EAST — For obvious reasons, Christians in countries such as Egypt and Syria tend to be wary of “Islamist” governments. The Islamist response tends to be rather harsh: Egypt’s Christians face backlash for Morsi ouster.
Grace and Peace
Some day, however, I will be dead. I’ll be under a tombstone, providing nutrients for worms and soil bacteria. But as a Christian, I believe that my death will not be the end of my existence.
The Christian hope is for physical resurrection in a real body in a real physical realm—the New Earth. Just as Christ rose from the dead in glory with a real body—he ate real food and invited Thomas to touch his wounds—so also will we be given a new body that will be freed from the corruption that characterizes our current existence.
The biblical picture of the resurrection is not one of disembodied spirits floating in the clouds playing harps. This ethereal existence is what many people picture as “eternal life,” but it is not found in the Bible. The Bible does not portray us going up to “heaven” as much as it paints a picture of heaven coming down to Earth. At that point, God’s people will experience the oft-repeated Old Testament promise that “I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people” (Lev 26:12 ESV). I look forward to that day with joyful anticipation.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. — John 11:25-26 ESV
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” — Revelation 21:1-5 ESV
Grace and Peace
The Noah’s Ark theme park being built by Answers in Genesis gets lots of publicity, but it is only one of a number of Noah’s Ark projects in progress around the world. Christianity Today reports on eight such projects: A Flood of Arks.
If you were to build a Noah’s Ark attraction, what would you include?
I think I would try to build mine out of “gopher barky barky.”
Grace and Peace
The June 2013 issue of Acts & Facts magazine from the Institute for Creation Research has a two-page article on the fossils of the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. “The La Brea Tar Pits Mystery” was written by Dr. John Morris, president of ICR, and Dr. Timothy Clarey, ICR’s new staff geologist.
The article correctly states that some paleontologists have moved away from the simple “animals got stuck in the tar when they stopped for a drink of water” interpretation of the La Brea tar pits. It appears that at least some of the fossils were washed downstream from the nearby Santa Monica Mountains and became trapped in the tar. Morris and Clarey make an unjustified extrapolation from this, and claim that all of the fossils must have been transported to the La Brea site from elsewhere.
Morris and Clarey believe that the La Brea Tar Pits and their enclosing sediments were formed after Noah’s flood. In their flood geology model, Noah’s flood deposited the bulk of Earth’s rock record, but most deposits that geologists would consider to be of Quaternary age (i.e. the Ice Ages) were deposited in a period of a few hundred years after Noah’s flood. This is sometimes referred to as “residual catastrophism.” Morris and Clarey describe the formation of the La Brea fossil deposits as follows:
Large flooding events (sometime after the Great Flood) could have swept the animals into the tar pit openings and deposited the bones in tight, jumbled masses. Biblical scientists have reinterpreted the fossil deposits as a consequence of closely spaced, catastrophic flood events that likely occurred in the waning of the post-Flood Ice Age. The immediate post-Flood years were likely chaotic and more geologically active than today as the earth’s surface recovered from the catastrophic activity of the Flood.
There are a number of problems with the residual catastrophism model as it relates to La Brea. Here are just a few:
- Soil formation — Soils do not form overnight, and plants need soil. The La Brea flora comes from mature forest ecosystems, and the large herbivores were dependent on abundant vegetation. In the YEC residual catastrophism scenario, soil would have had to form very rapidly, but this process would have been impeded either by high rates of erosion or high rates of deposition.
- Ecological succession — This is related to the problem of soil formation. Ecological succession is the process of development of an ecosystem over time. If one started with bare rock or sediment after the flood, there would have had to have been a succession of communities that inhabited the area over time, starting with pioneer species that could live on the barren surface, such as lichens, mosses, and insects. Over time there might have been communities dominated by grasses, brush, and eventually a variety of forest types. In the YEC scenario, this would have had to occur very quickly, leading up to mature flora capable of supporting the animal community. Post-flood residual catastrophism suffers from the same problem as the rest of YEC geology: too many events, too little time.
- Migration — The mammal and bird fossils of La Brea would have had to migrate from Ararat (in modern-day Turkey) and become well-established in the Los Angeles area in a very short time. This is part of the broader biogeographical problem of YEC — kangaroos all migrated to Australia (exactly where kangaroo fossils were deposited by the flood) and didn’t leave any stragglers behind, African animals all migrated to Africa, western North American animals (again, as evidenced in the fossil record) all knew to migrate to western North America, and so forth.
- Sedimentation — All of this migration and fossilization happened while residual catastrophism was occurring, which in many places meant the deposition of many hundreds of meters of sediments!
In the second-to-last paragraph, the YEC explanation for the La Brea fossils goes from bad to worse:
Uplift of the nearby Santa Monica Mountains and associated earthquakes could have instantly changed river directions and the levels of the land surface, setting local floods in motion. Rapid melting of the glaciers at the end of the Ice Age could have also contributed catastrophic outpourings of floodwaters from the mountains, depositing animal remains in the process. Close-spaced catastrophic events likely continued until Earth reached the relatively stable balance we now experience.
I was quite surprised to see the authors propose that melting of glaciers could have contributed to the formation of the sediments of La Brea. The sediments of these deposits were clearly derived from the nearby Santa Monica Mountains, which in that area presently do not exceed 1500 feet (460 m) in elevation. There is absolutely zero evidence that the Santa Monica Mountains were ever glaciated. A few small glaciers may have existed above 10,000 feet (3050 m) in the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains during the Pleistocene, but it needs to be emphasized that these were small glaciers, and that the sediments of La Brea did not come from these ranges.
The authors conclude with a typical YEC overstatement:
The better explanation for the fossils in the La Brea tar pits matches perfectly with the biblical perspective of recent creation.
The authors have certainly not demonstrated that their residual catastrophism model can explain the La Brea fossil assemblages or their enclosing sediments. Like much of what is presented by the YECs, it is not necessary biblically, nor valid scientifically.
Grace and Peace
In 2012, I reviewed a previous Acts & Facts article by Morris: Young-Earth creationism and the intensity of volcanism. Morris tried to show that the intensity of volcanism has been decreasing ever since the flood, but he did so through choosing eruptions that matched his premise, and then ignoring many thousands of other eruptions.
Also in 2012, I got involved in a discussion about the La Brea Tar Pits with young-Earth creationist Jay Wile on his Proslogion blog. Dr. Wile was advocating for the La Brea Tar Pits being formed during Noah’s flood rather than after the deluge, while I gave a number of reasons why neither the flood explanation nor the post-flood explanation worked. See A Large, Detailed Study Confirms Another Failed Evolutionary Prediction.
Yesterday on the Answers in Genesis website, Ken Ham encouraged people to take “the dinosaur quiz” and to let him know on his Facebook page how we have used this quiz to help “rescue our kids.” I guess I took him seriously, so I posted a comment on his Facebook page:
This morning, my comment was gone.
I am sure Answers in Genesis has to delete many comments from their Facebook page — obscenity, mocking, false accusations, and so forth. My comment was certainly in none of those categories. Nor was it self-promotion; there are plenty of other comments pointing people to YEC websites.
I guess AiG does not want respectful dialog. Perhaps they do not want their flock to see alternative biblical answers in Genesis from someone else who believes the Bible from the very first verse.
Grace and Peace (especially to all my young-Earth creationist brothers and sisters in Christ)
P.S. I previously wrote about the dinosaur quiz here: More on the Answers in Genesis 4th grade dinosaur quiz.
I’m doing a little house cleaning on The GeoChristian. I’ve updated the “Book Recommendations” section on the sidebar, and here they are:
|The ESV Study Bible is the most comprehensive, theologically conservative study Bible on the market. Whether you are looking for historical backgrounds, maps, various viewpoints, commentary, or help with difficult passages, the ESV Study Bible is an excellent tool.
The ESV Study Bible offers a balanced view on origins issues, such as the age of the Earth or the extent of Noah’s flood. As such, this would be an excellent gift to give to your young-Earth creationist friend or family member. More than any other book, this one might help them to see that one can be a faithful Christian without being committed to the bad science and questionable Biblical interpretations of the young-Earth creationist movement.
Amazon — available in many editions, ranging from a paperback for $19, to various leather-bound editions costing as much as $230.
Crossway — buy direct from the publisher and they get a larger slice of the pie.
| The Reason for God by Timothy Keller is the best book on apologetics (defense of the Christian faith) available for a general audience today. Some have said that The Reason for God is the 21st century’s equivalent of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. That might be true.
Like most leading Christian apologists, whether at the popular or higher levels, Keller does not include young-Earth creationism as part of his message. Why not? Because Keller recognizes that YEC is neither Biblically necessary nor scientifically feasible.
| Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary, by C. John Collins.An excellent commentary on the opening chapters of Genesis by a respected Old Testament scholar who holds to Biblical inerrancy. Collins is a leading advocate of the “analogical days” interpretation of Genesis 1. This book might be a difficult read for some, but most should be able to grasp the concepts with some work. Knowledge of Hebrew is not required.
I wish he would write a commentary extending this work through Genesis 11.
|Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science, by John Lennox, is a short book but is packed with good stuff. This is the book I would give to someone who wants an overview of origins issues and how they relate to the Bible.|
|The Bible, Rocks and Time, by Davis Young and Ralph Stearley, gives an overview of the historical development of Christian views on geology and time, and an in depth look at why geologists (including most Christian geologists) believe the Earth is billions of years old.|
|Pollution and the Death of Man may be Francis Schaeffer’s most neglected work. Evangelicals love his other books, but have ignored Schaeffer’s warning that the ecological problems facing our society are real, and that Christians have been and continue to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution. But he also makes a strong case that Christian theology can provide a stronger foundation for care for our environment than either pantheism or secularism.
If you read only one book on why Christians should care about nature, this should be it. I have written a review here.
|For the Beauty of the Earth by Steven Prediger-Bouma provides a comprehensive “Christian vision for creation care.” Rather than being a book on “how to be green,” this book faces a number of Biblical and theological problems head on, laying a strong Biblical foundation for creation care.
I have written a summary of the first edition of the book here.
|I’ve read a number of books on “social justice” (because I want a world where the poor, widows, orphans, and immigrants matter), but Generous Justice by Timothy Keller is the best by far. It calls us to serve, but doesn’t confuse serving with the gospel. It has plenty to make both political conservatives and liberals uncomfortable.|
Grace and Peace
Here is a quiz on “Dinosaurs: Genesis and the Gospel” given to fourth graders at a South Carolina Christian school:
The quiz was based on material from Answers in Genesis.
Atheists and skeptics, of course, have made much of this quiz since it was first posted on the internet a few weeks ago. Christians are obviously a bunch of morons, liars, brainwashers, idiots, and so forth. For a couple of examples, read Intolerant Atheists Viciously Attack Christian School by PZ Meyers or South Carolina creationist science quiz is real on Daily Kos.
The atheists are wrong; Christians are not idiots. But Answers in Genesis is wrong as well, in that young-Earth creationism gives the skeptics a tragically easy reason to reject Christian truth.
Here’s how I would answer the 4th grade quiz, with red X‘s on the answers the teacher would have marked as incorrect:
X — True. The opening statement of the Bible — “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” — is not necessarily included in the six days of creation, so the earth could have been created in 4000 B.C., 4,000,000 B.C., or 4,000,000,000 B.C.
X — True. Dinosaurs went extinct about 66 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous Period.
1/2 X — The 6th day. But is God’s day the same as our day? Moses himself indicates flexibility on this question in Psalm 90.
X — False. The Bible does not say that dinosaurs lived with people, and there is plenty of geological evidence that they did not.
X — The Bible says that animals and humans in the Garden of Eden ate plants, but states that the world outside of the garden was a wild place in need of subduing. Carnivores outside of the garden ate meat.
X — None of the above. Maybe a hippopotamus. A brachiosaurus wouldn’t have fed on grass like an ox, and could not have hidden in the lotus plants and reeds in the marshes along the Jordan River.
I don’t know what happened to #8-10. I probably would have gotten them wrong.
X — There are multiple history books of the universe. The Bible tells us about the origin of the universe, but it doesn’t give us much in the way of details. What it tells us is true, but what it tells us and what the young-Earth creationists tell us that it tells us are two different things. For example, Genesis 1 tells us that God made the stars, but it doesn’t tell us anything about the processes he used to accomplish this act. For that, I would turn to books about astronomy and nuclear chemistry. Genesis 1 also tells us that God said “Let the land produce living creatures,” which implies some sort of process without stating what that process was. I would turn to books about biology and geology to learn about the history of those living creatures and the processes by which they came about. (I apologize, Teacher, that this answer did not fit on the little line).
False. I think just about everyone would agree that Noah’s ark didn’t look like that.
X — I took Vertebrate Paleontology a long time ago at Montana State, but I would really have had to guess on this one. I would have had guessed b. rhino.
X — None of the above. The Bible does not say that Noah’s Flood deposited the sedimentary rock record along with its fossils. None of the other answers are things that in themselves would produce fossils.
X — Fossils are the remains or traces of organisms from the past that are preserved in Earth’s crust. There are patterns in how they are preserved that indicate that they were not produced by one, brief, cataclysmic process.
X — I agree that Earth is billions of years old. To say that it is only 6000 years old is neither Biblically necessary nor scientifically feasible.
My grade from a YEC’s perspective: 4.5/15 = 30%. F
Conclusion: With a Biblical and scientific foundation like this, no doubt some of these kids are “Already Gone.”
Grace and peace
|For an update, including my answers to the missing quiz questions, see More on the Answers in Genesis 4th grade dinosaur quiz|
Around the web 5/17/2013 — A Christian leader who is really a Baal worshiper, Old-Earth Christian homeschooling, and more…
TO REJECT YEC IS LIKE BAAL WORSHIP? — If you don’t agree with Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham, you are a compromiser. You might even be a closet Baal worshiper. Mr. Ham recently singled out Hank Hanegraff (who is “The Bible Answer Man” on the radio) as a compromiser because he doesn’t believe that leviathan and behemoth (in Job 40-41) were something like a plesiosaur and a brachiosaurus, respectively. Ham equates Hanegraff’s “compromise” with the Israelite’s worship of Baal, and states that The Bible Answer Man is attacking and undermining the authority of God’s infallible word by accepting an old Earth and rejecting the YEC reading of dinosaurs into the Bible.
I’m not making this up. If you don’t believe that dinosaurs are in the Bible, you are a compromiser.
I’ve written about the YEC “dinosaurs in the Bible” invention previously: The ESV Study Bible on creation — Dinosaurs in Job?
THE NEED FOR OLD-EARTH HOMESCHOOLING — From Christianity Today: A New Creation Story: Why do more homeschoolers want evolution in their textbooks?
“Many homeschool parents contact me or show up at my office and quietly say, ‘Is there anything besides [YEC]?’ ” said Kenneth Turner, a theology professor at the traditionally YEC [Bryan] college who homeschools.
(It is interesting that Bryan College is a YEC school, while William Jennings Bryan was an old-Earther).
GLOBAL WARMING AND JESUS’ SECOND COMING — Climate Change Study: Religious Belief In Second Coming Of Christ Could Slow Global Warming Action. This doesn’t surprise me, given the “disposable Earth” attitude toward the environment of many conservative Evangelicals. Like young-Earth creationism, this attitude towards the Earth is neither Biblically correct nor scientifically valid.
SAUDI ARABIA ON MY DOORSTEP — The Bakken is booming. Companies line up to drill after survey shows Dakota oil, gas fields far bigger than believed.
“These world-class formations contain even more energy resource potential than previously understood, which is important information as we continue to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign sources of oil,” newly confirmed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Tuesday in a statement.
The new U.S. Geological Survey estimates there are 7.4 billion barrels of oil, 6.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 0.53 billion barrels of natural gas liquids in the Bakken and Three Forks Formations in the Williston Basin Province of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.
For an Earth Day post—Christians and the Environment—Christian blogger Tim Challies drew from Francis Schaeffer’s foundational book on the environment, Pollution and the Death of Man:
Schaeffer begins with the reassurance that as Christians we are able to acknowledge what today’s secular humanists cannot: That mankind has been called by God to exercise dominion over the earth. We are not here by chance and we are not here by mistake. We were placed here by God to care for this planet and have been called to be faithful stewards of it. But like everything else in this world, our ability to exercise this kind of stewardship has been affected by our sinful state. “By creation man has dominion, but as a fallen creature he has used that dominion wrongly. Because he is fallen, he exploits created things as thought they were nothing in themselves, and as though he has an autonomous right to them.” We no longer consistently tend the world in love, but instead ravage and pillage it. Though we may not believe in all of the dire claims being made about the state of our planet and its perilous future, we must at least acknowledge that we have not cared for the world as God has called us to.
The Bible offers us a far better and far higher view of ourselves, our planet, and our responsibility toward it. Schaeffer affirms that our understanding must begin with God’s act of creation through which he created things that have an objective existence in themselves. Despite the claims of pantheism, creation is not an extension of God’s essence. It is only the biblical view that gives worth to man and to all that God has created. How? Because we understand both ourselves and nature when we see that, though we are separate from nature, we are related to it as something God has created. “So the Christian treats ‘things’ with integrity because we do not believe they are autonomous. Modern man has fallen into a dilemma because he has made things autonomous from God.” Because we love the Creator, we love the creation. As we love the creation, we express love to the Creator.
Even in the 1970’s Schaeffer was saying “We must confess that we missed our opportunity. We have spoken loudly against materialistic science, but we have done little to show that in practice we ourselves as Christians are not dominated by a technological orientation in regard either to man or nature.” He warned that “if we treat nature as having no intrinsic value, our own value is diminished.” Ultimately, he calls upon us to treat nature well because we are all products of the loving Creator; we are all creatures together.
While acknowledging that sin and its effects will not be eradicated until the Lord returns, Schaeffer believed there can and should be “a substantial healing,” of the planet and its environment. He says, “we should be looking now, on the basis of the work of Christ, for substantial healing in every area affected by the Fall.” As Christians we of all people are the ones who ought to be treating creation now as it will be treated in eternity. And this, I think, is our challenge: to treat the planet today as we will treat the new earth, exercising dominion without pillaging, exploiting without destroying, faithfully stewarding God’s great gift.
Schaeffer acknowledged that we face an ecological crisis, that human sin has a big part to do with it, and that Christians in particular are often part of the problem rather than part of the solution. This is a far cry from the anti-environmental rhetoric that comes out of much of conservative Evangelical Christianity.
Read Challies’ entire blog post: Christians and the Environment.
Or even better, read Pollution and the Death of Man.
Grace and Peace
HT: Glenn Brooke
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” — Genesis 1:20-22 NIV 1984
Today (April 22nd) is Earth Day. For a variety of reasons, I believe that Christianity offers both the best foundation for proper care of the world’s ecosystems and the only hope for the future of our planet. Those are topics for another time; for now, I want to draw our attention to three things from this passage in Genesis.
The first of these is the inherent goodness of the creation. Here in the opening chapter of the Bible, we see God creating the universe and preparing the Earth—land, sea, and sky—for the vast variety of life that would soon inhabit it. He then commanded the Earth to bring forth vegetation, sea life, birds, and land animals. With all of this in place, God pronounced that the creation was “good.” Being good, the creation is not something to escape from, nor is it something that is somehow less important than the “spiritual.” The biblical teaching is that the creation—rocks, water, plants, and animals—has inherent value, apart from its usefulness to humanity.
The second thing we can learn from this passage is that the living world was created to be fruitful. On the fifth day, starting with Genesis 1:20, God created the sea life and birds, and the earth “teemed” with them. To teem is “to become filled to overflowing,” to “abound,” and “to be present in large quantity.” When reading this, I think of the abundance of bison that populated the American Great Plains before the 1800s, or the diversity of life that is found in tropical rainforests. We sometimes forget that it wasn’t just to humans that God issued the command, “Be fruitful and multiply.” He also gave this command to sea life and birds, and it is later stated (Gen 8:17) that God created the land animals to be fruitful and increase in number as well.
Thirdly, the goodness and teemingness of creation should guide how we think about our responsibility towards nature. God placed Adam and Eve over the creation to “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air…” (v. 26). It has been pointed out that this dominion is not meant to be domination, but rather a stewardship or vice-regency over the creation, with the responsibility to tend it as God’s representatives on Earth. If the creation has inherent goodness apart from the resources it supplies to us, and if God created the living world to be abundant and fruitful, then it follows that an important part of our responsibility is to act in such a way as to preserve, protect, and enhance that fruitfulness. This means that the world is not here just for us. It is also here for sea urchins, red-winged blackbirds, polar bears, and giant Palouse earthworms. I believe that the thriving of humans and the thriving of the rest of the living world must go hand in hand. Our challenge is to figure out how to make this work.
Grace and Peace
For some reasons why Christianity offers the best foundation for environmentalism, see my summaries of For the Beauty of the Earth by Steven Bouma-Prediger and Pollution and the Death of Man by Francis Schaeffer. These books have shaped how I think about our responsibility towards the creation.
The definitions of “teem” are from http://www.merriam-webster.com/. “Teemingness” is indeed a word.
In saying that the material world is just as important in Christianity as the spiritual, I am saying that all of our good works—acts of love to our neighbors—are done in the physical realm. Even much of what we consider to be “spiritual,” has physical components: prayer, communion, baptism, evangelism. At times Christians have had an unbiblical picture of a future life of escaping from the material world and floating in the clouds, but the biblical affirmation of the goodness of creation is really one of the strengths of Christianity. In many Eastern philosophies and religions, the material is an illusion or something to escape from. An example of this is the moksha or nirvana of Indian religions. In atheistic naturalism there is no absolute reason outside of ourselves to value plants and animals. In other words, there is no reason to judge Eden as a better place than Coruscant, the completely urbanized capital of the Star Wars galaxy. Ultimately, we can choose which type of world—Eden or Coruscant—that we think is best for our purposes. I am not saying that Buddhists and atheists do not care about the creation; many of them do care very much, and are active in what I would call creation care. It is just that they do not have an adequate philosophical foundation for doing so.
I first thought seriously about the teeming of the living world in Genesis 1 while reading The Creation by biologist E.O. Wilson. Wilson is not a Christian, but the book is written to Christians as “an appeal to save life on Earth.”
Answers in Genesis had its first ever live chat on Facebook today, where people could discuss the article When Was the Ice Age in Biblical History with one of the authors. Unfortunately, the author who chatted was the editor of Answers magazine, Mike Matthews, not Andrew Snelling, AiG’s geologist. The basic idea of the article is that the entire Pleistocene Epoch can be compressed into a 250-year period between 2250 and 2000 B.C.
In case you missed it, I reviewed this article last week: The Pleistocene is not in the Bible.
The chat is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AnswersMagazine
Here are a few excerpts from the chat. I was the first person to ask a question.
I commented on some other people’s questions:
Sara is a geology student somewhere, and is a young-Earth creationist. I pray that her faith will remain intact through the process of getting a geological education:
One GeoChristian reader was also at the chat, and asked a couple good questions:
The chat was mostly respectful, though there were a few skeptics who dropped by:
My question on Yellowstone volcanism and glaciation hadn’t been answered and the chat time was almost over, so I prompted for a response:
I never did really get an answer beyond, “this is a matter of ongoing research.”
Dialog is good. The people at Answers in Genesis are my brothers and Sisters in Christ, and I love them. I just think they are wrong.
Grace and Peace
Many leading Christian apologists—an apologist is one who makes a reasoned defense for the faith—are old-Earth Christians. They hold firmly to the truthfulness and reliability of the Scriptures, but reject the hyperliteralism of the young-Earth creationist movement. One such scholar is J.P. Moreland, professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology.
In the book Three Views on Creation and Evolution (edited by Moreland and John Mark Reynolds), Moreland offered the following advice to young-Earth creationists:
Suppose we are interpreting some biblical text and we have hermeneutical option A and option B. Suppose further, that on exegetical grounds alone, we compare the text with other portions of Scripture and find that (1) A and B are both plausible, that is, within the bounds of reason exegetically speaking; and (2) A is superior to B. Now suppose further that B harmonizes Scripture with what we have pretty good reason to believe is true outside the Bible, but A flies in the face of these extrabiblical factors. In short, B solves external conceptual problems. Then, in my view, it is hermeneutically permissible to adopt B as the correct interpretation of a text.
In this scenario, we can let the young-Earth “literal” 24-hour calendar day interpretation be option A and various old-Earth interpretations be option B. Some young-Earth creationists acknowledge that old-Earth interpretations are possible, but they think the young-Earth interpretation is better. If the young-Earth interpretation of Scripture were superior and the scientific evidence pointed to a young Earth, then I would be a young-Earth creationist. As it is, however, there are old-Earth interpretations that work well (I like the analogical days interpretation, perhaps with elements of the day-age interpretation tacked on) and are well within the bounds of good hermeneutics and Christian orthodoxy; and young-Earth science fails miserably. I am quite comfortable, therefore, with being an old-Earth Christian.
Elsewhere, Moreland has stated,
Now, when it comes to the days of Genesis…I’m of the view on this that while we ought not allow science to dictate to us our exegesis of the Old Testament, nevertheless, if there is an interpretation of the Old Testament that is exegetically permissible– that is, an old age interpretation; that is to say, if you can find conservative, inerrantist, evangelical Old Testament scholars that say that the interpretation of this text that treats the days of Genesis as unspecified periods of time, and that is a completely permissible thing to do on exegetical grounds alone, then my view is that that is a permissible option if it harmonizes the text with science because that option can be justified exegetically, independent of science.
To believe that the Bible allows for millions of years is not something forced on the text from the outside. One can make a strong case for biblical ambiguity regarding the age of the Earth without any references to geology or astronomy. We can add J.P. Moreland to the long list of old-Earth biblical scholars.
Grace and Peace
One group of biblical scholars who recognized that there is more than one way to interpret the opening chapters of Genesis was the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. They wrote the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which gives a standard definition of what is and isn’t meant by “inerrancy.” Many of the scholars who wrote this document were themselves young-Earth creationists, but they recognized that there are other valid options, and that YEC is not an essential part of the Christian doctrine of Scripture. The vote to leave young-Earth language out of the document was almost unanimous.
Another group of theologically conservative scholars who recognized that old-Earth interpretations are possible, even though many of them are themselves YECs, are those who served on the Presbyterian Church in America’s (PCA) Creation Study Committee. Their report gives an excellent overview of the young-Earth and various old-Earth interpretations.
DEATH OF A SAVED SINNER — From Christianity Today: Died: Brennan Manning, Author of The Ragamuffin Gospel. Manning was a sinner, having gone through alcoholism and divorce, among other things. Manning was very open about his failures, which is part of what made his books so worthwhile.
“Don’t think I’m a saint. I’m a ragamuffin, you’re a ragamuffin, and God loves us anyway.” In his bestseller The Ragamuffin Gospel (Multnomah, 1990), he writes that “justification by grace through faith means that I know myself accepted by God as I am.” He explains, “Genuine self-acceptance is not derived from the power of positive thinking, mind games, or pop psychology. It is an act of faith in the grace of God alone.”
Some quotes from his writings:
“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” — The Ragamuffin Gospel
“Real freedom is freedom from the opinions of others. Above all, freedom from your opinions about yourself. ” — The Wisdom of Tenderness
“The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation.” — The Furious Longing of God
“In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.” — Abba’s Child
I’m a sinner too, so I can relate. Saved by grace alone:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. — Ephesians 2:8,9 NIV
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. — John 3:16 NIV
SEXUAL SIN INHIBITS REVIVAL — In Who Are You Sleeping With? My Conversation With Timothy Keller, Christ and Pop Culture quotes pastor and author Timothy Keller, who puts his finger on a significant obstacle to revival in our churches:
Drawing on his experience in urban, culture-shaping Manhattan, Keller responded that one of the biggest obstacles to repentance for revival in the Church is the basic fact that almost all singles outside the Church and a majority inside the Church are sleeping with each other. In other words, good old-fashioned fornication.
Keller says we need to present an alternative view, a view of sex that is beautiful, but different than the one offered in the dominant cultural narratives; affirming of the goodness of sex, but presenting it within a God-intended framework that imbues it with meaning and value.
I suspect the problem is much broader than fornication; it is the entire package of anything-goes sexuality that pervades our culture—pornography, easy divorce, living together, promiscuity, outside-of-marriage childbearing, abortion, homosexuality, polygamy, incest, sexualized entertainment—much of which also infects the church.
JUST HORSING AROUND — Naturalis Historia has a series on the evolving views of young-Earth creationists regarding horse evolution:
It seems maybe horses evolved after all. Very quickly, according to some YECs.
WHO’S KIDS ARE ALREADY GONE? — Genesis and Geology has a review of Ken Ham’s book Already Gone, in which the Answers in Genesis president (along with coauthor Britt Beemer) gives reasons why many of our kids leave the church (evolution and millions of years) and his solution (more young-Earth creationism).
From the review:
The book’s most serious flaw is methodological: common sense tells us that it is difficult for people who have already made up their minds about an issue to carry out objective surveys (Beemer is anything but impartial). Evangelicals have been complaining for years about how easy it is for the media to distort data. Perhaps we should practice what we preach? Furthermore, researchers should publish all of their survey data (that’s standard practice). Ham & Beemer have not done this, and unfortunately much of the data they did publish seems to contradict some their conclusions (e.g., most of the dropouts seem to agree with AiG on most Creation/evolution issues, but they dropped out anyway; when respondents said they were turned off by hypocrisy in the church, Ham conveniently interprets that to mean they were offended by pastors and teachers who “compromised” on Genesis.
CHATTING ABOUT THE CHILL — Answers in Genesis will be having a live chat on Facebook on Tuesday regarding their latest Answers Magazine ice age article, which I critiqued last week. I’ll drop in on the chat if I have the chance.
ABIOTIC OIL — I’ve made a few comments on Jay Wile’s blog about the origin of hydrocarbons in Earth’s crust. While some methane does come from the mantle or deep crust, and there are a few oil and gas deposits in basement rocks, I take the position that most oil and gas is indeed derived from organic material in sedimentary basins.
Around the web — 4/7/2013 — Archean jellyfish? Homeschool uncritical thinking? An atheist’s journey!
Jellied jellyfish — The cover of the April 2013 Journal of Creation has a picture of a jellyfish, with a caption that states “Fossil Jellyfish from Western Australia: Challenging Geological Chronology.” The article is “Fossil jellyfish from the Pilbara, Western Australia” by Philip Worts. The article is not available online yet, but I assume there is a claim that the Archean rocks of the Pilbara Craton—which contain what many believe to be Earth’s oldest known bacteria fossils—contain jellyfish fossils as well. I haven’t read the article so I cannot comment on that aspect.
What is harder to believe, that jellyfish got preserved in quiet, oxygen-poor sedimentary environments, or that somehow the carcasses of these fragile creatures stayed intact in the abrasive sediment-rich slurry that the YECs propose for Noah’s flood?
More unsalty salt — Last week I wrote a critique of a young-Earth creationist proposal that evaporites (rock salt, gypsum, etc.) were formed during Noah’s flood by crystallization from “salt magma.” Now there is a homeschool study guide to go along with the salt magma YouTube video. Most homeschooled kids won’t be harmed by this, but those who do any critical thinking or investigation about the video could be at risk of being “already gone.” This is especially true when they are presented with the false dichotomy of “if YEC isn’t true, then Christianity isn’t true.”
Atheist to deist to Christian — Christianity Today has the story of Jordan Monge: The Atheist’s Dilemma: I tried to face down an overwhelming body of evidence, as well as the living God.
But never once did I have to sacrifice my intellect for my faith.
It was the only rational course of action.
Persecution of Christians continues — Secular Sweden Sees No Problem in Sending Christian Converts Back to Iran?
What is worse, a toy or a bloody conquest? — Lego drops Jabba toy after Muslims complain — So, it’s bad that this Lego set has a building that sort of looks like a mosque in Istanbul, but it is just fine that the Turks invaded the Christian Byzantine Empire, and converted its greatest church, the Hagia Sophia, into that mosque?
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
There are two historical facts that need explaining. The first is that the tomb of Jesus was empty. The second is that the disciples were convinced that they had seen him alive after discovering that the tomb was empty. By alive, we mean with a physical body; they did not believe they had seen a ghost.
N.T. Wright writes about the resurrection of Christ in Surprised by Hope:
Equally, an empty tomb by itself proves almost nothing. It might (as many have suggested) have been the wrong tomb, though a quick check would have sorted that one out. Someone—the soldiers, the gardeners, the chief priests, other disciples, or someone else—might have taken away the body for some reason or other. Grave robbery was well known. That was the conclusion Mary drew in John’s gospel: they’ve taken him away—and perhaps it was the gardener that did it. That was the conclusion the Jewish leaders broadcast, according to Matthew: the disciples took him away. All sorts of similar explanations could have been offered, and would have been, had not the empty tomb been accompanied by sightings of, and meetings with, Jesus himself. No: in order to explain historically how all the early Christians came to the belief they held, that Jesus had been raised, we have to say at least this: that the tomb was empty, except for some graveclothes, and that they really did see and talk with someone who gave every appearance of being a solidly physical Jesus, though a Jesus who was strangely changed, more strangely than they were able fully to describe.
Both the meetings and the empty tomb are therefore necessary if we are to explain the rise of the belief and the writing of the stories as we have them. Neither by itself was sufficient; put them together, though, and they provide a complete and coherent explanation for the rise of the early Christian belief.
Many smaller arguments might be brought in at this point that we can only summarize. To begin with, here are other proposals regularly advanced as rival explanations to the early Christian one:
- Jesus didn’t really die; someone gave him a drug that made him look like dead, and he revived in the tomb. Answer: Roman soldiers knew how to kill people, and no disciple would have been fooled by a half-drugged, beat-up Jesus into thinking he’d defeated death and inaugurated the kingdom.
- When the women went to the tomb they met someone else (perhaps James, Jesus’s brother, who looked like him), and in the half light they thought it was Jesus himself. Answer: they would have noticed soon enough.
- Jesus only appeared to people who believed in him. Answer: the accounts make it clear that Thomas and Paul do not belong to this category; and actually none of Jesus’s followers believed, after his death, that he really was the Messiah, let alone that he was in any sense divine.
- The accounts we have are too biased. Answer: so is all history, all journalism. Every photo is taken by somebody from some angle.
- They began by saying, “He will be raised,” as people had done of the martyrs, and this quickly passed into saying, “He has been raised,” which was functionally equivalent. Answer: no, it wasn’t.
- Lots of people have visions of someone they love who has just died; this was what happened to the disciples. Answer: they knew perfectly well about things like that, and they had language for it; they would say, “It’s his angel” or “It’s his spirit” or “his ghost.” They wouldn’t say, “He’s been raised from the dead.”
- Perhaps the most popular: what actually happened was that they had some kind of rich “spiritual” experience, which they interpreted through Jewish categories. Jesus after all really was alive, spiritually, and they were still in touch with him. Answer: that is simply a description of a noble death followed by a Platonic immortality. Resurrection was and is the defeat of death, not simply a nicer description of it; and it’s something that happens some while after the moment of death, not immediately.
Equally, we may just notice three of the many small-scale arguments that are often, and quite rightly, advanced to support the belief that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead:
- Jewish tombs, especially those of martyrs, were venerated and often became shrines. There is no sign whatever of that having happened with Jesus’s grave.
- The early church’s emphasis on the first day of the week as their special day is very hard to explain unless something striking really did happen then. A gradual or even sudden dawning of faith is hardly sufficient to explain it.
- The disciples were hardly likely to go out and suffer and die for a belief that wasn’t firmly anchored in fact. This is an important point though subject to the weakness that they might have been genuinely mistaken: they believed the resurrection of Jesus to be a fact, and they acted on that belief, but we know (so it would be said) that they were wrong.
(pp. 59, 61-63)
We cannot “prove” that Christ indeed rose from the dead through historical arguments like these, but we can demonstrate that it is a reasonable—and we would say the most reasonable—explanation. If one starts with the presupposition that there is no God, then one would have to find some other explanation than the resurrection. But that would be a conclusion forced on the evidence, rather than something derived from the evidence. On the other hand, if we allow that God could (or even must) exist, then the Christian explanation—that Christ is risen indeed!—becomes the best explanation for the evidence.
Grace and Peace
Around the web 3/22/2013 — The ice age only lasted 250 years, evaporites formed from magma, environmentalism is bad for us, and more
THE ICE AGE (SINGULAR) OCCURRED BETWEEN 2250 AND 2000 B.C. — Answers in Genesis posted an article in February by Andrew Snelling and Mike Matthews entitled When Was the Ice Age in Biblical History? As usual, none of this is necessary Biblically, or workable scientifically.
Here is everything they want to squeeze into 250 years after their date for Noah’s flood (2350 B.C. on the accompanying map with timeline):
- 2350 to 2250 B.C. — Antarctica becomes covered by forests, then gets covered by its ice cap.
- 2250 to 2000 B.C. — Ice age on the rest of Earth.
- approx. 2300 B.C. — First mastadons.
- 2250 B.C. — first human tools in archeological record.
- approx 2200 B.C. — First woolly mammoths.
- approx 2200 to 2100 B.C. — Age of the Neanderthals.
- approx 2150 B.C. — Humans migrate into Australia.
- approx 2100 B.C. — Humans migrate into North America.
- 2000 B.C. — End of Ice age. Abram born.
Again, the Bible says none of this! When Abram is born, he is born into a stable civilization on a stable Mesopotamian plain that isn’t much different than how it is described in Genesis 2. There has been no massive transformation of the Tigris-Euphrates valley!
But the geological problems with the YEC picture dwarf the biblical problems. Not only do they have to squeeze Antarctic glaciation, Neanderthals, the ice ages (there is plenty of evidence that glaciation happened multiple times), and human migration into Australia and the Americas into 250 years, one would have to throw in things like multiple eruptions of a number of “supervolcanoes” (e.g. Yellowstone, Toba, Long Valley), growth of other volcanoes (e.g. Cascade Range), growth of modern coral reefs, and deposition of in some cases many hundreds of meters of ice age sediments around the world. Add in a few biological marvels as well — hyperevolutionary adaptive radiation going from “elephant kind” to mastodons, woolly mammoths, and modern elephants; as well as dispersion of animals and humans throughout the globe.
Don’t teach this to the church or our youth as biblical truth or scientific apologetics!!!!
EVAPORITES (SUCH AS SALT) FORMED FROM MAGMA — YEC geologist Tas Walker has endorsed Stef Heerema’s magmatic model for for the origin of large salt formations. Heerema’s Journal of Creation article is here, and a more recent YouTube video is here. I am writing a longer response to this one, but for now I’ll say that this all shows that, despite YEC claims to the contrary, the Journal of Creation cannot possibly be a peer-reviewed journal.
ENVIRONMENTALISM IS A THREAT TO CIVILIZATION — So says Evangelical writer Cal Beisner, a spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance. There are some good things in the Cornwall Alliance’s Declaration on Environmental Stewardship, but…
Here’s what Beisner recently said about why humans could not be doing any catastrophic harm to the Earth by adding excess greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, as reported at Huff Post Green:
“That doesn’t fit well with the biblical teaching that the earth is the result of the omniscient design, the omnipotent creation and the faithful sustaining of the God of the Bible. So it really is an insult to God,” Beisner said.
Isn’t that sort of like saying that it doesn’t matter what we do to our bodies—smoking, excess alcohol and drug use, etc.—because God has designed us in such a way that the things we do could not possible cause us catastrophic harm?
THE DOCTRINE OF CREATION — The biblical doctrine of creation isn’t primarily about how old the Earth is. See Bigger Than We Think by David Wilkinson.
PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANITY CONTINUES — Iran puts five Christians on trial for their faith, Christian protesters decry Muslim mob’s arson spree following blasphemy charge, Christians, churches dwindling in Iraq since start of war 10 years ago.
I want to write, write, write, but can’t keep up with it all.
Grace and Peace
Many Christian geologists I know began their undergraduate geological training as young-Earth creationists (YECs). They entered their studies having been equipped by reading YEC classics such as The Genesis Flood and Scientific Creationism, had a whole stack of Institute for Creation Research Acts & Facts “Impact” articles, and were certain that they would set the geological world straight.
None of the Christian geologists I know personally were still YECs when they graduated. For some (such as for myself), there was no serious crisis of faith along the way. For others, there were times of severe trial, as everything they believed about the Bible and the Earth was challenged. I get emails from time to time from geology undergraduates who thank me for helping them during that time of testing of their faith, and for this I am very grateful.
Sadly, many Christians who enter geological studies with a YEC background end up as spiritual shipwrecks and leave the faith altogether. They have been taught that if YEC is not true, then the Bible is not true either, and all of Christianity is false as well. When they start learning about how the Earth really works, they are devastated This is the bitter fruit of years of YEC indoctrination through a barrage of books, DVDs, educational curricula, Sunday school, and youth groups. It doesn’t have to be so.
Steve Smith is a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. I had the privilege of meeting Steve a few years ago. We had moved back to the United States after six years of service as missionaries with the Evangelical Free Church, and we were living in Denver while I looked for employment. Steve gave my wife and I a wonderful geological tour of Red Rocks Park. I ended up finding employment in Missouri, so we were not able to get together again.
Steve has done a fantastic job of writing about his experiences as a Christian geologist, from his YEC undergraduate beginnings to his current interactions with young people struggling with science and faith issues. The article is Breaking Away from a False Dilemma, and is posted at Nazarenes Exploring Evolution.
Here are a few clips, but you really should read the whole article:
With a high-school level understanding of science and theology, I was convinced by this “either-or” argument and, to my knowledge, became the first Young Earth Creationist in my local Nazarene church. I knew the enemy and the enemy had a name. It was Evolution.
Although I was fascinated by geology and had found a scientific field that I loved, my faith was in shambles. Based on what I had believed and read in the Young Earth Creationist literature, if the geologic ages were real, if the earth was old, if evolution had happened then the Bible was false, Christianity wasn’t true, and Christ’s death on the cross was meaningless. So what was left? I felt betrayed and seriously considered leaving the church. In retrospect, two factors kept me from leaving: (1) the support of a strong Christian family (and a young lady soon to be my wife) that gave me the freedom to question without condemnation; and (2) the strong witness of my Olivet geology professor, who had not only faced all of the same scientific evidence but was one of the most Christ-like men I had ever met. But before I could move on, I had to recognize that I had been snared by a false dilemma and that the Bible didn’t need to be read as a scientific treatise on how to create a world. That was a time of turmoil and what I needed most was theological support that would allowed me to reconcile what I read in the Bible with what I saw in the rocks.
I have seen students break down into tears as they stood on an outcrop of rock and saw evidence that contradicted what their church had taught them. I have comforted my own daughter when she was told by a Sunday School teacher that she couldn’t be a Christian if she accepted evidence for evolution. I have talked with scientists who were once raised in a church and are now bitter agnostics because the church “lied to them” about science.
Thanks, Steve, for sharing your story.
Grace and Peace
Ligonier Ministries has posted an excellent article which can help us think through how to speak and write about issues that are controversial within the Christian church. Some important values as I write articles for The GeoChristian include that I would communicate with grace and humility, that the body of Christ would be edified, and that non-believers would be pointed to Christ.
The article is Consider Yourself by Burk Parsons. Here are a few excerpts:
Controversy exists because God’s truth exists in a world of lies. Controversy is the plight of sinners in a fallen world, who were originally created by God to know the truth, love the truth, and proclaim the truth. We cannot escape controversy this side of heaven, nor should we seek to. As Christians, God has rescued us out of darkness and has made us able to stand in His marvelous light. He has called us to go into the darkness and shine as a light to the world, reflecting the glorious light of our Lord, Jesus Christ. And when light shines in darkness, controversy is inevitable.
The difficulty comes when we try to discern truth from error in the church of Christ.
“What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made?” — John Newton
Parsons then offers ten questions to help us determine if and how we should engage in controversial issues. Some questions that are most applicable to our debates about Earth science include:
1. Have I prayed?
2. What is my motive?
3. Am I striving to edify others?
6. How will I treat the person with whom I disagree?
9. What is my ultimate goal?
10. Am I focused on God’s glory? (Are we serving God’s kingdom or our own kingdom?)
Doing these things, and doing them well, is more important to me than the age of the Earth, flood geology, environmental responsibility, or a host of other topics that surface from time to time here on The GeoChristian.
Grace and Peace
For most Christian traditions and denominations, the age of the Earth is not a primary issue. It is not even a secondary issue. Nor is it a tertiary issue. In fact it is not even a quaternary issue. For most Christian traditions and denominations, the age of the Earth is a quinary issue! That’s three steps below being a matter of even secondary importance!
This does not mean that what we believe about origins is not important, but it helps to put the endless debate in proper perspective.
C. Michael Patton at Parchment & Pen Blog has a Chart to Help Distinguish Between Essentials and Non-Essentials.
Patton reserves the “Essential for Salvation” circle for those doctrines that one must believe in order to be a Christian by just about any definition. This includes belief in God, Christ’s deity and humanity; our sinfulness, and Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection.
The next circle includes those things that all Christians (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant) have believed from the beginning of the church, such as the doctrine of the Trinity as expressed in the Nicene Creed, the future return of Christ, the eternal punishment of the wicked, and belief that Christ is the only way to God. One might err on one of these (e.g. believe that all will in the end be saved) and still be a Christian, but not be within the standards of Christian orthodoxy.
The third circle from the center is traditional orthodoxy, which is orthodoxy as defined by one of the broad traditions of the Church: Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism. I fall within Protestant orthodoxy, believing in justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. I fall outside of Roman Catholic orthodoxy, as I reject its teachings about Mary.
I am well aware that there will be differences between Christian traditions and denominations about where to place various doctrines. Lutherans will bump baptism up a notch or two compared to most Evangelicals, and Pentecostals might move spiritual gifts more towards the center as compared to where most Episcopalians will.
Where do teachings about evolution and the age of the universe come into this?
Patton places what we believe about origins in the “important but not essential” category. I think I would place evolution and chronology at this level as well.
Most YEC leaders will state that origins are not a primary issue, that is, that one can believe in an old Earth and still be a Christian. I think the highest they could really put YEC is at the denominational orthodoxy level (though they might look at their denominational orthodoxy as the true standard of orthodoxy and throw out the higher levels entirely).
Many YEC followers seem to place YEC at the primary level, as in, “If you are not a YEC, you are probably not really a Christian.” I have actually run into that quite a bit.
What do you think? Where do the age of the universe and biological evolution fit on the diagram?
Grace and Peace