The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Knowing God – Chapter 1 Quotes

For dinner time edification, our family is going through Knowing God by J.I. Packer. This was one of the first Christian books I read, and it laid a firm foundation for much of what I believe today as a Christian. Here are some quotes from Chapter One, “The Study of God.”

If we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject-matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and grasp of it; and we shall look down on those whose theological ideas seem to us crude and inadequate.

There can be no spiritual health without doctrinal knowledge; but it is equally true that there can be no spiritual health with it, if it is sought for the wrong purpose and valued by the wrong standard.

How can we turn knowledge about God into knowledge of God? The rule for doing this is demanding, but simple. It is that we turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.

Grace and Peace

November 30, 2006 Posted by | Christianity, Quotes | Leave a comment

Living forever through technology?

Glenn Brooke at Be Bold, Be Gentle writes about the possibility of greatly extending the human life span through technology:

Ray Kurzweil is a very smart man, and has written extensively about his confidence that computers and medical technology (e.g., nanobots that will repair human tissue) will effectively allow humans to live forever. See this blog post for a good jumping off point on that theme.

A few thoughts on this idea:

1. This is a sad idea. Given the frustrations of life, and the grinding nature of sin in human relationships — irrespective of the perfection of the human body and our thinking capacity — I suspect such “eternal” life would be a Faustian bargain. There is no way these technologies address our fundamental problems of being.

2. This is an arrogant idea. There is a Creator, and He is sovereign over all our steps. One car accident, one tornado, one slippery kitchen floor… there are damages to the human body that cannot be overcome by technological repairs.

3. May our Lord save us from situations where we are tempted to sin because we have technological options that far outstrip our wisdom.

4. I can hear Thomas a Kempis speaking: “What good is it to live long if we do not live well?” (from The Imitation of the Christ)

5. We have not learned the lessons from the Tower of Babel. I’m certainly in favor of medical advances to help people. But we have a strong tendency to pursue these things because we want to become gods.

I’ll take the new resurrection body that is mine in Christ instead.

Grace and Peace

November 29, 2006 Posted by | Ethics | Leave a comment

Bonhoeffer Quotes #3

Nothing that we despise in the other man is entirely absent from ourselves.

If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.

Grace and Peace

November 28, 2006 Posted by | Christianity, Quotes | Leave a comment

Satellite images in real time

Most satellite and aerial imagery that is available on the internet (such as at Google Earth) is several years old. That is fine for most purposes. The USGS now has a site with live, real-time imagery from the LANDSAT satellites at earthnow.usgs.gov. It won’t be useful for finding your house or planning a hike, but it is new, and shows what is possible.

Grace and Peace

November 27, 2006 Posted by | Geography, Geology | Leave a comment

Viewing Mercury

The next few days are an opportunity to view Mercury in the eastern sky, up to an hour before sunrise. Click here for the story. Most people have never seen this elusive planet, but it isn’t all that difficult if you just know when and where to look.

Grace and Peace

November 27, 2006 Posted by | Astronomy | Leave a comment

PETA strikes again, again

Headline: PETA mistakenly targets Alaska church.

PETA was targeting this church for having a living nativity, but it turns out that the “animals” will all be played by living humans. So I guess it is acceptable to have humans crawling around in the dirt, but not cows and sheep.

Grace and Peace

November 27, 2006 Posted by | Ethics | Leave a comment

PETA strikes again

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

Headline: U.S. shoppers hopping mad over frog dissection kit

NEW YORK (Reuters) – On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me … a frog dissection kit?

Shoppers at upscale U.S. menswear and accessory store Jack Spade in Manhattan’s trendy SoHo district were hopping mad to see frog dissection kits selling alongside $775 leather file cases and $145 Italian calfskin passport holders.

The $40 kit came in a cloth bag complete with a vacuum-sealed formaldehyde-treated frog, scissors, magnifying glass, forceps, probing sticks, ruler, instruction booklet on how to explore the animal’s innards, and a moist towelette.

After a barrage of complaints from shoppers and animal activists, the store said Tuesday that it had cleared its shelves of the kits and would no longer offer them.

“We’re going to issue an apology,” said company spokesman Mordechai Rubinstein.

Many of these same people who oppose frog dissection or medical research on laboratory animals have no problem at all with aborting a human being. My only complaint would have been the $40 price tag; the Fisher Scientific catalog has frogs starting at as low as $2.83 each ($283 for a pail of 100 frogs). Nice big bullfrogs are $9.95 each.

I’m thankful (on this Thanksgiving Day) that the doctors who do surgery on us first did surgery on live animals. I’m also thankful that before they did surgery on live dogs, they dissected dead cats. I’m also thankful that before they dissected dead cats, they dissected dead frogs.

Grace and Peace

Rat dissection image from Wikipedia article on dissection

November 23, 2006 Posted by | Biology, Ethics | Leave a comment

Giant excavator

This 200 meter (600 foot) long excavator looks like something out of Star Wars. I got the image from Astronomy Picture of the Day, November 22, 2006.

Here’s the description from APOD:

The machine pictured above is a bucket-wheel excavator used in modern surface mining. Machines like this have given humanity the ability to mine minerals and change the face of planet Earth in new and dramatic ways. Some open pit mines, for example, are visible from orbit. The largest excavators are over 200 meters long and 100 meters high, now dwarfing the huge NASA Crawler that transports space shuttles to the launch pads. Bucket-wheel excavators can dig a hole the length of a football field to over 25 meters deep in a single day. They may take a while to cross a road, though, with a top speed under one kilometer per hour.

And the description from Wikipedia:

Especially large bucket-wheel excavators, over 200 meters long and up to 100 meters in height, are used in German strip-mining operations, and are the largest earth-movers in the world. These tremendous machines can cost over $100 million, take 5 years to assemble, require 5 people to operate, weigh more than 13,000 tons, and have a theoretical capacity of more than 12,000m³/h. Specifically, the RB293 bucket wheel excavator manufactured by MAN Takraf is recognised by Guinness World Records as the largest land vehicle.

Grace and Peace

November 23, 2006 Posted by | Technology | Leave a comment

Unicorns, the Bible, and education

Fresco in Rome, probably by Domenichino, 1602, from Wikipedia:Unicorn

Fresco in Rome, probably by Domenichino, 1602, from Wikipedia:Unicorn

What do you make of a statement like this comment by a person who calls themself “kwatson?” It is from a discussion on World Magazine Blog regarding extraterrestrial life:

[I]n the case of aliens and extraterrestrial life, far less crazy than talking about a mythical being who looks like us, who created the universe in seven days, and sacrificed his only son (virgin born) to allow us the opportunity to live in paradise forever.

At least one can have an intelligent conversation about how many planets in our galaxy may harbor life, or about how many millions of years it would take a spacfaring [sic] species to fill the galaxy. In contrast, a conversation about, say, heaven and hell, is based on revelation from a two thousand year old book that features, among other things, dragons, unicorns, and a talking donkey.

I find it humorous that the question is, “might it be time for the church to figure out what to do with this stuff?” What you need to do is get a science education so you know how to use evidence to evaluate such claims. Otherwise you risk looking foolish. (emphasis added)

This guy (I’m asuming its a “he”) believes (1) that supernatural religion is irrational, (2) that the Bible contains rediculous things, and (3) that we Christians are a bunch of ignorant, fools in need of a science education.

Here was my response:

kwatson (#14) states What you need to do is get a science education so you know how to use evidence to evaluate such claims.

Some of us do have science educations, and yet have a strong belief in the truthfulness of the Bible and faith in Jesus Christ. I have an M.S. in geology, and have been strengthened in my faith by understanding the creation. Christians at times say foolish things about science, and non-Christians sometimes say foolish things about the Bible (e.g. kwatson’s comment about unicorns). I would rather ignore the foolishness and get down to the heart of the matter. The problems between science and Christianity then become much smaller.

Grace and Peace

Kwatson replied with:

Kevin N,

I’m sorry, but your [sic] mistaken about unicorns in the bible, see Isaiah 34. So, perhaps you should do a little double-checking before you call someone foolish, or else you risk looking foolish yourself.

At this point, I had him cornered, but he didn’t know it yet:

kwatson (#29):

I’ll stick with what I said. The KJV translates the animals in Isaiah 34:7 as “unicorns,” but modern translations have “wild oxen.” This is clear in the Hebrew Old Testament. The KJV translators apparently took the Greek Septuagint word, which is “monokeros,” and translated it as “unicorn” even though it could have also been translated as “rhinoceros.” But the Hebrew word clearly refers to a two-horned animal, and “wild oxen” is a much better translation.

Even atheist Isaac Azimov agrees with this explanation in his book Azimov’s Guide to the Bible. See the explanation at Apologetics Press if you are really interested in an explanation.

When something seems wrong in the Bible, I’ve found that digging deeper clears up the problem.

Grace and Peace

Why do I do get involved in discussions like this? Why do I blog at all? Here are a few thoughts:

  • On a site like World Magazine Blog, there is a mix of Christians and non-Christians. The non-Christians need answers to silly statements like this.

But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:15-16 ESV)

  • Christians need answers as well. I’m sure that there are plenty of Christians who hear a mocker talking about unicorns in the Bible who have no idea how to answer.
  • Additionally, this points out the value of education. I was able to answer this accusation against the reliability of the Bible because I have a broad background. After discussing this exchange about unicorns with my 12th-grade physics students this week, I told them that the function of education is not to get them to remember for forever all this stuff they are learning. What I want to establish in their lives is a pattern of learning, and a way of thinking about the world. When I read kwatson’s entry, I remembered that I had heard something, somewhere about unicorns in the Bible, and that it had something to do with a poor translation in the KJV. But I had to do research; I couldn’t give the complete answer on the spot. But that was OK. I knew the answer was out there, and that it would not be difficult to find. Much of the value of education is in giving us a framework in which to live. That is my hope and prayer for my children and the students God has placed under me.

Grace and Peace

November 16, 2006 Posted by | Christianity | Leave a comment

Stem Cells and Muscular Dystrophy

The headline is “Stem cells help dogs with dystrophy.” Someone who sees this headline but doesn’t read the article might think, “Oh, isn’t it wonderful what can be done with those embryonic stem cells?”

Wrong. Reading the article, the researchers did not use embryonic stem cells, but stem cells derived from adult dogs. Here’s a quote from the article:

It used stem cells taken from the affected dogs or other dogs, rather than from embryos. For human use, the idea of using such “adult” stem cells from humans would avoid the controversial method of destroying human embryos to obtain stem cells.

Praise God for such potential breakthroughs. And praise God that stem cell treatments can be done without destroying embryos!

Here’s the story: Stem cells help dogs with dystrophy

Grace and Peace

November 15, 2006 Posted by | Biology, Ethics | Leave a comment

Stop that lava flow!

Perhaps the sign should have been facing the other way:


Photo by J.D. Griggs, US Geological Survey

Grace and Peace

November 7, 2006 Posted by | Fun, Geology | Leave a comment

A Good Quote

People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.

D. A. Carson, For the Love of God

November 5, 2006 Posted by | Christianity, Quotes | Leave a comment