Earth Day 2007 — Christian Environmentalism

This item was originally posted for Earth Day, 2006 (Earth Day is held on April 22nd). It is now part of my blog recycling program. Because I have more people reading The Earth is Not Flat! now than I did a year ago, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my best blog entries.

We all seem to like nature–we teach our children to throw their trash in trash cans and send them to summer camp in the mountains or woods–but beyond this, Christian response to environmental issues is varied. I’ll try to give some additional thoughts about the environment as the week progresses.

A good internet article summarizing a Christian perspective on the environment is Christian Environmentalism by Dr. Ray Bohlin of Probe Ministries. Here are some quotes from the article:

What we fail to realize is that Christians have a sacred responsibility to the earth and the creatures within it. The earth is being affected by humans in an unprecedented manner, and we do not know what the short or long term effects will be.

But while pantheism elevates nature, it simultaneously degrades man and will ultimately degrade nature as well.

A true Christian environmental ethic differs from the naturalistic and pantheistic ethics in that it is based on the reality of God as Creator and man as his image-bearer and steward. God is the Creator of nature, not part of nature.

Nature has value in and of itself because God created it.

But a responsibility goes along with bearing the image of God. In its proper sense, man’s rule and dominion over the earth is that of a steward or a caretaker, not a reckless exploiter. Man is not sovereign over the lower orders of creation. Ownership is in the hands of the Lord.

An effective steward understands that which he oversees, and science can help us discover the intricacies of nature. Technology puts the creation to man’s use, but unnecessary waste and pollution degrades it and spoils the creation’s ability to give glorify to its creator. I think it is helpful to realize that we are to exercise dominion over nature not as though we are entitled to exploit it but as something borrowed or held in trust.

The source of our ecological crisis lies in man’s fallen nature and the abuse of his dominion.

Our often uncontrolled greed and haste have led to the deterioration of the environment.

We have spoken out loudly against the materialism of science as expressed in the issues of abortion, human dignity, evolution, and genetic engineering, but have shown ourselves to be little more than materialists in our technological orientation towards nature.

By failing to fulfill our responsibilities to the earth, we are losing a great evangelistic opportunity. Many in our society are seeking an improved environment, yet they think that most Christians don’t care about ecological issues and that most churches offer no opportunity for involvement.

Grace and Peace

Driving directions: New York to London

The folks at Google are not only creative, they have fun. Take for instance the “Get Directions” option at maps.google.com. If you type in your address and your destination address, it will give you both a map highlighting the route from point A to point B, and driving directions: Turn left on Elm Street, drive 1.2 miles and turn right on 4th Avenue, etc…

It will even give you directions for going from New York to London. Check out step 23!

It doesn’t just work for NY to London; it even gave me directions from Billings, MT to Bucharest!

(I got this idea from geology.com/news)

Grace and Peace

Lost in space

Gene Edward Veith had the following post on his Cranach blog today:

Jesus as space traveller

Our guest pastor, Charles St.-Onge, must have left a strong impression, since he brought up so many things that are still on my mind. He told about astrophysicist Carl Sagen trying to shoot down the Ascension of Christ. He said that even if Jesus could attain the speed of light, He would still be only 2000 light years away from earth, and not anywhere near Heaven.

Notice how atheists, trying to debunk our faith, embrace the most childish notions of what God, whether He exists or not, even is. They haven’t got a clue as to what or how believers believe, nor that the spiritual realm–if it exists–would have to be at least as complex and unfathomable as the material realm now turns out to be.

All I can say is that a brilliant person such as Carl Sagan can still be an utter fool.

Grace and Peace

Giant gypsum crystals

It is an amazing world!

Here’s the cover of the April 2007 issue of Geology, published by the Geological Society of America. These crystals of gypsum were discovered in a cave at a lead-silver-zinc mine 100 km from Chihuahua, Mexico. The crystals are up to 11 meters (36 feet) long, and were submerged in water beneath the water table before pumping of water occured as the mining went to greater depths.

A description of the image can be found here, and the technical abstract can be found here.
Grace and Peace

Earthquakes and the End Times

This item was originally posted on April 18, 2006 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. It is now part of my blog recycling program. Because I have more people reading The Earth is Not Flat! now than I did a year ago, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my best blog entries.

April 18, 2007 will, of course, be the 101st anniversary of this earthquake.

Since today is the 100th anniversary of the great San Francisco earthquake…

“There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.” Matthew 24:7,8 ESV

A common “fact” proclaimed in Bible end-times prophecy books (Hal Lindsey and others), radio broadcasts, and on numerous web sites is that the number of severe earthquakes is increasing, and that this is a sign that Christ will soon return.

Now, I believe that Christ is returning, and that it could be at any time. However, as a geologist I always questioned the validity of these reports, but never had the time to look into it for myself. Fortunately, others have done the research for me. Steven Austin, of the Institute for Creation Research, and Mark Strauss, of Bethel Seminary San Diego, wrote an article for the Christian Research Journal in 1999 called “Are Earthquakes Signs of the End Times?: A Geological and Biblical Response to an Urban Legend” (CRJ, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 30-39). I don’t think that article is available online, but a longer version is on the internet: Earthquakes and the End Times: A Geological and Biblical Perspective.

To summarize their arguments:

  • The prominent end-times authors have been very sloppy in referencing their data sources. They will often make broad statements like, “According to the USGS…” rather than citing specific sources.
  • Since 1898, there has been a worldwide network of seismographs capable of detecting any earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 or greater. According to earthquake data from the USGS, there were more large earthquakes in the first half of the 20th century than in the last half. There has been no increase in the frequency of large earthquakes.
  • Christ’s prediction in Matthew 24 can be interpreted in more than one way. Many premillenialists interpret the passage as referring to a period of time within the seven-year tribulation, and therefore not applicable to the present time. Others, and I favor this view, look at the passage as referring to events that occur throughout the time from Christ’s ascension to his return. We will have wars, rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes throughout history until Christ returns in glory.

Grace and Peace

Moons of the outer solar system

My middle school students will be working on reports on the moons of the outer solar system this week. When I was in middle school, the gas giants had what we thought were a lot of moons, but that number has greatly increased as telescopes have improved and probes have been sent to the outer solar system.

Planet Number of moons (1975) Number of moons (2007)
Jupiter 12 63
Saturn 11 48-60
Uranus 5 27
Neptune 2 13

As more moons are discovered, their diameters are becoming smaller. The following table shows the average diameter of moons discovered in orbit around Jupiter for various time periods:

Time period Average diameter of moons discovered (km)
1600s 4208
1800s 262
1900-1970 55
1970s 37
2000s 3

Some questions:

  • How many moons will we say Jupiter has when we can observe rocks only 100 meters in diamter?
  • Will there be another astronomical crisis when Jupiter has 1000 moons? Will astronomers have to debate the question, “What is a moon?” just like they had to go through the “What is a planet?” issue?

Grace and Peace