Environmental Awareness on Christian College Campuses

Christianity Today has an article entitled Christian Colleges’ Green Revolution. Here are a few quotes:

“When I was exposed firsthand to the impact that poor environmental care can cause, I was shocked,” Semenyuk says, recalling a protest he witnessed in Nicaragua. “The people were field workers on banana plantations where extremely powerful chemicals are used to make a ‘perfect banana’ for consumers in the U.S. The chemicals are outlawed in the U.S. and in other developed countries.” The people protesting had permanent chemical burns, Semenyuk says, and their children suffered birth defects. Semenyuk realized that his own consumption patterns—even ones as simple as buying a banana—had a significant impact on people living elsewhere.

Connecting the environment with other issues, such as poverty and evangelism, has helped environmental initiatives gain support.

Semenyuk, who is now doing graduate work in environmental engineering at Johns Hopkins University, says he considered studying medicine, but realized he would only be helping one person at a time. “Through engineering,” he says, “I can help [whole] communities at a time, be able to train others, and relieve people from the need of seeing a doctor by solving the problem that is causing disease in the first place.”

There is also an evangelistic dimension. Lowe notes that some of the 40 members of Wheaton’s student chapter of A Rocha, an international conservation organization, volunteer at the county’s forest preserves each week. “People who are not in contact with a church or who are frustrated with Christians or don’t view Christians as caring about the environment see us caring for creation,” he says.

For many students, creation care is grounded in soul care. When people ask Semenyuk if he is a “tree hugger,” he replies, “I’m a people hugger.”

He explains, “By taking care of the environment, I am taking care of people. I feel called to missionary work in preaching and evangelizing, but if people will not live to hear my message by the time I arrive because of my poor environmental decisions, the Word is preached in vain.”

I’m always pleased when Christians give more than lip service to “creation care,” “stewardship,” and “conservation.”

Grace and Peace

Limburger Cheese

This was yesterday’s Wikipedia picture of the day, with a description from the article on Limburger Cheese:

The description of limburger cheese (which truly does smell awful):

Limburger cheese originated in Limburg, Belgium. It is also made in the United States and Germany. Limburger is especially known for its pungent odor. The bacteria used to ferment Limburger cheese and other rind-washed cheeses is Brevibacterium linens; this same bacteria is found on human skin and is partially responsible for human body odor. A likely reason for this is that the monks of Limburg who created the cheese would originally mix the milk and curds into cheese by stomping it with their feet.

When I was in 10th grade at Billings West High School, someone stuck a piece of limburger cheese in the radiator at the end of the hallway. I was in Mr. Peckham’s World History class right just two doors down—this all left a strong impression in my mind—and I remember trying to figure out what had happened out in the hallway. Perhaps someone had diarrhea and didn’t make it to the restroom? Perhaps someone died? I cannot imagine eating the stuff!

Grace and Peace

Creation Museum Open in Kentucky

At the risk of getting myself in trouble…

Today is the grand opening of the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky. For the record, I think this is a bad idea. I could write a rather long critique of the philosophy and “science” behind this museum, but I’ll save that for some other time. Here’s my short version:

The museum has been built by Answers in Genesis, a young-earth creationist organization headed by Australian science teacher Ken Ham. To their credit, they are gracious with opponents, and avoid some of the really, really bad arguments used by some creationists, such as Kent Hovind (“Dr. Dino”). I often point my young-earth creationist friends to the AiG page Arguments we think creationists should NOT use. Additionally, all the reviews of the museum I have seen say that it is well-done, which is a nice contrast to a lot of what is produced by Evangelical Christians (think of most of the “Christian” movies you have seen).

Image from the Creation Museum

As I have stated before, I am an old-earth creationist. By this, I mean that I have no difficulty in accepting the authority and truthfulness of the opening chapters of Genesis, as well as accepting an old age for the earth and the universe as a whole. Some time I’d like to share my reasons for holding to this position. I think I can defend an old earth (~4.5 billion years) both Biblically and scientifically. I hold to the position that all truth is God’s truth, whether it is truth as revealed in the Bible, or truth that is revealed in nature. When the two seem to conflict—and I believe that conflict is much less common than many think—then either our understanding of nature is wrong, or our understanding of the Bible is wrong. In the end, there will be no conflict between the two.

I send my young-earth friends to the “Arguments we think creationists should NOT use” page as a starting point, to help them avoid the most serious errors. But I would go much further myself, and say that the entire model presented by Answers in Genesis (or the Institute for Creation Research) doesn’t work. This includes their arguments for a young earth, and their arguments for most of the geological record being formed by Noah’s flood. If this is so, then what is being presented at the Creation Museum is bad apologetics (apologetics being the defense of Christianity and the Bible). People may come to faith in Christ through this museum, and for this I rejoice (Phil 1:18). But many others, including scientists I know, can see that the AiG/ICR arguments are not sound, and they will reject Christianity because of the poor arguments offered.

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who don’t believe. I can accept that. But let it be the foolishness of Christ that people reject, not the foolishness of bad apologetics.

I know that many of my readers are young-earth creationists. I could be wrong in my assessment of the Creation Museum, but I don’t think I am. Thanks for your patience in reading what I have written here. I love you as my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Grace and Peace

Shrinking Dead Sea

Fresh water is a limited resource. It is constantly renewed, but it is not unlimited. This is especially an issue in arid and semiarid areas, such as in the area of Israel and its neighbors. One of the concerns that triggered the 1967 Six Day War, in which Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan, and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, was the possibility that the Arabs would cut off much of Israel’s fresh water supply.

The Dead Sea itself is not only the lowest place on the surface of the Earth, it is also one of the saltiest bodies of water. Its waters are nearly saturated with magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, as well as a bit of the more familiar sodium chloride. This salty mix is what makes it the “dead” sea; nothing can live in it except a few salt-loving bacteria.

The Dead Sea is shrinking. Most maps in the back of Bibles show the shoreline as it existed in the 1950s:

Moody Bible Institute map from the back of my ESV Bible

The Dead Sea has no outlet, and its only consistent source of water is the Jordan River. The Jordan and its tributaries, however, have been diverted upstream for a variety of agricultural, industrial, and domestic uses. The result is that the Jordan is often reduced to a trickle by the time it reaches the Dead Sea. In past decades, the elevation of the surface has dropped from -395 m (-1295 ft) to -418 m (-1371), and it continues to drop at up to one meter per year. The image below, from NASA Worldwind, shows the present shoreline, with salt evaporators occupying the southern portion of the basin.

The governments of Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority have held talks on the possibility of pumping sea water from the Red Sea into the Dead Sea basin in order to stabilize the Dead Sea. This could include the generation of hydroelectric power, which could be then used to desalinize some of the sea water.

BBC News Article: Obstacles to Peace: Water

Grace and Peace

Knowing God — Chapter 6 Quotes

Chapter 6 of Knowing God by J.I. Packer is called “He Shall Testify”, and is about the Holy Spirit.

It is the sovereign prerogative of Christ’s Spirit to convince men’s consciences of the truth of Christ’s gospel; and Christ’s human witnesses must learn to ground their hopes of success, not on clever presentation of the truth by man, but on powerful demonstration of the truth by the Spirit.

In our witness: do we remember that the Holy Spirit alone, by His witness,can authenticate our witness, and look to Him to do so, and trust Him to do so, and show the reality of our trust, as Paul did, by eschewing the gimmicks of human cleverness? If not, we dishonour the Holy Spirit.

Grace and Peace