The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Consider the ant

The quote in my previous post was a positive one about the need to care for nature. Here’s a silly quote from a well-meaning environmentalist perspective:

The life of an ant and that of my child should be granted equal consideration.
— Michael W. Fox, Vice President, Humane Society of the United States

No, an ant is an ant, and a human is a human. There has to be a difference in value. If not, the ant is not lifted up to a high place; instead, the value of the human is lowered to that of the ant.

It is not that ants have no value, or that they shouldn’t be treated as an important part of the creation. It is not that humans are not part of the ecosystem as well. The difference is that humans are created in the image of God. We share creatureliness with the ants, and are therefore not divine. But we share things with God as well; things the ant doesn’t have, such as personality and the ability to relate to our Creator. When we lose sight of this we are well on the path to unspeakable barbarism.

Thanks to The Evangelical Ecologist.

Grace and Peace

January 31, 2008 Posted by | Environment, Ethics | Leave a comment

Presidential quote on the environment

What American president said the following?

“Restoring nature to its natural state is a cause beyond party and beyond factions. It has become a common cause of all the people of this country. It is a cause of particular concern to young Americans, because they more than we will reap the grim consequences of our failure to act on programs which are needed now if we are to prevent disaster later.”

A. Lyndon Johnson
B. Richard Nixon
C. Jimmy Carter
D. Ronald Reagan
E. Bill Clinton

    Thanks to: The Evangelical Ecologist

    For the answer, keep on reading…

    Continue reading

    January 31, 2008 Posted by | Environment | Leave a comment

    Is Your Church Green?

    World on the Web (World Magazine) asks Is Your Church Green? They aren’t asking if your church is showing “An Inconvenient Truth” or if your pastor is preaching a ten-week series on global warming. The primary focus of the article is about evaluating our church buildings in terms of five environmental factors:

    • sustainable site development
    • water savings
    • energy efficiency
    • materials selection
    • indoor environmental quality

    I would add a sixth: aesthetics. Are the building and grounds beautiful, or are they a scar on the landscape?

    Beauty doesn’t have to be expensive.

    Grace and Peace

    January 31, 2008 Posted by | Environment | Leave a comment

    27 Storms — hurricanes of 2005

    I’m beginning a unit on weather and climate in high school Earth Science tomorrow, and am scouring Google videos for movies depicting weather patterns from space. One excellent video I came across is 27 Storms: Arlene to Zeta, which shows relationships between ocean surface temperatures and storm tracks. It was produced by NASA and NOAA, and it is very well done.

    27storms.png

    It is also available for download directly from NASA.

    Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio.

    Grace and Peace

    January 30, 2008 Posted by | Meteorology | Leave a comment

    White Horse Inn 2008

    whi.jpgThe White Horse Inn weekly radio program has begun a year-long series on “Christless Christianity.” I listened to the program on Joel Osteen, author of the best-selling “Christian” book Your Best Life Now last night and just cringed at the distortions of the gospel that he proclaims. If you want Christ-centered Christianity that focuses rightly on all that God has done for you in Christ then listen to the White Horse Inn.

    Here is part of the description of the White Horse Inn from their about us page:

    Though the hosts have different denominational and ethnic backgrounds, the White Horse Inn unites itself on the principle slogans of the Protestant Reformation, such as the sufficiency of Scripture, salvation by grace alone through faith alone by Christ alone, and the importance of a God-centered, rather than human-centered outlook. By renewed attention to these classic and central themes on a weekly basis, it is the aim of the White Horse Inn to bring health and vigor to a church that appears to have in some ways lost its sense of missions.

    Here are the first four programs for 2008:

    Christless Christianity part 1 (1/6/2008) — Countless sermons in churches across the country focus on moralistic concerns and personal transformation. But has Christ gotten lost in the shuffle? Have we inverted Paul’s warnings by intentionally preaching ourselves, and not Christ crucified? On this edition of the White Horse Inn, the hosts introduce the new theme for 2008: Christless Christianity!

    Christless Christianity part 2 (1/13/2008) — Many Christian leaders today point to Jesus as a good moral guide (WWJD), an inspirational figure of self-sacrifice, or one who resolves our problem with loneliness. And in doing so, these shepherds have managed to avoid one of the most central teachings of the entire Bible; namely Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for sinners.

    Joel Osteen: A Case Study in American Religion (1/20/2008) — Why is Joel Osteen so popular? Is he a faithful representative of the Christian faith, or is his message more about self-help and personal motivation? On this edition of the White Horse Inn, the hosts will examine the theology of this bestselling author as they continue their series “Christless Christianity.”

    Political Temptation (1/27/2008) — 2008 is an election year and many churches will be distracted from their focus on the city of God, to the governments of men. What is the business of the church? Should it play a political role? On this edition of the White Horse Inn the hosts discuss the proper biblical relationship between church and state.

    Web site: www.whitehorseinn.org

    Archive of downloadable MP3 files: OnePlace.com

    You can subscribe to the White Horse Inn podcast through iTunes.

    Grace and Peace

    January 29, 2008 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | Leave a comment

    Planet Earth — Caves

    Living in Romania, I didn’t see the “Planet Earth” series on television. It may have been on TV here, but if so I missed it.

    I am doing a unit on groundwater in Earth science, and was looking for video clips to show in class. I found the introductory scene of the Planet Earth episode “Caves.” Watch for the fastest way to enter the Cave of the Swallows in Mexico.

    The two-minute intro to the episode is here: Planet Earth — Caves

    Grace and Peace

    January 21, 2008 Posted by | Geology | 2 Comments

    Presidential science debate?

    The editorial column of the February 2008 issue of Scientific American includes a call for the presidential candidates to have a debate over issues of science and technology.

    Consider this partial list of issues that the next president of the U.S. will need to address: reducing greenhouse gas emissions; ensuring freshwater supplies; encouraging reliance on renewable energy sources; preparing for pandemics; developing stem cell technologies; improving science education; stimulating technological innovation. How many of the current candidates for the presidency have stated clear positions on those subjects?

    Do any of the presidential candidates have a clue when it comes to science? Should they? Or can they get by by relying on advisers? (My answer is that I’d prefer a scientifically-literate president, but I’m not sure who that would be).

    Grace and Peace

    January 19, 2008 Posted by | Scientific American | Leave a comment

    Pollution and the Death of Man

    pollution.jpgI recently finished re-reading Pollution and the Death of Man by Francis Schaeffer. If you read only one book on why Christians should care about nature, this is the book. It is short, and fairly easy reading (by Schaeffer standards). It is not a book about “50 ways to be green;” rather it lays the Biblical and philosophical foundations for taking care of the Earth. Even though it was written almost forty years ago, it is still relevant to the environmental issues we face. Unlike many conservative Evangelical leaders, Schaeffer was willing to admit that we face an ecological crisis.

    The book has seven chapters:

    1. “What Have They Done to Our Fair Sister?”
    2. Pantheism: Man Is No More Than the Grass
    3. Other Inadequate Answers
    4. The Christian View: Creation
    5. A Substantial Healing
    6. The Christian View: The “Pilot Plant.”
    7. Concluding Chapter by Udo Middelmann

    The book also has two essays as appendices. “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis” by Lynn White, Jr., and “Why Worry About Nature.” by Richard Means. These were two important essays of the late 1960s; the first was written to state the case that the environmental crisis is Christianity’s fault, and the second was written to present pantheism as the answer.

    I gave a long quote a few weeks ago: “I looked at the Christian community and saw ugliness.”

    Here are some more quotes:

    Near the end of his life, Darwin acknowledged several times in his writing that two things had become dull to him as he got older. The first was his joy in the arts and the second his joy in nature…. The distressing thing about this is that orthodox Christians often really have no better sense about these things than unbelievers.

    Our agreement with Means [an advocate of pantheism as the solution to the ecologic crisis] at this point centers on the fact that the hippies of the 1960s did understand something. They were right in fighting the plastic culture, and the church should have been fighting it too, a long, long time ago, before the counterculture ever came onto the scene.

    Again, a pantheistic stand always brings man to an impersonal and low place rather than elevating him. This is an absolute rule…. Eventually nature does not become high, but man becomes low…. In the Eastern countries there is no real base for the dignity of man.

    Far from raising nature to man’s height, pantheism must push both man and nature down into a bog.

    A poor Christianity is not the answer either.

    Much orthodoxy, much evangelical Christianity, is rooted in a Platonic concept. In this kind of Christianity there is only interest in the “upper story,” in the heavenly things—only in “saving the soul” and getting it to Heaven…. There is little or no interest in the proper pleasure of the body or the proper uses of the intellect…. Nature has become merely an academic proof of the existence of the Creator, with little value in itself. Christians of this outlook do not show an interest in nature itself.

    We should treat each thing with integrity because it is the way God has made it.

    The man who believes things are there only by chance cannot give things a real intrinsic value. But for the Christian, there is an intrinsic value. The value of a thing is not in itself autonomously, but because God made it.

    But we should be looking now, on the basis of the work of Christ, for substantial healing in every area affected by the Fall.

    But Christians who believe the Bible are not simply called to say that “one day” there will be healing, but that by God’s grace, upon the basis of the work of Christ, substantial healing can be a reality here and now.

    Here the church—the orthodox, Bible-believing church—has been really poor. What have we done to heal sociological divisions? Often our churches are a scandal; they are cruel not only to the man “outside,” but also to the man “inside.”

    The same thing is true psychologically. We load people with psychological problems by telling them that “Christians don’t have breakdowns,” and that is a kind of murder.

    On the other hand, what we should have, individually and corporately, is a situation where, on the basis of the work of Christ, Christianity is seen to be not just “pie in the sky,” but something that has in it the possibility of substantial healings now in every area where there are divisions because of the Fall. First of all, my division from God is healed by justification, but then there must be the “existential reality” of this moment by moment. Second, there is the psychological division of man from himself. Third, the sociological divisions of man from other men. And last, the division of man from nature, and nature from nature.

    One of the first fruits of that healing is a new sense of beauty.

    We are to have dominion over it [nature], but we are not going to use it as fallen man uses it.

    Man is not to be sacrificed…. And yet nature is to be honored.

    Christians, of all people, should not be the destroyers. We should treat nature with an overwhelming respect.

    Most Christians simply do not care about nature as such…. These are reasons why the church seems irrelevant and helpless in our generation. We are living in and practicing a sub-Christianity.

    If we treat nature as having no intrinsic value, our own value is diminished.

    To just list quotes does not do justice to the stream of reason that Schaeffer develops in this book. If environmental issues are important to you, this is a must-read.

    Grace and Peace

    January 19, 2008 Posted by | Environment, Quotes | Leave a comment

    Asexual Reproduction

    Gene Edward Veith (Cranach) has a post on generating human embryos from human skin cells. The ability to generate stem cells from skin cells was a promising medical breakthrough that bypasses the serious ethical concerns that are associated with embryonic stem cell research; the ability to create an entire human being brings all kinds of ethical issues back once again.

    We humans have a marvelous ability to take nature and/or technology and pervert it into something dreadful. This is true whether we consider nuclear physics, genetics, chemical engineering, or any other field of human inquiry. It also includes sex. Veith asks:

    We have already separated sex from procreation. We have also separated procreation from sex. (Artificial insemination at least uses the sexual cells. This method dispenses with that, finding a skin cell sufficient.) Reportedly, an artificial womb will soon be feasible. Do you think, in the future, that pregnancy will become obsolete?

    Veith says it better than I can, so read the his blog post here: Asexual Reproduction?

    Grace and Peace

    January 19, 2008 Posted by | Biology, Ethics, Health | Leave a comment

    The Christian global warming guy

    The former head of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) scientific assessment team is John Houghton, a physicist who has been studying carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for forty years. He has a better understanding of the science of atmospheric CO2 than just about anyone, so we should pay attention to what he says.

    John Houghton is also a Christian.

    Christianity Today has an interview with him: Looking after creation: Acclaimed physicist Sir John Houghton discusses his motives and passion for a cooler world climate. The article was posted nine months ago, but I just saw the link on the CT web site today. Here are some excerpts:

    We have a strong Christian responsibility to care for the earth and every part of creation. We also have a very strong Christian responsibility to care for each other in the world, our neighbors in other countries, especially those who are poor and who need a lot of help in order to get them out of poverty.

    Some parts of the industrialized world may actually be better off because of global warming, because carbon dioxide is a fertilizer, and if the rainfall and other things are right, it will help us to grow crops with a little more yield. So there will be a tendency for global warming to create an even bigger disparity between the rich world and the poor world. That’s really not a good situation from a Christian point of view or from any point of view.

    Parallel to knowing God as Creator is knowing him also as Redeemer, as the one who sent his Son into the world to die for us and to rise again from the dead and to become our living Lord. And one day he will come back to earth to renew creation. There’s a future for creation clearly taught in Scripture—a transformed creation. In the meantime, we’re meant to look after creation on his behalf, as stewards for the Lord who is at present away.

    I think the scientific debate is essentially over, but there has been a big misinformation campaign, particularly in the United States, to persuade people that what scientists are saying is not true or exaggerated.

    I’m still a fence rider on human-caused global warming, but I’m leaning toward the “human-caused” side of the fence.

    Grace and Peace

    January 17, 2008 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment | Leave a comment

    First new images of Mercury

    MESSENGER has completed its first fly-by of the planet Mercury, and is transmitting data back to Earth. NASA has released its first image from this encounter, and more are coming. This image includes areas that have never been seen in detail before.

    mercury2.jpg

    Image from messenger.jhuapl.edu.

    Astronomy Picture of the Day for 1/16/08.

    Wikipedia article: MESSENGER.

    Grace and Peace

    January 16, 2008 Posted by | Astronomy | Leave a comment

    Missing images

    On September 1, 2007, I moved this blog from The Earth is Not Flat! to The GeoChristian. I have now deleted the old blog, but most of my entries created before 9/1/07 still have links to images at the old site. Which means that if you go to any of my older blog posts, there will be no pictures. I hope to get around to fixing this, but I’ll make no promises.

    Grace and Peace

    January 12, 2008 Posted by | Misc | Leave a comment

    Messenger to Mercury

    The planet Mercury is the least-well known body in the inner solar system. The only fly-by mission until now was Mariner 10, which flew by Mercury three times in 1974-1975 (and each time it passed it took pictures of the same part of the planet).

    We will be learning much more about Mercury in the upcoming years, as the NASA probe MESSENGER will be flying by the planet three times; twice in 2008 and once in 2009. Each time it passes Mercury, it will slow down, which will enable it to enter an orbit around the planet in 2011, with at least one year of orbital observations after that.

    The first fly-by is on January 14, 2008, so we should be seeing the best images we have ever seen of the first planet this week.

    mercury.jpg

    Mariner 10 image, NASA

    Grace and Peace

    January 12, 2008 Posted by | Astronomy | Leave a comment

    Four great blogs

    Don, at The Evangelical Ecologist named The GeoChristian as one of five blogs that minister to him the most. Thanks.

    Here are four blogs that I am regularly blessed, challenged, encouraged, and taught by:

    • Be Bold, Be Gentle — “Christian encouragement for men.” Glenn has a heart for teaching within the body of Christ, for family, and for Jesus Christ.
    • The Internet Monk — “Dispatches from the post-Evangelical wilderness.” Michael Spencer takes on many of the things in Evangelicalism that drive me crazy as well.
    • Cranach — “Christianity, Culture, Vocation.” Gene Edward Veith is an author, writes columns for World Magazine, and is a literature professor at Patrick Henry College.
    • The Evangelical Ecologist — “‘Cause the world’s not ours to mess up.” Green advice and commentary on environmental issues.

    I read these daily.

    Grace and peace.

    January 11, 2008 Posted by | Blogs | Leave a comment

    Medieval Norwegian tech support

    Ever have problems opening a file? Ever worried about losing data? Watch this video.

    Grace and Peace

    January 11, 2008 Posted by | Fun | Leave a comment

    Christmas tree recycling, Romanian style

    tree.jpg

    This picture shows recycling on two levels.

    First, some enterprising person stole the manhole cover—a common problem here in Romania—and likely took it to a recycling center to sell as scrap iron. That leaves those of us who drive with a problem: a deep hole in the middle of a narrow street.

    The second type of putting something to a new use is Christmas tree recycling. Romanians have a way of recycling Christmas trees that I’ve never seen in the United States, but I’ve seen fairly often here. When a manhole cover is missing, the city doesn’t do anything about it sometimes for weeks, but local residents will put a tree or a large branch in the hole to warn motorists. Right now there is an abundance of discarded Christmas trees laying around, so there is no need to break a large branch off of a tree.

    Grace and Peace

    January 10, 2008 Posted by | Environment, Romania | 2 Comments

    Getting the gospel right

    I say it over and over in many different contexts:

    The gospel is all about what God has done for us in Christ, not about what we do for him.

    Michael Spencer (the Internet Monk) has a great post: Losing the Treasure of a Christ-Centered Assurance of Salvation. He writes in response to a Christianity Today article addressing the question “How do you know you are a Christian if you can’t remember when you made your ‘decision?'”

    The problem is that we as Evangelicals often have two ways in which we answer the question “How can I know that I am saved?”

    • Often we point back to when we “made a decision for Christ,” when we “asked Jesus into our heart,” or when we were “born again.”
    • The answer given in the Christianity Today article is “The true test of the authentic work of God in one’s life is growth in Christ-like character, increased love for God and other people, and the fruit of the Spirit”

    The problem with the first option is that we can start to wonder, “Did I really make a decision for Christ?” One can get on a roller coaster: decision for Christ — ecstasy — stumbling into sin — despair followed by a new decision for Christ — ecstasy — stumbling into sin — despair followed by yet another cycle of new decision for Christ — ecstasy — stumbling into sin — despair. If the assurance of salvation is in the sincerity of our “decision for Christ” then we might all be in trouble. I’ve been there, and I know a woman who adds a baptism to the mix each time she gets “saved.”

    The problem with the second option is, as the Internet Monk puts it:

    The “best evidence” is “growth” in “love” and “fruit.” Being more “like Jesus.” Good grief. Can anyone spell “despair?”

    If we know we are a Christian because we are becoming a better person, then what happens when we don’t see ourselves as a better person. Or when we sin? Or when we don’t measure up to some high standard? No matter how much we “grow” we have a lot more growing to do than however much we have grown so far.

    There is a better, more Biblical answer. It is the answer that was articulated by Luther and Calvin in the Reformation. I don’t have assurance of salvation because I remember when I asked Jesus into my heart. I don’t have assurance of salvation because I am becoming a better person (at my best I am still a sinner). No, I am assured of my salvation because of the “Great Exchange.” I give Jesus my sin. He gives me his righteousness. Period. I have nothing else to give him but my sin. My salvation is 100% God’s work; we call this grace.

    For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9 ESV)

    I praise God for this Gospel (Good News) every day.

    Grace and Peace

    P.S. This by no means is an excuse for sin or a denial that we can and should be growing and maturing as Christians.

    P.P.S. The Internet Monk links to an excellent article on justification by Rod Rosenbladt: Reclaiming the Doctrine of Justification

    January 2, 2008 Posted by | Christianity | 2 Comments

    “I looked at the Christian community and saw ugliness”

    A story from Pollution and the Death of Man, by Francis Schaeffer:

    Some years ago I was lecturing in a certain Christian school. Just across a ravine from the school there was what they called a “hippie community.” On the far side of the ravine one saw trees and some farms. Here, I was told, they had pagan grape stomps. Being interested, I made my way across the ravine and met one of the leading men in this “Bohemian” community.

    We got on very well as we talked of ecology, and I was able to speak of the Christian answer to life and ecology. He paid me the compliment (and I accepted it as such) of telling me that I was the first person from “across the ravine” who had ever been shown the place where they did, indeed, have grape stomps and to see the pagan image they had there. This image was the center of these rites. The whole thing was set against the classical background of Greece and Rome.

    Having shown me all this, he looked across to the Christian school and said to me, “Look at that; isn’t that ugly?” And it was! I could not deny it. It was an ugly building, without even trees around it.

    It was then that I realized what a poor situation this was. When I stood on Christian ground and looked at the Bohemian people’s place, it was beautiful. They had even gone to the trouble of running their electric cables under the level of the trees so that they couldn’t be seen. Then I stood on pagan ground and looked at the Christian community and saw ugliness. Here you have a Christianity that is failing to take into account man’s responsibility and proper relationship to nature.

    (quote from chapter 3 — Other Inadequate Answers)

    What do “pagans” see when they look at us? Do they see people who place value on the creation and its creatures because God places value on them? Do they see people who use the Earth’s resources wisely because God has called them to be good stewards? Do they see people who create or people who destroy? Do they see people who live in contentment or people who are caught up in the destructive consumerism of our society?

    Another way to ask the question: Do they see beauty or do they see ugliness?

    Schaeffer stated that Christianity has failed to take into account two things in regards to ecology: What is our responsibility toward the creation? and What is our proper relationship to the creation?

    How should we then live?

    Grace and Peace

    January 1, 2008 Posted by | Environment, Quotes | 2 Comments

    The price of oil

    Geology.com has a link to a prediction (The coming oil crash) that the price of crude oil will plunge down to $30 a barrel. The current high prices have sparked a good amount of exploration, which should lead to a greater supply, which should lead to lower prices.

    Others point to instability in the oil-producing regions of the world—the Middle East, Nigeria, Venezuela—as a reason to expect higher prices for crude oil.

    I don’t know, but I guess we’ll find out sooner or later.

    Grace and Peace

    January 1, 2008 Posted by | Geology | Leave a comment

    Time Magazine — Top 10 scientific discoveries for 2007

    Time magazine’s top ten science stories for 2007 include:

    #1 — Stem cell breakthrough. It looks like we can now do everything from a person’s own skin cells; there is no medical need for research with embryonic stem cells. As pro-life advocates have been saying all along, therapies developed from a person’s own cells are far more promising than therapies developed from an embryo, because there is no longer the risk of an immune response to foreign tissue.

    But of course, the pro-abortion people still say “embryonic stem cell research must continue.” But why?

    #4 — Hundreds of new species. Biodiversity is a good thing: “And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” (Genesis 1:20 ESV)

    Check out the complete list at time.com.

    Here’s one personal thought on their list: Some of their items were picked for their level of human interest rather than on whether or not any great “scientific discovery” was made. Take for example, #10: “Real life kryptonite.”

    Grace and Peace

    January 1, 2008 Posted by | Environment, Ethics, General | 1 Comment