Reformation Day — Oct 31

Happy Reformation Day!

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the Castle Church doors in Wittenberg, Germany, unknowingly launching the Protestant Reformation and recovering precious truths about the Gospel. The 95 Theses were arguments against the medieval church’s practice of selling indulgences, documents which freed one or one’s family members from time in purgatory.

From Desiring God Blog:

Luther’s First Thesis and Last Words

by David Mathis

491 years ago today, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg.

He wanted to debate the sale of indulgences with his fellow university professors. So he wrote in Latin.

But a nameless visionary translated the theses into German, carried them to the printing press, and enabled their dispersion far and wide. Luther ended up with more than he bargained for, but he proved to be no coward in defending the discoveries he was making in Scripture.

First Thesis

The truth of Luther’s first thesis would reverberate throughout his lifetime, even finding expression in his last words.

His first thesis reads,

When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.

All of the Christian life is repentance. Turning from sin and trusting in the good news that Jesus saves sinners aren’t merely a one-time inaugural experience but the daily substance of Christianity. The gospel is for every day and every moment. Repentance is to be the Christian’s continual posture.

Last Words

Almost 30 years later, on February 16, 1546, Luther’s last words, written on a piece of scrap paper, echoed the theme of his first thesis:

We are beggars! This is true.

From first thesis to last words, Luther lived at the foot of the cross, where our rebellious condition meets with the beauty of God’s lavish grace in the gospel of his Son—a gospel deep enough to cover all the little and massive flaws of a beggar like Luther and beggars like us.

Grace and Peace

Canada election map

Elections Canada has a nice map showing the results of the October 14th national election for the House of Commons:

This is more colorful than the red-blue map that we will see on election night here in the US (which I fear will have too much blue on it this year).

Here are the Canadian colors:

  • Dark blue: the winning Conservative Party of Prime Minister Stephen Harper
  • Red: Liberal Party (not much red on the main part of the map, but note the insets of Montreal and Toronto)
  • Light blue: Bloc Quebecois
  • Orange: New Democratic Party.

Nice map.

Grace and Peace


My grandmother, on my mother’s side, lived to be 100. My wife’s grandmother, on her father’s side, turned 100 yesterday. I guess it looks good for women in my family.

Yahoo had a story yesterday: 4 Surprising signs you’ll live a long time. Here they are:

  1. Don’t drink pop. All that sugar either makes you fat or raises your triglyceride levels.
  2. Keep your legs strong. Walk. Exercise.
  3. Be born before your mother turns 25. I guess there’s not much I can do about that.
  4. Eat and drink purple things. Grapes, blueberries, red wine. I guess purple Jolly Ranchers don’t count.

Grace and Peace

Dinosaur footprints part 3

I wrote about dinosaur footprints a few weeks ago here and here. I had recently attended a young-Earth creation seminar where the speaker used very questionable examples of “human” footprints in Permian and Cretaceous rocks as evidence that humans and dinosaurs coexisted.

Many of these “human” footprints turn out to be forgeries. A scientist can easily tell a genuine footprint from a fake one. One way I mentioned before is to examine the thin layers (laminations) in the sediment beneath the footprint. If the footprint is genuine, the weight of the animal will have depressed the layers beneath the impression:

Freshly deposited sediments contain a lot of pore space, and are easily compressed.

On the other hand, if the footprint is a forgery, the carving will cut across the layering, with no compression of the layers beneath:

This is illustrated by the following photos from the Jurassic Morrison Formation, near Red Rocks Park west of Denver:

These are believed to be sauropod (picture “brontosaurus”) footprints, seen from the side (top photo) and from below (bottom photo). The size and distribution of the bulges suggest this interpretation, and the layering is depressed beneath each of these features, as discussed above.

Using this kind of evidence, geologists (including Christian geologists, even those associated with the Institute for Creation Research) have rightfully rejected every instance that has been suggested for human footprints in very old rocks.

The very presence of these footprints speaks against the whole flood-geology model advocated by young-Earth creationists. The following footprints are also exposed west of Denver:

This one exposure, in the Cretaceous Dakota Formation, has hundreds of footprints. Other Mesozoic locations have thousands of footprints, such as the “Dinosaur Dance Floor” recently described from the Jurassic of the Utah-Arizona border.

Based on multiple criteria, geologists seek to determine the type of environment these features formed in. The Dakota Formation footprints shown above are interpreted to have formed in a coastal environment, based on the types and distribution of sediments, sedimentary structures (such as ripple marks), fossils, and trace fossils (such as worm burrows). The Morrison Formation sauropod footprints, on the other hand, were deposited in a stream channel. Again, the type and distribution of sediments, sedimentary structures, and fossils help geologists to make this type of interpretation.

Young-Earth creationists insist that all of these sediments formed in Noah’s flood. (Now the Bible doesn’t say that the sedimentary rocks were deposited in Noah’s flood, but that is a bit off topic for now). Let’s examine what it would take for these rock layers I have been discussing in Colorado to be a product of the flood. Here’s what would have had to have happened:

  1. The flood covers all the Earth, eroding the continents down to their roots. Most erosion, according to this model, would have had to have happened early in the flood.
  2. At this point, the world-wide ocean was a slurry of water, sediments, and fossils.
  3. Deposition of thousands of feet of sediments, representing Proterozoic through Triassic rocks.
  4. Deposition of some Jurassic sediments. Then some dinosaurs go walking around. Then some more deposition. Then some more dinosaurs–a bunch this time–go wandering around. Then some more deposition of sediments. Then more dinosaurs trotting along the beach. Then more sediments. Wait, how did these dinosaurs all survive the previous part of the Flood?
  5. Deposition of thousands of feet of sediments on top of all of this.
  6. Lithification of the sediments (changing from soft sediments to solid sedimentary rocks).
  7. Uplift of the Rocky Mountains, tilting up these layers to a steep angle (they aren’t horizontal anymore).
  8. Erosion to expose the rocks.

Multiply this by hundreds of sites worldwide. Add other considerations, such as the presence of complete dinosaur nests in the Cretaceous of Montana and other places. Did dinosaurs have time to make nests, lay eggs, and for those eggs to hatch, right in the middle of the flood?

In the young-Earth flood model, dinosaur footprints shouldn’t even exist in mid-flood sediments. But they do, in large numbers in some places.

The reason that I take the time to write about this is the gospel. For us to present young-Earth creationism as apologetics, and as a necessary part of Christian faith, actually works against the spread of the Kingdom among many groups, such as scientists. This is placing, as I have written before, an unnecessary and tragic stumbling block, keeping people from being open to Christianity. Let the foolishness of the message of the Cross be the stumbling block, not our bad arguments in defense of the Bible.

Grace and Peace

Photos by Kevin Nelstead

The Environmental Case for John McCain

The attacks against John McCain by some environmental groups (such as the Sierra Club) are unfair. McCain has a well-integrated energy and environmental policy, that reflects his years of environmental leadership, not only in the Republican Party, but in the senate as a whole.

From Republicans for Environmental Protection:

The Environmental Case for John McCain

by REP Government Affairs Director David Jenkins

Speech to Society of Environmental Journalists conference, Roanoke, Virginia; October 18, 2008

Thank you, it is a pleasure to be here.

For those of you who don’t know, Republicans for Environmental Protection, or REP for short, is an organization dedicated to improving the Republican Party’s stance on environmental issues, helping elect truly green Republicans, and advancing our belief that real conservatism requires a strong stewardship ethic.

REP first endorsed Senator McCain in his 2000 primary race against George Bush—and in case anyone is wondering— no, we have never endorsed President Bush.

In fact, it was during that 2000 race that Senator McCain first met with REP and raised the issue of climate change.

And since climate change is currently the biggest and most pressing environmental challenge we face, it is a good place to start when talking about Senator McCain and the environment.

His record of leadership on climate change is unequaled. No member of Congress, Democrat or Republican, has done more to move our nation forward towards an effective response to climate change than John McCain.

Senator McCain has done more than talk about climate change, or roll out an election season plan. He was the first senator to introduce comprehensive climate legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions.

He has been introducing his climate bill since 2003, he held numerous hearings on the legislation, and in the face of opposition by his own party leaders, used political capital to secure floor votes on the bill.

His leadership didn’t stop there. To build support for climate legislation, Senator McCain undertook an intensive effort to educate his colleagues in Congress about climate change and the need to address it.

He took skeptical senators and representatives to the ends of the earth, including Antarctica, Alaska, Greenland, and New Zealand, to show them, firsthand, the impacts of climate change, expose them to climate research, and convince them that it is time to act.

By contrast, Senator Obama’s record on climate change is pretty thin. We really do not know how much political capital he is willing to spend on the issue—or how this issue stacks up related to his other priorities. He has a plan, but that only matters if it is something that can realistically become law.

I firmly believe that a McCain presidency, because of his proven commitment to this issue, his record of bipartisanship, and the fact that he can secure Republican votes, offers the best opportunity to see meaningful climate legislation become law.

During the primary season, a top priority of the environmental community was for candidates to raise the climate issue on the campaign trail. Senator McCain did just that. He was constantly raising the issue in the Republican debates—even when the question was about energy or the economy, he addressed the issue in speeches, he sent out flyers exclusively about climate change, and he made this issue a key part of his campaign.

As you might imagine, this was a first for a GOP presidential primary—and on top of that, he actually won.

Because of Senator McCain’s record of climate leadership, the fact that he elevated the issue in the primaries, and because he was clearly the greenest candidate in the GOP field, I had hoped that the environmental community would have celebrated, at least briefly, his winning the nomination.

Well, that didn’t happen. Instead our friends over at Sierra Club begin launching harsh attacks on Senator McCain as soon as it seemed likely that he would be the GOP nominee.

In February, when the League of Conservation Voters released its 2007 scorecard, Senator McCain was given a zero rating because he missed all of the scored votes. Sierra Club President Carl Pope issued a statement at the time saying that McCain’s zero rating “exposed a lifetime pattern of voting with polluters and special interests.”

Call me crazy, but I thought it just exposed the fact that he was busy campaigning for president and missed the votes.

Now, interestingly enough, just yesterday, LCV issued its 2008 scorecard. Senator Obama received a score of 18 because he missed 9 of the 11 scored votes while he was out campaigning.

I look forward to seeing Mr. Pope’s characterization of that score.

I mention this because I think such harsh partisanship from the environmental community serves to further polarize environmental issues along political lines at a time when bipartisan support is needed, just as it was when we passed the landmark environmental laws of the 1970s, if we are to enact climate legislation that can be sustained long-term, regardless of which way the political winds are blowing.

Senator McCain also has a long record of leadership on public lands issues.

Most of you probably know that Senator McCain’s hero and role model is Theodore Roosevelt. This is especially true when it comes to environmental stewardship. His close friend, the late Congressman Mo Udall, also shaped Senator McCain’s stewardship ethic.

Senator McCain and Congressman Udall worked together to protect 3.4 million acres of Arizona wilderness. Senator McCain has been a champion of the Grand Canyon, fighting successfully for legislation to protect the canyon from noisy aircraft overflights. He currently has the Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River bill in an omnibus public lands package that the Senate plans to vote on in November.

Thus far, Senator Obama has not taken an active leadership role in wilderness, parks, or other public lands issues.

Climate change and public lands issues are areas where there is a clear difference between the candidates in experience, focus, and leadership, but there are also some real differences in policy direction that have gotten very little play in the media.

One of these has to do with the candidates’ approach to water projects.

In 2006 and 2007, Senator McCain, along with Russ Feingold, sponsored a bill and two legislative amendments to require independent prioritization and review of Army Corps of Engineers water projects. Lacking such prioritization and oversight, Corps projects are often wasteful, pork barrel boondoggles that destroy rivers and wetlands and siphon valuable dollars away from more worthy projects.

Senator Obama opposed the McCain–Feingold Corps reform amendments.

Senator McCain supports farm policy reform to address costly, outdated, and environmentally harmful subsidy programs. Senator Obama has supported the status quo.

Senator McCain opposes an effort to add wind damage coverage to the already financially troubled National Flood Insurance Program. Adding wind coverage to NFIP would put the program deeper in the red and encourage development in ecologically fragile, hurricane-prone coastal areas by having taxpayers across the country underwrite the risk of such development.

Senator Obama favors adding wind damage coverage to NFIP.

Senator McCain has promised to end the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining, which—as has been highlighted at this conference—is destroying the Appalachian landscape and has resulted in thousands of miles of streams being buried by the overburden.

Senator Obama has been considerably less committal about this issue.

Since energy has been such a high profile focus of the campaigns, I’m sure most of you are aware of the major distinctions between the two candidates’ energy policies. So, in the interest of time I’m just going to make a few points.

While much of the talk has centered around offshore drilling and nuclear energy, it is important to point out that Senator McCain has a very balanced energy plan that is fully integrated with his climate change policy.

He is committed to quickly shifting our transportation sector away from oil by dramatically improving fuel efficiency and relying more on alternative fuels. He believes that electric hybrids and flex-fuel capability are keys to this. He supports accelerating the development and use of cellulosic ethanol.

His support for nuclear energy is rooted is his commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He is not convinced that we can meet our energy needs in a climate-friendly way unless we expand our use of nuclear energy.

Senator McCain opposes oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as does Senator Obama.

The Obama campaign continually attacks Senator McCain by claiming he opposes tax credits for wind and solar. While he has voted against specific bills for various reasons, he wants to rationalize the current patchwork of temporary tax credits and provide an even-handed system of credits that will remain in place until a cap on carbon emissions can transform the market.

Anyone who tries to compare Senator McCain’s stewardship ethic and his energy and environmental policies to President Bush is simply not being honest. The differences are dramatic, whether the issue is climate change, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, CAFE standards, Tongass logging subsidies, heck, even the role of science in informing public policy—and those differences have positively impacted the tone and substance of the GOP platform.

In 1908, Republican President Theodore Roosevelt was busy implementing his great conservation vision for America—and protecting our nation’s natural heritage more than any other president before or since.

Now, exactly 100 years later, we have an opportunity to elect another Republican, cut from a similar mold, who believes that conservation is conservative, who cherishes our public lands, and who is passionate about the stewardship obligation we owe future generations.

Thank you.

Ice-free Arctic

I was watching CNN today (not something I normally do; I was standing in a line at the post office) and the story was about record melting of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. The prediction was that the Arctic could be ice-free in the summer within five years.

And I was reading News today (which is something I normally do). There was a link to the Geological Survey of Norway, with an article by Gudmund Løvø entitled Less ice in the Arctic Ocean 6000-7000 years ago.

Recent mapping of a number of raised beach ridges on the north coast of Greenland suggests that the ice cover in the Arctic Ocean was greatly reduced some 6000-7000 years ago. The Arctic Ocean may have been periodically ice free.

The scientists studied ancient beaches along the northern coast of Greenland. Two distinct types of beaches were studied. Beaches formed when pack-ice is present tend to have an irregular character, formed when ridges of ice are pressed against the sandy shoreline. Beaches formed where there is open water, on the other hand, tend to be long and linear, formed as linear waves break along a long stretch of the shore. Shorelines from 6000-7000 years ago are of the linear type, suggesting that there was open water for a considerable distance northward from Greenland, perhaps even to the North Pole.

I’m not a global warming denier, which bothers some of my friends. I do believe that human activities are affecting Earth’s climate. This does point out, however, the importance of geological studies of Quaternary (ice age to present) climate systems. Whatever is happening today, even if caused by humans, can only be fully understood in its geological context.

Grace and Peace