Which will be more valuable for the child?
Which will be more valuable for the world?
In the years after World War II, Americans packed up their young families and Army surplus camping gear and headed into the national forests to hunt, fish, and hike. Going to the woods was part of what it meant to be an American. Today, however, visits to the national forests are off 13 percent.
James Johnston, a policy analyst with Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics in Eugene, spent the last year camping out in 67 national forests and talking to 400 people. He concluded that while fewer people may be using the woods, fewer trails and campgrounds are open and there are more people riding noisy off-road vehicles. “They think that it’s harder to find solitude,” he said of the people he talked to.
Coupled with the decline in visits to national parks, the trend makes nature lovers nervous at a time when the growing global population and climate change pose huge threats to wild places. “We only value what we know and what we love,” said Richard Louv, author of “The Last Child in the Woods.”
Although their surveys don’t address the question, they attribute the decline primarily to the older and more urbanized population, and increasing popularity of electronic entertainment and to rising gas prices.
To a large extent, I credit my parents for my love of nature. They weren’t the outdoorsy types–we didn’t go fishing, hunting, or backpacking–but they had me in cub scouts and boy scouts, they sent me to church camp in the mountains (Christikon, in the heart of the Beartooth-Absaroka Wilderness), we went on occasional camping trips with family friends, and we took drives through Yellowstone National Park, even if we never got very far off the road. None of these took a whole lot of effort on their part, but these things gave me a lasting appreciation of the value of nature.
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Half-Life Counterstrike cover from Wikipedia: Personal computer game
Subalpine fir picture from Wikipedia: Abies lasiocarpa
We spent the Thanksgiving weekend in Montana with my mother; it was the first time that I had been “home” for Thanksgiving in over twenty years. On Saturday, we found a new place to hike right on the edge of Billings: Four Dances Natural Area, administered by the BLM. It preserves 765 acres (310 ha) with sagebrush grasslands, Ponderosa pine gullies, and Yellowstone River cottonwood floodplains. The area provides habitat for peregrine falcons, which nest along the 200-500 foot (60-150 m) tall sandstone cliffs which overlook the Yellowstone River.
Four Dances is located near an industrial area, with views (and odors) of an oil refinery, coal-fired power plant, and stockyards. Despite this, it is a very nice addition to the hiking and natural areas in the Billings area.
I didn’t have a camera with me, so these are BLM photos from sangres.com
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Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day: Radar Indicates Buried Glaciers on Mars.
Explanation: What created this unusual terrain on Mars? The floors of several mid-latitude craters in Hellas Basin on Mars appear unusually grooved, flat, and shallow. New radar images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter bolster an exciting hypothesis: huge glaciers of buried ice. Evidence indicates that such glaciers cover an area larger than a city and extend as much as a kilometer deep. The ice would have been kept from evaporating into the thin Martian air by a covering of dirt. If true, this would indicate the largest volume of water ice outside of the Martian poles, much larger than the frozen puddles recently discovered by the Phoenix lander. Such lake-sized ice blocks located so close to the Martian equator might make a good drinking reservoir for future astronauts exploring Mars.
The image above shows three large craters which radar data indicates are filled with water ice (as opposed to dry ice, which is frozen CO2), with a cover of soil which prevents the ice from subliming into the thin Martian atmosphere. The field of view is about 20 km across, and 50 km deep. The craters are found in the Hellas basin, which is the deepest impact crater on Mars.
In the higher resolution jpg file available at APOD, flow lines are clearly evident, which indicate that the ice has been in motion at least at some point in the past. There are also a few small impact craters on the surface of the glaciers (or are they some sort of subsidence pits formed as ice sublimes beneath the soil?).
The image below shows what this area would look like without the soil cover.
The second image is from from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, not from APOD.
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Last year I ran a series of posts with quotes from For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care by Steven Bouma-Prediger. This book develops a Biblical view of creation care that is neither Earth-centered nor man-centered, but God-centered. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I periodically recycle previous posts. For this book, however, I won’t re-run all eleven posts, but will just give you some highlights:
Chapter 1 — Where Are We? An Ecological Perception of Place
Despite our education we remain ecologically illiterate. Or perhaps more accurately, because of our education we remain ignorant of how the world works.
Ecological literacy is “built on a view of ourselves as finite and fallible creatures living in a world limited by natural laws.” (Quote from David Orr, Ecological Literacy)
Chapter 2 — What’s Wrong With the World? The Groaning of Creation
The author refers to Calvin DeWitt (professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin and a co-founder of the Evangelical Environmental Network), who lists “seven major degradations brought on by our assault on creation”:
- land conversion and habitat destruction, e.g., deforestation
- species extinction
- degradation of the land, e.g, loss of topsoil to wind and water erosion
- resource conversion and production of wastes and hazards
- global toxification, e.g., oil spills
- the greenhouse effect and ozone depletion
- human and cultural degradation, e.g., the displacement of agriculture by agribusiness
The author, Steven Bouma-Prediger, goes through these degradations (and others), and I’m not going to restate those here. It is clear that much of human impact on the Earth is not just bad for woodpeckers, wildflowers, and walruses; it is bad for us as well.
Does our soaring consumption really make us happy?
Chapter 3 — Is Christianity to Blame? The Ecological Complaint Against Christianity
Christian organizations, to this day, remain largely indifferent to the rape and plunder of the world and its traditional cultures. It is hardly too much to say that most Christian organizations are as happily indifferent to the ecological, cultural, and religious implications of industrial economies as are most industrial organizations. –Wendell Berry
Bouma-Prediger then analyzes four common complaints against Christianity given by many anti-Christian environmentalists:
Complaint #1 — The first is that monotheism in general, and Christianity in particular, is the primary if not sole cause of the despoilation of the earth.
How do we as Christians answer this complaint? Bouma-Prediger gives a few ideas:
- Understand that humans are in some way unique; we are made in the image of God.
- Also understand that we are not only unique, but are also part of the creation. We are made of the same stuff that the rest of creation is made of, and are embedded in the creation. The name “Adam” is very similar to the Hebrew word for “earth” — ‘adama.
- Distinguish between dominion and domination. One who has dominion, like the ideal king of Psalm 72, is one who “rules and exercises dominion properly.”
For Jesus, to rule is to serve. To exercise dominion is to suffer, if necessary, for the good of the other. There is no question of domination, exploitation, misuse. Humans, therefore, are called to rule, but only if ruling is understood rightly.
Such a reading of Genesis 1:28 is contradicted by virtually all the rest of the Bible, as many people by now have pointed out. The ecological teaching of the Bible is simply inescapable: God made the world because He wanted it made. He thinks the world is good; He has never relinquished title to it. And He has never revoked the conditions, bearing on His gift to us of the use of it, that oblige us to take excellent care of it. If God loves the world, then how might any person of faith be excused for not loving it or justified in destroying it? — Wendell Barry
Complaint #2 — Christian theology emphasizes the spiritual over the material, resulting in the material being abused or neglected.
The initial premise is unacceptable– the claim that the Bible promotes a dualism between soul and body, spirit and mater–this argument is not sound.
Some additional thoughts of my own:
- The original creation was proclaimed to be “very good” even apart from anything “spiritual” in its description. (Genesis 1:31).
- Christ became fully human as well as being fully God. The incarnation is a sign that the material is good and of eternal value.
Complaint #3 — The third reason that many environmentalists blame Christianity for the ecological crisis is eschatological: If this world is going to burn, why take care of it? If Jesus is coming back soon, why be concerned about what the world will be like 100, 1000, or 10000 years from now?
Bouma-Prediger acknowledges that the complaint is at least partially valid because there are a number of Christians whose behavior and statements reflect this kind of attitude.
I’ll add a thought of my own. I believe in the literal return of Christ, and that it could happen at any time. This does not negate my responsibility to take care of the Earth any more than it negates my responsibility in any other area. I take care of my body, even though I believe that some day I am going to get a new one; a body without aches and pains, sore hips and graying hairs. It would be foolish for me to abuse my body, even though my resurrection body will be even better. The same goes for the Earth. It is foolish for us to consume resources at unsustainable rates, pollute the air and water, and force thousands of species into extinction when we could live otherwise.
Complaint #4 — The fourth complaint against Christianity given by environmentalists is that because the Christian worldview is largely responsible for the rise of science and technology, Christianity is to blame for the ecological crisis that is upon us. This idea was promoted by a widely reprinted essay by historian Lynn White entitled “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis.”
White’s thesis is accepted without question by most environmentalists, but Bouma-Prediger points out the weaknesses of the argument:
- While Christianity had a role in the rise of science and technology, it was not the sole factor
- “Ecological crises are not peculiar to Christian-influenced cultures. Non-Christian cultures have also caused severe or irreparable harm to their ecosystems.” — quoted from James Nash.
- In general, environmentalists accept White’s critique of Christianity but ignore the section where White points out that there has always been a stream of thought in Christianity that affirms the value of the Earth. White proposes St. Francis of Assisi as the patron saint for ecologists.
Chapter 4 — Is there a connection between scripture and ecology? — Biblical wisdom and ecological vision
Some lessons from Genesis 1-2:
God is the creator of all things.
Humans are given the delegated, royal responsibility of ruling the earth.
The chaotic, to be sure, exists, but the universe is a place of order and structure, purposefully and lovingly designed by God.
Creation is good. The universe originates not out of struggle or battle or conflict, as portrayed in so many ancient creation stories, but through a seemingly effortless and struggle-free divine speaking and making.
The earth is a home for all earthly creatures. The earth is created as a habitat not only for humans but for all living things.
The sabbath reminds us, among other things, that the world is in God’s loving hands and, therefore, will not fall to pieces if we cease from our work.
Chapter 5 — How should we think of the earth? A theology and ethic of care for the earth
Neither cosmocentrism, with its “ethic of adoration,” nor anthropocentrism, with its “ethic of exploitation,” is adequate since both tacitly assume a dualism between nature and history, differing only in which has priority. Only a theocentric perspective, which refuses to accept such a dualism, is able to cultivate a proper “ethic of responsibility.” For these and other reasons Richard Young concludes that “the Christian Scriptures, when interpreted through a theocentric perspective, offer the most satisfying and realistic solution of the environmental problem.”
Jesus Christ is Creator, Integrator, and Reconciler; yet many who call on his name abuse, neglect, and do not give a care about creation. That irony is there for all to see. Honoring the Creator in word, they destroy God’s works in deed. Praising God from whom all blessings flow, they diminish and destroy God’s creatures here below. The pieces of this puzzle do not fit! One piece says, “We honor the Great Master!” The other piece says, “We despise his great masterpiece!” — Calvin DeWitt
Chapter 6 — What kind of people ought we be?
In this chapter, the author develops seven ecological virtues:
1. Act so as to preserve diverse kinds of life.
Creatures exist to praise God and are valuable irrespective of human utility. From this theological theme comes the ethical principle of intrinsic value.
We are obligated to preserve nonhuman species except when other moral considerations outweigh or overrule this duty. And since such species cannot exist without their homes, we are also obligated to preserve habitats.
2. Act so as to live within your means.
We have a prima facie duty to preserve nonrenewable resources and conserve scarce though renewable resources.
The author doesn’t advocate austerity, but rather discipline and self-restraint, as individuals and as a society.
3. Act cautiously.
We are to act cautiously in our relationship with the creation both because we are finite and because we are faulted. Because we are finite, we don’t understand all of the implications of our activities. Because we are faulted—fallen into sin—we are “alienated from God, other humans, ourselves, and the earth.”
4. Act in such a way that the ability of living creatures to maintain themselves and to reproduce is preserved.
It is God’s will that the whole of creation be fruitful, not just people. — Calvin DeWitt
We are permitted to use the fruit of the earth, but we are not allowed to destroy the earth’s ability to be fruitful.
Ecologically speaking, foolishness is the disposition to act as if the earth is endlessly exploitable and expendable.
5. Act in such a way that the creatures under your care are given their needful rest.
In the ten commandments, the command for sabbath rest doesn’t just apply to humans, but to their livestock as well.
6. Act so as to care for the earth’s creatures, especially those creatures in need.
Dominion does not mean domination but responsible care.
It is not enough merely to refrain from doing harm; in certain cases we are morally required to do good.
7. Act so as to treat others, human or nonhuman, fairly.
It is not that animals are equal to humans, but that we have certain responsibilities toward them because of our position over them.
Chapter 7 — Why worry about spotted owls and the Pacific yew?
- The intrinsic value argument: Nonhuman creatures have an intrinsic value, because God created them. I think this is a real strength of the Christian argument for creation-care, as opposed to secular or non-Christian arguments. The secular environmentalist can assign value to nature only in an arbitrary or self-centered way. To the Christian, nature and its creatures have value simply because God created them. They were valuable before we came on the scene, and are not valuable just because they are useful to us.
- The earth community argument: or the we’re-all-in-this-together argument. This is similar to the land ethic of Aldo Leopold, but Bouma-Prediger modifies it to a Christian form. We, as humans, are a part of a much bigger biosphere, and what we do to the biosphere turns around to have an effect on us. This is not an appeal to self-interest, but rather an acknowledgment that what is good for the environment is good for us.
- The divine command argument: or “because God says so.” Bouma-Prediger bases this on his interpretation that the earth-care mandate given in Genesis 2:15 (”The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” ESV) means that we are here to serve and protect the earth, not to do whatever our sinful desires would have us do.
- The image of God argument: or “because God’s concerns are our concerns.” God cares for the creatures of the earth, and as his viceregents—created in God’s image to rule in his place—we are to show the same care.
Grace and Peace, and take care of the Earth
Videos of a bolide (fireball) which appeared over Alberta and Saskatchewan last night.
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The world has enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed. — Mahatma Gandhi
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Scientists have identified features that could be glaciers at mid-latitudes on Mars. If this interpretation is correct, then these could contain a significant amount of water ice at a considerable distance from the poles.
LiveScience: Buried Glaciers Found on Mars
There is a cirque-like feature in the foreground (the bowl-shaped feature facing the camera at the end of the ridge), as well as flow lines leading out of the cirque. I don’t see any terminal moraines, which I would expect to see if these were long-lasting, debris-rich glaciers. Alternative interpretations would include some sort of slope process or periglacial (permafrost) process, but the authors of the study seem pretty confident of their interpretation.
Perhaps features we associate with glaciers on Earth, such as moraines, eskers, kames, drumlins, and cirques won’t be associated with glaciers on Mars. On Earth, glaciers form by precipitation at higher elevations or latitudes, and dissipate by melting in warmer regions. On Mars, the primary physical processes of formation and dissipation would be deposition and sublimation.
Time for a field trip?
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From LiveScience: Extinct Woolly Mammoth’s DNA Mapped
Scientists for the first time have unraveled much of the genetic code of an extinct animal, the ice age’s woolly mammoth, and with it they are thawing Jurassic Park dreams.
Their groundbreaking achievement has them contemplating a once unimaginable future when certain prehistoric species might one day be resurrected.
“It could be done. The question is, just because we might be able to do it one day, should we do it?” asked Stephan Schuster, the Penn State University biochemistry professor and co-author of the new research. “I would be surprised to see if it would take more than 10 or 20 years to do it.”
I’d love to see a living woolly mammoth. Are there ethical issues I’m missing?
Image from Wikipedia: Woolly Mammoth
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The first images of the Earth taken from the moon wasn’t the one taken by Apollo 8 astronauts in 1968; they were taken by unmanned lunar orbiters which were scouting out potential landing sites for the upcoming Apollo missions. This image was taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966, and has been recently reprocessed by NASA:
Source: NASA Earth Observatory
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February 12, 2009 will be the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin (as well as being the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln). The Royal Mint is producing a 2 pound circulating coin in commemoration of Darwin:
I expect to see lots of fireworks from all sides of the creation-evolution debate in February, some of it good, some of it goofy.
HT: World Coin News
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Irregardless of what we do to the planet now, the long-term climate prospect for sometime a few thousand to a few tens of thousands of years in the future is cold: Earth may face freeze worse than Ice Age. This is nothing new to geologists, recognizing that Earth is presently in a short interglacial period (the Holocene Epoch), squeezed in between longer glacial deep-freezes. What may be new to many is the idea that it appears that each freeze is getting a little deeper.
If catastrophic global warming is occuring, it will hopefully go away in a few thousand years, sometime after we burn the last chunk of coal and oil shale. Then it could get really cold. Our few centuries of fossil fuel short-sightedness will just be a blip in history.
Our response: Be frugal, and don’t worry about an Ice Age. It isn’t going to happen for a while.
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Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day is another image of planets orbiting another star, this time taken with infrared radiation:
These three planets are orbiting the star HR 8799.
NASA has an ambitious plan to search for Earth-sized, or even Earth-like planets. The hope is to be able to directly image Earth-sized planets (the above image shows Jupiter-sized worlds) and to be able to analyze the light reflected from these bodies. This should tell us if the atmospheres of these Earth-sized planets contain oxygen, water, and ozone, which would indicate the existence of photosynthesis.
“Such a discovery would at last provide convincing evidence that we are not alone.”
Only if one considers the bacterial slime to be enough to say “we are not alone.”
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Theologically, I know that I believe in God because, by his grace, he has drawn me to himself.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. (John 6:44).
I find apologetics (the rational defense of the faith), however, to be exceedingly useful, including the philosphical arguments for God’s existence. I usually think of the big 4 — the cosmological, ontological, teleological, and moral arguments for the existence of God (I’ll define those below).
According to William Lane Craig, In his book Reasonable Faith, there are three important reasons for the church to study and teach apologetics:
- Shaping culture — Because we live in a largely post-Christian society, many don’t even consider Christianity to be an intellectually valid option. For many, Christianity won’t even be given a hearing until we can show that one doesn’t have to check their brain at the door, and that there are valid arguments for the existence of God and the person and work of Christ.
- Strengthening believers — Our young people, and the rest of us too, are bombarded with reasons to not believe, whether it be the unfounded confidence of those who attack the Scriptures (The DaVinci Code, The Jesus Tomb, the Jesus Seminar, etc…) or the moral decay that can draw us away from faith. The faithful need to be reminded that their faith is not hollow.
- Evangelizing unbelievers — This cannot be done without #1 and #2. Not all, or even most, unbelievers need apologetics. They need the gospel. But there is an influential minority who do need reasons to believe, and these are the future C.S. Lewises of the world.
Here are 10 Arguments for God’s Existence from Parchment and Pen:
- The cosmological argument — I have discussed this one before here and here. This addresses the question “why is there something rather than nothing?”
- The teleological argument — This is the argument from design. Modern popular examples of this kind of argument include intelligent design (ID) and fine-tuning arguments.
- The moral argument — There are some things, such as murder or rape, that are universally seen as morally wrong. Because there is moral law, there must be a source for that morality; a moral Lawgiver. This is an important part of the argument in Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.
- The sense of the divine — There is a universal sense that there is something beyond us, which has led to the religions of the world.
- The argument from aesthetic experience — There is a universal sense of beauty, even if we can’t always agree on the details. The source of this sense of aesthetics is God.
- The argument from the existence of arguments — There is no such thing as a rational argument if there is no ultimate foundation for rationality.
- The argument from the existence of free-will arguments — If the universe is all there is, then our every decision is merely the result of the arrangement of matter in our brains, which is dependent on what happened in the past all the way back to the big bang.
- The argument from the existence of evil — If there is no such thing as absolute moral standards, then there really is no such thing as evil. We see evil around us, so there must absolute moral standards. Therefore, God exists.
- The argument from miracles — Historical evidence points to the resurrection of Christ, which requires supernatural intervention. Fulfilled prophesies also point to the supernatural.
- Pascal’s wager — In the absence of absolute proof one way or the other, it is better to bet that God exists and be wrong, than to bet that God doesn’t exist and be wrong.
The author does not list the ontological argument; perhaps he just doesn’t like it. But it works for some people, so it probably ought to be included in the list.
- I have given only extremely brief summaries of these arguments, so don’t reject any of them based on what I have written here.
- Some of these are stronger than others. Pascal’s wager, for example, isn’t exactly an argument for God, but an appeal to trust in God even if the other arguments don’t convince you 100%.
- I find the cosmological argument to be compelling, even all by itself.
- Some of these could point to any kind of supernatural existence, others point more specifically to a personal, theistic God. None of them are going to point specifically to the living triune God of the Bible or to the person and work of Christ. That doesn’t make them useless, however.
Remain strong in the faith.
Grace and Peace
This item was originally posted in November 2007. I have added it to my blog recycling program. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my favorite blog entries.
There is a growing awareness among Evangelicals of the importance of environmental issues. There are good Biblical arguments for the importance of taking care of the creation as part of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Increasingly, this is true among politically conservative Evangelicals; it is no longer just our more politically liberal brothers and sisters in Christ who see that being good stewards of the environment is part of the call to discipleship.
Marvin Olasky has an article on World Magazine’s web site called “Compassionate Environmentalism.” Here are some quotes:
While older evangelicals tend to emphasize the problems of gay marriage, many younger evangelicals concentrate more on poverty-fighting and environmental issues – and that’s fine. But what happens when evangelicals understand that helping the poor and aggressively fighting global warming are at loggerheads?
I first became aware of the divide between concern for the poor and radical environmentalism in Austin a decade ago. The city went all out to protect a species of cave spiders but scrimped on police protection in poorer sections – and one result was that a deaf woman died in a gang shooting near my home. Sure, in theory we can protect both cave spiders and humans, but in reality needs and wants compete for a limited pool of money.
“Creation care” is important. God calls us to be stewards and gardeners, caring for oxen in the ditch and relishing lilies. But the Bible also teaches that human beings, created in God’s image, are the most valuable resource on earth.
My hope and prayer is that those who see the importance of environmental issues will be able to rise above “left vs. right” to find solutions to environmental problems that are good for the Earth, good for the poor, and good for the economy.
However, some conservatives just don’t get it. Here is a comment added by a reader of Olasky’s post:
When I walk out my front-door, the only environmental problems I see are crab-grass. Pass the herbicide please.
The Bulldoze-the-Everglades-and-Kill-the-Whales side of conservatism is no more Biblical than the Worship-the-Earth-Goddess-and-Hug-a-Tree side of the environmentalist movement.
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The description from APOD:
Explanation: Fomalhaut (sounds like “foam-a-lot”) is a bright, young, star, a short 25 light-years from planet Earth in the direction of the constellation Piscis Austrinus. In this sharp composite from the Hubble Space Telescope, Fomalhaut’s surrounding ring of dusty debris is imaged in detail, with overwhelming glare from the star masked by an occulting disk in the camera’s coronagraph. Astronomers now identify, the tiny point of light in the small box at the right as a planet about 3 times the mass of Jupiter orbiting 10.7 billion miles from the star (almost 14 times the Sun-Jupiter distance). Designated Fomalhaut b, the massive planet probably shapes and maintains the ring’s relatively sharp inner edge, while the ring itself is likely a larger, younger analog of our own Kuiper Belt – the solar system’s outer reservoir of icy bodies. The Hubble data represent the first visible-light image of a planet circling another star.
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From the song “My One Thing” by Rich Mullins:
Everybody I know says they need just one thing
And what they really mean is that they need just one thing more
And everybody seems to think they’ve got it coming
Well I know that I don’t deserve You
Still I want to love and serve You more and more
You’re my one thing
Save me from those things that might distract me
Please take them away and purify my heart
I don’t want to lose the eternal for the things that are passing
‘Cause what will I have when the world is gone
If it isn’t for the love that goes on and on with
From the Sermon on the Mount:
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matt 5:8 ESV)
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I’ve been involved in a discussion over at Cranach about the battle for the soul of the conservative movement: Conservative civil war. I threw in a few quotes from noted conservatives to point out that there is nothing conservative about allowing pollution and degradation of the Earth.
“While I am a great believer in the free enterprise system and all that it entails, I am an even stronger believer in the right of our people to live in a clean, pollution-free environment.” — Barry Goldwater
“Nothing is more conservative than conservation.” — Russell Kirk
“Many laws protecting environmental quality have promoted liberty by securing property against the destructive trespass of pollution” — Ronald Reagan
“Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation.” — Theodore Roosevelt
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There are four basic categories of philosophical arguments for God’s existence. The one I find most compelling is the cosmological argument, which I have written about here and here. Gene Edward Veith (Cranach, another blog I read almost daily) points to a statement of the moral argument for God’s existence by William Lane Craig:
The moral argument. A number of ethicists, such as Robert Adams, William Alston, Mark Linville, Paul Copan, John Hare, Stephen Evans, and others have defended “divine command” theories of ethics, which support various moral arguments for God’s existence. One such argument:
1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.
By objective values and duties, one means values and duties that are valid and binding independent of human opinion. A good many atheists and theists alike concur with premise (1). For given a naturalistic worldview, human beings are just animals, and activity that we count as murder, torture, and rape is natural and morally neutral in the animal kingdom. Moreover, if there is no one to command or prohibit certain actions, how can we have moral obligations or prohibitions?
Premise (2) might seem more disputable, but it will probably come as a surprise to most laypeople to learn that (2) is widely accepted among philosophers. For any argument against objective morals will tend to be based on premises that are less evident than the reality of moral values themselves, as apprehended in our moral experience. Most philosophers therefore do recognize objective moral distinctions.
Nontheists will typically counter the moral argument with a dilemma: Is something good because God wills it, or does God will something because it is good? The first alternative makes good and evil arbitrary, whereas the second makes the good independent of God. Fortunately, the dilemma is a false one. Theists have traditionally taken a third alternative: God wills something because he is good. That is to say, what Plato called “the Good” is the moral nature of God himself. God is by nature loving, kind, impartial, and so on. He is the paradigm of goodness. Therefore, the good is not independent of God.
Moreover, God’s commandments are a necessary expression of his nature. His commands to us are therefore not arbitrary but are necessary reflections of his character. This gives us an adequate foundation for the affirmation of objective moral values and duties.
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A good review of Young and Stearley’s The Bible, Rocks, and Time by Dr. Peter Enns, professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, can be found here. I haven’t finished the book yet, but agree with Dr. Enns that “despite this blunt assessment of young-Earth creationism, the authors’ treatment of their opponents’ views are characterized by great patience and charity.”
Again, I highly recommend this book for anyone who struggles with the relationship between geology and the Bible.
My previous posts on this book:
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