The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Multiple evils

In Kansas, late-term abortionist George Tiller was murdered in church today.

From World Magazine (conservative, Christian):

Anti-abortion groups have denounced the killing. Operation Rescue President Troy Newman said in a statement, “We are shocked at this morning’s disturbing news that Mr. Tiller was gunned down. Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning.”

I am strongly pro-life. Abortion is evil, and I would be in favor of banning it in almost all cases.

I view acts of violence against abortionists as evil as well.

It is also evil that Tiller’s denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), tolerates, or in some cases even advocates, the right to abortion. I grew up in the ELCA, and it grieves me to see it seriously compromising on a number of moral and theological issues.

If we Christians really wanted to end abortion in this country, it would be accomplished in two years, after the next major election. It would be over, and it would have been done completely peacefully. But it seems we really don’t want it that badly. This is evil as well.

God have mercy on us, for we have all sinned.


P.S. From Stand to Reason Blog: Killing Abortionists is Wrong. Period. This is a brief statement of why violence against the abortion industry is wrong even given the depth of evil they are involved in.

Also: Cruchy Con:

I condemn this murder, full stop. I think Tiller was an evil man. I really do. He was one of the few doctors who performed late-term abortions. He was an infanticide doctor, as far as I’m concerned. Nevertheless, his murder was wrong, wrong, wrong, in an of itself. And as a practical matter, it will do more harm to the cause of protecting unborn life than it will help. We already see that despite the plain fact that the overwhelming majority of pro-life activists are peaceful, and peace-loving, people, many on the other side demonize all pro-lifers as potential abortion-clinic murderers. Whoever committed this murder is not only guilty of a heinous crime and a moral outrage, but prudentially, he or she has also done tremendous harm to the noble cause of protecting unborn life.

That said, I would hate to be George Tiller facing judgment with those grave sins to explain.

And from Al Mohler — A Wicked Deed in Wichita — A Test for the Pro-Life Movement:

Proponents of abortion rights often charge that the rhetoric of the pro-life movement leads to violence.  After all, we describe abortion as murder and point to the business of abortion as the murder of the unborn.  We make clear that abortion is the taking of innocent human life and that what goes on in abortion clinics is the business of death.

We make these arguments because we know they are true.  Abortion is murder.  What goes on in those clinics is institutionalized homicide, often for financial profit.  Abortion is a moral scandal and a national tragedy and a blight upon the American conscience.

But violence in the name of protesting abortion is immoral, unjustified, and horribly harmful to the pro-life cause.  Now, the premeditated murder of Dr. George Tiller in the foyer of his church is the headline scandal — not the abortions he performed and the cause he represented.

We have no right to take the law into our own hands in an act of criminal violence.  We are not given the right to take this power into our own hands, for God has granted this power to governing authorities.  The horror of abortion cannot be rightly confronted, much less corrected, by means of violence and acts outside the law and lawful means of remedy.  This is not merely a legal technicality — it is a vital test of the morality of the pro-life movement.

From Gene Edward Veith (Cranach):

So we have not only murder but sacrilege, the violation of a church at worship. A suspect has been captured. All we need is to be identified with terrorists. No, we will have to explain, we don’t believe in homicide. (We are against homicide, which is why we are against abortion. After the pro-life movement has made some significant progress, get ready for a pro-abortion backlash.

And Uwe Siemon-Netto — Killing the Killer was a Blow to Pro-Lifers (at Cyberbrethren):

The murder of abortionist Dr. George Tiller was a blow to American society in general, and to the pro-life movement in particular, for the following reasons:
  1. This crime turned one of the worst perpetrators of mass infanticide into a presumed martyr for abortion “rights” just at a time when its supporters were slipping dramatically in public esteem. While Tiller’s killer has done away with a physician who by his own admission took the lives of 100 babies every week, this crime might result in an increase of abortions in months to come. Simple minds will now see abortionists as victims, und not the innocent human babies they slaughter, innocents like the 60,000 Tiller has slaughtered just before their births. This must be a depressing thought for all those faithful Christians who peacefully pray and fast outside the Planned Parenthood slaughterhouses. In the long run, they stood a good chance of being victorious in the war against the culture of death. Let it be known that Tiller’s killer has become a soldier on the side of death in this conflict.
  2. The United States is still a democracy. In a free society, the voters are their nation’s sovereigns. They are empowered to fight evil, such as abortion, in the polling booths. This is their divine calling. On the other hand, nobody has a calling to kill except at the orders of duly instituted authorities. It is government alone that in a civilized society may instruct soldiers or policemen to use their firearms.
  3. The United States is a nation of law. The law is a gift from God to protect us against anarchy and subsequent chaos, a state that prevailed before God created the universe. Tiller’s killer has committed an act of anarchy and therefore not only violated the Fifth Commandment but also rebelled against the divine order of creation. Those who secretly cheer his dastardly act must be made aware that they are participating in a despicable revolt against the creator.

May 31, 2009 Posted by | Ethics | | 8 Comments

Reading — May 2009

“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” — Erasmus (Roman Catholic theologian of the Reformation era).

Books I finished in May:

  • A Biblical Case for an Old Earth, by David Snoke. The best chapter in the book was the one on animal death before the fall. Overall, I would give the book four stars out of five. Snoke is a physicist, and his statements regarding geology (which was not central to the book) could have used some refining.
  • Ringworld, science fiction novel by Larry Niven.

Here are some additional books I worked on in May:

  • Physical and Chemical Hydrogeology, by Domenico and Schwartz, and Elements of Petroleum Geology by Selley. Just for fun. Plus I’m looking for a job, and this stuff is fascinating.
  • ESV Study Bible. I don’t ordinarily list my Bible reading in my monthly reading update, but I got this Bible with my birthday money. This is certainly the best study Bible on the market, and perhaps the heftiest as well. It has 2752 pages, contains over two million words (Bible text, 20,000 notes, 50 articles), and weighs 4.2 pounds (1.9 kg). I have been thoroughly blessed through the insights of the notes (I am currently reading in Isaiah, Mark, and 2 Corinthians).
  • The History of the Ancient World, by Susan Wise Bauer. This is strengthening my knowledge of the cultural and historical background of the Old Testament.

Grace and Peace

Thanks to Matt for the Erasmus quote.

May 31, 2009 Posted by | Reading | Leave a comment

Internet Monk: Stories of science/faith resolution

Michael Spencer (a.k.a. The Internet Monk) has a post asking for comments from Christians who are scientists or trained in science. They are to answer the following question:

How have you resolved the tensions in your own life and thinking between science and your faith? What has been your journey? What was particularly significant in that journey?

There are a lot of testimonies from believers who had to wrestle through some science-faith issues, and came out the other side with their faith intact.

Grace and Peace

May 29, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity, Old-Earth creationism, Theistic evolution, Young-Earth creationism | , | Leave a comment

The new atheists: summary of arguments

Rev. Cwirla, in his review of the Charlotte Allen article on atheism that I linked to in my previous post, summarizes the new atheist (Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, Myers, et al.) arguments as follows:

1.  The existence of God can’t be proven scientifically, therefore there is no God.

2.  Religious people do bad things, therefore there is no God.

3.  No one has yet to convince me there is a God, therefore there is no God.

4.  The world sucks, therefore there is no God.

5.  Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy don’t exist, therefore there is no God.

Pretty good summary of the shallowness of modern atheism.

Go to Rev. Cwirla’s Blogosphere for his descriptions of the “Fab Five of pop atheism.”

Grace and Peace

HT: Cranach

May 26, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | | 47 Comments

The new atheists: “primitive opposition to faith and reason”

From the LA Times: Atheists: No God, no reason, just whining, by Charlotte Allen
Subtitle: Superstar atheists are motivated by anger — and boohoo victimhood.

Here are a few quotes:

I can’t stand atheists — but it’s not because they don’t believe in God. It’s because they’re crashing bores.

Other people, most recently the British cultural critic Terry Eagleton in his new book, “Faith, Reason, and Revolution,” take to task such superstar nonbelievers as Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins (“The God Delusion”) and political journalist Christopher Hitchens (“God Is Not Great”) for indulging in a philosophically primitive opposition of faith and reason that assumes that if science can’t prove something, it doesn’t exist.

————————-

Maybe atheists wouldn’t be so unpopular if they stopped beating the drum until the hide splits on their second-favorite topic: How stupid people are who believe in God. This is a favorite Dawkins theme. In a recent interview with Trina Hoaks, the atheist blogger for the Examiner.com website, Dawkins described religious believers as follows: “They feel uneducated, which they are; often rather stupid, which they are; inferior, which they are; and paranoid about pointy-headed intellectuals from the East Coast looking down on them, which, with some justification, they do.” Thanks, Richard!

————————-

The problem with atheists — and what makes them such excruciating snoozes — is that few of them are interested in making serious metaphysical or epistemological arguments against God’s existence, or in taking on the serious arguments that theologians have made attempting to reconcile, say, God’s omniscience with free will or God’s goodness with human suffering. Atheists seem to assume that the whole idea of God is a ridiculous absurdity, the “flying spaghetti monster” of atheists’ typically lame jokes. They think that lobbing a few Gaza-style rockets accusing God of failing to create a world more to their liking (“If there’s a God, why aren’t I rich?” “If there’s a God, why didn’t he give me two heads so I could sleep with one head while I get some work done with the other?”) will suffice to knock down the entire edifice of belief.

What primarily seems to motivate atheists isn’t rationalism but anger — anger that the world isn’t perfect, that someone forced them to go to church as children, that the Bible contains apparent contradictions, that human beings can be hypocrites and commit crimes in the name of faith. The vitriol is extraordinary. Hitchens thinks that “religion spoils everything.” Dawkins contends that raising one’s offspring in one’s religion constitutes child abuse. Harris argues that it “may be ethical to kill people” on the basis of their beliefs.

Read the entire editorial here.

Grace and Peace

HT: Cranach

May 26, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | | 3 Comments

A field trip I wish I had been on

From the Billings Gazette: Geologists witness Y’stone explosion

Yellowstone National Park geologist Hank Heasler was lecturing a group of colleagues in Biscuit Basin on the rarity of hydrothermal explosions last week when Boom! A hot pool behind him exploded, spewing mud, rocks and hot water 50 feet in the air. Geologists know of only a handful of such unpredictable explosions in Yellowstone’s recorded history.

May 25, 2009 Posted by | Geology | | Leave a comment

A cheaper way to get humans to Mars: One-way tickets

MarsAstronauts

Credit: NASA

NASA’s Astrobiology Magazine has the text of a presentation given by physicist Paul Davies: A One-way Ticket to Mars.

The greatest expense in sending a group of astronauts to Mars is actually getting them back to Earth. Davies estimates that we may be able to save up to 80% of the costs by sending a group of four astronauts to Mars and then just leaving them there.

At first, this might sound crazy, but how different is it than when my great-grandparents left Norway for the United States, never to see their families again? Granted, Minnesota had oxygen and farmland (but my grandparents eventually ended up in Ekalaka, Montana, which may not have been all that different than ending up on Mars).

The astronauts would end up staying on Mars as the first members of a colony, with the hope that more astronauts would arrive every few years.

“As Bob Zubrin [founder of the Mars Society] has pointed out, Mars is the second-safest place in the solar system. And so it’s the one place humans can go where we could actually make a living, because it’s possible to use material on the martian surface, and crucially, Mars has water and carbon dioxide. So you’re not saying to the people who are going on this one-way mission: you’ve got three days’ supplies and that’s it. You could also protect yourself from some of the worlds hazards, such as the hazard of thin atmosphere.

“I would envisage probably four people would go in the first instance. But a one-way mission to Mars would not just be a one-off exercise. They would be trailblazers. It would be the first step to establishing a permanent human presence on another world. Although they would go without the expectation of returning, they would have the expectation that sooner or later they would be joined by others and that this Mars base would grow and eventually become a permanent Mars colony that might take hundreds of years to establish.”

Anyone want to sign up?

Grace and Peace

May 25, 2009 Posted by | Astrobiology, Astronomy, Future, Space Exploration | , , | 2 Comments

Aral Sea — environmental disaster

This is all that is left of what was the Earth’s fourth largest lake only 50 years ago.

From NASA’s Earth Observatory: Dust Over the Aral Sea.

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA/Terra MODIS

In the 1960s, the Soviet Union started diverting most of the water from the rivers that fed the Aral Sea to irrigation, primarily for cotton. This led to an environmental catastrophe that continues to this day. Effects of this include:

  • Drying up of the lake, which is now only 10% of its former size.
  • Increasing salinity of the lake. Only the northernmost basin still has low enough salinity to support fish. Most native species are gone.
  • Creation of dust storms blowing off of the dry lake bed. In addition to salt, this dust contains pesticides and industrial wastes, which cause health problems for residents living downwind.
  • Widespread unemployment and other economic hardships.

(For an animation of the shrinking of the Aral Sea, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Aral_Sea.gif)

Our actions as humans always have consequences. Some consequences can be predicted, others are unforeseen; some are small, and others are major. What will the consequences of our current activities be? What activities are we now involved in that will have long-term negative consequences in the future?

“A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Prov 22:3 NIV)

Grace and Peace

May 24, 2009 Posted by | Environment, Geology, Imagery | Leave a comment

Lake Eyre, Australia

I love this picture, as only a geologist who loves streams and sediments could.

From NASA’s Earth Observatory site: Rare Refill of Lake Eyre, Australia’s Simpson Desert.

LakeEyreAustralia

Credit: NASA/Landsat-5

From the EO description:

Waves in central Australia’s Simpson Desert usually come in the form of sand dunes. In these images, they ripple in long vertical lines across the surface of the desert. But occasionally, summer rain from northern Australia flows down into the desert, filling dry river channels and empty lake beds. Very occasionally, the water reaches a vast lake bed called Lake Eyre, turning it into a shallow inland sea where birds flock to breed.
In early 2009, heavy rains brought major flooding to nearly every river system in Queensland, Australia. By May, the water had made its way south and had started to fill Lake Eyre. The top image provides a natural-color view of water pouring into the lake through one of many channels that drain the desert during the rainy season. The muddy brown water spreads into the lake in a triangular alluvial fan.

Waves in central Australia’s Simpson Desert usually come in the form of sand dunes. In these images, they ripple in long vertical lines across the surface of the desert. But occasionally, summer rain from northern Australia flows down into the desert, filling dry river channels and empty lake beds. Very occasionally, the water reaches a vast lake bed called Lake Eyre, turning it into a shallow inland sea where birds flock to breed.

In early 2009, heavy rains brought major flooding to nearly every river system in Queensland, Australia. By May, the water had made its way south and had started to fill Lake Eyre. [This] image provides a natural-color view of water pouring into the lake through one of many channels that drain the desert during the rainy season. The muddy brown water spreads into the lake in a triangular alluvial fan.

Each depositional environment in this image will produce sediments with a distinct combination of grain size, sedimentary structures (various types of ripples and dunes, as well as things like mud cracks), mineralogy (evaporites in the lake basin), and trace fossils (footprints, burrows). The main depositional environments in this image are stream channel, alluvial fan/delta, arid lake, shoreline, and sand dune. Within each of these there are more specific depositional sites, such as near-shore or deeper water lake deposits. These are the types of things that enable geologists to interpret the depositional environments of ancient sedimentary rocks.

Grace and Peace

May 24, 2009 Posted by | Geology, Imagery | , , | 2 Comments

Conversations in progress

I’ve had a number of good comments in the past month on the following posts. Feel free to join in.

Dr. Dino still in prison — I consider the teachings of Kent Hovind (“Dr. Dino”) to be anti-apologetics that has no place in our churches and Christian schools. Not everyone agrees.

Augustine and Darwin — Allister McGrath ponders how Augustine would have thought about evolution. Or does McGrath get it all wrong?

Not quite so bright — Some of the “new atheists” like to call themselves “brights,” but I find them less than illuminating.

Grace and Peace

May 24, 2009 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 3)

This is part three of a six-part series examining supposed evidences for a global flood that have recently appeared on the Answers in Genesis web site.
The people at AiG are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I share their love for the Lord Jesus Christ, their respect for the Bible as the Word of God, and their desire to see people come to faith in Christ. However, I view their arguments for a young Earth and geological catastrophism as unnecessary Biblically, bad apologetics, and a serious obstacle to the evangelism of scientists.
Unfortunately, few people in our churches or Christian education system have the geological background to critically analyze these arguments. The result is that people read articles like these from AiG, find them to be rather impressive, and believe that these present sound arguments in defense of the Bible. The opposite, however, is true. A vast majority of Christian geologists find the arguments for a young-Earth and the geologic work of the Flood to be untenable. It is my strong opinion that the young-Earth arguments of organizations like AiG have no place in our churches and Christian education system.
Part one examined the young-Earth creationist (YEC) argument that fossils at high elevations are proof of a global flood.
Part two examined YEC argument that sedimentary rocks that contain dense accumulations of fossils can best be described by the action of Noah’s Flood.
Credit: USGS http://3dparks.wr.usgs.gov/coloradoplateau/grandcanyon_strat.htm

Stratigraphy of Grand Canyon National Park showing the position of the Tapeats Sandstone and Redwall Limestone.Credit: USGS http://3dparks.wr.usgs.gov/coloradoplateau/grandcanyon_strat.htm

Flood evidence number three” from Answers in Genesis is called “Transcontinental Rock Layers.” In this article, young-Earth creationist Andrew Snelling describes sedimentary rock layers that cover large areas of continents, and tries to show that the vast extent of these layers is evidence for a global flood.

His first example is the Tapeats Sandstone, which forms the base of the Paleozoic record in the Grand Canyon in Arizona. This formation is of Cambrian age, and sits unconformably above Precambrian sediments of the Grand Canyon Group. The main part of the Tapeats is composed of a very clean quartz sandstone. Almost all of the mineral grains in this sandstone are well-rounded quartz; there are very few grains with different composition, and there is very little clay in between the grains. This is typical of a well-worked sandy beach or eolian (wind-blown sand) environment.

Sandstones analogous to the Tapeats Sandstone form a continuous layer at the base of the Cambrian sediments in much of North America. In Montana this layer is known as the Flathead Sandstone, in Colorado it is the Sawatch Sandstone, in the Midwest it is the St. Simon Sandstone, and in New York it is the Potsdam Sandstone.

Snelling discusses the Tapeats Sandstone as follows:

The lowermost sedimentary layers in Grand Canyon are the Tapeats Sandstone, belonging to the Sauk Megasequence. It and its equivalents (those layers comprised of the same materials) cover much of the USA (Figure 3). We can hardly imagine what forces were necessary to deposit such a vast, continent- wide series of deposits. Yet at the base of this sequence are huge boulders (Figure 4) and sand beds deposited by storms (Figure 5). Both are evidence that massive forces deposited these sediment layers rapidly and violently right across the entire USA. Slow-and-gradual (present-day uniformitarian) processes cannot account for this evidence, but the global catastrophic Genesis Flood surely can.

Snelling actually understates the extent of these very similar basal Cambrian sandstones. Derek Ager, in his influential book The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record describes this as a feature of global, not just continental, proportions:

Even more remarkable than the basal Ordovician quartzite is the one that is found, almost all over the world, at the bottom of the Cambrian. […] Perhaps all that it is safe to say in this context is that very commonly around the world one finds an unfossiliferous quartzite conformably below fossiliferous Lower Cambrian and unconformably above a great variety of Precambrian rocks. This is true wherever one sees the base of the Cambrian in Britain, it is true in east Greenland, it is true in the Canadian Rockies and it is true in South Australia. In fact it is even more remarkable than this, in that it is not only the quartzite, but the whole deepening succession that tends to turn up almost everywhere; i.e. a basal conglomerate, followed by marine shales and thin limestones. In the northern Rockies one can even recognize at this level the “Pipe Rock’ of the Scottish Highlands–a bed full of borings known as Skolithos.

(Ager, The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record, 2nd edition, p.11).

[a few explanations: 1. For our purposes here, quartzite is a very-well cemented or slightly metamorphosed sandstone. 2. Skolithos is a trace fossil interpreted as worm borings or tubes]

The standard geological explanation of these Cambrian sandstones is that they were deposited in a shallow marine to intertidal environment. The Skolithos worm borings are consistent with this explanation, as are the variety of sedimentary structures (e.g. cross bedding) that are found in these units.

The Madison Limestone at Gates of the Mountains, Montana. The Madison Limestone is equivalent to the Redwall Limestone of the Grand Canyon. Credit: Richard I. Gibsonhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gatesofmts.jpg

Snelling also uses the Redwall Limestone of the Grand Canyon as a example of a sedimentary rock unit that covers a very large area:

Another layer in Grand Canyon is the Lower Carboniferous (Mississippian) Redwall Limestone. This belongs to the Kaskaskia Megasequence of North America. So the same limestones appear in many places across North America, as far as Tennessee and Pennsylvania. These limestones also appear in the exact same position in the strata sequences, and they have the exact same fossils and other features in them.

Unfortunately, these limestones have been given different names in other locations because the geologists saw only what they were working on locally and didn’t realize that other geologists were studying essentially the same limestone beds in other places. Even more remarkable, the same Carboniferous limestone beds also appear thousands of miles east in England, containing the same fossils and other features.

Again, Snelling is understating the extent of these Mississippian Limestones. Similar limestones can be found not only throughout the American and Canadian West, but up to Alaska, into the Midwest, and in continental Europe and the Himalayas (Ager, pp. 7-8).

Snelling’s conclusion is that the only way to explain extensive layers like these is by invoking Noah’s Flood. He states that these layers could have only been deposited rapidly in a very short time. But there are a number of problems with Snelling’s explanation of these sediments:

  1. Snelling, like other young-Earth creationists, uses the wide extent of these units as evidence for large-scale, or even global-scale processes. I think that the opposite may be true: that the scale of these units works against the catastrophist explanation. For example, the fact that much of the North American continent (as well as large portions of other continents) is covered by the Cambrian Tapeats Sandstone and its equivalents means that all of the other Flood sediments—let’s say the rest of the Paleozoic and Mesozoic—had to already be in suspension in the waters above the pure-sand Tapeats:
  2. FloodSequence

  3. While all of these sediments were in suspension, according to the AiG/Snelling model, there could have been no mixing of sediments of different ages. There was no mixing of Ordovician with Silurian, or Paleozoic with Mesozoic.
  4. Likewise, there could have been no mixing of sediments from different sedimentary environments. Reef sediments (complete with intact ecological zonation: fore reef, back reef, breaker zone, etc.) couldn’t have mixed with beach sediments, deep water sediments couldn’t have mixed with intertidal sediments, and marine sediments couldn’t have mixed with non-marine sediments.
  5. Additionally, there could never have been any kind of turbulence that would place rock units out of order. The sequence isn’t Cambrian-Ordovician-Silurian-Devonian in one place, and Cambrian-Devonian-Silurian-Ordovician in another place.
  6. The boulder and cobble-bearing layers (conglomerates) of the Tapeats and its equivalents tend to be near what seem to be islands that stuck up above the sea, and the size of the grains decreases with increasing distance from the source areas. The rock types of the grains matches that of the islands. These are, therefore, local features; not the result of a global flood. The conglomerate layers likely originated during storms. (Additionally, the conglomerate layers don’t always occur at the base of the Cambrian sandstones as Snelling states).
  7. Snelling really gives no evidence in his article that these various units were deposited rapidly over large areas. He gives a few examples of rapid deposition on a smaller scale, such as the preservation of supposed water-laid dunes in the Coconino Sandstone (which most geologists interpret as wind deposits, not water deposits), but provides no evidence that catastrophism is the dominant means of deposition of any of the rock units he describes. Local deposition may be catastrophic for a short period of time, as in storm conglomerates, but it is a wild extrapolation to say that the entire geologic column was deposited rapidly, and there is plenty of evidence that it wasn’t.

The standard geological explanation of the Cambrian sandstones is that the sand was first blown around on the barren continental surface. This lead to exceptional rounding of the grains, distinctive microscopic textures on the sand grains, and a winnowing of virtually all clay. Eventually the sand was blown into shallow seas that covered large portions of the continents. Here the sand was reworked by various currents, as indicated by ripple and dune features (sedimentary structures) preserved in the sandstone. Actual deposition did not occur over the entire continent at once, but shifted as sea levels rose throughout the time of deposition. This explanation works well, is consistent with a variety of field and experimental data, and doesn’t require that all post-Tapeats sediments already be in suspension while the Tapeats and its equivalents were being deposited.

Remember: the Bible doesn’t say that the sedimentary rock record was laid down by Noah’s Flood. Organizations like Answers in Genesis do a considerable amount of arm waving and wild extrapolation in order to make the rocks fit their model, but this is completely unnecessary.

Up next: Flood Evidence #4: Sand Transported Cross Country.

With love for the body of Christ.

May 19, 2009 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Geology, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , , , , | 8 Comments

Lake Powell images, 1999 to 2009

NASA’s Earth Observatory has a series of images from 1999 to 2009 showing fluctuating water levels in Lake Powell in southeastern Utah. Lake Powell is formed by Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River in northern Arizona.

Credit:

Lake Powell 1999, Credit: NASA Landsat 5

Lake Powell 2008, Credit: NASA Landsat 5

Lake Powell 2008, Credit: NASA Landsat 5

Earth Observatory has a “play” link to watch the images in played in order.

From the description at the NASA Earth Observatory site:

The Colorado River flows from the Rocky Mountains in Colorado through the southwestern United States. Along its route, the river passes through an elaborate water-management system designed to tame the yearly floods from spring snowmelt and to provide a reliable supply of water for residents as far away as California. The system is both appreciated for the water it provides and criticized for the environmental and cultural losses it has created.

Among the dams on the Colorado is Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona, which creates Lake Powell—a deep, narrow, meandering reservoir—upstream in southern Utah. In the early twenty-first century, this modern marvel of engineering faced an ancient enemy: severe, prolonged drought in the American Southwest. Combined with water withdrawals that many believe are not sustainable, the drought has taken its toll on the water level in Lake Powell over the past decade.

Grace and Peace

May 15, 2009 Posted by | Environment, Geography, Geology, Imagery | , | Leave a comment

Switching religions

A significant number of people move from their childhood faith to another, as shown in this diagram from Eclectic Christian and Internet Monk:

religiousswitching2

Most who “change faiths” do so by age 23 or 24. After that people are mostly set in their ways.

Note that we Evangelicals lose about as many of our own children as we gain converts through evangelism. Something is seriously wrong here.

Grace and Peace

P.S. Eclectic Christian has a larger version of this diagram.

May 15, 2009 Posted by | Christianity | , | 5 Comments

Francis Schaeffer — 25th anniversary of his death

Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Christian author, philosopher, and pastor Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer is highly regarded in the Evangelical Christian world for his defense of the faith, his advocacy of pro-life political action, and leadership of the l’Abri community in Switzerland. Francis Schaeffer was also an advocate of environmental protection.

HT: World Magazine blog: Remembering Francis Schaeffer, by Scott Lamb

The following item was originally posted in January 2008. 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.

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

May 15, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Blog Recycling, Environment, Nature | | 5 Comments

Santa Barbara fires

From NASA’s Earth Observatory: Jesusita Fire, California, near Santa Barbara, California, 5/8/2009.

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA (Terra - MODIS)

The red outline areas indicate hotspots, and represent the areas of active wildfires.

Grace and Peace

May 11, 2009 Posted by | Environment, Geography, Imagery, Natural Disasters | | Leave a comment

Concentric circles emanating from glowing red dot

Earthquake and tsunami news from the Onion News Network:

HT: Geographic travels with Catholicgauze

Grace and Peace

May 10, 2009 Posted by | Fun, Geology, Videos | | Leave a comment

Augustine and Darwin

Alister McGrath (DPhil in molecular biophysics, Doctor of Divinity) has an article at the Christianity Today website: Augustine’s Origin of Species: How the great theologian might weigh in on the Darwin debate.

St. Augustine (AD 354-430) was the bishop of Hippo, in what is now Algeria, but was then part of the Roman Empire. I gave a long quote from his work The Literal Meaning of Genesis back in March.

Here are a few quotes from McGrath’s article:

Augustine draws out the following core themes: God brought everything into existence in a single moment of creation. Yet the created order is not static. God endowed it with the capacity to develop. Augustine uses the image of a dormant seed to help his readers grasp this point. God creates seeds, which will grow and develop at the right time. Using more technical language, Augustine asks his readers to think of the created order as containing divinely embedded causalities that emerge or evolve at a later stage. Yet Augustine has no time for any notion of random or arbitrary changes within creation. The development of God’s creation is always subject to God’s sovereign providence. The God who planted the seeds at the moment of creation also governs and directs the time and place of their growth.

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Certain biblical passages, he insisted, are genuinely open to diverse interpretations and must not be wedded to prevailing scientific theories. Otherwise, the Bible becomes the prisoner of what was once believed to be scientifically true: “In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines our position, we too fall with it.”

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So what was God doing before he created the universe? Augustine undermines the question by pointing out that God did not bring creation into being at a certain definite moment in time, because time did not exist prior to creation. For Augustine, eternity is a realm without space or time. Interestingly, this is precisely the state of existence many scientists posit existed before the big bang.

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So what are the implications of this ancient Christian interpretation of Genesis for the Darwin celebrations? First, Augustine does not limit God’s creative action to the primordial act of origination. God is, he insists, still working within the world, directing its continuing development and unfolding its potential. There are two “moments” in the Creation: a primary act of origination, and a continuing process of providential guidance. Creation is thus not a completed past event. God is working even now, in the present, Augustine writes, sustaining and directing the unfolding of the “generations that he laid up in creation when it was first established.”

This twofold focus on the Creation allows us to read Genesis in a way that affirms that God created everything from nothing, in an instant. However, it also helps us affirm that the universe has been created with a capacity to develop, under God’s sovereign guidance. Thus, the primordial state of creation does not correspond to what we presently observe. For Augustine, God created a universe that was deliberately designed to develop and evolve. The blueprint for that evolution is not arbitrary, but is programmed into the very fabric of creation. God’s providence superintends the continuing unfolding of the created order.

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Augustine argues that Genesis 1:12 implies that the earth received the power or capacity to produce things by itself: “Scripture has stated that the earth brought forth the crops and the trees causally, in the sense that it received the power of bringing them forth.”

Where some might think of the Creation as God’s insertion of new kinds of plants and animals readymade into an already existing world, Augustine rejects this as inconsistent with the overall witness of Scripture. Rather, God must be thought of as creating in that very first moment the potencies for all the kinds of living things to come later, including humanity.

The idea of a creation that is capable of evolving to one degree or another is not necessarily a compromise. St. Augustine argued for it from the pages of Scripture 1500 years ago.

Grace and Peace

May 9, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Old-Earth creationism, Origins | , , , , | 9 Comments

C.S. Lewis on Progress

From Mere Christianity:

We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the [man] who turns back soonest is the most progressive. . . . And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistake. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.

HT: Her.meneutics — Humans in Creation: Another View

Grace and Peace

May 9, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Quotes | | Leave a comment

Nature’s enduring value is not in what it can provide us

I saw two bumper stickers on a truck this morning. One read:

Earth First! We’ll mine the other planets later

The other one read:

Strip mining prevents forest fires.

There were other bumper stickers on the truck: NRA, Ducks Unlimited, and a few others I couldn’t read (I was driving after all). It would not have surprised me to see a fish symbol (ΙΧθΥΣ) or some other Christian sticker in the mix, but I didn’t.

Natural resources are available to us for wise, sustainable use, but these two bumper stickers are the opposite of what I view as a Biblical perspective on creation care. A better way of looking at creation is found in a short article on Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog (not a blog of feminist theology, but a blog for women).

The article is Humans in Creation: Another View.

I love the subtitle of the article: Nature’s enduring value is not in what it can provide us. According to Genesis One, the creation was good even before God created humans!

Earth [the current Disney documentary] and films like it serve to remind viewers that we are only one part of creation, and are given the task to bear God’s image, which includes being steward caretakers of Earth. We are interdependent with all of creation and need a healthy Earth to flourish. We love others — both human and non-human — as we care for ecosystems that sustain life. What is good for forests and polar bears ends up being good for people, too. Earth reminds us, for instance, that God created trees not primarily for humans to turn into houses or fuel, but to help keep the atmosphere in balance by absorbing CO2 and releasing oxygen. And trees are home to a myriad of birds and insects that God delights in and loves. God designed creation so that all its inhabitants could flourish; humans are just one species, with the unique responsibility to see that others flourish.

Humans are valuable; God placed us at the pinnacle of creation. But this only minimizes the value of the rest of creation if we have a distorted view of what it means to be at the top.

HT: The Wonder of Creation

Grace and Peace

May 9, 2009 Posted by | Environment, Ethics, Nature | Leave a comment

The Map Room

The Map Room blog just put in a plug for me, so I’ll return the favor. I do have a maps category over in the first column on the right.

Thanks for visiting The GeoChristian.

Grace and Peace

May 4, 2009 Posted by | Blogs, Maps | , | 1 Comment