The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Reading — June 2009

“When my sons complain that a good book is hard to read, I say, ‘Raking is easy, but all you get is leaves; digging is hard, but you might find diamonds.'” — John Piper, Future Grace, p. 16.

Books I finished in June:

  • Thousands… Not Billions, by Donald DeYoung. This is the latest on radiometric dating from the young-Earth creationists. I’ll say something positive: they have actually come a long ways from twenty years ago. They now acknowledge that we can have a pretty good idea of initial concentrations of isotopes in minerals, that we can often tell whether or not the minerals have been closed systems, that various radiometric methods often give concordant dates, and that a considerable amount of decay has occurred in minerals. But there are still a number of problems with their reasoning, the chief of which is the idea of accelerated nuclear decay during Noah’s flood. Their evidence that this has occurred is sometimes based on circular reasoning, and this decay would have created enough heat to melt and perhaps vaporize the entire Earth.
  • Elements of Petroleum Geology, by Richard Selley. I re-read this to be better prepared for a four-hour essay test I took as part of the application process for a potential job. Plus I find sedimentary geology to be simply fascinating.

Here are some additional books I worked on in June:

  • The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller. This book is fantastic. If I had a job, I’d buy a stack and give copies to doubters and skeptics.
  • The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel. We’re slowly going through this book as a family. Right now we are in the chapter on New Testament manuscripts.
  • 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.
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, fiction by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn.

Grace and Peace

June 29, 2009 Posted by | Reading | 8 Comments

Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 4)

This is part four 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, poor 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 the YEC argument that sedimentary rocks that contain dense accumulations of fossils can best be described by the action of Noah’s Flood.
Part three examined the YEC perception that transcontinental rock layers, such as the sandstone layer that is found at the base of the Paleozoic sediments throughout much of North America, can best be explained by Noah’s flood.

Flood evidence number four” from Answers in Genesis is called “Sand Transported Cross Country.” In this article, young-Earth creationist Dr. Andrew Snelling attempts to show that the only possible explanation for long-distance transport of sediment grains is by means of a global flood. In reality, standard geological explanations for trans-continental transport of sand grains work just fine, and there are numerous problems with the young-Earth creationist “flood geology” attempts to explain this aspect of geological history.

As you read what I have to say, remember that the Bible does not say that the sedimentary rock record was deposited by Noah’s flood. This inference is dogma in young-Earth circles, but is not found in the Bible.

Snelling begins by giving what I believe is an accurate description of several sandstone layers in the southwestern United States. Sand grains for the Coconino Sandstone and Supai Group in the Grand Canyon clearly came from a considerable distance. These layers are both underlain by extensive layers of shale or limestone that contain little sand, and cannot be the source rocks for the quartz sand grains.

Sand dune cross-bedding in Navajo Sandstone, north of Canyonlands National Park, Utah. Photo by Kevin Nelstead

Sand dune cross-bedding in Navajo Sandstone, north of Canyonlands National Park, Utah. Photo by Kevin Nelstead

As a third example of long-distance sand grain transport, Snelling cites the Navajo Sandstone, which is younger than the layers of the Grand Canyon. The Navajo Sandstone is interpreted by most geologists to be the remains of a vast terrrestrial sand dune field, and makes up some of the spectacular cliffs and other rock formations places like Zion and Canyonlands national parks in Utah.

In regards to the Navajo Sandstone, Snelling states:

“Within this sandstone, we find grains of the mineral zircon, which is relatively easy to trace to its source because zircon usually contains radioactive uranium. By “dating” these zircon grains, using the uranium-lead (U-Pb) radioactive method, it has been postulated that the sand grains in the Navajo Sandstone came from the Appalachians of Pennsylvania and New York, and from former mountains further north in Canada. If this is true, the sand grains were transported about 1,250 miles (2012 km) right across North America.”

This is good and pretty non-controversial so far, but it goes downhill from here. Snelling continues:

“This “discovery” poses somewhat of a dilemma for conventional uniformitarian (slow-and-gradual) geologists, because no known sediment transport system is capable of carrying sand across the entire North American continent during the required millions of years. It must have been water over an area even bigger than the continent. All they can do is postulate that some unknown transcontinental river system must have done the job. But even in their scientific belief system of earth history, it is impossible for such a river to have persisted for millions of years.”

Oh my. I read this and started shaking my head. It is not at all difficult to visualize a river system that is capable of carrying sand thousands of miles over a very long period of time. Where do the quartz and zircon grains eroded from the northern Rocky Mountains in Montana end up? In the Gulf of Mexico, thousands of kilometers away. Or think of sand grains being transported in other major river systems, such as the Nile or Amazon. These rivers are capable of transporting enormous quantities of sediments over time. The standard geological understanding of the Mississippi River system is that it has been in existence since some time in the early to mid Tertiary Period, perhaps originating during the Eocene Epoch (34-56 million years ago). It is not inconceivable that river systems flowing from the Appalachians at the time of Navajo Sandstone deposition (Triassic-Jurassic) could also have maintained their basic drainage patterns for tens of millions of years.

Snelling continues:

“Yet the evidence is overwhelming that the water was flowing in one direction. More than half a million measurements have been collected from 15,615 North American localities, recording water current direction indicators throughout the geologic record. The evidence indicates that water moved sediments across the entire continent, from the east and northeast to the west and southwest throughout the so-called Paleozoic. This general pattern continued on up into the Mesozoic, when the Navajo Sandstone was deposited. How could water be flowing across the North American continent consistently for hundreds of millions of years? Absolutely impossible!”

Yes, there was a consistent direction of water flow in the center of the North American continent throughout much (though not all) of the Paleozoic Era, from the Appalachian Mountains westward over the continent. This makes a lot of sense; rivers do tend to flow from mountains to lowlands (the Appalachians had been formed by the earlier collision of the North American plate with Europe and Africa). The standard geological explanation for long-distance sediment transport, rather than being “absolutely impossible” makes a lot of sense.

Snelling then makes a radical leap:

“The only logical and viable explanation is the global cataclysmic Genesis Flood. Only the water currents of a global ocean, lasting a few months, could have transported such huge volumes of sediments right across the North American continent to deposit the thick strata sequences which blanket the continent.”

I have shown that long-distance sediment transport is not a problem from the conventional geological interpretations of these rock units. On the other hand, there are a number of problems with explaining rock layers such as the Navajo Sandstone by means of a global, catastrophic flood:

  • The problem of erosion — The volume of the Navajo Sandstone is about 40,000 cubic kilometers. In order to produce this much quartz sand, a considerably larger volume of granitic rocks would have had to have been eroded. If the sediments were eroded from the rocks of the pre-flood world, then erosion of several tens of thousands of cubic kilometers of granitic rocks would be necessary at the beginning of the flood. Even with a global flood, this is a tremendous amount of erosion of resistant rocks in a very short time.
  • The problem of mineralogy– After erosion, some type of mineralogical sorting process would have had to occurred to separate quartz from the other components of granite, such as feldspar and mica. The Navajo Sandstone is a clean sandstone, meaning that it is composed largely of quartz grains. The zircons discussed in the article are present in low concentrations, and other minerals (feldspars, micas) have low abundances as well. Once the granitic rocks that were the source for the Navajo were eroded, some process would have had to sort out the non-quartz/zircon grains.
  • The problem of sediment transport — If eroded from igneous rocks in the Appalachians, the flood would have had to somehow keep those sand grains together as a coherent package as they were transported across the continent. This is a major problem for young-Earth creationist flood geology. Floods tend to disperse sediments rather than keeping them together. The idea that the flood picked up 40,000 km3 of sand from the Appalachians and deposited it all together in the Southwest would be like saying that the sediments of the Yellowstone River in Montana stay together without mixing as they are transported down the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and then get deposited all together in the same place in the Mississippi Delta. Fluvial transport of sediments simply doesn’t work that way.
  • The problem of depositional environments — For a number of reasons, geologists interpret the Navajo Sandstone as having formed in a vast sand dune environment, similar in many ways to the modern Sahara Desert. Evidence includes types of sedimentary structures that match modern sand dune environments (dunes, ripples, and so forth) and fossil evidence (see below).
  • The problem of body fossils — the Navajo Sandstone contains few body fossils, such as bones or shells. Most of what is found are either terrestrial (e.g. reptiles and mammal-like reptiles) or invertebrates that could be interpreted as living in fresh or brackish water environments rather than marine. There are also a few isolated examples of stromatolites, which are mound-like  fossils of bacterial mats. These form in high salinity environments that are protected from browsers, such as in inter-dune saline flats (sabkhas) or protected areas along the shoreline. If the Navajo was deposited in the flood, why are there no clearly marine fossils mixed in? How did fossils like stromatolites get transported and preserved in the chaotic waters of the flood?
  • The problem of trace fossils — Trace fossils are signs of living organisms such as footprints and burrows. Trace fossils found within the Navajo Sandstone include vertebrate footprints (what were they doing wandering around on the dry surface of the Earth half way through the flood?) and a variety of invertebrate features such as worm burrows, scorpion tracks, and spider tracks. These all indicate a terrestrial environment.
  • The problem of current directions — The situation is more complicated than Snelling indicates in his article. Flow directions can be determined from sedimentary structures in the rocks, such as ripple marks. Paleocurrents for the Navajo Sandstone are primarily from the north. Sediments were apparently carried by streams flowing from east to west from the Appalachians to what is now the northern Rocky Mountains. Sea and wind currents then carried the Navajo sediments south along the western coast of the United States. At times in the Paleozoic and Mesozoic, North American paleocurrent patterns were much more complex than Snelling indicates.
  • As with most young-Earth attempts to describe the geological history of the Earth, the problem boils down to “too many events, too little time.” While all of this was going on for the Navajo Sandstone, a thousand other sedimentary rock layers were being formed, magma was being intruded, volcanoes were formed and eroded, and numerous other geological events occurred, all in a one-year period. To quote Snelling: “Absolutely impossible!”

My conclusion is that the standard geological interpretation for long-distance sediment transport works, and the young-Earth flood geology interpretation doesn’t. Because it does not work, flood geology is anti-apologetics rather than apologetics. To use these sorts of arguments in defense of the Bible may bring some to faith in Christ, but it will drive others away.

Up next: Flood Evidence #5: Rapid or no erosion between strata.

With love for the body of Christ.

June 27, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Geology, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , , | 9 Comments

John Piper and the age of the Earth

To repeat a common theme of The GeoChristian blog: One can be a committed Christian with a very high view of the Bible, and yet hold to a 4.5 billion year-old Earth and evolution.

John Piper is pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, and is a leading author and speaker within the Evangelical and Reformed Christian communities. He has a very high view of Scripture, and yet his church takes no position on the age of the Earth or evolution. Here are three aspects of the doctrine of creation that elders at Bethlehem Baptist must affirm:

  1. A real Adam and Eve fairly recently in history.
  2. God created the universe out of nothing.
  3. God’s creation is good.

Piper’s statement specifies that there is no commitment at his church to a recent six literal day creation (e.g. Answers in Genesis or Institute for Creation Research). There is also no statement requiring elders to not believe in evolution.

Despite the vocal insistence of the young-Earth creationists, there are perfectly valid understandings of Genesis that allow for an old Earth. These interpretations are not forced on the Hebrew text, but actually flow out of the text.

John Piper: What do you have to believe about creation in order to be an elder at Bethlehem?

HT: Internet Monk

Grace and Peace

P.S. I am not saying that John Piper accepts either an old Earth or evolution,  just that he doesn’t consider the age of the Earth or evolution (apparently) to be issues in terms of Christian orthodoxy.

June 27, 2009 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , | 22 Comments

Camping — Great Sand Dunes National Park

The family had the opportunity to camp at Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado this week. The Great Sand Dunes are the tallest dunes in North America. Here are a few pictures:

Great Sand Dunes from Pinyon Flat campground. The dunes are about 650 to 750 feet (xxx to xxx m) tall.

Great Sand Dunes from Pinyon Flats campground. The dunes are about 650 to 750 feet (200 to 230 m) tall.

View of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from High Dune, the second highest star dune in the dune field. The altitude at the top of the dune is near 9000 feet above sea level.

View of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from High Dune, the second highest star dune in the dune field. The elevation at the top of the dunes is near 9000 feet (2700 m) above sea level.

Bedforms of various sizes.

Sedimentary structures (ripples, dunes) of various sizes.

Braided stream at the base of the dunes, about 30 m wide and less than 10 cm deep.

Braided stream at the base of the dunes, about 30 m wide and less than 10 cm deep.

Our tent in Pinyon Flats campground.

Our tent in Pinyon Flats campground.

Me enjoying the dunes.

Me enjoying the dunes.

We think the alternate name for the park is “Great Mosquito Swarms National Park,” but we couldn’t find that in the literature the rangers handed out.

Grace and Peace

June 26, 2009 Posted by | Geology | , , | Leave a comment

The Reason for God — interview excerpt

One of the best new books on apologetics (the defense of the Christian faith) is The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. I haven’t read it yet, but it has received good reviews from theologically conservative reviewers.

Here’s an excerpt from an interview of Timothy Keller from First Things which touches on evolution and the age of the Earth:

In The Reason for God, you make a very brief argument for the validity of evolution within a limited sphere. It would seem to me that apologists for the faith must address this issue at some point. But doing so can call into question the historicity of the Fall and the very need for a savior. How do you talk about evolution without confusing people?

Oh, it’s a little confusing, but actually I’m just in the same place where the Catholics are, as far as I can tell. The Catholic Church has always been able to hold on to a belief in a historical Fall—it really happened, it’s not just representative of the fact that the human race has kind of gone bad in various ways. At the same time, if you say, “There is no God and everything happened by evolution,” naturalistic evolution—then you have “theistic evolution”: God just started things years ago and everything has come into being through the process of evolution. You have young-Earth six-day creationism, which is “God created everything in six 24-hour days.” To me, all three of those positions have perhaps insurmountable difficulties.

The fact is, the one that most people consider the most conservative, which is the young-Earth, six-day creation, has all kinds of problems with the text, as we know. If it’s really true, then you have problems of contradictions between Genesis 1 and 2. I don’t like the JEPD theory. I don’t like the theory that these are two somewhat contradictory creation stories that some editor stuck together—some pretty stupid editor stuck together. I think therefore you’ve got a problem with how long are the days before the sun shows up in the fourth day. You have problems really reading the Bible in a straightforward way with a young-Earth, six 24-hour day theory. You’ve got some problems with the theistic evolution, because then you have to ask yourself, “Was there no Adam and Eve? Was there no Fall?” So here’s what I like—the messy approach, which is I think there was an Adam and Eve. I think there was a real Fall. I think that happened. I also think that there also was a very long process probably, you know, that the earth probably is very old, and there was some kind of process of natural selection that God guided and used, and maybe intervened in. And that’s just the messy part. I’m not a scientist. I’m not going to go beyond that.

I do know that I say in the book, “This is an absolute red herring—to get mired in this before you look at the certainties of the faith. Because the fact is that real orthodox believers with a high view of Scripture are all over the map on this. I can line up ten really smart people in all those different buckets, which I’ll call “theistic evolution,” “young-Earth creationism,” and let’s call it “progressive creationism” or “semi-theistic evolution.” There are all these different views. And when you see a lot of smart people disagreeing on this stuff, well . . .

How could there have been death before Adam and Eve fell? The answer is, I don’t know. But all I know is, didn’t animals eat bugs? Didn’t bugs eat plants? There must have been death. In other words, when you realize, “Oh wait, this is really complicated,” then you realize, “I don’t have to figure this out before I figure out is Jesus Christ raised from the dead.”

Over the years—it’s not bad, but I’ve gotten sort of hit from both sides.

Grace and Peace

June 20, 2009 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Old-Earth creationism | , | 2 Comments

Sarychev Peak eruption

From NASA’s Earth Observatory: Sarychev Peak Eruption, Kuril Islands, Russia.

Credit: NASA/International Space Station astronauts

Credit: NASA/International Space Station Expedition 20 crew

From the Earth Observatory description:

A fortuitous orbit of the International Space Station allowed the astronauts this striking view of Sarychev Volcano (Kuril Islands, northeast of Japan) in an early stage of eruption on June 12, 2009. […] Ash from the multi-day eruption has been detected 2,407 kilometers east-southeast and 926 kilometers west-northwest of the volcano, and commercial airline flights are being diverted away from the region to minimize the danger of engine failures from ash intake.

This detailed astronaut photograph is exciting to volcanologists because it captures several phenomena that occur during the earliest stages of an explosive volcanic eruption. The main column is one of a series of plumes that rose above Matua Island on June 12. The plume appears to be a combination of brown ash and white steam. The vigorously rising plume gives the steam a bubble-like appearance; the surrounding atmosphere has been shoved up by the shock wave of the eruption. The smooth white cloud on top may be water condensation that resulted from rapid rising and cooling of the air mass above the ash column. This cloud is probably a transient feature: the eruption plume is starting to punch through. The structure also indicates that little to no shearing wind was present at the time to disrupt the plume. […]

By contrast, a cloud of denser, gray ash—probably a pyroclastic flow—appears to be hugging the ground, descending from the volcano summit. The rising eruption plume casts a shadow to the northwest of the island (image top). Brown ash at a lower altitude of the atmosphere spreads out above the ground at image lower left. Low-level stratus clouds approach Matua Island from the east, wrapping around the lower slopes of the volcano. Only about 1.5 kilometers of the coastline of Matua Island (image lower center) are visible beneath the clouds and ash.

I’ve got this one set as my desktop background this week.

Grace and Peace

June 20, 2009 Posted by | Geology, Imagery, Natural Disasters | , | 1 Comment

Drought and recovery

These images from the NASA Earth Observatory show areas of drought (brown = below average plant growth) and excess plant growth (green = above average plant growth).

Northern Iraq is suffering a severe drought. Much of the country’s grain is dependent on seasonal rainfall rather than irrigation:

Credit: NASA/Terra/MODIS

Credit: NASA/Terra/MODIS

Grain-producing regions of Afghanistan, on the other hand, are recovering from a period of drought, with the wheat crop responding well to spring rains:

Credit: NASA/Terra/MODIS

Credit: NASA/Terra/MODIS

Satellite imagery like this gives governments and aid agencies a quick way to analyze conditions on the ground.

Iraq image: Earth Observatory — Drought in Iraq

Afghanistan image: Earth Observatory — Crop Recovery in Afghanistan

Grace and Peace

June 20, 2009 Posted by | Geography, Imagery | , , , | Leave a comment

Christian or hippie — which would you choose?

One of the pastors at my church passed along a story from Dry Bones Denver: “Ask Me Why You Deserve HELL”: Reflections on the DNC. It is a bit dated, being from the Democratic National Convention here in Denver last summer, but it is also timeless. The author was with friends in the downtown area and observed a group of Christians whose behavior was somewhat less than loving, and a group of young anarchists who welcomed the pastor and his friends with open arms.

Here’s the christians:

“Ask me why YOU deserve to go to HELL!” My heart dropped and I hung my head in shame as I approached the banner waving these poisonous words. Riot police surrounded the group of christians (emphasis on the little “c”), protecting them from the enraged and ever-growing crowd of pedestrians; men, women and children. Other signs that littered the street corner and held up traffic for blocks on the 16th St. Mall read:

• “Homo sex is a threat to national security”
• “Looking for change? Then do what Christ said and repent. Hell Awaits You.”
• “You are headed for Hell”
• “WARNING: Baby Killing Women, Party Animals, Rebellious Women, So Called Christians, Liberals, Jesus Mockers, Porno Freaks, Muslims, Drunks, Homosexuals, Sex Addicts, Mormons…GOD WILL JUDGE YOU!”

Here’s the hippies:

Tattooed and dread-locked hippies relaxed in the sunshine. Droves of police, outfitted in full riot gear with masks down and guns out, stood nearby occasionally walking in single-file through the crowd to make their presence known. I took it all in, amazed by the eclectic group of people. We walked up to the hippie gathering and saw a sign that read “Doc’s Place” and another one that said, “Food not Bombs.” As it turned out, “Doc’s Place” was a volunteer-run, free medical clinic. Anyone could come by and receive limited, but free, medical care. “Food not Bombs” was a group that thought “…dropping food instead of bombs…” was the cool thing to do, so they decided to fix three meals a day for anyone who wanted food. They cooked everything on-site and if you ate, the only requirement was that you wash your own dishes in the provided buckets of soapy water, and then hang them in a tree to dry.

Here’s a quote from the conclusion:

Friends, I witnessed two very different groups of people this week. One group was filled with hate, judgment, and self-righteousness. The other group was loving, accepting, and humble. One group was insulting and abrasive and the other group just wanted to serve food and take care of people. One group called themselves Christians, the other group stayed as far away from them as they could. The way I see it, one group looked and acted like Jesus, and it wasn’t those who claimed to be His followers. This is the ultimate tragedy.

Read the entire story here.

Grace and Peace

June 20, 2009 Posted by | Christianity | , | 15 Comments

Father’s Day 2009 #2

One thing I do to “tell the story” to my children is send an email to the whole family several times per week, with insights I have had from the Scriptures. Here is an example of the “A Note From Dad” emails that I send (and that my kids—soon all four will be teenagers—actually read much of the time):


A Note From Dad 5/24/09
Isaiah 25

Isaiah 25:1, 6-9

O Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation..”

I love the book of Isaiah. It is my favorite book of the Prophets, and up there among my favorites of the Old Testament. It speaks of judgment over the wickedness of the world (including the wickedness of God’s people), but also contains many passages of hope.

This passage in Isaiah 25 refers to three things that give great hope:

  • Deliverance for Israel and for all nations (that’s us) will come from “this mountain,” which refers to Jerusalem. Our deliverance comes through Christ, who was sacrificed on “this mountain.”
  • We look forward to a great feast. We have a taste of this now in our fellowship with God through Christ. We will enjoy this feast forever in eternity. The feast is figurative, representing not just to food, but to an everlasting life of the joy and goodness of knowing God.
  • The “covering that is cast over all peoples” is death, which is the universal affliction of the human race. We will all die (unless we are alive when Christ returns), but that death is a temporary thing.

“Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

With great joy in Christ,

Dad

June 20, 2009 Posted by | Christianity | , | Leave a comment

Father’s Day 2009 #1

The following item was originally posted in June 2006. 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.

In my wide margin Bible, I mark an “F” in the margin to denote verses about the family. As I have done this, I have seen more clearly my responsibilities as a father. The most common command or exhortation in the Scriptures in regards to parenting is to teach our children about the wonders of God:

For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him. (Genesis 18:19)

You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ (Exodus 13:8)

Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children. (Deuteronomy 4:9)

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever. (Joshua 4:6-7)

O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old. (Psalm 44:1)

So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come. (Psalm 71:18)

Things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done. (Psalm 78:3-4)

But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
from generation to generation we will recount your praise. (Psalm 79:13)

I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 89:1)

One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4)

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
and forsake not your mother’s teaching. (Proverbs 1:8)

Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction,
and be attentive, that you may gain insight. (Proverbs 4:1)

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

The father makes known to the children your faithfulness. (Isaiah 38:19)

Tell your children of it,
and let your children tell their children,
and their children to another generation. (Joel 1:3)

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

Being that I am not much of a talker by nature, this is something I need to be very intentional about or it doesn’t happen. But when I stumble in the telling of the story of God’s grace to my children, I pick up and keep on going. They need to hear it and see it from me daily. Just as in the Old Testament, the people were to tell their children over and over about what God had done to save Israel in the exodus, we are to tell our children over and over about what God has done in creation and redemption.

Grace and Peace

(Scripture quotes are from the English Standard Version)

June 20, 2009 Posted by | Blog Recycling, Christianity | , | Leave a comment

Melting glaciers, changing borders

Video from BBC News: Glacier melt changes Italian border. I can’t embed it, so you will have to go to the link.

This reflects a different view of borders than what we have in the United States. In the US, if a river that marks a boundary changes course (e.g. the Mississippi), then the border stays where it was. In Europe, it seems that if a glacier melts, then the international border can move 100 meters or so.

Grace and Peace

June 20, 2009 Posted by | Climate Change, Geography, Maps | Leave a comment

What to get Dad for Father’s Day: a goat

From World Vision:

On June 21, honor your Dad with a meaningful gift in his name from the World Vision Gift Catalog. Because let’s face it — Dad doesn’t want more stuff. He wants the satisfaction of making a difference.

Supply self-sufficiency. Goats nourish families with protein-rich milk, cheese, and yoghurt, and can offer a much needed income boost by providing offspring and extra dairy products for sale at the market. Goats even provide fertilizer to help increase crop harvests!

WVGoat

Grace and Peace

June 19, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Environment | , , , | Leave a comment

Hunger increases

For most of my lifetime, world hunger has been decreasing. It has still been a serious issue, but many countries like China and India have been able to increase their food production at rates that exceeded their population growth.

The current global economic situation, however has reversed that trend. From Yahoo News: World hunger reaches 1 billion people mark.

What are we to do about it, as individuals and churches?

One small contribution on the individual level is to support a child through organizations like Compassion International or World Vision.

6 “Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,

then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.

Isaiah 58:6-10 ESV (emphasis added)

Grace and Peace

June 19, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Environment | , , , | 2 Comments

Evangelism or the environment?

From The Wonder of Creation: Evangelicals, evangelism, and the environment.

As an evangelical who writes and speaks on the wonder of creation and the care of creation, I’ve often been asked the question, “Isn’t evangelism—saving human souls—more important than caring for the earth?”

This issue is probably number 1 in calling into question the validity of evangelical concern for the material creation—the earth.  The trouble is that the question is virtually meaningless as it stands.  This can be illustrated by asking another question: “Isn’t evangelism more important than good parenting?”  Whereas the first seems to call for an obvious yes, the second does not.  In fact, most evangelicals with children would likely answer no to the second question.

Read the rest of Dean Ohlman’s post here.

Grace and Peace

June 13, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Environment, Nature | 2 Comments

The Bible and the environment

From Gordon Wenham, British Old Testament scholar: The Bible and the Environment.

(I’ve read one book by Wenham — Christ and the Bible — which unfortunately is out of print. His approach to Biblical authority is the most Christ-centered that I have read. It is worth a re-read sometime soon.)

Here are some quotes:

It was over 30 years ago that I visited Israel for the first time, and I remember how it transformed my reading of the Bible. Up to then I had never paid much attention to the place names in the text: I just focused on the characters and their actions. But after visiting many of the sites mentioned in the text my reading of the stories changed: I picture them taking place in the specific places mentioned in the Bible.

Something similar happened to me some fifteen months ago, when I was asked to read a paper to a conference of environmentalists on The Old Testament and the Environment. Though I was quite familiar with many of the texts in the Bible relating to environmental issues, I had not asked myself how the biblical writers regarded the environment. But once ask the question and you will soon realise it has a lot to say on this topic. Mind you I could find little help from modern biblical scholarship. They tend to share the blind spots of modern city dwellers and not address these issues either.

————————————————–

Ancient literature…simply takes for granted that human life is embedded in the rest of nature and inextricable from it. But modern biblical interpretation has persistently ignored what the texts assume and say about the human relationship to nature. [quote from Richard Bauckham]

Modern urban readers of the Bible assume references to nature are just picturesque illustrations of human life.

————————————————–

I shall be content, if I can persuade you that if you take the Bible seriously you ought also be concerned for the environment.

————————————————–

I want to sketch the life-style of the typical Israelite farmer in Old or New Testament times. As I have already mentioned it is remarkable how little books on Old Testament theology and ethics say hardly say about environmental issues. Yet it has been observed that animals are mentioned on nearly every one of the thousand pages of the Old Testament. This is not surprising, for OT man was intimately involved in the environment throughout life. The weather determined whether his crops would flourish or fail. He drew his water from the local well. He depended on animals to plough his fields, transport his goods, for clothing, for food and for sacrifice. Often some of them lived in the courtyard of his house. Yet though much closer to nature than us, nature was also perceived as potentially more hostile. He could be killed by lions or bears. If drought did not cause famine, locusts or disease could be equally fatal.

By contrast modern urban dwellers are largely cocooned from the environment.

————————————————–

Genesis 1 thus suggests that man’s relationship to the rest of creation should be characterised by solidarity, benevolence and control.

————————————————–

I do not know how far these disasters can be put down to global warming. But if we think the scientific analysis may be right, we do not need a sophisticated theology to tell us what to do. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ surely demands that we are as concerned as much with the effects of our actions on our neighbours in Africa as on our neighbours in Cheltenham. That is why we ought to take the environmental crisis seriously.

Grace and Peace

HT: The Evangelical Ecologist

June 13, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Environment | Leave a comment

Geological map of the Arctic

From Natural Resources Canada: Geological map of the Arctic. As I’ve said before, a good geologic map is a work of art.

GeologicMapArctic2

GeologicMapArctic

According to the US Geological Survey, up to 25% of Earth’s remaining oil and gas reserves could be in the Arctic region.

Grace and Peace

June 13, 2009 Posted by | Geology, Maps | | Leave a comment

Worship?

A good cartoon from Internet Monk: The Big Worship Goof.

WorshipGoof

Grace and Peace

June 13, 2009 Posted by | Christianity | Leave a comment

Solar evaporation ponds, Chile

From NASA’s Earth Observatory: Solar Evaporation Ponds, Atacama Desert, Chile

SolarEvaporationPonds

Credit: NASA/ISS

Grace and Peace

June 13, 2009 Posted by | Imagery | 4 Comments

Death before the fall — an old-Earth Biblical perspective

The topic of death before Adam’s fall into sin is a common area of debate between Christians who accept an old Earth and those who insist that the Bible requires a young Earth. Old-Earth creationists (whether or not they are theistic evolutionists) have to accept animal death before the fall. After all, the fossil record records hundreds of millions of years of animal fossils, all of which are certainly quite dead. Young-Earth creationists (YECs) say that there was no death before the fall, and this is part of their theological proof that Earth must be young.

So what does the Bible say? Here is my Biblical defense of animal death before the fall:

  1. Neither Genesis 3, Romans 5, Romans 8, nor 1 Corinthians 15 (the passages most commonly used by YECs) say anything at all about animal death. These passages refer specifically to human death being the result of Adam’s sin. Reading animal death into these passages is an unnecessary extrapolation.
  2. YECs point to the curse in Genesis 3 as the origin of animal death. But just like in the other passages, Genesis 3 does not say that animal death is a result of the fall. Again, this is something that YECs read into the passage, rather than something that they draw out of the passage. The curse had some sort of effect on the human relationship with creation (the futility and difficulty of work), but it was not necessarily a radical re-ordering of the creation as YECs insist. A related passage is Romans 8:20-22, which states that the whole creation groans. Just like in Genesis 3, the passage does not state the nature of that groaning, and it doesn’t necessarily include death.
  3. YECs often seem to assume that the entire Earth was the Garden of Eden, or that it was Heaven. On the other hand, the opening chapters of Genesis depict Eden as a limited geographic place somewhere in Mesopotamia, set apart from the wild lands outside of the garden. The lands outside of the garden could certainly have been a place where death (and predation) occurred as a warning to Adam and Eve of what would happen if they disobeyed. Without this visible illustration of what it meant to die, God’s statement that they would certainly die if they disobeyed could have been meaningless to Adam and Eve.
  4. We assume that in the pre-Fall world, God was only glorified by cute, gentle things like bunnies and daisies. But in the Scriptures, predation is portrayed as something that glorifies God (Job and Psalms (e.g. Ps 104:21)). There is no indication in these passages that something is wrong with the creation.
  5. Another indication from the Garden of Eden that animal death could have occurred before the fall is the nature of the Tree of Life. In Genesis, the Tree of Life is provided so that humans could eat of it (one time? on an ongoing basis?) and live forever. There is no indication that the Tree of Life was provided also for animals. So, if we listen to the YEC line of reasoning, humans needed the Tree of Life to live forever, but animals did not.
  6. Even after the curse of Genesis 3, God never revoked the “goodness” of creation (1 Tim 4:4). We live in a world with animal death, and yet God calls it “good.”
  7. What would carnivorous animals have eaten if they were forbidden to eat other animals? Many carnivores are very specialized for eating and digesting only other animals and would die on a plant-only diet. Consider animals such as the leach, anteater, or T-rex (no, I don’t buy the YEC ideas that T-rex teeth were designed to crush thick-rinded melons). As I said earlier, predation in the Psalms and Job is something that brings glory to God. Additionally, there is no Scriptural indication that there was a massive re-creation of animals either after the fall or after the flood to make them into predators.

I haven’t even touched on the scientific problems of there being no animal death before the fall, even within the YEC scenario.

These arguments may not convince hard-core YECs, but I hope I have at least shown that “no death before the fall” doesn’t necessarily flow out of the pages of Scripture, and that other Biblical understandings of animal death are possible.

Grace and Peace

June 12, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Theistic evolution, Young-Earth creationism | , , | 54 Comments

Aluminum and the 100-year old oceans

I’ve spent more time commenting on other people’s blogs this week than working on my own. I wrote some rather lengthy comments, so I’m going to post them here with some editing.


I’ve recently come across several young-Earth creationist recommendations for the book Old Earth Creationism on Trial by Tim Chaffey and and Jason Lisle. I haven’t read the book, but I have paged through it in the local Christian bookstore. It contains little new information, but does contain some of the same old faulty arguments that plague the young-Earth creationism movement. Here’s one example.

On page 124 (if I remember correctly), the authors use the amount of sea salts entering the oceans as one of their proofs that the Earth is young. According to the authors, if one measures the amount of salts (ions, such as sodium, potassium, iron, or chloride) entering the ocean and then compares that to the amount of these substances that are already in the oceans, one can obtain the maximum age of the oceans. I forget the exact number they came up with, but the maximum age they gave is in the tens of millions of years, which is far less than the age of 4.5 billion years given by geologists.

Here’s the problem:

If you use this reasoning with the element sodium (part of sodium chloride), one ends up with a maximum age of 260 million years for the ocean. But there are many other elements in solution in seawater, and using the same reasoning, one obtains the following maximum ages for the ocean:

  • K – 11 million years
  • Cu – 50,000 years
  • Pb – 2,000 years
  • Fe – 140 years
  • Al – 100 years

Using this sort of reasoning, one should come to the conclusion that the oceans are no more than 100 years old! Something is obviously wrong here. What is wrong is that we cannot determine the age of the oceans by these means because there are other things going on with these elements.

What the authors fail to take into account is the various means by which elements can be removed from the oceans. They mention sea spray, but this is a minor means of removal. In today’s oceans, many of these elements are removed from the ocean over time as seawater circulates through the sediments and rocks in the oceanic crust. Additionally, there are huge deposits of salt in the sedimentary rock record, which is another way in which the various elements have been removed from seawater over time.

What is going on here is not a means of determination of the age of the oceans, but a demonstration of equilibrium. Sodium goes into the ocean, sodium is removed from the ocean at approximately the same rate. The same is true for all of the elements dissolved in seawater.

To summarize: Books like Old Earth Creationism on Trial may seem like a good defense of the Bible to those who know little geology, but are full of poor arguments and should not be used as Christian apologetics. These arguments may be convincing to those without the background to evaluate them, but there are serious problems that the authors either don’t themselves understand or choose to ignore (Chaffey has degrees in theology so his misunderstanding is understandable; Lisle has a PhD in astrophysics and his distortion of science here is difficult to fathom). This is not apologetics but anti-apologetics, and serves to drive scientists away from Christianity rather than pointing them to Christ.

Grace and Peace

June 12, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Geology, Young-Earth creationism | , | 1 Comment