I’ll soon be moving to a new state and a new job, so I won’t be doing much blogging for perhaps a month or more.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
—Zephaniah 3:17 ESV
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
—2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV
Grace and Peace
Here are some more great images from NASA’s Earth Observatory:
Grace and Peace
I highly recommend “Has Science Disproved Christianity?”, a talk given by Dr. Charles Kankelborg at the Evangelical Free Church of Bozeman, Montana earlier this month. Dr. Kankelborg is a professor of physics at Montana State University.
The audio file is available from the Bozeman Evangelical Free Church site (Scroll down to November 1, 2009)
Here are a few of my favorite slides from his PowerPoint presentation:
Grace and Peace
In part one of my book review of Beyond Creation Science by Timothy Martin and Jeffrey Vaughn, I stated that the authors succeeded admirably in one of their objectives, which was to present a Biblical case against young-Earth creationism, with its 6000-year old Earth and global flood. Their second, and perhaps primary, objective was to present a case for a position regarding eschatology (the doctrines regarding the future) known as “full preterism,” and though this was a key part of their argument against young-Earth creationism, I found their case to be far from convincing.
The basic idea of full preterism is that all of the “end times” prophecies of the Bible, including those in the Old Testament, the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25 and parallel passages in Mark and Luke), and in the book of Revelation, were fulfilled in the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem. In other words, Jesus has already returned and the resurrection has already happened.
I had not previously read any books on full preterism, though I had been exposed to the concept in conversations with a friend. As I read through Beyond Creation Science, however, I saw a number of problems:
- The basic problem, of course, is that Jesus has not returned. Not in the way that is described in Acts 1:11, which says: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (ESV). The apostles saw Jesus physically ascend to heaven, and we should expect his return to be in the same manner. Martin and Vaughn have a 9-page Scripture index with hundreds of references, but don’t refer to this verse.
- The full preterists describe Jesus’ second coming as a spiritual, rather than a physical, bodily return. According to full preterism, there were physical events associated with his return, but no Jesus descending bodily from heaven. This isn’t a whole lot different than the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ 1914 return of Jesus, other than the timing.
- Those who hold to the various futurist eschatologies (e.g. premillenialism or postmillenialism) acknowledge that much of what occurs in the Olivet Discourse is at least partially fulfilled by the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem, but view this event as a figure of the universal judgment to come. The full preterist position, on the other hand, seems to ignore the possibility of multiple-fulfillment of prophecy. Many Old Testament prophesies about Christ were fulfilled in multiple ways over the centuries. Often there was an immediate fulfilment, and then a complete fulfilment in Christ. Likewise, there is no reason to say that much of what is written in the Olivet Discourse had an immediate fulfilment in the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem, but that there will be an ultimate fulfilment of these prophesies in the future when Christ returns.
- Most Biblical scholars place the writing of Revelation in the mid-90s, which was after the destruction of Jerusalem. This is based on the testimonies of early church fathers, not long after the apostolic age.
- Christ’s work for our salvation was complete with his death and resurrection. It did not need the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple in order to be complete.
- The early church did not teach that Christ had already returned. Full preterism is in conflict with the ancient creeds of the church, such as the Nicene and Apostles’ creeds.
Most Evangelical theologians consider full preterism to be less than orthodox. The ESV Study Bible describes preterism (including partial preterism, which is within the historic, orthodox understanding of Christ’s return) as follows:
3. Preterism (from Latin praeteritum, “the thing that is past”) thinks that the fulfillment of most of Revelation’s visions already occurred in the distant past, during the early years of the Christian church. Preterists think these events—either the destruction of Jerusalem or the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, or both—would “soon take place” only from the standpoint of John and the churches of Asia. Some preterists interpret the order of the visions as reflecting the chronological succession of the events they signify, but others recognize the presence of recapitulation (that is, that distinct, successive visions sometimes symbolize the same historical events or forces from complementary perspectives; see Structure and Outline). Full preterism—which insists that every prophecy and promise in the NT was fulfilled by a.d. 70—is not a legitimate evangelical option, for it denies Jesus’ future bodily return, denies the physical resurrection of believers at the end of history, and denies the physical renewal/re-creation of the present heavens and earth (or their replacement by a “new heaven and earth”). However, preterists who (rightly) insist that these events are still future are called “partial preterists.” (p. 2457, Introduction to Revelation, emphasis added)
The authors focus their critiques on dispenational premillenialism, which in in its popular form (Hal Lindsay, The Left Behind series) has often been guilty of wild speculation and date-setting. Perhaps full preterism is an overreaction to nonsense such as 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will be in 88.
While the book made a good case against young-Earth creationism, I was completely unconvinced by the authors’ arguments regarding eschatology. I will stick with the Nicene Creed, which is a summary of what the church has always taught regarding the return of Christ:
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
Grace and Peace
P.S. Or perhaps author Timothy Martin thinks Christ has already returned because he lives in Montana. Lucky guy.
Sarah Palin — I am a conservative and Republican, but I am no fan of Sarah Palin. I groaned when McCain selected her for his running mate, as it completely took away the “experience” argument against Obama. Rod Dreher (Crunchy Con) has a good review of Going Rogue.
Warm-blooded dinosaurs — This has been debated for thirty some years, but Earth Magazine reports on further evidence for warm-bloodedness.
More high highs than low lows — Global warming skeptics regularly report whenever there is a record low temperature somewhere. “Thirty-two below in Bismarck, North Dakota; sure seems like global warming…” The National Science Foundation reports that record highs in the U.S. in the 2000s have been twice as common as record lows (HT: Geology News)
Volcanoes galore — Many people are not aware that there is a volcano erupting somewhere all the time. The Volcanism Blog posts updates on many of these.
Muslim soldiers — Rod Dreher (Crunchy Con) has a picture that should make us think twice about lumping all Muslim US soldiers together: Nidal Hasan isn’t the only Muslim U.S. soldier
Bioblitz in Yellowstone — The San Diego Union-Tribune reports Scientists look for Yellowstone’s hidden species
“Some 125 scientists and volunteers spent 24 hours canvassing an area in northern Yellowstone during the “bioblitz” — a scientific mad dash to document as many species as possible over the course of a day.”
Lord of the Rings flow chart — Strange Maps shows Flow-Charting the Ring Trilogy, which traces the interactions between the main characters.
Trinity Western University — I’ll put in a plug for the university my oldest son is attending in Vancouver, BC. From the TWU President’s Blog:
“It was a good week last week when TWU received a long list of A+s and As in the Globe & Mail Report Card on 53 universities across Canada. TWU rejoices in being the only university in Canada to receive an A+ in overall quality of education four years in a row.”
Grace and Peace
“We should be contending for truth in every area of life. Not for power or because we are taken with some trendy cause, but humbly to bring glory to God. For this reason, Christians should be the most ardent ecologists. Not because we would rather save spotted owls than cut down trees whose bark provides lifesaving medicine, but because we are mandated to keep the Garden, to ensure that the beauty and grandeur God has reflected in nature is not despoiled. We should care for animals. Not because whales are our brothers, but because animals are part of God’s kingdom over which we are to exercise dominion.” — Charles Colson, The Body, p. 197
Grace and Peace
|Being that the dreaded Yankees won the World Series, here is my map of New York City, as originally posted in December 2007.|
A couple days ago I commented (click here) on a map of Montana printed by The New Yorker Magazine. (I got the map from Strange Maps). Those Easterners know that Montana has everything from militia groups to radical environmentalists, but they didn’t know what part of the state to put them in.
I was thinking to myself: “Hey, you worked as a cartographer for eleven years. You can certainly make just as good of a map of New York City as they made of Montana.” So, here it is:
I was at JFK airport in 1980, so it isn’t like I haven’t been there.
A few weeks ago, I looked at what the ESV Study Bible had to say about the doctrine of creation in its introduction to the book of Genesis (click here). The ESV Study Bible Introduction to Genesis gives an overview of the various interpretations (calendar-day, day-age, etc.), a discussion about the relationship between Genesis and science, a statement on the historicity of Adam and Eve, and cautionary notes about interpreting the account of Noah’s flood.
The ESV Study Bible is the product of theologically conservative Biblical scholars who are committed to the inerrancy of the Bible, but it clearly does not advocate young-Earth creationism.
Here are some highlights from the notes on Genesis 1:
1:1-11:26 Primeval History — In contrast to the patriarchal stories, however, other ancient nonbiblical stories do exist recounting stories about both creation and the flood. The existence of such stories, however, does not in any way challenge the authority or the inspiration of Genesis. In fact, the nonbiblical stories stand in sharp contrast to the biblical account, and thus help readers appreciate the unique nature and character of the biblical accounts of creation and the flood. In other ancient literary traditions, creation is a great struggle often involving conflict between the gods. […] Reading Genesis, readers can see that it is designed to refute these delusions. There is only one God, whose word is almighty. He has only to speak and the world comes into being. The sun and moon are not gods in their own right, but are created by the one God. This God does not need feeding by man, as the Babylonians believed they did by offering sacrifices, but he supplies man with food. It is human sin, not divine annoyance, that prompts the flood. Far from Babylon’s tower (Babel) reaching heaven, it became a reminder that human pride could neither reach nor manipulate God. These principles, which emerge so clearly in Genesis 1–11, are truths that run through the rest of Scripture. The unity of God is fundamental to biblical theology, as is his almighty power, his care for mankind, and his judgment on sin. It may not always be obvious how these chapters relate to geology and archaeology, but their theological message is very clear. Read in their intended sense, they provide the fundamental presuppositions of the rest of Scripture. These chapters should act as eyeglasses, so that readers focus on the points their author is making and go on to read the rest of the Bible in light of them.
1:3-5 — By a simple reading of Genesis, these days must be described as days in the life of God, but how his days relate to human days is more difficult to determine.
1:6-8 — Water plays a crucial role in ancient Near Eastern creation literature. In Egypt, for example, the creator-god Ptah uses the preexistent waters (personified as the god Nun) to create the universe. The same is true in Mesopotamian belief: it is out of the gods of watery chaos—Apsu, Tiamat, and Mummu—that creation comes. The biblical creation account sits in stark contrast to such dark mythological polytheism. In the biblical account, water at creation is no deity; it is simply something God created, and it serves as material in the hands of the sole sovereign Creator.
Gen. 1:14–19 — This section corresponds closely with the ordering of Day and Night on the first day, involving the separation of light and darkness (vv. 3–5). Here the emphasis is on the creation of lights that will govern time, as well as providing light upon the earth (v. 15). By referring to them as the greater light and lesser light (v. 16), the text avoids using terms that were also proper names for pagan deities linked to the sun and the moon. Chapter 1 deliberately undermines pagan ideas regarding nature’s being controlled by different deities. (To the ancient pagans of the Near East, the gods were personified in various elements of nature. Thus, in Egyptian texts, the gods Ra and Thoth are personified in the sun and the moon, respectively.) The term made (Hb. ‘asah, v. 16), as the esv footnote shows, need only mean that God “fashioned” or “worked on” them; it does not of itself imply that they did not exist in any form before this. Rather, the focus here is on the way in which God has ordained the sun and moon to order and define the passing of time according to his purposes.
1:27 — There has been debate about the expression image of God. Many scholars point out the idea, commonly used in the ancient Near East, of the king who was the visible representative of the deity; thus the king ruled on behalf of the god. Since v. 26 links the image of God with the exercise of dominion over all the other creatures of the seas, heavens, and earth, one can see that humanity is endowed here with authority to rule the earth as God’s representatives or vice-regents (see note on v. 28). Other scholars, seeing the pattern of male and female, have concluded that humanity expresses God’s image in relationship, particularly in well-functioning human community, both in marriage and in wider society. Traditionally, the image has been seen as the capacities that set man apart from the other animals—ways in which humans resemble God, such as in the characteristics of reason, morality, language, a capacity for relationships governed by love and commitment, and creativity in all forms of art. All these insights can be put together by observing that the resemblances (man is like God in a series of ways) allow mankind to represent God in ruling, and to establish worthy relationships with God, with one another, and with the rest of the creation. This “image” and this dignity apply to both “male and female” human beings. (This view is unique in the context of the ancient Near East. In Mesopotamia, e.g., the gods created humans merely to carry out work for them.)
1:28 — God’s creation plan is that the whole earth should be populated by those who know him and who serve wisely as his vice-regents or representatives. subdue it and have dominion. The term “subdue” (Hb. kabash) elsewhere means to bring a people or a land into subjection so that it will yield service to the one subduing it (Num. 32:22, 29). Here the idea is that the man and woman are to make the earth’s resources beneficial for themselves, which implies that they would investigate and develop the earth’s resources to make them useful for human beings generally. This command provides a foundation for wise scientific and technological development; the evil uses to which people have put their dominion come as a result of Genesis 3. over every living thing. As God’s representatives, human beings are to rule over every living thing on the earth. These commands are not, however, a mandate to exploit the earth and its creatures to satisfy human greed, for the fact that Adam and Eve were “in the image of God” (1:27) implies God’s expectation that human beings will use the earth wisely and govern it with the same sense of responsibility and care that God has toward the whole of his creation.
My purpose here is primarily to look at the ESV Study Bible as it relates to topics such as Earth history. It is certainly an excellent study resource, no matter where one stands on the age of the Earth issue, and will help anyone to grow in their knowledge of God and his Word.
Grace and Peace
My daughter did the “burn the nut” experiment in her high school chemistry class yesterday. In this experiment, the nut is set up under a calorimeter (which could be as simple as a glass beaker with a thermometer, though other setups work better), the nut is burned, the water warms up, and the student calculates the amount of heat released in the combustion reaction.
She told me about this, and I burst into song, just like I did when I was a chemistry teacher. Here is the song:
THE CHEMISTRY SONG
(Tune: The Christmas Song)
words by Kevin Nelstead, Bucharest Christian Academy
Chestnuts roasting with an open fire,
With a calorimeter.
Chemis-tree carols being sung by a choir,
And students dressed up with safety goggles.
Everybody knows the specific heat of H2O
Is one calorie per gram degree Celsius.
And though its been said, many times, many ways
I’ll write on the topic of Chemis-tree carols some other time.
Grace and Peace
|The following item was originally posted in September 2007. I have added it to my blog recycling program. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my favorite blog entries.|
I love trees, but…
Here is a video clip featuring Earth First! people mourning the loss of a tree:
Some questions for thought:
- What is right in the worldview of the people in this movie?
- What is wrong in the worldview of the people in this movie?
- How should we think about trees?
Grace and Peace
Two popular topics among Evangelical Christians for the past several decades have been origins—especially young-Earth creationism—and dispensational end-times eschatology (eschatology is the doctrine of the last things, including the return of Christ and the final judgment). Young-earth creationism has certainly been the prevailing dogma in Evangelical Christian education and in many churches and Christian colleges. Go to a Christian home school convention or book fair, and books presenting any kind of old-Earth perspective will be difficult or impossible to find. At the popular level, books on the end times, such as Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth and Tim Lahaye’s Left Behind series, have been mega best sellers. Many look at these two viewpoints as grounded in Scripture, and as firm evidence for the truthfulness of the Bible. Other Christians look at them as questionable, harmful, or at times downright goofy.
The premise of Beyond Creation Science (subtitle: New Covenant Creation from Genesis to Revelation) by Timothy Martin and Jeffrey Vaughn is that Evangelical Christians are wrong about both ends of the Bible. They do an excellent job of laying out a Biblical case against young-Earth creationism, with its 6000-year old Earth and global flood. People who only read materials from the young-Earth organizations, such as Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research, are generally quite unaware that there is a vast amount of conservative, Evangelical Biblical scholarship that shows that the Bible requires neither a young-Earth nor a global flood, and Martin and Vaughn do a good job of presenting this case.
I’ll give my thoughts on Martin and Vaughn’s full preterist eschatology in part 2 of this book review.
I have many positive things to say about the authors’ Biblical analysis of young-Earth creationism. They point out that modern geology, with its view of billions of years of Earth history, was not devised as an attack on the Bible or Christianity. Few Christians voiced opposition to an ancient Earth while the concept was being developed in the 1700s and 1800s, and many of the most eminent geologists of that time were themselves Christians.
The authors of Beyond Creation Science tackle the “three pillars” of young-Earth creationism:
- A 6000-year old Earth
- A global flood
- No animal death before the fall
For the sake of brevity, I won’t look at each of these, but will focus on the strong Biblical case they make for the flood being local, rather being global.
Those who only read material from the young-Earth organizations think that a global flood is a given in Scriptures, not being aware that there are a multitude of Biblical arguments for a local flood somewhere in the area around Mesopotamia. The authors believe Noah’s flood was restricted to the descendants of Seth, rather than killing all of humanity. Not all old-Earth creationists would agree with this position; Hugh Ross for example teaches that the flood was geographically limited but humanly universal. Martin and Vaughn write:
If the subject of the account is planet Earth, then does this text [Gen 8:13-14] not teach that the oceans dried up at the end of the flood? Did the entire globe become dry? The plain statement of the text makes much more sense if it refers to a particular local place or “the land” where Noah lived.
If we use our imaginations to visualize the events of a global flood, many logical problems would come to mind. These are some of the most obvious:
- If the Genesis flood created the geologic column and radically reshaped the topography of the earth, why do we still have the same rivers in Mesopotamia that Genesis references? The Tigris and Euphrates have been known by those names since millennia before Christ. Would not a global flood, which lays down thousands of feet of strata around the world, obliterate those rivers we see referenced earlier in Genesis?
- Why would the ark land in the same part of the world after drifting on a worldwide ocean for many months? Noah appeared to find his world familiar after he landed. He certainly knew how to grow grapes after the flood. A local flood explains why the ark landed in the same part of the world Noah originally lived, i.e., somewhere in the Middle East.
- How could one flood event sort out unique fossils to specific layers of strata? A worldwide flood which created the fossil record all at once would leave a chaotic mix of fossils throughout the entire geological column. Outside of a few geological “hotspots,” geologists find specific fossils in each layer of strata. Would one chaotic flood event place fossils neatly in order?
- How could Noah fit all the species of animals from around the world into such a limited ark? Realize that he would also have to take the specific foods unique to each animal in amounts that would have to last the entire voyage. The hay required to feed one pair of elephants would have filled the entire ark. Noah would also have to take water for after the rain stopped, at least. He could not use the waters of the flood for drinking because it would be contaminated and briny. Consider what the water would be like with all of the violent churning/eroding action and death flood geologists maintain took place during the flood. [I’m not sure the authors are correct on the hay and elephants statement. And having adequate drinking water would have been a problem only after it stopped raining.]
- If the fossil record is a result of the flood, then it means that the number of animals alive in Noah’s day were vastly more than today. Noah was commanded to take a pair of every animal on board, which means a pair of all the animals documented in the fossil record (which are now extinct) on top of all the animals we are familiar with today! They would need food water for these as well, dinosaurs and all.
- This logically means that most of the species of animals that God originally created and Noah put on the ark went extinct after the flood. There is a tremendous amount of life documented in the fossil record which is not alive today. More than 95% of the animals that have lived on earth are now extinct. Why would God order Noah to preserve all the animals by bringing them on to the ark and then cause their extinction shortly after the flood? For example, did Noah take dinosaurs (whether eggs or mature) onto the ark only to have them all go extinct? If so, then the explicit reason given for the ark was almost a complete failure. Only a tiny percentage of the animals really survived. No wonder Noah took up drinking!
As others have done, Martin and Vaughn point out that if one translates the Hebrew word erets as “land” rather than “earth” in Genesis, the flood account takes on a completely different feel. For example, Genesis 7:17 would read
“For forty days the flood kept coming on the land, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the land. The waters rose and increased greatly on the land, and the ark floated on the surface of the water.”
This translation is every bit as legitimate as translating erets as “earth,” and presents the flood as a local, rather than global event.
The authors focus on Biblical rather than scientific arguments for an old Earth and local flood, but when they discuss geological concepts they get their facts right, something that is not done even by some other advocates of an old Earth.
I’m not as impressed by their eschatology, which I’ll take a look at in part 2.
The book’s website is: Beyond Creation Science. One of the authors graciously sent me a copy of the book for review.
Grace and Peace
|P.S. Part two of my book review is a critique of the authors’ position on eschatology known as full preterism, which is a deviation from what the church has always taught regarding the return of Christ.|
Thank you to the 65 people who took my October GeoChristian poll. The question was, “Which statement most closely matches your position on creation and evolution?” Here are the responses:
- 15% — I am a Christian and a young-Earth creationist
- 23% — I am a Christian and an old-Earth creationist who rejects most of biological evolution
- 37% — I am a Christian and an old-Earth creationist who accepts natural causes for the origin of life and/or biological evolution as the best explanation for the diversity of life (theistic evolution).
- 9% — I am a Christian and do not have a strong opinion about evolution or the age of the Earth
- 0% — I am not a Christian but believe there was some sort of supernatural involvement in the origin of the universe, life, or the diversity of life.
- 15% — I am not a Christian and believe that naturalistic explanations are completely adequate to explain the existence of the universe and life.
A little bit of analysis shows that:
- 85% of my readers consider themselves to be Christian. This is consistent with the September poll results, which had 86% of my readers indicating they were Christians.
- 15% of my readers are not Christians. I certainly welcome these readers, and appreciate their input into the discussions.
Grace and Peace
A week ago we had 18 inches (46 cm) of snow on the ground. Today it is 75 F (24 C), and most of the snow has melted. I love Colorado weather (which makes me homesick for Montana weather).
Grace and Peace
Yippee! I got a good an excellent job, starting in less than three weeks. That is about all I will ever say about it here on my blog.
Thank you to all who sent notes of encouragement, contacts, and job announcements, as well as to those of you who prayed for me over the past year since we returned from Romania.
Grace and Peace
This is really going to help me with all of those little island countries in the Caribbean and South Pacific.
HT: The Map Room
Grace and Peace