The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

The importance of humility regarding “the creation-evolution circus”

C. Michael Patton at the Parchment & Pen blog (Credo House Ministries) writes Where I Stand on the Creation Evolution Circus. Patton is a young-Earth creationist, but holds to that position loosely, and doesn’t like the tone of many YEC advocates, as well as that of the other end of the spectrum, many theistic evolutionists. Here are some excerpts [with emphasis added]:

The problem that I have with this issue is not so much my criticism of positions that I don’t hold, but the dogmatism that adherents of each position is characterized by. Rarely do I find a balanced, respectful, humble adherent in these areas. The closest I find is in the Intelligent Design and Old Earth Creation proponents. They are much easier to listen to. Almost always, every other position finds itself in the company of those who use heavy handed tactics to demean and discredit their “opposition.”

Answers in Genesis position seems pretty clear: If you don’t accept a young earth, you have compromised the faith and biblical truth.

Biologos’ position (from what I continue to read is getting pretty clear as well): If you don’t accept evolution, you are no better than flat-earthers.

Each side illegitimizes the opposition (often due to nothing more than frustration) by attacking the legitimacy of the position by unfair associations. At this point, they become radical (almost cult-like) and lose the audience (who is already skeptical to begin with).

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I take a position that the earth is young and that evolution did not happen. I could give you the reasons why, but I don’t really care enough to do so. Please don’t misunderstand. It is not that I don’t care enough about you, but that I don’t care enough about the subject. Yes, I am facinated by it. I find it important and interesting. But in the end, when I say “I take a postion that the earth is young etc.” don’t think it is black and white in my mind. I am not sure. If God were to send a prophet and supernatually inform me during breakfast tomorrow that he did indeed use evolution and that the earth was six billion years old, I would pause for about two seconds and then say, “Awesome. Can you pass me the syrup?” I don’t really have that big of a dog in this hunt. Frankly, I don’t think you should either.

It is simply not that big a deal.

“But, but, but, we are fighting the New Atheists. Dawkins and Hitchings and the like are all using evolution to prove that God does not exist. We have to stand strong against evolution.”

We don’t know as much as we like to think we know about this. The issues are simply not accessible. The Bible is not that clear on it (only two chapters devoted to the creation of all things?). Does your faith really hinge on how one interprets the first chapters of Genesis? Really?

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In my defense of Christianity, I will just stick to the resurrection of Christ and the fact that something cannot come from nothing. The fact that something cannot come from nothing gets me to God. The resurrection of Christ gets me to the Christian God. A simple two step process that does not require a PhD to get there.

The evidence for the historicity of the resurrection is accessible and, in my opinion, impossible to rationally dismiss. I have never met an atheist who believes in the resurrection of Christ. This is the central issue of Christianity. Convince them that Christ rose from the grave and their atheism will necessarily disappear. I promise.

And even if evolution happened, this does not account for the elephant that has always been in the room: where did it all come from? I have never met a naturalistic evolutionist who believed in personal transcendent First Cause for everything. This is the issue of God’s existence, not how he did it.

Father, may I be filled with humility as I hold fast to your Word and write on this potentially divisive issue of origins. May my convictions be in submission to what you have revealed in your Word and in your creation, and may my love for those who differ with me be more important to me than that I win any arguments. Grant us as believers a stronger measure of the unity that we already have in Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Grace and Peace

October 31, 2010 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Origins, Theistic evolution, Young-Earth creationism | , , | 10 Comments

Toilet or telephone?

If you could choose between having a cell phone, and having a toilet in or near your home, which would you choose? I think I could live without the cell phone.

From Yahoo News/Associated Press: India: Land of many cell phones, fewer toilets.

MUMBAI, India – The Mumbai slum of Rafiq Nagar has no clean water for its shacks made of ripped tarp and bamboo. No garbage pickup along the rocky, pocked earth that serves as a road. No power except from haphazard cables strung overhead illegally.

And not a single toilet or latrine for its 10,000 people.

Yet nearly every destitute family in the slum has a cell phone. Some have three.

The article describes the extreme poverty in the slums of Mumbai. Many don’t have the basics of life: adequate food, clean water, sanitation, health care.

But they have cell phones. They are dependent on an undependable government for the basics of life, so live in destitution. But cell phones are cheap and available.

Pray. Be thankful for what you have. Give generously.

Grace and Peace

October 30, 2010 Posted by | Missions | , | Leave a comment

October 31st — Reformation Day

Forget Halloween; October 31st is Reformation Day!

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The 95 Theses were Luther’s arguments against the selling of indulgences, which were documents declaring forgiveness of sins granted by the church as a result of some act of the repentant sinner. Indulgences were being aggressively marketed at this time–sold for cash–as a means of paying for the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and so Luther’s opposition to the sale of indulgences not only had doctrinal implications, but also had financial repercussions.

The posting of the 95 Theses is often looked at as the catalyst that started the Protestant Reformation. The word Protestant comes from protest, which today has a negative connotation. When we use the word protest, it implies that we are against something. Those who protest abortion, or the war in Iraq, or Obama’s health care program, are against those things. But we should think of Protestantism in a much more positive way. The first Protestants—such as Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon, and John Calvin—were not just against the doctrinal and moral corruption of the sixteenth century Roman Catholic Church, they were for something. After all, the prefix in Protestant is pro-, not anti-. They were for the testimony (therefore pro-test) of gospel truths that had been buried or obscured over the centuries, such as the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone.

Some Christians believe it is wrong to celebrate the Reformation, thinking that to celebrate it is something like celebrating a divorce. It is indeed sad that Christianity is divided into Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox (the result of an earlier schism), and Protestant, and that the Protestant church is divided into thousands of denominations. But what is sad isn’t that the Reformation occurred, but that it was necessary in the first place. The Reformation, in my mind, what an incredibly good thing.

Consider the following quote from Martin Luther, which describes the great exchange (we give Jesus our sin; he gives us his righteousness):

“Learn Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him and, despairing of yourself, say, ‘Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given to me what I was not.'”

The great exchange is found in a number of places in both the Old and New Testaments. Here are a couple examples:

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

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. — Isaiah 53:6 ESV

Grace and Peace in abundance!

October 30, 2010 Posted by | Christianity | , , | Leave a comment

Ice on the Moon

From Astronomy Picture of the Day 10/25/2010: Water Ice Detected Beneath Moon’s Surface

Blue is hydrogen-rich (probably water ice) and red is hydrogen-poor.

The explanation from the APOD site:

Is there enough water on the moon to sustain future astronauts? The question has important implications if humanity hopes to use the Moon as a future outpost. Last year, to help find out, scientists crashed the moon-orbiting LCROSS spacecraft into a permanently shadowed crater near the Moon’s South Pole. New analyses of the resulting plume from Cabeus crater indicate more water than previously thought, possibly about six percent. Additionally, an instrument on the separate LRO spacecraft that measures neutrons indicates that even larger lunar expanses — most not even permanently shadowed — may also contain a significant amount of buried frozen water. Pictured above from LRO, areas in false-color blue indicate the presence of soil relatively rich in hydrogen, which is thought likely bound to sub-surface water ice. Conversely, the red areas are likely dry. The location of the Moon’s South Pole is also digitally marked on the image. How deep beneath the surface the ice crystals permeate is still unknown, as well as how difficult it would be to mine the crystals and purify them into drinking water.

October 29, 2010 Posted by | Astronomy, Geology, Space Exploration | , | Leave a comment

The books that have most influenced me

Here are my “top 10” books that have had an impact on my life. Some of them have impacted millions of other people; a few may not be on the “top 10” list of anyone else on the planet.

I would put the Bible as the #1 book, but it needs to be on its own list. None of the following books would even be in the same category in terms of their influence in my life.

  • Knowing God, by J.I. Packer — This was the first major Christian book I read, back when I was twenty years old. It laid an excellent foundation for my life and doctrine. A lot Christian books are fluffy or ephemeral; this one will still be read centuries from now (if the Lord’s return is delayed that long).
  • Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis — Another 20th century author whose works will still be read a few hundred years from now. Lewis’s work helped to solidify my faith as a college student.
  • Operation World, by Patrick Johnstone (new edition is by Jason Mandryk) — This is subtitled “The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation.” This book helped to establish a lifelong desire to pray and work for the day when people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9 NIV) would stand before the throne of Christ.
  • The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer — “The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One.” I received this as a graduation present from Grace Bible Church in Bozeman, Montana.
  • The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer — Bonhoeffer, martyred by the Nazis, offers the most Christ-centered theology of life and discipleship I have read.
  • Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, by Ronald Sider — The title is a good description of the book. Not all would agree with Sider’s policy solutions (some would say too liberal or even socialist), but the heart of the book—an overview of poverty in today’s world and in the Bible —is solid. This book opened my eyes and heart to the deep poverty that much of the world lives in.
  • In Six Days, by Charles McGowen — I read this short presentation of young-Earth creationism when I was in tenth grade in high school, and was thoroughly convinced. Now I can see that just about everything in the book was utterly, totally, completely wrong, but it did get me started down the path that led to me majoring in geology and writing this blog.
  • Earth, by Frank Press and Raymond Siever — A university textbook on my “most influential textbooks” list? When I was a college Freshman, a friend was majoring in geology, and he had this book. I paged through it in his room, and changed my major to geology (though not right away like I should have).
  • Evolution: Nature and Scripture in Conflict? by Pattle Pun — I was still a young-Earth creationist when I started studying geology as an undergraduate. This book, from an old-Earth Christian perspective,  may have helped prevent me from having a crisis of faith when I saw that most of what I had read in YEC literature quite simply did not work as an explanation for the geological record.
  • Pollution and the Death of Man, by Francis Schaeffer — To care about the Earth is not something we should do in addition to Christian discipleship; it is part of Christian discipleship. Schaeffer is still very popular among conservative Evangelicals, but most of them, unfortunately, have not read or taken to heart this work.

I would like to add a few honorable mentions:

  • Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, by Ralph Winter (ed.) — Why do we do missions? How do we do missions? Etc.
  • Evidence that Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell — Some parts of it are better than others, but it certainly had a strong influence on me in my college days. Today I would recommend The Reason for God by Timothy Keller instead.
  • A Survey of Bible Doctrine, by Charles Ryrie — Not quite my theology on some points any more, but still a good introduction. Today I would recommend Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.
  • For the Beauty of the Earth, by Stephen Prediger-Bouma — Much more comprehensive than Schaeffer’s Pollution and the Death of Man.
  • Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer — The best book on having fellowship in Christian community.
  • The Silence of Adam, by Larry Crabb — Christ-centered perspective on being a man. Realism rather than triumphalism.

Pick one and read it!

Grace and Peace


For the opposite end of the spectrum, here are a few dishonorable mentions. These are books that were highly recommended to me, and I just couldn’t force myself to complete them:

  • Revival Lectures, by Charles Finney — Sin, sin, and more sin. Repent of everything before you can come to Christ. Sin no more if you want to stay in Christ. Spiritual perfectionism. About a third of the way into the book I started to ask myself, “Once I do everything Finney wants me to do, what do I need Jesus for?” This is Christ-less Christianity. To Finney, Christ is an example, but not a sin-bearer.
  • The Bondage Breaker, by Neil Anderson — A demon behind every problem. Extraordinarily speculative. But the solution is Jesus, not finding and casting out demons.

On the same note, a life goal of mine is to never read any of the Left Behind series or The Prayer of Jabez.

October 27, 2010 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity, Environment, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Young-Earth creationism | , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The YEC “Did God really say…?” tactic

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” — Gen 3:1 NIV

The root of human sin, whether we look back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, or at our own sin that is all too persistent, is the desire to put our word and our will above the word and will of God. Somehow, we don’t think that God is enough, or that we know better than God. In my mind I know that only God knows what is best for us, and that God’s revelation of himself in the Bible is true from Genesis through Revelation. But any time I choose my own path, I act as if God doesn’t exist, or as if I know better than him.

Young-Earth creationist organizations, such as Answers in Genesis, take the phrase “Did God really say?” and extend it to cover their narrow interpretation of the Bible. If you don’t read the opening chapters of Genesis the way they do, then you are listening to the lies of Satan himself. Answers in Genesis recently posted a couple devotionals as part of what looks like will be a longer “Attacking God’s Word” series. The first two parts in this series are Did God Really Say? and Did God Really Say the Flood Was Global?

I find it rather humorous that these appeared on the AiG web site above a couple of Charles Spurgeon sermons. Spurgeon accepted an age for the Earth that is in the millions of years.

The YEC “Did God really say…?” tactic goes something like this: A Christian says, “I believe Earth is 4.5 billion years old.” The YEC responds by saying, “That is just compromise with the world; you are listening to the lies of the Devil, just like when he asked Eve, ‘Did God really say?'”

Let’s consider Noah’s flood. The YECs say that it was a global catastrophe, that wiped out all life except what was on Noah’s ark, and that it is the cause of most geologic features we see in the world today. Almost all old-Earth creationists will say they believe that the flood was a local event, perhaps in Mesopotamia, the Persian Gulf basin, or even in the Black Sea. The YEC will respond by saying that this violates the plain reading of the text, and comes one way or another from the hissssssssing of Satan in the ear. As the “Did God Really Say the Flood Was Global?” article puts it:

To adopt the belief in millions of years, many Christians have placed uniformitarian philosophy into Scripture to account for their interpretation of the rock layers. Because of this compromise, they have reinterpreted the Flood account as being merely a local event. Therefore, they must also believe God didn’t really mean that the mountains were covered, that everything that lives and breathes on the earth died, and that He wouldn’t flood the whole world ever again.

The Genesis 3 attack seeks to cause a person to doubt God’s Word.

Do old-Earthers compromise when they claim that Noah’s flood was a local event, rather than a global catastrophe? The answer to this isn’t found by looking at geology or archeology, but by taking a close look at what the text of Genesis 6-9 actually says (and doesn’t say) about the flood, its extent, and its work.

Bible translators often have to make choices as to which word to use when they translate a Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek word into English. At times, it is possible to translate one Hebrew word with more than one English word, and the translator’s choice can significantly affect how we understand the text. This is certainly the case with the flood account in Genesis. Take, for instance, the translation of Genesis 7:17-24. In the New International Version it reads:

For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet. Every living thing that moved on the earth perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.

The English text you just read is the product of some difficult translation decisions. Consider the following:

  • earth” could be just as legitimately translated as “land
  • mountains” could be just as legitimately translated as “hills
  • heavens” could be just as legitimately translated as “sky

Also consider the NIV footnote on verse 20, which states that an equally valid translation would be “rose more than twenty feet, and the mountains were covered.”

Now read the text again, with the footnote inserted, and with land, hills, and sky substituted for earth, mountains, and heavens:

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. They rose greatly on the land, and all the high hills under the entire sky were covered. The waters rose more than twenty feet, and the hills were covered. Every living thing that moved on the land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the land, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the land was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the land. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the land for a hundred and fifty days.

A few completely valid changes to the text give it a completely different sense. It no longer reads as a global event that destroyed absolutely everything on the entire planet. Instead, it reads as something that was vast from Noah’s perspective, but not necessarily more than that. It may have been only twenty feet deep in places, covering low-lying hills at the edges of a wide plain. There is more to the Biblical case for a local flood than just this, but it is clear that a plain reading of the text doesn’t necessarily lead to the global catastrophism of young-Earth creationism.

I think that the “Did God really say…?” tactic can be turned back on the young-Earth creationist movement. They actually read many things into the text that are not there, and then hold these up as standards of orthodoxy for the rest of the church. I would ask them the following questions:

  • Did God really say that Noah’s flood was global? (The answer, as I’ve just explained is “no.” The text can be translated to make the flood appear to be global, or it can just as correctly be translated to make the flood appear to be less than global. At best, the Bible is ambiguous on the complete extent of the flood)
  • Did God really say that the flood laid down most of the world’s sedimentary rocks? (The answer to this one is also “no.” The Bible says nothing whatsoever about how the geological record was formed, so it is not a compromise to state that evidence points to a certain layer as being the remains of a coral reef ecosystem, rather than insisting that this complete ecosystem somehow was placed there by a global flood.)
  • Did God really say that the flood killed the dinosaurs? (The answer to this one is also “no.” While I affirm that God is behind all of creation, including dinosaurs, I see no Biblical reason to suppose that humans and dinosaurs lived together, that there were dinosaurs on the ark, or that they were wiped out by Noah’s flood.)

I could ask many additional “Did God really say?” questions, as there are many more examples of things that the YECs read into the text.

As I stated a few weeks ago in my Creation creeds post:

As an old-Earth creationist
I believe that the universe was created by the triune God of the Bible
I believe that the Bible does not dictate when this creation took place
I believe in a real Adam
in a real garden
in a real fall into sin
in real consequences for that sin
and in Jesus Christ as the only solution for sin

Belief in an old-Earth or a local flood does not lead to a compromise in regards to the inerrancy of Scripture or the core doctrines of the faith. I’ll stick to what God really said, and not hold my beliefs on secondary matters up as the standards of orthodoxy.

Grace and Peace

October 16, 2010 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , , | 42 Comments

Christ-centered creation care

Why should Christians be interested in the health of the environment? Is it only for some pragmatic reason, such as “clean air is good for us” or is there a Biblical support for stewardship of the environment?  Many believers are put off by the new age-iness of some “tree huggers;” is this sufficient reason to dismiss the concept of creation care?

Christianity Today recently posted an article on the Biblical basis for environmental stewardship: A Covenant with the Earth: Why the work of Christ makes all the difference in our care of creation by Matthew Farrelly. Farrelly briefly reviews four books on Christianity and the environment, then makes some further comments about the renewed relationship between not only God and humans that is made possible through Christ, but also the seeds of a renewed relationship between humans and the creation. The creation will not be fully restored until Christ returns, but in the words of Francis Schaeffer, we can have a partial healing now.

The author takes a God-centered, rather than a man-centered or an Earth-centered, approach to the environment. Here are some quotes from the article:

Surveying covenant history, it becomes apparent that the relationship between human beings and the land is crucial. The ecological state of the land is dependent on Israel’s relationship with Yahweh; the land responds to both the sinfulness and holiness of God’s people.

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In light of the new covenant, all of our creation care is grounded in Christ. It is not grounded in our fear of ecological destruction or some romanticized view of nature—nor in political correctness. Because Christ has ushered us into this new covenant—between God and us and all of creation—our relationship to creation is inherently in Christ. The image of Adam has been reframed, restructured, and re-engineered in Christ’s image. Thus, our “dominion” and “tending and keeping” of the earth is where we now work as new creation and for new creation. We are a restored kingdom of priests, and part of our mediation is between God and “every living creature,” even the land itself.

As the spate of recent creation-care books shows, evangelicals are thinking more deeply and acting more faithfully than ever before when it comes to creation care. But I believe our concern should be shaped first and foremost by this great redemptive narrative that God has fulfilled in Christ, and is still telling through Christ’s body, the church, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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Christian environmental stewardship must always take place at the foot of the Cross, where we grasp that the old is passing away, and that all things—people, creatures, and the land—are becoming new.

The first three comments on the Christianity Today site show that there is considerable amount of resistance to this type of thinking among Evangelical Christians:

New evangelicals seem to believe that working for the Gospel is adequate for salvation. Instant gratification. We have a president who talks about “collective salvation” and the worshipers of mother earth buy it hook line and sinker. It is easier than living holy lives, and telling others about Jesus. Just invite them to a garden party.

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Very sad commentary for believers. Yes, this author appears to have bought into the secular “scream” of earth worship, rather than its creator. The references he sites, take an enormous amount of speculation to connect to this issue; actually I couldn’t make the connections. Worshiping our great earth is not what Christ died for, but it’s tempting for some, brought forward in this article, to add “earth care,” as one more condition for Christian living. Check out Ephesians 2:9 “not by works, so no one can boast.” NIV

——————–

All of this leaves me a little cold. Creation is certainly of eternal significance and fits within the realm of God’s covenant with us. But to shape this relationship as a task that we have to complete puts too much emphasis on our efforts and does not focus on God’s grace and love as expressed in salvation and the place of this planet in His plan. What is missing is the concept of beauty in what we do and how that reflects the presence and grace of Jesus Christ. Real environmental effort expresses God’s presence and the fact that this is His creation. There is too much proclamation of scare tactics and human need to save planet earth. In reality, this is our opportunity to proclaim the reality of God as expressed through His creation.

I agree wholeheartedly that “green is not the gospel,” but I would also urge the body of Christ that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph 2:10) and that those good works cover all of life, including how we live in relationship with God’s good creation.

Grace and Peace

October 14, 2010 Posted by | Christianity, Environment, Nature | | 1 Comment

Environmental philosophies – some preliminary thoughts

I was reading sections out of Principles of Conservation Biology (Meffe et al., I have the 2nd edition) tonight just for fun*. The first two chapters lay a philosophical foundation for conservation biology, exploring various perspectives on environmental ethics and biodiversity.

In chapter 1—What is Conservation Biology?—the authors discuss the philosophical movements that have led to conservation efforts in the United States:

  1. The Romantic-Transcendental Conservation Ethic — The 19th century proponents of this position included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and John Muir. Nature was viewed as a place to escape from civilization, as something to be preserved in a pristine state. For the pioneers of this movement, there was a spiritual aspect to nature, which was viewed as a work of God, though not always “God” in the Christian understanding. This ethic led eventually to the creation of national parks and wilderness areas, and the preservationist philosophy of Muir and others is carried on today in many non-profit conservation groups such as the Sierra Club.
  2. The Resource Conservation Ethic — The first key proponent of this in the United States was forester Gifford Pinchot, who approached the natural world from a utilitarian perspective. This was a very anthropocentric (man-centered) view of nature; there are resources out there for humans to use, but they must be used wisely and efficiently so they will be available for future generations. One idea that flowed out of this was the multiple-use concept, where the land must be managed for many users simultaneously, such as for grazing, logging, recreation, and watershed protection.
  3. The Evolutionary-Ecological Land Ethic — Often referred to just as the “land ethic,” this was introduced by Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac in 1949. This viewpoint integrates what we have learned about the biological world in the past one hundred plus years, recognizing that natural systems are extraordinarily complex, interrelated, and dynamic. Any change we make to one part of an ecosystem can and will effect other parts of the ecosystem, sometimes in ways that are difficult to predict even with careful analysis.

What is a Christian to make of these perspectives? I see valuable lessons that can be drawn from all three, and have a few cautionary ideas as well.

The preservationists recognize that nature has inherent value beyond what is in it for human beings. From a Biblical perspective, it is good to remember that in Genesis 1:25, God declared that the creation was already “good” at the point when all was created except for the first humans. Because of this, not only do individual organisms have value (the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, Matthew 6:26-28), but so do populations, species, and entire ecosystems. Many preservationists tend towards non-Christian religious concepts such as transcendentalism and eastern mysticism, but that does not negate the observation that there are Biblical principles which are consistent with the preservationist ethic. My caution for Christians is to not confuse “creation care” with the gospel. It is good to protect animals and ecosystems, but doing so is not the good news of Christ, but part of the overall ethical package of Christianity.

The conservationists recognize that resources can be utilized by humans, but that this needs to be done in a sustainable way. The Genesis 1:28 mandate to Adam to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and rule and have dominion over it,” when understood properly should guide us to be good gardeners rather than wasteful exploiters of the creation. The creation is not ours; we are placed here as vice-regents, with God as the ultimate owner of all. My caution here is that there are voices in the Evangelical Christian community who call for “wise use” in a way that that is presented as consistent with the conservationist ethic, but whose proposals are no more than short-sighted exploitation of resources that leave nothing for future generations.

Many Christians might be frightened away from the Evolutionary-Ecological Land Ethic by the inclusion of the word evolutionary, but I think this is unnecessary, even if one rejects biological evolution as the explanation for the origin of the living world. The land ethic recognizes the extreme complexity of the living world that God has placed on this Earth. We should not be surprised that the infinite God of the universe would create a biosphere (by whatever means he chose to use) that contains intricacies within intricacies, whether at the level of cellular biochemistry or at the level of the interactions between components of entire ecosystems. This flows from the Trinitarian view of God: there is one God but he is not a simple God, and his nature is reflected in his creation (Romans 1:19-20). The caution, as the textbook authors bring out, is that one cannot leave humans out of the picture.

Of these, I am a Christian preservationist at heart, in that I marvel at the wonders that God has placed around us and see the creation as having value in itself, apart from what it can provide for us. I am thankful that there are preserved places that are readily accessible, whether they be in suburban St. Louis, or wonderlands such as Yellowstone National Park. I am also thankful for the wild places that are not as accessible to humans. As a youth, I went on several long backpacking trips through the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area in south-central Montana, which has close to one million acres of land that is closed to development of any kind. Though I spend more than 99 percent of my life outside of such places, it is comforting to know that there are places that reflect the intrinsic value with which God has endowed his creation.

I also recognize the value of the land ethic. Science is a tool that God has given us for understanding his creation, and one thing that is clear is that the living world is characterized by change and interaction. The land ethic allows us to see how the biosphere works, and how humans effect the living world. If we are to be stewards of the creation for God’s glory, for the good of the creation, and for the benefit of all mankind, then we need this scientific understanding.

I have reviewed a couple books on Christian environmental perspectives in the past. For the Beauty of the Earth by Steven Bouma-Prediger comes mostly from a Christian preservationist perspective, though he does have a good awareness of ecological relationships. I’ll have to think a bit more about where exactly Francis Schaeffer comes from in his Pollution and the Death of Man, but he certainly had a strong aesthetic streak in him, so his views are mostly compatible with the preservationist ethic.

A Christian author who comes from a conservationist perspective would be Calvin Beisner. I have not read any of his works.

I’ll hope to write about what chapter two says about the “Judeo-Christian Stewardship Ethic” later this week.

Grace and Peace

*I know, probably less than 1% of the population reads college textbooks for fun, but so be it.

October 11, 2010 Posted by | Biology, Environment, Ethics, Nature | , , , , | 4 Comments

Billings house demolished by rock slide

People like to build in pretty places. In Billings, Montana (where I spent the first eighteen years of my life), there are plenty of big houses along the Rimrocks, a cliff that forms the northern border of much of the city.

Part of the landscaping for these expensive homes is the sandstone boulders, many of which are the size of a bus. One of the hazards, of course, is that those rocks didn’t get to their present locations gently.

From the Billings Gazette: Billings home demolished by falling rocks.

There was a man in the house when the rock hit it, but thankfully no one was hurt.

The house was on Granite Avenue, but the rock was most certainly a piece of Late Cretaceous Eagle Sandstone.

Grace and Peace, and don’t build your house too close to the cliff.

October 11, 2010 Posted by | Billings Geology, Geology, Montana, Montana Geology, Natural Disasters | 1 Comment

Toxic sludge in Hungary

From NASA’s Earth Observatory: Toxic Sludge in Hungary

Credit: NASA EO-1

 

October 11, 2010 Posted by | Environment | Leave a comment

Three Piper quotes

Here are some quotes from pastor and author John Piper:

Sheer existence is, perhaps, the greatest mystery of all.

What God has made is like a toy compared to the complexity and depth of who God is. All the sciences that scratch the surface of the created universe are mere ABCs compared to Christ’s exhaustive knowledge of the created universe.

Hatred for the truth is not easily defeated by facts.

From Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, pp. 27, 60-61, 68

Grace and Peace

P.S. Piper takes no position on the age of the Earth, and elders within his church are free to accept an old Earth. When I wrote about this last year, some commenters were sure that I was twisting Piper’s words, and they twisted his words to prove it to me.

October 7, 2010 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Christianity, Creation in the Bible, Quotes | | 2 Comments

Creation creeds

Creation creed — short version

As an old-Earth creationist

I believe that the universe was created by the triune God of the Bible

I believe that the Bible does not dictate when this creation took place

I believe in a real Adam

in a real garden

in a real fall into sin

in real consequences for that sin

and in Jesus Christ as the only solution for sin

Amen


Creation creed — long version

As an old-Earth creationist

I believe that the universe—all that is seen and unseen—was created by the triune God of the Bible: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

I believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God

I believe that the Bible does not dictate when the creation took place, nor does it state the extent or work of Noah’s flood

I believe in a real Adam and Eve as individuals—the first humans in the image of God—and that we are all descendants of this family

I believe that all humans retain the image of God, and are therefore of very high value

I believe in a real Garden of Eden, and that the human mandate was to extend the blessings of Eden to all of the Earth

I believe that the natural world has inherent value, and that humans are called to be good stewards of the creation that God has given us, for the glory of God,  for the good of all humanity, and for the sake of the creation itself

I believe in a real fall into sin through Adam’s disobedience to God’s command, and in real consequences for that sin that continue to this day: human physical and spiritual death

I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only solution for sin, and that those who put their faith in him as their savior will spend eternity with him and with each other in the New Heavens and the New Earth

Amen

——————————————–

P.S. I have posted a slightly revised version of these creation creeds here. Any new comments should be posted there.

October 6, 2010 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Old-Earth creationism, Young-Earth creationism | , | 24 Comments

Ronald Reagan on the role of government in environmental protection

“I’m proud of having been one of the first to recognize that States and the Federal Government have a duty to protect our natural resources from the damaging effects of pollution that can accompany industrial development.” — Ronald Reagan

The quote is taken from It’s conservative to conserve by Rob Sisson, president of Republicans for Environmental Protection, which was in the Washington Times on Monday. Sisson wrote in response to Steve Milloy’s editorial in the Washington Times the week before, Republicans green with Democrat envy: GOP activists pursue a liberal eco-agenda. Milloy is the publisher of JunkScience.com.

I’ll side with Reagan rather than Milloy on this one.

Grace and Peace

October 6, 2010 Posted by | Environment, Politics | Leave a comment

The best of young Earth creationism — part 2

Back in July I listed three blogs by young-Earth creationists that I think are pretty good. Of course I disagree with these brothers in Christ regarding the age of the Earth and the extent and work of Noah’s flood, but I appreciate them because they hold firmly to the Bible, have a good background in science, and, unlike many YECs, are willing to admit that not all that comes out of the mainstream YEC organizations is all that good.

Two of these blogs have recently said things that reinforce my appreciation of them:

Dr. Jay Wile, Proslogion

Dr. Wile authored a post called More Evidence Supporting The Young-Earth Theory of Earth’s Magnetic Field. Dr. Wile and I had a bit of a dialog in the comments section about this, each of us giving our reasons for and against his position. I thought my reasons were better, but I’ll write about that some other time. Another thing that caught my eye, however, was his response to an off-topic question from young-Earth creationist John Chaikowsky (a friend of mine):

You mentioned that Answers in Genesis had “theology leaves a lot to be desired”. What do you mean by that or what examples do you have that you don’t agree with? Just curious.

And here is Wile’s reply:

Thanks for the question, John. Answer in Genesis believes that the ONLY way to interpret Scripture faithfully is to say that the Genesis days were 24-hour days and that the earth is young. This is nonsense, of course, since some of the best theologians of the past and present use other interpretations, and since a 24-hour day wasn’t the exclusive view of the early church. This desire to force Christians to believe in a young earth puts them in some very shaky theological waters. For example, they claim that the idea of no animal death before the Fall is crucial for Christianity, when at best it is extraBiblical.

Now please note that I do believe the days in Genesis were 24-hour days and that the earth is young. However, I do not think it is the only orthodox way to interpret Scripture, and it is certainly not the only way to have a literal view of Scripture.

Christians of both the young-Earth and old-Earth varieties would benefit from this sort of theological openness and humility.

Dr. Todd Wood, Todd’s Blog

In the past, Dr. Wood, has admitted that

Evolution is not a theory in crisis. It is not teetering on the verge of collapse. It has not failed as a scientific explanation. There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it. It is not just speculation or a faith choice or an assumption or a religion. It is a productive framework for lots of biological research, and it has amazing explanatory power. There is no conspiracy to hide the truth about the failure of evolution. There has really been no failure of evolution as a scientific theory. It works, and it works well.

I suspect that not all of his fellow YECs appreciated this.

This week Dr. Wood pointed out that Jason Lisle’s “anisotropic synchrony convention” —an attempt to explain how starlight from distant stars could have already arrived at Earth if the universe is only 6000 years old—fails to be a scientific theory:

Because Lisle’s anisotropic synchrony convention does not make predictions and cannot be tested, it really falls outside of the realm of science. It’s more like medieval philosophy, where theories of ultimate reality could be bandied about because there was no way to test them. Lisle’s idea reminds me of extreme forms of the idea of creation with the appearance of age. It’s logically possible that God created the universe 5 seconds ago, with people having vivid memories of lives they never lived and events that never happened. But that logical possibility doesn’t mean extreme appearance of age is scientifically or theologically useful.

And so ends my assessment of Lisle’s solution to the speed of light problem. It just isn’t science. As he seems to freely admit, anisotropic synchrony convention is all about logical possibility, but it doesn’t actually help us understand or explain galaxies or pulsars or redshift or cosmic background radiation. He seems content to assume God made the universe exactly as it is for whatever inscrutable reasons He had. Talk about ad hoc. I suspect that those creationists like me who are actually interested in science will just shrug their shoulders at the anisotropic synchrony convention. Whether it’s true or false, it just makes no difference.

Thank you, Dr. Wile and Dr. Wood, for your gracious attitudes and desires to weed out bad science and bad theology as you hold on to your young-Earth creationist beliefs.

Grace and Peace

October 5, 2010 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Astronomy, Biology, Creation in the Bible, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , , | 10 Comments

Dietrich Bonhoeffer — Life Together

I spent the weekend at a retreat in the St. Francois “Mountains” in southeastern Missouri with the members of my church, Christ Community Church in St. Louis. Our speaker was Glandion Carney, an Anglican priest and conference speaker with Renovaré.

The theme of the retreat was All in: “All in” for discipleship and spiritual formation, “all in” for fellowship, and “all in” for missions. Glandion quoted extensively from Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor who was executed by the Gestapo shortly before the end of World War II. Being that this is one of my top-ten favorite books, I’d like to share some quotes (which I have done before):

Chapter 1 — Community

Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this.

He [the Christian] knows that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces him guilty, even when he does not feel his guilt, and God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces him not guilty and righteous, even when he does not feel that he is righteous at all.

If somebody asks him, Where is your salvation, your righteousness? he can never point to himself. He points to the Word of God in Jesus Christ, which assures him salvation and righteousness.

…the goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation.

Christian brotherhood is not an ideal, but a divine reality.

Chapter 2 — The Day with Others

Christian prayer takes its stand on the solid ground of the revealed Word.

It is not in our life that God’s help and presence must still be proved, but rather God’s presence and help have been demonstrated for us in the life of Jesus Christ. It is in fact more important for us to know what God did to Israel, to His Son Jesus Christ, than to seek what God intends for us today.

Our salvation is “external to ourselves.” I find no salvation in my life history, but only in the history of Jesus Christ.

It is not our heart that determines our course, but God’s Word.

Prayer should not be hindered by work, but neither should work be hindered by prayer.

Chapter 3 — The Day Alone

But silence before the Word leads to right hearing and thus also to right speaking of the Word of God at the right time.

The most promising method of prayer is to allow oneself to be guided by the word of the Scriptures.

A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses.

Chapter 4 — Ministry

Only he who lives by the forgiveness of his sin in Jesus Christ will rightly think little of himself…. Because the Christian can no longer fancy that he is wise he will also have no high opinion of his own schemes and plans.

The beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen among thieves, perhaps–reading the Bible.

Chapter 5 — Confession and Communion

He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone…. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship…. The fact is that we are sinners!

The misery of the sinner and the mercy of God–this was the truth of the Gospel in Jesus Christ.

We must ask ourselves whether we have not often been deceiving ourselves with our confession of sin to God…. And is not the reason perhaps for our countless relapses and the feebleness of our Christian obedience to be found precisely in the fact that we are living on self-forgiveness and not a real forgiveness?

Grace and Peace

P.S. I have some reservations about the Renovaré/Richard Foster/Dallas Willard approach to the Christian life, as it is a bit too mystical and subjective for me at times. Bonhoeffer’s approach is more focused on external realities, continually re-directing our focus back to what God has done outside of us at the cross. The mystical approach often directs our eyes inward, which can take us to all sorts of places other than Christ. Perhaps my preference for Bonhoeffer over Foster is an INTP thing. Having said all that, I was richly blessed by the retreat.

October 4, 2010 Posted by | Christianity | , , | 1 Comment