Creation care quotes from Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II had much to say about the environment and human responsibility for good stewardship of the creation. Here are a few quotes:

“When man turns his back on the Creator’s plan, he provokes a disorder which has inevitable repercussions on the rest of the created order. If man is not at peace with God, then earth itself cannot be at peace.” — Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All of Creation

——————————

“The seriousness of ecological degradation lays bare the depth of man’s moral crisis… Simplicity, moderation, and discipline as well as the spirit of sacrifice must become a part of everyday life.” — Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All of Creation

——————————

“Around the world, we can see the results of exploitation which destroys much without taking future generations into account. Today, all men have a duty to show themselves worthy of the mission given them by the Creator by ensuring the safekeeping of that creation.” — press conference, Antannanarivo, Malagasy Republic

——————————

“Christians will want to be in the vanguard in favoring ways of life that decisively break with the exhausting and joyless frenzy of consumerism.” — speech at Yankee Stadium

Quotes are taken from The Green Bible introduction: Teachings on Creation Throughout the Ages

Grace and Peace

Another diminishing resource

Credit: Derek Jensen, Wikipedia: Helium

Helium. The second most abundant element in the entire universe. And a limited natural resource here on Earth.

From the February 2011 print edition of National Geographic (page 22): the US Government’s helium reserve has dwindled from 32 billion cubic feet in 1991 to 19 billion cubic feet in 2008.

The United States’ (and the world’s) main source for helium has been from natural gas wells in Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Helium produced by radioactive decay in granitic rocks beneath the Great Plains seeps upward and is trapped in the overlying layers of sedimentary rocks along with methane produced within the sedimentary layers. Helium production from those fields has been declining.

The American Chemical Society has a page on the discovery of helium in natural gas in the late 1800s, a few years after the element was discovered through a study of spectral lines in light from the sun. According to the ACS page, townspeople in Dexter Kansas wished to celebrate the drilling of a “howler” of a gas well by lighting the gas flow from the well to create “a great pillar of flame from the burning well will light the entire countryside for a day and a night.” The problem was, the gas wouldn’t light. Further investigation by geologists and chemists revealed the existence of helium in the gas.

What does the downward trend in helium supply mean for the future? The National Geographic article suggests $100 for a helium party balloon.

Grace and Peace

P.S. I couldn’t find the brief article online.

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Genesis 1

The following item was originally posted on The GeoChristian in November 2009, and 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, with some editing.

I am re-using this post about the ESV Study Bible for a couple reasons. The first is because the ESV Study Bible is a theologically conservative Evangelical work, yet it presents a wide range of interpretations of the opening chapters of Genesis. The authors of the study notes, though firmly committed to the inspiration of the Scriptures, believe that it is not necessary to hold to the “literal” young-Earth interpretation of Genesis.

My other reason for using this post over again is because I feel that I didn’t really follow through on my original intentions. I had planned a multiple-part series on the doctrine of creation as presented in the ESV Study Bible, but ended after only two posts (this is the second of those). I plan on extending this series in the upcoming months.

ESVStudyBibleA 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. It does not endorse any of the old-Earth alternatives either, though the notes seem to point in some places to the “analogical days” interpretation (for example, see the notes on 1:3-5 below). I think this is highly significant. Just as the influential Scofield Reference Bible of 1909 lead many to accept the “gap theory” and dispensationalism, so the conservative credentials of the ESV Study Bible could open up the eyes of many to the merits of old-Earth interpretations in general, and more specifically, the analogical days interpretation.

Here are some highlights from the notes on Genesis 1 (emphasis in the original):

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

Fifty million little leaguers and pianists later

Almost twenty years ago I got into a discussion about abortion with a female coworker in the break room. I’m not sure how the topic came up; I don’t go around looking for controversial topics to debate with my coworkers.

She was in her mid- to late-twenties, and like me, was at the beginning of a rewarding career with good pay and benefits. I had overheard her before talking about abortion rights, and knew that she was rather outspoken on the topic. She knew that I was a Christian, so I assume she knew I was pro-life. She explained to me that she had had an abortion as a college student. She was pregnant by a man she didn’t really care about. She asked me, “Where would I be now if I hadn’t had an abortion?” She explained that she probably wouldn’t have finished her college education, and therefore wouldn’t have the good job she had now.

I don’t remember what I said, but I clearly remember what I was thinking. I remember thinking that things may have worked out just fine for her; she was intelligent and hard working and she may have found a way to get a start in a good career. Maybe, maybe not. But the thought that stood out most was another answer to the question “Where would I be now?”  She was thinking entirely in terms of career and economics. Now, these are important, but are they the only important things in one’s life? Are they the most important things? My answer to “Where would I be now?” —at least in my mind—was, “Perhaps you would be at a little league baseball game or at a piano recital.”

This frames the question in the right way, as a moral question—“What is it that is being done in an abortion?”—rather than “What’s it going to cost me to have a baby?” There is a cost to keeping a baby (and a cost to the moral decision to have sex in the first place), but the more significant question is “What is this thing inside of a mother’s womb?” What is inside the womb will grow up some day to be a little league baseball player, a pianist, a friend, a lover, a parent, someone who contributes to the world in unimaginable ways.

Or that life can be extinguished so someone can have a better career.

I didn’t say any of this. Perhaps I am too nice at times, not wanting to upset others. But I’m saying it now, and hope and pray that some other scared mother will choose to save her baby, and experience the blessings of parenting.

Grace and Peace

P.S. Today, January 22, is the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the US Supreme Court decision that legalized most abortions in the United States. Since that time over fifty million abortions have been performed in this country.

Video: 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes

A four minute video on world wealth and health that is a more interesting presentation of statistics than the norm:

The video ends on an optimistic note: everything is getting better and better, even for those down at the bottom. I would be more cautious: while life expectancy has improved for all but the poorest of the poor, there are still a billion people down at the bottom who have been left behind. And there is no guarantee that the trend will continue, as development runs into the walls of energy and water shortages, and with the ever-present risk of conflict, disease, and general human folly.

HT: Don R


This graph, along with many others, is available in an interactive format at gapminderworld.org. For example, the GDP per capita/life expectancy graph from the 200 Countries video can be stopped or run backwards, and you can point to individual dots to see what country is represented. For example, I followed the “South Africa” dot and watched it move from 61 years life expectancy in the mid-1980s to 50 years at present (a result largely of the ongoing AIDS crisis).

The X and Y axes of the chart can be changed to all sorts of things related to health, population, economics, education, the environment, and others. For example, here is a graph showing the relationship between adult female literacy rates and child mortality rates. The graph shows that Chad has the lowest adult female literacy rate (21%) and the highest infant mortality rate (209 child deaths per 1000 births).

Data can also be portrayed as a map. This map can run showing population changes from 1555 to 2030:

Grace and Peace

Around the web 1/21/2011

A few items from the many tabs I have open in my browser…

Credit: Tracy, Wikipedia: Woolly Mammoth

Mammoths in the meadows? — Japanese researchers hope to replace the nucleus of a fertilized elephant egg cell with the nucleus of a woolly mammoth, then implant the cell in an elephant’s womb to create a living woolly mammoth. This is much more feasible than the scenario in Jurassic Park, as we have what should be pretty close to intact woolly mammoth cells, recovered from frozen carcasses in Siberia. From Yahoo News/AFP: Researchers aim to resurrect mammoth in five years.

Moral blind spots — What things do we accept as normal that future generations will look at as morally reprehensible? Kwame Anthony Appiah asks that question on the Washington Post site: What will future generations condemn us for? Appiah comes up with the following list:

  1. Our prison system
  2. Industrial meat production
  3. The institutionalized and isolated elderly
  4. The environment

Amy Hall at Stand to Reason Blog comments, “I think Appiah misses the key element of these past atrocities [slavery and lynching]: they involved a denial of intrinsic human value in a particular group of human beings.”

What would I add to the list? Global poverty — Over a billion people without adequate food, clean water, sanitation, education, security, etc.

A missions leader I know recently wrote:

In a world that is cruel to the marginalized, where cycles of poverty keep generations in often hopeless circumstances, where basic needs like clean water, sanitation and a meal a day can be only dreamed of and where corrupt governments, officials and institutions deny basic justice we need to be reminded of the heart of God. The prophet Micah said it cogently: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Global Warming Trends — NASA reports that 2010 tied 2005 as the warmest year on record: Earth Observatory — Different Records, Same Warming Trend.

Diamonds do not form from coal — Geology.com addresses this common misconception: How Do Diamonds Form? (Somewhat related: a refutation of the young-Earth creationist assertion that carbon-14 in coal proves that the Earth is young can be found here: Carbon-14 in Coal Deposits).

Religious discrimination in academia — From The Evangelical Ecologist: Stars Shine on Christian Researcher — The University of Kentucky discriminated against astronomer C. Martin Gaskell because he is a Christian, and they left an e-mail trail as proof.

Cleansing the internet — I think this is a great idea: having the default internet service pornography-free. If you want porn, you would specifically have to ask for it as part of your internet package. This could happen in the near future in the United Kingdom. From Cranach: Default blocking of all internet porn. This would not be censorship, as a person who wanted access to pornography as part of their internet package could still request it. One reason I think it would be a great idea: young people in our society are exposed to way too much sexual content that they are not ready for, as in this news report: Calif school eyes accounts of sex by 2nd graders.

Grace and Peace

Renewable by 2030?

From National Geographic: Going “All the Way”: With Renewable Energy?

In a world where fossil fuel provides more than 80 percent of energy, what would it take to go completely green? Could the world switch over to power from only the wind, sun, waves, and heat from the Earth in only a few decades?

The article explores what it would take to get 100% of the world’s energy needs by 2030, and looks at a few of the obstacles. The researchers highlighted in the article propose doing all of this without reliance on biofuels or nuclear energy.

I believe that we must switch to renewable energy sources, and the sooner the better. Our present over-dependence on fossil fuels is bad for the economy, bad for the environment, and bad for national and world security. The solution isn’t “drill baby drill,” and it isn’t just sitting around and letting the market take care of our problems (the market tends to be rather blind to the future on things like this). We need energy policies that have our great-great-great grandchildren in mind, not just the next election.

Here are a few of my thoughts and questions:

  • Why try to go 100% without biofuels?
  • Why try to go 100% without nuclear? I’m not a huge fan of nuclear energy, but recognize it as a useful transitional energy source.
  • Being that wind/solar/waves/geothermal only account for 3% of our energy now, is it realistic to aim for 100% renewable by 2030?
  • For a more realistic target, could we aim for 50% (or some other number) dependence on renewable energy sources by 2030?
  • Many of these renewable technologies require other resources that are in short supply, such as rare earth elements. What will the negative consequences of a rapid move to 100% renewable be? (And what are the negative consequences of the status quo?)

Grace and Peace

HT: The Green Life