GeoScriptures — Hebrews 11:1 — Christian faith is not blind faith

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. — Hebrews 11:1 (NIV 1984)

A couple weeks ago, I was on a flight that landed in dense fog in Salt Lake City. I had a window seat, and the first thing I could see on the ground as the plane approached the airport was the asphalt a few seconds before the wheels touched the runway. The visibility along the surface was sufficient to keep the runway open—commercial pilots cannot land completely by instruments; they must be able to see a certain distance ahead on the runway—but the clouds were considerably more dense a short distance above the ground as the plane approached the airport.

The pilot was flying by faith. He or she had confidence in the various instruments that guided the plane through the dense clouds. This is the most common way we use the word “faith” in our day to day conversations. When we say we have faith in something or someone, we almost always mean something like “trust” or “confidence,” and almost never mean “blind faith,” which would be faith with absolutely no evidence to back it up.

Faith is only as good as the object in which one puts their faith. Commercial passenger airplanes are extraordinarily reliable. If they had a success rate of 99% almost no one would fly on them (and having flown a few hundred times I would likely have died in a plane crash quite a while ago). According to, your chances of dying in a plane crash on a flight of the thirty safest airlines is about 1 in 29 million! To board an airplane is an act of faith, but it certainly is not an act of blind faith.

Christian faith is this “confidence” sort of faith. Theologian and apologist Francis Schaeffer put it this way in his book He is There and He is not Silent (Appendix B):

One must analyze the word faith and see that it can mean two completely opposite things.

Suppose we are climbing in the Alps and are very high on the bare rock, and suddenly the fog shuts down. The guide turns to us and says that the ice is forming and that there is no hope; before morning we will freeze to death here on the shoulder of the mountain. Simply to keep warm the guide keeps us moving in the dense fog further out on the shoulder until none of us have any idea where we are. After an hour or so, someone says to the guide, “Suppose I dropped and hit a ledge ten feet down in the fog. What would happen then?” The guide would say that you might make it until the morning and thus live. So, with absolutely no knowledge or any reason to support his action, one of the group hangs and drops into the fog. This would be one kind of faith, a leap of faith.

Suppose, however, after we have worked out on the shoulder in the midst of the fog and the growing ice on the rock, we had stopped and we heard a voice which said, “You cannot see me, but I know exactly where you are from your voices. I am on another ridge. I have lived in these mountains, man and boy, for over sixty years and I know every foot of them. I assure you that ten feet below you there is a ledge. If you hang and drop, you can make it through the night and I will get you in the morning.”

I would not hang and drop at once, but would ask questions to try to ascertain if the man knew what he was talking about and if he was not my enemy… I would ask him what to me would be the adequate and sufficient questions, and when I became convinced by his answers, then I would hang and drop.

This is faith, but obviously it has no relationship to the other use of the word. As a matter of fact, if one of these is called faith, the other should not be designated by the same word. The historic Christian faith is not a leap of faith in the post-Kierkegaardian sense because He is not silent, and I am invited to ask the adequate and sufficient questions, not only in regard to details, but also in regard to the existence of the universe and its complexity and in regard to the existence of man.

Christian faith is an informed step into the fog. It is not based on a rational or logical line of thought, but it is rational. It is firmly grounded in the creation and history; it can give better answers for why there is a universe and why it is the way it is, and what the meaning of history is, and why we humans are the way we are, than the alternatives such as atheism or pantheism, or even other non-Christian theistic religions such as Islam.

One must be careful to note that Christian faith is not something we stir up within ourselves. I cannot claim that I came to God because, genius that I am, I figured it all out. Michael Patton describes Biblical faith as “Warranted faith brought about by the Holy Spirit.”

The faith that God calls on us to have is neither blind nor irrational. And while we believe our faith is the most rational choice that we can make given the evidence, rational alone is not enough. The Bible says that without outside intervention, we are antagonistic to spiritual truths. If we rely on naked intellect or personal effort alone, even as Christians, we will never truly be able to rest in God. The most important component to our faith has yet to be revealed. What is this element? It is the power of the Holy Spirit. The third member of the Trinity must ignite our faith. Yes, he uses rationale , inquiry, evidences, personal effort, and our minds to do so. But these things alone can only get us so far. In order to have true faith, the power of the Holy Spirit must move within us, releasing us from the bondage of our will.

Also note that it was not the strength of my faith that enabled the airplane I was on to get me from Billings, Montana, to Salt Lake City. I could have had a very weak faith in airplanes, and it still would have done the job. It was the reliability of the airplane and its crew and maintenance personnel that enabled me to make it to Utah alive. Likewise, my faith in God and his Word is not perfect. But mustard seed sized faith in God is sufficient to help me through the fog of life, and to cling to the Creator of the universe who is willing and able to bring me safely to the final landing.

Grace and Peace

Around the web 2/18/2013

CHELYABINSK METEOR WAS REALLY AN AMERICAN WEAPONS TEST — At least according to one Russian politician, as reported at Russia Today: US tested new weapon, no meteor in Chelyabinsk – Russian LibDem leader.

Astronomy Picture of the Day has a good video of the meteor.

LEAVING THE HATE CHURCH — Two granddaughters of Fred Phelps—pastor of the heretical “God Hates Fags” Westboro Baptist Church—have left the “church.” Here are a few thoughts from an article in Christianity Today (The Westboro Baptist in All of Us):

Most of us wouldn’t go to the same lengths as those at Westboro, but collectively, we have our own prejudices, rigid rules, regulations, and zealotries. These drive us to marginalize, cast aspersions upon and exclude others within our own churches, Christian organizations and institutions who so much as dare to differ, even slightly, from our own political or theological stances.
“Zealotry is conscious zeal to be radically committed, so radically committed that one goes beyond the Bible to defend things that are not in the Bible…. Zealots…convince themselves that, even though the Bible does not say something, what they are saying is really what the Bible wanted after all.” — Scot McKnight
“The underlying assumption is that my thoughts are God’s thoughts; my cause is God’s cause. This divine alliance makes me exempt from obedience in order that I might bring about God’s purposes.” — Tim Gombis

The CT article is directed at Christians, but there is a little bit of Westboro in everybody.

INTOLERANT TOLERANCE — Many “progressives” preach tolerance as the highest virtue, and then act a little Westboro-ish towards anyone who disagrees with them. Ligonier Ministries has a review of two recent books on tolerance: The Intolerance of Tolerance and A Queer Thing Happened to America.

GREEN ELEPHANTS FOR PRESIDENT — The top leadership of environmental organizations such as The Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace were given the opportunity to pick a list of greenest presidents. The top two vote-getters were Republicans: Teddy Roosevelt and Richard Nixon. See America’s Greenest Presidents. (HT: ConservAmerica)

Why Teddy Roosevelt? He clearly loved nature and did much to set aside land for preservation and stewardship.

Why Richard Nixon? The Environmental Protection Agency, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act…

What does the current crop of Republican leaders want to do about all of this?

AT MIZZOU, EVERY DAY COULD BECOME A NO-TEST DAY — No exams on Wiccan, Pagan holidays at University of Missouri? I would feel discriminated against because Good Friday is not a school holiday.

PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANITY CONTINUESHow China Plans to Wipe Out House Churches and Four Missionaries Arrested in Benghazi May Face Libya Death Penalty (post-Arab Spring “democracy” at work).

IF I ONLY HAD A (CHIMP) BRAIN — If my wife sends me to the store with a list of more than three things, I must have them written down. If I were a chimpanzee however, I could do much better. Chimps have better short-term memory than humans.

Around the web 2/10/2013

THE “NOT SCIENCE FRIDAY” SHOW — From Christianity Today: Creationist Pastor Loses to NPR over ‘Science Friday’ Radio Show. Apparently the name of the radio program—Real Science Friday—was too close to NPR’s Science Friday program. It is now Real Science Radio.

THE LAW OF SUPERPOSITION IS WRONG? — At least according to the above mentioned radio program (the law of superposition states that newer sedimentary layers are deposited on older sedimentary layers).

Here’s a quote from Real Science Radio’s Liquefaction Made Most of the Paper Thin Fossils:

The “Law of Superposition” Is Wrong: As a general description of the world’s sedimentary layers, this alleged natural “law” wrongly claims that, “Sedimentary layers are deposited in a time sequence, with the oldest on the bottom and the youngest on the top.” In reality, a tremendous amount of sorting of minerals and fossils occurred underground when the continents’ mile-deep sediments were first deposited.

I guess they are trying to extrapolate from small-scale sediment liquifaction events (e.g. during earthquakes) to explaining large-scale features of the geological column. It appears that much of this is based on Walt Brown’s hydroplate theory, which is not promoted by “mainstream” YECs such as those at Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research.

TUNNELING TETRAPODS — Naturalis Historia has a note about Triassic Fossilized Animal Burrows in Argentina. In the YEC scenario, these were either formed by very busy terrestrial critters who somehow survived the Cambrian to Permian part of the flood only to dig sophisticated burrows during some brief respite before the Jurassic to Tertiary part of the flood, or they only look like animal burrows, complete with horizontal burrows, vertical burrows, and nesting chambers; accompanied by well-developed paleosols (ancient soil layers).

The original article is Large-Diameter Burrows of the Triassic Ischigualasto Basin, NW Argentina: Paleoecological and Paleoenvironmental Implications.

HOW MUCH DID IT SNOW IN THE WINTER OF 22,375 B.C.? — A 30,000-year ice core from Antarctica. The YEC response will once again be, “they only look like annual ice layers,” even though the older layers look just like the layers formed in historic times.

HT: News

THIS STATEMENT IS FALSE — Stand to Reason has a post about self-refuting statements, such as:

  • “There is no objective truth.” (Is that statement objectively true?)
  • “It’s arrogant to assume you know the truth with certainty.” (Are you certain that is a true statement?)
  • “Science is the only way to determine truth.” (What experiment did you run to determine that statement?)
  • “Tolerance requires us to accept all views equally” (Except, of course, any view that doesn’t accept all views as equal.)

WHAT MANY DO WITH THEIR COLLEGE DEGREECNN Money reports that 1 in 4 retail workers, 1 in 6 bartenders, and 1 in 4 amusement park attendants have a college degree, and that “about 37% of employed U.S. college graduates are working in jobs that require no more than a high school diploma.”

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT JACK — Clive Staples Lewis, that is. Go to 30 Things You Might Not Know About CS Lewis and you will probably learn something you didn’t know about Jack. I think I knew about 12 out of the 30 things; here are some that I did not know:

  • 3. He never learned to drive.
  • 7. He failed his Oxford entrance exam, twice.
  • 22. Mere Christianity never mentions the Resurrection.
  • 23. He read every single book from the 16th century.

Grace and peace

GeoScriptures – Psalm 77:16-18 – Deadly beauty and the glory of God

The waters saw you, O God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.

The clouds poured down water,
the skies resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.

Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.

Psalm 77:16-18 (NIV 1984)

I flew over the Wasatch Mountains of Utah this morning, and the sight was spectacular. The sun was just about to rise, and the mountains had a considerable amount of fresh snow on their pristine slopes. The ruggedness of the mountains was heightened by the smooth, undulating texture of the fog-filled valleys. The crest of the range was knife-sharp, with steep snow drifts looming over chutes that had been carved through the forested slopes by numerous avalanches in a multitude of previous winters.

As I praised God for the beauty of his creation—I love mountains and I love snow—I realized that the countryside passing quickly beneath me was a dangerous place. At any time, an avalanche could be triggered—perhaps by wind, by settling of snow caused by temperatures changes, or by a cross-country skier traversing the slopes beneath the cornices.

It is not a contradiction to say that creation can be a dangerous place, and to say that it is good. In the Scriptures, God is not just glorified by gentle creations, such as puppies and daffodils. Certainly these things are good, but they are not used in imagery describing the majesty and power of the Almighty. Instead, as in Psalm 77, God’s glory is displayed in things that are frightening, such as thunder, lightning, wind, and earthquakes. I would add to the Biblical list marvels such as volcanoes, hurricanes, black holes, and supernovas.

Some assume that God’s original creation, being described as “very good,” did not contain thunderstorms, earthquakes, or gamma ray bursts. I see absolutely no Biblical reason for believing this, and plenty of Biblical passages which use the dangerous parts of creation to point us to the even more awesome powers of the Creator. God is like how Aslan is described in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:

“Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Grace and Peace

Around the web 12/3/2013

UNIVERSITY THOUGHT POLICE AT WORK AGAIN — University of Michigan Kicks Christian Club off Campus because they require leaders to be Christians. This should be a no-brainer. Of course a Christian group on campus should have Christian leaders; this would be discriminatory only if the same rule were not applied to other groups. A Muslim group should be allowed to require Muslim leaders, a Buddhist group should be allowed to require Buddhist leaders, an atheist group should be allowed to require an atheist leader, and so forth.

PBS HATCHET JOB RETRACTED — had posted an anti-creationist hatchet job with several inaccuracies entitled 10 Interesting Lessons from Creationist-Inspired Textbooks. Certainly some of the “10 interesting lessons” were straight out of the fringe (homeschool publishers Bob Jones and Abeka) of young-Earth creationism, but others were simply false accusations, such as the stating that the ID book Pandas and People teaches “biblical genetics” based on the story of Jacob mating Laban’s sheep and goats in Genesis 30.

The PBS article now reads:

Independent Lens [part of PBS] seeks to assure that its content offerings encourage a lively civic dialogue, and that they do not present only one point of view. In this spirit, this post has been removed…

There are enough really bad teachings in the YEC world without adding embellishments.

HT: Controversial Biblical scholar Peter Enns, who missed the Pandas and People error, but gives an idea of what is out there in the YEC homeschool world.

KILLER KITTIES — One of my cats (the cute one) fits the description of “killer.” That Cuddly Kitty Is Deadlier Than You Think.

Domestic cats in the United States […] kill a median of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year, most of them native mammals like shrews, chipmunks and voles rather than introduced pests like the Norway rat.

BROKEN LIGHT BULB? — From the EPA: What to Do if a CFL Breaks. (HT: News)

TEN YEARS AGOCNN coverage of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

Grace and Peace