Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
There are two historical facts that need explaining. The first is that the tomb of Jesus was empty. The second is that the disciples were convinced that they had seen him alive after discovering that the tomb was empty. By alive, we mean with a physical body; they did not believe they had seen a ghost.
N.T. Wright writes about the resurrection of Christ in Surprised by Hope:
Equally, an empty tomb by itself proves almost nothing. It might (as many have suggested) have been the wrong tomb, though a quick check would have sorted that one out. Someone—the soldiers, the gardeners, the chief priests, other disciples, or someone else—might have taken away the body for some reason or other. Grave robbery was well known. That was the conclusion Mary drew in John’s gospel: they’ve taken him away—and perhaps it was the gardener that did it. That was the conclusion the Jewish leaders broadcast, according to Matthew: the disciples took him away. All sorts of similar explanations could have been offered, and would have been, had not the empty tomb been accompanied by sightings of, and meetings with, Jesus himself. No: in order to explain historically how all the early Christians came to the belief they held, that Jesus had been raised, we have to say at least this: that the tomb was empty, except for some graveclothes, and that they really did see and talk with someone who gave every appearance of being a solidly physical Jesus, though a Jesus who was strangely changed, more strangely than they were able fully to describe.
Both the meetings and the empty tomb are therefore necessary if we are to explain the rise of the belief and the writing of the stories as we have them. Neither by itself was sufficient; put them together, though, and they provide a complete and coherent explanation for the rise of the early Christian belief.
Many smaller arguments might be brought in at this point that we can only summarize. To begin with, here are other proposals regularly advanced as rival explanations to the early Christian one:
- Jesus didn’t really die; someone gave him a drug that made him look like dead, and he revived in the tomb. Answer: Roman soldiers knew how to kill people, and no disciple would have been fooled by a half-drugged, beat-up Jesus into thinking he’d defeated death and inaugurated the kingdom.
- When the women went to the tomb they met someone else (perhaps James, Jesus’s brother, who looked like him), and in the half light they thought it was Jesus himself. Answer: they would have noticed soon enough.
- Jesus only appeared to people who believed in him. Answer: the accounts make it clear that Thomas and Paul do not belong to this category; and actually none of Jesus’s followers believed, after his death, that he really was the Messiah, let alone that he was in any sense divine.
- The accounts we have are too biased. Answer: so is all history, all journalism. Every photo is taken by somebody from some angle.
- They began by saying, “He will be raised,” as people had done of the martyrs, and this quickly passed into saying, “He has been raised,” which was functionally equivalent. Answer: no, it wasn’t.
- Lots of people have visions of someone they love who has just died; this was what happened to the disciples. Answer: they knew perfectly well about things like that, and they had language for it; they would say, “It’s his angel” or “It’s his spirit” or “his ghost.” They wouldn’t say, “He’s been raised from the dead.”
- Perhaps the most popular: what actually happened was that they had some kind of rich “spiritual” experience, which they interpreted through Jewish categories. Jesus after all really was alive, spiritually, and they were still in touch with him. Answer: that is simply a description of a noble death followed by a Platonic immortality. Resurrection was and is the defeat of death, not simply a nicer description of it; and it’s something that happens some while after the moment of death, not immediately.
Equally, we may just notice three of the many small-scale arguments that are often, and quite rightly, advanced to support the belief that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead:
- Jewish tombs, especially those of martyrs, were venerated and often became shrines. There is no sign whatever of that having happened with Jesus’s grave.
- The early church’s emphasis on the first day of the week as their special day is very hard to explain unless something striking really did happen then. A gradual or even sudden dawning of faith is hardly sufficient to explain it.
- The disciples were hardly likely to go out and suffer and die for a belief that wasn’t firmly anchored in fact. This is an important point though subject to the weakness that they might have been genuinely mistaken: they believed the resurrection of Jesus to be a fact, and they acted on that belief, but we know (so it would be said) that they were wrong.
(pp. 59, 61-63)
We cannot “prove” that Christ indeed rose from the dead through historical arguments like these, but we can demonstrate that it is a reasonable—and we would say the most reasonable—explanation. If one starts with the presupposition that there is no God, then one would have to find some other explanation than the resurrection. But that would be a conclusion forced on the evidence, rather than something derived from the evidence. On the other hand, if we allow that God could (or even must) exist, then the Christian explanation—that Christ is risen indeed!—becomes the best explanation for the evidence.
Grace and Peace
Hristos a înviat! Adevărat a înviat!
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
The empty tomb — Here are 14 Evidences for the Resurrection. This is a central teaching of Christianity. Put all other issues aside for a while—questions about evolution, biblical inerrancy, gay rights, or whatever else keeps you from Christ—and give some thought to the most significant person in all of history: the risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The result is a very strong case that Jesus (a) died, (b) was buried, (c) rose from the dead, and (d) appeared alive to a variety of persons.
Wasps spoil YEC picnic — Naturalis Historia describes wasp cocoons found in dinosaur egg fossils.
Young earth creationists paint a picture of half-crazed dinosaurs running around to escape the next giant wave washing new layers of sediments over the world and laying nests in barren sand layers and then running off to try to find higher ground. What we find in this nest contradicts everything about this explanation. Here we find that a well-organized preserved nest in which one of the broken eggs has these cocoons preserved in it.
The YECs might respond with their “They only look like wasp cocoons” tactic. That doesn’t help them; dinosaur nests simply do not fit into their flood geology model.
Richard Dawkins practices survival of the fittest — Dawkins is quite willing to tell the Arabic newschannel Al-Jazeera that the the God of the Old Testament is a hideous monster, but didn’t have anything bad to say about Allah in the Quran. Perhaps he hates Christianity worse than he hates Islam. Perhaps he wants to live a little longer. See In defense of Richard Dawkins.
Don’t worship the Bible — C. Michael Patton at Parchment & Pen has some good thoughts about Evangelicals, inerrancy, and the Bible — The Father, Son, and the Holy Bible.
Persecution of Christianity continues — Bible Burning Spreads to Another Former Soviet State. “The newest report on Kazakhstan suggests that a recent court order to ‘destroy’ 121 books (mostly Bibles) confiscated from a Baptist could be the first-ever religious book burning in the country.”
Persecution of Christianity questioned — CNN posted a story today — Christ was persecuted, but what about Christians? — that reported nothing new to anyone who has actually read church history. Official persecution of Christians by the Romans was sporadic, and most Christians in the Roman Empire never faced a real threat of martyrdom. But when the Romans did move into action against Christians (e.g. Nero), they could be quite brutal. Like today, however, there could be a lot of social pressure against becoming a Christian.
Landsat 8 — The Landsat Data Continuity Mission has released the first images taken by the satellite. It will be renamed Landsat 8 once it has completed all of its tests and calibrations. See First View from the New Landsat Satellite on the NASA Earth Observatory site.
Grace and Peace
On my most recent “Around the web” post, I stated that I would be writing a longer response to the young-Earth creationist (YEC) proposal that salt deposits (usually referred to as evaporites) were actually formed through igneous processes rather than being precipitated from seawater. This may not be that longer response. Instead, it is a quick review of Stef Heerema’s article published in the Journal of Creation in 2009 (A magmatic model for the origin of large salt formations) and his more recent You Tube video defending and expanding on this hypothesis. What is really needed is a comprehensive overview of the formation of evaporites in the context of the young-Earth/old-Earth debate, and as I said, this is not it.
This proposal was brought to my attention when I read an endorsement of it from YEC geologist Tas Walker. On his BiblicalGeology blog, Walker wrote:
[Heerema’s] research shows that the salt pillars around the world are elegantly explained by the interaction of a melted salt magma with the waters of the worldwide Flood.
I like Stef’s model, and think it is far superior to the uniformitarian attempt to explain the evidence, which I was taught at university in my geology course. That model hypothesizes that hundreds of kilometres of seawater evaporated slowly in an enormous, shallow, secluded area of the coast, over millions of years.
Before I go through the article, I need to comment about what drives Heerema’s igneous model, which is the perceived necessity to fit the geological record into what he calls “the biblical timescale.” It would be much better to refer to this as “the YEC timescale,” because that is what it is; it is not the biblical timescale. The Bible nowhere says that the geological record—virtually all the sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks dated Late Precambrian and later—was formed by Noah’s flood. The “necessity” to squeeze a billion years of Earth history into Noah’s flood is something YECs impose on the text of Genesis, and there are plenty of theologically conservative biblical scholars who disagree with this.
Evaporite minerals include halite (NaCl, rock salt), gypsum (CaSO4•2H2O), anhydrite (CaSO4), sylvite (KCl), and a host of other minerals. The term “evaporite” is not neutral; it implies that the rock was formed by a process that involved evaporation of water. In standard geological models, seawater is isolated from the main body of the ocean in a basin where evaporation leads to precipitation of these minerals. I will stick with the term because it is the common name for these rocks, and because I believe it is an accurate term in most cases.
Heerema’s paper is divided into four sections: Salt formations worldwide, Igneous origin of salt formations, Diagenesis of salt after original deposition, and a conclusion. The entire paper is three pages long.
First section: Salt formations worldwide
In the first section, Heerema describes the worldwide distribution and origin of salt formations. He then attempts to explain why old-Earth models are inadequate for explaining the existence of evaporites. He gives a very brief and incomplete summary of evaporite models used by geologists, then gives what he thinks are four reasons to reject these models:
- “To form a deposit only 1 km thick would require seawater 60 km deep to be evaporated.” — Seawater evaporation rates in tropical areas are on the order of one meter per year. One meter of seawater, if evaporated completely, would leave behind 1.5 cm of evaporite minerals, mainly halite (NaCl). At a rate of 1.5 cm per year, it would take 67,000 years to accumulate 1000 meters of salt, which is a short amount of time geologically speaking. That does not mean that evaporite minerals actually accumulated that quickly; there would have been many other factors involved, including the rate of subsidence of the depositional basin.
- “The salt formations show negligible contamination with sand, contradicting the evaporation model which requires a sandbank in combination with consistently dry weather over a long period of time.” — This is a misrepresentation or misunderstanding of geological models for evaporite formation in marine environments. A common feature of these models is the need for a barrier (often referred to as a “sill”) that restricts movement of seawater into an enclosed basin where evaporation of the seawater can occur, leading to precipitation of various evaporite minerals. Complete evaporation is not necessary. The barrier could be sandy, but that sort of sill would be susceptible to erosion. More likely the barrier would be consolidated or semi-consolidated. Reefs or other biological mounds would work very well for this, and some ancient evaporite deposits grade laterally into reef deposits.
- “The salt formations exhibit negligible contamination with marine fossils” — Most marine organisms do not thrive in hypersaline environments—think of the Dead Sea or Great Salt Lake—so it is unclear why Heerema would expect us to find abundant fossils. One type of fossil that is found in some evaporite deposits is pollen. It makes a lot more sense to posit that pollen was carried to the basin by the wind, than to suppose that a salt lava flow under Noah’s flood somehow absorbed pollen grains from flood waters without metamorphosing them.
- “The evaporation areas need to be in regions of high sunlight and low rainfall if the seawater is to evaporate. However, the distribution of salt deposits globally contradicts the idea that all of these areas were once near the equator for the required time to achieve such a result.” — First, Heerema assumes that deposits that are now far from tropical areas were far from tropical areas when they formed. Contrary to this, there is good evidence that the equator ran through North America during the middle of the Paleozoic. Other parts of the world that are now polar or temperate were also once much closer to the equator. Second, Heerema assumes that climate patterns have been similar throughout Earth history. He is applying a Quaternary (ice age) picture of the world to times in the past that were probably much warmer, even at high latitudes.
Second section: Igneous origin of salt formations
This section began with a quote from James Hutton’s Theory of the Earth back in 1788:
“It is in vain to look, in the operations of solution and evaporation, for that which nothing but perfect fluidity of fusion can explain.”
Hutton may not have been able to envision how contorted layers could form in evaporites, but in the two hundred years since we have made a little bit of progress in the Earth sciences. There is plenty of laboratory and field evidence that salt can flow—in the solid state!—in amazing ways, whether in the subsurface or on the surface as salt glaciers in places like Iran.
Heerema lists six evidences for the igneous origin of evaporites:
- “The temperature required to melt salt and create a salt “magma” are well within the range of magmatic temperatures for silica [sic] magmas.” — However, there is no evidence that something like a salt magma has ever existed in the Earth. Contacts between evaporite formations and other rocks show no signs of contact metamorphism (alterations to minerals caused by heat and hot fluids). Some evaporite minerals, such as carnallite and bischofite, can form by precipitation from seawater, but cannot form from a salt melt.
- “Molten NaCl flows easily like water.” — What Heerema does not demonstrate is that an NaCl lava flow could spread out underwater over many tens of thousands of square kilometers, which is what he is proposing. Heerema claims that calcite and anhydrite could form when water boils in contact with a salt magma, but does not state how this would happen or give any references.
- “It is well known that silica [sic] magmas can produce layered igneous intrusions. Likewise, the crystallization and cooling of the salt “magma” after emplacement will cause segregation of the different salts into layers within the core of the deposit, as found in the formations.” — This paragraph was very confusing. It is not clear whether he was advocating a salt lava flow extruding onto the ocean floor beneath the waters of Noah’s flood, or a salt magma intruding into already existing sediments. In addition, layering of different evaporite minerals generally follows the order of precipitation from solution rather than the order of crystallization from a melt, though there are many exceptions.
- “The Great Rift Valley is a 6,000-km-long geographic trough formed as the result of a parting of the continental crust from northern Syria in southwest Asia through the Dead Sea and the Red Sea into central Mozambique in East Africa… Given the location of these massifs it seems obvious that these have a volcanic origin.” — No. What is common about evaporites along the rifts of of Southwest Asia and East Africa is that they are in basins caused when blocks of Earth’s crust sink as the crust is being pulled apart. Thick evaporite layers occur in locations where there is rifting, a hot, dry climate, and restricted connection to the sea, like the Dead Sea and Danakil Depression. This is precisely what old-Earth geological models for evaporite formation propose. There is no direct association between evaporites and volcanic areas. Many evaporite deposits occur in areas with no volcanic rocks at all.
- “For a modern analogy of magmatic salt formation we can look at the Ol Doinyo Lengay volcano in the north of Tanzania within the Great Rift Valley.” — The only analogies between carbonatite volcanism and Heerema’s proposed salt magma are that carbonatite lavas have a low viscosity and some carbonatite rocks are rich in sodium (Carbonatites are rare igneous rocks based on the carbonate ion, CO32-, rather than on SiO2). Oldoinyo Lengai (Earth’s only known active carbonatite volcano) is in no more a modern analogy for salt magmas than the fluids in a vinegar and baking soda “volcano” would be.
- “Organisms and vegetation deposited in the valleys (or under the water) that are overrun by the flow of salt magma will, in the absence of oxygen, be transformed into coal, oil and gas…. The magmatic origin of these salt formations explains the connection between the salt deposits found around the globe and the associated coal, oil and gas reserves.” — There is no association between the occurrence of evaporites and coal. Coal deposits are usually terrestrial, and most large evaporite deposits are in shallow marine sequences. Hydrocarbon reservoirs are more often associated with evaporite deposits, but the presence of evaporites are not required for the transformation of organic material into oil and gas. The association is more of a coincidence; oil and gas form in marine sedimentary basins, and evaporites also form in marine sedimentary basins.
Third section: Diagenesis of salt after original deposition
In this brief section, Heerema writes about post-depositional changes (diagenesis) affecting salt. These changes include intense deformation that is present in most rock salt formations. However, he did not relate this to his igneous evaporite model.
He also mentioned the existence of salt hot springs in the Danakil Depression of Eritrea. Again, I am not sure how this related to his model. One would expect hot water percolating from the ground after transiting thousands of meters of salt to be salty. This brine is not coming from the mantle or deep in Earth’s crust; it is coming from within the basin itself, so is completely irrelevant to the model.
A few additional observations
Most large evaporite deposits are associated with shallow marine sedimentary rocks—limestones, sandstones, and shales that contain marine fossils—which is further evidence that these precipitated from seawater rather than having been formed by igneous processes.
If salt magmas were rising from Earth’s crust beneath a sedimentary basin, one would expect there to be hydrothermal alteration of the country rocks (the rocks the magma was moving through). Hydrothermal solutions are mineral-rich hot water solutions associated with igneous and metamorphic processes, and are the source of veins in rocks, such as the quartz veins that can contain gold deposits. I would not expect gold-containing solutions, but I would expect some sort of hydrothermal activity.
Heerema provided no evidence for feeder dikes—the conduits through which the supposed salt magma erupted.
Fluid inclusion studies indicate that evaporites formed from seawater. Fluid inclusions are tiny bubbles that contain remnants of the original fluid. Young and Stearley, in their discussion of evaporites, refer to a paper in which the composition of the brine in Silurian salt in the Midwest was consistent with a marine origin, and the researchers determined that the fluid inclusion must have formed at a temperature between 2° and 25°C, which is far below the melting point of NaCl.
Heerema focused on halite (NaCl), but made only passing references to anhydrite (CaSO4), and did not mention gypsum (CaSO4•2H2O) at all. In some evaporite deposits, anhydrite and gypsum dominate over halite. He also did not mention terrestrial evaporites, such as those found in the lake deposits of the Green River Formation.
Peer Review in the YEC technical journals
The home page of the Journal of Creation states that the journal is peer reviewed. Peer review is an essential component of the process of publication of research results, and has many benefits both for the author(s) and the scientific community as a whole. A paper can, in some cases, be submitted to a journal, reviewed, and be sent back to the author several times before it is published, a process that can take over a year. Not only does this process lead to a much better report, but it weeds out some papers that are not suitable for publication.
The publication of a paper such as this demonstrates that the Journal of Creation does not do an adequate job of putting geological papers through the peer review process. In saying this, I am not referring to the implausibility of Heerema’s igneous origin for evaporites, but the little things in the article that a good geological editor or peer reviewer should have noticed:
- Minerals do not evaporate from seawater, they precipitate.
- One of the substances listed as an evaporite mineral is magnesium chloride (MgCl2). Magnesium chloride does not exist as MgCl2 in evaporites, though its hydrated form (bischofite, MgCl2•6H2O) does occur.
- Evaporation leading to evaporite mineral formation is not greatest at the equator, but in the desert belts 10° to 40° north and south of the equator.
- Heerema does not properly distinguish between a magma, which would be within the crust, and a lava, which is extruded onto the surface. For example, he states that “a salt magma will flood into the lowest areas.” For this reason, the first time through the article I was not sure whether he was proposing instrusion of salt magma—a salt batholith—or salt lava flows, especially since in one place he refers to layered igneous intrusions.
- There are two references to silica magma when he meant silicate magma. A silica magma implies molten SiO2 (a magma that does not exist in nature), whereas a silicate magma contains many ions (iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium, aluminum, and many others) and dissolved gases in a silicate ion (SiO44-) melt.
I do not primarily blame the author for these errors but the Journal of Creation for letting them slip through. A valid peer review and editing process would have eliminated these sorts of errors.
This has always been a problem in YEC technical literature. Back in my YEC days, when I was a student member of the Creation Research Society, I remember cringing at some of the stuff that got printed in what was then considered to be the premier YEC scientific journal, the CRS Quarterly.
The YouTube video
I will not present a detailed analysis of this video, but do want to make a few comments:
- 4:15 — A hydrothermal origin for salt formations was briefly discussed, but this would only deposit evaporite minerals within pre-existing rocks, not in large, separate evaporite layers.
- 8:20 — “Carbonatite” was listed as an evaporite mineral. Carbonatite rocks are formed from carbonate magmas, and have a very distinctive mix of minerals. There is little overlap between the lists of minerals found in evaporites and carbonatites. One exception is calcite (CaCO3), which is formed in a very wide range of geological settings.
- 10:30 — There was a presentation of a NaCl-CaSO4 phase diagram, which he got basically correct in terms of which mineral would crystallize first. But the final crystallization would produce an interlocking mesh of halite and anhydrite, not segregated layers of the two.
- 12:45 — Here the discussion of salt pillars (salt domes, diapirs) begins. Heerema proposes that these salt pillars, which can rise through thousands of meters of sediments, formed while the salt was molten beneath flood waters. The salt developed a crust, but this crust would crack at times, creating upward convection currents of steam. The molten salt would rise up in the steam and water column to form a salt pillar thousands of meters tall. He showed a video of a transparent tank containing a layer of molten NaCl beneath water. The two were separated by a barrier simulating the solid salt crust. Then he exposed the water to the molten salt, which led to the formation of steam. What would have been really impressive would have been a time-lapse movie of a solid salt pillar forming in his tank, but he did not do that.
- 19:20 — Heerema discussed how the upturned sediments around these “salt pillars” could easily have been formed by deposition from fast moving water currents circulating around the salt pillars, but are impossible to explain by standard geological theories. This was the typical YEC “only explainable by catastrophe” tactic. What he missed is that upturned sedimentary layers next to salt domes show every indication of having been deposited horizontally, and then punctured by rising solid but moldable masses of salt. These layers show the typical signs of strain associated with deformation, including folding, fracturing and faulting.
The proposal that evaporite formations were formed by primary igneous processes is not a step forward for YEC flood geology. The hypothesis has little evidence to support it in terms of global distribution, relationship of evaporites to surrounding rocks, or known geological processes. The publication of this paper demonstrates that there are serious problems with the YEC peer review process.
I want to state again that none of this is biblically necessary. The Bible is not a book about the origin of evaporites, or any other sedimentary rock. This sort of “research” discredits the Bible and Christianity, which is both tragic and unnecessary.
Any upper-division undergraduate textbook on sedimentary petrology will have a good discussion of the characteristics, distribution, and origin of evaporites. This week, I read the section in Principles of Sedimentology and Stratigraphy by Boggs, which I am reading this spring just for fun. The fifth edition is listed on Amazon for $146. I bought it new in South Korea two years ago for only $42. College textbooks are such a scam.
Carbonatites are fascinating igneous rocks. Again, any good upper-level undergraduate or graduate textbook on igneous petrology will have a discussion about these. For some good pictures of Oldoinyo Lengai in action, click here (National Geographic) or here.
I am not saying that salt magmas are impossible. I am saying that there is no good support to Heerema’s hypothesis.
The fluid inclusion study on Silurian evaporites was discussed in Young and Stearley, The Bible, Rocks and Time, pp.303-304.
I got a few of the ideas presented here from a comment by steve660 (the comment on Sat Mar 16, 2013 8:13 pm) on the British Centre for Science Education web site. He recognized problems with the stability of magnesium salts at high temperatures that I did not catch.
Grace and Peace
In a way, I really do not enjoy writing something like this. Young-Earth creationists are my dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
One of my favorite places to hike in the Billings area is Zimmerman Park, which is mostly atop the Rimrocks, a cliff formed by sandstone of the Cretaceous Eagle Formation. The Eagle Formation is usually interpreted to be either a barrier island deposit, similar to Padre Island in Texas, or a shallow marine sand bar that ran parallel to the shoreline. The sand was deposited in the Western Interior Seaway, a shallow body of water which stretched across North America from the Arctic to Gulf of Mexico. From Billings, sedimentary rocks become increasingly marine-dominated to the east, and terrestrial to the west.
Here are a few pictures from today’s late afternoon hike:
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. — 1 Corinthians 3:18-19 (ESV)
As I get older, I hope I am getting wiser. Two things I have learned is that I probably don’t know as much as I think I know, and there are probably things that I think I know with confidence that I am wrong about. Part of wisdom is understanding and acknowledging that we are often wrong.
I have no doubt that I am wrong about some of the doctrines I hold as an Evangelical Christian. For me to believe that I am right about everything and that everyone else is in error would be extreme arrogance. The challenge is that I don’t know where I am wrong, though I am sure some of my readers have their ideas of where I am wrong. I am also sure that I am wrong about some things I write about the geosciences. Again, I don’t know what those things are.
If I am wrong about a doctrine, it is more likely to be a doctrine on the edges of Christianity—such as what I think about the new Heaven and new Earth—rather than in the core doctrines I hold to, which are in line with the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. Likewise, if I am wrong about certain things in the geosciences, it is likely to be on secondary issues, such as whether the sandstone layers near my house were formed as part of a barrier island along an ancient shoreline or if they were formed slightly offshore and completely submerged. I am less likely to be wrong about basic geological ideas such as the fact that the shale beneath the sandstone had to have been deposited first, which is an understanding based on the law of superposition.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul is primarily addressing the fact that both Jews and Gentiles were rejecting Christianity as foolish because of what we say about Christ: God in the flesh, executed on a cross, risen from the dead.
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. — 1 Corinthians 1:20-25 ESV)
Then as now, there were people who scoffed at the idea that God would or could become human, that God’s messiah would be executed, or that a man who had been executed and buried could be resurrected from the dead. In all of these things, I am glad to be included with what the world considers foolish. Paul is encouraging the Corinthian Christians to stand firm when being accused of foolishness, because what the world sees as foolishness is really an expression of God’s wisdom, and the philosophers and skeptics will, in the end, be exposed as the real fools.
However, Paul is not defending ignorance or poor reasoning. Elsewhere in 1 Corinthians, he writes, “Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.” (14:20 NIV). Christians, as new creations, growing in the likeness of Christ, should have strong minds. Not all Christians will be intellectual giants, but throughout history the church has been blessed with some great thinkers, including the apostle Paul.
Sometimes Christians say foolish things in defense of what they perceive to be Biblical truth (I include myself in this statement). I understand that there is a difference between being wrong and being foolish. When some Christians first advocated that the moon could not be billions of years old because if it were it would be covered by a think layer of meteorite dust, they may have been guilty of simply being wrong. When Christians continue to use the moon dust argument even when most young-Earth creationist scientists say it is bogus is quite simply foolishness.
As I have said before, let it be the foolishness of Christ—his incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection—that the world rejects, not our own foolishness.
Grace and Peace
Most young-Earth creationists acknowledge the validity of the law of superposition. There are exceptions.
A history of the young-Earth creationist argument on moon dust can be found at http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/hovind/howgood-yea.html (Proof #2).
Answers in Genesis includes the moon dust argument on its Arguments We Don’t Use page, under the heading of “Arguments that should never be used.” That doesn’t stop a number of YEC teachers from continuing to use it.
I know one YEC organization that (as of 2011 when they presented at my church) still uses the “human and dinosaur footprints together” argument (Paluxy River tracks), even though this argument was abandoned by the Institute for Creation Research in 1986, and is also on AiG’s Arguments We Don’t Use page.
Around the web 3/22/2013 — The ice age only lasted 250 years, evaporites formed from magma, environmentalism is bad for us, and more
THE ICE AGE (SINGULAR) OCCURRED BETWEEN 2250 AND 2000 B.C. — Answers in Genesis posted an article in February by Andrew Snelling and Mike Matthews entitled When Was the Ice Age in Biblical History? As usual, none of this is necessary Biblically, or workable scientifically.
Here is everything they want to squeeze into 250 years after their date for Noah’s flood (2350 B.C. on the accompanying map with timeline):
- 2350 to 2250 B.C. — Antarctica becomes covered by forests, then gets covered by its ice cap.
- 2250 to 2000 B.C. — Ice age on the rest of Earth.
- approx. 2300 B.C. — First mastadons.
- 2250 B.C. — first human tools in archeological record.
- approx 2200 B.C. — First woolly mammoths.
- approx 2200 to 2100 B.C. — Age of the Neanderthals.
- approx 2150 B.C. — Humans migrate into Australia.
- approx 2100 B.C. — Humans migrate into North America.
- 2000 B.C. — End of Ice age. Abram born.
Again, the Bible says none of this! When Abram is born, he is born into a stable civilization on a stable Mesopotamian plain that isn’t much different than how it is described in Genesis 2. There has been no massive transformation of the Tigris-Euphrates valley!
But the geological problems with the YEC picture dwarf the biblical problems. Not only do they have to squeeze Antarctic glaciation, Neanderthals, the ice ages (there is plenty of evidence that glaciation happened multiple times), and human migration into Australia and the Americas into 250 years, one would have to throw in things like multiple eruptions of a number of “supervolcanoes” (e.g. Yellowstone, Toba, Long Valley), growth of other volcanoes (e.g. Cascade Range), growth of modern coral reefs, and deposition of in some cases many hundreds of meters of ice age sediments around the world. Add in a few biological marvels as well — hyperevolutionary adaptive radiation going from “elephant kind” to mastodons, woolly mammoths, and modern elephants; as well as dispersion of animals and humans throughout the globe.
Don’t teach this to the church or our youth as biblical truth or scientific apologetics!!!!
EVAPORITES (SUCH AS SALT) FORMED FROM MAGMA — YEC geologist Tas Walker has endorsed Stef Heerema’s magmatic model for for the origin of large salt formations. Heerema’s Journal of Creation article is here, and a more recent YouTube video is here. I am writing a longer response to this one, but for now I’ll say that this all shows that, despite YEC claims to the contrary, the Journal of Creation cannot possibly be a peer-reviewed journal.
ENVIRONMENTALISM IS A THREAT TO CIVILIZATION — So says Evangelical writer Cal Beisner, a spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance. There are some good things in the Cornwall Alliance’s Declaration on Environmental Stewardship, but…
Here’s what Beisner recently said about why humans could not be doing any catastrophic harm to the Earth by adding excess greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, as reported at Huff Post Green:
“That doesn’t fit well with the biblical teaching that the earth is the result of the omniscient design, the omnipotent creation and the faithful sustaining of the God of the Bible. So it really is an insult to God,” Beisner said.
Isn’t that sort of like saying that it doesn’t matter what we do to our bodies—smoking, excess alcohol and drug use, etc.—because God has designed us in such a way that the things we do could not possible cause us catastrophic harm?
THE DOCTRINE OF CREATION — The biblical doctrine of creation isn’t primarily about how old the Earth is. See Bigger Than We Think by David Wilkinson.
PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANITY CONTINUES — Iran puts five Christians on trial for their faith, Christian protesters decry Muslim mob’s arson spree following blasphemy charge, Christians, churches dwindling in Iraq since start of war 10 years ago.
I want to write, write, write, but can’t keep up with it all.
Grace and Peace
And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.”
— Genesis 3:17-18 (ESV)
Suppose I were to tell you, “Sometimes it rains cats and dogs in St. Louis.” How would you interpret my statement? If you didn’t know English idioms very well, you might be quite confused by what I said, or come to the conclusion that I was—intentionally or unintentionally—speaking nonsense. Because you know it does not really ever rain cats and dogs, you probably would not take me as actually believing that cats and dogs fall from the sky.
Now suppose that the biblical account of Noah’s flood (Genesis 6-9) contained a verse that said, “And Noah looked out of the window of the ark and saw that it was raining cats and dogs.” How would we interpret this statement? The most natural way to interpret it would be to assume there was some sort of idiom or metaphor in use, and to interpret it as “it was raining very hard.” Unfortunately, we would not be able to look up “raining cats and dogs” in the 1400 BC edition of Hebrew Idioms for Dummies, so we might have to do some educated guesswork.
On the other hand, if we had little stomach for idioms or other literary devices as we read the Old Testament, we might come to the conclusion that the deluge was so cataclysmic that, in this instance, cats and dogs must have been sucked up from the watery surface by strong updrafts, and then hurled down upon the deep, as witnessed by Noah. This would be a reading that goes far beyond seeking the literal, or intended, meaning of the passage. This would be an example of what some call hyperliteralism; a reading of the text that allows for no figures of speech whatsoever.
Now Genesis does not contain the phrase “raining cats and dogs,” but it does contain examples of non-literal writing. Take for example the phrase “thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you” in Genesis 3:18. This is part of the curse God pronounced on the ground after Adam and Eve sinned. After humanity’s fall into sin, God pronounced a curse on the serpent, Satan; and spoke words of discipline and judgement (and promise) to Adam and Eve. Rather than experiencing the blessings of Eden, Eve would experience, among other things, pain in childbirth, and Adam would experience “thorns and thistles.”
What is the meaning of the phrase “thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you?” One common interpretation of this passage is that it teaches that there were no thorns or thistles on the Earth until God made this pronouncement. In Eden, so the interpretation goes, there could not possibly have been things like thorns and thistles; not only do they cause pain and draw blood when they prick our skin, they are specifically mentioned as part of the curse on the ground here in Genesis 3. In other words, thorns and thistles did not exist until they became part of God’s curse on the ground.
Following this line of reasoning further, we have to consider the fact that the fossil record contains plants that have thorns and thistles. If one holds to the “literal” interpretation, then it is clear that these plant fossils could only have formed after Adam sinned. Therefore, the fossil record—and by correlation this would mean just about any rock of Phanerozoic (Cambrian and more recent) age—had to have formed after Adam. This is one of the supposed Biblical foundations for young-Earth creationist “flood geology.”
But is this the best way to understand God’s “thorns and thistles” curse? A better interpretation is that there is a figurative aspect to “thorns and thistles.” If so, the young-Earth interpretation is an example of hyperliteralism, an over-reading of the text caused by focusing on the literal words on the page rather than the main thrust of the section. A broader view of the text is that God was removing his blessing on mankind’s work. The intention at creation was that Adam and his descendants would be fruitful; not just in reproduction, but in their stewardship and dominion over the rest of creation. There would be shalom between man and his Creator, within each person, between man and wife, between individuals, and between humans and nature. This was all frustrated by Adam’s rebellion, and we have been living with the consequences ever since. Thorns and thistles may have existed before, but with the advent of sin they could now have dominion over humanity rather than humanity having dominion over them. All of our work is now frustrated to one degree or another by figurative thorns and thistles, whether it be the weeds in our garden, the broken relationships with coworkers and clients, mistakes we make in our work, or bugs in the latest software on our computers.
Genesis 3:18 is not about thorns and thistles any more than Genesis 3:14-15 is about how snakes lost their legs. Genesis 3:18 is about how our work in general is frustrated because of sin, and Genesis 3:14-15 is about the humiliation of Satan, grovelling in the dust just as defeated enemies of some Mesopotamian ruler would be forced to do. It is much better, in terms of the literary imagery of the passage, to take thorns and thistles as having a broader meaning in terms of our work and relationships rather than narrowing the meaning down to the appearance of weeds in Adam’s garden.
The undoing of the curse on our work is found in the work of Christ, who bore a crown of thorns as he suffered on our behalf. We live in confident hope that all of creation will one day come under the healing rule of Christ, and that our broken bodies will be resurrected whole. In the new (or renewed) Earth there will be gardens, and I won’t be at all surprised if we find roses growing there.
Grace and Peace
The Phrase Finder has an article about the origin of “raining cats and dogs.”
The ESV Study Bible comments:
Gen. 3:17–19 God’s punishment of the man involves his relationship with the very ground from which he was formed (see note on 2:5–7). Because he has eaten that which was prohibited to him, he will have to struggle to eat in the future. Given the abundance of food that God provided in the garden, this judgment reflects God’s disfavor. Adam will no longer enjoy the garden’s abundance but will have to work the ground from which he was taken (3:23; see note on 2:8–9). The punishment is not work itself (cf. 2:15), but rather the hardship and frustration (i.e., “pain,” itstsabon; cf. 3:16) that will accompany the man’s labor. To say that the ground is cursed (Hb. ’arar, v. 17) and will bring forth thorns and thistles (v. 18) indicates that the abundant productivity that was seen in Eden will no longer be the case. Underlying this judgment is a disruption of the harmonious relationship that originally existed between humans and nature.
Derek Kidner, in his commentary on Genesis (p. 72 of 1967 printing), writes,
Thorns… and thistles are eloquent signs of nature untamed and encroaching; in the Old Testament they mark the scenes of man’s self-defeat and God’s judgment, e.g. in the sluggard’s field (Pr. 24:31) and the ruined city (Is. 34:13). They need not be envisaged here as newly created, but as henceforth a perennial threat (as the unconquered Canaanites would be to Israel, Nu. 33:55); for man in his own disorder would never now ‘subdue’ the earth.
Many Christian geologists I know began their undergraduate geological training as young-Earth creationists (YECs). They entered their studies having been equipped by reading YEC classics such as The Genesis Flood and Scientific Creationism, had a whole stack of Institute for Creation Research Acts & Facts “Impact” articles, and were certain that they would set the geological world straight.
None of the Christian geologists I know personally were still YECs when they graduated. For some (such as for myself), there was no serious crisis of faith along the way. For others, there were times of severe trial, as everything they believed about the Bible and the Earth was challenged. I get emails from time to time from geology undergraduates who thank me for helping them during that time of testing of their faith, and for this I am very grateful.
Sadly, many Christians who enter geological studies with a YEC background end up as spiritual shipwrecks and leave the faith altogether. They have been taught that if YEC is not true, then the Bible is not true either, and all of Christianity is false as well. When they start learning about how the Earth really works, they are devastated This is the bitter fruit of years of YEC indoctrination through a barrage of books, DVDs, educational curricula, Sunday school, and youth groups. It doesn’t have to be so.
Steve Smith is a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. I had the privilege of meeting Steve a few years ago. We had moved back to the United States after six years of service as missionaries with the Evangelical Free Church, and we were living in Denver while I looked for employment. Steve gave my wife and I a wonderful geological tour of Red Rocks Park. I ended up finding employment in Missouri, so we were not able to get together again.
Steve has done a fantastic job of writing about his experiences as a Christian geologist, from his YEC undergraduate beginnings to his current interactions with young people struggling with science and faith issues. The article is Breaking Away from a False Dilemma, and is posted at Nazarenes Exploring Evolution.
Here are a few clips, but you really should read the whole article:
With a high-school level understanding of science and theology, I was convinced by this “either-or” argument and, to my knowledge, became the first Young Earth Creationist in my local Nazarene church. I knew the enemy and the enemy had a name. It was Evolution.
Although I was fascinated by geology and had found a scientific field that I loved, my faith was in shambles. Based on what I had believed and read in the Young Earth Creationist literature, if the geologic ages were real, if the earth was old, if evolution had happened then the Bible was false, Christianity wasn’t true, and Christ’s death on the cross was meaningless. So what was left? I felt betrayed and seriously considered leaving the church. In retrospect, two factors kept me from leaving: (1) the support of a strong Christian family (and a young lady soon to be my wife) that gave me the freedom to question without condemnation; and (2) the strong witness of my Olivet geology professor, who had not only faced all of the same scientific evidence but was one of the most Christ-like men I had ever met. But before I could move on, I had to recognize that I had been snared by a false dilemma and that the Bible didn’t need to be read as a scientific treatise on how to create a world. That was a time of turmoil and what I needed most was theological support that would allowed me to reconcile what I read in the Bible with what I saw in the rocks.
I have seen students break down into tears as they stood on an outcrop of rock and saw evidence that contradicted what their church had taught them. I have comforted my own daughter when she was told by a Sunday School teacher that she couldn’t be a Christian if she accepted evidence for evolution. I have talked with scientists who were once raised in a church and are now bitter agnostics because the church “lied to them” about science.
Thanks, Steve, for sharing your story.
Grace and Peace
Ligonier Ministries has posted an excellent article which can help us think through how to speak and write about issues that are controversial within the Christian church. Some important values as I write articles for The GeoChristian include that I would communicate with grace and humility, that the body of Christ would be edified, and that non-believers would be pointed to Christ.
The article is Consider Yourself by Burk Parsons. Here are a few excerpts:
Controversy exists because God’s truth exists in a world of lies. Controversy is the plight of sinners in a fallen world, who were originally created by God to know the truth, love the truth, and proclaim the truth. We cannot escape controversy this side of heaven, nor should we seek to. As Christians, God has rescued us out of darkness and has made us able to stand in His marvelous light. He has called us to go into the darkness and shine as a light to the world, reflecting the glorious light of our Lord, Jesus Christ. And when light shines in darkness, controversy is inevitable.
The difficulty comes when we try to discern truth from error in the church of Christ.
“What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made?” — John Newton
Parsons then offers ten questions to help us determine if and how we should engage in controversial issues. Some questions that are most applicable to our debates about Earth science include:
1. Have I prayed?
2. What is my motive?
3. Am I striving to edify others?
6. How will I treat the person with whom I disagree?
9. What is my ultimate goal?
10. Am I focused on God’s glory? (Are we serving God’s kingdom or our own kingdom?)
Doing these things, and doing them well, is more important to me than the age of the Earth, flood geology, environmental responsibility, or a host of other topics that surface from time to time here on The GeoChristian.
Grace and Peace
And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. — Genesis 7:19 (ESV)
Many Christians point to the universal nature of some verses in the account of Noah’s flood in Genesis 6-9 to prove that the flood must have been global in extent. For instance, Genesis 6:13 states,
And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
We also read,
The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.
How do old-Earth Christians who hold to a local (rather than global) flood interpret these passages? The answer is by using standard tools of hermeneutics (interpretation), including examining what the text does and does not say, and by comparing Scripture to Scripture. I would like to focus right now on the “let Scripture interpret Scripture” aspect of hermeneutics.
There are a number of passages in the Old Testament (and even in the New Testament) where “all the earth” does not mean “all the earth.” Here are the main ones:
- Genesis 41:57 — Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth. — In this case, does “all the earth” mean “all the earth,” or does it mean a widespread area in the Eastern Mediterranean? Most Bible scholars take this as a figure of speech, not as a literal statement. People came from far away, such as from Canaan, but not necessarily from Spain. I was having a conversation with someone about this passage a few months ago, and I asked him if he believed that people from every nation, from the Eskimos to the Zulus, showed up to buy grain from Joseph. He answered that he believed it was a literal “all the earth,” but that mankind had not yet dispersed very far following the Tower of Babel.
- Deuteronomy 2:25 — This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.’ — Did the Incas and Chinese hear reports about the Exodus, or again, is “the peoples who are under the whole heaven” to be taken in some sense figuratively?
- 1 Kings 18:10 — There is no nation or kingdom where my lord [King Ahab] has not sent to seek you. — Did Ahab send emissaries to Japan and Zimbabwe to look for Elijah? If I were a hyper-literalist, I would have to say that he did.
- 2 Chronicles 9:23 — And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind. — Do I have to affirm that leaders of the Australian Aborigines showed up in Jerusalem to listen to Solomon?
- Jeremiah 27:7 — All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson. — God said that “all the nations” shall serve Nebuchadnezzar. Does this mean that there is some gap in our historical knowledge; a period of time when Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian Empire stretched from Los Angeles to London to Tokyo, and from Murmansk to the Cape of Good Hope? Or was God using a figure of speech?
- Dan 4:22 — It is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. — As in Jer 27:7, does the Bible teach that Nebuchadnezzar’s empire covered the entire planet? (see also Daniel 5:19).
- Zephaniah 1:2 — “I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord. (also see v. 18) — Is this teaching the destruction of the entire Earth, or a more limited judgement on unfaithful Israel and the surrounding nations?
- Similar “universal” passages can be found in the New Testament — Luke 2:1 (all the world to be registered), John 12:19 (the Pharisees were concerned that the whole world was going to Jesus), Acts 2:5 (Jews were present at Pentecost from every nation under heaven), Colossians 1:23 (the gospel has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven).
In each case a more natural reading of the text is something other than “all the Earth.” Only if we bring a rigid, overly-literalistic hermeneutic to the passages do we end up with things like Ahab’s servants trekking through the Himalayas looking for Elijah.
In many ways, Hebrew functions like other languages. It is not a Vulcan-like tongue where everything is mechanical and logical, lacking in word pictures or hyperbole. In English, if we say “everyone is doing it,” we don’t literally mean “everyone,” unless we are talking about something like breathing. So if I say, “everyone in America likes McDonalds,” most people would not take that to mean “everyone in America likes McDonalds.” The same is true in the foreign language I know best, Romanian. The phrase “toată lumea” literally means “all the world,” which translates into English as “everyone.” If I were to say toată lumea likes going to the beach, I would literally be saying that the whole world likes going to the beach, but I would really mean that many or most people like going to the beach, or most people I know like going to the beach.
I hope that I have demonstrated that “all the Earth” usually does not mean “all the Earth” in the Old Testament. The question then becomes: can we apply this knowledge (letting Scripture interpret Scripture) to the account of Noah’s flood in Genesis 6-9? Are the universal phrases in the passage to be taken in a “literalistic” sense, or is there room for reading these as figures of speech? I believe I can show that much of the universal imagery of Genesis 6-9 is indeed hyperbolic, and that the passage can be read naturally as a very large, but still limited flood that appeared universal from Noah’s perspective in the middle of it all. I will save that discussion for another time.
Grace and Peace.
For most Christian traditions and denominations, the age of the Earth is not a primary issue. It is not even a secondary issue. Nor is it a tertiary issue. In fact it is not even a quaternary issue. For most Christian traditions and denominations, the age of the Earth is a quinary issue! That’s three steps below being a matter of even secondary importance!
This does not mean that what we believe about origins is not important, but it helps to put the endless debate in proper perspective.
C. Michael Patton at Parchment & Pen Blog has a Chart to Help Distinguish Between Essentials and Non-Essentials.
Patton reserves the “Essential for Salvation” circle for those doctrines that one must believe in order to be a Christian by just about any definition. This includes belief in God, Christ’s deity and humanity; our sinfulness, and Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection.
The next circle includes those things that all Christians (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant) have believed from the beginning of the church, such as the doctrine of the Trinity as expressed in the Nicene Creed, the future return of Christ, the eternal punishment of the wicked, and belief that Christ is the only way to God. One might err on one of these (e.g. believe that all will in the end be saved) and still be a Christian, but not be within the standards of Christian orthodoxy.
The third circle from the center is traditional orthodoxy, which is orthodoxy as defined by one of the broad traditions of the Church: Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism. I fall within Protestant orthodoxy, believing in justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. I fall outside of Roman Catholic orthodoxy, as I reject its teachings about Mary.
I am well aware that there will be differences between Christian traditions and denominations about where to place various doctrines. Lutherans will bump baptism up a notch or two compared to most Evangelicals, and Pentecostals might move spiritual gifts more towards the center as compared to where most Episcopalians will.
Where do teachings about evolution and the age of the universe come into this?
Patton places what we believe about origins in the “important but not essential” category. I think I would place evolution and chronology at this level as well.
Most YEC leaders will state that origins are not a primary issue, that is, that one can believe in an old Earth and still be a Christian. I think the highest they could really put YEC is at the denominational orthodoxy level (though they might look at their denominational orthodoxy as the true standard of orthodoxy and throw out the higher levels entirely).
Many YEC followers seem to place YEC at the primary level, as in, “If you are not a YEC, you are probably not really a Christian.” I have actually run into that quite a bit.
What do you think? Where do the age of the universe and biological evolution fit on the diagram?
Grace and Peace
At times it seems like the young-Earth creationists have a virtual monopoly on science curriculum materials for the Christian homeschool market. There are popular homeschool magazines that ban advertisements from curricula—secular or Christian—that teach an old Earth or biological evolution. The same goes for homeschool conventions and curriculum fairs.
At the extreme in the homeschool movement are those who want to build walls around their children to protect them from all evils, such as evolution. We were part of a homeschool parents’ group in St. Louis whose leader had a rather dominating personality. I think one of our last appearances at the monthly meetings was when she stood up and virtually forbade members of the group from taking their kids to the St. Louis Zoo because of its new talking statue of Charles Darwin. That didn’t stop us, of course, from taking our kids to the zoo, even with the animatronic Darwin. My anecdotal experience is that the outcome for families who took the build-a-wall-around-our-children approach to homeschooling was not positive, either academically or spiritually.
We homeschooled our children in their early elementary years and they all have done very well in middle and high school, and in college. One of the primary sources for our material was Sonlight Curriculum, which has been banned from some homeschool conferences and magazines because they carry old-Earth material along with young-earth. John Holzmann of Sonlight has written an excellent article: Young- and Old-Earth Creationists: Can We Even Talk Together? A quick search for “Sonlight curriculum evolution” in your web browser will turn up a multitude of “We don’t use Sonlight because it includes evolution” blog posts and articles.
The Atlantic has recently posted an article entitled Old Earth, Young Minds: Evangelical Homeschoolers Embrace Evolution. Here are a few excerpts from the article:
Take Erinn Cameron Warton, an evangelical Christian who homeschools her children. Warton, a scientist, says she was horrified when she opened a homeschool science textbook and found a picture of Adam and Eve putting a saddle on a dinosaur. “I nearly choked,” says the mother of three. “When researching homeschooling curricula, I found that the majority of Christian homeschool textbooks are written from this ridiculous perspective. Once I saw this, I vowed never to use them.”
The assertion that anyone who believes in evolution “disregards” the Bible offends many evangelicals who want their children to be well-versed in modern science. Jen Baird Seurkamp, an evangelical who homeschools her children, avoids textbooks that discredit evolution. “Our science curriculum is one currently used in public schools,” she says. “We want our children to be educated, not sheltered from things we are afraid of them learning.”
Meanwhile, professors at evangelical colleges that attract homeschoolers often have to deal with objections from Young Earth proponents. “We do have to address some one-sided perspectives in biological science that some of our freshman biology majors come pre-loaded with,” says Jeffrey Duerr, a biology professor at George Fox University, a Christian university in Oregon. “But we do this by first addressing why science and Christian faith are compatible and then by teaching biology to them.”
I think that at present finding an appropriate homeschool curriculum for middle school or high school Earth Science would be a real challenge. The choice seems to be between selecting a secular textbook that is not very homeschool-friendly, and one of several YEC textbooks that are homeschool-friendly but contain numerous scientific inaccuracies and questionable biblical interpretations.
My experience from teaching in Christian schools is that it is far easier to undo any shortcomings in secular textbooks (the shortcomings were not all that many) than it was to undo the bad science and questionable biblical interpretations I saw in Christian textbooks. But I was able to do this based on a solid education in geology and secondary education and years of thinking about Bible-science issues. Most homeschool parents don’t have that background.
What is the solution? What are some good curriculum options for Christians who want to give their middle school or high school students a semester or year of Earth Science?
Grace and Peace
HT: Martin Lack
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” — Genesis 2:16-17 (NIV 1984)
According to Genesis, God created Adam and Eve and placed them in a garden. He commanded that they tend the Earth, and that they be fruitful and multiply. They walked in fellowship with God as they worked; it was a paradise, but not an idle paradise. He provided the tree of life that they might live forever, but forbade them from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
In Genesis 3, as we know, Adam and Eve thought they knew better than God and they ate fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Was this a good thing or a bad thing? The correct answer, of course, is that this was a bad thing. That doesn’t stop some from twisting the story; consider the following from paleontologist L. Beverly Halstead:
Here [in Genesis] we have man being given an instruction by the supreme Authority, and he was expected to accept this quite uncritically—he was not expected to question it, he was certainly not expected to defy it, he was expected to obey it. Let us consider what this means. Here is a situation where you are placed in an environment where you have everything, all you must not do is think.
Samuel Butler in the last century wrote “The Kingdom of Heaven is the being like a good dog.”
A good dog does what he is told, gets a pat on the head, and that is all. This is a prospect that no real human being should ever stand for. But we are very fortunate in this story—we have the hero of this entire episode, the serpent, and he gave very good advice (Gen 3:5-7)
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
And the eyes of them both were opened.
That, to my mind, is the most inspiring passage in this entire volume.
That was the original sin, the defiance of the Lord God was original sin, and this sin is the one which every scientist worthy of the name is dedicated to uphold.
(quote from Halstead, L. Beverly, “Evolution—The Fossils Say Yes!”, in Montagu, Ashley (ed.), 1984, Science and Creationism, pp. 241-242. )
Halstead simply distorted the passage for his own purposes. God did not forbid them from eating fruit from a “tree of knowledge,” as if knowledge were bad, but from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
“Knowledge” can mean knowing about something, such as knowing about European history or invertebrate paleontology. I think that is what Halstead had in mind; that somehow God wanted Adam and Eve to live in some sort of ignorant bliss. The passage, however, implies that God wanted Adam and Eve to have a kind of scientific knowledge about their world; how could they have dominion over the garden as God’s representatives on Earth if they were clueless about caring for the Earth?
There is another kind of knowledge that is experiential rather than just the intellectual knowledge inherent in science. We see this in Genesis 4:1 — “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” Adam did not just know about Eve as an intellectual exercise, but had a deep, intimate, emotional knowledge of her expressed in sexual intercourse.
This is the kind of knowledge that Adam and Eve would gain through eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They did not just gain an intellectual understanding about the world, or a textbook knowledge about ethics, but they knew good and evil, and this was a horrible thing to gain intimate knowledge of.
Think of what they “gained” through their submission to Satan, or as Halstead put it, the “hero of this entire episode, the serpent.” Here is what we have as the fruit of disobedience:
- A broken relationship with God.
- Broken relationships with one another.
- A broken relationship with the creation.
- Frustration in work.
- Pain in childbirth.
- Physical death.
- Decaying bodies.
All because of one piece of fruit. Was it worth it?
Grace and Peace
From today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, the most bizarre, alien-appearing animal on Earth, the tardigrade:
Go to APOD to see it much bigger (I have only shown it as a thumbnail for copyright purposes).
I’ve thought tardigrades were pretty amazing since I first learned about them in Invertebrate Zoology a long, long time ago. Here’s APOD’s description:
Explanation: Is this an alien? Probably not, but of all the animals on Earth, the tardigrade might be the best candidate. That’s because tardigrades are known to be able to go for decades without food or water, to survive temperatures from near absolute zero to well above the boiling point of water, to survive pressures from near zero to well above that on ocean floors, and to survive direct exposure to dangerous radiations. The far-ranging survivability of these extremophiles was tested in 2011 outside an orbiting space shuttle. Tardigrades are so durable partly because they can repair their own DNA and reduce their body water content to a few percent. Some of these miniature water-bears almost became extraterrestrials recently when they were launched toward to the Martian moon Phobos on board the Russian mission Fobos-Grunt, but stayed terrestrial when a rocket failed and the capsule remained in Earth orbit. Tardigrades are more common than humans across most of the Earth. Pictured above in a color-enhanced electron micrograph, a millimeter-long tardigrade crawls on moss.
I didn’t know that tardigrades even have their own phylum.
Grace and Peace
Dr. Duane Gish was one of the most prominent young-Earth creationists back in the 1970s and 1980s, especially popular among YECs for his tenacity in debates. According to the Institute for Creation Research (where Dr. Gish was vice president under Henry Morris) and Answers in Genesis, he died yesterday, March 5, 2013.
Gish was also an author, being the writer of Evolution: The Fossils Say No! and other popular-level books.
I heard Duane Gish in one of his famous debates at Washington State University back in 1987, where he debated WSU anthropology professor Dr. Grover Krantz (who was best known as an advocate of the existence of Sasquatch). Gish’s debate style was a quick-talking overload of facts, taking the time he had to pile on evidence against evolution and an old Earth from a wide diversity of fields—biochemistry (Gish’s PhD field), paleontology, geology, meteorology, astronomy, chemistry, physics, anthropology, archeology, and more. Most debaters were not equipped to answer such an array of “evidence,” and thus Gish could always find something his opponent had no answer for. Some of his arguments were sound; many were not (he was big on the moon dust and 2nd law of thermodynamics arguments—at least back when he was prominent—which have since been abandoned by mainstream creationists).
On the afternoon before the Gish-Krantz debate, Dr. Gish was invited to speak to the WSU Geology Department graduate seminar. I remember being apprehensive, as I was concerned that he would say things that would further harden hearts against Christianity. I was actually pleasantly surprised; he stayed on safer (and stronger for him) subjects such as the origin of life and the gaps in the fossil record at higher taxonomic levels. He did not talk about flood geology or the age of the Earth, and when asked about these things in the Q&A time, he simply stated that he had his own beliefs on these, but many Christians differed on the matter. In discussions after the debate, I remember one of the geology PhD candidates saying that if that were all that creationists were after, he would not have been opposed to teaching it in public schools. If only Dr. Gish had been more consistent in voicing this view, and if more YEC leaders would humbly do the same.
I may have also heard Dr. Gish speak at Montana State University in the early 1980s, but am not sure.
Despite whatever errors Gish taught and whatever sins he committed (just like me), Duane Gish has now heard the Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share your master’s happiness.”
I pray for his family and colleagues in their time of grief (which will not be like the grief of the world).
Grace and Peace
Last night, I posted here on The GeoChristian an attempt at satire that some took offence at. I suppose satire will always offend someone, as when Jonathan Swift suggested in his 1729 short story A Modest Proposal that the Irish “problem” could be solved by, well, you can read it for yourself. I guess I am not Jonathan Swift.
I have removed the post, which was entitled, “Ken Ham doesn’t really believe the Bible.”
In my post, I suggested that because Ken Ham is a Baptist, and I am not, he does not really believe the Bible. Of course, all of my doctrines are correct and true to the Bible. If Ken believes differently than I do—and he does—this is clear evidence (so I wrote), that he is a compromiser and is undermining the authority of Scripture. After all, if he doesn’t read certain verses the way I do, he does not really believe what the Bible says.
Of course I regard this as complete nonsense, as anyone who regularly reads The GeoChristian should know. I have been around quite a variety of Christian groups, and know that people I disagree with have good reasons for what they believe, and that my doctrines are not the standard for the church. My fellowship boundaries are pretty broad, with the widest fence being the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. Ken Ham is my brother in Christ, and he and I have much more in common than whatever it is that divides us. We share a love for the Word of God, a desire to see the church built up and taught, and a desire to proclaim Jesus Christ to the nations.
We differ on a secondary matter of Scripture: the age of the Earth. I call this a secondary matter; he calls it a primary one. I call it a matter of interpretation; he calls it a matter of authority.
I apologize to anyone who may have been offended, especially to Ken Ham and to Baptists. My desire is to work towards unity, not to tear down in any way.
Here are some excerpts from the comments from the original post:
K & T — Also, as a complete stranger (but brother!) I’d suggest you be careful not to get caught up in too much of a vendetta against guys like Ken… the spiteful tone of this post is almost as cringe-worthy as most YEC articles I’ve read!
Walter — Your post was rather intolerant of another brother and to state that Baptists are not Christians is crazy. I suggest you reread your post carefully and then remove it. If you do not, it brings your Christianity into question.
I am born again professional geologist and attend an Assembly of God church. I am a fairly recent reader of your blog. When I first read this post this morning, my first reaction was to simply unsubscribe because as a Christian it offended me.
Dustin Smith — After reading through the comments I understand the article much better. I completely agree with the thesis of the article, and I really enjoy reading your posts, so please take it as constructive criticism when I say that this article felt very much like the average YEC article; heavy on statements, jerky logic, and light on grace & peace.
I’ll briefly reply to the above comments:
K & T — I have no desire to be part of any vendetta against Ken Ham. Yes, the post was rather cringe-worthy. As satire, it was intended to be that way. It was an imitation of much of what you and I have read on YEC sites.
Walter — I didn’t mean to imply (even in satire) that Baptists are not Christians. To say that someone does not really believe the Bible is not the same as saying one isn’t a Christian (unless one thinks that people become Christians by believing the Bible). Of course, this is exactly what happens when YEC leaders state that old-Earthers don’t believe the Bible; their followers take an extra step and conclude that old-Earthers are not Christians. One can believe the Bible and not be a Christian, and one can be a Christian and not believe in biblical inerrancy (I do hold to biblical inerrancy).
Dustin Smith — I agree, the post was jerky and dogmatic, and light on grace and peace. Perhaps that was part of the satire.
- Is satire or parody directed against fellow Christians ever appropriate? Is there a way that I could have driven home my point using satire that would not have been taken wrongly?
- Is there any difference between Ken Ham calling old-Earthers “compromisers who don’t really believe the Bible” because they don’t interpret Genesis the same way he does, and someone calling Ken Ham a “compromiser who doesn’t really believe the Bible” because Ken doesn’t hold to the same position on __________ that they do?
- Is the interpretation of Genesis 1 so important that it trumps other doctrines that Christians differ on such as baptism, church government, end times, gifts of the Spirit, or women in ministry?
Grace and Peace
Every five years or so, the top young-Earth creationist scientists gather in Pittsburgh for the International Conference on Creationism. From what I understand, this is quite different from your typical Answers in Genesis or Institute for Creation Research seminars that are presented for the general public at local churches. Instead, this will be the YEC researchers talking to each other at a technical level.
The topics for this summer’s meeting have been posted, and here are a few that caught my eye, mostly those relating to geology:
- Genesis, Biblical Authority & the Age of the Earth — Ken Ham
- The South Fork and Heart Mountain faults: Examples of Late Flood, Gravity-driven “Overthrust” — Timothy Clarey
- A Reconstruction of the Physical Geography of the Early Earth — Stan Udd
- Geomorphologym [sic] The Flood/Post-flood Boundary and the Potential [sic] — John Whitmore
- Numerical Simulations of Ice Age Precipitation and Hypercyclones Using the NCAR WRF Model with a Warm Ocean — Larry Vardiman
- The Mars Desert Hypothesis and The Mars–RATE Connection — Ron Samec
- Bolides, Global Contraction, Isostasy and the Flood — Hamilton Duncan
- Might Rotational Instability of the Earth During the Genesis Flood Explain the Megasequences of the Phanerozoic Sediment Record? — John Baumgardner
- A New Model of the Earth’s Pre- Flood Canopy — Ed Boudreaux
- Numerical Simulation of Lithospheric Breakup in the Biblical Timescale — Jesse Sherburn
- A non-uniformitarian model of ice bodies impacting Mars, leaving craters, flowing water and water ice. — Trevor Holt
- Double-Beta-Decay as a Possible Indicator of Change in the Strong Force — Eugene Chaffin
- Initial Conditions for a Post-Flood Rapid Ice Age — Steven Gollmer
- Higher Order Magnetic Multipole Expansion Terms Show A Sinusoidal Variation In The Earth’s Magnetic Field — Robert Hill
- Superfaults and Pseudotachylytes:Evidence of Catastrophic Earth Movements — Timothy Clarey
- Ancient Egypt, the Ice Age, and Biblical Chronology — Anne Habermehl
- Baraminological Analysis of Jurassic and Cretaceous Avialae — Paul Garner
- Planetary magnetic dynamo theories: A century of failure — Russ Humphreys
- Soft Tissues in Solid Rocks — Brian Thomas
- The Temporal Geographical and Geological Ubiquity of Excess Argon with a Young Earth Analysis — Richard Overman
- Simulating Flood Deposition of Mudrocks — Steven Austin
- A Model explaining craters, comets, asteroids, meteorites, icy satellites, planet rings, water and ice by the short term passage of ice bodies through the solar system around 2300 years before Jesus Christ — Trevor Holt
- Modeling the Large-Scale Tectonics of the Early Stages of the Flood Cataclysm — John Baumgardner
- How Does an Underwater Debris Flow End?: Flow Transformation Evidences Observed Within the Lower Redwall Limestone of Arizona and Nevada — Darry Stansbury
- The Impacts Vertical Tectonics Model of the Flood — Michael Oard
- The Crucifixion Earthquake of 33 AD: Evidence in the Dead Sea Sediment –Dr. Steve Austin
Here are a few of my thoughts:
- I don’t know who all of these speakers are, but those I am familiar with are very smart people. The caricature of young-Earth creationists as a bunch of low-I.Q. Neanderthals doesn’t fit this group of people.
- Young-Earth creationism has become considerably more sophisticated over the past couple of decades.
- Despite this sophistication, the YEC flood geology model still suffers from many weaknesses that make it untenable. The basic problem is that there are too many events occurring in too little time. I cannot conceive of squeezing the Quaternary Period into a few centuries after the flood (as many YECs advocate), much less trying to compress the entire Phanerozoic (Cambrian to present) into a year.
- Even more serious than the geological problems of young-Earth creationism is the fact that none of this is Biblically necessary. The Bible does not teach that Earth is only 6000 years old, that Noah’s flood is responsible for most of Earth’s geology, or that there was no animal death before Adam’s sin. If the Bible doesn’t require any of this, and if it doesn’t work scientifically, then we shouldn’t be teaching it in the church or to our youth.
- Having said that, I would actually like to go to one of these conferences some time.
Grace and Peace
I’m enjoying a good thundersnow (or some call it a snunderstorm); the first blizzard thunderstorm I have experienced in Montana (I have seen it happen in Utah, Colorado, and I think Missouri). The temperature dropped from 59°F to 32° in less than thirty minutes, and it started to snow and blow really hard. I love Montana.
The Billings Gazette has some good pictures of the storm as it approached Billings.
What’s going on in the wider world of the world wide web?
JUST MAYBE PERHAPS THERE COULD POSSIBLY BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOUNG-EARTH CREATIONISM — Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis is concerned that much of the criticism of his young-Earth ministry comes from Christians. Count me in — there are plenty of good reasons why Bible-believing Christians criticize Answers in Genesis. YEC organizations like AiG teach secondary doctrines as primary, take a my-way-or-the-highway approach to these secondary issues, insist on a hyper-literal reading of the inspired Word of God, publish massive amounts of really bad science, and set our young people up for a fall. YEC isn’t Biblically necessary, nor is it scientifically feasible.
“Ham has made it clear that AiG’s main thrust is not “young Earth” but simply biblical authority.”
No, it is not about biblical authority. I, like many old-Earth Christians, do believe the Bible. I just don’t believe much of what comes out of the YEC community. And there is a big difference.
JUST MAYBE PERHAPS THERE COULD POSSIBLY BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE TEA PARTY WING OF THE G.O.P. — On top of the radical anti-environmentalism and xenophobia that pervades the Tea Party, there are plenty of Tea Partiers like the chairwoman of the Yellowstone County Republican Party, who posted what most of us would view as a racist anti-Obama picture on her Facebook page. From the Billings Gazette: Local GOP leader criticized for Facebook post. A screenshot can be seen at Daily Kos and MT Cowgirl (left wing equivalents of the right wing Tea Party).
THE BIBLE AS REALITY TV — A new Bible miniseries is coming to the History Channel. One of their consultants appears to be TV prosperity preacher Joel Osteen:
Osteen said much of his work was confirming if the extrabiblical material stayed true to the Bible.
Ummmmm, I’d prefer if he go back to some of his books to double-check how well they stayed true to the Bible. The message of Christianity is not salvation from unhappiness by doing our best.
DOMINION IS THE OPPOSITE OF DOMINATION — The Ecologist has an article about the growth of the “Creation Care” movement, especially among younger Evangelicals.
“As Christians we’re called to care for creation, because God created it, and saw it was good, and loved it,” [Wheaton biology student Erik Swanson] explains. “Also I think we have a responsibility to care for all of God’s people, and I don’t think you can say you love people if you’re destroying the environment they depend on.”
WALKING AWAY FROM CHRISTIANITY — From Marc5Solas — Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church.
The statistics are jaw-droppingly horrific: 70% of youth stop attending church when they graduate from High School. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church.
Let’s just be honest, most of our churches are sending youth into the world embarrassingly ignorant of our faith. How could we not? We’ve jettisoned catechesis, sold them on “deeds not creeds” and encouraged them to start the quest to find “God’s plan for their life”.
The solution, however, is not to give them more young-Earth creationism, as Answers in Genesis is pushing in their Already Gone book. YEC is part of the problem, not part of the solution. I would put it in the “They got smart” category of the top 10 reasons. When they see that it just doesn’t work, our young people throw away their Christianity along with their Dr. Dino DVDs.
EKALAKASAURUS — The Carter County Museum (in the GeoChristian ancestral home of Ekalaka, Montana) has an excellent fossil collection, and is getting some help from Montana State University (The GeoChristian alma mater). From the Billings Gazette: A FOSSIL MECCA – MSU students revitalizing Carter County Museum.
I haven’t been to Ekalaka for a few decades; it might be time for a road trip. I hope they still have the two-headed calf.
A WORLD OF PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS — In Egypt: Islam or death? Egypt’s Christians targeted by new terror group. In Saudi Arabia: Saudi religious police arrest Ethiopian workers for practicing Christianity. In the Middle East as a whole: Religious Change in the Middle East.
In my previous “Around the Web” post, I linked to a story in Christianity Today about the persecution of house churches in China. CT has two followup stories: China Isn’t Trying to Wipe Out Christianity and Persecution in China Is Very Real.
And to be fair: Atheists around world suffer persecution, discrimination (though the report could not point to a single person who had been executed in the world in the past year for being an atheist).
A GOOD PLACE — The Today Show lists my home town, Billings, Montana, as the third best place in the United States to raise a family. If only we had a Chick-fil-A.
Well, that took two hours. The thundersnow has ended and it has all turned to slush, which will turn to ice. I blame it on global warming.