It is cold and snowy here in the Big Sky Country. But most of us don’t complain, and many of us get excited when the white stuff starts to fall from the sky. I live in one of the warmer parts of Montana, so this week it shouldn’t get any colder than –16° F (that’s about –27°C for all of my non-American friends).
This map is a very accurate depiction of what my home state looks like this week. I created “A Winter Map of Montana” for the July 2017 Esri User Conference in sunny San Diego, and it was on display along with about a thousand other maps in the Map Gallery. The Esri UC is a gathering of mapping and geography nerds, dedicated to making the world a better place using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). I’m sharing my Winter Map with the world now; I hope you enjoy my celebration of Montana winter.
My favorite waterfall in Montana is Natural Bridge Falls, located on the Boulder River, south of Big Timber. At high water—such as in this photo taken this spring—some of the water flows over the top of the cliff, while a considerable part of the flow comes out of caves in the side of the cliff. Later in a dry summer and into the fall and winter, the flow is restricted to the caves. On the right side of the photo, you can see where the river flows into what appears to be a rather large room of a collapsed cave. The Boulder River likely flowed through this cavern before it collapsed. Shortly around the corner to the right, the river disappears into a rubble of limestone boulders, also partly the product of cavern collapse.
The caverns, waterfall, and downstream canyon are all in limestones of the Mississippian Madison Group.
The waterfall is about thirty minutes south of Big Timber, and has a paved trail with interpretive signs. There are also dirt paths that go along the river and down to the plunge pool. Also of geological interest in the area are some excellent exposures of the Stillwater Complex, one of the world’s most famous layered intrusions. I brought home a beautiful piece of anorthosite for my rock garden.
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:
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
In between sessions at the young-Earth creation seminar I attended last month, there was a promotion for an upcoming anti-environmentalist documentary entitled “Axed: The End of Green,” created by Montana filmmaker J.D. King. According to the promotional video, the objective of the documentary will be to expose “the dark side of the green movement for what it really is.”
I can tell that Mr. King likes nature; there are plenty of shots of him hiking or driving in the mountains of Montana. This is a very good thing, and actually a point of common ground between him and those in the environmental movement. Here’s the video (less than three minutes long):
The video begins with film clips from radical environmental groups such as this: Earth First! mourning the loss of a tree. When I watch a video like this, my first response is that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I have a little bit of common ground with the Earth Firsters—I like trees—but their biocentric/ecocentric philosophy has a number of problems, and is seriously out of balance in regards to the place of humans in the creation. If all environmentalists were like this, it would be rather easy for most people to dismiss the entire movement. But a strong majority of environmentalists are not like this.
Like Mr. King, I am convinced that there are potential dangers in the environmental movement, such as threats to individual liberty, property rights, and free markets. I would add that the pantheistic underpinnings of much environmental philosophy are not only wrong, but are actually inadequate as a foundation for a robust ecological understanding.
The shots of Mr. King splashing through mountain streams alternate with clips of mining, oil tankers, and closed logging roads; along with short statements from citizens who are concerned about jobs and the economy.
It would have been nice if the video, at this point, had presented a plea for balance: Not just wilderness, not just development, but a sustainable balance in which the environment is protected for the glory of God, the good of people, and the fruitfulness of the creation, which are all aspects of a Biblically-informed environmental ethic. Instead, there was an urgent call: “We demand that green be removed from the political platform!”
The jaw-dropping quote from the video was this:
“…The farmer, the miner, the foresters; their freedom must be returned to them to manage their affairs the way they know is best, because they are wiser than any bureaucrat…”
Farmers and foresters often take very good care of the land, and can also—even if they own the land and know what is right—sacrifice long-term health of soil and ecosystems for the sake of short-term profit.
It was the inclusion of “the miner” that I found astonishing. I am not opposed to mining, but it was rather incredulous that the speaker would say that mining companies would take better care of the land if they didn’t have bureaucratic regulators blocking their way. As my Sunday School teacher said when I told him this, “Has this guy ever been to Butte?”
This is libertarianism run amok. This is conservatism—and I am a conservative—at its worst. What is it that this let-the-miners-mine-the-earth-unhindered type of conservatism actually seeks to conserve? Land? Resources? I don’t know.
The basic problem with this laissez-faire anti-environmentalism is that it, like Marxism and liberation theology, grossly underestimates human sin. Many conservatives have no difficulty seeing the dangers of big government, or the moral decay in our society, but somehow give a free pass to large corporations, forgetting that these too are run by sinful people. Because of this sin, and the Biblical role of government to restrain sin, sufficient regulation of industry, including mining, is necessary in order to ensure the long-term health and flourishing of both humans and the natural world. To say that either people or nature would be better off if government bureaucracy would just get out of the way is neither Biblical nor conservative.
The environmentalists on the left often err by being overly biocentric or ecocentric; leaving God and people out of the picture. The anti-environmentalists on the right often err by being overly anthropocentric; too centered on humans with their individual rights and needs. A more Biblical approach is a theocentric environmental philosophy that acknowledges God as Creator and Lord of all, humans as responsible stewards of the creation, and nature as God’s handiwork: glorifying its Maker, providing for human needs, and worth being protected for its own sake. There is nothing Biblical or good in a conservatism that facilitates abuse of nature rather than seeking to conserve and protect it.
Grace and Peace
P.S. There is no connection intended between the teaching of Nathaniel Jeanson of ICR and the documentary “Axed: The End of Green.”
I went trap shooting for the first time this weekend, at a church men’s retreat near Nye, Montana:
For those who are interested, I’m standing on a terminal moraine, with the Beartooth Mountains behind me. I looked for erratics from the Stillwater Complex, and may have found a boulder of anorthosite. The valley in front of me is carved into an anticline that parallels the mountain front, and the hills in the mid distance are Upper Cretaceous sandstones. The hills in the further background on the right are volcanic rocks (andesitic breccias/lahars) of the Upper Cretaceous Livingston Group, with the vent being a few miles to the west.
The theme of the retreat was “Renewing Our Minds,” and was based on Romans 12, which begins with
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Rom 12:1-2 NIV)
The highlights of the teaching for me weren’t necessarily the main points that our speakers were emphasizing, but here they are:
The starting point in the Christian life is always what Paul starts with in Romans 12: the mercy of God. Everything we do flows out of God’s mercy expressed in Christ. Because of this we need to be constantly reminded of the Gospel.
One way that we conform to the world is in the effort we put into making ourselves look good to others. I don’t mind that others know about how good our kids are doing, that I was a missionary in Romania, or about my achievements at work, but I don’t want them to see my failures and hurts.
If we really understood God and ourselves, we would be humble. Our tendency is to think we are better than we really are.
When we see God as he really is, ourselves as we really are, and the people around us as they really are, we will move from being centered on ourselves toward ministering in the lives of others.
I haven’t been blogging lately, but I have been enjoying being back home in Montana. Here I am with my “Gneiss Chert” t-shirt that I got for my birthday a few months ago. The waterfall is Undine Falls in northern Yellowstone National Park.
Grace and Peace
P.S. This waterfall was on the cover of the July 1977 issue of National Geographic: