Saturday, October 14, 2017

Creation and Evolution, part 5

This is the fifth and final post in this series on creation. We could not possibly discuss all the issues and nuances involved in this important subject. I think it is safe to say that nobody has a monopoly on the truth though I think that Evolutionary Creation just accepts whatever the latest hypothesis so-called objective science hands us, and then baptizes it and pronounces it as God's truth. Now true science is God's truth as all truth is God's truth. But when we are evaluating claims about what happened in the distant past we need a little humility about what science is actually able to discover. That is why we need special revelation in the Bible. It tells us how we were created and why.

The issue for Christians is knowing what the Bible says and what things are essential and what things are not. And though I believe in literal 24 hour days for the six days of creation, I do not think it is essential to true faith. On the other hand, believing in a literal Adam and Eve are essential both for Christian theology and for maintaining the integrity of the New Testament witness. This leaves out the Evolutionary Creationist view and brings into question the Intelligent Design view despite its brilliant criticism of pure evolution.

That does not leave us only with Young Earth Creationism, however. There is a fourth view, the one I hold to, which is called the Gap Theory. Now the name is most inelegant but the concept is intriguing. It asks the question, "What if there is a "gap" between verses one and two in the first chapter of Genesis and what if there is a long period of time between the creation of the heavens and the earth and the 'six days of creation' in the rest of the chapter?"
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and empty, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Gen 1:1-2
The heavens and the earth are created in verse one. That is the beginning. The six days say nothing about the heavens and earth themselves being created. Verse two says that the earth was (or became) formless and empty. The six days describe the earth being given form and then being filled. What is interesting is that Isaiah 45:18 states that God did not create the world "formless and empty". "The Hebrew for formless and empty is 'tohu' and 'bohu'. These two words are only put together in Genesis 1:2 and Isaiah 45:18.

So the suggestion here is that something happened between verses 1 and 2. This would allow for a long period of time from the original creation event and the creation of Adam and Eve. Is this biblically possible or just wishful thinking? The Gap Theory has been criticized as just being a compromise between "fundamentalists", who want to maintain a literal reading of Genesis, and secular scientists who insist on a very old heavens and earth.

Does a literal reading of the 'six days' be reconciled with this view? How about the fact that in most translations, verse three says that light comes on the "first day"? If it's the first day followed by the second day, etc., then how can there be so many days before that? The Hebrew does not actually read "the first day", "the second day", etc. Verses three to five ends with "one day". Verse eight says "a second day" and is in a different form than "one day". In other words, we can read this as a series of six days and not necessarily the first six days.

Some will complain then that the sun and moon are not created until the fourth day. But the word "made" is not the Hebrew word 'to create' as in verse one. The word for 'create' is only in verse one and then the creation of animal life (vs 20-21) and human life (vs 26-27). So it seems that the sun and moon existed already but were only made to appear from earth's point of view on day four.

Let's look at what the New Testament says:
Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 2 Peter 3:3-6
Reading this carefully, it does not seem that there is any reference here to Noah's flood, but to the state of the earth in Genesis 1:2. The heavens existed "long ago" does not seem to indicate a creation that, at the time of the writing of 2 Peter, was only about 4000 years old according to the Young Earth Creationists. It seems to indicate a much longer period of time followed by a flood which wiped out the world that existed before. We still live in the same world that Noah and Adam inhabited. Noah "saved the world" by building an ark.

This would explain when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. Young Earth Creationists not only claim that dinosaurs existed on earth from Adam to Noah but that they went on the ark. After all, Noah took two kinds of every animal. This would include dinosaurs. So where are the dinosaurs now? Young Earth Creationists say that they died out shortly after the flood because the oxygen content of the earth dropped so that dinosaurs could no longer get enough to live. My objection should be obvious. Why bother to put dinosaurs on the ark only to have them die when they get off? The reason for the ark was to preserve the lives of humans and animals, not kill them off later.

No, the dinosaurs lived in the previous world as did other animals and plants. God then wiped it all out and started again with Adam and Eve in a renewed earth. We can only speculate as to why God did this. It's His business, not ours.

So it seems that there is a little more flexibility with our literal interpretation of Genesis 1 than we thought before. That does not mean that we have to accept whatever secular science tells us as to what happened in the past. Neither does that mean that we have to dismiss it out of hand. We can accept some findings of science - apparent age of the earth and the heavens - without buying into their theories designed to exclude the possibility that there might be a Creator and that He might have revealed facts about creation in the biblical record.

We can accept the Bible as literal truth and seek true scientific knowledge as well.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Creation and Evolution, part 4

[If you have not read the first post in this series, I suggest you do so now as it sets the stage for all subsequent posts in this series. Thanks for reading.]

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." (Gen 1:1) On that all agree whether we hold to Evolutionary Creation, Intelligent Design, Young Earth Creationism or the Gap Theory. We all take that literally. Why not, the Young Earth Creationists say, do we not take the rest of that chapter, and all subsequent chapters, literally? The Evolutionary Creationists and the Intelligent Design advocates do not take the "six days of creation" as literal 24-hour time periods. Rather they say that these "days" represent long ages of time. And, of course, the word "day" does sometimes mean a time period other than a 24 hour period. The Day of the Lord, for example, lasts more than a thousand years.

But we have to read this in context. It talks about evening and morning, and it speaks of multiple days. That is quite different from speaking about "the Day of the Lord." Nobody using the word 'day' talks about evenings and mornings. Those are spoken of only in the context of literal days.

Young Earth Creationists take all of Genesis literally as possible stating that the earth is no more than 6000 to 10,000 years old. Perhaps you have heard of Bishop Ussher's calculations and telling us that the creation occurred in 4004 B.C. He got that number by adding up all the genealogies and the ages of the men who begot a son who begot a son and on and on. This is the natural way for us to read these genealogies. And it is not really the proper way to read them. Generations were skipped in ancient genealogies even if the author knew who belonged there.

I have included a quote here of the issue of skipped generations in biblical genealogies. It is from http://www.trustbible.com/genealogies.htm if you wish to read the whole article. It is a concise summary of the matter.

"A close study of the Biblical text shows us there were gaps in the Biblical genealogies. I believe the original writers and readers of the Bible understood and knew the genealogies were correct but incomplete ... Matthew 1:8 tells us that Joram fathered Uzziah. However, in 1st Chronicles 3:11-12 we find that Joram fathered Ahaziah, who fathered Joash, who fathered Amaziah, who begot Uzziah who was also called Azariah. To see that Uzziah was also called Azariah compare 2nd Kings 14:21-22 with 2nd Chronicles 26:1-2."

The terms 'father' and 'son' have a much broader meaning in the Bible than they do today. A 'father' could be a great, great ... great grandfather - without limitations. So, simply adding up the years in the genealogies will not work. In the light of these facts, we need to read the genealogies as ancient people would read them.

Seth lived one hundred and five years, and became the father of Enosh ... Enosh lived ninety years, and became the father of Kenan ... Kenan lived seventy years, and became the father of Mahalalel ... Mahalalel lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Jared. (Genesis 5:6-15)

The "natural" reading of this passage puts 390 years between Seth and Jared. But what about generations that were skipped. If we assume those (and that is a very good assumption given the biblical record as a whole), we must read it differently. So when Seth was 105 years old, he fathered a child whose ancestor would be Enosh and when Enosh was 90 years old he fathered a child whose ancestor was Kenan. If we read it this way, and it is a justified way to read it without distorting the text, we cannot say that there were only 390 years between Seth and Jared. There could have been many, many more years.

Why skip generations? Well, first we would have an even longer Bible than we have now. In fact, in light of what we have learned about genealogies I think most Christians would shorten them even further so that there is not all that stuff to read! It seems that Genesis only records the most prominent ancestors of one person or another. Most have heard of Winston Churchill, the famous British Prime Minister who saved England in WW2. He had an ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough, who was famous in holding off the French Forces of Louis XIV in the seventeenth century. In our history books, both men will be mentioned but likely none of the men in the generations that separated them. They are not relevant.

Some Creations Scientists do insist on the 6000 years, but many read the genealogies as I have suggested and they will say that the number is more like 10,000 years. I even know of one scholar who suggests that it ought to be more like 35,000 years though I cannot recall why he prefers this figure. But I have no problem with any of these figures because it still fits within a literal reading of Genesis. We have not departed from that.

The interpretive issue here is not "literal vs. nonliteral" interpretation, but "ancient vs. modern". Most modern Christians do not really understand how ancient genealogies worked. We thought we were "just taking the Bible for what it says" but were really ignorant of how it was read in ancient times. Most of the time that we read we can just take the plain meaning of the scripture and it will be right. But there are times when there is a cultural distance between ourselves and those who wrote the Bible. That is when we need scholars to help us understand better. Some things we are so certain about can turn out to be quite wrong.

In conclusion, I must say that I agree more with the Young Earth Creationists who think that the Bible allows us to think that the earth is more than 6000 years old than with those who read the genealogies in a rigid manner requiring those who take Genesis literally to hold to 4004 BC as the date of the creation. Our ancient forebears did not hold to the strict standard of some Young Earth Creationists.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Creation and Evolution, part 3

[If you have not read the first post in this series, I suggest you do so now as it sets the stage for all subsequent posts in this series. Thanks for reading.]

There is a movement in the scientific community, mostly with Christian scientists (not Christian Science the religion), called Intelligent Design. It criticizes Darwinism, the idea that life came about by natural means alone and that a single-celled lifeform evolved into all life as we have it today, but it does not reject all evolutionary theory or of the assertions of secular science about the age of the earth, universe, etc. In particular, they accept the Big Bang Theory about the origin of the universe.

The Big Bang Theory (not the television show) states that at the beginning of time there was some kind of "big bang" that got this universe started and everything developed from there. This happened some 14 billions years ago. Though I do not understand all about how this supposedly happened, I do know that scientists have shown that we live in an expanding universe and we know how quickly it is expanding and how at what rate that expansion is slowing down. It's all very complicated. Anyway, they can calculate the time that it all began expanding, in other words, the beginning. The Big Bang Theory also asserts that the universe will collapse on itself and come to an end.

The first thing that I would like to point out, without endorsing the theory, is that the idea of a Big Bang origin of the universe brings us much closer to the biblical witness and record that one might think at first. Previous to the widespread acceptance among scientists of the Big Bang Theory, naturalistic (atheistic) scientists said that since there was no God creating anything, the universe is eternal - it has always been here. Also, they asserted that the universe was infinite, that's all there is. The Big Bang Theory states that the universe has a beginning and an end and that the universe is expanding, implying that it is finite. The Bible teaches that the universe is temporal, it has a beginning and an end, and that it is finite because one can go beyond it to Heaven. (The Bible speaks of three heavens - the first heaven is the atmosphere of the earth, the second heaven is the stellar heavens, and the third is the place where Christians go when they die.) So it seems that the Christians have won this one scientific argument about the universe - it is temporal and finite.

So, if the universe has a beginning, if it started with a big bang, who or what caused it? Well, here is where we get the idea of Intelligent Design. A being, or group of beings, must have brought it into existence. It could not have started itself - it logically incoherent. Some naturalistic scientists have said that they do not know who or what caused it, we only know that it happened. Or they make up flimsy theories about what might have occurred.

Intelligent Design advocates have argued that there must have been someone(s) intelligent designing all this and powerful enough to bring it about. The supposed randomness of the universe seems oddly not random at all. They point to evidence, which seems to become greater as our knowledge increases, that the universe is "fine-tuned" in such a way as to make life possible. Here is just one example of many: "Calculations indicate that if the strong nuclear force, the force that binds protons and neutrons together in an atom, had been stronger or weaker by as little as 5%, life would be impossible." (Sorry for the lack of reference.) This is one of many examples we could list. It is just not plausible that life, or even the existence of the universe itself, can be an accident. It must have been planned (designed) and that by someone who knew what they were doing.

Then Intelligent Design scientists turn to life here on earth. Could life have evolved from a primordial state without any outside "interference"? No, they say. Any lifeform, even the most simple single celled creature must have DNA and is extremely complex. This idea was put forth in Michael Behe's book, Darwin's Black Box. It may sound plausible that somehow a single-celled creature came out of an environment with no life, but where did the DNA come from? Even a "simple" lifeform is far too complex to come about by accident. All life shows abundant evidence of having been designed.

So, Intelligent Design scientists believe that God created life though they do accept some aspects of evolutionary development. But certain points in the past, God (the Intelligent Designer, I mean) created new life forms. They note in the fossil record that mammals suddenly appear. They do not slowly evolve and we get more and more mammal types over centuries or millenniums. They all come at once. So saying that they evolved from something else is contradicted by the very fossil record that naturalistic scientists point to for proof that all things evolved naturally.

This allows room, as well, for Intelligent Design scientists who are Christian to bring the Bible into this. They can, but do not have to, say that Adam and Eve are progenitors of the human race. So they do not have to deny the historicity of Genesis 2-11, but many of them do.

The other issue is there view of Genesis 1. They view the 'six days of creation' as merely symbolic as do evolutionary creationists. In that way, they are closer to the evolutionary view than to Young Earth Creationists which I will cover in the next post.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Creation and Evolution, part 2

[If you have not read the first post in this series, I suggest you do so now as it sets the stage for all subsequent posts in this series. Thanks for reading.]

The topic in this post is Theistic Evolution, or as some are now saying, Evolutionary Creation. This is basically the idea that modern, secular scientists are correct in their guess (that's what it is) that random forces in nature made life come forth on this planet and that one-celled life-forms evolved over billions of years into mankind and all other creatures. Obviously, Christians believe that there are no truly random forces but that God set things up so that we would come about eventually. Time doesn't mean anything to God so billions of years going by matters not at all.

Some might complain to these Christian evolutionists that it would be much simpler for God to have made what He wanted (mainly us) right away without all that evolution having to bring it about. Besides, it is difficult to reconcile this view with a literal reading of Genesis 1 and other scriptures. (This fact put me on the road to rejecting evolution.) One does not, theistic evolutionists assert, have to interpret Genesis 1 literally. It could be metaphor, declaring that God (the true God and not some other gods or something) created everything and that He should be honored. A primitive, pre-scientific world might mistake this as something to be taken literally, but in a literate, scientific age, we should accept whatever "science" tells us.

In fact, we non-evolutionists are told that not only should Genesis 1 not be taken literally, but that the first 11 chapters of Genesis should not be regarded as historical fact. It is some kind of metaphor, they say, that teaches us about human development until Abraham whose story begins in chapter 12. Then the rest of Genesis is literal history.

There are a lot of problems with this view. The book of Genesis has an introduction (chapters 1:1-2:3) followed by ten narrative sections. Even a cursory reading of chapters 2 through 11 show that it is written in the same manner as chapters 12 through 50. They are the same genre. No sensible scholar would read them differently. It is all historical narrative and that includes the part about Adam and Eve.

There can be no literal Adam and Eve according to Francis Collins, evolutionary creationist and head of the Human Genome Project. "The complexity of the human genome requires an original population of 10,000"*. So there can be no Adam and Eve at the head of the human race. But the New Testament clearly shows that they were literal people. Luke's genealogy (Luke 3:23-38) begins with Adam and ends with Jesus (recorded in reverse order). Paul clearly spoke of Adam as an individual human being who is compared to Christ. That fact of Adam and Christ is essential to Christian theology. And Jesus Himself spoke of Abel (Adam and Eve's son) as a real person. (Matthew 23:35)

I challenged one of these Christian evolutionists on this latter point. I averred that Jesus claimed that Abel was a real person and if he is real then so are Adam and Eve. I asked if he thought Jesus was wrong, assuming that he would realize his mistake. He responded by stating that Jesus was wrong about that. I was stunned. I never expected a Christian (let's be generous and assume he is one) to say that Jesus could be wrong about something. This is sheer blasphemy and if he does not repent then I feel sorry for him when He has to stand before the Lord and give an account.

So it is crystal clear that one cannot hold to evolutionary creation without distorting the Bible. It is absolutely necessary that a Christian believe in a literal Adam and Eve and reject the evolutionary hypothesis.

I promised that I would cover both strengths and weaknesses of these views, but there are not many strengths for evolutionary creation. Nevertheless, I will try. The evolutionary creationists themselves see it as a great advantage. They say that other views of creation that reject evolution make the gospel seem anti-scientific and therefore a stumbling block to scientists. Witnessing to them about the Lord is hard, they say, if you take a literal view of Genesis 1. Better to accept evolution and let scientists know that we do not have to be "anti-scientific" to be a Christian. This will make Christianity more palatable to them. Besides, if we teach something like Young Earth Creation ideas to our young people, they will go off to college and lose their faith as they begin to doubt the Bible. Better to teach evolution and the Bible (as evolutionary creationists understand it) and then they will not question or reject it when they become more educated.

I am not sure that is a real strength, but we all want to be both scientifically and biblically literate. There is one part of what they say that I think is a true strength however. They talk about what is called "natural revelation". Now this is not some concept that they dreamed up to convince us of their point of view. This is something that we, in our zeal to uphold the Bible as the Word of God, have sometimes neglected.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
Psalm 19:1

Also:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.
Romans 1:19

The Bible is supernatural revelation; nature (with true science) is natural revelation. Natural revelation can teach us some things about God. We should realize that sometimes science has informed, and changed, our understanding of the Bible. The best example is the idea that the earth goes around the sun rather than the sun going around the earth. Early readers of the Bible "knew" from both experience and scripture that the sun goes around the earth. The Bible talks about the sun rising and setting, etc.

We now know for a fact that the Bible does not teach that the sun goes around the earth but that it does appear that way from a human point of view. So now we read the Bible differently. Knowing that the earth goes around the sun, we interpret the passages that seem to suggest otherwise to mean that in our experience the sun seems to go around the earth. (It is interesting that we still talk about 'sunrise' and 'sunset' because we experience it that way.)

So, evolutionary creationists do remind us that we cannot use the Bible as if it were a scientific textbook. It is not. But it does reveal many things about creation that we could not know by natural revelation. There is also a great deal of difference between the fact of a heliocentric solar system and the hypothesis of evolution. The former belongs to observational science; the latter to historical science which is very speculative. There is a giant gap between observed phenomena and hypothesizing about things that can never be proved.

We need a good understanding of what the Bible teaches, and does not teach. And we need a good understanding of what science can tell us and what it cannot.


*Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tomhobson/2017/09/no-historical-adam-means-open-door-racism/#hjspaHFB8Zj03DSo.99

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Creation and evolution, part 1

I almost titled these lessons 'creation versus evolution' but I am not mainly addressing that issue. Primarily, this series is about different views of how Christians believe creation took place. Not many Americans, including the American church community, still believe in a literal Six-Day creation of the world. On the other hand, most do not really believe in theory of evolution as secular scientists teach either. (I am using the common term 'theory of evolution', though it is not really accurate scientifically. A more correct term would be 'hypothesis of evolution', but I will use the common term so that all can follow more easily.)

In this series, I will discuss several points of view regarding creation and how it was done. I will cover Young Earth Creationism, Intelligent Design, The Gap Theory and Theistic Evolution. I will talk about their strengths and weaknesses and where scriptures support or do not support each point of view. I am not an expert in any of this, but I have studied a bit and have definite opinions on these matters.

In my own life, I grew up being taught the "pure" theory of evolution. Since I believed in God all my life, I figured that God "got the ball rolling" so to speak and that He made sure that we would evolve and inhabit this planet. This is called Theistic Evolution. Accepting this is easy when you do not believe the Bible or really know what it says. You can accept whatever scientists have to say and then put God in the beginning. When I received the Lord at age 15, I continued to believe the theory of evolution but I added one thing. I figured that God had to give us human souls at some point along the way. (Today I would say human spirits, but I did not understand the tripartite nature of man.)

So I was satisfied that I had the truth about creation though I was still far from the real truth. Unfortunately, I did not really seriously begin to read my Bible until I went to college. Near the end of my freshman year, I was discussing my views with a more mature Christian. He challenged me on my views. He asked me that if I were to take Genesis chapter one seriously, would it jibe with my views. In other words, could I honestly interpret the creation passages and come out with the theory of evolution. I struggled with that. During the next summer, I began to study what the scriptures said, but I had trouble in my mind because I was convinced that the scientists were right.

I went to a Christian bookstore and found a book called, "Man's Origin, Man's Destiny" by Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith. He had a PhD. in organic chemistry along with a couple of other doctorates. He did not believe in the theory of evolution but in a literal six-day creation according to Genesis 1. He said that what stirred him to speak about the biblical creation and against evolutionary theory was reading an article that stated that "every scientist believes in the theory of evolution." This bothered him because he was a scientist and he did not believe in the theory of evolution, and he was not alone. To prove it, he contacted many scientists over the next few weeks and found over a hundred scientists who believed as he did.

So he wrote this book not to uphold the biblical record but to show that evolution, as taught in the scientific community, was not possible. I can recall a few of the things he wrote. First, he talked about how old the earth is and the methods used to determine the ages of rocks, etc. He asserted that scientists use circular reasoning in their methods. One thing they do is see how much the atoms have decayed over time. By knowing the rate of decay the scientist can learn when the rock was formed. (The half-life, which can be millions of years, helps determine this.) But Wilder-Smith noted that we do not know how the rock started out. God could have created in an advanced state of "decay". Scientists use the theory of evolution that states that the rock starts out in a "pure" form, undecayed. So the theory tells us how to date the rock and the date of the rock is used to prove the theory. This is circular reasoning - using a theory to prove itself. It is a logical fallacy.

He also noted that sea mammals could not have simply gone, as evolutionists claim, from being land mammals to being sea mammals. We can know this from studying the nipples of a mammal who lives in the sea like a whale and compare them to the nipples of a land mammal. The nipple of a sea mammal must be very complex or the baby will drown. The nipple of a land mammal is very simple and cannot be used by a sea mammal. So if, as evolutionists say, sea mammals went from the land to the sea, the nipple could not have evolved quick enough to keep the babies from drowning.

So I realized that the theory of evolution, which is spoken of so confidently by just about everyone it seemed, had a lot of problems. I realized it would take faith to accept the theory of evolution just as it would take faith to accept what Genesis said. I chose Genesis. I have never regretted that choice and it helped me to move beyond natural, human thinking to thinking biblically. Isn't that our goal: to think biblically, to think how God thinks and not be limited by our own reasoning?


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Reasonable "Creation Care"

One last blast to the extreme environmental movement regarding making the earth into an idol, then some positive words about the subject of "Creation Care", a term I do not like but will use because it seems to be what reasonable Christians are settling on.

Perhaps the most distressing part of the environmental movement is the attempt to silence their critics. Oddly, this also a very religious thing as well. Those who are called "Climate Change Deniers" are actually being run out of universities and called anti-science by those who hold extreme views. (Do not think that only extremists believe in what they say. They have convinced politicians and others that they are right.) Some have even called for the prosecution of those who put forth an alternative view. Is this how science supposed to work? Hardly. This is little different from charges of heresy in times past. The Climate Change "heretics" must be punished!

So, am I suggesting, as the extremists would say, that we want to pollute until we ruin everything. Not at all. My attitude, I think, is very practical. If you own your own home and you want a nice environment, then you will keep it clean. If you do not keep it clean, then you will live in filth. I recall my grandmother, a very diligent cleaner. She said that in the old days if you did not keep your house clean you were inviting disease into your home. Today, we have products which prevent a lot of that so one does not have to clean as thoroughly sometimes, or as often. Still, she had a good point. The cleaner it is, the healthier it is.

The same thing is true in our neighborhoods, cities, states and the nation as a whole. We can work to keep things clean, at first at a local level. We have a wildlife refuge near where we live and many volunteer to make it a better environment for us all. I applaud that. We all want a nice place for ourselves and for the flora and fauna that live there.

But then we also must understand that if we are to have a prosperous economy we are going to have to do some polluting. "Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox." (Proverbs 14:14) This seems to be a little known scripture. God is saying that though oxen (their means of agricultural production) create a mess, it is better to have them so that we can prosper. And, of course, we have to clean up after them.

There is a tradeoff between productivity and pollution. The previous administration made a "war on coal". This greatly affected the economy of Appalachia which relies on coal for jobs and electricity. They wanted to shut down the coal plants, which are very cheap to run, but which pollute more than other kinds of power plants. The problem is that this disproportionately hurts the poor. First, the coal miners lose their jobs. Then, the price of electricity goes way up. So the effect is that the poorest region in the country becomes poorer still. Should it not be the decision of the people who live there whether or not they want cheaper electricity or less pollution? Why should politicians and bureaucrats in Washington make that decision?

Often, well-meaning politicians who care about the environment make foolish decisions that end up hurting people, especially the poor, and do nothing to help the environment. Germany recently decided to do away with the more polluting plants and replace them with environmentally "better" options like solar and wind. But at the same time, they got nervous about nuclear power (which is very clean and cheap to run) because of the nuclear plant in Japan that was hit by a tsunami. So they shut down those as well. They then had to ramp up the polluting plants again, but a higher cost. So, the net effect has been a doubling of electricity prices without any benefit to the environment. Who is hurt the most by this? The poor, of course. They cannot afford higher electricity rates. (Does Germany get a lot of tsunamis? I don't think so.)

So, the bottom line is this: let's be careful shutting things down thinking that we will be saving the planet or something, and remember who may be hurt by our good intentions. We always have to weigh the costs and benefits of any action we take. It is usually the poor who suffer from well-meaning people who care about our environment. This includes especially Christians who see it as our duty to take care of God's creation. I believe that the poor are a higher priority for us. (And please do not be fooled by the rhetoric by the extreme environmentalists to the effect that it is the poor who will be hurt the worst by climate change. That is easily refuted.)

So I am going to finish this series by recommending a website run by Christians who care both about the poor and about the environment. It is cornwallalliance.org . They are not just critics of the environmental extremists and their views on the climate. They offer good perspectives on current environmental issues and are constantly aware of what happen to the poor when environmentalists suggest extreme or unwise measures to solve problems that may or may not exist. So, check it out. It is very enlightening.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Environmentalist Apocalypse

This post is not about debating different end-times scenarios, but I am only putting forth what has become popular in the church today in order to compare it to the modern environmentalist movement. Since we are seeing that environmentalism has become something of a religion among many, it is noteworthy that we are constantly being warned of a coming environmental apocalypse. Global warming is supposed to cause catastrophes of biblical proportions! Crops burning up and sea levels rising to engulf heavily populated areas are frequently sited as the reason for us to make great changes to our lifestyle and industry. We are told that unless we take drastic action, life on earth is in danger.

How much this reminds us of certain Christian preachers who are constantly preaching gloom and doom scenarios. (We are supposed to preach the Good News so that we can escape judgement.) Now I believe in things like the Rapture of the Church and the rise of an Antichrist and subsequent judgments, including environmental disasters like waters being turned to blood and the grass all being burnt up. But that is not for the church age. And I am not suggesting that we ignore the book of Revelation or the warnings therein. What hurts the church is that someone is always predicting the date of the Rapture (which is always in error) or seeing everything in nature (eclipses and hurricanes, for example) as harbingers of judgement.

Now I don't think that you would find one extreme environmentalist who would not scoff at such things. But then they turn around and do the same things themselves. They make apocalyptic predictions of environmental disasters that will make the earth virtually uninhabitable and bring untold misery. We are told to "repent" of our "sinful" polluting lifestyle and join their program in the hopes that we can be saved. If you oppose their "solutions" then you are labelled a heretic, that is, "anti-science".

They seem to deliberately forget the false predictions made in the past about global cooling (remember the "new ice age"?) or what acid rain was going to do to our forests. People are catching on, though. The latest end-of-the-world scenario is like the boy who cried "wolf". These repeated predictions of environmental doom-and-gloom are beginning to fall on deaf ears. That's a good thing.

Any well trained scientist should know that there is a great deal of difference between observational science, where we get our technological advances from, and predictive science, which is very much a guessing game. Now we can predict certain things on a small scale, but to predict what the climate will be in a hundred years is well beyond our ability and knowledge and it might never be possible. Science has it limitations. We must take that into account. Scientists, however honest they may be, are human and they can be deceived as well as anyone. I have heard scientists, experts in their field, make fundamental errors about the nature of science and what it can and cannot do. It is not infallible and it cannot answer every question we have, especially about the future. For that, let's stick to the Bible.

What is really surprising to me (should I be surprised at anything anymore?) is that Christians often buy into these apocalyptic scenarios and the so-called solutions brought forth. Of course, they speak in more "spiritual" terms like "creation care" and such like. Now I realize that not everyone who uses the term "creation care" falls for the extreme environmentalist scenarios. But I do think that we ought to be careful not to confuse the desire to help our environment with the current extreme agenda put forth by the extreme environmentalism which is becoming a religion to many.