Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

Inter-Species Confession

September 26, 2019

In other news, a major US  seminary hosted a chapel service where  students prayed to and confessed their environmental sins to a group of potted plants.  Gene Veith gives his two cents here.

To be fair, as pointed out by the Washington Examiner article, Union Theological Seminary has long been accused of essentially being non-Christian.  The school apparently brags about this, boasting not just ecumenical chapel services but inter-faith services as well.  Interesting.

Veith’s commentary seems to say there isn’t a place for confession to plants.  I interpret him as saying it is inappropriate (or pointless?) to  confess or apologize to  anyone/thing which can’t reciprocate.  I’m not so sure I would agree with that, but the plant chapel service also is clearly troublesome.

Plants can’t  absolve us.  Not in any way we can receive.  I can confess all day long and apologize all day long, but I have no idea whether or  not the plant forgives me or not.  Even with my dog I can’t be sure, although I’m far more sure with my dog than I would be with a cat.

Scripture has a habit of anthropomorphizing nature.  The examples that leap first to mind include Isaiah 55 and Psalm 96, which have trees clapping and singing, respectively.  But one might also think of Balaam and his donkey in Numbers 22.  In case you think this is a case of dumb people thinking nature is real, we might consider Romans 8 and Paul’s description of it groaning as in childbirth.

Many would say this is just colorful and descriptive language rather than an assertion about the sentience of plant life.  I can’t refute that necessarily (and  don’t really care to try), but I’m also willing to entertain the opposite position, that while we think of plants and rocks as inanimate and non-sentient, perhaps we just don’t understand their language.  But maybe someday we will.

We shouldn’t pray to plants.  But perhaps a step in seeing them as part of God’s creation – a part we were and are intended to act as stewards of rather than exploiters – would be helpful.  I’m not comfortable with doing with Union Seminary did by a long shot, but I suspect we’re all going to be surprised in the new heaven and new earth to discover that perhaps our current classifications of animal, vegetable, and mineral were neither deep enough nor Biblical enough to describe reality as God created it.  

Picture Perfect Extinction

February 20, 2019

This report on the extinction of the first species of mammal (at least sofar as we know) struck me as curious.  I’m wondering if this species is truly extinct, or only extinct in the wild?  Because, if scientists are so convinced of global warming and the inevitability of rising water levels, and if those rising water levels were being measured, and it seemed obvious that this habitat was at great risk, why didn’t they save some of these critters to keep in a zoo for breeding, etc.?

As is, it reads like a publicity stunt of sorts.  I lament the extinction of this animal (or any of God’s creatures), but I also wonder about why steps aren’t being taken to protect endangered species from rising water levels.  Surely there was room in a zoo somewhere – several zoos  no less – to ensure this species survived?


The Center Court View

February 19, 2019

As our society continues to spiral out of control in how to understand men and women in terms of gender and sexuality, ideological voices seek to codify new definitions and ways of doing things grounded not in reality but rather in wishful thinking.  In no area is this more apparent than the issue of transgenders participating in sports.

Ideologically, it’s attractive to say that men and women are no different physically, and therefore a man who identifies as a woman has no advantage when competing against actual females.  I remember an argument I had with a student of mine in an online college course over a decade ago.  I made some comment in regards to the physical strength differences between men and women and she took issue with this. Women are every bit as strong as men, she insisted.  I acknowledged that certain muscle groups in women might be stronger than equivalent muscle groups in men.  I acknowledged that women who train hard will be stronger than the average man who doesn’t train hard.  But that all other things being equal, men are still the stronger sex.  She wouldn’t have any of it.  To her, equality between men and women extended to physical equality, and no amount of studies or other data would convince her otherwise.

This sort of mindset is driving decisions to ban any sort of discrimination, including sports.  Males who identify as females are competing in female athletics and many are proving – not surprisingly – to be much stronger and faster than their actual female competitors.  I’ve  seen complaints about this in the mixed martial arts world, so it doesn’t surprise me that other actual athletes  – rather than politicians – would be criticizing it as well.

And they’re being criticized for saying out loud what anyone with an ounce of common sense or actual experience in physical contests between men and women could tell you: men are stronger.  A man may psychologically identify as a woman, but his body is still a man’s body despite whatever surgeries or hormone therapies he might undergo.  The irony is that those  who are speaking out against allowing transgender men to compete against actual women include not just conservative people  (like myself), but also people on the opposite end of the ideological and sexual spectrum.  People like Martina  Navratilova, an amazing tennis player who came out as gay almost 40 years ago.

She is being condemned by people who are driven by ideology rather than reality, who hope to reshape the world into what they would like it to be rather than what it actually is.  And in the meantime, actual real people are being hurt and deprived of the honors that are appropriate to them and their gender.

When I was a kid in the height of the Cold War, we used to make jokes about the Olympics and the athletes that came from Soviet bloc countries like East Germany.  We joked because of the stereotype that their athletes were so much bigger and stronger and powerful than many other countries, particularly the women’s teams because they often seemed suspiciously like men.  How surreal that what once was considered cheating is now being supported and legally mandated by some in the misplaced name of a misguided equality.

Book Review: Pollution and the Death of Man

February 18, 2019

Pollution and the Death of Man: The Christian View of Ecology

by Dr. Francis Schaeffer

I picked up some books at the used book store a looooong time ago.  Lost them, forgot about them, and rediscovered them recently and plucked the top one up.  While I’m a big admirer of Schaeffer’s practical theology and philosophy, I had forgotten how painful he can be to read.  It isn’t that the concepts are too technical or complex, but more that writing is just not his forte.  It’s one thing to think big thoughts, but an entirely different thing to communicate them in understandable terms!

But this book, after an initial rocky start, really is far more accessible than some of Schaeffer’s other writing.  The topic hasn’t gotten any less important in the last 50 years, and while his thoughts on it are something that anyone well-versed in the Bible might piece together on their own, it doesn’t seem to be a topic or a treatment that has attracted much attention.  Some of Schaeffer’s observations in this book are fantastic in that they apply in so many areas beyond ecology, yet they apparently elude so many Christians.

Schaeffer really hits his stride in Chapters 4-6.  He grounds Christian ecology on, logically enough, the creation account in Genesis.  He argues that Christianity is unique among religions and philosophies for providing the baseline argument of why we should treat nature kindly and gently: because God created it. Most other religions and philosophies argue for a certain treatment of nature that is far more anthropocentric – we should take care of nature because it benefits us, specifically, as human beings.  Schaeffer argues powerfully that such an anthropocentric view is dangerous, as is the other extreme – pantheism.

Schaeffer goes on to offer a compelling description of man and his place in creation, separated by a gap not only between himself and his Creator, but between himself and all the rest of creation.  That, endued alone with the imago dei, man is unique in creation but not separated from creation.  He is both unique in the imago dei and not unique in that he also is a creation.  Schaeffer offers an exploration of this and how man should treat nature.  The example that stands out is that man is free to rid his home of ants.  This is a necessity (at least most people would view it as such!) and so many does this.  But when he encounters the ant on the sidewalk, he steps over it.  The ant has a right to his antness in his proper habitat, just as man does.  And man does not have the right to arbitrarily destroy nature when there is no need for doing so.  And if there is a need to do so, man can choose to limit himself (in terms of time and profit, primarily) so that nature is not unnecessarily destroyed more than needs be.

This is really helpful reading.  It prevents us  from erring in the traditional way, but claiming that as God’s highest creation the rest of creation exists only for our own use or pleasure.  No, creation has a right to exist in itself, though man has the right to utilize nature towards his needs and ends, so long as it is done without losing sight of nature as a creation of God, just like mankind itself.  And it prevents us from erring with the pantheists or the materialists.  Pantheists see all things as divine and ultimately degrade humanity in the process.  Materialists do the same thing but because they lack any sense of divinity, rather than suffering from too great a sense of it.

Finally, Schaeffer rightly asserts that Christians should be living out these truths as witness to our culture and the world around us.  That our individual and corporate lives should be governed by decisions of self-limitation in order to preserve and respect the rest of God’s creation.  Powerful thoughts for Christians and their families and congregations!





March 28, 2017

A beautiful thought to consider for a Tuesday.  Or any other day.  Or not.

You’re welcome.

Bugs – It’s What’s for Dinner

May 13, 2014

I hope the world doesn’t come to this.  It would take a lot to make me vegetarian.  This might actually do it.  Read at your own risk.

Butterfly Update

March 29, 2014

We now have two chrysalis’ and nearly a third.  The kids report seeing one of the tiny new caterpillars, but I haven’t seen it yet.  Apparently it takes 9-14 days for butterflies to emerge from the cocoon, so sometime in the next few days or week, we’ll have butterflies to release!  

New fact learned – the chyrsalis is not something the butterflies spin around themselves, rather, it is what emerges from beneath their last skin shedding!  Fascinating!

A World of Mysteries

March 16, 2014

It’s sometimes amazing to think, in this age of hyperconnectivity, that there can be any more new mysteries to be had.  With GPS built into our underwear, Bluetooth in our coffee, and Lord only knows how many various entities collecting the details of our thoughts, purchases, and bowel movements, it’s hard to imagine that anyone could get away with anything for very long.

Especially if it involves hijacking a commercial airliner out of the sky.  It’s ironic but in the first 24 hours or so of the disappearance, I concluded that there was a good chance that the plane had been hijacked rather than crashed.  I presumed that a debris field would be spotted pretty quickly based on trajectory data, and if they hadn’t found it yet, then maybe there wasn’t a debris field at all.  
Of course this is based on a pathetic underestimate of the size of our planet and how a jungle or forest might conceal a massive plane crash even from the air.  
A hijacking creates a problem in the form of how to silence all of the communications and tracking devices involved, from the plane itself to passenger carry-on and checked luggage.  Is it possible to silence so many devices?  I suppose if you’re so far out of the way that there’s no coverage, that would solve a big part of the problem.
I sympathize for the families of those travelers.  Whether they are dead in a crash or now hostages or dead by other means is a mind-numbing loss.  But until we know what happened, it reminds me that this world is full of so many mysteries.  There is the capacity for so much we don’t know and can’t explain, so much that defies our carefully constructed reality where everything is neat and tidy and explainable.  It reminds me that a healthy sense of awe is important.  A healthy sense that things can and do happen without explanation – and not all of them terrible by a long shot.  
It’s a world big enough for awe, and for a healthy dose of fear.  A world big enough for God to be moving in it constantly, in the midst of joy and tragedy, waiting for the moment when a heart is opened, a mind is opened, and fear and awe can find a source and home that also gives peace.

An Inconvenient Truth?

December 1, 2013

I am distrustful of the rush to genetically modify more and more of our most basic food sources, assuming that we can perfectly understand all of the potential ramifications over the long term.  There seems so much to know, that recklessly insisting that such procedures cannot be harmful seems the height of dangerous arrogance.  

Yet so solidly is the scientific community apparently in favor of such tactics, that any suggestion that such practices may not be as safe as promised face a lot of scrutiny and nay-saying.  Witness a skirmish on this topic.  
A respected scientific journal has pulled -after outrage in the scientific community – the results of a study conducted by French researchers that suggests that at least one strain of genetically modified corn produces more numerous tumors and earlier mortality in lab rats.  Critics insist that the particular strain of lab rat chosen, and the small numbers of test cases, render the results inconclusive at best.  The authors of the study and report stand by their results.  
Of course a lot more is at risk than just academic credibility.  Genetically modified foods are big business.  Too big to fail?  Hmmm.  I find it interesting that the results are so widely panned, rather than spurring more rigorous scientific curiosity that is so frequently touted.  I guess that might depend on who is providing your research dollars and endowments and grants.  While it’s certainly possible that this study is flawed, some of the more obvious indicators of fraud or prejudice don’t appear to be at hand.  
Only time will tell, of course.  But by then, for more and more people, it will be far too late if the study results are vindicated.


September 29, 2013

“Let’s go to the beach!”

We cried.  And you smiled and 
Said with your mouth that you were happy to go
And your eyes did not move.

“Isn’t the water beautiful?”
We cried.  And you smiled and 
Said with your mouth that it was so very beautiful
And your eyes clouded in the bright summer sun.

“Come into the water with us!  The beautiful, cool water!”
We cried.  And you smiled and
Said that the water was beautiful indeed
With your toes tautly anchored in the shifting sand.

“Come ride the waves with us!”
We cried.  And you smiled and 
Said that you wanted to try
As you clutched yourself in the rising surf.

“The water is so very cold!”
You cried.  And we smiled at your winter-white skin 
Wondering why the water was so cold for you
Only for you.

“The water is so very cold!”
You cried.  And we smiled as you withdrew 
From the water’s embrace,
Retreating under t-shirts and sweaters and shorts and towels and sunglasses and hats
Far from the water’s edge.

Perhaps for you the water will always forever be cold.  
Perhaps for you the water will always be treacherous.

You flung yourself from your island home across the ocean
Gasping and panting for air on our shores, breathing language so different from your own.
Never far from the ocean that ravaged your own shores
And ravages them still in your dreams so that you fall asleep only with the light on.

Perhaps you will always be watching the ocean.
Perhaps you will always wonder when it will return for the rest of you.