The third of ACGís specified purposes is "to investigate the ways in which Christian faith and geology bear on one another." Many of us immediately think about the bearing of the early chapters of Genesis on the age of the earth, the flood, and biological evolution. ACG must contribute its geological expertise to continued discussion about these important issues. However, the energy expended on these questions has diverted attention from other important matters.
Christian geologists have, for example, given scant attention to the problem of "evil" in the world prior to the creation of humanity. Scripture teaches that Godís completed creation was "very good." Yet the geological record indicates that the earth experienced volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides, storms, and all manner of violent events before humans appeared. The fossil record shows that untold hosts of animals died, that disease existed, and that carnivorous activity abounded. We need thorough discussion of how all these things could be part of Godís "very good" creation.
But there are more fundamental matters to which we give insufficient thought. Our Christian faith bears on geology in many ways that do not directly concern our scientific theories like the age of the earth or evolution. For example, the Bible teaches several principles about the created world and about human nature that are basic to the practice of science such as the orderliness of the cosmos and the rationality of the human mind. In conjunction with Christian philosophers and scientists, ACG should be engaged in rigorous analysis of the presuppositions of geological practice and theory in light of biblical givens concerning the ultimate nature of reality.
Our Christian faith also puts geology into proper perspective. As geologists we are all fascinated by our earthly home. We give anything to go on field trips and look at rocks. We love talking about our science. And so we need to guard against allowing geology to consume our lives. All of us know individuals who do nothing but eat, sleep, and breathe geology. But Scripture warns us against making an idol of any created thing or activity. The Earth as Godís creation must not be worshiped even though it displays His workmanship. Our investigation of the Earth may lead us to stand in awe and admiration of creation but must lead us to worship only the Creator. We dare not be enslaved by our dedication to the study of the Earth. For the Christian, geology must be only one facet of life. So perhaps we need to examine our lives to see if geology occupies an inordinate amount of our time. Has it crowded out time for our personal fellowship with God in prayer and the study of the Word? Has geology crowded out time for family, church, good literature, music, and even relaxation? Fellow geologists may not understand our unwillingness to "worship" geology by giving ourselves over to it completely. Some of us may even pay a price for that unwillingness. I have often thought that Christian geologists would present a credible witness by being the most competent geologists around. But thatís probably not right. We are most likely better witnesses to our God by keeping geology in proper perspective and not allowing it to compete with Him for the throne of our hearts.
We also need to ask ourselves what our motivations are for doing geology. These motivations must be shaped by our Christian profession. As sinners we easily fall prey to unholy motivations. We need to guard against the pursuit of geology simply in order to make a lot of money. Of course, it is easy for me to preach at those in petroleum or consulting geology about the dangers of materialism because as a college professor I am not in any danger of making a lot of money. But those of us in academia face the equally dangerous temptation of seeking prestige. Christians, too, are confronted with the temptation of pursuing ever more prestigious teaching and research positions. Sadly we are not always "content to fill a little space, if Thou be glorified." Scripture, however, warns us repeatedly of the dangers of seeking material gain, prestige, and power. Let us pray that it is because God has given those things, not because we have sought them. And those of us who are wealthy, prestigious, powerful, or incredibly intelligent must be sure to use Godís gifts wisely and humbly.
Christian faith also dictates the ethics of our scientific work. We need to exercise humility, patience, honesty, openness, and integrity in our geological work. Some of this I touched on in my last column. And we also need to give much more thought to the relevance of biblical principles to the application of geological data and theories.
In conclusion let me reflect briefly on one way in which geology impacts on our Christian faith. During the past two centuries geology has opened up staggering vistas of Earth history. My own appreciation of the Creator has been immeasurably enriched as a result of my knowledge of the Earth. Scripture tells us that God is revealed in His handiwork. So shouldnít an unfolding of the secrets of His creation give even deeper insight into the greatness of God? I think so. And yet I am troubled by that because it seems as if greater appreciation of God is reserved to the Christian scientist. What of the Christian who knows little of geology? To be sure, the heavens and Earth declare the glory of God to such a person, but does not the geologist see more of His glory? If so, this is a frightening thought, for if confronted with an ever greater self-disclosure of God, our responsibility is the greater. The geologist is emphatically without excuse before God. ACG members need to do some creative thinking about this matter. How does our scientific work relate to Godís revelation in creation?
I want to encourage ACG members to submit their creative ideas to THE NEWS! for the benefit of the rest of us. A little dialog would be beneficial. Some of you might consider giving a paper on such matters at the annual American Scientific Affiliation meting. Or perhaps you could lead a discussion at some future ACG gathering at a GSA or AAPG or AGU meeting. We have so much more to think about than the age of the earth.