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THE NEWS!

Newsletter of the Affiliation of Christian Geologists

Volume 10, Number 2- Fall 2002


The President's Column

Stephen O. Moshier, Wheaton College
stephen.o.moshier@wheaton.edu

As my term draws to a close, I want to thank you all for your continued interest in the ACG. In the past three years we have become more visible and are beginning to develop a strong reputation in the Church as an organization of Christ- confessing, professional geologists. I think we are also moving in the right direction in terms of our reputation in the broader professional geoscience community .There is much work to do in the years ahead. One area that we must never neglect, beyond fellowship of the members and public outreach, is our relationships with other professionals who do not know God's love and gift of eternal life in Christ. We are not an evangelistic organization, but we do represent Christ to our profession. My prayer is that we encourage one another to make to most of very opportunity in that regard. This is a volunteer organization, so nothing gets done unless you do it. If you have an idea for the ACG (and I have received many of them), just do it! We are all busy. But if you have an inspiration or a vision for something the ACG could do, who knows if it is something that God is specificaiiy leading you to complete?
2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.


New Membership Directory Planned

Keith Miller, Secretary/Treasurer

Current plans are to produce anew membership directory for the ACG. The last directory came out in 1995, and the ACG has experienced considerable growth since then. Only those with paid dues will be included in the new listing, so please send in your dues if you are behind! (Note: the secretary/treasurer will kindly forgive back dues, so you need only pay current dues.) Also, if there has been any recent change in your contact information please send the ch~nges to me at kbmill@ksu.edu.

The directory will be indexed by both name and geographic location. It will include the preferred mailing address, telephone number (if permission given), e-mail address, professional affiliation, and discipline specialty for each member.


Adventures in Literature: The Christian Geologist and Science Literacy in the Church

Stephen Moshier, Wheaton College

Over the years, many of us have been concerned with the quality of geological literature available to the Church. I have expressed in this newsletter some frustrated personal attempts to publish a trade book for
Christians on geology and the Bible. There is also a lack major sections of educational materials in basic geology for home school and Christian academy students.

Things are looking up. Last spring I had the opportunity to review a manuscript for a major publisher
in Christian education, a geology text for middle school (6-7 grade). I was pretty impressed with the material. I have not seen the final version, but I was assured that many of my suggestions will be included. I am sure our increasing visibility as an organization on the Internet will result in more opportunities for ACG members to consult on such projects in the future.

The ASA (American Scientific Affiliation) also has a project in the works that could have a broad impact on geo-Iiteracy in the church. The ASA Lay Education Committee was created to develop materials for the general Christian public on "age of the earth" issue. The approach is to look at the issue as a matter of understanding God's revelation in scripture and nature. Thus, contributing authors include scientists and theologians. The target audience includes high school and adult Sunday school classes, home school and Christian high school teachers and students, or anyone interested in the topic. Three products are envisioned: a book, study guide and video. The book will contain chapters on the nature of God's revelations in scripture and nature and the tools used to understand them, philosophy, history and practice of science, basic astronomy, basic geology and critical analysis of where the evidence leads us on the age issue. The lessons will help individuals and groups focus on key points in the book. The videos will provide brief introductions to the major sections of the book to stimulate interest and discussion.

I heard about this project in the spring of'O2 through Dorothy Chapel, our Dean of Natural and Social Sciences who serves on the ASA Executive Board. She suggested that I learn more about it. I wondered why the ASA would embark on a book project with such geological content without seeking input from the ACG from the start? A detailed outline for the "geology chapter" had already been drafted. I can say that Project Editor Gene welcomed our offer to assist without hesitation. ACG members Roger Wiens, Carol Hill and I are the primary geology contributors. After much discussion, we have persuaded the editors to adapt most of the material from Roger's excellent web site on Radiometric Dating as a separate chapter in the book. The astronomy and geology chapters are called "primers" that review fundamental knowledge about the cosmos and earth. The geology chapter reviews typical rocks of the crust, the rock cycle and the formation of rocks, time scales of geological processes, actualism (uniformitarianism), general composition and structure of continental and ocean crust, plate tectonics, stratigraphy and the ice age. It has been a challenge to give the material thorough, but accessible, treatment. We are trying to write at a level understandable by lOth grade High School students. We will keep you up to date on the progress of this project, which does not yet even have a publisher.


Investigations in Israel

Harry Jol, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

During the Boston GSA meeting last fall I made a presentation to the ACG gathering on my research in Israel. The talk mostly focused on the research at the Cave of Letters. I enjoyed our discussions and was asked to provide a short write-up on my experiences. The Cave of Letters is a fascinating archaeological site that is located within the face of an enormous cliff along Nahal Hever (above the Dead Sea) in the Judean Desert. The floor, roof and walls of the cave are primarily carbonate, with much of the floor covered with angular boulders. Due to the common seismicity in the area (rift zone), earthquakes have caused many roof falls. Earlier investigations have revealed that the cave was a location where Jewish refugees hid themselves during the Bar-Kokhba revolt against Roman rule in 132-135 C.E. (to re-establish Holy Temple in Jerusalem). My role in the expedition was to use ground penetrating radar (GPR) to non- invasively investigate the cave floor and find any sites for further excavation. Test probes based on interpretation of the GPR profiles led to the discovery of the Bar Kokhba habitation layer approximately 0.8- 1.5 m below the surface (roof fall materials) and led to findings such as fabric, wood, coins, and pottery. During the last two summers, I have had the privilege of conducting research at Qumran the site of the Dead Sea Scrolls Discovery .The main objectives were to try and locate more caves that might contain scrolls and to conduct a survey of the Qumran cemetery. The major find this summer was an important grave site that was pinpointed by GPR. The discovery and implications made international press ("Digging the Baptist" Time, August 12, 2002; see www.uwec.edu/jolhm for further links)

During my research trips to Israel over the past four years, I have conducted research at many other sites including Bethsaida, Nazareth, Bet Sharim, Bet Shean and Yavne; all sites of importance in understanding biblical archaeology. The field of biblical archaeology is a very interesting one. It is a field fueled with emotion and many religious affiliations. But regardless of one's background, being in Israel and being a participant in these expeditions has a profound affect. I had never thought that I could combine my Christian faith and geomorphic/geophysical background to investigate such important sites in Israel. As I read through biblical stories, I could be onsite or investigating the place the next day. While in the field, I can see where people with little earth science background have used biblical verses to distort interpretations of the landscape and at other places to direct archaeological investigations.

I am presently reading "Walking Through the Bible--A Journey by Land Through the Books of Moses" by Bruce Feiler. The book explores how geography affects the larger narrative of the Bible and just like Feiler, being in these places significantly affects one's faith. THe projects I am involved with are ones out of which Judaism and Christianity emerged. I encourage you to visit the fascinating country of Israel with the Bible in one hand and your geomorphology/geology book in the other!!

P.S. Like any field expedition one needs to take precautions, but I could not end without mentioning that I felt completely safe during my times in Israel.


Responding to Challenges on the Secular Campus

Steve I. Dutch, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

(Ed. Note: The following is a response given by Steve to an online inquiry to the ACG about how to respond to attacks on the faith in a secular university setting.)

Christians talk about spiritual warfare a lot. Well, I served in the Army (active and Reserves) for 21 years and know a little bit about how literal soldiers act.

Some suggested tactics:

1. First and foremost. Be sure an attack really IS an attack. Describing the intellectual sins of Christianity that are historical facts is not an attack. It's the truth. And non- believers are quite justified in asking how a good tree can bear as much bad fruit as Christianity has, so you'd better have an answer that doesn't sound self-serving, evasive, or like a rationalization. Also, merely hearing things that conflict with your own beliefs is not an attack on you personally.

2. If something really IS an assault, especially if it's stereotyping, it might help to point out that the speaker would probably never tolerate similar stereotyping of other groups. Your opponent might just become aware of a problem. People are often not aware of their offensive behavior. Don't be too quick to assume ill-will. Really blatant attacks might be a matter for your AA/EO officer on campus. You have civil rights, too.

Okay, let's say the issue is a general climate of smug negativity but not blatant enough to warrant a - confrontation. The good news is there are things you can do. The bad news is they will take a LOT of study on your part. Of course, since you will be better informed, that's good news in the long run.

3. Study the nature of Christianity. Read C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity and especially learn how he slices through fallacies and misconceptions. Practice doing the same thing. Then point out fallacies and misconceptions when you can. Also, learn the classic responses to questions like "How can a good God permit evil?", etc. But don't parrot them, learn to adapt them to specific situations.

4. Become aware of the positive role Christianity has played in shaping the Western mind-set. I highly recommend:

You can find a short overview of my own ideas at: www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/WestTech/XMEDEVL.HTM

5. Become aware of historical conditioning. Archbishop Ussher, famous for his 4004 BC creation date, was born in 1584, at a time when even Steno's Principle of Superposition hadn't been worked out yet. For his time, he was being as good a scientist as his data and the state of knowledge permitted. He frankly deserves more respect than he gets. (When the Geological Society of America held a "600Oth birthday party" for the earth on October 28,1997, someone came in portraying Ussher. From what I've been told, he was portrayed just that way -with respect, as someone born too soon for his ideas.) Read a few good books on the history of geology. Too many geologists are only dimly aware of the history of their own discipline.

6. Study the nature of science, and be aware of what science can and cannot do. Science CAN say that some beliefs are false, if they contradict observed reality. However, no amount of observing patterns can disprove the existence of exceptions. I suggest, if you're challenged for proof as to the existence of God, demand to know what the challenger would accept for proof first. I have found this to be an excellent cut-through-the-garbage question to see if someone is reaily interested in the truth or is just playing games. But fair's fair -you have to be ready to say what you'd accept as proof for their ideas.

 

 


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