Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Transformational Creation Miracles

Viewed from outer space our home on this planet appears considerably different than it would have appeared at the glacial maximum of the Wisconsin Ice Age 22,000 years ago. Imagine we are traveling toward Earth on a spacecraft 22 millennia ago. Ice caps covered Canada entirely, a large part of northern United States, and substantial portions of Northern Europe and Asia as well as high elevation locations at lower latitudes. 

A famous photograph dubbed The Blue Marble was taken by astronauts in December 1972 from 18,000 miles as they traveled toward the Moon. Earth appeared as a blue marble—a mostly water-covered, blue planet. The Apollo 17 journey was the last scientific human effort to reach and walk on the Moon. It was also a unique photographic opportunity to see Planet Earth without ice caps which recently covered large portions of the planet. Ice caps two miles thick shrouded land areas of Earth a mere geological instant ago when we were in the grip of the last deep ice age, called the Wisconsin glaciation. We say a geological instant because the last glacial maximum, the Wisconsin, persisted for a brief moment compared with the total geological time frame since the Cambrian Explosion, a burst of creation marked by the sudden appearance of nearly 100 novel phyla and thousands of individual species. The CE suddenly commenced 541 million years ago.         

The Wisconsin glaciation is only one of eight distinct worldwide glacial episodes to occur in the past 800,000 years. Each glacial advance occurred on a cycle of 100,000 years. These beneficial cycles have appeared only during the last 0.017 percent of Earth’s history. The Wisconsin glaciation was one of many glacial periods beginning in the so-called Quaternary Period which began 2.59 million years ago, but its effects are significant in terms of successful Earth life in our time. Going back farther in time to the beginning of the Quaternary, many shorter ice ages occurred on a cycle of 41,000 years. There have been hundreds of ups and downs in Earth’s average temperature generally superimposed on Earth’s climate. Climate proxies such as ancient ice core data or tree ring records leave their telltale record. The Quaternary period of the last 2.59 million years is a period when glaciation of the planet occurred repeatedly.

The geological history of Earth tells the story of many unique preparations for the eventual arrival of modern humanity. We might call these preparations divine transformational miracles. Much of that history is related to changes taking place in the Quaternary Ice Age. In particular, the most recent manifestation of a well-known geological event, the Wisconsin event, evokes the thought that our Creator initiated abundant transformational miracles to prepare Earth for humans created in the Image of God.  

If we consider only the recent Wisconsin glaciation we determine that its conclusion heralded the warm interglacial we enjoy today. In future posts we will discuss other transformational miracles. For example, about 12,000 years ago, the rapid change in climate from the hostile cold ice age to advancing global warmth enabled the birth of civilization with its eventual agricultural revolution. While fully modern humans existed in warmer areas of the planet for many thousands of years they were basically hunter-gatherers living a harsh life. They left artifacts of their primitive culture. Their agriculture was virtually non-existent. No writing system existed. The wheel had not yet been invented. Life in Paleolithic times, in contrast with the civilizations which arose after 12,000 years ago in the so-called Fertile Crescent, was difficult. Population density was very low, but even secular paleontologists pronounced the population “fully behaviorally and anatomically human.” Humanity had not yet begun to “subdue the earth.” 

The current interglacial warm period was fully underway 12,000 years ago and sparked a population explosion as agriculture replaced hunter-gathering. The explosion paralleled new central political structures. The end of Wisconsin glaciation ushered in a period of climate stability. We are still technically in an ice age and benefit from an unusual period of climate stability—neither too hot nor too cold. Temperature graphs demonstrate this leveling off of world temperature in the most recent 10,000 or 12,000 years in contrast with earlier spikes and sudden temperature drops in the previous million years.

Our recent posts have only begun to suggest that God performed many environmental transformational miracles for specific purposes. These miracles are included in God’s ultimate plan. They do not occur instantaneously as do many less frequent transcendent miracles such as the original creation of the universe or the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A biblical expression “for such a time as this” from the Book of Esther could apply to the many transformational miracles which shaped and prepared our planetary home for today’s teeming billions of residents. This type of miracle is initiated by the timeless God of Creation, who creates all things according to His timeless schedule.



Monday, November 13, 2017

Our Miracle Immersed Planet

We observe our planetary home’s beauty and functionality with awe and wonder. We consider how this world came to be with its many complex interlocking systems. Our planet functions for the benefit of humanity and all life forms as a marvelously dynamic machine. Older generations hark back to early Sunday School flannel graph visual lessons where teachers informed us that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” As children, perhaps we did not thoroughly understand the meaning of create, but we embraced the lessons with simple childlike faith. In later years teachers taught us about miracles in connection with God’s creative work in the production of our home planet. God’s act of creating the world and its living things was a miracle, our teachers stated.

Sometime between teens and adulthood we experienced a discussion of miracles. Did this term always refer to the physical production of something which did not previously exist? or the change in molecular structure of organs of sight to permit a blind person to see? or even the immediate healing of some other bodily ailment unaccompanied by any time-dependent healing process? In Christian theology Jesus was resurrected from the dead—the ultimate miracle. We frequently hear acquaintances proclaiming that certain events indicate the occurrence of a miracle. Belief or disbelief in miracles may relate to belief or disbelief in the existence of God. Our understanding of the multidimensional meanings of the term miracle, however, is often inadequate.

We introduced the topic of existence of different sorts of miracles in a recent post: http://jasscience.blogspot.com/2017/11/what-sort-of-miracle.html  We listed three types of miracles from Hugh Ross’s volume More Than a Theory. Below we quote  additional defining passages from that work:

  1. Transcendent miracles involve acts God performed outside or beyond the limitations imposed by the laws of physics and the space-time dimensions of the universe.
  2. Transformational miracles involve God’s direct actions to refashion a particular aspect of his created realm to produce something of much higher complexity and functionality. These miracles took place within the laws of physics and space-time dimensions of the universe.
  3. Sustaining miracles involve God’s continuous work throughout history to ensure that everything in the universe maintains the just-right delicately balanced conditions necessary to support human life.

In the history of Earth God has performed relatively few transcendent or transformational miracles. Our analysis proposes that transcendent miracles are rare. Transformational miracles are unusual events often resulting in extraordinary results. Finally, Sustaining miracles occur every moment of our lives. The Apostle Paul may have had this truth in mind when he penned Colossians 1:16-17: “For by him (Christ) all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…and in him all things hold together.” In a theological sense the truth of this passage holds and its scientific application extends to the framework of our physical existence. 

Each instant we are sustained by coherent natural laws affecting every aspect of our physical lives. These are principles governing the behavior of atomic matter surrounding us moment by moment. For example, there are forces by which charged particles in the nucleus of every atom consistently and predictably hold together. Charged nuclear particles are constantly moving, bathing the cosmos in unlimited quantities of electromagnetic radiation. We are governed by hundreds of physical laws such as the force of gravity. The Creator established these working forces and laws when He created the heavens and the earth—forces and laws which exist constantly and unalterably. We are describing inherently present sustaining miracles. They need not be renewed each moment.

Sustaining miracles undergird our physical existence. Such miracles are not less impressive than more spectacular transforming and transcendent miracles, but the latter two types of miracles reap more public attention. This may be explained by their relative rarity.

A favorite scripture we have quoted many times is Acts 17:28: “For in him we live and move and have our being…” The Apostle Paul presented this truth as an apologetic for the very existence of God, the Creator, to the men of Athens who worshipped “AN UNKNOWN GOD.” The writer of Hebrews states, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3 NIV). Knowledge of sustaining miracles is an important foundation of our daily worship and devotional experience. Moreover, the knowledge of these different types of miracles serves as personal affirmation for God’s existence as Creator and Designer. We encourage discussion in our churches concerning the nature of miracles. 





Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Humanity's Home Preparation

Skillful preparation of a residential homesite is a complex process. There are many layers of preparation sequences as a home is constructed in anticipation of owner occupancy. Many families have documented the steps of building their new home. This includes the initial search for a physical site, architectural planning, financial accountability, ground breaking, and step by step physical construction. Builders and owners check to insure all correct steps are carefully implemented. When the home is completed and the new owners take possession, there is a feeling of pride and excitement. Our family experienced the beginning to end home building process on two occasions. The building lot was initially selected. We devoted several months to observing and “supervising.” We preserved the historical process with paperwork and photography. Now that we have lived in our home many years these records compose a valuable family historical archive.

Earth, humanity’s home, preserves a record of its construction process. Our planet was not prepared for human habitation with a metaphorical snap of God’s finger. God could have created Earth with all its millions of species, thick sequences of rock layers, and a functioning atmospheric and hydrological system in one millisecond, a virtual timeless instant. He is the creator of everything, including dozens of physical constants and thousands of laws of nature. Physical constants and laws of nature join to comprise our temporal reality. He supervises the production of our world in cause and effect manifestations over the extended time frames He also created. Many believers in creation feel endorsing long time periods over which God has worked somehow diminishes God’s creative activity. This is not so! Instantaneous creation would be considered a transcendent miracle. The Creator could have worked that way. More often God works in Earth history through transformational miracles. Such miracles are not instantaneous events. Nevertheless, they manifest works of God, who created ALL things, including physical constants working hand in hand with physical cause and effect laws.

Planet Earth is currently humanity’s home. In the past 200 years geologists have discovered plentiful information about Earth’s historic building processes. Several generations of earth scientists have discovered a valuable human family historical archive revealing how the Earth has been prepared to support the current 7.5 billion person throng of human residents. Ice Ages—their advance and periodic retreat, have played a major role in the building process.

Cutting through the current politically correct vocalizations of climate change, aka global warming, is the scientific truth that the Earth has experienced numerous ups and downs of temperature and atmospheric composition from natural causes throughout its exceedingly long history. While not denying that some current warming may be related to increased CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, we counsel that a detailed look at Earth’s climate history in the last 2.8 million years (the Quaternary era) should dampen enthusiasm for the current cause célèbre of dreaded climate change in connection with nearly every current weather event. It is certainly true that many of Earth’s glaciers are melting. They have been melting ever since the Little Ice Age came to a close about 1850. More important, early glacial melting since the end of the Wisconsin glaciation event makes our present glacial melting appear almost insignificant by comparison. It is true that sea level has been rising since 1900—a total of about 8”. Historically, sea level from the Cambrian Period until today was much higher. During the greatest extent of global glaciation during the Wisconsin Ice Age of the last 100,000 years, sea level was hundreds of feet lower than today. This occurred only 20,000 years ago.

Presently we exist in what is termed an interglacial period. In the past 800,000 or 900,000 years there have been eight glacial periods during which ice covered large portions of the globe. They were separated by interglacial periods such as the one in which we presently exist. There is evidence that fully human beings likely lived in the warm climates of the previous interglacial. Their lives were difficult. Their existence was even harsher during the last extended Ice Age. The onset of civilized humanity began with the conclusion of the Wisconsin Ice Age about 12,000 years ago and continues to the present.

Our current interglacial is unusual in the history of interglacials of the past million years. Most interglacials have produced a rapid temperature spike of 5-7ºF higher than world temperatures occurring in our day. Had such a temperature spike occurred, our modern globally distributed, technologically advanced human population would be impossible. The Earth’s last glacial period from 120,000 to 12,000 years ago was one of the most intense of all known glacial periods of the past million years. It peaked at maximum ice volume about 21,000 years ago when sea levels were an incredible 410’ below the present level. 

Our current interglacial beginning about 12,000 years ago enabled significant population growth, but nothing like we have experienced from 1800 to the present when human population expanded almost eight-fold. We are historically privileged to live in an unusually stable interglacial period. No previous interglacial has ever been appropriate for the thriving of a large, human population. We envision our unique planetary home in the current stable interglacial period as a special God-ordained provision for the benefit of humanity.     




Friday, November 3, 2017

What Sort of Miracle?

Miracle is a term with many meanings in different contexts. When the term is used in connection with radical or unexplained improvement in one’s medical condition—miracle is frequently applied. Seldom do people comment on what type of miracle has occurred. Most people tacitly understand and approve characterizations of such events as miraculous. For example, recently a local newspaper reported on the startling recovery of a young boy from over a half dozen separate serious injuries suffered when he dashed across the road without first looking for oncoming traffic. We concur with this use of the term miracle with the caveat that the term has multidimensional meanings.

When God fashioned the Earth with its present functionality we could apply many instances in which miracle describes a series of highly remarkable events. We launch our discussion by referring to our previous post on the cause of Earth’s distinct seasons. The tilt of our planet’s axis, currently 23.4º from a right angle relationship to Earth’s orbital plane, is theorized to result from the collision of Earth with another planetary body shortly after our satellite became a solid body. The hypothetical collision caused an orbital deflection which resulted in our planet’s seasonal characteristics even to this day. Most Solar System planets have seasons related to the period of their orbits, (length of time for one revolution) but the presence of life on any of them is not evident.

The presence of warm and cold seasons on our planet is the cause for speculation: Are Earth’s seasons a miracle? or are seasons merely the result of one of many natural “occurrences?” Earth’s seasons have given rise to a multitude of unique planetary characteristics. For starters, scientists acknowledge that the existence of 7 1/2 billion Earth residents on an Earth without seasons could not be sustained. Contrasting seasons have supported and continue to support a diverse and expanding human population! Is the presence of seasons and numerous other life-enabling features of our planet a miracle? If so, we ask, what sort of miracle?

In common public perception, a miracle is sometimes described as highly remarkable, wonderful, unlikely, or coincidental to a high degree. Recovery from an illness described medically as “terminal” causes us to speculate on the possibility of a miracle. The birth of a baby, given the occurrence of a multitude of wondrous circumstances immediately following conception followed by incredible prenatal events in the womb, inspires many to exult in the manifestation of a miracle as described in Psalm 139:13-16. We frequently meditate on the wondrous Old Testament Book of Job, especially chapters 36-41 where Job was questioned whether he appreciated the many works of Almighty God as manifest in the natural world. Many events described in these Book of Job chapters could be described as miracles.

Hugh Ross, in More Than a Theory, (Baker Books, 2009) describes three different kinds of miracles. Generally, his scheme for outlining miracles matches distinctions among miracles made by other authors. These miracles are Transcendent miracles, Transformational miracles, and Sustaining miracles. Ross’s categories range from events truly above and beyond ordinary physical laws contrasted with ordinary physical events events but considered unusual or noteworthy. We contemplate additional posts to help define miracles of different types.   

In the writings of Scripture and in the world of nature we experience many different examples of events which could be described as miracles. Secular scientists attribute natural explanations for every phenomenon they investigate. They resist using the term miracle in any context in their fields of investigation. In contrast, for Christians who believe in the supernatural God of Creation, many phenomena may be considered miraculous. Our blog has discussed many topics dealing with God’s actions which may be described as miraculous. The subject of miracles has many dimensions in the related topics of science and faith.