Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Truth Transmission

What seems like a simple matter of discovering correct knowledge may be a subject of disagreement. The root word of science comes from knowledge. “True belief” is sometimes called knowledge which could apply to discoveries concerning present conditions, past planetary conditions or events, or even informed knowledge about future conditions or events.

When we attempt to discover knowledge of the past we may encounter some disagreements. In our recent posts on world glaciation and the effects which resulted from the most recent ice age and earlier events concerning Earth history, many people in our churches may object to the time frames we have confidently offered. Specifically, we have claimed the Wisconsin Ice Age peak was 20,000 years ago. Low sea levels permitted world populations to migrate far beyond their country of origin—from Siberia to Alaska and eventually to North and South America, for example. Many young earth creationists do not concede that our planet is even that old! 

The story of creation and the great flood reverts to many years before the Sumerian civilization of 4500 BC and earlier. The Akkadian civilization which followed extends from 2234 to 2154 BC. Each of those civilizations produced a creation epic and a flood epic in their very early literature. The Sumerian creation epic was called the Enuma Elish. The Akkadian epic was noted as the Atrahasis epic. The story of the Flood was called the Gilgamesh epic.

Many writers who doubt that Judeo-Christian scripture is divinely inspired claim these epics originated in the shared mythology of the Sumerians and Akkadians rather than in divine inspiration. The doubts relate to the considerable agreements in their creation accounts. Nevertheless, there are disagreements on key points. Many other stories about the creation event are mere testimonies to human imagination. It is easy for oral transmission of details to be edited according to cultural traditions. Variations become embedded in the narrative merely because of faulty memories of the story tellers. By the time writing skills were strengthened many of the imaginative stories had become emplaced in the culture.

How do we compare the reliability of Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, or traditional mythology of any other ancient culture concerning creation or the flood? We know that prior to the human invention of writing, knowledge was passed along orally. In the days prior to the invention of writing, ancient civilizations’ oral transmissions did not occur in parallel with written traditions. Limitations of spoken tradition are apparent, but not entirely primitive and unreliable. Oral tradition possesses strength; written tradition in parallel possesses even greater strength.

God spoke to Adam and Eve in the garden. No doubt they passed some God-revealed information to their descendants orally. More direct revelation to humans occurred in the second millennium before Christ. The Creator interacted with Abraham and initiated a covenant with him. “In thee shall all nations of the earth be blessed (Gen. 22:18)—a promise of a future redeemer for all of mankind. Direct, divine “in-breaking” also occurred with Moses in the desert. Moses received many truths concerning the Creator and plentiful living instructions for the chosen people. 

Oracles of God in Romans 3:2 refers to reception of the words of God. It referred to the truth of God with reference to many truths of scripture, but in particular, to redemption. We are reminded of the oral revelations of God as presented to Moses and the elders of Israel on Mount Sinai. in Exodus 24:9-11 we discover one of the most awesome and startling passages in all of scripture: “Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank” (ESV).

We do not grasp the full depth of this passage. But we may imagine that many truths concerning the account of creation of all things and events which have occurred on Earth since the creation were revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. With near certainty, scholars have recognized Moses as the author of Genesis. With respect to the account of creation and other historic accounts in the Book of Genesis, we quote astrophysicist Hugh Ross in his 2014 volume Navigating Genesis. Chapter 8 begins: “Genesis 1 succinctly and eloquently tells the story of who we are and how we came to be—and it matches the scientific account of the Earth’s origin and development of life’s origin and development. The ancient text correctly identifies Earth’s initial conditions. It describes sequential steps, in a scientifically accurate chronological order, by which the Earth was prepared for human habitation. Then it declares the uniqueness of humankind, male and female, made by God in His Image. This flawless overview of an enormous body of natural history comes to us in just one page, a few dozen sentences. Moses, the apparent writer, recorded this narrative more than 34 centuries ago. By means which can only be described as miraculous, the story he presented aligns with the still-accumulating evidence from multiple scientific disciplines.”

We believe the biblical flood story, brief as it is, could be related to incredible events related to the ice age, especially exceedingly low sea levels during the height of glaciation and the resulting rapid rise of sea level and other climatic events when the ice age waned. In our contemporary period of unusual climate stability, it is difficult to conceive of such extreme events. 

How do direct utterances of God himself from inspired holy scripture compare with ancient creation myths? In some respects they are parallel, but in many other respects they are at variance. Historic written creation and flood epics have some value as they have become recognized as valuable literature. When we consider divinely inspired scripture as more authentic, however, and combine it with still-accumulating scientific discovery, we have a superior pathway to correct knowledge and “true belief.” 




Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Obscure Time Frames

Our recent investigations of the effects of the most recent Ice Age, the Wisconsin event, have proven personally fascinating. Planet Earth is now in an interglacial known as the Holocene Epoch but there is no guarantee that we will not descend into another glacial advance in the distant future. Perhaps our personal residences in several areas of intense past glaciation has intensified our interest.

Statistics of present and historic land area ice cover demonstrate that we are still at the “tail end” of the recent Wisconsin Ice Age. We have been in our planetary ice age cycles of 100,000 years for the past 800,000 years. Past cycles have ended with a spike in Planet Earth’s temperature. It is certain that humanity has inhabited the planet for tens of thousands of years, likely over 100,000 years. We view the issue of planetary glaciation in that perspective. What climatic conditions did our earliest human forbears endure?

Before the end of the Ice Age, did the Creator have humanity in mind? Our answer: “Of course He did.” Nevertheless, Ice Age planetary conditions south of the thick layers of ice were harsh and unpredictable. Conditions were usually cold and dry; at times they were only slightly warmer and wetter. “The climate from 120,000 to 12,000 years ago varied so radically as to render the launch of extensive cultivation and global civilization impossible,” says Dr. Hugh Ross in his landmark volume Improbable Planet. Glacial climates were harsh and inhospitable. Is it any wonder that the Agricultural Revolution did not occur until 8,000 BC, why viable civilizations were slow to appear, and why innovations such as writing and development of the wheel had not even been conceived by man? Mere survival was a challenge.

Genesis 1-11 tells the story of human events during the harsh Ice Age. We rely on plentiful archaeological evidence of difficult living for the human race when most of their efforts focused on hunting and gathering. Global environmental conditions were unimaginably different from today. World population was severely restricted. Even after the Agricultural Revolution began about 10,000 years ago, humanity needed several thousand additional years to conceive and develop skill in writing and wheel technology. After the Wisconsin Ice Age receded, agriculture with its attendant domestication of plants and animals gradually replaced hunting and gathering. These changes were impossible until global ice age conditions abated.

At the end of Genesis chapter 11, a temporal timeskip occurs in the scripture narrative. In the first 11 chapters of Genesis, surprisingly, God’s revealed word relates the narrative in only a few brief chapters. Primarily, the writer relates the story of the creation of the “heavens and the Earth,” all life, and the saga of first humans and generations to follow. The chronicle continues with an account of Noah and the ark and the generations following him. Finally, there is a brief account of the Tower of Babel events. Then comes introductory information concerning the patriarch Abraham to conclude chapter 11. Rich historical highlights from that moment are recorded in the Old and New Testaments.

How do we relate our recent discussions of the Ice Ages to the narratives of Adam and Eve, Noah, and the Tower of Babel? In terms of time frames, if we agree that full humanity has existed for tens of thousands of years on our planet, we must acknowledge that these ancient scripture characters existed during perilous glacial environmental conditions in the very distant past. There were no written records during the eons of pre-history. Information on ancient human history was orally transferred from generation to generation. We wonder about the quantity and quality  of oral information. Except through the natural revelation surrounding them in their physical world, God’s direct revelation was centuries in the future. Nonetheless, God sustained their lives and spoke to them ways unknown to us through their conscience. Romans 1:20-32 could apply to conditions among prehistoric humanity.

Recently a missionary attempted to contact an unreached tribe on North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean. Authorities in India had forbidden any outside contact with this tribe. The missionary was murdered with bow and arrow by the natives who violently resist all contact with the outside world. There is evidence this tribe has occupied this island for at least 30,000 years. There exist several hundred uncivilized and uncontacted tribes on our planet. We propose that such people groups are descendants of Ice Age humans who have been Earth residents for tens of thousands of years. This includes people alive when sea level was nearly 400´ lower during the peak of worldwide glaciation.
Bible scholars such as C. John Collins writes in his 2011 volume Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care, writes in the introductory chapter that “…the authors were self-consciously interpreting their world in terms of an over-arching worldview story.” Later, he states, “Relating the Biblical narratives to the over-arching worldview story, therefore, treats those narratives as they deserve to be treated.” Worldview includes our vision of God as Creator and our relationship with Him. (Collins believes Adam and Eve were real people.)

We write this post in order to inspire our readers to “…think through these matters for yourself,” as C. John Collins advises in his above-mentioned treatise.




Friday, December 7, 2018

Historic Torrents

Historic truths tend to dim more quickly than we imagine, whether family history, neighborhood history, national and world history, or geologic history. Perhaps modern distractions obscure healthy interest in the past. We have discovered that important knowledge about the recent Wisconsin Ice Age is weak for many modern residents, even residents living in wonderful glacial areas. Facts about the Wisconsin glacier are incredible, both how recently they occurred and their astonishing scope of events. It swathed much of the Earth’s surface in thick ice, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, and most especially, in North America. The ice pack bathed the land in thick ice from 120,000 BC to about 13,000 BC, with the maximum coverage at 20,000 BC. In terms of the broad span of Earth history, these time frames are but a geologic moment ago.

My childhood occurred in the area of upstate New York in the Syracuse region. We enjoyed family and church outings to the Finger Lakes—Seneca and Cayuga—as well as several recreational invitations from generous church families who owned camps on Otisco Lake, the small, easternmost Finger Lake. Fair Haven State Park on Lake Ontario was a popular recreation venue. We mention these events to introduce readers to incredible realities of glacial geology in that region. Those stunning locales, including Lake Ontario and all of the unique Great Lakes, were leftovers of the Wisconsin glacier. In the recesses of my childhood recall are memories of Clark’s Reservation, a small 377-acre state park south of Syracuse. An internet link pronounces the park a geologic wonder and a botanist’s paradise.

When the mile-thick Wisconsin ice sheet melted over the span of several thousand years, a tremendous quantity of meltwater yielded to the power of gravity. Sea level, which had fallen nearly 400´ eventually returned to its pre-ice age level. Tremendous quantities of meltwater found their way to the sea. Huge lakes formed at the south margins of the glacier. As the lakes filled with more and more meltwater they needed an escape route to the ocean. Sometimes the glacier deposited moraines of soil and rock marking its farthest advance. The moraines formed retaining dams which frequently gave way, diverting the water into new drainage patterns. The Syracuse channels carried meltwater to lower elevations, eventually to the Mohawk River Valley and the Atlantic Ocean. The tough limestone cap rock eroded differently from the weaker bottom rock layers in the channel. One channel formed falls several feet higher than Niagara Falls. The falls overlooked an impressive canyon. The “plunge pool”at the bottom of the falls formed Glacier Lake, still present at Clark’s Reservation State Park—6.2 acres in area and 52 feet in depth. It is a rare meromictic lake in which layers of water at different temperatures do not mix year round. Of course, no water flows over the falls any longer. It is a “fossil” waterfall.

When water rushed off Earth’s surface from the melting Wisconsin glacier toward lower elevations, writers have often described the enormous outflow as a torrent, a colorful term reserved for the most powerful and impressive floods. Many historic torrents have resulted from the meltback of continental glaciers. Ocean levels rose  nearly 400´ after the glacier retreated to its present dimensions. We are in the last stages of the Wisconsin event. Slight sea level rise still occurs but current Earth temperatures have assumed remarkable stability in the last several thousand years. Extreme concern over further ocean rise and slight warming of planetary temperatures from anthropocentric CO2 is unwarranted, notwithstanding intense political alarmism. Our current climate stability is a blessing to humanity and has made possible the exponential expansion of civilization and human population. 

In past posts we have referred to northern New Jersey’s Great Swamp. The swamp is a glacial remnant of Lake Passaic, a 300 square mile lake which existed 14,000 to 19,000 years ago and may have been as much as 300´ deep at times. The swamp is now only about 12 sq. mi. in area but is designated a National Wildlife Refuge. In researching a detailed report by a New Jersey Geological Society bulletin from 2007, we found the term “torrent” used in connection with an event occurring when the melting ice exposed notches in far northern New Jersey. (In 1960 one colleague actively campaigned to prevent the Port Authority of New York from constructing a new jetport in the Great Swamp. Four 10,000´ runways would have devastated a natural habitat. The campaign resulted in eventual victory in 1964.) The location was at the extreme southern end of the former Wisconsin ice sheet. Over several thousand years, the lake levels fluctuated and drainage patterns were altered, including the diversion of the Passaic River from a southerly to a northeast course.

We contemplate a future visit to Kankakee State Park and Starved Rock State Park just southwest of Chicago IL. The term “torrent” is frequently used to describe an event of  even greater impact than the two events described above. The long-lasting flood first occurred about 19,000 years ago. It resulted from meltwater of the Wisconsin ice sheet breaching the Valparaiso Moraine in northwest Indiana and northeast Illinois. The torrent was usually confined to river valleys but sometimes overflowed banks of the rivers, becoming a flow up to 20 km wide. Curiously, the Valparaiso Moraine presently marks the divide between generally north-flowing drainage which flows east to the St. Lawrence River and the Atlantic Ocean while water flowing away from the moraine winds up flowing south toward the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico.   

Glacial meltwater flow was always complex and changing. It occurred over many years. Some of the most spectacular glacial topography arose where the torrent carved deep channels and left tributaries “hanging” above the valleys in somewhat higher elevations, forming waterfalls. Such features seem unlike much of the topography in Illinois, which is currently known by its nickname—the Prairie State.

In a future post we will examine how our God oversees the flow of geological Earth events for the benefit of created humanity. This includes the cyclical advance and retreat of ice ages. We trust that the above post helps readers establish that “God is in control,” whether in the advance and retreat of planetary glaciation, or in the everyday life-sustaining miracles of our bodily processes! Are significant glacial events miraculous? To help you answer, we encourage readers to upload this link: