u God’s Geophysics. Did it take millions of years for the Colorado River to carve out the Grand Canyon, as your smiling, 20-year-old Park Service guide will tell you? How about one week (!) of water moving at 100 miles an hour through soft sediment in a massive runoff caused by rising continents following Noah’s Flood? So postulates John Baumgardner, PhD, the world’s pre-eminent expert in the design of computer models for geophysical convection, the process by which the Earth creates volcanoes, earthquakes, and the movement of the continental plates. Baumgardner believes he has figured out how God did it, and has created a sophisticated scientific model to prove it.

Baumgardner believes that the Genesis flood happened about 6,000 years ago and that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. He is also a Christian. It is always heartening to hear of another respected scientist who also believes the biblical record, but then there are thousands of men and women of science who do. What makes this story noteworthy is what Baumgardner developed to scientifically demonstrate “The Geophysics of God”—which is the title of a special U.S. News & World Report article on his work by Chandler Burr (6/16/97, p. 55).

Behind the immense fence surrounding the supercomputing facility of the National Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy in Los Alamos, you will find Terra, Baumgardner’s fascinating computer program running its numbers. It is a tool used by geophysicists around the globe. “Written in the computer language Fortran, Terra takes the spatial volume of the Earth’s mantel—2,000 miles of silicate rock that surrounds the Earth’s solid iron core—and imagines it as 10 million three-dimensional cells.” The Earth’s mantel convects for the same reasons boiling water rolls in a pot and Terra assigns values to each of the 10 million hexagonal cells for heat, direction, velocity, etc. “Terra then ‘runs’ each piece through time and watches where each will go.” What happens?

It paints a picture of plates of mantle deforming, sinking, pulling apart, giant bubbles of mantle shooting up through ridges which then expand, displacing the oceans and creating a huge flood. “Terra proves that this is true—or more precisely, that it could be true, provided one accepts certain assumptions,” writes Burr. “Run Terra one way and you can watch Noah’s flood take place before your eyes, mathematically calculated by a supercomputer.”

Is the Earth really 4.6 billion years old as most evolutionary geologists believe? Baumgardner says no, and cites the physical evidence of vastly different dates produced by current radiometric dating methods—different dates for the same rocks. Dating by radiometric isotopes is not completely reliable. Baumgardner comments, “The only way to square the radiometric data with a flood that caused all these changes is to conclude that one aspect of the catastrophe was rapid radioactive decay.”

Of course, most geologists must disagree with his conclusions concerning the biblical flood, but they all trust and depend on Terra. Brad Hager, a geophysicist at MIT, says “Baumgardner is seen as one of the world leaders in numerical models of mantle convection.” Agrees Gerald Schubert of the UCLA Department of Earth Sciences: “As far as the code goes, Baumgardner is a world-class scientist.”

“In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the flood gates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.” (Gn 7:11-12)

u TINKERBELL’S CRYSTAL CATHEDRAL. The TV ministry of Robert Schuller, and the large Garden Grove Crystal Cathedral church which he pastors, are unquestioned popular successes. But what about the gospel preached. Is it Christian? No! says Michael R. Linton in FIRST THINGS, a leading journal surveying religion in public life (June/July, 1997 issue). Linton describes a recent visit to the cathedral for a glitzy “Glory of Easter” Passion Play. Not to be outdone by Disneyland down the road, Crystal Cathedral produced a grand spectacle of lights, action and a cast of hundreds. 

The Schuller version of the Passion Play, however, contained a major omission from the biblical historical record: there was no guilty mob howling and shouting, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him! (Jn 19:15). Schuller’s crowd just watches silently as Jesus is marched off to his execution.

“But even more remarkable,” notes Linton, “is the Crystal Cathedral’s rewording of the Lord’s Prayer. The Garden Grove Jesus teaches his audience:

Our Father in heaven, We know your holy name. We ask that your kingdom come, May your will be done On earth just as it is in heaven. Forgive us those who have wronged us. Lead us not into temptation But deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever; And whatever you ask, believing in, You will receive, and nothing will be impossible for you.

“In Garden Grove, not only is the mob guiltless in Jesus’ death, but the very notion of personal responsibility for doing wrong—sin—is swept away. ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’ is replaced by the syntactically grotesque ‘forgive us those who have wronged us.’”

Then, Linton, who is a professor at Middle Tennessee State University, tells us what he really thinks.

“In short, the Crystal Cathedral presents a passion that is Christian only in its contour, not its content. The broad outlines of the Gospel stories are maintained. This Jesus is kind and wise. He heals. He makes many people happy by loving them and telling them that they can have anything they want if they only believe. And he finally triumphs over a tragic end.

“But so does Tinkerbell. This Jesus is little more than a cosmic pixie from Never-Never Land. He tells us to ask for bread, for safety, and promises us anything we want, ‘if we only believe.’ Fairy dust for everybody, and nothing is required—not that we forgive others, not that we acknowledge our own deep perversions and inextricable duplicities, not that we repent and take up a cross and follow him. Schuller’s spectacle is hugely entertaining. And it may even be uplifting and ‘empowering.’ But it’s not Christianity.

“By offering the hope of healing and resurrection without shame and repentance, the Crystal Cathedral’s Passion Play presents a fraudulent gospel, a kind of cheap grace tarted-up by high-tech smoke and mirrors. And while it is uncomfortable to call the ‘Glory of Easter’ a simple fraud, it is even more uncomfortable to think that this work may represent the kind of Christianity that the folks at the Cathedral apparently prize: a Christianity that requires little more of its faithful than a sparkling grin and an optimistic outlook, a religion high on receipts but low in responsibilities. I hope this is not the case. But if it is, it speaks grimly of a people biblically illiterate and spiritually etiolated. But as I said, it’s a great show.”

Well said. Low-responsibility religion sells and it sells particularly well when choreographed with moving music, pretty people, and feel-good testimonials. Crystal Cathedral is simply an exemplary example in a growing genre of Tinkerbell religion.

u THE RED HEIFER LIVES! …I think. For want of a cow a temple could not be built—or so it seemed. Before a Levitical priest could officiate at a tabernacle or temple dedicated to Yahweh he must first be purified. The prescribed method of purification was to bring a “red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke,” slaughter it outside the camp and burn it to ashes, hide, flesh, blood and offal and all (Num 19, the entire chapter). Everything about this killing is distinct and unprecedented in the OT. This is not a sacrificial offering, but a single purpose killing to obtain ashes of a red heifer. The ashes were mixed with spring water and the water sprinkled on those needing purification. For those Jews dedicated to reestablishing a temple system, the dearth of red heifers posed a critical problem. No red heifer, no purification, no temple service. 

I don’t know what happened to all the red cows, but about 10 months ago the first red cow in 2000 years was born in Israel creating a theological sensation. Her name is Melody and hundreds have flocked to see her. Dina Kraft of the Associated Press, in an article appearing in the Wichita Eagle (6/1/97) and forwarded to me by Ken Ryland, writes: “Some claim she [Melody] is a harbinger of the Messiah. Some call for her destruction. Others find the attention she is getting ridiculous.” (I don’t find myself in any of those categories—I just find it interesting.)

“Even though mainstream religious groups have not rallied around the cow, some secular Israelis see her as a threat. ‘The potential harm from this heifer is far greater than the destructive properties of a terrorist bomb,’ the liberal Haaretz newspaper wrote recently, recommending Melody be shot.”

Kraft notes that Melody, who came to Israel from New Haven, Connecticut is apparently not without defect or blemish—if you hold some white hairs in her tail and black eyelashes against her. Would Eleazar the priest (Num 19) have disqualified her on those points? We will never know.

Believe me, finding a qualified red heifer will be the easiest hurdle future temple builders will face.

u Y2K UPDATE. My comments on the computer troubles the year 2000 (Y2K) poses (unless fixed, many computers will crash when 1999 turns into the year 2000 as “00” for the year code can’t be recognized on many data bases) has drawn fire (See “Millennial Madness” in the May 1997 ACD Newsletter). I simply cautioned folks not to see this glitch as something that was going to bring down the nation, usher in the New World Order and send the Four Horseman galloping. I believe too many Christians spend too much time on their backs looking for the sky to fall. They need to be on their feet (or their knees) working for the Kingdom.

Nevertheless, I didn’t intend to suggest that this isn’t a serious problem. It is, but I think it is one that will be fixed in time to keep the sky up there, though I claim no special revelation here (or anywhere else) or expertise in computers. One reader, JP in Seattle, who does have expertise in the field responded:

“Congratulations, you are the first church group that I have seen recognize the Y2K problem….I have worked in information systems for over 30 years and I can tell you that this is NOT a trivial issue. For example the IRS has had several hundred programmers working this issue for over 6 years and have only fixed a third of their 30 million lines of code. I don’t think they will make it on time. If they don’t (good bet), when this truth gets out to the average person on the street, how many do you think will voluntarily pay their income tax? I think this is just one of the many dominoes that will bring down the financial system by the middle of 2000, if it doesn’t happen sooner.” 

u HOLY DOOR” –THE YEAR 2000. That is what Pope John Paul II called the portal we must pass through to discover what awaits us on the other side. We know by strict chronological reckoning that the next millennium doesn’t officially begin until January 1, 2001. Yet in the minds of most people it begins with the year 2000. The Pope sees 2000 as the year of preparation for the Third Millennium. I don’t know what he is specifically planning for the Catholic Church in that year, but I like the concept. 

Preparation has a special place in apocalyptic teachings. The actionto the command by Christ to “keep watch” refers to a diligent, focused preparation to make oneself ready to meet him. His parable of the ten virgins illustrates two groups of people who want to enter the Kingdom/receive eternal life: the unprepared and the prepared. Only one group made it into the “Holy Door,” the other had it shut in its face (See Mt 25:1-13). For the wise virgins, preparation involved procuring in advance sufficient oil to keep their lamps burning as they walked out into the night to meet the bridegroom (Christ). The “lamps” were torches of oil-drenched rags set atop long poles which required replenishment about every 15 minutes with large amounts of oil to keep them burning. (The small clay lamps used indoors would have been of little use in an outdoor procession.)

Preparation to meet our Lord…what do we do? It should be quite clear: we prepare to meet our God by becoming like him in mind and character. Our calling is to take on his heart, his love, his character—”Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Php 2:5)—to take on the Image of God. The Divine plan to “make man in our image, in our likeness” was not finished at the creation of Adam and Eve, it just began there. The earthen vessels of flesh were “stage one” creations and they happened quickly. The more important “stage two” creation, making mankind after God’s spiritual likeness, is a much more demanding, involved, and time-consuming project. This spiritual creation, unlike the physical one, requires the creature’s full cooperation. It isn’t done to us, it is done with us—with both our desire and cooperation to be remade into His Image.

There is only one power that can transform us from the selfish, ignorant wretches that we are by nature into righteous sons and daughters of God. That spiritual power is the very power and essence of God himself which reaches out to us as his Spirit, his Holy Spirit. Some have likened the Spirit symbolically to oil, which would fit perfectly with the above parable.

Preparation then, is being continually filled with God’s Spirit to empower us to see clearly how to live a Godly life, to empower us to change and grow into his likeness, to do his work, to love and serve others, to be a light to all of what followers of Yahweh look like. Keeping watch isn’t looking for “666” in White House wallpaper, or loading up your mailbox with apocalyptic conspiracy newsletters in hopes of finding an inside track into how and when the end will come. Keeping watch is “moving Godward,” as my late colleague Dr. Charles Dorothy liked to put it, in every area of our living and thinking.

“Keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” when you shall meet him face to face (Mt 25:13).

u DEATH EXPERT DYING. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who wrote the trail-blazing book “On Death and Dying,” now recants much of her work and faces her own death with bitterness. She is described as sitting in a cluttered corner of her desert home, smoking Dunhill cigarettes, watching TV and angrily waiting to die. Her work in defining the five stages of death and dying (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance), and her decades of effort with the terminally ill have not helped her in dealing with her own transition into the great beyond. Kubler-Ross did good work in helping establish the hospice movement and in her examination of the emotional stages of death. But then she went New Age, took up with some California channeler and started conversing with her guides from beyond. So, after decades counseling Americans to look death squarely in the face, she declared “death does not exist.” 

Her spirit guides, whom she calls “my spooks,” apparently offer her little hope or help with her anger and feelings of doom and gloom. She concludes, “I don’t give a hoot about the afterlife, reincarnation or anything. I’m finished, and I’m not coming back….I’m mad!” So much for the expert on death.

Death is mostly a dirty business. It is an enemy, the last to be finally conquered by Christ. If death is ever a blessing it is only because of the suffering from which it brings relief, or in the case of certain criminals, relief to know justice has been carried out. Even for the Christian death is an enemy, albeit not the terror it can be to those who have no hope beyond the grave.

We have only one expert on death: the one who died and three days later came back to life, immortal, never to die again. He lives today and he offers eternal life to the living. One of his names is “The Resurrection and The Life.” He counsels us on how to cope with life and death and offers the only absolute hope of life beyond the grave—a life of indescribable joy in God’s limitless cosmos. The one and only expert on death will one day destroy it forever. Oh, happy day!

u LUTHERANS, GET WITH IT ON POLYGAMY. Give up opposition to polygamy, is the advice Chief Ita Bassey Etuk of Nung Udoe, Nigeria offers to the Lutheran Church of Nigeria. Richard John Neuhaus (First Things, 4/97) reports that Chief Etuk is advising the church to review doctrines that have “outlived their usefulness, especially in a traditional African society.” The Chief added that his whole village would have turned Lutheran long ago “if the church had discarded some of the dogmas enacted almost 500 years ago and moved along with society.” Makes sense. If you want more members filling up your church, simply adjust your doctrine to what the people (or the chiefs) want (four more wives?), or are already doing. Lutherans should tell the Chief to take a shower, repent of his depravity and wretched customs, and humbly accept the instruction of the Lord (tactfully, if possible).

“Moving along with society,” here closer to home, has become a practiced art form among old mainstream denominations as they strive weakly to be relevant. Many of the new “Christian” movements are established on the premise of “blessing and affirming” people where they are, doing what they do, and then gently moving them into a “deeper, more meaningful spirituality.” Double talk aside, easy-religion conforms Christianity to the surrounding fallen culture; true religion, by contrast, seeks to conform the individual (and through the individual, the culture) to Christ and his Way.

What worth is it to “grow the church” if what results looks nothing like Christ? There is real power in True Faith. There is both a clear direction for life and the power to walk it—to change. Some may call that Way difficult and unpopular, and they will be right. It is often difficult because it is unpopular. Obedience to Yahweh and his Christ is not popular, not easy, but it is the most enlightened, fulfilling, and truly happy path of life possible on God’s green earth.