Praising God in the Planetarium: My Story

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

It is interesting how you use the language of “learning in geology” and “what they believed” about the Christian faith. Why not the other way around? Why not “what they believed about geology” and “what they had learned about the Christian faith”?

What a beautiful story. It resonates with me as my high school science teacher, Mr. Bennett, was a member of the Nazarene church, and probably had the best and most influence on my life outside of my parents. He is long since retired, but remained active in teaching science to various youth groups so long as physically able.

Your statement about how we wrongly apply cause and effect thinking on biblical interpretation really resonated with me. After all, when we look at the resurrection, our view is functional: What does this mean? It is not scientific: by what mechanism did this happen? The same viewpoint seems best with Genesis.

That also answers the question posed by @LT_15

Geology is a study of cause and effect, of measurement and determining mechanism, and only then trying to put it together in a rational way, the Christian faith is just that: faith, often of things unseen and to apply mechanistic thinking leads us down the wrong path. That is not say we do not learn more as we go down the Christian path, but that learning is established on faith, rather than faith being established on knowledge.

@jpm, Are saying that that geology has no faith in it? And the Christian faith is just faith without real knowledge and rationality?

No, as you are probably getting to, everything we do has some element of presupposition. When I sit on a chair, I presume it to hold me. When a geologist looks at a rock formation, he presumes that what he sees has order and is made in such a way that can be understood (if Christian, he presumes that God made it in such a way as not be deceptive and can be reliably observed). So in a sense, we have to have an element of faith to function in the world. But in the end the findings of geology are ultimately materially based observations. I interpret what Jesus said," He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah " as being that material observations may be supportive, but are not foundational to faith in Christ.

But the findings of geology (to use your term) aren’t fully materially based. They are based on beliefs or assumptions about the past that cannot be verified (one way or the other). I think that gets overlooked by many and underemphasized by those who should be constantly reminding their hearers of it. The beliefs about the history of the rock formation is not ultimately a materially based observation.

It seems to me that you are treating those assumptions differently than you would treat assumptions about the Bible, and without merit. Hence, your dichotomy between learning about geology and what they believed when in fact both are the result of learning and both are the result of believing. It seems you presented it in a prejudicial way to emphasize geology as more trustworthy and imply that those who are learning geology will trust that over what they believed.

You are correct that we can reliably observe a rock formation, but that is far different than reliably observing the history of that rock formation.

When a model like tectonic plate theory makes assumptions about the past that lead to predictions that prove to be correct in the present (where oil deposits are located, the rate the Hawaiian islands move, the location of certain matching fossils and rock strata on separate continents), then the assumptions about the past are verified. You don’t have to directly observe something in real time in order to verify it indeed happened.


I really do not understand what you are saying, as they are based on measurements of age, chemical properties, morphology, and many other characteristics. Those findings are consistent, reproducible, and predictive.
Substitute “plumbing” for geology, and your comments would make as much or as little sense. Plumbers trust and have faith in the pipes and fittings they use, and rely on physical properties of gravity, pressure, and basic fluid dynamics, and there is the assumption that the properties of a pipe today is consistent with the properties of a pipe last year.
It comes down to this: If you cannot believe what you see in the world around you, how can you believe what you see written in the Bible using the same eyes and the same brain?


It’s obvious. Every time a plumber makes a quote, they should add fine print at the bottom that says,

“*This quote assumes that gravity, basic fluid dynamics, and other relevant laws of nature will remain the same after installation as before.”

You gotta qualify it, man.

1 Like

@Christy, But as you know, those predictions assume certain things which cannot be proven. And that is my point: You surely know better, but in communicating that, you are pretending that the assumptions are verifiable fact. As you know, at most you could say something along the lines of “If our assumptions about the past are correct, then X.” But it is typically not couched that way.

The models are based on a limited knowledge. Again, you surely know that.

@jpm, I am not sure how to be more clear. Here’s the reality: You didn’t see those rock formations form. Therefore, it is not a materially based observation because it is not an observation at all. It is an explanation of the past based on assumptions. You see rock formations and you make assumptions about how it got there.

Substituting plumbing for geology is an argumentative sleight of hand. These are two entirely different things. I am not a plumber by trade, but I have done a fair amount (and am in the middle of a project now). It is nothing like geology. But the truth is that the properties of a pipe today are not always consistent with a pipe of the past. They change over time for a lot of reasons. But they don’t all change at the same rate. It can change based on the environment, water temperature, water chemicals, surrounding air, internal air, empty pipes, indeed all manner of stuff. You can have two pipes that were identical at their installation date that years later are entirely different. But more importantly, you can observe all that. You can’t do that with the formation of rocks that are claimed to be millions of years old. There is no laboratory where a millions of year old rock formation can be observed and verified. It simply cannot be done. What you can do it create models. But those models operate based on the assumptions built into them at the beginning.

I do believe what we see in the world around us. But you are taking it a step further and asking people to believe what we do not see in the world around us and that secondary step is based on faith.

In sum, my only question why was you referred to learning about science and belief about the Bible. I find that a rather unfortunate and misleading dichotomy because it seems to assume the two cannot fit together. I have no problem fitting them together.

@AMWolfe, Cute, but not similar at all.

@LT_15 If I examine a layer of sandstone and measure the grain size and shapes how is that not a “materially based observation”?

If I compare those measurements with measurements of sand from known locations today and conclude the sandstone layer was created from wind blown sand how is that not a “materially based observation”?

The only assumption is wind blown sand in the past shows the same characteristics as wind blown sand today.

OK, but those models work to explain the way they got there in a coherent fashion, and when measurements are made, they are consistent with the findings. They are even predictable. I will agree that God could have made it look that way, but he is not the deceiver that would make him. Any other non-miraculous theory that is consistent with the physical findings that is credible? (Emphasis on the credible)

@Bill_II, The first is a materially based observation. Your comparison is a materially based observation. But why do you conclude either sandstone was produced by wind? That is not observation. There are other options. Furthermore, there is much more involved than merely wind, and all of that has to be assumed. It can’t be observed.

@jpm, Coherent? Sure. But exclusive? No. What other coherent explanations are being ruled out because of a faulty model? Or faulty data? Or lack of knowledge? What other options are there?

You say God could have made it look that way but that would make him a deceiver? Why? He told us what he did. That’s not deceit.

And yes, there are other non-miraculous theories such as non-uniformitarian explanations. Just this week, I was reading of a 5 mile wide crater created by an asteroid in West Michigan. People talk routinely about other such phenonema that interrupt the normal processes. We see volcanoes that greatly change the landscape. We see floods that change things faster than the normal flow of a river. All of these things are non-miraculous things.

But why only non-miraculous? I realize science can’t operate with a God of the gaps approach. But ruling out supernatural intervention is the definition of theological liberalism. It is unbelief. So I am not sure why you would rule that out. That again points to my original question about your dichotomy.

And those things like local floods and meteors and volcanoes exploding are completely consistent and included in traditional geology. Maybe not the quote mined and fake representations made by people whose agenda is to make something that it is not, but of current geologic study.

Look, I understand your position of reading Genesis in the historical/scientific/semi-literal interpretation and rejecting anything not consistent with that reading. Fine. Go for it. Just don’t fool yourself that it is consistent with how things appear in the real world, because it is not. And if God made it that way, it would be deceptive, and lead people away from him rather than to him, which is inconsistent with both the nature and love of God, as revealed in the scripture and in relationship.
Regarding you statement of non-miraculous, I affirm (as does Biologos in their position statement) that the miraculous takes place. But invoking the miraculous in the study of geology or plumbing or auto mechanics is inappropriate.

I am not. I am concluding that the sand in the sandstone was wind blown sand. The sandstone could not have been created by water born sand for example.

BTW, this is not the only thing a geologist would look at to determine how a layer of sandstone was formed. There are many other measurements that are made.

Why can’t they be verified? If I have a rock with an imprint of a leaf in it, can I or can I not consider it to verifiably record the history of what was once a real, living leaf?

Yes! This is just like how geologists study all the different factors that go into rock layers and fossils!

…Wait a minute, what? Why not? We have lots of things of known ages we can and have dated. We have very precise measurements for a bunch of different dating methods (which don’t depend on results from each other). We have rocks which are verifiably millions of years old. The alternate explanations, like the Rate project’s suggestion that the speed of radioactive decay changed substantially in our history, involve unrealistic side effects (cooking the earth to far beyond sterility).

I guess I just don’t understand specifically what assumptions you think everybody’s making that are unverifiable.


Thanks, let me end with this.

First, as I understand the world and science, Genesis is completely consistent with what we see in the world. The only reason it wouldn’t appear consistent is if someone adopts assumptions that are counter to one or the other. In other words, the problem is the assumptions. I have never heard any reason to doubt it although, granted, I am trusting the words of scientists while asking questions that aren’t being answered sufficiently in my mind.

Second, it is not deceptive to say you did something and then do it with the result that it looks like you did what you said. If I were to park my car in your driveway and tell you I parked my car there, you wouldn’t go out the next morning and start talking about how someone built a car in your driveway. And you wouldn’t call me deceptive when I said it wasn’t built there. The problem, again, is your assumptions, this time, about Scripture. I am not sure what you actually see that is incompatible with what God said. So far as I can tell, the only supposed incompatibility is the method by which something got to the current condition. But to use a simple analogy, if I have $100 in my pocket and told you

Third, who is affirming the miraculous in the study of geology or the completely unrelated fields of plumbing or auto mechanics. BTW, Why do you associate those things together. You are a scientist, aren’t you? Making observations and drawing conclusions about the history of the planet and universe is not the same thing as getting water to a house or making an automobile run. Honestly, that’s the kind of argument that makes me suspicious and causes me to roll my eyes. I just don’t get that level of argumentation.


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.