Yesterday we began to tell you about last month’s Canyonlands Educational Tour. It was a week of learning about how God works. In the canyonlands area, we can see God’s engineering skills.
Our trip was a bus tour with 50 people participating. We departed from Flagstaff, Arizona. That area allows us to study the basic rocks from which all other rocks were made, and that is volcanic material. Our analysis of elements in space and the minerals in Earth’s crust show us that all rocks are made of materials found in the interior of the Earth. For example, granite is made up of quartz which breaks down into sand and makes sandstone. Orthoclase is another constituent of granite, and it weathers to produce clay which is a major part of shale. Visiting Sunset Crater (pictured) and seeing the volcanic mountains surrounding Flagstaff allows us to understand the method by which God produced all other rocks.
In the first session of our trip on Sunday evening, before we departed, we pointed out the one basic assumption that underlies our entire trip. That assumption is that God is not a magician who does everything by slight of hand and magic. We see God’s engineering skills as He uses natural processes to produce things in the creation. The Bible tells us that “God planted a garden” (Genesis 2:8) not that He waved a magic wand and a garden appeared. When God created man’s body in Genesis 2:7, he “formed man of the dust of the earth.” The Hebrew word used to describe that process is yatshir which is a word denoting something an artist might do in creating a work of pottery from clay.
God did not “zap” the Grand Canyon into existence with all its many kinds of rocks and embedded fossils. Many religious people want to have God “speaking” these things into existence. The Bible indicates that God commanded the creation elements indicating that other agents were doing the actual work. In our twenty-first century mentality of rejecting scams and con-artists, it is important not to put God into the role of being a trickster. God did His creating process in such a way that we can discover the processes. That is the reason the Bible says we can “know God exists through the things He has made” (Romans 1:20). In Proverbs 8, wisdom personified speaks of God’s engineering skills.
We see the evidence of God’s engineering skills in the creation processes, and we read the Scriptures that tell what happened. Our approach to all of the evidence and the Scriptures is that they MUST agree. If the same God who gave us the Bible also did the creating, they cannot disagree. If there seems to be a conflict between the scientific evidence and what the Bible says, we either have bad science or bad theology or both. There has been plenty of both.
Volcán de Fuego is Spanish for Volcano of Fire, a volcanic mountain in Guatemala. It has been active on-and-off for years. On Sunday, June 3, 2018, it erupted with fury. It had previously flared up in January and February, but this was the worst so far this year. Volcán de Fuego is famous for spewing out smoke daily and being continuously active at a low level. This time it erupted violently resulting in many deaths. Molten lava, flying rocks, hot gasses including sulfur dioxide threaten homes and lives in the area. The pyroclastic flow travels at speeds up to 50 miles (80 km) per hour or more. The gas rose 5 miles (8 km) into the troposphere. The map shows the area where the wind has taken the dangerous sulfur dioxide. The photo is of a previous eruption.
At the same time of the eruption of Volcán de Fuego on the big island of Hawaii, Mount Kilauea is still erupting and creating massive destruction, but with no fatalities so far. The question is, “Why do we have volcanos?” Perhaps we should ask, “Why do we need volcanos?”
The answer to the first question has to do with the composition and structure of Earth. The crust of the Earth, along with the upper mantle below it, is divided into sections called tectonic plates. Volcanos (and earthquakes) often occur near the boundaries of those plates. The movement and repositioning of those plates created the continents we have today. Beneath Earth’s crust, there is hot and partially molten material in an area known as the mantle. Pressure and the decomposition of radioactive material within the core of the Earth cause the elevated temperature. The fact that the minerals are in a molten state because of the extreme heat allows the movement of the tectonic plates on the surface. A volcano is a rupture in Earth’s crust that allows the escape of hot lava and gas from a magma chamber below the surface.
The answer to the second question of why we need volcanos is that they are part of Earth’s recycling system. Erosion of Earth’s surface leaches away nutrients from the soil. Volcano eruptions bring to the surface essential nutrients to nourish the soil allowing plants to grow and making farming more productive. They also bring to the surface valuable minerals that we need for modern, advanced civilization. Volcanos have also created many islands, such as the Aleutian islands and the islands of Hawaii. The movement of tectonic plates and the eruption of volcanos have occurred throughout Earth’s history. Without the movement of the tectonic plates with the resulting earthquakes and volcanos, Earth’s crust would be flat and covered with water. We would not be here.
Yesterday (April 5, 2018) there was a magnitude 5.3 earthquake off the coast of California near Los Angeles. No serious damage resulted, but scientists say there is a one-in-twenty chance that quake could be the foreshock of a larger quake. This brings up the question of why we have earthquakes. Did God do a poor job of designing the Earth?
The answer to that question is, “No.” Earthquakes result from factors that are essential for life on Earth. Earth’s crust consists of tectonic plates floating on the mantle, which is a region of molten rock. Under the continents, the Earth’s crust averages 18 miles (30 km) thick. Under the oceans, the crust is only about 3 miles (5 km) thick. The mass of the crust puts great pressure on the molten rock in the mantle causing it to be very viscous. If a crack opens in the crust, the molten rock will move upward, become more liquid as it is under less pressure. Then it may burst from the surface creating a volcano.
Volcanoes create mountains, and so does the movement of the tectonic plates. The tectonic plates moving against each other also produce earthquakes. Sometimes the plates will move against each other horizontally. We call that a slip-strike earthquake and that is what happens in the San Andreas fault in California. The quake that just occurred was a thrust quake where one side of a fault thrusts over the top of the one next to it. The Rocky Mountains and the Himalayas were pushed up by movement of the tectonic plates.
By the creation of mountains, the Earth has been continuously renewed. On the surface of the continents, erosion, and weathering break up solid rock to produce sand, clay, and ultimately topsoil. Erosion cuts down the mountains and deposits sediment in the lower elevations. Further erosion carries the sediment out into the oceans. In the deepest parts of the ocean, there are trenches. Huge amounts of sediment settle into those trenches, but they never get full. That’s because the sediment sliding into the trenches is finding its way down into the mantle.
The movement of sediment replenishes the mantle with new material which then resupplies the continents with new rock. Volcanoes erupt bringing recycled minerals and nutrients to the surface. Volcanic soils are the richest soils on Earth. This system has also brought the iron and other essential minerals into the Earth’s crust.