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Rev. VanBaren is minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches .

“Change of Earth’s Orbit”

One reads often of theories concerning events which occurred on the earth thousands (some say millions) of years ago. Occasionally an article appears which causes one to sit up and take note. One such article appeared in the Denver Post, August 12, 1999:

The Sahara stretches across northern Africa, a vast wasteland devoid of vegetation. But thousands of years ago the area was rich with vegetation, covered in grass and shrubs. 

Now a team of German researchers has concluded that this dramatic transformation was triggered by subtle changes in Earth’s orbit, which resulted in changes in the planet’s atmosphere, sea, ice and vegetation.

Martin Claussen of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and colleagues used a computer model to analyze the effects of climate changes over the past several thousand years.

The researchers conclude that the transformation occurred in two major episodes. The first less severe episode began between 6,700 and 5,000 years ago, while the second much more severe episode lasted from about 4,000 to about 3,600 years ago. Summer temperatures increased sharply and precipitation dropped.

The changes were initiated by alterations in Earth’s tilt, which went from 24.14 degrees to 23.34 degrees, and in Earth’s perihelion, the point in orbit closest to the sun, which shifted from the end of July to today’s early January.

“Our simulations suggest that Saharan desertification, the largest change in land cover during the last 6,000 years, was a natural phenomenon as it can be described in terms of climate-system dynamics only,” the researchers wrote….

This struck my attention especially because I recall discussions, many years ago, concerning a tilting of the earth’s axis at the time of the flood. The discussions included the changing climatic conditions which would result. Now this study points to two episodes within the past 6,000 or 7,000 years which would do exactly that. One episode is close to the time of man’s fall as presented in Scripture. The other could be close to the time of the flood. Could there be some connection between the computer conclusions and the testimony of the fall and flood in Scripture?

Government and Cultural Ills

Cal Thomas, writer of editorial comments in various newspapers, and often quoted by the current writer, presents again some valuable commentary concerning government and its “power” to cure the ills of society. In the Denver Post, August 19, 1999, he makes some remarkable and true claims:

The common theme heard in remarks by the Republican presidential candidates in Iowa last Saturday was how broken America has become. Not broken in the theological sense that can lead to confession and repentance, but, depending on the candidate, a brokenness reflected in school shootings, or abortion, or incivility, or even bad TV and movies.

What none of the candidates acknowledged was that government, even if it might be headed by one of them, mostly lacks the power to substantially right those wrongs. For conservatives to suggest that it does aligns them with the misplaced faith of liberals.

The powerlessness of politics to reach into the heart was trumpeted by news that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is divorcing his second wife. Reports say he has been having an affair with a congressional aide young enough to be his daughter. 

Gingrich and other members of Congress won a Republican majority in 1994 by touting “family values.” How can people who want credit for honoring the Contract With America be taken seriously when they violate a contract with their wives? If they won’t impose “family values” on themselves, why should the rest of the nation accept them trickling down from Washington? 

Conservatives, especially those whose views are shaped in part or in whole by religious notions, are placing too much faith in the state for deliverance. Politicians are happy to have their votes and will make religious-sounding grunts in attempts to win them. This is why it should give pause when Gov. George W. Bush tells a journalist he has “accepted Jesus” and then uses language normally associated with the unredeemed.

… According to a recent survey published in the Los Angeles Times, many people lack some important basics, even while they lament the absence of such things in the politicians who have failed to meet their expectations. While more than 90 percent of households keep at least three copies of the Bible, which even politicians are now quoting (and often misquoting), two-thirds of them do not regularly read it. More than half cannot even name five of the Ten Commandments or know the names of the four Gospels, yet most of them want the commandments hanging on public school walls. Perhaps they should first hang them at home.

How can a sick and biblically illiterate society be healed if those who profess to have the answer similarly suffer from illiteracy? 

Real power is tossed aside, or paid lip service, in favor of political power, which is not power but illusion. Like illicit sex, faith in politics can only make one feel good for the moment.

Thomas then points to that which he considers proper emphasis:

True power remains with individuals. Ultimately we have the power to shape and even change lives. It is unleashed when families with young children control access to or eliminate television in their homes; when those children are educated at home or in private schools where their family’s beliefs are upheld, not in state schools where the values of the state are taught; when people stay married in good times and in bad; when quality time with children is quality time; when people are valued more than things; and when parents, not children rule….

Thomas is correct. There are, of course, a number of other things which ought to be mentioned. Government can not compel change—and certainly not when those who govern themselves willfully violate the laws of God and even the laws of the land. True change must begin in the heart and under the powerful work of the Holy Spirit. True change follows from the call of the gospel in the preaching of the Word. But, as Thomas points out, few even know what the Bible teaches. He calls this a “sick and biblically illiterate society.” And sadly, government, which deplores the moral evils which abounds, increasing through law and court decree, seeks to reduce the presence of true religion in society. Truly society has become ripe for the coming of the Antichrist.

Warning about Excessive TV Viewing

The Christian News, August 9, 1999, quotes an interesting article from the Washington Times, June 29, 1999, about some of the dangers of television viewing for children. Often we are reminded of the moral corruption which is presented—and children often watch. It seems, however, that even within the circles of unbelievers there is growing recognition of the dangers.

Nearly half of all children age two to 17 have a television set in their bedroom, and they now spend more than three hours a day in front of the tube—both all-time highs, according to new studies released yesterday.

As a result, more children age 10 to 17 recognize the Budweiser frogs and lizards than know the name of the vice-president of the United States. Even Dennis Rodman, professional basket-ball’s bad boy, and the Simpsons fared better than Al Gore.

The studies, conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, also found that children spend more than four hours a day watching TV, playing video games or tooling around on a home computer.

“Although television is still dominant, with the introduction of new media, young people are now spending an average of 4 ½ hours every day in front of a screen of some kind,” said Jeffrey D. Stranger, Washington director of the policy center.

The studies included even more disturbing findings. Twenty-eight percent of children’s shows contain four or more acts of violence, and three-fourths of those do not carry appropriate parental warning.

The same Christian News contains another quote taken from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 4, 1999:

Children under 2 years old should not watch television, older children should not have television sets in their bedrooms, and pediatricians should have parents fill out a “media history,” along with a medical history, on office visits, according to recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Saying that television viewing can affect the mental, social and physical health of young people, the academy for the first time has laid out a plan for how pediatricians and parents can deal with television….

These are conclusions by those who claim no religious ties. If such recognize dangers in TV, what ought to be the attitude of the Christian? And how would your home compare with the statistics given in the quotes?