Science: Global warming — amount of warming confirmed

Few issues have aroused the feelings of political conservatives and their evangelical allies as much as the claim that global warming is a fact. A newly published study has settled several key issues about this claim that had formerly made it seem questionable.

The New York Times has reported, “A team at the University of California Berkeley that set out to test the temperature data underlying the consensus on global warming has concluded that the mainstream estimate of the rise in the earth’s surface temperature since 1950 is indeed accurate.” The brief newspaper story may be found here. The study found that the earth’s land masses are 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than in the 1950s.

Three major groups had previously published claims supporting human-caused global warming based on a much smaller data set, but climate skeptics had raised several possible sources of error. Among those raising questions were some members of the Berkeley Earth study. The Berkeley study also shows that those possible error sources do not account for the temperature change previously found. The Berkeley study has particular weight in that it includes five times more temperature readings than the previous studies. All of the data and reports are available online.

Professor Richard A. Muller, Berkeley Earth’s founder and scientific director, stated:

Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the U.S. and U.K. This confirms that these studies were done carefully and that potential biases identified by climate change skeptics did not seriously affect their conclusions.[1]

The Berkeley Earth team includes physicists, climatologists and statisticians from California, Oregon and Georgia. One member of the group, Saul Perlmutter, was recently awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics (for his work in cosmology).

A surprising twist on the story is that the research leading to these findings was partially funded by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Charles Koch is a billionaire who is most well-known for his support of libertarian causes as well as the Tea Party. Koch also has extensive holdings in fossil fuels.

One real test of these new findings may be whether evangelical Christians accept them as valid. Some Christians have demonstrated a clear disdain for any scientific finding that does not fit their own ideas. This global warming issue is not like the alleged biological evolution of human beings, a far more complicated theory with many unresolved questions. The Berkeley study involves measuring temperatures and assessing whether they are higher or lower on a global basis. If science cannot carry out this task, then we have to wonder whether iPods fell from heaven rather than being designed by engineers.

No conclusion was reached by the Berkeley Earth team about a second inflammatory idea  — human causation of the observed global warming. That awaits further study of ocean temperatures.

As a final treat, watch the video showing the warming of the earth from 1800 to the present at this link. Actually, it is a bit depressing. It starts with a real cold spell in the period 1800–1820 and ends with consistent warming over the last three decades.

Climate change has already made an appearance in the competing Republican campaigns for president. All the candidates firmly doubt there is any problem and several openly allege data manipulation by scientists.  No change in their views should be anticipated based on the Berkeley Earth study because they know what their primary voters believe.

Try to keep in mind that propaganda and data are two different things. This study contains data. God has made all of us stewards of the earth and all that is in it (Gen. 1:27–28), and we will be held responsible for what humans do on this planet. God isn’t running for office.


[1] “Cooling the Warming Debate,” by Elizabeth Muller, Founder and Executive Director of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study, 20 October 2011, page 1.


Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 11:18–26

Genesis 11:18–26
When Peleg had lived 30 years, he became the father of Reu.  19 And after he became the father of Reu, Peleg lived 209 years and had other sons and daughters.
20 When Reu had lived 32 years, he became the father of Serug.  21 And after he became the father of Serug, Reu lived 207 years and had other sons and daughters.
22 When Serug had lived 30 years, he became the father of Nahor.  23 And after he became the father of Nahor, Serug lived 200 years and had other sons and daughters.
24 When Nahor had lived 29 years, he became the father of Terah.  25 And after he became the father of Terah, Nahor lived 119 years and had other sons and daughters.
26 When Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
(NET Bible)

Preparation for Abraham and the covenant

God is not in a hurry! He works toward long-term goals, not the quick fix. His plan to remedy the ruin of humankind took millennia to unfold and is not yet complete.

How does our impatience interact with God’s patience? What are we to make of God’s decision to bring his solution by working through humankind? What does Genesis show us about God’s guiding hand on history?

Kenneth Mathews puts this passage into perspective:

The Babel account (11:1-9) is not the end of early Genesis. If it were, the story would conclude on the sad note of human failure. But as with earlier events in Genesis 1-11, God’s grace once again supersedes human sin, insuring the continued possibilities of the promissory blessings (1:28; 9:1).[1]

Gordon Wenham adds, “With this short genealogy from Shem to Abram, the Genesis narrative steps from the primeval period, whose events have cosmic significance directly affecting all mankind, into the patriarchal period.”[2] The patriarchs are, at minimum, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Terah, the father of Abram [later Abraham], waited more than twice as long to have his first son as all the others born after the flood and listed in Genesis 11. Genesis 11:26 tells us he was 70 years old when his first son was born. However, it may shed light on the fact that Abraham did not have his own first son Ishmael (by the servant Hagar) until he was 85 or 86 years old (Gen. 16:3-4).

Terah’s name may be connected to the word for “moon.” Even if it is not, Wenham says, “Several of Abram’s relations have names that suggest adherence to lunar worship (cf. Sarah, Milcah, Laban), a cult that was prominent in Ur and Harran.”[3]Ur was Abram’s birthplace about 186 miles southeast of modern Baghdad. Perhaps this moon worship explains the Lord’s words in Joshua 24:2 saying: “In the distant past your ancestors lived beyond the Euphrates River, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor. They worshiped other gods.”

By God’s grace and selection, Abraham became a towering figure in Old Testament history and New Testament theology. But that is a story for another day!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[This post concludes the series on Genesis 1–11.]

[1] Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1–11:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996) 487.

[2] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 253.

[3] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 252.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 11:10–17

Genesis 11:10–17
This is the account of Shem. Shem was 100 years old when he became the father of Arphaxad, two years after the flood.  11 And after becoming the father of Arphaxad, Shem lived 500 years and had other sons and daughters.
12 When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah.  13 And after he became the father of Shelah, Arphaxad lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
14 When Shelah had lived 30 years, he became the father of Eber.  15 And after he became the father of Eber, Shelah lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
16 When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg.  17 And after he became the father of Peleg, Eber lived 430 years and had other sons and daughters.
(NET Bible)

Shem’s family extends God’s chosen line

God is faithful, but that does not mean that things always go smoothly. Consider the life of Shem, who survived the flood, protected the honor of his father Noah, and helped found a renewed human race.

What does it mean to have a covenant with God? How does God’s blessing relate to the suffering that comes because of living in a sinful world?

Genesis 11:10 contains one of the linguistic markers that divides sections of Genesis into separate accounts. The big thing to consider is the fact that only Shem, of Noah’s three sons, received separate attention in the form of a detailed genealogy. In effect, Shem’s short genealogy is given in chapter 10 with regard to the development of nations; in chapter 11 Shem’s lineage is traced to Abram, who is later renamed Abraham.

You will recall our previous statements that Genesis is a theological history with specific interests. Shem gets all this attention for the simple reason that his line leads through Abraham and through David to Jesus, the Messiah.

Commenting on Genesis 11:10, Gordon Wenham says, “The birth of Arpachshad, the first after the flood, shows that Shem fulfilled the new mandate to mankind to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (8:17; 9:1, 7).”[1]

Genesis 11:16  When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg.

We have previously said the name Eber is related to the name Hebrew, though nothing is made of that fact in Gen. 11:16. Peleg’s name has three consonants that form the root of a verb meaning “divide, separate.” That would scarcely matter except that Genesis 10:25 has the cryptic remark: “One was named Peleg because in his days the earth was divided” (emphasis added).

Many commentators think this division is a reference to the dispersion at Babel, thus placing that event in Peleg’s lifetime, but that is not certain. If heaven has a FAQ, it will probably contain the answer in the top fifty questions asked.   :-)

A retrospective look at Genesis will show that an extended genealogy ends at Genesis 5:32 with the naming of Noah’s three sons. Before it resumes with Seth’s line in Genesis 11, we have the cataclysm of the flood and the dramatic intervention by God at the tower of Babel. We may say that the resumption of the genealogy in Genesis 11 is reassuring. Kenneth Mathews says, “While the threats of the flood and Babel are alarming, the return to the predictable pattern of genealogical descent after each (9:29; 11:10–26) shows that God’s purposes for humanity are back on track.”[2]

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 250.

[2] Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1–11:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996) 489.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 11:8–9

Genesis 11:8–9
So the LORD scattered them from there across the face of the entire earth, and they stopped building the city.  9 That is why its name was called Babel– because there the LORD confused the language of the entire world, and from there the LORD scattered them across the face of the entire earth.
(NET Bible)

 Opposing God leads to confusion

Whose plans are going to prevail? Will it be humankind’s plan to concentrate power and make a mighty name, or will it be God’s plan to populate the world with those who honor his mighty name?

In the language the Bible speaks, scattering is not a favorable outcome. One illustration of this is the statement by Jesus: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matt. 12:30).

In Genesis 1:28 and 9:1, the original creation and its replacement, God commanded that the people be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. Contrary to that command, the people gathered on the plain of Shinar in opposition to dispersal.

At times someone will argue that the Hebrew phrase translated as “the entire earth” does not actually mean the whole world. This argument is made, for example, to support a regional flood. But consider how this phrase is used in other locations within Genesis: 1:29; 7:3; 8:9; 9:19; 11:1; 13:9; 13:15; 18:25; 19:31. The only instance that does not mean the entire earth is Genesis 13:15 in which God tells Abraham that he will receive all the land he is looking at. But the norm consists of situations such as God serving as the judge of the entire world (Gen. 18:25) or giving humankind the seed-bearing plants of the entire earth for food (Gen. 1:29).

So, before the people populate the entire world, they pause for rebellion at a city called Babel. When the common language was replaced by as many languages as people, the people stop construction of the city and scatter.

“The Babylonians understood Babel to mean ‘the gate of the god.’ The Hebrews liked to suppose it to mean ‘mixed up, confused.’”[1] Mathews adds, “Our author’s sarcasm bites at the Babelites’ deluded aim of obtaining a ‘name’ through the erection of the city (v. 4).”[2] They got a name—“confused”!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Wenham, Genesis 1-17, 241.

[2] Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, 486.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 11:1–4

Genesis 11:1–4
The whole earth had a common language and a common vocabulary.  2 When the people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.  3 Then they said to one another, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” (They had brick instead of stone and tar instead of mortar.)  4 Then they said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens so that we may make a name for ourselves. Otherwise we will be scattered across the face of the entire earth.”
(NET Bible)

Gather for God or don’t gather at all!

Some people have given up on life by surrendering to various addictions, distractions, and pleasures that the world offers. Others are fighting to survive. Those of us who remain want to do something that counts, to lead a life of significance.

Who will define what our significant accomplishments might be? How should we live to make connection with God? Are we to compete with him, depend upon him, replace him, or what?

Many Americans know a few words of Spanish, but hearing one phrase of Chinese, Hebrew or Basque will send most of us home for a rest. So, if all humanity came from Noah’s family, how is it that we cannot now understand each other? The answer involves another instance of human sin and divine intervention.

Concerning the section we begin today, Mathews says: “Genesis 11:1–9 also mirrors the attempt of humanity in the garden to achieve power independently of God. The attempt of the Babelites to transgress human limits is reminiscent of Eve’s ambition (Gen. 3:5–6).”[1]

In the beginning chapters of Genesis, we the readers simply take for granted that God is able to communicate with humanity and the man is able to speak intelligibly with the woman. In other words, the fluid communication goes on without notice. Separate languages are first mentioned in Genesis 10 but not explained until Genesis 11. The story of humanity after the flood begins at a time and place when all humanity spoke the same language with a common vocabulary (Gen. 11:1).

Ancient Mesopotamia, the so-called “cradle of civilization,” was the home of the Sumerian culture from roughly 5000 B.C. According to the translator of a Sumerian epic, the text of the epic “puts it beyond all doubt that the Sumerians believed there was a time when all mankind spoke one and the same language.”[2] The movement of the unnamed people in Genesis 11:2 stops in Shinar, a reference to Mesopotamia, which lies east of Canaan (Gen. 11:2).

When Noah and his family emerged from the ark, they built an altar to worship God (Gen. 8:20). In contrast, these people emerge from their journey with the intent to build a great monument to themselves; the theme of gradual degradation comes to the fore. Being unified with one language and located in one place, the people plan a great construction project (Gen. 11:3–4). Mathews tells us that unlike Israelite building practices: “Production of brickware for construction was a common feature in early Mesopotamia. Its technology was invented in Babylonia during the fourth millennium [B.C.] and later exported to other countries.”[3]

The two instances of the command “Come” (Gen. 11:3, 4) initiate frantic activity. (Similar frantic activity by a group occurs in Genesis 19, the depravity of Sodom.) The people pursue the construction of tower and city with unusual intensity, a fact the English translation does not convey.[4] Mathews points out the irony of the story by saying, “What they most feared, namely, the loss of security and power by ‘scattering’ (v. 4), came to pass as a result of their own doing (v. 8–9).”[5]

The meaning of this tower has special significance in the history of Babylon, the capital of Shinar. Wenham says, “It was a commonplace of Babylonian thought that temples had their roots in the netherworld and their tops reached up to heaven.”[6] But this is not the way to approach God.

All of us want to do something that counts, to lead a life of significance. The moral here is to gather for the glory of God and not our own!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1–11:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996) 467.

[2] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 236, quoting S.N. Kramer.

[3] Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, 481.

[4] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 11:3.

[5] Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, 469.

[6] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 237.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 9:28–29

Genesis 9:28–29
After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 The entire lifetime of Noah was 950 years, and then he died.
(NET Bible)

A man who honored God and lived

However long we may live, our lives have significance only to the degree that they connect with God first and then with humanity.

Someone will write your epitaph; someone will stand over your grave and declare what your life was about. What will they say?

Our verses today close the history of Noah and the great flood. Gordon Wenham observes that the flood story has numerous dates (Genesis 7:11; 8:4; 8:5; 8:13; 8:14) and carefully defines the length of various episodes. Then he adds:

No other event in Genesis is dated at all (excluding births and deaths)?not creation, the fall, the tower of Babel, nor the call of Abram [later Abraham]?and usually only the vaguest indications are given as to how long particular episodes lasted. The flood story is unique.[1]

Perhaps you have wondered where the ancient myths arose, the ancient stories that may be found in every culture. It seems likely that they developed from stories told by Noah and his family after they survived the deluge. Of course, the stories became twisted out of shape in many cultures, but the human race has a collective memory of the ancient world before the flood.

Looking back, we may realize that little has been said about Noah; he has spoken rarely and been presented generally as a man obedient to God. From this silence we may learn that the story is more about God than about Noah. Wenham says: “In Genesis there is but one God who plans and executes the flood and delivers Noah. . . . The God of Genesis is portrayed as loyal and a rewarder of the righteous.”[2] Wenham adds that God is moral and just in dealing with his creation; humanity was destroyed for its depravity and not for some trivial cause.

When Noah and his family came out of the ark, Noah offered sacrifices to God. Afterward, the Lord “said to himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, even though the inclination of their minds is evil from childhood on’” (Gen. 8:21, emphasis added). This was a profoundly important decision in light of Ham’s sin, which amounted to a new fall in a new world. Wenham insightfully says, “Were it not for the changed logic of God, in that he now cites man’s depravity as a ground for his mercy rather than for judgment, the descendants of Noah would be heading for extinction in another deluge.”[3]

At the end of the story of the flood, what shines through the gathering clouds of sin is the abundant grace of God.

As a footnote to the life of Noah, most Christians do not realize that Noah was like a rock star in ancient Asia Minor. Karen Jobes describes his fame:

Noah was nevertheless the most prominently known biblical figure in Asia Minor even among the Gentiles. His enduring fame is attested by an amazing series of Noah coins minted over the reigns of five Roman emperors from Septimus Severus (A.D. 193–211) through Trebonianus Gallus (A.D. 251–53). The coins depict Noah and his wife on one side, with the image of the Roman emperor on the other.[4]

Fame is a popular goal, but it does not surpass the profound fact that “after the flood Noah lived” (Genesis 9:28).

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 204.

[2] Wenham, Genesis 1-17, 205.

[3] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 206.

[4] Karen H. Jobes, 1 Peter, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005) 245.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 9:26–27

Genesis 9:26–27
He also said, “Worthy of praise is the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem!  27 May God enlarge Japheth’s territory and numbers! May he live in the tents of Shem and may Canaan be his slave!”
(NET Bible)

 Prayer and long-range consequences

Perhaps we are too timid in prayer. So many people express rules for how prayer is to be done that it can become a memory exercise to follow the formula. Is that what God intended?

And, of course, we are told never to pray selfishly. But what if we found a prayer in the Bible that would affect all humanity, and it was affirmed by God? And what if we found that the man who prayed it did so because he was angry about how he had been treated? Do we need to rethink prayer?

Perhaps Noah sees that the Lord stands behind Shem’s worthy behavior in limiting the damage of sin. Noah praises Shem indirectly by praising his God, and then he becomes more direct in asking that Canaan become slave to Shem.

Kenneth Mathews speaks about all the verbs in Genesis 9:25–27 when he says: “Noah’s words held no magical powers that destined the fates of future generations. His appeal was to God, whose will alone counted for what would become of the nations.”[1] When Mathews mentions “nations,” he is looking ahead to the prolific expansion of humanity that will take these individuals and make their many descendants into nations (Genesis 10). Noah was praying for things of momentous significance for the entire human race.

Contemporary people seldom realize that ancient names morphed into things that are more familiar to us today. The name Shem came to refer to Semitic peoples in the Arabian Peninsula and in ancient Mesopotamia, where many descendants of Shem settled. It was from the area that is now Iraq that Abraham migrated, at God’s direction, back to Canaan. In time the concept of Semitism came to mean the culture and ideas originating with the Jews, the descendants of Shem. Anti-Semitism is persecution of or discrimination against Jews, who are Semites. Note that since Abraham descended from Shem, the Jews consider themselves Semites.

In a similar way the word “Hebrew” (Gen. 14:13) is thought to derive from Shem’s great-grandson Eber (Gen. 10:21).[2]

Ham’s children, except for Canaan, settled in the Arabian Peninsula and Africa, notably in what is now Egypt. Canaan, of course, settled in what is now Israel, but it was called “Canaan” for millennia.

Genesis 9:27  May God enlarge Japheth’s territory and numbers! May he live in the tents of Shem and may Canaan be his slave!” (NET Bible)

The descendants of Japheth initially settled what is now Turkey and Europe. In its open way, the NET Bible Notes say concerning Genesis 9:27, “The words ‘territory and numbers’ are supplied in the translation for clarity.”[3]

Apparently, Noah asks for a situation which includes Shem worshipping the Lord in peaceful alliance with Japheth and under terms of oppression for Canaan. In the context of Genesis 10 (the Table of Nations) and especially Genesis 9:19 (“from them the whole earth was populated”), Shem, Japheth and Canaan represent peoples who would descend from them.

After saying that God is under no obligation to comply with Noah’s prayer, John Walton adds:

Nevertheless, such pronouncements were accepted with utmost gravity and confidence by the people of Israel, and there are numerous occasions where the statements do end up being fulfilled as the plan of God unfolds. In such cases their significance has been seen in retrospect.[4]

The exact fulfillment of Noah’s requests is debatable. Gordon Wenham quotes a notable Old Testament scholar with one interpretation: “Gentile Christians are for the most part Japhethites dwelling in the tents of Shem.”[5] In retrospect, it seems clear that Japheth and Shem have prospered considerably in comparison to Canaan. But the Canaanite poison of sexual depravity has penetrated all of humankind to our universal harm.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1–11:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996) 422.

[2] ESV Study Bible, notes for Genesis 10:21.

[3] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 9:27.

[4] John H. Walton, The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001) 350.

[5] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 203, quoting Delitzsch, 1:298.