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WEEKLY REFLECTIONS

Renewable and Redeemable

Oil and natural gas may be renewable resources. We may not need to fear the dreaded clang of the last working oil well grinding to a stop as it sucks the last barrel of crude out of the earth. That is good, because oil is a lot more than a fuel or energy source. It’s a basic fabric of modern life. Imagine everything that is oil-based, like plastics, styrofoam, nylon, rayon, cleaners, lubricants, solvents, rubber, fiberglass, just disappearing from our world. Carpeting, packaging and containers, clothing, tires, computers, medical and surgical supplies and equipment, construction and communication materials, and much more, all gone.

Our students are still taught oil and coal are organic residues of prehistoric plants and animals. The sea of oil beneath Iraq may well be the remnant of the Garden of Eden. But what about the oil fields in the arctic regions of Alaska and those under the oceans? The mechanics of plate tectonics (the current version of the old Continental Drift theory) accounts for that well. Still, that’s an incredible amount of dinosaurs and ferns.

What tipped off engineers and researchers was Eugene 330, an oil drill platform in the Gulf of Mexico that was producing 15,000 barrels a day of high quality crude oil in the 1970s. During the next decade, production dropped to a mere 4,000 barrels per day, Naturally, this reservoir was considered almost empty. Suddenly, in the 1990s, Eugene recovered and produced the original 15.000 barrels a day. The oil field reserves had been estimated to be 60 million barrels in the 1970s. In the last decade, the calculation increased to 400 million. Of even more interest and surprise, the age of this “new” oil was very different from that which was pumped out during the 1970s. Where did this stuff come from?

What happened at Eugene 330 also happened at other oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico, in the Cook Inlet in Alaska, in Uzbekistan and even in the Middle East, where oil production reaches back 20 years and, despite the pumping, known reserves have doubled (to 680 billion barrels.)
This suggests that oil may be an inorganic product, not a result of organic degradation and fossilization. Oil company researchers believe there may be huge reserves of oil, sustainable at that, that far exceed previous estimates.

I won’t bore you with the revised theories of how oil is formed. If you are interested, Dr. Thomas Gold (founding director of Cornell University Center for Radiophysics and Space Research) wrote a book, “The Deep Hot Biosphere,” (1999) in which he explains how the depths of oil fields have the same chemistry and do not change as would be expected with fossils, and that several oil fields around the earth are refilling themselves from the bottom up. He writes that oil is a  “renewable, primordial soup continually manufactured by the Earth under ultrahot conditions and tremendous pressures. As this substance migrates toward the surface, it is attached by bacteria, making it appear to have an organic origin dating back to the dinosaurs.” His colleague, Dr. Kenney, stated “competent physicists, chemists, chemical engineers and men knowledgeable of thermodynamics have known that natural petroleum does not evolve from biological materials since the last quarter of the 19th century.”

So what? You may have learned in school the basic division of our natural resources: Renewable and nonrenewable. We make proclamations based on what we know at the time. Wise people proclaim “theories,” allowing for the possibility of revised understandings based on new discoveries. Evolution is a scientific theory, under constant revision. Ignorant teachers present it as fact. Even what we call the “laws” of physics have undergone revolutionary changes with our discovery of quantum dynamics. Newtonian physics and plane geometry will be enough to build cars and roads, but won’t work in flying the space shuttle to the international space station or even getting your satellite TV to work. A jet leaving New York for Paris takes the shortest route, which is a curve, not a straight line. (The earth is not a two dimensional plane.)

I have a theory I cannot prove (and I don’t think we humans can “prove” anything in an absolute sense, which is why faith is vital.) Given my introduction and other studies, I’m inclined to believe all things on the earth and in the heavens are renewable. I include resources, natural systems, and especially the human heart.

Although my Calvinist brothers and sisters maintain “biblical proof” that not all people are redeemable, or at least not eligible for redemption, I can provide equal or more compelling “biblical proof” to the contrary. While divine revelation is absolute truth (i.e. “I am the Truth” (John 14:6), our understanding of it is best regarded as theory. St. Paul writes, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror” (1 Corinthians 13:12a). Yahweh declares, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). Our proclamations of what we understand as truth need to be tempered with profound humility.

Some profess to know how the kingdom of God works. As a people, we don’t even know how the earth works. We know more about our solar system than the life in the depths of our oceans, and we know so little of both. So many times Jesus would say, “The kingdom of heaven is like...” St. Paul, who was graced with a glimpse of the third heaven, not only couldn’t tell if he was in the body or spirit, but had no words to express what he experienced. St. John knew he was in the spirit during his vision of the heavenly realms, but such truths could only be revealed to him through story, symbolism, and metaphor. Even he blundered in his understanding of how heaven “worked”, being admonished by his angelic guide to get up from his posture of worship, explaining that he, the angel, was merely a servant of God as John was.

It is human nature to “figure out” mystery, then too often arrogantly proclaim one’s conclusion is true and to be endorsed by others. I love mystery of all kinds, especially of the heavenly realms. I am graced to experience it, but there is no grace in believing I figured it out and “broke the code” (with no intentional reference to the popular stupidly written novel), only destructive arrogance.

Love is a grand mystery to experience, but I certainly haven’t figured it out. “God is love” (1 John 4:16), so how can I have figured out God or love?

By the way, that is why I call these essays “Reflections,” rather than “devotionals,” “studies,” or “teachings.” And that is why I often invite the Weekly Reflections subscribers, in my introductions, to reflect with me on these things, always inviting responses so we can learn together. These Reflections are not conclusions and I am not your teacher, rather just another pilgrim beggar on the narrow way.

Let’s take heart in the proposition that all things, on the earth, under the earth, above the earth, are renewable, even what many still believe are not renewable. Let us be open to the new discoveries that surprise us and shake our clinging to the way we believe things are. Even more joyous is our belief and faith that the most depraved and despised among us are renewable and redeemable, and thus worthy of respect and love.

After all, Jesus said, “What you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.” Even if you espouse that only believers and followers of Christ can be called His brothers and sisters, everyone, regardless of how he or she may appear to us, is a potential adopted son or daughter of the Father, through the Son. And that is the good news of the Gospel that we are to declare and practice.
 
 

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
~ Education, Research and Advocacy
   in the Christian Faith ~
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