Christianity and Geography…

…and just a bit about space, too!

You are hunting deer in the mountains during the heart of winter. You come upon deer-tracks in the virgin snow and thus are assured that deer are near because you see clear evidence of their being. So, this planet in which we live evidence the “tracks” of the Creator. It is (as Calvin says) “the theater of God’s glory” (Romans 1:20).

The creation’s Creator then is the presupposition of the discipline of geography which describes (graphy) the earth (geo-) with its vast resources, climates, peoples, places, topographies, etc.

Man and Geography

The crowning achievement of the creation was man whom God made in order that he might “dress” and “keep” the Garden of Eden. But the Garden was no more the center of the earth than the earth is the physical center of the universe. Adam’s responsibilities entailed not only rule over the Garden, but rule over all the earth (Genesis 1:27). Moreover, man was to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it. . . ” (Genesis 1:26a). Therefore, since man was to cultivate all the earth his calling was and is a geographical calling par excellence (Acts 17:26). And this geographical calling was to extend to the very corners of the universe, the stars included (1 Corinthians 3:21).

Christian Education: Christianity and Geography
From the article “CHRISTIANITY AND GEOGRAPHY” By Jim West
In the Biblical Educator

Just for the record, let’s see I Corinthians 3:21-23 (ESV):

“So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”

I would take a somewhat different tact: Christ created Heaven and Earth, and — as co-heirs and adopted sons — we will rule Heaven and Earth in our holy and sinless state.

Sin has not completely transformed this “theater of God’s glory.” (Man’s perception of it has changed. For instance, man sings that the “world is a stage, the stage is a world of entertainment!”) It is true that the “whole creation groans and travails” as a result of Adam’s fall. Thistles and thorns were to spring up as a consequence of sin and the Noahic Flood was eventually to come upon the earth as the cosmic penalty. But in the post-diluvian life of Noah you see this geographical calling of man renewed (Genesis 9:1, 20).

An Important Geographical Psalm

Psalm 104 is a geographical cornerstone. Every student should study it and every teacher should provide detailed exegesis. A quick description of this Psalm is now in order: the heavens are like a beautiful curtain (v. 21). God is the sovereign who makes the clouds His chariot (v. 3). Therefore, the earth will not be removed (v. 4). This God is also the Lord of the waters which are also compared to a beautiful garment (v. 6). Since over two-thirds of the earth is water, it is important to emphasize that at the Flood God “set a bound that they (the waters) may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth.” (vss. 7-9; Genesis 9:11-16). Rain comes from God (v. 13). God supplies staples for both man and animals; He provides wine to refresh his heart, oil to make his face shine, and bread to strengthen man’s heart (vss. 14-15). His Lordship is over the trees (vss. 16-18). The seasons are God’s seasons and the sun shines so that man might work (vss. 19-23). In all this the glory of God is reflected (vss. 31-33). And if men will not reflect this glory by praising God (versus 1, 35), then they as sinners who have squatted in God’s world will be destroyed (v. 35).

We are dependent on God.

We can acknowledge this, and give the Lord the obedience and honour He is due, and live;

or we can refuse to do so, and die in our sins and our filth.

Geographical Man is a Religious Being

Most textbooks stress that geography is primarily concerned with man’s needs of food, shelter, and clothing. While giving lip-service to religion, such textbooks come close to practicing the Marxian brinkmanship that man is essentially what he eats. The Christian teacher must pull down this animalistic anthropology. Geography indeed is about man but man only as the crowning achievement of God’s creation (exegete Psalm 8). Not even man’s eating is amoral: the first Adam ate disobediently; the last Adam declined food in order to demonstrate that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God (Luke 4:4). Even eating and sheltering are sacred tasks (1 Corinthians 10:31; Psalm 127:1). Jesus does highlight food and clothing (shelter falls under the canopy of “clothing”) as common needs among men (Matthew 6:30-32). But Christ also differentiates: He says that the anxious care of these things is unique to the heathen (v. 32) and that Christians are to “seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Thus, the effort to satisfy man’s physical needs is a geographical expression that is emphatically religious.

Yet, just as there is an essential commonality among men, there are also innumerable differences. There is a diversity of language, race, nationality, culture, etc. The American social critic Max Lerner amusingly observed:

“In England, everything that is not forbidden is permitted. In Germany, everything is forbidden unless it is permitted. In. France, everything is permitted even if it is forbidden. And in Russia, everything is forbidden even if it is permitted.”

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”

This, I believe. Even unto the very stars (or equivalent thereof in the New Creation).

You should, too.

Some Practical Assignments

After laying the Biblical foundation for the study of geography, various tasks supplemental to the textbook are recommended.

1. Have the students draw a world map from memory together ‘with the names of all the oceans, continents, gird-lines and their longitudinal and latitudinal dimensions. This will at first appear a formidable task (even for the geography teacher!) but after some months of practice should be and can be mastered.

2. Have the students study a country while stressing the influence of its religious heritage upon the way the people live. Of course other features of the nation should also be noted. Consider this enlightening quip by Richard Armour:

“Wars have raged all around Switzerland for centuries, but this little country has never been invaded. Stronger nations have been frightened off by the rugged terrain and the possibility of hearing someone yodel. Another deterrent has been the fierce St. Bernard dogs, with casks of brandy tied to their necks, always read to take a nip.”

3. Supplement your lectures with some “pepper and salt” from the Reader’s Digest “Notes From All Over.” Did you know that in Jamaica speed bumps are called “sleeping policemen?” The account of a town in Hell, Norway will bring interest. Because of the town’s unusual name, many tourists travel there. When two Lutherans traveled there, they sent a card home to their Pastor which read: “Dear Pastor, we passed through Hell today, and we’re concerned. Almost everyone seems to be Lutheran.” How much snowfall does the South Pole receive annually? Only four to six inches. In Dubronik, Yugoslavia, there is a clock tower that strikes not only on the hour but at three minutes after—for those that are always late! Americans visiting Moscow are asked why the elderly can afford only canned pet food. But Americans visiting Peking are asked if it is true that Yankee homes have milk piped into them.

4. Teach Geography by antithesis. Whether it be the worship of Hindustan’s phallus and cow or the Mariolatry of Romanist countries or the eco-idolatry of the United States—the teacher must stress the curse of creature-worship and the blessing of Creator-worship (Romans 1:24).

5. Do not be a Deistic geographer. There is no mechanical clock of providence. Christ personally rules the universe (Colossians 1:16-17).

Christ personally rules the universe, and holds it together, moment by moment.

A truth to live by.

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