95 + 6

The pounding of a single nail into the wooden, Wittenberg church door on October 31, 1517, announced the doom of the old-world order and marked the dawn of a world-wide revival. With those 95 theses firmly attached, Martin Luther thought he was stirring up a debate on indulgences, the “getting out of purgatory free” card, for money; but he unleashed a typhoon, suggesting the church had it wrong and the infallible Pope was on the wrong side of Scripture. Luther insisted that only God could forgive sins—not priests or Popes. Here is just a spattering of the 95:

  1. Only God can give salvation – not a priest.
  2. Only God can forgive -the pope can only reassure people that God will do this.
  3. The priest must not threaten those dying with the penalty of purgatory.
  4. A dead soul cannot be saved by an indulgence.
  5. The pope should give his own money to replace that which is taken from pardoners.
  6. Relics are not the relics of Christ, although they may seem to be. They are, in fact, evil in concept.
  7. Indulgences bought for the dead should be re-paid by the pope.
  8. Let Christians experience problems if they must – and overcome them – rather than live a false life based on present Catholic teaching. (1)

Until Luther, the light of Christ radiating from the Christian Church only flickered; at times it sparked but would quickly die-out; it was snuffed by superstition and church tradition. There were luminaries like Wycliffe, Hus, and Jerome who for a time enlightened the people; they taught of God’s love and grace and total forgiveness, but their light was beaten back by powerful dignitaries drenched in pride and ignorance and vice. For all those looking on, it seemed like Satan was winning the war, not Christ. For over a millennium truth was chained to monastic library walls, written in Latin, a language few understood.

Christians living in the Middle Ages were taught to fear demons and devils. They were terrified of ending up in hell, burning and writhing in unimaginable pain, or landing in purgatory and suffering just a little less and a little shorter. They were tormented with the idea that all men were hopeless sinners in the sight of an unforgiving, arbitrary God and were unworthy of salvation, at least until Luther.

Martin Luther was humble, courageous, a master of many languages, and above all—brutally intelligent. He went to the University of Erfurt, earning Bachelors and Master’s degrees in Theology, and later a PhD from Wittenberg.

He lived almost 200 years after England’s reformer John Wycliffe and 100 years after Hus and Jerome who were martyred for defying the church, and Luther knew it when he publicly destroyed the Papal “bull” sent from Pope Leo, summonsing him to Rome to defend himself.

Parenthetically, every year or so, the Emperor of Germany, Charles the fifth, would organize a meeting, called a Diet, inviting German princes and bishops, and in 1521, the Emperor summoned Martin Luther to the city of Worms to recant.

Charles was a devout Catholic, but his princes were sympathetic to Luther, so Luther was given safe conduct to and from the meeting to defend his teachings. Upon arrival, Luther was shown a table with a pile of his books and other writings and was offered the opportunity to reject his own writings and recant, but he refused. Luther’s reply was epic:

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” And added, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” (2)

The Emperor, true to his promise, allowed Luther to leave Worms, but as an outlaw; he was branded a heretic and sentenced to death. He planned on arresting Luther quickly after releasing him, except Luther was “kidnapped” by Frederick the Wise of Saxony. Luther would have been taken and burned at the stake had Charles found him first. Instead, he was taken to the Wartburg Castle where he wrote furiously, translating the Latin text of the Bible into the common man’s language—German—changing the world forever.

Luther coined several great sayings: The just will live by faith and Solo Scriptura—the Scriptures alone. These, along with the 95 theses changed the course of history. The Christian world took a giant step forward thanks to Martin Luther, but unfortunately it didn’t continue to advance; like the Roman church it too became formal, and additional reforms took place. Truth advanced through Europe and eventually the New World through Calvin, Zwingli, Knox, and others.

And truth is still advancing: six more theses can be nailed to the church door. To be continued….

  1. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/the-reformation/the-95-theses-a-modern-translation/

2. http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/luther/lutheraccount.html


Don’t go to church; be the church!

Every time I see that sentence pop up in an email, I feel the weight of truth punch me in the chest, then I’m nauseous because it fits and it’s profound. Don’t just go to church and spend a few hours singing songs and listening to others talk about the relationship you should have with God–have that relationship. Be that person who knows and understands and then resembles God. God wants us to be like Christ–that’s the goal–the hope of glory is Christ in us: to love and care and be like God. So how do we do it? The Bible says that God loves us and is already working in us and through us to do His good pleasure, so we are off to a good start. It mentions we need to be born again, casting off our old rebellious self, and it commends the reading and studying of the scriptures. If we were to imitate Jesus, we would get up in the misty morning, long before the daily pressures begin, seek out a place of solitude and read and pray. Jesus must have been up with the birds every day, because it seems like He had the Old Testament memorized when debating the Jewish leaders. Today we have a multitude of versions to choose from or listen to and an endless source of references.

Adding one concept made a big difference in my studies: knowing the Bible is not a code book. When I was young, I read the Bible as though it were merely a list of dos and don’ts. I was always looking for just one more rule to keep, for one more verse to memorize, or one more fact I could remember; so I could be perfect. Then it dawned on me, God was God in both the Old and New Testaments, and He changes not. What was changing were the circumstances. Sometimes God was working with newly freed, ignorant slaves and vile, evil countries with despots, other times with religious hypocrites and autocrats, and still others with willing but ignorant people. We wouldn’t treat each group the same and neither does God.

The Bible is a compilation of carefully crafted case studies documenting God’s actions, both in heaven and on this rebellious planet. In many and various ways God has demonstrated His faithfulness and recorded the events of this great controversy in the Bible. It’s not a code book; it’s a case study.



Evolution vs. Creation Philosophy Part IV of IV–Where is History Headed?

Part IV of IV—Where is history headed?

Think back to the 1920 stock market crash, to 9-11, or as recent as November 20th, 2016, the Trump election—no one saw them coming. We are not good at predicting the future, but the Bible is. Hundreds of predictions have been made and come true and some of them came thousands of years in advance. God’s word has predicted world shaking events, such as the time and place of Jesus’s birth, how and when Jesus would die and who would be by His side when He died, the name of the man who let the Israelites go after 70 years of captivity—Cyrus—and my favorite, what nations would pass across the stage of history (Daniel 3, 7, 9 and 11).

God showed Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, his golden kingdom would be replaced by the Meads and Persians, who would be ruled by Greece, and then Rome, and eventually Rome would fragment into 10 countries (Dan 3, 7, 11). It even gives the details: Greece would fall and divide into four parts (Dan 8), and three of the ten countries comprising the fallen Roman Empire would be plucked up by one unique power, and it did (Dan 7). It predicted the fall of the Vatican State, and its healing (Rev 13), and it even predicted the United State’s rise to power. But all of these events are past; does the Bible tell us what’s coming? Yes it does.

  1. The world will become more and more wicked, while it looks more and more religious (Rev 12, 13). Think hypocrisy and false religions.
  2. Countries and churches will unite to control the masses (Rev 13).
  3. A remnant of zealous Christians will give three moving messages to the world (Rev 14).
  4. The world will attempt to silence then destroy this small number of reformers (Rev 13); while
  5. Satan will fake Jesus’s return in an attempt to control the world.
  6. Jesus will come again just as society implodes; He’ll come to resurrect the righteous dead, translate the living saints, and take all of the saved to heaven for 1000 years (Rev 14).
  7. For a thousand years Satan and his evil imps will be confined to planet earth to contemplate their gloomy future, while the saints are reviewing the history books in heaven.
  8. At the end of the 1000 years, Jesus, God, the heavenly city New Jerusalem, and all the saints will descend back to earth;
  9. The rest of the dead, those lost, will be resurrected for judgment; they will see themselves and how they have despised God’s love and how they have unfitted themselves to live in God’s presence; and God will reveal Himself—giving life and vitality to those who love Him, but sadly destroying those who don’t.
  10. And forever more the saints will live in paradise made new. God will recreate the earth, probably in the same way He did it before, one day at a time, so we can watch and be amazed. He will wipe away our tears and all traces of sin; not a drop will remain except for the scars in Jesus’s hands, feet, and side.

It’s hard to believe the world could become any more wicked than it is, and could it really be worse than during world War II when 60 million people were slaughtered? It’s possible, but what’s unique this time is, it will be cloaked in religion. Already churches and countries are lining up: Catholic Europe, Central America, and South America; Muslim Middle East, and Protestant America; and within them the sins of pride and domination rule. It is one thing to humbly protect your own, but another completely to dominate and compel the conscience.

Coming out of this montage of religions a small group of zealous Christians will shake the earth with three simple messages:

Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—saying, “Fear God and give Him Glory for the hour of his judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” And another angel followed saying, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornications.” Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. (Rev 14:6-9)

These three messages are much more complicated than they appear, and understanding them without the context of the rest of the Bible is really not possible. The Bible is internally consistent; it uses its own stories to define terms. For example, “forever” to us, means a long, long time, but Biblically, a slave could serve his master forever, so forever really means for as long as you live. We know we will live forever (using our modern definition) because the Bible says there will be no more death, not because it says forever. And wrath to us means an intense anger, but the wrath God is talking about, is God giving up on us, finally abandoning us, leaving us to drink the cup, to reap the natural consequences of our choices; and nobody really wants that to happen. When God did that in the past, Jerusalem was sieged, sacked, burned, destroyed, and demolished when He stopped protecting them from those Satan had control of.

What do the three-angels messages mean to you? What do you think are the most important terms and ideas? What do you think the everlasting gospel is, or the judgment, the mark, the image, and the beast? I’d like to know.

Big Bang World View, Part III of IV–Is there any hope?

Is there any hope?

It’s been shown that a person’s world view answers four questions: Why is there something and not nothing? What has happened and is broken in the world? Is there any hope, and if so, what is it? And, where is history headed?

In Part I I’ve shown that science can’t answer the question, why is there something and not nothing? nor should it be expected to. You can’t test it; you can’t put something into a test tube or beaker or even a cyclotron and turn something into nothing or the reverse. Even turning energy into matter, as remarkable as that is, can’t be manipulated into making something from nothing. It’s beyond science.

We discussed, what has happened and is broken in the world? and noted two philosophies dominate. Evolution suggests nothing is broken. Rather, we are happily traveling down the survival-of-the-fittest highway of life, competing with each other for limited resources, and having “fun” doing it. The competition between individuals and countries and races is merely how we improve the gnome. The other theory is Biblical. What went wrong first happened in heaven, not earth. Our broken world is just collateral damage from a war gone wrong in the cosmos, and it was over God’s character. He was accused of lying, lying about sin causing death, of being arbitrary, exacting, unforgiving, and severe by His second-in-command—Lucifer—and one-third of the heavenly beings believed his lies. The only way to settle the conflict was to create a new planet with beings that didn’t know the past. But sadly, earth sided with God’s enemy; we rebelled thinking God couldn’t be trusted to keep his word, that He lied to us; and we ate the fruit. Now we are living and dying from the consequences.

Today’s focus is on hope: Is there any? When I’m asked open-ended questions like that, I want to ask back quickly, “What kind of hope, or hope in what, or hope to do what?” It’s the same when someone says, “Trust me.” I want to ask, “Trust you to do what, to tell the truth, always be there for you and never let you down, or just trust you enough to make a tasty breakfast and nothing more? It varies a lot!

I think the “hope” all people crave is—immortality—both the evolutionary scientist and those of faith. Both have a deep-seated longing for something more than what we see, feel, taste, and are. If science continues its advances in medicine, men and women will live hundreds of years with the benefit of new knees, hips, and hearts. We’ll have new livers, new corneas, new kidneys, and we’ll know how to keep cancer at bay. We will learn to use genetics to overcome hereditary diseases like: physical deformities, ugliness, shortness, weakness, and stupidity. We’ll have bionic eyes and ears and able to jump tall buildings with a single bound, but I’m not sure about our characters. Have you seen the movies 1984 or A Brave New World? In 1984, Big Brother uses technology to enslave mankind; and in A Brave New World, technology is used to genetically create whatever type of worker is needed for the all-powerful Ford Motor Company. Mankind is prone to dominate, and domination in genetic science necessitates the creation of super beings. We are enthralled with them. We have Superman and Wonder Woman, Batman, Neo, Thor, Hulk, Spock, Yoda, Luke Skywalker and a score of super heroes with super powers. They may not have super characters, however, and we become what we most highly prize and admire. What we behold be become, and society loves the rich and powerful. Science’s endgame is immortality, super humans—self-perpetuated eternal life.

Those of faith have hope too in a future immortality, but their path is different. It’s not through science, technology, and evolution; it’s through a man—the God-man—Jesus Christ. It seems ironic that a person today can embrace immortality only through someone who died himself. I remember trying to make sense of it when I was young. I knew there had to be more to the story.

The short story is: we have all rebelled against God (sinned) and must die. But God so loved the world (us) that He sent His Son to die in our place; and those who have come back to Him and ceased their rebellion, will be forgiven. They will live forever—they will be given immortality.

This short statement is true if you make the correct assumptions. But world-wide, the way it’s generally presented puts God the Father in a poor light. Should doing one thing wrong, one time, no matter how trivial it is, be punished with death; why not have a graduated punishment scale instead? And, can one person’s death atone for every wrong ever committed? Would any court accept an innocent person’s punishment in lieu of another person’s crimes? Is that a just swap? Not normally.

The longer version is laid out in several thousand pages of the Bible. We are used to, here a little and there a little, like the paragraph above, but what about the rest? Only after knowing the whole story does it make sense. How does the nation of Israel fit into the narrative, and the sanctuary, the 10-Commandments, Elijah killing 450 or more prophets, and God killing 180,000 Assyrians? Try reading the whole book through yourself and don’t just take other people’s opinions as being true without checking it out yourself. You will be glad you did!

The Bible paints a picture more beautiful and more hopeful than any Walt Disney fairy tale. The hope of all Christians is being resurrected at Jesus’s second coming and living in God’s presence, having eternity to get to know Him and be like Him, living in a place where there are no tears, no death, no sorrow, and only joy; traveling from planet to planet as God’s ambassadors, sharing the good news of His love, mercy, and truthfulness with other creations, having bodies that don’t decay and brake and grow old. The hope of Christians includes all that of evolutionists, but is greater. It’s more than immortality—it adds perfection of character and living with God, angels, and others who love us and can be trusted. Note below a couple of hopeful verses taken from the Bible.

lion-and-the-lambIn the earth made new:

6The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11: 6-9, NIV)

Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. (I Corinthians 2:9, NKJV)

There is Hope!

Philosophy-Part II-What happened that it’s broken?

petri-dishI just read a few journal articles with titles like: “Is humanity a failed experiment?” “Is Humanity Failing?” “Why is humanity failing as a whole?” and “Humanity is a failed experiment”. The thought that something has gone wrong in the universe, and more importantly that something has gone wrong right here, is not just an isolated, random, or outlier thought. Thousands, possibly millions of people think something has gone terribly wrong. But what happened? What has happened that society is so broken? Why do people murder, lie to each other, cheat each other, and steal from each other?

In the naturalistic, big bang/evolutionary scenario, with its prime drivers—random chance and natural selection—humanity is not failing; it’s thriving; it’s doing exactly what it’s expected to do when a population increases to the point where there is an intense competition for resources. It’s true that the prognosis is not what we’d like: a massive die-off at the end, like a bacteria culture that has consumed all the nutrients from the petri dish. The whole batch dies leaving only a few, only the toughest, only the few mutant-like cells that were a little more tolerant, a little more adaptable to the harsh environment than the rest of the herd; and they will live on, repopulating the dish with an improved genome until the cycle repeats.

In a natural selection scenario, competition encourages lying to survive, hording money and groceries and houses and resources to out-compete your neighbors. You can do anything and say anything; you can even kill to survive, and it’s not considered an unnatural or immoral act: it’s just natural selection. So the fights, the wars, and the troubles we see and hear are normal; it’s just the survival of the fittest. The riots, the drug abuse, the immorality, the cruelty and the resulting poverty are only the results of following the natural ways of evolution to select out an even better genome. Through it all, evolution should produce, an even better, stronger, more cunning, and maybe a more ruthless, smarter race.

The Bible on the other hand suggests a more sinister plot to our plight. Our social problems are not the results of natural selection merely, but rather the desperate consequences of a galactic war gone bad, a spiritual war between good and evil, and it’s being played-out right here on planet Earth. God was accused of lying about the results of rebellion in His universe. Satan insisted that God was lying when he said rebellion brought on death; and when the chips were down, Adam and Eve sided with Satan.

What happened that society is so broken? Our planetary representatives rejected God’s personal leadership, and we are reaping the results. Fortunately, God did not wholly abandon us to Satan’s influence—we have been given a choice as to whom we will serve and which principles we will follow. The question is: will we follow our Creator or something less?

Philosophy-Part I-Why is there something and not nothing?

Stars in the night

Big Bang World View, Part I of IV—Why is there something and not nothing?

Philosophy, defined, is “the love of wisdom.” But the definition and real use of the term are no longer really equally yoked. Philosophy, in today’s terms, is more about a person’s world view. There is Eastern philosophy, Western philosophy, Christian philosophy, and Secular philosophy; and there is pre-Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment philosophy. Philosophy today is better defined as the disciplined attempt to articulate and defend a particular worldview. And a worldview is a person’s general conception of the universe.

The worldview prior to Rene Descartes was generally based on a Biblical narrative. Though there were some who didn’t see the Bible as authoritative, most explained the universe in Biblical terms–God created the heavens and the Earth. After Descartes and his emphasis on “reason,” you could use the Biblical narrative or not; it was possible, though not easy, to see the universe without the God of Genesis at the helm. Then in the 1800’s, after Darwin and his theories of survival of the fittest and evolution, the universe and many people’s worldview could exist without God and without the Bible narrative. Today, in most places familiar to Europeans, Africans, and Americans two world views dominate: The Big Bang theory defended by many scientists and some version of Biblical Creation.

A person’s world view should contain the following: Why is there something and not nothing? What has happened and is broken in the world? Is there any hope, and if so, what is it? And, where is history headed? Let’s begin with why is there something and not nothing?

All systems of thought include a belief in something that is self-sufficient, something not dependent on anything else. In Christianity, it’s the Biblical God; In Hinduism, it’s Brahma; in Islam, it’s Allah; in the Greek and Roman cultures, it’s polytheism—a multitude of gods. In the secular realm, there is always something that is divine in the sense that something is not depending on anything else, such as: Plato’s form of the Good, Aristotle’s Prime Mover, Spinoza’s Nature, Kant’s Noumenal, and Hegel’s Absolute. In the epistemological sphere, philosophers typically acknowledge human reason as self-sufficient in the sense that it requires no justification from anything more ultimate than itself. And with science’s Big Bang theory—it’s energy (Fame,2015).

Let’s take a closer look at the Big Bang. Like other world views it has its ultimate, its beginning, its prime mover and absolute; and it’s called—energy. Where this energy comes from is unknown; thus it’s self-sufficient. It’s why there is something and not nothing. At some point in the past, and possibly many times in the distant past, this energy collapses upon itself, converting energy to mass. In an indescribable event it converts energy to mass and mass to energy according to Einstein’s E=MC2 equation. It’s fun to do the math. If the units are calories and pounds, one pound of matter comes from 9.743×1015 calories of energy; and the universe is supposed to have a mass of 3×1028 kilograms. On a side note, the measurable mass of the universe is only about 5% of the theoretical total. Somehow, to make the math balance out, there needs to be 95% more stuff—they call it dark matter and dark energy, and there needs to be 68% dark matter and 27% dark energy, to quote a NASA document. Curious. (Reference).

In our special universe, energy is converted into hundreds of different subatomic particles and these particles can be built from three fundamental particles: quarks, leptons, and bosons. And there is matter and antimatter; thus there are antiquarks, antileptons, and antibozons, too. We have only recently found that these particles even exist, much less what all their properties are or why energy transforms itself into these particles and not something else.

Quarks in the correct combination produce protons and neutrons, and we are told there are strong and weak nuclear forces (bosons) holding these sub-atomic particles from either collapsing in on each other or flying apart. Being positively charged, protons should repel each other, but in the nucleus they don’t; they are held together by mesons, the nuclear glue. Electrons (one of six types of leptons) should spiral in on the nucleus because of their attracting charges, but they don’t.

Two of the four forces in nature are posited but have not been detected—the W particle (the smallest unit for the weak nuclear force), and the graviton (the quantum unit for the force of gravity). These forces are the basis of all things, but all we can do is guess at their existence because we see their effects. In science, evidently, it really is acceptable to guess: to say, according to what we think we see, there must be these particles or these forces or this missing mass, or this missing energy. But evidently it’s not the same to say, I see this entire amazing universe, and it looks like there is order and intelligence behind it all, and thus—there is a god. One is acceptable in our politically correct society, one is not.

We are much more familiar with protons, neutrons, and electrons. There are approximately 92 relatively stable combinations, 92 elements we find in nature. We have created more in the laboratory; however, they are unstable and decay. The study of these amazing elements has engrossed scientists for centuries. They are so systematic, so regular, so predictable that we knew there were elements we hadn’t discovered because we knew what properties they should have. How and why did all the quarks and electrons arrange themselves into these orderly, predictable elements? Is it just chance or trial and error or probabilities?

Elements then, form a multitude of compounds, usually classified as organic and inorganic (carbon based, and non-carbon based). In the right combinations we make everything from steel to fertilizers, and cell phones and computers. We know many of the “laws” of chemical bonding, and it’s horribly complex. Many reactions are temperature dependent, concentration dependent, pressure dependent, or need catalysts to initiate the reaction. How did these physical properties come to be? Was it all just chance or the natural selection of millions of different combinations?

Chemical compounds like CO2, PO4, and H2O can be combined with the help of something living, into organic compounds such as sugar, carbohydrates, and proteins. Though it has never been done in a laboratory, these compounds were supposedly in an adequate supply billions of years ago and in concentrations and in environments that allowed for their spontaneous reaction; they produced molecules that came “alive” and could spontaneously reproduce themselves. This step has never been reproduced in a laboratory—molecules have never “come to life”.

This leap—from inanimate to animate—is truly a miracle. We cannot replicate this in any experiment, not even the simplest forms—viruses and bacteria. We study them; we use them; we can determine their composition and genetic sequences; we can clone them, but we are powerless when it comes to creating them.

Have you ever seen a picture of a DNA helix? It’s majestic. I’m sure you will agree that the DNA molecules are beautifully complex, yet simple. Four proteins in various orders code for every living thing on earth. They are the blue prints to everything from bacteria to Brahma bulls. There are thousands of chemical reactions that happen in a lowly cell and thousands of complicated steps in making organs and thousands more to make organ systems.

These organs produce people with the ability to think and see and taste and imagine. We even dream of exploring the rest of this gigantic universe we find ourselves in, a universe supposedly made from the random, non-thinking, accumulation of trial and error, initiated in an impersonal Big Bang, from self-sufficient energy. And yet, many scientists say confidently, the universe is made of 95% more mass and energy than we can see, test, or detect.

In the Biblical narrative all anyone needs to believe in is, one miracle, one thing that can’t be explained—that there is a God—and is endowed with great power and intelligence, and He created an amazing universe. But with the Big Bang theory, there is unexplained miracle after miracle after miracle called random chance taking place over billions of years that someone has to believe in, and we still don’t really know how it all works.

Which world view is really easier to believe in?

Fame, John, M. A History of Western Philosophy and Theology. P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, New Jersey. 2015.

Dino NM

The images of enormous dinosaurs lumbering in verdant swamps came from where? Not Dinosaur National Monument. The 50-foot thick sediment-bed that entombs one of the largest death assemblages on earth is made up of volcanically derived clay, tuff, and chert not boggy peat or coal. There are almost no plant fossils–not even the most easily preserved representatives–spores and pollen. Where are the cycads, palm trees, and giant insects so representative of the highly portrayed prehistoric swamp?

Dino NM-7s?DNM Femur

At Dinosaur National Monument thousands of bones have already been recovered and can be found in museums all over the world. Note the 20 foot-long Camarasaurus and the 4 foot long Allosaurus femur that can still be seen at the museum.

It is really hard to piece together the past. We didn’t get to see it happen and sediments can be deposited in a number of ways. All we have to go on are the subtle clues left behind in the rock record, and even the easy clues can be misinterpreted. Sometimes the best clues are those not there. At Dinosaur N.M. (DNM) there are fossils of vertebrates and invertebrates, but almost no plants. This is plausible only if you understand this is not a stable environment where animals lived, played, and grew up. It is a catastrophic burial ground.

What we do see is articulated and disarticulated dinosaurs, fresh water clams and snails with modern-day analogs. There are a few logs and wood fragments all jumbled together in a matrix of volcanic clay and sand-size volcanic tuff and chert, a type of volcanic quartz. The montage is organized into channels that flowed west to east and compares favorably with the death assemblage at the Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry located in Emery County, Utah, almost 200 miles to the south. That disaster was also preserved in the Morrison Formation.

Dino NM-5 Morrison drawing

What is the Morrison Formation made of, and how was it formed? The Morrison Formation consists of mudstone, sandstone, conglomerate, volcanic ash and bentonite, limestone and marl. It is famous for its beautiful red and white and green alternating strata, its uranium deposits, and its dinosaur bones. Many believe it is the result of hundreds of rivers, lakes, and splay deposits pouring off an uplifting volcanic range to the west, possibly from as far as the Sierra Nevada Range in California. The Morrison extends from New Mexico to Canada, from Utah to Kansas, spans 60,000 square kilometers, and can be as much as 1,000 feet thick in places. Note in the picture above how many states are associated with the formation. Geologists split the formation into four members for convenience: Windy Hill, Tidwell, Salt Wash, and Brushy Basin Members, but for the average person they are hard to tell apart.

Though there is no consensus, much of the evidence points toward a volcanically driven mudflow or lahar as the cause. At DNM up to 50% of the deposit may have been derived from volcanic ash. Do you remember the mud flows from  the Mt. St. Helens eruption? It may have been similar. The sediment is primarily volcanic, and the bedding is not indicative of normal fluid transport. Can you imagine a 50-foot high wall of surging mud and ash and water and tumbling dinosaurs speeding down a hill-side or stream channel at 30 to 40 miles per hour? How many of you have seen a lahar in action? Though much smaller than those at DNM, note these video examples of a lahar in action:

Television shows and movies like to show dinosaurs lumbering around, enjoying a slow paced, laze fair life-style, with an occasional predatory interlude; however, at least in a few locations such as Dinosaur National Monument, the animals were panicked and running for their lives when they came to their catastrophic end. It really was a monumental disaster.