mountainsThere are many things that young people encounter at school and at church that can cause doubts to arise. It is difficult to travel anywhere and not see layers of rocks which have different colors, textures, and structure. Church leaders may blow off these layers as “God’s creation” without any consideration of why there should be different rocks in separate layers at all. “God just did it that way” may satisfy some minds, but most young people will want to go further. Why do some rocks have holes in them and some have fossils in them? Why are there beautiful crystals in some rocks and why do others have bands of different minerals? When young people get evasive answers in Bible class, or no answers at all from church leaders there is a tendency to wonder why. One recent e-mail from a young lady said it well, “It just seems like they are afraid of the message that the rocks contain and want to avoid discussing why these things exist.”

My first reaction to this issue is to say to young people that the Bible does not take that position. The psalmist in Psalm 19:1 not only says that “The heavens declare the glory of God” but also says that “the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” We can look throughout the natural world that surrounds us on earth and see God’s wisdom and design. In Proverbs 8:23 – 27 we are told that wisdom was involved in the formation of the mountains, the hills, the fields, and the dust of the world. In Romans 1:19, 20 we read “that which may be known of God … from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, … so that [men] are without excuse.” All of us need to understand that God has created the earth with intelligence and purpose, and rocks are a part of God’s creation. When we learn to read the rock record we will learn just as we learn when we read His word.


Many people do not understand that almost everything we have which sustains our modern way of life comes from rocks — but not just any rocks. Coal is produced from a very different kind of rock than the rock that produces copper, gold, and silver. Gypsum, rock salt, and limestone are very different from rocks which produce coal or oil. These are still different from rocks which produce iron, aluminum, and precious metals.
Even resources that are not produced within a rock itself are frequently contained and stored for man’s use in rock containers. A classic example is oil. Oil is produced by a microorganism called a diatom, which forms a drop of oil in its body during its life. When the microorganism dies it settles to the floor of the ocean and is buried. As sediment piles upon it, the pressure squeezes the oil out of the skeleton leaving diatomaceous earth. If the oil is in a porous rock material like sand it will move into and through the porous material. Some rock layers are not permeable and will not allow the oil to migrate through them. Materials like shale (which is lithified mud), will stop the oil and the oil will pool where it hits the impermeable material. If the oil is deep within the earth the oil will be heated by the heat generated from the earth’s core and may be under considerable pressure. This oversimplified and idealized picture is typical of a large number of important minerals including natural gas, sulfur, and even water. Geologists locate mineral resources and mine them by knowing the design of the deposit, and understanding how it was produced.

The recent disaster in the Gulf of Mexico should raise some issues for those who are interested in God’s methods. How did scientists for British Petroleum know there was oil that far out in the ocean and at that depth? We have learned how God has produced and contained these resources in a natural way. If God “zapped” these resources on the earth in some way, we would never be able to find them. Whether we have tried to tap some resources like the ones in the Gulf prematurely is certainly an issue that needs to be addressed, but the fact that God has provided such resources in natural ways is important for us to understand. It is a demonstration of God’s wisdom and planning in providing resources in a way that we can find and use them.


If the Bible tells us that a certain event was a miracle, we do not try to explain it naturally — although atheists will certainly do that. A miracle by definition cannot have a natural explanation. What is interesting about the Bible is that there are very few miracles in proportion to the size of the book and the number of years that it covers. We tend to focus on things like the resurrection and the virgin birth which clearly are miracles and are presented as such, but many biblical events are not presented as miracles and are understandable from scientific information.

canyon wallsHow could a small, young man sling a rock that could kill a full grown warrior in full armor? I used to do a demonstration with my physics classes using a centrifugal force sling to show them how a small rock can have tremendous force, certainly enough with the right composition and shape, to do what the Bible describes in the account of David and Goliath.

As agriculture has advanced and our knowledge of genetics has grown, we have learned how to bring about chosen characteristics in livestock. What Jacob did with Laban’s flocks in Genesis 30:31– 42 is practiced by modern animal husbandry. The use of sexual stimulants and the segregation of chosen genetic criteria are not alien to our modern scientific understandings. The description in Genesis is not specific, but natural techniques are involved, not a miraculous zapping of chosen physical characteristics.

Those who deny that such understandings can be used to comprehend the Bible message frequently are confused by their own assumptions. Some assume that somehow the rods/branches in this last example were the cause of the markings on the cattle. The Bible tells us the rods were made so the white appeared and they were set near the watering areas to stimulate conception, not that they caused the markings. You can debate what stimulation was going on, but it was a natural process, not a miraculous one.

Even the Flood of Noah has a description that involves natural processes. The two sources of water given are “the fountains of the deep” and the “windows of the heaven” (Genesis 7:11). Not only are these two sources given, but the duration of rain is given. Critics of the Bible have made assumptions about the condition of the earth at that time, when this happened, and what the condition of the waters were. Were the mountains the same height as they are today? Were the waters level (almost certainly not)? What effect, if any, did this have on the planet and its land masses as a whole? A myriad of other questions are unknown and yet would have a profound effect on what took place naturally on the earth during this event. The rocks tell us what could have been Flood-caused and therefore part of this event. They also tell us what would not have been caused by the Flood. Attempts to explain the formation of the Grand Canyon by the Flood and comparing it to what happened at Mount Saint Helens are easily dispelled by any high school student who has had a course in earth science. The rock record helps us know what is true and what is not true in human theories and explanations.


The Bible writers used an economy of language in what they wrote. Their focus and their purpose was not to reveal science or history. They were to show man’s relationship to God, how man breached that relationship, and how God has provided a way for man to be restored to that relationship. When we try to use the Bible for some other purpose than that, we are going to run into problems. The main problem with the history of the earth as recorded in the Bible is its brevity. The simple statement “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” is undated and untimed and covers the whole history and substance of cosmology. No methodology is given and massive amounts of the details are omitted.

zionIn spite of all of this brevity and economy of language, what is stated is accurate. The sequence of the creation process given in the Bible is exactly what we see recorded in the rock record. That sequence is repeated even today when fire or other catastrophic causes may reduce the surface of the earth to a lifeless condition. Notice, for example, that a number of changes are indicated in the earth itself before any kind of life is discussed. To have any kind of life there must be the right atmospheric conditions and soil with all of the nutrients necessary for life has to be present. You cannot have just water, but you must have land for life to exist. Marine life with all of its cycles and sequences has to be the basis of life on the land. To have birds you must have a food chain upon which birds can feed, and higher forms of mammalian life has to come later. Within the plants it is necessary to have simple plants to provide a base for higher forms of plant life. Angiosperms, the plants that we depend upon for food, can only exist when there is a base for the plants to draw upon. All of this has to be in place before man can survive on the planet. This is a carefully arranged sequence. Today we call it “succession” and it is exactly what we see in the biblical record. It was used by God to prepare the earth for man. It was used in God’s preparation for man and his animals which the creation week describes, and it is still used by God and man today to take sterile places and make them suitable for human life. Theologians and skeptics can attempt to reduce the Genesis account to a magical display of God’s power. While it is incomplete, it shows God’s wisdom and design in the creation in a very accurate description of the sequence of creation without concerning itself with the specific methods or timing.

rock wallsThe rocks also have much to tell us about man’s history on this planet. The only thing left of the distant past of human habitation on earth are the rocks and stones that ancient people used to shelter themselves from the elements and to worship, as wells as trinkets, weapons, and tools to sustain themselves in a difficult world. The whole field of archaeology is based to a great extent on being able to read what rocks have to say. The role of salt from the mineral halite is clear in the Bible and in archaeological digs throughout the world. Copper has been an important metal in man’s history dating back to ancient times. In some religions sacred rocks have turned out to be meteorites — rocks from outer space. Sulfur burns forming brimstone, another important subject in the history of man’s past and an important part of warfare in the distant past. Volcanic eruptions have sometimes buried man’s cities and frozen a page in history. Pompeii is perhaps the most famous, but many places in the world have had similar events.

Knowing something about rocks and the message they have for us is important to students of history, religion, and the Bible. The stones cry out in many ways to people of all ages and backgrounds, and it is important for us to listen.

To watch a video of John Clayton teaching “A Short Course in Petrology” go to www.doesgodexist.tv/petrology.html
--John N. Clayton
Photos in this article: © Roland Earnst

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, NovDec11.