Beware Sinkholes and Other Foundation-falling Failures
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
31 And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: 32 And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. 33 They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. 34 And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also.Numbers 16:31-34
The embarrassing failures of some Christian schools can be compared to “tiankengs”, a geologic term used for sinkholes that are at least 100 meters (about a football field’s length) in depth.(1),(2)
Sinkholes are often found in limestone-dominated lands, especially cavernous areas like Mexico’s Yucatan.(3) China has its tiankengs, Mexico has its cenotes, and even America has its own sinkhole regions—especially in Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin, Missouri, and regions bordering the Chesapeake Bay, including not far from Foggy Bottom (one of the world’s worst swamps).
Consider the ancient Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. At the top of the Temple of Kukulcan in Chichen Itza, human sacrifices took place, in a bloody practice that exemplified how murderous and demonic pagan religions can become. Nearby, a short walk away, there is a sinkhole located north of the Mayan Temple of Kukulcan, called the “Sacred Cenote” (i.e., “holy sinkhole”), a/k/a “Well of Sacrifice,” wherein Mayan murderers would toss human victims, to die by drowning in the murky water,–and then idolatrous spectators would drink the fouled water.
Thankfully most sinkholes do not hold such hellish histories–although many sinkholes have been surprising sources of sudden destruction to property and animals, and sometimes also even to human lives. In fact, Numbers chapter 16 records how God used a suddenly swallowing sinkhole to destroy Korah and his rebellious allies–when they arrogantly rebelled against God and defied God’s anointed representative, Moses. (This judgment is so important that it is alluded to in Jude 1:11.)
23 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 24 Speak unto the congregation, saying, Get you up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. 25 And Moses rose up and went unto Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of their’s, lest ye be consumed in all their sins. 27 So they gat up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children. 28 And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the Lord hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind. 29 If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then the Lord hath not sent me. 30 But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord. 31 And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: 32 And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. 33 They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. 34 And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also.Numbers 16:23-34
But what is a sinkhole, anyway, geologically speaking?
A sinkhole is an area of ground that has no natural external surface drainage—when it rains, all of the water stays inside the sinkhole and typically drains into the subsurface. … Typically sinkholes form so slowly that little change is seen in one’s lifetime, but they can form suddenly when a collapse occurs. … Sinkholes form in what geologists call “karst terrain” … a region where the bedrock[usually limestone, dolomite, or gypsum] can be dissolved by groundwater… Collapses are more frequent after intense rainstorms … Areas where the water table fluctuates or has lowered suddenly are more prone to collapse formations.(3)
Recently one of ICR’s scientists met with leaders of a well-known “Christian education” institution. In previous generations this particular school was famous for faithfully training men and women in God’s truth, equipping them to serve God responsibly all over the world.(2) Although that school’s student numbers have grown impressively, over recent decades, the quality of the Christian education itself has diminished just as noticeably.
Sadly, that school is now compromised theologically, socially, and academically. It flies a flag of Christian education, yet its programs now delivers mostly worldly “wisdom” (see 1 Corinthians 3:19-20).
Why? For starters, this school discarded Scripture as authoritative and relevant long ago; its educational courses focus on the academic equivalent of what C. S. Lewis called “being like [secular] folks”.(4)
Also, institutional scandals—unbefitting any Christian school—have become so common that they no longer are treated as “news”. But how did this happen? What caused this downward trend of change?
In other words, how did the once-“standing-tall-for-Christ” school drop down deeply into a sinkhole?
The underlying foundation rotted away gradually, usually with nobody noticing.(2) The school’s Bible foundation was slowly dissolved, being washed away by contra-biblical compromises here and there, often failing to affirm and adhere to the authority and relevance of Genesis (John 5:44-47).
But Christian schools need to teach God’s truth, always informed by Scripture. The Bible must be the bedrock foundation for all informational instruction.(2)
But what if that Scriptural foundation disappears, unseen by those who only view surface activities? If accumulating subsurface dissolution isn’t remedied in time, whatever is visible will soon cave in, with its weight falling in upon rotted-out foundation, leaving a sinkhole of hazardous wreckage.
(1)Associated Press staff writer, “Rare species of plants and animals discovered in sinkholes in China”, TVNZ World News (Auckland, New Zealand), posted May 7, 2018. https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/world/rare-species-plants-and-animals-discovered-in-sinkholes-china .
(2)Matthew 7:24-27; Psalm 11:3. Christian education institutions (such as seminaries, colleges, and Christian education programs provided by churches), as they teach God’s truth, can benefit from Biblical apologetics, which involves verifying that God’s truth is true, i.e., how we can know what is God’s truth (and why it is reliable as truth). Some readers may try to guess which once-integrity-filled schools are described here. Actually, this article was written to describe the common/composite experience of 5 such schools, one of which is a famous seminary that has “caved in” to the theological corruptions and social scapegoating of ‘Critical Race Theory’. Sadly, this article describes many more such “Christian” institutions (than just the 5 that I had in mind while writing this).
(3)Quoting James E. Kaufmann, Sinkholes (Rolla, MO: U.S. Geological Survey, 2007), pages 1-2. Numbers chapter 16 reports how God once used a sinkhole to swallow up Korah and his rebel allies. Notice also, of special importance (especially to Christians whose belief in Christ as Savior was scoffed at by P1 and P2 ancestors), that Korah’s sons refused to join in their father’s spiritual rebellion against God (Numbers 26:11)–and consequently they were assigned special responsibility in God’s service (see the title captions [which are part of the original Hebrew text, saying, e.g., “for the sons of Korah”] of Psalms 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 84, 85, 87, 88). This author first observed a cenote at Chichen Itza (in the Turquoise-browed Motmot habitat), in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, during A.D.1998, as part of an excursion while serving an onboard historian-naturalist lecturer for the cruise ship Norwegian Star. For more on sinkhole geology, see Emil Silvestru, The Cave Book (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2008), pages 75-76.
(4)Lewis, C. S. 1977. The Screwtape Letters — Screwtape Proposes a Toast. New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing, pages 76-79.