Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

“Figured Stones”

Written by: on February 24, 2023

The Map That Changed the World by Simon Winchester offers an engaging perspective into one man’s incredible journey towards creating something truly revolutionary, driven solely by passion and dedication. Similarly, Marshall’s book, Prisoners of Geography, provides a comprehensive overview of each region’s geopolitical dynamics, as well as its cultural influences from ancient times to the present day.[1] In doing so, it makes clear why certain countries are at odds with one another or form alliances; why some nations are more powerful than others; or even why some states exist in their current forms while others do not exist at all. Both books are extremely interesting and offer readers an informative look through the lens of geographical and international history.

The legacy left behind by William Smith is seen not only in how it changed our knowledge of geography, but also serves as a testament to human curiosity, creativity, and ingenuity. Smith dedicated himself tirelessly to perfecting this project despite numerous obstacles and a lack of formal education. It was through sheer determination that he eventually succeeded in completing such an ambitious undertaking, something we can all learn from no matter how daunting it may seem. This revolutionary work often referred to as “the Winchester Atlas,” was created through years of meticulous geological survey work and marked a major milestone in cartography.

A particular detail in the Winchester reading that caught my attention was the system of belief surrounding the “figured stones.” In the seventeenth century, people believed they were naturally occurring and randomly took on a unique shape of a creature or something familiar. “Aristocrats and members of the leisured classes especially, amassed enormous collections of them.”[2] There were numerous theories surrounding their origin, however, at the same time, it was not prudent to question mainstream beliefs and would be viewed as “apostasy or heresy” to suggest otherwise. The rocks were either a coincidence, intentionally placed by God “lapides sui generis,” or the fossils were inserted by God using a plastic force called “vis plastica” for the sole purpose of reminding the entire human race that God did indeed move in mysterious ways.”[3]

Other theories surfaced such as “gravitational influence from stars, remains from the flood of Noah, and supernatural placement.”[4] To me, it seems extremely farfetched and ridiculous to not question some of these theories. If we are true to our faith, we have nothing to worry about. Unpacking science does not minimize God, it glorifies him. He created it all, so why are some Christians hesitant when it comes to science and God? The National Academics organization says, “Creationists inevitably look for God in what science has not yet explained or in what they claim science cannot explain. Most scientists who are religious look for God in what science does understand and has explained.”[5] I realize this scientific era in Smith’s time was in its infancy, but are we still living in a world where we follow the “leader” without question and stay silent even when it seems implausible?

I hate to be a bullhorn but when masses of people are doing anything in large numbers, I think the safe play is to stop and analyze the situation with spiritual discernment. Many individuals openly participate in activities simply because someone says to, the majority is participating, or there is pressure to proceed. As two of my children approach their teen years, I can’t stress to them enough to stand up to peer pressure. I apologize in advance if this offends anyone but one recent example of societal pressure or opinion is that there are countless studies of the ineffectiveness of most masks, yet mandates are still in place all over the globe.[6]  I believe there was, and is, HARKing in the cherry-picked pandemic and/or political statistics we’ve seen in recent years; and many of these stats play a role in mandates that still exist today.[7] Vaccines alone normally take 10-15 years to produce yet people were forced, pressured, and voluntarily took something without all the information, sufficient testing, and adverse monitoring over time.[8]

It is concerning when making this connection to Christianity. We often witness misconceptions of the Bible or stay silent in situations that may cause stress or discomfort. We claim to be fully devoted but when it comes to questioning the pressures of society, will we stand up? Are we forced to believe that the stone that looks exactly like a creature captured in mud over time is a coincidence instead of a fossil? What if it costs us our lives? I am sure most of us would say or like to believe that facing martyrism we would proudly stand in the name of Jesus and accept our fate, however, I don’t think it’s that easy or based on just a yes or no to deny Christ. I think the devil is craftier than that and we deny him over time with our skewed views of what is acceptable. The enemy plays on our emotions, our families, and our insecurities, and builds entire scenarios of complex pressures.

I’m definitely not placing our Christianity or salvation on a vax or mask preference or any other societal trend, my point is the world is the devil’s domain and I would highly question anything that politicians, governments, pharma companies, masses of people “we have to do.” We must discern and take every big decision we make to God first.

[1] Marshall, Prisoners of Geography

[2] Winchester, The Map that Changed the World, 46

[3] Ibid, 47

[4] Ibid, 47

[5] “The Intersection of Science and Religion.” Nationalacademies.org, 2020, www.nationalacademies.org/evolution/science-and-religion.

[6] Dr. Gritt. “Do Masks Work? See the Review of over 150 Studies Below”: CNS, 25 Dec. 2021, LINK

[7] Chivers, Tom, and David Chivers. 2022. How to Read Numbers. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 3

[8] History of Vaccines. “Vaccine Development, Testing, and Regulation.” Cpp-Hov.netlify.app, 7 May 2022, LINK.


About the Author

Michael O'Neill

Director of Operations / Executive Pastor at Kinergy, Inc. Federal 501c3 Non-Profit Organization. An experienced entrepreneur, leader, father, wellness professional, and owner of a multi-location medical practice with my wife, Nicole O'Neill, MD.

13 responses to ““Figured Stones””

  1. mm Daron George says:


    Great post! Man when you said this “Unpacking science does not minimize God, it glorifies him.” It smacked me right in the face. I screamed at my screen, yes!!!!

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      Thanks, Daron. I’ve never understood the controversy. God is the ultimate creator and how he does it is what we call science. They are one in the same to me, not competitive.

  2. mm Chad McSwain says:

    Great post. You demonstrated your point by arguing something that is quite controversial, yet you did not shy away from expressing your thoughts and with footnotes. It does make me wonder about paradigm shifts on a cultural scale. In regards to understanding the “figured stones”, the paradigm was six-day creation and the process of how God put the world into place. These “stones” did not fit that paradigm therefore required explanations that would allow them to fit in the paradigm – until the paradigm was a allowed to shift. Of course, many still hold to the six-day model of creation and provide similar explanations as to how fossils came to be lodged in the soil.
    It makes me wonder what paradigms that I hold and that we hold culturally and religiously? How they shape my understanding of how God works in the world and in other people? I may miss or miss understand information because it doesn’t fit the paradigm I currently hold.
    For example, could it be possible to produce a vaccine in a shorter amount of time during a pandemic threat? While it certainly would not have decades of research and trials, it could still be shown effective enough to help at-risk populations. Of course the long term effects have yet to be determined and our sci-fi movies gives us lots of worst-case senecios for our imagination. While I don’t have any political or ideological motivations with this example, I wonder what paradigms it might reveal. (I, on the other hand, am more suspicious of a vaccine being offered to calm an anxious populous and restart the economy – that’s my bias).
    I think of these paradigm shifts when I deliver a sermon. I often wonder what faulty beliefs about God people carry. For example, that God wants to punish them for the sins in their life. That is more like karma than grace, it people carry guilt and shame that is less about God and more about religious upbringing.

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      Your feedback is amazing. I liked your comment better than my post. Thank you. I think we are on the same page with a lot of it. I was tossing it out there to stir the pot a little but at the same time, the perspectives people have can enslave a conscious and lead to misunderstandings. Bias definitely plays a role and I am admittedly slightly biased toward unnecessary facial panties. You make a great point though. We believe what we either want to believe or are programmed to believe and this is why I think discernment is so important. Especially with big decisions. Not just like a short prayer, what should I do, God? Like, take this issue to counsel type of prayer. Open heart. Open mind. Submit to His authority. Thanks for your point of view on this. I really appreciate it.

  3. mm David Beavis says:

    Hey Michael,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this post. I definitely has me thinking about the implicit ideas we accept because our surroundings tell us to accept them.

    However, here is my push back and something I would love your thoughts on. You write “my point is the world is the devil’s domain and I would highly question anything that politicians, governments, pharma companies, masses of people ‘we have to do.’ We must discern and take every big decision we make to God first.”

    Taking this line to its logical extreme could lead to someone becoming paranoid and hyper-vigilant (to an unhealthy level) of everything around them. In Malcomb Gladwell’s book “Talking to Strangers” he writes about Harry Markopolos who was one of the few people who caught on to Bernie Madoff’s schemes. Markopolos, as described by Gladwell, is the kind of person who doesn’t trust anyone or anything. He reads over detailed portfolio statements and wipes down his keyboard with disinfectant. I admire his vigilance, but I would not want to live like him. And Gladwell even makes the point that none of us can live without some level of trust in the systems we inhabit.

    All this to say, my push back is this: how can anyone live like this without being overcome with paranoia? In regards to the example of the vaccine, I could spend one hour researching sources and decide it is not a good idea to take it. I could also spend two hours research other sources and decide it is fine to take, only to then spend three hours researching other sources and come to the conclusion that it is not safe to take. I don’t have that kind of time. Is it overly trusting of the system on my part? Maybe.

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      I agree with you wholeheartedly, David. I should have been more clear, I was kind of in the mood to stir the pot a little I guess… I wasn’t suggesting a paranoid lifestyle of distrust, it was more about the masses. If large institutions are all pushing something that makes an incredible amount of profit and it’s forced down my throat to the point that I can’t look outside, turn on the radio, or go to a store, or go online without the message in my face. That is when I say it’s time to stop and really make sure who is benefiting more? Me or the agenda.

      Side note, you mentioned Atomic Habits by James Clear in a post or during a call. I took note and listened to the audiobook this weekend while working on a home project. Man!! I love that book. Thank you for sharing it.

  4. Tonette Kellett says:


    I always appreciate your thoughts on these books. I liked when you wrote “If we are true to our faith, we have nothing to worry about. Unpacking science does not minimize God, it glorifies him. He created it all, so why are some Christians hesitant when it comes to science and God?” I don’t know why some Christians are hesitant about science. Maybe lack of information? Or perhaps they worry that it will be a breach of their faith to mix the two? I honestly don’t know. Thank you for your post!

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      Thanks, Tonette. I agree. I don’t understand why it’s such a controversy in some circles. God made it all. How he did it, and how he still does it, is his what makes him God Almighty! I’ve always thought science is just a study of how God does things instead of trying to disprove God. I think it requires a lot more faith to believe something came from nothing versus the other side which I believe, is that God created it all and it was intentional.

  5. mm Becca Hald says:

    Hey Michael, okay, I admit, I got a little bit riled up reading your post. My best friend is a nurse and was on the front lines during the pandemic as the Covid Coordinator at the hospital where she works in a major city. I have another dear friend who teaches EMTs. They are my go to people for medical related questions. To be honest, I get very frustrated with people who are anti-vaxx or refuse to wear masks. During the pandemic, I made and gave away over 2000 masks, starting with sending them to my nurse friend for her and her coworkers. I have talked to my friends about the vaccine and how it was made so quickly and based on what I learned from them, I trust the science. Maybe I am naive. Still, I remember having a conversation with my husband when my son was born about vaccines. At the time, the argument that vaccines cause autism had just come out. It had not yet been debunked. We decided that I would rather my son get autism than die of a preventable disease. Even if I later learned that vaccines do cause autism, I would say the same. My son has autism. So does my daughter.

    You wrote, “If we are true to our faith, we have nothing to worry about. Unpacking science does not minimize God, it glorifies him.” So trusting in the science that created the vaccines is not minimizing God either. In terms of mask wearing, I would ask, what is the loving thing to do? Will it harm you to wear a mask even if it is ineffective? During the pandemic, my pastor said, “I wear a mask, not because the government has mandated it, but because my neighbor has asked me to.”

    I am working on my heart when it comes to my frustrations with people over masks and vaccines. God calls us to love people. Period. Not to love them if they adhere to my beliefs or love them if they do what I think they should do. Just to love them. Clearly I still have a ways to go with this. Thank you for being willing to tackle a hot topic and thank you for challenging me.

  6. Michael O'Neill says:

    Thanks for your post, Becca. Before I reply, I want you to know that I love you and support you. Everyone has unique family dynamics and their own best interests. Everyone should act on what they believe is the best protocol to follow. Medical treatment of any kind is between you (family) and your physician and is totally your call, and right. Also, nothing in this post could ever change our relationship; we share the one thing that matters most which is our belief in Jesus Christ. He controls it all and our hope and faith is in Him. Not governments, scientists, media, or anything of this world. My argument, respectfully, is that governments, pharma, media, and many entities that pushed this pandemic are certainly of this world and subject to the devil’s influence.

    To respect each other in this space I have decided to pray on my response first. Secondly, I’d like to provide a few examples that I consider facts that will help you further understand my view. Side note, I’m not an activist in any way and appreciate the open convo about it. I have enjoyed this research and I don’t think either of us could ever guarantee a definitive “right” or “wrong,” perfect pandemic response; so I think any view is really open and worthy of an opinion. I personally believe this thing is so multi-layered that it will take decades to unravel. Third, I’d like to defend my view while still being open-minded to yours and any trustworthy, non-HARKing source.

    1. Pandemic Timeline. 2020-present. Source: CDC.gov

    a. December of 2019. The first symptoms in “A cluster of patients in China” experience “pneumonia-like illness that does not respond well to standard treatments.”
    b. January 2, 2020. “WHO activates its Incident Management Support Team (IMST) across all three organizational levels: Country Office, Regional Office, and Headquarters.”
    c. March 11, 2020. “After more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries and 4,291 deaths, the WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic.”
    d. April 30, 2020. “The Trump Administration launches Operation Warp Speed, an initiative to produce a vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus as quickly as possible. The operation funds the development of six promising vaccine candidates while they are still in the clinical trial phase, including the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines.”
    i. Additional insight on Operation Warp Speed, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(21)00140-6/fulltext
    e. December 24, 2020. “More than 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S. in just 10 days.”

    My Points for Consideration

    Speed of Events

    • I believe the name Operation Warp Speed is understated. From the time the WHO and CDC declare a pandemic on March 11, 2020 – to the vaccine rollout in December of 2020, is an incredibly short amount of time.

    Pandemic Profits

    • Much of the financial gain, record profits, and overall economic impact of the pandemic are public and vast.
    o usaspending.gov outlines the US Federal Response to COVID-19, and detailed information can also be found in the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Publication, estimating the range of the pandemic financial implications between 16 and 22 trillion dollars.
    o The revenue for countless entities has been an economic phenomenon. To single out one slice of the multi-trillion dollar pie, the pharma companies associated with the vaccine have produced record profits year over year since the beginning of the official pandemic launch.
     My Personal Perspective from sound research and experience as a pharmaceutical salesman, extensive hospital relationships, and managing and owning private practice: The societal and medical requirements and protocol correlate with the pursuit of money. I’ve been in medicine since 2012 and the entire industry has been transformed. I believe there are immeasurable links on the chain of events that feed on the 20-trillion dollars up for grabs.

    Vaccine Norms | “Science”

    • “In the United States, the federal government provided vaccine manufacturers with funding to accelerate their research into vaccine candidates that could be delivered quickly and used as effective countermeasures against the pandemic.”
    • “Vaccine development is a long, complex process, often lasting 10-15 years, and involves a combination of public and private involvement.” |

    • Personal reflection in regard to your use of the word “science:” Vaccination Science or Immunization is a scientific study, grounded in evidence-based outcomes over time, with safe and reliable outcomes, leading to anti-body development and immunity. The CDC confirms this and actively states “If your body develops an immune response to vaccination, which is the goal, you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus.”
    o Even if we omitted the undisputed science of antibodies and immunity so we run parallel with the theme of the pandemic – and if we also left the many altered definitions of global regulations and protocol since 2020 off the table – the “science” has still not been fulfilled from a timeline and safe data perspective. From the declaration of the pandemic to the vaccine was nine months. The act of closing enormously rushed financial deals, granting emergency FDA approval, and giving pharma companies and others an opportunity to jump in with special emergency authority, contradicts the very definition of science.


    I am saddened by corruption and censorship in any way in regard to medical health and societal longevity. Especially if there is any truth to the idea of “weaponization” of medical protocol. With “facts” from all sides and from every angle, I can only rely on God. I truly believe when we rush any big decision in life and do not seek counsel in the Spirit, we are subject to the outcomes of the warfare of this world. I have been guilty of this on too many occasions. Our global response has been without a doubt accelerated and unfortunately, without proper time, science and protocol, the risk for adverse vaccine and other protocol effects is increased. This is a fact we all have to consider when making these extremely personal and confidential (HIPAA-compliant) decisions. Evidence and efficacy is the key. The lead medical science experts from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Stanford testified to this last Thursday before congress outlining the contradictions of sound medicine and the government’s response to the pandemic. Also, my wife is a board-certified physician and expert in immunology. She is not outspoken on the subject by any means, but happy to answer questions for me or any of her patients with the same sound medical advice she would have given ten years prior to the pandemic. Bottom line, I think each individual and family has the right to do their own research and make decisions that suit their lifestyle and best interests.

    Thank you, Becca. I hope I didn’t offend you in any way. These discussion forums are perfect for a respectful discussion on anything. Thank you, again.

    The Lancet Global Health, Operation Warp Speed: Implications for global vaccine security, Published: March 26, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(21)00140-6
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). https://www.cdc.gov/museum/timeline/covid19.html
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Health Security, https://www.centerforhealthsecurity.org/our-work/publications/weighing-the-cost-of-the-pandemic
    Reuters, 2022 Pharmaceutical Revenues (top 13), https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/drug-companies-face-covid-cliff-2023-sales-set-plummet-2023-02-06/
    History of Vaccines, https://historyofvaccines.org/vaccines-101/how-are-vaccines-made/vaccine-development-testing-and-regulation
    CDC.gov, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/facts.html
    Medical science experts from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Stanford testifying before Congress: March, 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9_NuV_t2V8

    • mm Becca Hald says:

      Michael, thank you for such a thoughtful and thorough response. I am not offended. I appreciate you taking the time and effort and I appreciate you praying before responding. As you said, “nothing in this post could ever change our relationship; we share the one thing that matters most which is our belief in Jesus Christ. He controls it all and our hope and faith is in Him. Not governments, scientists, media, or anything of this world.” I agree with you. I love you, my brother. One of my favorite quotes is, “In essentials unity, in non essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

  7. Alana Hayes says:

    Michael… amazing post man!
    Especially after reading the comments I came to the following question for your blog…

    In what ways do we allow our faith to be tested when we become subject to the complex pressures of the world?

    For me personally, it was around the start of Covid that I ever received any real pressure. I have always done what I wanted – when I wanted and never worried about the consequence because I knew whatever it was I was doing what was right for me or my family at the time.

    However, when authority figures come in and change an existing set of rules it’s hard to accept. I think there will be aftershocks from all of this for years to come. Some we may not even see in our lifetime.

    Again, Great job!

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      Thanks for the encouragement, Alana. This post was a tad controversial and ruffled some feathers but I hopefully did it with love. I wasn’t trying to argue anyone’s personal decisions. The bottom line, I just don’t trust a lot of big companies or governments. Especially when they are going to such great lengths to push an agenda. It just doesn’t sit well in my soul and I can sense the devil’s involvement. I agree with you that we may never know all the details of this recent pandemic. We need to have our faith grounded in our savior, Jesus. We’ll never be satisfied chasing anything else.

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