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

Geology, Geography, In an Ever-Changing World

Written by: on February 24, 2022

Some people may say we experience peace and harmony in the world, or at least until recently. Although, I personally did not experience the Second World War, I have passionately engaged with the history of that time period. The books, the people, the places and the events have impact on my world view. In my many travels throughout Europe, before GPS, I used various maps. Most of those maps are obsolete today. I love to observe the changes in landscape as I travel. One of my favorite road trips is from my town in Southern Poland to Bratislava, Vienna, or on to Switzerland. Most of the highway is a deep valley with high out cropping on both sides. Speckled along those high points are castles, monasteries, and ruins. While I have often thought about the people who once occupied these places, I have never considered the influence of what lay below the surface, or the fourth dimension. [1] It is hard to imagine how one map can impact the world for decades, yet the events of the last twenty-four hours have that potential.

It is difficult for me to not be distracted by the map of Central Europe, as so many of the people I care so deeply about are scrambling to make sure their basic needs are met, as they work to help those women and children who are seeking refuge in Poland, while their men are left behind. I cannot help but look at Simon Winchester’s The Map that Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology, [2] in the light of the map that is being altered yet again at this moment.

Simon Winchester is a journalist and author of more than twelve nonfiction books. While The Map that Changed the World, [3] reads more like historical fiction it covers the genre of History, Biography, Geography, and Geology. This enjoyable read explores the developmental history of the Industrial Age, while weaving in the difficult yet unexceptional life [4] of William Smith, his observation of strata and the impact that discovery had on how humanity sees the world.

William Smith’s passion, persistence, and love for the elements of the earth is inspiring. His childlike inquisitive nature, joy of discovery, together with his detailed observation skills and systematic meticulous note taking provided [5] the substance for the map that changed the way humanity looks at the earth. Smith discovered that the earth’s surface layers actually have meaning and purpose. His observations of the fossils within those layers revealed that older layers were on the bottom and the newer layers toward the top of any given piece of land. This information became the “cornerstone of all geography.” [6]

These discoveries called into question the dominate thinking of the time, which permeated from the church which determined that the earth came into being exactly as described in Genesis, “9 A.M., Monday, October 23, 4004 B.C.” [7] I can imagine that this created a landslide of questions about God, the teachings of the church. How did the changed perceptions of the age of the earth impact people’s understanding of God’s sovereignty? At this same time James Hutton, also understood that the earth is in a constant state of change. [8] If this is true, I wonder how much the earth has actually changed since the beginning of creation and what is the proportion of that change in relationship to the time period of global warming? The Creation story tells us that humanity has a responsibility to steward the earth (Genesis 2:15) [9] but if it is always changing is it possible to stop global warming? If humanity remained in a closer partnership with the Creator, would we be better able to manage our ever-changing resources with integrity?

The idea that this one map changed the world is a bold statement, however it did impact thinking in regard to Creation and the church. It impacted and streamlined industry by making the excavation of resources more predictable. I have heard it said that natural resources are one of the main reasons for war. I do not know much about how all these things connect but where the resources are and who has control of those resources do play a role.

[1] J. M. Bridgeman, “The Beguiling Magic and Mystery,” January Magazine, October 2001, http://www.januarymagazine.com/nonfiction/mapthatchanged.html.
[2] Simon Winchester and Soun Vannithone, The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology, 2016.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Bridgeman, “The Beguiling Magic and Mystery.”
[5] “The Map That Changed the World,” Kirkus Reviews Issue, May 20, 2010, https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/simon-winchester/the-map-that-changed-the-world/.
[6] Chris Lavers, “Charting the Underworld,” The Guardian, July 6, 2001.
[7] Winchester and Vannithone, The Map That Changed the World, 13.
[8] Ibid., 69.
[9] Richard Sasanow, The NIV Study Bible/10th Anniversary Edition (Place of publication not identified: Zondervan, 1995), 9.

About the Author


Denise Johnson

Special Education teacher K-12, School Counselor K-12, Overseas field worker in Poland,

6 responses to “Geology, Geography, In an Ever-Changing World”

  1. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Denise, I like the questions you ask regarding the implications of changing maps, especially as they relate to the church and people’s faith. I believe the borders of Poland have changed many times through the centuries. In your time there, has that reality factored into church and faith in any way? More specifically, has changing borders influenced the church toward political interests? If I remember this correctly, back when Lech Walesa led workers in Poland back in the 1980’s, the church participated in that movement in various ways. If that’s correct, is any church engagement happening now toward the government in light of the issues with Russia?

  2. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Denise: The clarity you have in the midst of the chaos that so closely impacts those you’re in relationship with is inspiring. I’m intrigue by your questions as Roy also points out, but more so, feel the burden and heaviness of the reality that so many are enduring right now, especially those within your relational circle. Prayers for you as you continue to connect, offer hope & encouragement in the Lord from afar, and sit in the hard with others during this season.

  3. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Denise: Nice connection with this book and your insights about your travels in Europe. As we write these blogs the map in eastern Europe is being re-written. How the churches will play a role in this war will hopefully be a strong witness of how God’s people act and how debased humanity acts. Maybe the church will be a great example of how to navigate these wars and turn it into something redeemable.

  4. mm Eric Basye says:

    Thanks for your post. It is interesting how one thing, the map, led to so many other significant discoveries. Some of which have only furthered the divisive heart of Man and drive for more and more. Quite sad, actually. I was thinking about what is happening in Ukraine this morning. For whatever reason, I am shccked that we still witness a consumption of land, people, and resources as we are witnessing right now. As far as Mankind has developed, we sure have not made it very far in other regards.

  5. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Denise I can’t help but remember our Advance title…Leadership in a time of disruption. Your perspective growing up out of the years your have done ministry in Poland in relation to this war currently erupting is so meaningful. You said, “I have heard it said that natural resources are one of the main reasons for war. ” I immediately thought about the water resources are being hoarded in Israel….that part of the world is definitely in tension over natural resources.

    But I digress…..
    How might you compare and contrast the ways Smith’s geological map changed the world view of Christianity in Poland?

  6. mm Henry Gwani says:

    Denise, reading your comments on Central Europe’s mapping, natural resources and current crisis reminds me of Acts 17:26, where we are told that from one man God made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. As we grieve the developments in this precious region, I can only pray that significant voices will arise to call for peace, and that this night of weeping will soon be replaced with the joy that comes on the morning

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