Categories: Uncategorized



 Where’s North?  Navigating the Globe



 Where’s North?  Navigating the Globe

 The magnetic North Pole isn’t actually at the point of the axis of the spinning earth. The magnetic North Pole is actually a moving target that is located near Resolute Island in Northern Canada. It is a “force field” that moves because of the molten magma underneath the earth’s surface. It is actually moving in sort of a race-track circuit, but that could change. The center of the magnetic field used to move at approximately10 miles per year, but that speed has been increasing. This year, it is going to move about 40 miles, and it currently is just under 500 miles from the “spinning pole.” 

 For those of us who live a long way from the top of the world, the difference isn’t terribly significant. It is accounted for by adjusting for “magnetic deviation.” In North America, to find “True North” one must adjust the reading of a magnetic compass according to the chart below. In other words, in Texas if you want to go toward the True North (what I call “Spinning North” where the axis of the earth is), in Alabama, you can actually steer straight for the N on the magnetic compass. In Texas, depending on where you are, you need to adjust between 5˚ and 10˚. When one has a West declination, it is considered negative. When one has an East declination, it is considered positive. 



This means that if you are in California and you steer toward the “ ” thinking you are “actually” going North, you will be off course – way off course. A 3˚ error leaving New York is enough to cause you to hit Africa instead of Europe! A 15˚ error is catastrophic! As one goes farther and farther North, the declination gets even greater. Not only that, when one actually gets close to the magnetic pole, the compass becomes completely worthless and just spins around in a circle, seemingly randomly, causing profound disorientation. 

In order to cope with this, two systems have been designed. One is the GPS system, which is now very familiar. The other is a special navigation system that is used in the Northern latitudes called “Grid Navigation.” Technically, “Grid” is the projection of the polar stereographic projection, (the zenithal orthomorphic) that draws lines parallel to the Greenwich meridian and allows for accurate navigation, regardless of the magnetic irregularities. Suffice it to say that technical understanding of Grid Navigation is necessary for only a handful of technical people. The point, however, is that one can navigate accurately only if accurate and true standards are used. 


Principle of Navigation in our Lives: Christian Witness

The principle is the same in other areas of life. Standards of reference that are assumed to be true are only as effective as they are actually accurate. This is where the standard of Biblical authority is so important. God has worked in the production and the preservation of the text. There is no other document that is so well tested and reliable. Of course, there are many people who don’t understand that reality. Many dismiss the witness of Scripture because they are more familiar with other means of making decisions. Just as the magnetic compass may work well in Alabama, moral and philosophical constructs that have worked reasonably well in a person’s life in previous environments may not work when we enter into new territory. We see this dramatically in the way that contemporary culture is making “feeling” decisions about sexual behavior. We also see it in the way that some people make decisions about moral, spiritual, or religious expression. 

 A Case in Point – Meriam Ibrahim

Last Thursday in Sudan, Meriam Ibrahim, a 26-year-old Christian was sentenced to receive 100 lashes for adultery immediately and then be executed for apostasy. The judge did not recognize her marriage to a Christian. Because the judge did not recognize the marriage and she had one child and is pregnant with another, in the judge’s eyes her relations with her husband were illicit. Because she has refused to renounce her Christian faith, the court has ruled that she must be executed after her child is born.

 Meriam’s convictions as a Christian are of such strength that she has refused to renounce her faith in Christ. She is navigating according to Biblical fidelity, and one can also well imagine, according to the demonstrated faithfulness that Jesus Christ has manifest in her life. He must be real and “tried and true” in her life for her to be committed to Him even to the point of death. She could avoid this sentence by renouncing her faith in Christ. That she is not willing to do. This is extremely challenging to Western Christians who have often experienced ease of life and often even favor for following Christ. As circumstances in our comfortable lives change and become more challenging, what cost will we be willing to bear to remain faithful? 

 It is not necessary to impugn the motives of the Islamic judge or court. It is not the motives that are at question; rather, it is the paradigm in which such verdicts are possible. Disagreements rise not only from our understanding and Biblical revelation, but also from natural law. It is demonstrable that people have freedom to make decisions, especially about spiritual priorities. That fact is manifest every day. Not only those who recognize Biblical authority find this verdict repugnant. Secular people who recognize the constraints of Natural Law reject it as well. Those of Biblical faith should have a paradigm in which they can articulate why it is so very wrong. 

 A Call to Participate – Taking Action

The challenging question to us is whether or not we will do anything about this verdict. A frown and sorrowful clucking is not adequate. It has been demonstrated that even extreme and despotic regimes are not immune to the power of social media and international pressure. Although tweets and Facebook postings may help, nothing is as powerful as a handwritten note decrying the verdict and asking for it to be reversed. If you decide to respond to my request to do so, please be sure to write respectfully and not in an insulting manner, yet clearly state your disagreement with the verdict. It is fine to point out that the verdict is not consistent with the Constitution of Sudan, but simply stating that you disagree with the verdict and that you want to see it reversed is the most effective point to make. 

 Verdicts such as this one speak profoundly about the essential character of Islam and overwhelm the witness of those who seek to present the tenets of Islam as being merciful and peaceful. Our failure to act in response to this outrageous situation would be unconscionable. We would be failing to navigate our lives faithfully. We would not be found faithful to God’s call on our lives to love others. 

 He has called you, O man, what is good;

And what does the Lord requires of you

But to do justly,

To love mercy, 

And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 (NKJV)


You can reach the Embassy of Sudan at

Embassy of Sudan

2210 Massachusetts Ave NW

Washington, DC 20008


Or you can phone at (202) 338-8565, but a handwritten letter is far more effective.