Thoughts from the Foxhole

A little about me.  I am a Science Teacher and a Christian.  I have taught science in Texas public schools for 16 years.  I have taught 5th through 8th grade Science as well as high school Biology, Physics, and Integrated Physics and Chemistry.  I am currently teaching 7th and 8th Grade Science.

I am also a Christian.  I was raised in the Church of Christ in what we affectionately call the Bible Belt.  I chose to follow Christ at age 11 and was baptized.  I participated in mission trips throughout high school.  I attended a private Christian school from grade 3 until I graduated high school.  I then attended a Christian university where I obtained my B.S. in Secondary Education with a minor in Physical Science and Life/Earth Science.  Throughout my education I obtained biblical training, attended daily chapel services as well as church attendance every Sunday morning as well as Sunday and Wednesday evenings.  I also attended required Bible classes as part of the required curriculum throughout grade school and university.  I have read through the Bible, cover-to-cover, several times.  I have also taught Sunday School and Children’s Church for years as well as chaperoning kids grades 3-6 to children’s summer camp and youth grades 6-12 to youth summer camp.  Along the way, I transitioned from the Church of Christ to the Southern Baptist Church with attendance at Community Churches as well.  I do not see myself as a dyed-in-the-wool member of any particular denomination.

I am a particularly inquisitive person.  I have always been interested in how things work.  I was born in 1970, too young unfortunately to remember the Moon landings.  But I was 7 years old when Voyager 1 and 2 launched, Voyager 1 on my birthday.  As a boy I read Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos,” and Stephen Hawking’s “Brief History of Time.”  Of course, my reading list has grown extensively since then but these books had a big impact on me as a boy.  The same year the Voyager’s launched, Star Wars came out in theaters.  Somewhere along the way, with money saved from mowing lawns, I bought a small refracting telescope, a toy really, from Toys-R-Us.  I’ll never forget the feeling when, in my back yard, between gusts of wind that jiggled the tripod, I saw the rings of Saturn for the first time.  Growing up with the ever changing views of our solar system from the Voyager flybys, my young imagination was captured by the beauty and vastness of space as well as that of our terrestrial home.  When other kids were watching cartoons and sitcoms, I was watching NOVA and Marty Stouffer on PBS.

With my upbringing in the church and my exposures to science repeatedly clashing, I could not bring myself to choose.  At a young age, I set out on a mission to consider arguments from both sides with an open mind.  I have never been one to just believe what I’m told.  I question, explore, and arrive at my own conclusions.  Now, decades later, I still do not feel compelled to choose.  I have spent my life in the trenches, in the no-man’s-land between both sides, between those who unquestioningly believe the Bible or the traditions of their denomination and see science as the “enemy,” and those who believe that science has done away with our “need” for God and religion is just a misguided endeavor of the lesser educated.  Often times my understanding, the beliefs that I hold, belief’s based on facts and observations, leave me at odds with purists from both sides.  As there can only be one truth, I believe that Christians need not be afraid of science.  If what the Bible says is true, then science will eventually arrive at the same conclusion.  I also believe that one must be willing to question what one has always thought to be true, even when it comes to the Bible.  The Bible was not written as a science book.  Nor was it written with our modern understanding of our world.  It should not be taken out of the context in which it was written.  For example, I do not hold to the belief that men are somehow superior to women.  Paul, who is often quoted on this topic, was writing in a culture and at a time when women did not have the same rights as men, even in a secular context.  Likewise, slavery was common.  Today, many have fought and died for the belief that ALL are created equal.  Paul himself says that there is neither male nor female, slave nor free in the kingdom of Heaven.  So it bothers me when the Bible is used to hold women in submission under men.  Women are expected to “want” to do jobs in the church, such as teaching children, for free but we pay men to do the same things because they are “ministers” or “pastors.”  It bothers me when we hold to certain beliefs from the Bible but reject others as only applicable to the audience for which it was written.  If we are going to consider the context in some scriptures, then we need to apply the same scrutiny to all scriptures.  Likewise, if we are going to hold unswerving to what scripture says, then we need to obey ALL of it.  Even the inconvenient parts.  Christ himself said, in Matthew 5:

17“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18“For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19“Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

      20“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Galileo is a perfect example of how the Bible can be used to support beliefs that it was never intended to support.  Galileo observed the motion of the moons of Jupiter through his telescope, made careful observations, kept careful records, and came to the conclusion that they were in orbit around Jupiter.  Similar observations supported the conclusion that the planets were in orbit around the Sun, not the earth as the Catholic Church held.  Galileo was threatened with being burned at the stake until he renounced his conclusion.  Today, of course, no one disputes that the Sun is the center of our solar system.  If that was not true, none of our technologies involving space would work, including satellite TV, GPS, and of course the interplanetary probes such as my beloved Voyagers.  It’s simply an indisputable fact.  Today, it’s clear to see that nowhere in its pages does the Bible state the order of the planets in our solar system.  You do not have to reconcile what the Bible says with what science says on that issue.

I believe that often the church continues to overextend the Bible and this results in people being force to choose between the Bible and what common sense tells them when they learn about science.  Let me be clear, I am not rejecting the Bible.  I am fighting for a broader understanding of both the Bible and science.  I am fighting for a deeper appreciation of both.  After all, there can be only one truth.  I am interested in the truth.

 

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