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Who knows, but for such a time as this?

Why We Became Geologists...

John Suppe1

Each of us looking back can tell some story-true or otherwise-of how we happened to become geologists. For some of you it was quite premeditated but for me it wasn't. In high school I was interested in a variety of subjects, including international relations; but geology wasn't one of them. Who knows, perhaps I would work for the State Department? As it turned out the photography teacher got several of us short-term jobs in the summer between high school and college with United Press International at the Democratic National Convention. I was excited and proud because I got to work on the convention floor with a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer. My job was to run the exposed film to the photo lab where it was developed and printed in just a couple of minutes to be rushed still wet onto the wire machines. John F. Kennedy was nominated at this convention. I remember seeing his brother Ted and also Eleanor Roosevelt.

What I learned on the convention floor was that I didn't have the personality to deal with politicians. So when I went off to college in September I had no idea what I would study, except that it wasn't political science or international relations. In our college you had to major in something the first day; that's how you got your academic advisor. I chose geology knowing absolutely nothing about it-perhaps it had something to do with mountain climbing and back packing. I changed majors several times in college but eventually geology stuck.

I've heard a lot of stories about how small events have steered our lives and I'm sure you have as well. Some have been steered near geology but then away again. Yesterday I bought a suit from an old-time Princeton clothier. He's a talker, so I found out that as a young man he worked as an oil-well driller near McKittrick west of Bakersfield. Drilling didn't stick and he spent his life fitting suits and selling ties. We all live fairly ordinary lives-we're the ones that happened to end up geologists rather than clothiers.

Yet as Christian geologists we are children of the King and we need a Christian vision for our place in the world. Why did we become geologists? Like Esther we need to be told, "...who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"2

Two weeks ago I got a phone call from a Korean pastor out in Los Angeles. I barely know the man-I met him only once-so I was surprised. He wanted me to give a talk to a group of Korean college students on "Can a Scientist be a Faithful Christian?" Now this man is a real man of God led by the Spirit; how did he think I could give a talk to a group of students 3000 miles away? Yet the fact was I would be in Los Angeles the next weekend. I had geologic meetings on Monday and Tuesday and was staying over the weekend to get a cheap airline ticket and visit my mother. I gave the talk.

So my question is why did I become a geologist? And why did this pastor 3000 miles away who barely knows me call me up just before my trip to Los Angeles? The answers are "chance" and "coincidence" according to the common intellectual world view. "Yet who knows but that [we] have come to royal position for such a time as this?"

I remember reading of a former Secretary of Agriculture, who had a very hard life as a young man before becoming successful. In his most difficult years his family and employer actually tried to do him in, yet he still was faithful to the Lord and honorable. He even ended up in prison on false charges. Nevertheless these terrible events eventually led to his being Secretary of Agriculture at a time of national crisis because of very low agricultural production. He dealt with the problem successfully. Then he was able to say to those who formerly had tried to do him in, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."3 He certainly believed that he had come to 'royal position' for a time such as this.

Few if any of us are in high position like Joseph and we likely never will be. We aren't in high position like Daniel and likely never will be. We are not in royal position like Queen Esther. We are all fairly ordinary geologists. Nevertheless each of us has come to our position in the Royal Geological Survey for a time such as this.

We are God's men and women of the hour.

1. Department of Geological and Geophysical Sciences, Princeton University, Princeton NJ 08544

2. Esth. 4:14b.

3. Gen. 50:20.


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