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Joe Christian Needs to Hear From Us

Roger C. Wiens

It hardly needs saying that there is a lot of misinformation about science going around in Christian circles today. The greatest problem is not in academic circles or with nationally recognized Christian periodicals or publishers. Rather, it is at the grass roots level, which is further removed from learning. The misinformation of science (and the science of misinformation) is most widespread in denominational publications and at the grammar and high school level. Part of the problem is that many Christians at this level do not know where to turn for information. Too often the most accessible sources of information are pseudo-scientists--people without the proper science background but who are eager to pontificate just what many Christians want to hear about creation, the flood, atheism, and even the relationship between science and society's social ills. I am convinced that we who have in-depth scientific backgrounds need to make a more concerted effort to inform every level of society, not just those who come to us (i.e., as students in our university science classes). If we do not reach down to the "grass roots" level, somebody else will!

Here are eight specific reasons why we as scientists should communicate at the grass roots level with the Christian public:

  1. To show that there are Evangelical Christians who do such work. Many believers have no idea that there are "Bible-believing" Christians who actually do research in such fields as dating rocks, measuring continental drift, or studying fossils. That Christians do such work is never acknowledged by young-earth creationists (the only ones that are acknowledged are those working at young-earth institutes and a few others who hold the same views). As a result, a popular misconception is that the only people in these disciplines are Bible-hating atheists.
  2. To give your educated view on such things as the age of the earth, the origin of fossils, and how these issues are to be reconciled with the Word of God. Again, many conservative Christians do not believe that there is any valid evidence for an old earth. Unfortunately, people close their ears all to easily if you come across as simply "another liberal Christian spouting Darwinism". Articles that come across too strongly or are deemed too controversial will simply not be published in many periodicals intended for lay people. For this reason, it may be better to try to inform rather than convince. Along with a discussion of these topics there may need to be assurances that you, the author, hold the Bible in highest regard as God's inspired Word. I recently wrote an article following the above guidelines and it was not only well received in one magazine, but also reprinted soon after in another denominational periodical.
  3. Another important reason is to balance the weight of literature in evangelical Christian publications. This may seem like a silly motivation, but when you realize that many Christians base their judgment on the weight of material for or against a particular issue in the literature that they happen to read, it is easy to see why our contribution is important. There is a huge amount of young-earth creationist literature available. I recently noticed that though my parents are not young-earth creationists and do not receive creationist literature directly, they were receiving several monthly evangelical periodicals, each of which had a regular column written by a young-earth creationist. This "balance of evidence" illusion is used by young-earth creationists on another level within the reference lists in their own publications to imply that scientists are really confused about, say, the age of the earth, or that the evidence is conflicting. Unfortunately, the perceived balance of evidence is often a very convincing argument to those who do not have a deeper understanding of the whole picture.
  4. A fourth reason to expose Christians to science is to get them to study the issue. While I do not honestly think that, to the lay Christian, the relation of faith and science should necessarily be held any higher than other issues of faith and world view, a Christian community that is deservedly held up to ridicule by scientists for its ignorance tears at my heart because it hinders many of my friends from coming to faith in God. According to Sheldon Vanauken (and probably many others) the strongest argument against Christianity is Christians themselves. Any way that I can work to remove this hindrance, especially for those people who I associate with, is worth it. To win the lost, God calls us not only to be "harmless as doves," but also to be "wise as serpents."
  5. A fifth reason is to discourage Christians from basing their faith on a Biblical interpretation which is suspect. The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) actually teaches that the young-earth creation interpretation of Genesis 1-2 should be the foundation of our faith! The argument is something to the effect that the foundation (or beginning) of scripture is Genesis and that if we begin to question the literal interpretation of this book the foundation will crumble, causing us to question all of scripture and toppling our faith. This is, of course, not Biblical. The foundation of our faith is the doctrine of Jesus Christ (I Cor. 3:11). How disastrous it will be indeed if Christians place their faith rather upon the shaky foundation of the doctrine of the ICR.
  6. We should also help Christians gain a respect for science. Many Christians see science only as a Godless influence on society. It is actually amazing what all has been blamed on science.
  7. Christian academics in other disciplines also need to hear what we have to say. I know of at least one Christian college where the Philosophy department is leaning towards young-earth creationism even though the science faculty leans towards the old-earth view. I suspect that there has not been much communication between the departments on the issue.
  8. Finally, we should encourage Christians to go into the sciences. How can we be Christ's salt and light to the scientific community in the next generation unless Christians are encouraged to make their careers in the sciences? If Christians who are willing to publicly profess their faith can gain influential positions or make important contributions to their discipline, they bring honor to the name of Christ in the eyes of their peers. I certainly think that the Christian witness of men such as Isaac Newton has had a profound effect on people ever since. I can say the same for several eminent scientists living today. Will the same be true for the next generation?

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