In many ways, the fourth of ACGís specific purposes may be the most crucial and challenging. Part of our reason for existence is "to educate the Christian public about Geology." Recent studies have indicated the widespread extent of scientific illiteracy among the general public in the United States. The American scientific community is understandably anxious to strengthen science education in the nationís schools. The May 1990 and March 1991 issues of the Journal of Geological Education especially addressed the state of education and how to upgrade it. The Geological Society of America has just initiated its SAGE (Science Awareness through Geoscience Education) program. As Christian geologists we certainly should support such efforts.
While the ACG is eager to help educate the general public about geology, we have a unique role to play in reaching the Christian community. We understand the Christian mind and know the particular intellectual temptations and deficiencies to which it is exposed because of its devotion to Scripture. Because of faulty interpretation or misapplication of the Bible, the geological understanding of Christians may sometimes be led into unfortunate directions. Some Christians have inferred from Scripture that God endowed the earth with unlimited natural resources. Can the ACG help Christians to understand the nature and distribution of mineral, energy, and water resources? Christians have a strong sense of Godís providential care. Because of that sense, some Christians pay little heed to geological hazards. More than one Christian has built a home on top of an active fault or along a dynamic coast in the presumption that God would take care of them and that prayer would keep disaster at bay. Can the ACG help instruct such folk about geological hazards? And as we well know, many Christians are poorly informed about the earthís history and how geologists go about reconstructing that history. The ACG needs to help fellow believers understand earth history and to see its compatibility with Scripture.
Much of the misinformation about geology is imparted to Christians by well-meaning bible commentators or writers of bible encyclopedia articles. There is no shortage of literature to persuade Christians that dinosaurs were contemporary with humans, that the deluge deposited the rocks in the Grand Canyon, or that the frozen mammoths of Siberia and Alaska succumbed in some global catastrophe. All of us in the ACG occasionally use commentaries, Bible handbooks, and other Bible helps. Letís all be on the lookout for geological inaccuracies. When we find mistakes perhaps we should contact the authors and the publishers. We also need to become better acquainted with theological faculties and Christian publishers so that theologians contemplating writing books or articles that contain matter of geological interest will consult with us before going into print. Do we have members who will volunteer to serve as consultants or writers?
A growing number of Christian students are being educated in Christian schools or at home. I sense that earth science education in Christian and home schools is generally poor because of exposure to the available curriculum materials from a young-earth, flood geology perspective and because of the inadequacy of teacher training in earth science. More than one Christian geologist has expressed concern to me because of the dominance of young-earth creationism in curriculum materials and in workshop presentations at home school conventions. In many Christian schools, geology is almost entirely avoided because of its potentially controversial nature. School boards donít want to arouse the ire of parents. The children lose out because they donít learn about the wonders of Godís planet. We need to do some serious thinking about how to encourage change. The ACG needs to gain access to Christian and home school curriculum writers and publishers, examine their curriculum materials, and help them develop new materials that are based on sound geological observation and theory. Can we also make ourselves available to the curriculum writers and publishers as consultants? And maybe some of us ought to get involved in writing earth science material that can be used in Christian schools. Can we put together a volunteer consulting team?
Many Christian students enter college with peculiar attitudes about geology. Consider those who attend one of the multitude of Christian colleges and universities in the United States. Many of these students will never be exposed to geology for the simple reason that the vast majority of Christian colleges offer no instruction in geology. In a few institutions there is only an introductory-level course and that is generally taught by someone who is not a geologist. There is no opportunity for majoring in geology. In only three of the more than 80 colleges in the Christian College Coalition is there a geology major program. These are Wheaton and Olivet Nazarene in Illinois and Calvin in Michigan. All three schools are located in areas where opportunities for field exposure are dreadfully poor. And there are only two geology professors apiece at each of the three schools. There certainly should be far more Christian colleges teaching a geology major. The ACG should urge the leaders of Christian colleges to develop geology courses and programs and assist them in doing so.
But then what of those Christian students who attend secular colleges and universities? Such students undoubtedly stand a better chance of being exposed to competent and sound geology than students at Christian colleges. But there is a down side. There is the possibility that the faith of some students can be damaged if they are exposed to geology professors who are hostile to Christianity and confront the students with the choice of either Christian faith or sound science. This reality points up the urgency of our task to find ways to help students in both Christian and secular colleges to see that geology is compatible with Scripture and a healthy Christian faith.
May I encourage each of us to start doing at least one thing to help educate the Christian public about our science. Volunteer your services as a speaker, writer, or consultant to your local pastor, to a bible conference, to denominational leaders, to a curriculum writing agency, to a theological seminary, to a nationally known evangelist. Let the ACG know what kinds of cooperative activities you would like to participate in. And share your efforts with all of us so we can learn from one another how to prosecute this crucial educational task.