Then and Now

     It began in Dayton, Tennessee, on May 25, 1925.  That was the day that high school science teacher John Thomas Scopes was indicted for teaching evolution.  It was against the law to teach evolution in a Tennessee public school back then.  The Scopes Monkey Trial, as it became known, pitted William Jennings Bryant for the prosecution against Clarence Darrow for the defense.  It proved to be a pivotal case for public education.
     It was a media spectacle.  In an unprecedented move prosecutor Bryant took the stand to be cross-examined by Darrow.  Playing up to public opinion Bryant’s testimony drew heavily on Christian sentiment instead of addressing the scientific premises of evolution.  Christians were afraid and suspicious of science.  They considered science an enemy to their faith.  That was then.
     Likewise scientists were afraid and suspicious of religion.  They considered religion an enemy of science.  The result was the competing issues became politicized.  School boards at the local and state levels became the battlefield for what would be taught in public classrooms.  The ongoing controversy generated a lot of heat and little light with evolutionists succeeding in framing the issue as fact versus faith.  Time and again faith was defeated.
     The vote of the Ohio State School Board in 2006 was typical.  The board voted eleven to four to remove language in the state’s science standards that encourages students to “investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.”  One school board member Martha Wise (poorly named) said her reason for voting to delete the language is because “it is deeply unfair to the children of this state to mislead them about science.”  Too late.
     The heart and soul of science is to investigate and critically analyze everything in the physical realm, including evolution.  I cannot fathom how it is misleading to teach children to do this very thing.  Anything less is not science, it is shamanism.
     Removal of such language and the reasoning for doing so reveal the fissure in the supposed factual arguments of evolutionists.  If evolution is more fact than theory, if it is so unquestionably true, if its underlying foundation is so faultless, why do evolutionists fear its examination?  If all roads of life’s origins and continued existence lead to evolution, why are evolutionists saying don’t read the map?
     This issue raised its head again in Tennessee.  Tennessee State Senator Bo Watson said, “It came to my attention that some teachers did not know how to respond when certain scientific theories were disputed in the classroom.”  If students raised questions regarding certain scientific theories the teachers were in a quandary as to their legal footing in engaging the students in honest dialogue.
     Senator Watson proposed SB 893.  It was the Tennessee Senate’s version of a bill that had already passed in the Tennessee House of Representatives.  It allows teachers, in keeping with the curriculum established by the Tennessee Board of Education, “to respond to the debate and dispute that may occur when certain scientific subjects are taught in the classroom.”  The ultimate purpose of the bill is to foster the “critical thinking skills of students and their ability to analyze information.”  Last month, May, the bill was adopted by the Tennessee Senate, about eighty-seven years after the Scopes Monkey Trial.  This is now.
     Of course the bill’s detractors claim it is an attempt to slip creation science and intelligent design in the back door of the schoolhouse.  So what if it is?  The bill is not a directive or mandate to teach a prescribed course of study.  It is a bill that allows open dialogue and honest debate.  That is something no true scientist should shy away from.
     Paul warned Timothy “guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge” which some have professed and thus gone away from the faith (1 Timothy 6:20-21 NASB).”  In the King James Version the Greek word gnosis (i.e., knowledge) is translated science.  Paul is not suggesting the avoidance of science, but the avoidance “of what is falsely called science.”
     I have maintained there is no contradiction between true science and true religion.  I have never read of any fact revealed by science that has caused me to doubt the Bible and I have never read anything in the Bible that caused me to doubt the facts revealed by science.  Science without religion is godless knowledge and religion without science is blind faith.  Mankind can ill afford either.
     Believers are beginning to recognize that what they thought was their enemy then is our friend now.


Rattlesnake Religion

Mark Wolford was highlighted in a November 2011 article in the Washington Post.  This “flamboyant Pentecostal pastor from West Virginia” is not media-shy and was not reluctant to call attention to his crusade to keep the practice of snake-handling alive.  Mark and his fellow followers take the words of Christ from Mark 16:18, “they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them,” as a command.  Mark made the news again last Sunday, possibly for the last time, when he was bitten by a rattlesnake he had just handled.  He died later that evening from the bite.  He was forty-four.

Mark was practicing a religious tradition that is popular among a few believers.  They handle snakes and some drink poison to prove their faith.  In fact, Mark’s father had died in 1983 at the age of thirty-nine in the same manner.  Those who believe like Mark interpret the words of Christ in the aforementioned passage literally.  They think they are obeying the command of Christ, and are putting their faith in Him to the test, by handling poisonous snakes.  They believe they will not be bitten, or if bitten, they will suffer no harm.

I believe in the literal meaning of Christ’ words also, but with a distinction.  The words they believe are an imperative, I believe to be prophetic.  In the twenty-eighth chapter of the book of Acts beginning in verse three we have an account of the apostle Paul, who along with his fellow travelers, is shipwrecked on the island of Malta.  While gathering wood for a fire Paul is bitten by a viper.  Paul shakes the serpent off into the fire and suffers no harm from the venom.

The words of Christ become clear in the light of this account.  If a messenger of the Gospel is by chance bitten by a poisonous serpent, he will be divinely protected so that the spread of the Gospel is unhindered.  The promise of protection is extended to those messengers who others may attempt to poison with a tainted drink.  Jesus’ statements were His prophetic insight that such events would occur by chance, and the design of the enemies of the Gospel, not a command to deliberately subject ourselves to such things to prove our faith.

When Jesus was tempted by the devil to prove his faith by throwing Himself of the pinnacle of the temple He responded, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test (Matthew 4:7).”  Jesus quoted these words from Deuteronomy 6:16 to show God the Father has commanded us to do nothing to deliberately put Him to the test or attempt to force His hand.  We should not think that the Creator can be manipulated by His creatures.

Mark Wolford, and his father before him, and others like them, who have died handling poisonous snakes or drinking a poisonous concoction, did not die because they lacked faith.  They died because they misunderstood the Scriptures.

In like manner, many today suffer physical and spiritual injury because they either do not understand or purposefully misinterpret the Scriptures.  The apostle Peter addresses this issue when talking about the writings of the apostle Paul.  He refers to Paul’s letters “which the untaught and the unstable distort, as they do the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”  Misapprehension of the Scriptures can be both deadly and damnable.

Peter warns against allowing the Scriptures to become “a matter of one’s own interpretation (2 Peter 1:20-21).”  When God inspired the various biblical authors to write His Word, He was communicating a specific message within a historical context.  The Bible is to be studied objectively.  That is to say Bible scholars study to understand God’s specific message then, so they can understand how to properly apply its principles now.  The Bible is not a book that is meant to be subjected to interpretation according to one’s personal perspective or philosophy, or their likes and dislikes.  God’s word is not meant to be twisted and distorted to suit one’s politics, lifestyle, or culture.  God says what he means, and means what He says.

Mark Wolford’s misguided understanding of the declaration of Jesus proved deadly, but I am not convinced his actions are damnable.  Our first parents did not prove to be good serpent handlers either.  Failing to trust God’s command and declared consequences of doing so resulted in Adam and Eve mishandling the serpent’s sales pitch.  The result of their actions proved damnable, and that is why some serpents’ bite is deadly.

No matter how you look at it, man does not have good outcomes when he tries to handle serpents.

Gifted Hands

     Ben was born on September 18, 1951, in Detroit, Michigan.  When he was eight years old his parents divorced.  His mother only had a third grade education, but worked hard at several menial jobs to provide for Ben and his brother Curtis.  A poor student, Ben was mocked by his classmates and he began to respond violently.  Poor and troubled, Ben’s life was in a downward spiral.    
     Concerned her sons were not doing well academically, Ben’s mother Sonya restricted their TV time requiring them to do their homework first.  She made the boys get library cards and read two books a week and submit a book report to her on what they read.  Within the year Ben’s scholastic progress amazed his teachers and fellow students.  When he won an achievement award, a white teacher ridiculed the white students for allowing a black student to best them academically.    
     Though he was improving in school, he still had a violent temper.  Once he threatened his mother with a hammer and in another incident seriously injured a classmate by bashing his head into a locker.  Then in an argument with a friend over which radio station to listen to, he tried to stab him with a knife.  The knife struck his friend’s belt buckle and broke.  Fearing he had hurt his friend he ran home and locked himself in the bathroom with a Bible.  He asked God to help him control his anger and read Proverbs 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.”    
     Ben graduated from Yale in 1973, and then attended the School of Medicine at the University of Michigan.  He became a resident at John Hopkins University in 1977.  Specializing in neurosurgery he made medical history when he successfully separated the craniopagus Binder twins in 1987.  It was the first time siamese twins conjoined at the head had been surgically parted and lived.    
     Today Benjamin Solomon Carson, Sr., has been the head of pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins University’s Children Center for more than twenty-five years.  He continues to perform three hundred surgeries a year and is a board member of numerous educational institutions and businesses.  He is an internationally respected neurosurgeon and has earned recognition and awards that time and space prevent being shared here.  In 2008 President Bush awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor of the United States of America.    
     When Jim Wagner, President of Emory University, invited Carson to give the commencement address this past May 14, he said, “Few men or women have demonstrated to so inspiring a degree the transformational effect of liberal learning and the humanities.  Dr. Carson has transformed lives both inside the operating room and beyond.”  But four professors, one hundred sixty faculty members and a number of students protested Wagner’s choice of Carson.    
     Carson is a dedicated Christian and flatly rejects the theory of evolution.  He has said the fossil record does not “provide evidence for the evolution of humans from a common ancestor with other apes.”  Carson correctly surmises the theory of evolution is morally bankrupt, and also holds that “life is too complex to have originated by the natural process of evolution.”      
     His detractors claim “the theory of evolution is as strongly supported as the theory of gravity and the theory that infectious diseases are caused by microorganisms.”  Gravity and germs causing disease are not theories, they are observable facts.  Evolution is not even in the same ballpark, and to think it and say it is the best evidence, at least in respect to evolutionists, that they may share a simian ancestry.  Carson knows what sounds good in the classroom does not always work in the operating room.    
     The made for television movie Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story was my introduction to the life and achievements of Ben Carson.  My brother in Christ believes man is created in the image of God.  I have often said and I believe Ben would agree, that “man has an image to live up to, not a lineage to live down.”    
     One would think that out of respect for the sheer magnitude of his accomplishments and the height of his achievements, Ben Carson’s detractors could have tolerated his remarks and presence at Emory’s graduation ceremony and remained silent.  But wounded intellects seem to unerringly default to their pigheaded nature.  In the end the man whose “gifted hands” could separate the shared brains of conjoined twins could not separate the professors of evolution from their own prejudices.

The Primitive Mind

Not all scientists are disbelievers, but many are.  If you are an anthropologist or a sociologist and you do not believe in God, then you need to formulate an explanation for the observable phenomena of religion.  That explanation goes like this, more or less, primitive man developed a belief system to explain what he observed in nature and did not understand.  And all modern religions evolved from this or a similar belief system predicated on ignorance.

Scientists seem to suffer from this mindset as well.  The more they learn about the universe seems to pose more questions about what they have yet to learn.  It seems that our ignorance grows exponentially with the acquisition of knowledge.  Consider what Sir Isaac Newton said in his day, “I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay undiscovered before me.”  The more we learn, the more we need to discover

I have been doing some research for a two-day seminar entitled Faith and Science: Do They Contradict?  My research into inorganic evolution (how the universe and earth began and were formed et cetera) led to some interesting statements.

One of those came from Lawrence Krauss professor of physics at Arizona State University.  Krauss is an award-winning theoretical physicist and has written a book entitled A Universe from Nothing sharing his cosmological theories.  Krauss is also opposed to the Christian cosmology of Intelligent Design.

Intelligent Design is the view that the universe is replete with observable order and purpose inferring a Designer.  In the same way a watch infers a watchmaker, the detailed complexity and delicately balanced sequencing of DNA implies an Intelligent Designer.  This explanation is rejected by Krauss.

This is odd because of something Krauss said during the filming of How the Universe Works: Big Bang.  Regarding the beginning of the universe he says, “In that moment of creation, the shape and structure and size of the universe were decided.”  The use of the word “creation” is not unusual because it can be used in a sense that has no divine connotations, but when he says the shape, structure and size of the universe were “decided” that is not consistent with opposition to Intelligent Design.

Krauss would probably say it was a slip of the tongue, or he did not mean it to be used in the sense of inferring some form of deity or supernatural intelligence, and I would not want the discussion of the origin of the universe to devolve into a debate of semantics.  But it is interesting that when scientists try to explain the unexplainable they seem to unwittingly personify the event.  Actually, when you consider the significance and scope of the Big Bang, saying something was “decided” implies more than a personification, it apotheosizes the event.

This sort of Freudian slip or parapraxis is common when scientists speak about things they have not observed or cannot explain.  They unconsciously tend to deify the event.  Paul writes, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise they became fools (Romans 1:21-22).”  Are such statements an unconscious recognition of the Creator, an Intelligent Designer?

If you listen carefully when scientists talk about the unobserved past they make these sort of comments repeatedly and I am sure they would argue they are no indication of a belief in God, but Paul speaks yet again “that which is known about God is evident within them: for God made it evident to them (Romans 1:19).”  Paul would say they are “men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).”

Paul is clear when he states that the disavowal of God is a suppression of the truth.  Scientists may deny the God of nature, but they cannot deny that they do not speak of Nature as if it is a god.  Despite the knowledge they have amassed and the technological advancements they have made, they cannot escape that primitive mindset.