I got into the history of science because I felt caught between the ID position of Campus Crusade and my Yale biology professors in the early 1990s.
On my path, I met Mark Noll and George Marsden, historians of evangelicalism who have guided me into thinking about historical context. I cannot emphasize the importance of knowing about the work of these two men, particularly the book The Search for Christian America if you lack a lot of time and want to avoid books not designed for non-historians.
I met this college student named Lucy at Watermark church this week. A dancing major at Oklahoma City University who had a professor of science who talked about the lack of overlap between science and religion.
The context of our meeting was striking. Watermark is really straining itself to get the attention of young urban professionals. I mean, really straining.
They run this Monday night thing called “Great Questions”. It is an apologetics Q and A thing where usually about 30 people attend. Watermark has 20 people trained in apologetics who take turns leading these discussions. Two apologists sit with 15 people for an hour. You can ask anything.
Watermark sits in the middle of a very populated sections of urban Dallas. But there are hundreds in the church on Monday night for an addiction recovery thing that runs concurrently.
Watermark is open till 10pm all week—their lobby that is. I am a single man who is a night owl. I cannot find a single church open at night like this one. I have been searching for five years and talked to dozens of church leaders in the metroplex. All churches closed at night, except those open for a Saturday night service.
Anyway, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Lucy wanted to share her faith with her professors.
I explained perhaps the most famous person in the 20th century to argue for a science-religion division was Stephen Jay Gould with his “NOMA” concept (at least as much as I knew).
And I pointed her to the Incarnation of the One “by whom all things were made”, and Tolkien’s idea of the Incarnation as the great “eucatastrophe” of history, where myth and history fused for one time.
I told her here was the Creator come to earth; that billions of people hold to this view; and that was about what I could offer.
I actually asked Gould a question in 1994. He said to a large university audience that evolution “was the most exciting idea in intellectual history”.
So I asked him about the Incarnation—the idea that a divine being crossed the plane between His dimension and ours.
(I was 24 and had a big mouth, remembered my Yale professors, and was staring at human fossils as a budding biology teacher.)
Gould’s response: “Thank you for pontificating. As an agnostic Jew, I respect Jesus as a prophet”.
Anyway, the STEM dean of my community college knew Gould personally at Baylor 90 miles from Dallas. I was surprised to find out Gould flew to Baylor to hang out. Dawkins would never do that I would guess. (However, Dawkins did come to Lynchburg to make fun of Liberty University by speaking at Randolph Macon College.)
Anyway, I am Lucy. Or I was in 1994.
Conclusions after five years here, before Discovery comes to Watermark next year (DI has an office right here and does presentations all the time in the area).
Blame progress. The reason people cannot talk about science in churches is that the issues require specialization for years of schooling that most laypeople in church pews have no interest in pursuing and are overwhelmed by.
However, there is the matter of Lucy’s grandmother and her science professor. Lucy goes to college and comes home to rural Oklahoma for Christmas and says all this stuff about fossils she learned from a Cornell educated professor.
Lucy’s grandmother gets terrified her baby is going apostate.
Her pastor in Oklahoma is overwhelmed and scared of getting into the science issue in church because of fears about losing his congregation. He was trained to exegete the Bible and runs VBS and youth groups, and his academic exposure ended with seminary when he was 26. He gets 300 emails a day and is pushed to the limit.
So what does Lucy’s pastor do? He calls in PhD-trained apologist commandos to save Lucy’s soul.
It’s like calling the A Team:
If you got an apologetics problem, and no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can call the A Team!
He calls ICR and Answers in Genesis to do single combat against the National Academy of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Center for Science Education.
In the white evangelical churches of urban Dallas, the A Team is not always YEC. It is often Discovery people.
So here I am as the former student president of Yale Campus Crusade and I was given mandates about the Great Commission’s order to make disciples, and the Great Commandment to be a good neighbor to people like Lucy. To show hospitality.
I look at Lucy and see myself 20 years ago and today, caught in a national maelstrom of titanic forces in a seemingly endless war involving thousands of people and millions of dollars.
But I conclude it is ultimately all about Lucy and her relationships with her grandmother who is spiritual and her professors who are lost. All I can do is point to the Incarnation and the Resurrection as historical events.