For most of my life I believed that the universe was created exactly like the Bible says in Genesis 1-3; the universe was created a little over 6,000 years ago, in six days, by the Christian God. I believed that the Bible, while not a science textbook, was absolutely correct whenever it mentioned anything relating to science. I taught my children to think this way, the children in our Christian school to think this way, and I taught the people I pastored to think this way. There was no reason to think about science because…God did it. This was the answer to EVERY question…God did it.
I took one science class in high school, biology. I drove my biology teacher crazy. When he gave a test I would answer the questions correctly and then write what the Bible said at the bottom of the paper. I wanted him to know, yes I have to take your class BUT I don’t think what you are teaching is the truth. While training for the ministry at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, a Fundamentalist Baptist college, I took one science class, biology. There was no lab and the class was little more than a recitation and regurgitation of the Christian biology textbook. The ONLY thing I remember about the class is how racist the teacher was.
My wife and I have six children. Outside of our first two children attending a public school for a brief time, all of of children either attended a Fundamentalist Baptist Christian school or were homeschooled. From 1989-1994, our three oldest children attended a small private Christian school associated with the church I pastored, and from 1994-2010 we homeschooled all six of our children. We used curriculum from Rod & Staff Publishers, Bob Jones University Press, Alpha Omega Publications, and A Beka Books. All of these publishers believed the earth was a little of over 6,000 years old and that God created the universe in six days exactly as it is recorded in Genesis 1-3.
Milestone Books is an online seller of Rod & Staff books. (Rod & Staff is a Mennonite publisher in Kentucky that has no website) Milestone Books describes Rod & Staff’s science textbooks this way:
Evolution is a belief system. Evolutionary ideas preexisted Darwin by several millennia and was alive in the ancient world. Darwin simply popularized it. It was not and is not the result of scientific research. Serious efforts are made to try to prove it scientifically, but it cannot be scientifically proven. Think about it—it is logically and mathematically impossible.
Creation is also a belief system based upon the Biblical record. Scientific facts support the Biblical record. The millions of plants and animals alive today that continue to live and reproduce after their kind speak loudly of a wise and intelligent Creator. The testimony of nature all around us is totally visible to the common man. Rod and Staff presents science in the real world and honors the God who created it.
As a pastor, I thought the Bible told me everything I needed to know about science. GOD DID IT, end of story. I had hundreds and hundreds of theological books, but only one book that dealt with science. This book, The Genesis Flood, written by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris, dogmatically espoused the young earth creationist view. To put the book in context for readers not exposed to Christian Fundamentalism, this is what noted young earth creationist Ken Ham had to say about the book and Henry Morris:
“(Henry Morris was) one of my heroes of the faith. He is the man the Lord raised up as the father of the modern creationist movement. The famous book The Genesis Flood, coauthored by Dr. Morris and Dr. Whitcomb, was the book the Lord used to really launch the modern creationist movement around the world.”
I was quite ignorant about science, as were my fellow pastors and church members. We had little scientific curiosity because the Bible told us everything we needed to know. This should serve as a reminder that Fundamentalism kills the intellect and robs people of their ability to critically engage the world around them. While I certainly had a sense of awe and wonder as I looked to the sky and observed the natural world, I never ventured beyond the acknowledgement that these things were a testimony to the power and glory of the Christian God.
I pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years. I can not recall ever being asked a significant, challenging science question. I made my view very clear from the pulpit; Charles Darwin was a pawn of Satan, evolution was the philosophy of the “world”, and the only science we needed was found in the Bible. I still remember one sermon where I ridiculed people who said the hole in the ozone layer was getting bigger. I told the church, who cares if it gets bigger. This just makes for a bigger hole for Jesus to come through when he comes again! People laughed and said, Amen.
From the outside, this kind of thinking looks bat-shit-crazy but you can only understand this kind of thinking from the inside. (Please read my posts, The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it All Makes Sense When You are in a Box and What I Found When I Left the Box) To a person committed to the inspiration, infallibility, and the inerrancy of the Bible, this kind of thinking makes PERFECT sense. It is the natural consequence of a literal reading and interpretation of the Bible. Simply put…God said it, God did it, end of story. Anything that did not fit this narrow paradigm was rejected out of hand. It is for this reason I wrote recently, Why it is Impossible to Have a Discussion with a Creationist.
The presuppositions of the creationist keep them from fully investigating and understanding the world they live in. It is hard to understand how a renowned surgeon like Ben Carson can separate conjoined twins at the head, yet believe the earth is 6,000 years old. He is a brilliant surgeon, yet he willfully denies evolution and the overwhelming evidence for universe being billions of years old. How can this be? Simple. Cognitive dissonance.
This is the only way I can explain my willingness as a pastor to reject evolution, geology, paleontology, biology and many other branches of science. I knew these scientists were educated, experts in their respective fields, yet, because of my commitment to a literal interpretation of the inspired, infallible, inerrant Bible, I was forced to reject anything that did not fit in the narrow, pre-defined box I was in.
I was fifty years old before I read my first book about a science subject. I am doing all I can to better educate myself about science, so I read science books and science magazines. I know more than I did seven years ago, but I doubt I will ever be anything more than a novice. I wasted the best years of my life, the years when my mind was sharp and able to comprehend complex texts and arguments, and the best I can do is educate myself about science enough so that I can at least not be the stupidest person in the room.
As a grandfather, I want to make sure my grandchildren are well-educated and this means exposing them to science at an early age. Polly and I buy gifts that hopefully stoke our grandchildren’s curiosity about the natural world and the universe. I will die a happy man someday if one of my grandchildren receives their PhD in science. Then I will know the curse of Fundamentalism has been broken.