How I Answered Science Questions When I was a Baptist Pastor

intelligent design

As a Baptist pastor, how did I answer science questions? The short answer is…I didn’t.

I was five years old when my parents joined Tim LaHaye’s church, Scott Memorial Baptist Church in San Diego, California. I would remain associated with the Evangelical church for the next forty-five years, pastoring churches in Texas, Ohio, and Michigan. Whether as a church member or as a pastor, the world I was a part of was insulated from secular science. I rarely had someone ask me a science question and the reason for this is quite simple. I believed and taught others to believe:

  • The Bible is the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God.
  • The Bible, in most instances, is meant to be read literally.
  • Genesis 1-3 accurately, literally records HOW God made the universe and everything in it.
  • If science conflicts with what the Bible says, science is wrong and the Bible is right.
  • Questions and doubts are the works of Satan.
  • Certainty of belief is a sign of faith and maturity.

We had our own science books and scientists. My favorite Evangelical “scientists” were Henry Morris and John Whitcomb. Morris had a degree in engineering, Whitcomb a degree in theology. Even though their books contradicted accepted scientific facts, they had a high view of Scripture and accepted the Bible as the final answer to every question, so their books carried great weight in many Evangelical circles. I have no doubt that if I was still a pastor I would have taken church groups to the Creation Museum so they could see the “proof” of our creationist beliefs.

The children in the churches I pastored  were insulated from the world. Many of the children were home schooled or attended private Christian schools. Children were not encouraged to go to college, especially a wicked secular college. The highest calling for a woman was to marry a godly man and bear children and the highest calling for a man was to become a preacher or a missionary. All other vocations were considered inferior.

rod and staff science book

Rod and Staff Publishers 8th Grade Science Book

From 1983-1994, I pastored Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. For five of those years, we operated a tuition-free, church-member-only, Christian school. We used Rod and Staff science textbooks, books that emphasized the young earth creationist point of view. Rod and Staff is a Mennonite/Amish book publisher.  My wife and I also home schooled our children. We used Rod and Staff textbooks to teach science to our younger children.

I have very little science training. I took a general science class in 9th grade, biology in 10th grade, and biology in college. My college biology class was an absolute waste of time. No lab. No experimentation. The teacher, a local pastor, read to us from a biology book published by a Christian book publisher. The only thing I remember from my college biology class (the same class my wife took) was the teacher’s lecture on not marrying outside of your class, religion, or race. He was quite bigoted and racist.

The few times I was asked a science question that challenged my creationist beliefs I replied:

The BIBLE says…

This was the answer I gave for almost every challenge to what I taught.

The BIBLE says…

THE BIBLE SAYS really meant:

This is my interpretation of the Bible, my interpretation comes straight from God, my interpretation is final, so shut up and get back to serving Jesus.

There are thousands of churches and pastors who hold similar views. We are one of the most scientifically advanced nations on earth, yet, at the same time, we are quite ignorant about basic scientific fact. We can thank religion for our collective ignorance.

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13 Comments

  1. Steve

    “Shut up & get back to serving Jesus!”

    Lmfao!!!

    Reply
  2. Vol-E

    Bruce, I’m confident that you’re doing your best to make up for lost time and opportunities. It’s never too late to learn and science is so much fun. May I recommend The Stardust Revolution by Jacob Berkowitz.

    Reply
  3. HeIsSailing

    I work with many Fundamentalist Christians. Most of them are machinists and engineers. By and large they are a good bunch of guys. Unfortunately they repeat stuff about Evolution that I remember from old Duane Gish audio cassettes from the 1970s. It is all mis-informed, straw man views of Evolution and crap science that was debunking long ago. But they continue to cite it as reasons they do not ‘believe in Evolution’. All I can do is plead with them not to learn science from church. Pick up an actual science book or watch a science video from an actual scientist! They would not appreciate me learning about the Christian religion from a science class.

    Reply
  4. Erin

    I may have shared this before, but it came to mind. My father in law (a self-described expert on “evidences”, Christian for scientific proofs the bible is literally true) gave my teenage son a Christian textbook about the origins of the universe.

    It was written by ONE man with graduate credentials in mechanical engineering. That’s IT. (I don’t remember his name; it may have been one of the guys you mentioned.)

    I asked my son to read the author’s bio, and tell me whether he thought this person was qualified to teach astronomy, astrophysics, and/or cosmology. He said, “Of course not.” I was so proud.

    It’s like that meme that goes around that says “Creationism is the belief that Kirk Cameron knows more than Stephen Hawking.”

    Reply
    1. HeIsSailing

      Erin, books can barely mean jack squat in these days of internet self publishing. I work with a Fundamentalist Christian who has self published three books. You can buy them on the internet. One is a book on the history of religious freedom in Texas, one is a book on the history of Evolution (spoiler: it ultimately came from Hell). His credentials? B.A. in aeronautical engineering. Oh and he is indwelt by the Holy Ghost. I guess that is the only credential that counts with some people.

      Reply
      1. Erin

        Yeah I get that. This was a mid-80s textbook, but you know, creationism never changes, lol.

        Reply
  5. marfin

    Bruce google latest scandal on global warming , it seems the scientist have been cooking the books, and adjusting the figures to give them the results they wanted. Bruce you of all people should know that whether its science or religion , if the people doing it are dishonest and out for self promotion and personal gain you cannot trust them or their conclusions.So if we stick to the actual data the actual evidence and not someone`s interpretation of said evidence we may just find the truth.

    Reply
    1. Becky Wiren

      I noticed it’s being reported by Breitbart and Alex Jones Inforwares. Those sites are crazed conspiracy theory sites. If you have links to reputable site, it would be helpful. In fact, it seems like all the web sites that are reporting it are relying on ONE blogger’s article. So more accurate information would be nice.

      Reply
  6. marfin

    And no I dont believe in global warming or evolution conspiracies, what I do believe is that whether its science or religion people believe what they want to believe. So when the scientist who believes in global warming gets the data that does not fit whit what he believes he honestly fudges the figures because all he thinks he needs is more time and funding to prove the position he believes in ,so there must be something wrong with the figures so fudging them to give enough time to get to the truth of the matter is ok.The problem is putting on a lab coat or a police uniform or a judges frock, or a ministers whatever does not give the wearer more honesty or a higher moral standard.Now when dealing with a branch of knowledge like religion, evolution, or the universe`s beginning`s area`s where proof is in very very short supply we need the people involved to just give us the facts and let us interpret them for ourselves. So if the scientist through his scientific experimentation tells me , we need life to get life we have never made life from non life in a lab and never ever witnessed life arising from non life in nature, and the fact of the matter is scientific experimentation show life never comes from non life, I can then draw my own conclusions from this information, that either sometime in the past life must have arisen from non life or that there must have been an original life giver, neither position can be proven but which is more reasonable based on the science, that life came from non life which science shows does not happen or life comes from life which science shows does happen.Just give me the facts I can draw my own conclusions , I hope you can do the same Bruce

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I don’t think I said anything in this post about global warming.

      You are the one that needs to be honest, Marfin. No amount of data/evidence is going to change your mind about the Bible and what it says in Gen 1-3. Just be honest, admit this, and you’ll save everyone a lot of work.

      Reply
      1. marfin

        And is your mind open to change , i doubt it , but you blog your opinion and I believe you have every right to do so, as I have a right to disagree, whether either of our minds will change at the moment I doubt it, but to my mind there is nothing wrong with opposing views being expressed, but if you just what me to say , you are right Bruce to every post you write OK you are right Bruce

        Reply
    2. Troy

      Am I the only one who got cross-eyed trying to read that?
      Life coming from non-life is abiogenesis (as you point out hypothetical and speculative) not evolution (theoretical and a proven phenomenon).
      Glaciers are melting all over the world so yes climate change (global warming ) is occuring. I suppose some question if it is actually a result of human activity. While in the past fluctuations in the carbon dioxide have indeed occured from other natural processes in this case it is certainly a result of human activity. Unlike many liberals I see little point in cutting greenhouse emissions, I don’t think anything short of a heroic measures like giant orbital mirrors orpossibly widespread use of nuclear fusion reactors will reverse the trend.

      Reply
  7. Angiep

    Marfin, please just go away. You obviously want to pick a fight and we are not interested. You have made up your mind, so you do not have any interest in honest discussion.

    Reply

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