Growing up in Los Angeles it was easy to fall for Hollywood’s heroes. And for me, that meant scientists! In the movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still” it wasn’t the military nor politicians nor religious leaders that would save the day (or try to), it was the “smartest people in the world:” in this case, people like Professor Barnhart. Scientists had the biggest brains!
As a teenager I bought a six inch reflector telescope with my savings and studied the starry heavens, sometimes going out to the deserts of Southern California for best views. I was hooked. I would spend hours drawing the details I saw on Jupiter, Mars and Saturn. Being out in the desert fed another hobby: rock hounding. Digging up feldspar crystals or trilobite fossils led to a career choice of geologist. I enrolled in the fine geology program at the University of California at Riverside…”back in the day,” as my son Dan would later describe.
Hollywood’s image of a scientist (Professor Barnhart) was what I wanted to become: brilliant, but humble. He was willing to even listen to a man from those starry heavens who had more answers than men of earth…in that case, the spaceman “Mr. Carpenter.” Barnhart was humble, because he was willing to admit he didn’t know everything.
But in a series of discoveries at UCR I soon found out that science wasn’t living up to Hollywood’s image. I didn’t find the humility and openness that I had predicted. This was particularly true in the area of origins. Evolution was believed and taught with religious fervor. This was despite a number of obvious problems.
I had had some Christian training in private schools. Though never committing to Christianity or God I was open to the concept, as most Americans still are. But I remember thinking that “if there WAS a God, man, that would change everything!” And I remember immediately changing the channel, so to speak. I didn’t want to become a Christian and be some kind of robot, never having fun. Right?
So, one day in class my major Professor —— (I wish to keep him anonymous, a good man) mentioned that a creationist was coming to the campus to speak that evening as a guest lecturer. Then he giggled, but straightened up afterwards as though he shouldn’t have giggled. “I believe in God….” And that ended the class in a flurry of questions and discussions as to where God fit in modern science. I was trying to follow his logic. Raising my hand, I asked, “So Doctor, are you saying that the world and us on it happened to become what we are through natural events, then this Being saw us from across the universe and said, “Hey, those people are going to need a god. I think I’ll go and offer My services!” And he had no response.
I didn’t mean to embarrass him. But what DO you do with God, if He has nothing to do with us being here? Is He a giant space alien or what?
Realizing the problems of evolution (like missing links and no mechanism for macroevolution) and that science didn’t want to talk about those problems, the image of an open-minded and tolerant field of study lost its appeal to me. Professor Barnhart vanished! And in discouragement I dropped out of school.
For years the paragraph above was my complete explanation for dropping out. I have recently seen that there was more to it. Science was bringing me TO God! That is, the study of origins was bringing me ever closer to the logical discovering of the Creator. And that made me nervous. I was once again “changing the channel.”
For the next year or so I enjoyed working fulltime at the La Sierra McDonalds as their janitor; excuse me, “maintenance engineer!” I was rooming with a friend named Dave who was a shift manager for another McDonalds nearby. One Saturday night we hosted a party for McD friends. It was followed by a trip with a girl to a local Denny’s for coffee and a deep philosophical discussion. Where were our lives going? We owned a lot of cool stuff for young bachelors: cars, music instruments, a huge stereo, we lived in a fancy apartment…but so what? We talked about selling everything we had and “living off of the land.” (This was the ’70s; I had a VW van). But near the end of our talk my friend Dave said, “And let’s try to find God.” What? And he was serious!
The next day he asked if I had a Bible; he wanted to borrow it. “Sure, I think…” and after some looking I found it. He started reading it. And so did I. The day came when I decided I needed to talk to God about all of this. So, I knelt next to my bed (that’s where “you’re supposed to pray”) and prayed for the first time since I was a little kid: “God, it looks like Dave and I are looking for You. Can you help us? Amen.”
And, wow, did things change over the next few weeks. We got lots of small answered prayers and the realization that God “saw and heard us” was exhilarating! Still is…
God soon led me into another field…religion. I enrolled at the La Sierra campus of Loma Linda University where I became a ministerial student, studying nothing but Christianity for two years (I had plenty of other subjects already done). What a great time in my life that was, learning from experts the various dynamics of a loving Creator. And unlike science, I found the atmosphere open and tolerant…a breath of fresh air.
I went on to a pastoral career, getting a Masters of Divinity degree from Andrews University in Michigan, then a Doctor of Ministry degree (used to be called “Doctor of Divinity”) from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, a non-denominational seminary. And for over 30 years I’ve been an ordained Seventh-day Adventist pastor.
However, I have never lost my love of raw science (apart from its current pop-culture and humanistic base). So, along with my pastoral work, I have conducted seminars and delivered lectures on topics of science and religion for over 20 years. I have produced two television series and am still co-producing, along with colleague Dr. John Kurlinski, a LifeTalk radio program entitled “Sink the Beagle.” It is because of this background that I was offered my current position of directing the Creation Study Center in Ridgefield, Washington.
NOTE! Should skeptics doubt my credentials and incomplete science training as qualifying me to speak on such topics, may I respectfully submit that Charles Darwin had only a bachelors degree in religion when he wrote and spoke!