A Christian's Responsibility (was: Miller's Request for N&V Artic

Mon, 20 Sep 1999 07:17:59 -0400

I read with interest your post directed to Dr. Miller (since it was posted
to the list, I assume that it was fair game).

I teach at a Christian secondary school - Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy and
Paleontology (the latter two are only half year electives). My own
background is chemical engineering plus alot of reading.

Both in school and at church or other outside activities, my ears perk up
whenever pronouncements on scientific issues are raised. My own conclusion
is that I will bring to the attention of the speaker first any factual error
that were made. I believe that this follows Christ's instruction to go
directly to the brother who has offended rather than to others (that could
verge on gossip). (I am never (almost) asked my thoughts ahead of time
except by students who bring interesting items in for me to read.) It is
important to be gentle and humble in your correction, but also to present
the sources for your information - after all science is not just a matter of
opinion. Be sensitive to the good motives of the speaker, and offer your
own encouragement along with the correction. My experience is that a good
fraction will accept your thoughtful criticism (especially when done in
private) and a smaller fraction will actually change or make amends.

Some familiar examples: a fifth grade teacher repeated the missing day
story about NASA running computer programs backwards, an 8th grade teacher
and our youth pastor both mentioning that human footprints are found within
dinosaur prints in Texas, and finally our pastor presenting the story of the
British sailor swallowed by a whale (I gave him Ted Davis' "Whale of a Tale"
article that can be found at the ASA website).

I was most encouraged when my pastor mentioned first thing the next Sunday
that the British sailor story was most likely completely false. He rightly
excused himself somewhat by explaining that he had found the story in three
separate trusted commentaries (something to be learned there !). That took
moral courage for him. (He did not mention my name - and that is probably

Be careful of your own heart - as CS Lewis says: pride is the most dangerous
of sins. There may be times when it might be best to let something go, so
as not to appear either too sensitive or not to make a pain of yourself.

That concern you feel is important. Christians should never be found using
falsehood to defend the Bible (sort of ends-justifing-the-means). I taught
an adult Sunday school class on Great Christian Authors. One of those was
Augustine. In his Confessions (book V, I believe), he talked about his
powerful disillusionment when he realized that the chief teacher of the
Manachaeans was spouting scientific nonsense. If he was in error about
factual issues, why should he be trusted with more important spiritual
issues. That was one of his reasons for leaving that sect.

Al McCarrick