Re: Question for John McKiness

John P. McKiness (
Sat, 27 Jun 1998 20:06:22 -0500


Hi and welcome. Thank you for introducing yourself. If you are interested,
I first introduced myself on 25 Dec 1996 which you can find in the archives,
but I feel that I need to add to that introduction in order to answer your
questions, sorry for the length of my response.

At 11:01 AM 6/27/98 +1000, you wrote:
>Hi all
>I have some questions for John McKiness who wrote (in part) on 25 Jun 1998
>22:28:43 -0500

I want to stress my _trained_ status so that no one will confuse me with you
professionals. I originally wanted to be a wildlife biologist or a forester
when I started my college education in 1967, but that didn't work out in
part because of my problems with evolution and math (I even promised a
chemistry professor that I would never do anything with chemicals if he
would pass me with a D-, I have tried my hardest to live up to that promise
which he honored ;-)). After being told not to come back to the university
for a semester because of low grades in 1969, I joined the U.S. Coast Guard
for 3 years, 9 months and 24 days and was a Marine Science Technician
(oceanographic and weather data collection when at sea). When I returned to
the University of Idaho I found that the forestry graduates were no longer
able to find jobs (Earth Day had occurred while I was in the "Guard" and
everyone seemed to want to protect the Earth in 1973) so I decided to change
my major.

God had been confronting me with my bad attitude about geology and evolution
for some time at that point but I decided to study history (main interests
are prehistory, ancient history, and history of early American-European
contact). Before finishing the requirements for a B.A. in History in 1976,
I decided that I really needed to understand evolution and earth history, so
I let history lead me into paleoanthropology and archeology which led in
turn to interest in paleoenvironments (there were no jobs for history majors
at that point anyway). My goal was never to find oil or minerals or go into
business (in the 80's when I was prepared to start working geology jobs
those industries were shutting down here in the States and not hiring
anyway; classmates who had graduated earlier with geology degrees and gotten
jobs were laid off and were either unemployed and back in college for other
degrees or were taking jobs like truck driving).

The goal before me, once I left forestry, was to help other Christians
understand evolution and Earth history and to raise a family -- in a way
that my children would know me when I came home from work (something a oil
company recruiter once told me wouldn't be possible if I worked for them).
The only summer job I landed in the 80's which was geology related required
me to buy (at my own expense) camping gear and round trip tickets to Alaska,
so I had to turn it down as I couldn't afford the experience (also I would
have had to leave my wife and three children behind without support
something my replacement did not have to consider). I was told at that
point by my potential employer that I was too old (38) to expect to get a
job in geology and that was probably my last chance.

What _I_ wanted to do was teach in a liberal arts college and help others
who were struggling with Christian faith/science issues. By the time I
received my M.S. in Geology colleges were dropping geology from their
curriculum and I had arrived at the conclusion that there is an unbridgeable
gulf between Christian faith and human reason and hence the two are

We moved to Iowa in 1989 so that I could begin my Ph.D. program (I have been
ABD since 1994 but unable to finish the thesis because of a combination of
indecision, time, and money) because there was nothing else for me to do and
I couldn't find work in Idaho which would pay living expenses for a family
of 5. The U. of Iowa needed geology graduate students (and was having
difficulty finding qualified people) and were willing to grant me an

I guess I accomplished my teaching goal in '95-'96 when I got an instructor
position at Calvin College as a sabbatical leave replacement (the person
originally selected back out at the last minute) and I quickly found that I
am a terrible teacher (I apparently cannot communicate).

I have made my living, so far, doing odd jobs that no one else wants (the
most important factors in my getting a job has always been that no one else
wanted the job or were available when needed or someone (who couldn't afford
it) was charitable and made a job for me. I have been a retail mall's
maintenance manager, made buggy wheels, been a geology teaching assistant
(when a department couldn't attract grad students or as a volunteer),
digitized plat maps, mapped vegetation from remote images, drove school bus
and grain trucks, been a archeological field assistant, and a carpenter's
helper but never a paid geologist (except as a temp. instructor) or
anthropologist or historian.

Sorry to be so long winded, I wasn't going to go into such detail when I
started but I believe this will help you understand my answers.

You asked:

>As a "trained geologist/paleo-type, anthropologist, and historian" how then you
>do you see the practice of your profession from a Christian perspective? What
>can you, as a Christian, contribute to the scientific enterprise? What can you
>as a scientist contribute to our faith? If "cultural things" are a lost cause,
>why practice as a scientist (or anything else for that matter) at all?
>I am most interested in you response and that of other subscribers in this
>Jonathan Clarke

So in answer to your questions, I do not have a profession apart from the
job God gives me; I thank Him for the job I am doing and do the best I can
at that job. I cannot contribute to the scientific enterprise because I do
not have the time or money to "do science." I am trying to do what I can
for our faith by pointing out that since faith and science come from
different sources (God and man) science can contribute nothing to Christian
faith. But whatever I am given to do I do to the best of my ability in
service to God (in that I find I have witnessed to coworkers and employers).
It is my faith which can contribute to a scientist's or nonscientist's needs
and not the other way around, I apparently was not called to be a scientist.

As far as my training goes, I am ready to help others who are struggling
with Christian faith/science problems, but I have found that few people are
really interested. Most Christians around me assume I am tainted because I
have studied in a state school and in every case I have come across, a
person's faith problem is not with their understanding of science but with
their Christian training and understanding of God and man's relationship to

(I have never met or read the writings of anyone who has left the faith
because of what they were taught in biology or geology. Those I have met
who have "left" never really understood God, faith, or basic Christianity.
They "left" because a "sovereign" God allows babies to suffer and die (C.
Darwin was in this group), or the allowed Jews to suffer the Holocaust or
Blacks to suffer slavery, or God didn't answer a special prayer, or their
literature teacher didn't believe God exists, or etc. Geology and
evolution, when mentioned, have always been an added excuse, easily stripped
away on questioning. I would really enjoy talking to anyone who truelly has
left the faith because of what they were taught about Earth history or
evolution. Notice that even Glenn, who has said repeatedly that he was to
the point of becoming an atheist because he took geological data seriously,
didn't; I submit that his faith must be grounded on something beside human
logic and science.)

So you see Jonathan, I have not practiced the profession I was trained for
and at this point I believe the training was for me to see the impossibility
of relating things of man to things of God and to be where I was when
needed. I do not know why I had to take this path but I believe I had no
choice once I said "lead me Father where you want me to go and help me to
follow You and help others." I had no choice if I really wanted Him to
honor the request. (At this point I do not even know why I am on this list,
as all I seem to do is disagree with everyone (I have trashed many more
messages then I have sent and many that I have sent I believe have been a
waste of my time).

If you remember my exchanges with Glenn and others, I have always tried to
stress that there is an unbridgeable dichotomy between things of Christian
faith and things of human reasoning (and culture). It is unbridgeable from
our end just as the gulf between God and us is unbridgeable from our side
(For TULIP Calvinists there is the problem of our Total Depravity and for
some Lutherans (myself and Luther for two) there is the problem of our loss
of the image of God and our corrupt nature, both points of view lead me to
believe that whatever we do it is corrupt and we can do nothing to approach
God (or Truth and Reality which reside only in Him and are revealed only in
Jesus Christ: The Word and The Redeemer).

Jesus Christ is the _only_ bridge and He appears to be unconcerned with
human reason (or culture). He submitted Himself to human culture when He
lived with us (paid taxes, was a carpenter (so used and made cultural
items), observed human customs, taught, and provided for family and the poor
and helpless) but He did not redeem or change His culture (He was radical
however about people doing what was required from the heart and not for
show, but He did not force the Hellenized/Roman world to conform to Judaism
or nonbelievers to conform to the standards of believers). He submitted
Himself to human reasoning when we used it to justify killing Him. He
forced no one to believe in Him or follow Him (in fact, He seems to have
gone out of the way to discourage belief and followers in order to
accomplish His goal). Therefore, I do not see reforming culture or
harmonizing Christian faith and science as our job either. Like I said in
my last message, I believe that only Jesus Christ can redeem anything and He
was sent to redeem us not our things. Our charge is to go and tell,
baptize, and provide for the poor and helpless. Our blessing is the peace
He established between us and our Father.

As a scientist (in training) I believe our Christian duty is to make sure we
do the best science we can and ask our fellow scientists to do the same and
to point out when bad science is done or someone is confusing their faith
with their science.

Culture is how we deal with the cosmos around us, as Christians we bring a
different perspective to bear on our culture but I do not believe we are
allowed to force that perspective on others. Music, art, literature, and
science are cultural items we modify within our personal cultures using our
personal knowledge when we become Christ's but I do not see the command to
force others into our Christian subculture by trying to redeem theirs.

Thank you for your questions I hope I answered them clearly and fully.
Sorry again for the length of the post, I hope I didn't ramble to much.