Sunday, June 16, 2013

Reflections on Father’s Day

On this Father's Day, I paused to thank my Heavenly Father for His grace and mercy which He first revealed to me through my earthly father, Bert Silvius.

With Dad and Sister, Margie
One of my earliest memories of Dad was singing with him in our little Methodist Church, in Dundee, Ohio.  Dad made a point of sharing the hymnal with me so that I could see the time-honored words of the great hymns of the faith.  As I sang along with Dad the hymn "This Is My Father's World" and observed his big hands, strong and toughened by the toil of farm work, I remember feeling so safe and glad because my world seemed to be held and controlled by his strong hands.

As I grew into elementary age and could work on the farm, I was glad to work alongside my Dad even though it was more fun to play with my sister or my cousins when they were around.  Our family shared the house with my Dad's parents and my Uncle, Glen Silvius.  There were many happy times for me, but there were also times of strife.   You see, farming had its challenges for my Dad. Working in partnership with two brothers and the watchful eye of his own father who had his own ideas, provided many opinions on how things should be done.  Yet I never heard my Dad show disrespect for his brothers or his father. Instead, he worked hard and was usually the one to whom the others came when advice was needed.

Gradually, I came to know that my earthly father was not in control of the world.  There were people and forces much larger than Dad that appeared to control the course of events.  But, through my Dad's example of responsibility and respect, I learned to know that this big, uncertain world actually belongs to the God of Heaven.  And eventually I came to know this God personally as my Heavenly Father.  This process took many years but it came about in an unusual way.

As I grew into my teens, I faced adolescent challenges of relationships both in our family and at school.  I obeyed my parents who challenged me with the help of regular "disciplinary reminders" over the years.  I came to realize my own tendency to be selfish and mean, often to the chagrin of my sister or our farm cats.  Many times, I was sorry for my behavior, and I knew that it disappointed both my parents and the God of Heaven.

Meanwhile, over the years I had grown used to observing Dad both in public and in private.  I watched him in front of our church reading passages from the Bible, or leading in prayer and sharing ideals that seemed wise but so hard for me to attain.   I watched Dad as I worked with him, my cousin, and my uncles on the farm.  Both uncles had "short fuses" and would verbally abuse my Dad when things didn't go the way they wanted it to go.  Yet, as I noted earlier, I never heard my Dad respond in a disrespectful manner.  He was not perfect but I had to admit that the words he read from the Bible and the prayers he prayed in public were consistent with the way he tried to live outside of church during the week. As a result, Dad showed me enough of what God must be like to prepare my heart for the day when I would confess that I too was a struggling sinner who needed God's grace and mercy to deal with my sin nature and to save me from my own selfish tendencies. For that I say “Thank you, Dad.”

I considered Dad well educated and wise even though he voluntarily ended his formal education in his 8th grade year in order to help his parents on the farm.  Although his formal education stopped, Dad’s love for learning continued throughout his life.  He read every farm magazine and scientific book he could obtain.  His love for mathematics, botany, and chemistry allowed us to converse about my organic chemistry when I was home from college as he milked the cows and I forked manure.  He and Mom not only helped to pay for my college education, but they both shared their love for learning in a contagious way.  Far from being envious of my "higher education” Dad, and my Uncle Glen who had no sons of his own, were my greatest male encouragers.

And so, on this Father's Day, I can truly say, "Thank you, Dad.  I miss you still.  I trust that one day, you will enjoy a reunion with all of us who are counting on God's grace and the promise of Real Life to come.  Although at this time you may not have the ability or the time to do so, I believe you would enjoy seeing your grandchildren and their spouses, and your great-grandchildren.  Being "mechanically minded" has skipped a generation, you know; and, your grandson, Brad, demonstrates the same versatility in both mental and mechanical skills that you had.  Space does not permit me to go into details here but I have recently written about one of his projects, The Little Leaders Company.  Brad was aided by his gifted wife, Raquel, and other family members and friends in the production of several DVD's that are now teaching biblical values to children. Brad has also taught Abby and I much about ourselves and God's goodness.  Just today, he gave me a call for Father's Day today which was a blessing as always. 

Furthermore, you will remember the little blond granddaughter you used to carry around.   Just wait until you see what a lovely woman Melinda Maetta has become.  She's a nurse and nurse supervisor, and you had a part in igniting that interest in her-- one day, she will love to tell you about it.   She also makes a good pastor's wife.  You haven't personally met our son-in-law, Steve,  but  as a young pastor, he now stands before the members of Northpoint Church of the Nazarene and reads from the Bible, preaches, and prays.  God has done a great work in his life and continues to mold and shape him. You will also enjoy Mindy and Steve's son, Caleb, and two daughters, Kiara Maetta and Della Rose Katherine.   And now Mindy and Steve's three children remind me of myself when I sat in church, listening to you read from the Bible and pray—with at least one exception:  they are already ministering through helping with technology (Caleb) and in music (all three). As was my experience, I pray that their love and respect for their earthly parents will grow in such a way that they will come to know, love, and trust their Heavenly Father with their lives.  

I didn't mean to be this "long winded" but would be amiss, Dad, if I didn't mention the greatest person in my life, the Abby that you admired in both words and actions.   She has been the key to anything good that has come from my family and my work by God's grace.

Dad, your work on Earth is finished, but ours continues.  We pray for the grace from God to continue to love Him and to follow His Word and the principles that make for a godly family. Perhaps the prayer you wrote and prayed nearly fifty years ago this year is a fitting way to end this reflection.  Thanks for praying and applying God's principles as my Dad.”

May all of us come to understand that right living alone exalteth a family,
that only in Thy will can peace and harmony abound.
Help us to live together as people who have been forgiven a great debt.
Help us to be gentle, walking softly with one another.
Help us to be understanding, lest we shall add to the world
=s sorrow.
Help us to stand for what is right,
Not because it may yield dividends later,
but because it is right now.
Help us to be as anxious that the rights of others shall be recognized
as we are that our own shall be established.
Help us to be eager to forgive as we are to be forgiven.
God help us all to be ministers of mercy
and ambassadors of kindness for Jesus,
In Whose Name we pray, “Our Father Who are in Heaven…”

 Bert Silvius,   April 19, 1964

Monday, June 3, 2013

Halting the Demise of “Liberal” Education

Jacob Tanenbaum, a fourth and fifth grade science teacher, recently wrote A Science Teacher Draws the Line at Creation, in Scientific American.  The online version was originally published in the January, 2013 print edition of Scientific American under the title “Creation, Evolution and Indisputable Facts.”

Mr. Tanenbaum laments that, according to a recent survey, "40 percent of the American electorate seems to have forgotten what science is." However, I would respectfully contend that Mr. Tanenbaum, like many scientists who have “drawn the line,” are either ignoring or are unaware of the philosophical context of science.  

Perhaps some of the “problematic 40%” are still aware that the process and progression of the natural sciences depends upon several presuppositions--claims that are not provable, but are accepted by faith.  Let me briefly list them.  First, scientists must acknowledge the existence of objective reality—belief that physical reality exists apart from our imaginations or individual subjective interpretations.  Second, experimentation is based on presupposing the operation of “cause and effect” relationships in nature. Finally, scientists believe that experimental outcomes should be repeatable because it is accepted that natural processes are orderly and governed by certain natural laws that do not change from day to day.  In short, these presuppositions represent a belief system that precedes and under-girdsscientific thought and activity.

Mr. Tanenbaum’s view raises a second contextual problem for science and science education.  When we consider the philosophical context of what we call natural science (once called natural philosophy), we realize that “natural science” is limited in its capacity to define the boundaries of what we call “the real world.” On the other hand, those who credit natural science with limitless powers to know all of reality (i.e. possess the faith that "all we see is all there is") find it completely logical to deny “supernatural causation.” 

Truman (Jim Carey) walks to work
in his contrived world
Instead of acknowledging a supernatural power or being as the creator, many scientific naturalists like Mr. Tanenbaum attribute the complexity of living organisms to the laws of matter and energy operating through chance occurrences over billions of years.   But, because the operation of science depends upon the “faith presuppositions” noted above, how can science deny the validity of models that extend the boundaries for what we call reality?  Is it legitimate for scientists to “guard the boundaries” like the managers of the artificial, TV studio world of Truman Burbank in the movie, The Truman Show?

I believe that many in Mr. Tanenbaum's "40 percent" are good scientists, well aware of the wonder and complexity of the natural world; yet they are also well aware of the philosophical context of science.  The resulting perspective has led them to choose not to believe that life can be explained entirely by undirected natural causes.  Therefore, these folks tend to favor discussions of supernatural causation in the science classroom.  They argue that belief in such models is as valid as the belief that inanimate matter can self-organize and become animate without supernatural intervention. 

Truman touches the limiting horizon
of the contrived world.
Many of the “40 percent” are adolescents and college-age students or younger children and adults who are endowed with a quality of human nature that thrives in a learning environment characterized by freedom of expression and inquiry.  Like, Truman Burbank, they desire to probe the boundaries and discover things beyond the horizon.

What then is the role of the teacher or professor in a place of learning?  Is it his or her place to guard the boundaries as if to keep Truman from discovering that there might be something beyond the horizon?  Or is it to rediscover the joy known by educators of past centuries who believed in a truly “liberal” education?   I have known the satisfaction of watching students motivated to learn when they are exposed to the “inquiry approach” in the science classroom and laboratory.  The scene in which Truman breaks through the false horizon erected around his artificial world should convict all of us against the tendency to limit our students and cut off creative thinking.  If we fear the entry of “junk science” don’t we believe that “good science” is capable of eliminating false hypotheses through honest inquiry?

Exhilaration in discovering "reality beyond"
I close with a final consideration. It is one that all honest scientists must realize; namely, that no one was there to observe the creation of the first organic molecules, the first genes, the first cells, or the fossils in rock strata such as those of the Grand Canyon. Therefore, I suggest that both naturalistic evolutionary scientists and creation scientists must exercise caution in their attempt to explain the origin of life.  Instead, each should read the others' research and writing and strive for honest, respectful dialogue.  I suggest that a good place for both evolution and creation scholars to begin is by reading Dr. Leonard Brand’s excellent article, “A Biblical Perspective on the Philosophy of Science.”

As I complete this blog entry, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) is calling on Ball State University to discipline Dr. Eric Hedin, a professor of physics and astronomy, for his alleged attempt “to proselytize students and advance Christianity by using gaps in scientific knowledge—the ‘boundaries of science’ in an attempt to prove religious belief correct…”  What’s the harm in college students “exploring the boundaries of science” at an age when they are seeking the meaning of life?  After all, aren’t they also exploring moral and ethical boundaries as they consider their relationship to alcohol, drugs, and gambling?  All the while many students are bored and unfulfilled as they listen to liberal progressive and humanistic dogma in the classroom.  Many can relate to Jim Carrey’s character, Truman, was as he went to work daily in his artificial world.   On the other hand, might the answer to the woes of science education be found in the science classroom where ‘tolerance’ for all viewpoints is justly applied?”  Wouldn’t it bring a breath of fresh air on secular American university campuses and on many “Christian campuses” to offer to students a “truly liberal education? 

From a Christian worldview, teaching and research in the natural sciences should be undertaken as a stewardship of the truths of the natural revelation and of the special revelation.  As stewards of both the knowledge of science and the young learners entrusted to us, we should take our role seriously:

                Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren,
               knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment
.  – James 3:1

Useful Sources:
Brand, Leonard.  2004.  A Biblical Perspective on the Philosophy of Science.
Ham, Ken, Georgia Purdom, Steve Golden.  2013.  Responding to the False Claims of a Scientific American Columnist.  Search word:  “Tanenbaum”
Pearcey, N.R. and C.B. Thaxton.  1994.  The Soul of Science:   Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy.
Crossway Books,   Wheaton, IL.