This article by Gary Vander Schaaf is the first in a series dealing with how Protestant Reformed Teachers present their subjects from a distinctive point of view. This series was introduced in the November issue.
The foundation for science education in the Protestant Reformed schools is found in Genesis 1:28: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” In this “Genesis Mandate” we are told, in effect, that the world is created for our care. If we are to “tend to the garden” for God’s sake, we must know about that garden. Science can help us know and help us tend.
As I see it, God demands that His children occupy two roles when they study science. The first role is passive; the child of God must learn about creation. I know that those of you who have studied science think that there is nothing passive about it. It is often hard work. But I mean “passive” in that, through science studies, our God is revealed to us. We learn that our Father is omnipotent. Especially, we learn through science that our Lord is a Lord of structure, a God of order. Whether God deals with His people or with His dumb creation, He is never an arbitrary or a capricious God.
Nowhere is God’s mighty and ordering power more visible than in the evening sky. The myriad stars seem randomly scattered, the only order that by which man places them in constellations. Yet you and I know that God’s structuring power is operating even in the empty cold of space. The planets move in orderly, elliptical orbits; the sun circles daily in its course. Our solar system turns around the hub of the Milky Way, which in turn revolves around a point thousands of light-years away. So our universe is not chaotic, as men label it today. Instead, as medieval man saw more clearly, the heavens are part of the “Great Dance”, moving, turning, spinning in precise and orderly movement in tune to the celestial music of God’s almighty power.
The second role the child of God must fulfill is an active one. We must do something; we must subdue the earth; we must tend the garden. In order for science to help us do this, the science taught in Protestant Reformed schools must be thorough, rigorous, and accurate. Let me explain these standards.
Novelist Fredrick Manfred likes to tell the story of the time his mother visited him at Calvin College when he was a student there in the early 1930’s. Manfred wanted to show his mother the college’s collection of fossils, dinosaur bones, and other “prehistoric” artifacts. His mother declined. Manfred insisted. She declined again. Finally, Manfred asked her why she refused to have a look at the “old bones.” His mother replied, “Och, Feike, I’m scared to go in there. I don’t think my faith can stand it.”
We can understand the mother’s fears; we can even sympathize with them. But we cannot encourage them in ourselves or in others. Our science must be thorough and rigorous. It must deal with what is. I have encountered parents and students who think that we have to stay away from certain areas of study because “it’s all evolution stuff.” Fossils, old bones, geological deposits, the differentiation of species: these are not “all evolution stuff.” We should not fear and avoid them just because false science has misinterpreted this data. Rather, we must study these things thoroughly, scientifically, that we might discover the truth about them and their purpose here. What is God trying to tell us about Himself and His creation through these things? All creation is a book; we sin if we refuse to read it.
But we sin even more if we read the book of creation inaccurately. This is why our science must be accurate. This means, first of all, that our science realizes its limitations. It deals with what is, with what it can see, handle, and analyze in the laboratory. Those of you who attend secular high schools or colleges and take science courses at those places must remember that Science is not Philosophy. It is not Metaphysics. It is certainly not Theology. Science has no business passing definitive judgments concerning the existence or nature of God, man’s relationship with Him, or man’s relationship with his fellow men.
Secondly, if our science is to be accurate, it must be truthful. Our scientific theories must fit the evidence found in nature and, above all, in Scripture. Protestant Reformed schools do not teach the theory of evolution because this theory does not fit the facts of creation or Scripture. Rather, we seek to learn the truth about creation and fight those who elevate lies to positions of scientific canon. Fighting scientific untruth is one way the child of God can be active. To fight effectively, however, we must have thorough and rigorous training.
If, for instance, you want to protest evolutionary theory in one of your science classes, it does little good to stand up and announce, “I don’t believe that,” and then have the professor cut you to ribbons before the class because you do not know enough about evolutionary theory to debate with him. Neither is it sufficient to simply drop the class in protest. Such action is a poor gesture, at best, and poor witnessing at worst. Instead, do this: learn the facts, study the information, familiarize yourself with evolutionary theory, know it cold, discover its many weaknesses. The Institution for Creation Research publishes over twenty books criticizing evolutionary theory from a scriptural point of view. (A partial list of ICR publications is given at the end of this article.) Read these books, study them; do not be destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Science is knowledge, knowledge of the creation: what it’s like, what it does, how it does it. We need this knowledge if we are to be effective stewards of God’s great garden. We have been, I fear, ineffective gardeners. We have a sorry history of “let somebody else do it” attitudes. Scientific matters are not our concern. Not our concern, that is, until our cattle are contaminated with PBB, our wells are polluted by chemical run-off, our children are born deformed or dead in a Love Canal-type tragedy, our neighborhoods are evacuated due to nuclear-reactor leaks. Where have we been? What have we been doing? Satan’s children have been tending the garden long enough. We must take our tools – science and the scriptures – and get to work.
These and other books can be ordered from the Institute for Creation Research, 2716 Madison Avenue, San Diego, California 92116.
The Genesis Flood
The Twilight of Evolution
Biblical Cosmology and Modern Science
Evolution and the Modern Christian
The Remarkable Birth of Planet Earth
Speculations and Experiments Related to the Origin of Life: A Critique
Scientific Studies in Special Creation
The Early Earth
The Origin of the Solar System
The World that Perished