I trace both my Christian faith and my interest in science to the kind of home I had as a child. My parents were well-educated, and also avid readers. One of my earliest recollections is of my father reading history books, and I remember numerous visits to a nearby park for bird watching or mineral collecting. My parents were also very devoted Christians, and I recall family Bible studies where my father would put large maps of the Middle East on the wall. He would then point out where the various tribes and peoples with unpronounceable names lived and traveled, along routes of trade and conquest.
I didn’t appreciate it then, but my parents taught me about the natural world and God in the same way. Even though they did not articulate it directly, they were telling me that there was a ‘Book of Nature,’ as it were, and the ‘Book of Scripture,’ or the Bible, both ‘written’ by the same Creator. The process of learning was the same, whether it was patiently combing some dry stream bed for an interesting mineral, or figuring out the exact route of the Israelites across the Sinai. What I learned appeared no more or less true in either case.
As I grew older, the knowledge I gained about God’s creation supported my interest in a career in science. There is no inconsistency in parents who wanted me to read Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species,’ when I was barely out of elementary school, as well as the Bible. Similarly, there is no contradiction now in my claim to be a Christian and a scientist. Both ‘professions’ involve an ongoing process of knowing more about a God who wants to be known, both through His Word and His creation.
There was no problem, at this point, of accepting the idea of the existence of God intellectually, but I became aware that my belief in God had to go beyond that. God is the Creator of everything, including myself, but He is also perfect, and I had to admit that I was not. Instead, I was a sinner who did not even live up to my own standards, let alone those of God. The only way out of my condition was to recognize that God provided His only Son, Jesus Christ, who paid the price for my sins by dying for them. God then raised Him up from the dead, and it is in this historical fact that we too have hope for eternal life. It is what Christ has done for us, not anything that we have or could have done for ourselves, that then makes us right with God.
This personal realization did not come directly from anything I read or learned from anybody, including my parents, although they had a very important role. It wasn’t like solving a problem you’ve been consciously and conscientiously working on for a long time. Instead, it occurred while I was in high school, and at home by myself. I didn’t watch a lot of television, but I happened to tune into one of the Billy Graham crusades. At the end of the program, he invites the audience to accept Jesus Christ into their lives, and that evening, I did.
Looking back on the experience, it’s very humbling to me. Like many of you who are reading this, it’s easy for me to think that anything worth achieving is to be had through years of difficult study. However, to get what really counts, that is, forgiveness for sins and hope for eternal life, you don’t have to earn a place behind ivy-covered walls. Instead, it was God who did this for me through Jesus Christ, and this is what ultimately makes me special, not my academic credentials.
From my own experience, it isn’t intelligence or higher education that keeps someone from becoming a Christian. Instead, the real stumbling block is that believing in God has consequences. We are told this in the concluding lines of the Apostles’ Creed, which is a concise statement of the Christian faith. It tells us about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Creed reads as follows.
‘[Jesus Christ, after He was crucified,] ascended into heaven, and is seated on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy catholic [or universal] church [of all Christians around the world]; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting.’
Therefore, if we believe in God we have to admit that we’re are sinners, in need of forgiveness by the One who created us. This is possible only through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, on our behalf. Recognizing this thus becomes an issue of honestly and humbly recognizing who we are. Many people don’t want to accept this, but many others do. As it was for me, the choice is yours.