Finding God

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Finding God - A Personal Reflection
My grandfather worked as an entomologist at Johns Hopkins University and devoted his life to understanding disease-carrying insects, especially mosquitoes. He conferred the name Anopheles darlingi on the mosquito of South and Central America most responsible for transmitting malaria to humans. His passion for understanding these disease vectors was only exceeded by his passion to enable others to learn how to control them...and, admittedly, by his passion for my grandmother!

A scientific realist prior to the time the term became en vogue, my grandfather believed that his careful documentation and description of Anopheles species, embellished by my grandmother’s life-like drawings, would help future scientists learn how to decrease the incidence of malaria. Science provided him an objective study of reality that enabled progressive understanding to take place. On realism, philosopher J.P. Moreland notes:

    [Stanley] Jaki adds that science and natural theology proceed in a similar way -- both use a bold leap of the intellect beyond sensory phenomena to the postulation of unseen causes responsible for those phenomena. Thus both natural theology and a realist understanding of science reject crude empiricism and use similar structures in arguments to the best explanation.96
After receiving Bachelors and Masters Degrees in the hard sciences, my father received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University and worked as the chief technical editor for Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory for over 40 years. During my youth I attended a Unitarian Universalist church in the suburbs of Washington, DC with my family. Sunday school often came down to a choice between arts and crafts or listening to Bible stories depicted in a way that made them analogous to Aesop’s Fables. I recall standing outside the church at age twelve answering a friend who asked, “Do you believe in God?” At the time I did little more than reiterate my father’s beliefs, “Not if the whole Bible is just a bunch of stories!” As a Boy Scout reciting the 12 Scout Laws I always stopped short of the last one, “a scout is reverent.” While reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at school I consistently went silent while the rest of the class said “under God.” I was a quiet rebel.

Finding God – A Changed Life
At the age of eighteen or nineteen I began to think about religion for myself. What modern atheists call freethought led me away from atheism and ultimately to Jesus Christ. In 1975, during my first semester of college, I dated a Christian young lady who encouraged me to read the New Testament as a whole, rather than just jumping from one Bible “story” to the next. Her suggestion helped me to view Jesus Christ and his impact on the world with greater understanding. Although my upbringing had trained me to view everything through the lens of science, I detected more to this Christ than science alone could explain. In December of 1975, my life radically changed due to an awareness of God in Christ that I find difficult to explain to those who haven’t experienced a similar event. There were countless theological concepts I had yet to understand. Then again, there were countless scientific concepts I had yet to understand at that age, so I could not rule out the possibility that these two disciplines would not ultimately support one another. For the past thirty years I have sought to deepen my understanding of these issues to determine whether such a synergy is possible. I am convinced it is.

In the meantime my father had become a more outspoken atheist. He retired in the late 1980s and moved to Florida. My parents attended a Unitarian Universalist church at first, but in time the church split and he and some others led an offshoot group to develop a new church based on Naturalism. Obviously, my father’s worldview differed radically from my own. In late 2003, my 80-year-old father contracted pneumonia and was hospitalized. Although he recovered from the pneumonia, his lungs weakened and he contracted pulmonary fibrosis, which took his life on Father’s Day in 2004. During the interval between his hospitalization and his death I gave him a preliminary draft of the manuscript for my next book, tentatively titled Colliding with Christ: The Science of Resurrection. I flew from my home in Colorado three times to visit him in Florida during that period. During my last visit he took me aside and whispered, “I think you’re right. I really think you’re right.” This led to a change I had prayed for all my life, but truthfully, did not ever expect to witness. He began to talk about “the transition,” a manner of speaking about death that, rather than mere annihilation, expressed a real faith in the reality of heaven. My last conversation with him occurred during a rather one-sided telephone call. His mental faculties remained as sharp as ever, but he found it difficult to both speak and breathe. We spoke for five or ten minutes when suddenly he could speak no more. I spent the next twenty minutes talking to him about his newly found faith. I set down the phone with the final admonition to “Trust Jesus.” The next day he died. At the memorial service a few days later my mother inquired, “What did you say to him that night? He would not let go of that phone for over an hour and he appeared more calm and peaceful than I’d seen him in days.” I saved my answer to her question until later in the service when I spoke to everyone. As I related our last conversation to the entire congregation of my father’s new church, founded on metaphysical naturalism, I offered them the same hope that he had found.

Keep Reading!

Read Page 1 of Letter To A Christian Nation: A Response.


Footnotes:
96 J.P. Moreland, Christianity and the Nature of Science (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1989), 203; Stanley Jaki, The Road of Science and the Ways to God (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978).


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