Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Where's Ed When We Need Him?

(Here, in my part of the States, a group has opened a museum promoting creationism, that God literally created everything in six days, and that the earth is only some 6,000 years old.)

I've been thinking about Ed the last few days. Ed was a high school classmate, who attended the same church as I did. We came to be friends during Sunday School, youth group, trips to Montreat Conference Center in the summers, and in classes we took together.

We were in high school in a time (early 60's) and a place (south Alabama), where the debate over creation vs. evolution was still alive. After all, there were folks around who had lived through the Scopes trial in Tennessee, and who believed the fight for the 'good name' of God the Creator still needed to be waged. And so, especially in the year when we took biology in high school, the debate over God vs. Darwin would pop up in youth group or Sunday School.

In particular Ed, who was fascinated by science, was troubled by the seemingly conflicting beliefs. He could see with his own eyes, in class, the wonder of creation, but also the evolutionary changes which had taken place in the world. In many ways, it was a real crisis of faith for him, as to which view was right. For it was made very clear to us, in a number of ways, that a choice had to be made.

Then one Sunday evening, Ed came to youth group all excited. He sat down at the table where I was, and told of his discovery. In looking at various materials in the library, he had found that vestigial remains of legs had been found in snakes - that at some point in its evolutionary development, snakes had walked. Science had confirmed that account in Genesis (3:14) where God told the serpent that it would move on its belly from that point on.

I'll never forget the look of pure joy on Ed's face. It was no longer an either/or situation. He could believe that God had created everything, and continue to learn from the science that taught him the intricate marvels of that creation. He could believe that God spoke a Word and the mountains were created, and he could believe the geological studies that showed how the mountains were formed. He could trust in the words of the Bible, and he could trust the work of Mendel, of Darwin, of Newton. He could be a theologian as well as a scientist. He could be a person of mystery as well as a person of reason.

I've been thinking of Ed the last few days, and all the women and men like him I have been privileged to know over the years. Those who give thanks for the God who created everything, and who give thanks for the God who continues to teach us, through science, the wonders and intricacies of that good and evolving gift.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Let Us Now Praise Teachers

In the fifth grade, if we were done with
our class work, we were allowed to raise
our hand, to get permission from the teacher
to go to the library to get a book. Because
I loved to read, I would race through the
work. Tired of my constant handwaving,
Mr. Grasso finally told me one morning,
"When you are done with your work, you
may quietly leave the room to go to the
library. You don't have to raise your hand
any more."

In the 10th grade, my American History
teacher, Mrs. Mozingo, asked me to stay
after class one day. She simply said to me,
"I see that you are bored in this class. Here
are some books I think you should read.
We can talk about them after school."

In my senior year at high school, Mr. Everett,
my homeroom teacher, wrote in the yearbook,
"To Thom, who can become whoever he wants,
if he only would believe in himself."

In college, Fred White, Ken Keeton, Ashby
Johnson, Sheila Johnston, Billy Wireman,
and so many more, played roles in my life
that, back then, I did not see. They were
my mentors, my nudgers, my supporters,
my critics. They were my professors and
my friends.

In seminary, Wellford Hobbie, Betty
Achetemeier, Doug Ottati, Bernice Pace,
Robert Carlson, and others lived out
the faith taught in the classrooms. In the
hallways, on the quad, in a hospital room,
around a lunch table, they did their best
to help us understand that ministry was
more than just an academic endeavor.

It's Teacher Appreciation Week in these
parts, and I give thanks to God for all
these people, and so many more.

What a great cloud of witnesses has
enveloped me through my life!

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman