Hanging on the door of my classroom is a copy of the Belgic Confession, article 2, “The Means by Which We Know God.” It reads:
We know God by two means:
First, by the creation, preservation, and government
of the universe,
since that universe is before our eyes
like a beautiful book
in which all creatures,
great and small,
are as letters
to make us ponder
the invisible things of God:
God’s eternal power and divinity,
as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.
All these things are enough to convict humans
and to leave them without excuse.
Second, God makes himself known to us more clearly
by his holy and divine Word,
as much as we need in this life,
for God’s glory
and for our salvation.
This is the oldest doctrinal standard of the Reformed and Christian Reformed churches. There are a few reasons why I have it hanging there, but the main one is as a constant reminder to myself and my classes that God is the author of science and the Bible, and that these two aren’t in disagreement. When we start classes in the fall of each year, I introduce science as the first means by which we know God—the study of creation. Everything we do in science points to God, and I refer to this throughout the year in my teaching. We see the way God designed creation and intended it to be, but we also see how it is fallen. In fact I daresay my fellow middle-school teachers get sick of me somewhat jokingly referring to science as the first means by which we know God, Bible class as the second (and more direct) means by which we know God, and every other class as, well, window dressing for the two important ones.
In science the discussion between creation and evolution is something that rears its head fairly often, and I believe it is something that we should not avoid. Whether we are studying light traveling from distant stars or the way God intended the balance of human beings and creation to be, this topic comes up in teaching and from my students in what we do. Over my twenty-five years in the saddle, I have learned not to fear this discussion in my classes but to embrace it as another learning moment in our classes, a chance for grace and thoughtful reflection. In my career I have been blessed to never have had a serious issue with this discussion, whether I was teaching a unit on creation and evolution or just recognizing it as a part of classroom learning.
A Posture of Humility
One of the main traits I think we need to embrace as teachers is the posture of humility. Too often, I have the tendency to come off as the expert—this is often reinforced by students who see “the science teacher” as the knowledgeable one on staff about some of these things. One of the many things I have learned by listening to L.O.F.T. sermons from Reverend Mary Hulst is to preface any of these controversial topics with the statement “I could be wrong but . . .” We all like to think we are correct, but if there were one correct interpretation of everything, we would not have differing church denominations; we would not have discussions over the role of women in church leadership; we would not have discussions about how creation and evolution fit together in God’s grand universe. I have a former student who currently identifies as an atheist. When we have had honest discussions about his beliefs, part of the reason he has shifted to this point of view is due to the insistence on a young earth in his upbringing, and, as a student of science, he just could not reconcile that viewpoint with what he saw as he studied through college. Insisting the earth is young has been partly responsible for driving this young man away from the church, and clearly that is not a God-honoring thing.
This is an abridged version of this article. To read more, subscribe to the print edition of Christian Educators Journal.
Clayton D. Lubbers just finished his twenty-fifth year teaching (which as a high schooler he never thought would happen) and continues to love it every day. At Byron Center Christian, Clayton teaches seventh and eighth grade science and helps the staff with technology. His hobbies include hunting, fishing, motorcycling, and anything science.