ChristianTeacher.org

Glimpses of Truth

by B. Jane Kulp

Christian teachers in a public school setting must keep their eyes and ears focused on God's Word so that they may discern what is true and what is false in the curriculum. This is especially true in the science classroom. There are so many hypotheses and unproved theories set forth in today's humanistic textbooks that the proven "laws" of science often get pushed aside. Christian educators need to remember that a hypothesis and a theory are simply man's ideas which are in the process of being tested for their validity. However, the concepts which are called "laws" have repeatedly passed the tests and proven to be trued in every reasonable circumstance. They are among the "constants," the truths, which God built into the universe.

In almost every case where a scientist has uncovered one of God's universal truths, the discovery has been motivated by study of the scriptures and a sincere faith in God. Many of the renowned scientists of the word called on the One who created the universe to guide and direct them as they searched for the keys to understanding His creation. Most of the scientists who have uncovered the laws of the universe have been drawn into a closer relationship with the Creator because of the marvels they have seen. 

In Psalm 119:18-20 David wrote, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. I am a sojourner in the earth; hide not thy commandments from me. My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thine ordinances at all times." Inspired by David's words, a music teacher named Clara H. Scott penned these beautiful words of a well-known hymn:

Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key,
That shall unclasp and set me free. . . .
Open my ears, that I may hear
Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
And while the wave-notes fall on my ear,
Ev'rything false will disappear. . . .
Open my mouth, and let it bear
Gladly the warm truth ev'rywhere;
Open my heart, and let me prepare
Love with Thy children thus to share.

Every Christian serving in the public school classrooms needs to be motivated, just as David was, by a "longing" for "wondrous things." God revealed Himself to David through the world around him as well as through written and spoken words. The Psalms are filled with images of nature and praise to the Creator. In Psalm 121:1-2 he proclaims, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth."

Christian teachers need to follow the example of David, as did the great scientists of faith, and call on God for help. God promises in His Word, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matthew 7:7). Educators need to ask God to help them see and discern truth from error. They must search not only the Scriptures but also libraries and the Internet for primary sources which reveal the "voices" of the scientists giving the true stories behind the discoveries. They must be willing to knock themselves out in preparing to present the truth to their students.


Open Eyes See Glimpses of Truth

Lesson planning should always begin with a prayer asking God to reveal Himself and to guide the direction of lesson. This is a tactic Christian teachers can apply to any subject, but especially to science. The eyes must be kept open and focused on God while perusing textbook material. Soon the reader will sense that key words, phrases, and sentences are prompting questions to form in the mind. The following selection from the fifth-grade Harcourt Science textbook (2000 edition) is used for an example in this article.

THE DISCOVERY OF CELLS

The Microslide you used in the investigation allowed you to observe parts of plants and animals under magnification. Without magnification, you couldn't have seen the structures you did. A microscope magnifies objects in a similar way. In fact, the photomicrographs you observed were taken through a microscope. The first microscopes were invented in the early 1600's. One scientist who built and used an early microscope was Robert Hooke.

In 1665 Hooke observed a thin slice of cork through a microscope. The tiny walled spaces he saw in the cork reminded him of tiny rooms. So he called them cells. Over the next 200 years, scientists learned more and more about cells. They learned that the cell is the basic unit of structure and function of all living things. The time line below [not shown in this article] shows some important early discoveries about cells.

The first prompting might come after the date 1600's: Who invented the microscope? Did that person believe in God? The phrase "one scientist" might cause the teacher to wonder: What other scientists used early microscopes? Were any of those other scientists Christians? A number of questions might also form concerning Robert Hooke: Was he a student of the Bible? Did he believe in God? Was he a Christian? Did he have religious motivation for conducting his observations?

The first appearance of the word "cells" in the second paragraph might cause some curiosity: What made him think of using the word cells instead of rooms? The rest of that paragraph would probably raise a number of historical questions, especially since a look at the the time line provides only two additional facts: (1) 1838 Mathias Schleiden determines that every plant is made up of cells; and (2) 1839 Theodor Schwann concludes that animals are also made up of cells.  There is a big gap with no entries on the time line between Robert Hooke in 1665 and Mathias Schleiden in 1838. The reader might ask: What happened during that 200 year time span? Who were the "scientists" who learned more? Who is credited with developing the cell theory? Were any of the scientists involved in cell research Christians?

The scientific method begins with a question, but the question evolves out of prayer and study. Asking God's guidance as they read Scripture, examining the works of predecessors, and questioning man's explanations is a process which led many Christian scientists to marvelous discoveries. Because they earnestly sought His wisdom, God chose to place in the hands of His servants the keys to unlock and reveal the answers to countless mysteries of His creation.


Open Ears Hear Voices of Truth

Once God has provided the promptings, or questions in the mind, the faithful Christian teacher must follow through by seeking answers. David wrote, "Blessed are they that seek him with the whole heart" (Psalm 119:1). "Seeking" involves searching and researching, looking in a variety of places. Peter told believers, "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). "Growing" in knowledge involves reading, listening, studying, and thinking. All seeking activities must be Christ-centered because, as Paul wrote, in Him "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3).

Encyclopedias, libraries, CD-roms, and the Internet are all excellent places to conduct a factual search. However, care must be taken to be sure the sources used to affirm beliefs are either primary sources (written by the scientist himself) or Christian sources (written and published by reputable Bible-believing Christians) which quote from primary sources.

For example, a search done in response to the questions raised by the two paragraphs in the Harcourt Science textbook might yield the following notations:

  1. Who invented the microscope and did that person believe in God? "Credit for the first microscope is generally given to Zacharias Janssen in Middleburg, Holland, around the year 1595." "Based on the letters of William Boreel ( the Dutch envoy to the Court of France) the father and son team of Hans and Zacharias Jansen are the inventors of the microscope. At least they are the first to have any documentation that substantiates such a claim. Their microscope design was somewhat limited. It could only be used for opaque objects [and] had a magnification of about 20X." [1] Need more research to verify his religious beliefs; however he has been listed as one of the inventors of the Reformation "Conquoring previously unthought of areas for Christ via God's Law-Word".[2]

  2. What other scientists used early microscopes? One name which keeps popping up in reference books and on the Internet is Antony van Leeuwenhoek. Some others mentioned in the Columbia Encyclopedia are G. B. Amici, Nehemiah Grew, Marcello Malpighi, and Jan Swammerdam. [2]

  3. What other scientists used early microscopes? One name which keeps popping up in reference books and on the Internet is Antony van Leeuwenhoek. Some others mentioned in the Columbia Encyclopedia are G. B. Amici, Nehemiah Grew, Marcello Malpighi, and Jan Swammerdam. [3] The 1911 Encyclopedia also makes this note concerning Joseph Jackson Lister (father of the famous surgeon Joseph Lister): "his chief claim to remembrance being that by certain improvements in lenses he raised the compound microscope from the position of a scientific toy, 'distorting as much as it magnified,' to its present place as a powerful engine of research."[4]

  4. Were any of those other scientists Christians? Yes, van Leeuwenhoek not only enjoyed his work, but he saw it as a way to glorify God.[5] Also, Nehemiah Grew and Joseph Lister are on the list of "100 Famous Bible-Believing Scientists," by Lawrence D. Smart. [6]

  5. Was Robert Hooke a student of the Bible? Did he believe in God? Was he a Christian? Did he have religious motivation for conducting his observations? An Internet search unveiled this statement within an article on Robert Boyle who was a friend and sponsor of Hooke, "Along with Robert Hooke, a Bible-Believing Christian..." [7] The 1911 Edition Encyclopedia describes him as "blameless in morals and reverent in religion." [8] Also, he must have meditated on the Word and been motivated by it, because according to Dr. Tom McMullen, "Hooke thought that Noah's Flood may have been a violent affair and caused marine animals to be tossed into mountains and also to cause some species of animals to become extinct. Hooke used the idea that God designed things with a purpose in his science."[9]

  6. What made Hooke think of using the word cells instead of rooms? The article "Seeing Further: The Legacy of Robert Hooke" makes this comment: "An expert micro-scopist, his microstudies of the composition of cork led him to suggest the use of the word cell (meaning a tiny bare room, like a monk's cell), and the word survived as the name for living cells."[10]

  7. What happened during that 200 year time span from 1665-1838? Actually, not much did happen. Encarta Encyclopedia says, "Living cells were first described in detail in the 1670s by the Dutch scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek. These early descriptions were not improved on until the early 19th century, when better-quality microscope lenses were developed."

  8. Who were the scientists who learned more? Need to do more "seeking."

  9. Who is credited with developing the cell theory? Again Encarta gives this answer, "In 1839 the German botanist Matthias Schleiden and the German zoologist Theodor Schwann formulated the basic cell theory of today." This statement was confirmed in several other encyclopedias.

  10. Were Schleiden, Schwann, or any of the other scientists involved in cell research Christians? Need to do more "seeking" to find this answer.

The beloved apostle John warned believers not to believe everything they "hear" - whether spoken or written - "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). As a search for godly information progresses, many of the personal thoughts of Christian scientists will be revealed. Wise teachers need to keep their ears open to "hear" God's Wisdom and Truth through the words of His servants in the field of science. As they listen and understand, then as Clara Scott wrote, "everything false will disappear."


Open Mouths Prepare to Share

Armed with godly information gleaned from godly sources, the teacher is now ready to lovingly prepare a science lesson which honors God while meeting curriculum standards and government guidelines. The apostle Peter cautioned believers, "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake" (1 Peter 2:13). Bearing that in mind, a godly teacher will be very careful to adhere to state and federal mandates so as not to bring dishonor to the Lord.

By using a state-approved textbook as the basis for the lesson and writing lesson plans which cite the page(s) to be studied along with the pertinent district and/or state codes, the teacher can verify meeting curriculum standards. According to government guidelines, teachers in public schools may not teach religion, but "they may teach about religion including the Bible or other scripture: the history of religion, comparative religion, the Bible (or other scripture)-as-literature, and the role of religion in the history of the United States and other countries." [11] These guidelines are further clarified by application of the three-point test which has become known as the Lemon Law. [12]

According to the Lemon Law, the basic government criteria for including religious content in a lesson are : (1) it  has a secular purpose, (2) the primary purpose is not to advance or inhibit religion; and (3) it does not create excessive entanglement with religion. Each point of the Lemon Law must be prayerfully considered as lesson planning progresses. [13]

First, the lesson or activity must have a (read that as "at least one") secular purpose. The purpose of the lesson example discussed in this article is to introduce students to cell theory. The lesson strategies will include (1) examining a time line of the development and use of the microscope, (2) discussing the lives of the scientists who modified and used the microscope, (3) looking at some of the drawings of what scientists saw using the microscope, and (5) discussing the conclusions the scientists made based on their observations. Although the religious beliefs of some of the scientists will be included because their beliefs affect their goals and their conclusions, the purpose and strategies of the lesson are secular.

Second, the lesson or activity cannot have as its primary purpose to advance or inhibit religion. A mental picture of what will happen step-by-step in the classroom is helpful here.  For this example, the lesson will begin with students and teacher opening the Harcourt Science textbook to page 6. Presuming the teacher has chosen to use the cassette tape which accompanies the text, after a brief introductory comment, the “play” button will be pushed.  Teacher and students will follow along with the voice on the tape. When the tape gets to the end of the selection, the teacher will press the “Stop” button on the cassette player. The teacher will then lead the discussion using questions and information in the teacher’s manual and adding the information from the notations made during the research phase. If the teacher only presented names of Christian scientists or if the lesson emphasized the scientists’ beliefs rather than their accomplishments, then the main purpose would seem to be to advance religion rather than science. However, the lesson plans show that this lesson clearly is not a lesson in religion.

Third, the lesson or activity must not create an excessive government entanglement with religion. The teacher is an employee of the government, paid by taxpayer dollars. As such, any presentation of religious information must be done in a strictly unbiased, objective manner. Thus, if the lesson focuses primarily on the religious beliefs of the scientists rather than on their accomplishments, it would be construed as "excessive government entanglement." However, a lesson which gives fair and equal treatment to all scientists involved, whether Christian or non-Christian, would not be considered entanglement. Likewise, a lesson which emphasizes accomplishments as much as (or more than) beliefs, without holding up certain religious beliefs as right and others as wrong, would also not be considered entanglement.

Armed with a lesson plan based on prayer, research, curriculum standards, and government guidelines, the teacher is at last ready to "bear gladly the warm truth," sharing God's love with His children in the classroom. The teacher will not be "preaching," but God's truth and love will "shine forth" through the actions and words of reverent people who served Him in the scientific field. When the lesson is finished, the teacher will know the joy of the Lord which is their strength (Nehemiah 8:19).

Effective lesson planning for Christian teachers in public school settings must begin with purposeful prayer (Ask) so that God may give His recommended topics for discussion. Next, planning must include time for rigorous research (Seek) so that the teacher may find the information God wants to have presented. Finally, there must be an all-out effort to make sure all three points of the Lemon Law are being followed (Knock) so that the curriculum doors may be opened to admit opportunities to talk about religion.

As Christian teachers learn to open their eyes, open their ears, and open their mouths, God will be lifted up in our public school classrooms. King Solomon wrote, "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding" (Proverbs 3:13). There is no happiness that compares with the inner joy which comes after teaching a lesson which honors and glorifies God.

 

NOTES

  1. Available at "History of the Microscope".
  2. Available at "Love to Learn Place"
  3. This information is available at http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/sci/A0859624.html
  4. Available at http://19.1911encyclopedia.org/L/LI/LISTER_JOSEPH_LISTER_1ST_BARON.htm
  5. His biography is available at http://www.creationsafaris.com/wgcs_2.htm.
  6. Available at http://www.unmaskingevolution.com/29-100_scientists.htm
  7. Entire article may be accessed at:http://www.godcreatedthat.com/RobertBoyle.html
  8. Available at http://7.1911encyclopedia.org/H/HO/HOOKE_ROBERT.htm
  9. See "George Washington Carver and Other Christians Who Were Scientists" available at http://www.georgiasouthern.edu/~etmcmull/CARVER.htm
  10. Kathy Miles and Charles F. Peters II.  "Seeing Further: The Legacy of Robert Hooke." Published in The Griffith Observer, June 1996. Available on-line at http://starryskies.com/articles/spec/hooks.htm
  11. See government document "Religious Expression in Public Schools" available at http://www.ed.gov/Speeches/08-1995/religion.html
  12. Refers to the 1971 case of Lemon vs. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, which can be examined at http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=403&invol=602.
  13. Michael Staver of the Liberty Counsel has an interesting article titled "Legally Teaching Creation Science in Public Schools" which explains the Lemon Law in more detail. The article can be accessed at http://www.lc.org/OldResources/legally_teaching_creation_science_in_public_schools.html

The contents of this article reflect the authorís views acquired through research and experience. The author is not engaged in rendering any legal professional service. The services of a professional person are recommended if legal advice or assistance is needed. The author and ChristianTeacher.org disclaim any loss or liability to any person or entity with respect to loss or damage caused, or alleged to be caused, directly or indirectly by the utilization of any information contained in this article.

All rights reserved. Copyright © 2003 by B. Jane Kulp

This material may be quoted in written form but give credit where credit is due (author's name, title of article, and web site address: www.ChristianTeacher.org). It may not be reprinted for commercial publication. It may be copied or reprinted for distribution as long as proper credit is given and it is given away with no charge made for copies, shipping or handling.


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