Dr. Rosalind Picard tells her story in a recent edition of “Christianity Today” magazine. She is founder and director of the Affective Computing Research Group at MIT. Her writing is usually published in scientific journals, on topics such as artificial intelligence, neurology, and learning. I recently wrote about Dr. Gunter Bechly to refute the trope that Christianity is anti-science. Dr. Picard’s story disabuses the notion that Christianity is anti-intellectual.

Dr. Picard was a standout high school student who bought the idea that smart people need no religion. She babysat for a doctor and his wife, and they challenged her to read Proverbs in the Bible. She writes, “I expected to find phony miracles, made-up creatures and assorted gobbledygook. To my surprise, Proverbs was full of wisdom. I had to pause while reading and think.” Inspired, she read the whole Bible. “While I never heard actual voices or anything to justify summoning a neurologist, I felt this strange sense of being spoken to. It was disturbing yet oddly attractive. I began wondering whether there really might be a God.”

The Bible thoughtfully engages humanity’s struggle to comprehend our existence. Hundreds of years before Christ, Greek philosophers formed the idea of Logos. They observed that something of a universal Mind, a central organizing principle, seemed to mimic human reasoning and permeate all reality. The New Testament was written in Greek, which connected it to that quest for wisdom. Os Guinness writes that despite Christianity’s differences with the cultures of the day, there was an “overlap in their common love of language and the supreme place they all give to reason, to words, and to the art of communication. The opening words of the gospel of John are therefore titanic in their significance.” Those words are, “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God” (John 1:1). That language engaged intellectuals among its original Greek readers.

Robert Morey flips the script on who is anti-intellectual. He challenges honest thinkers to explain how these could happen: everything from nothing; order from chaos; harmony from discord; life from nonlife; reason from irrationality, personality from non-personality; and morality from amorality. The greater question is not how but why we are here in the first place, an honest cry of the human heart. Intellectuals ask hard questions, unafraid of the answers.

When Dr. Picard prayed, “Jesus Christ, I ask you to be Lord of my life,” her world changed from flat black-and-white to 3D, full color. She admits, “I once thought I was too smart to believe in God. Now I know I was an arrogant fool who snubbed the greatest Mind in the cosmos – the Author of all science, mathematics, art, and everything. Today I walk humbly, with joy, alongside the most amazing Companion anyone could ask for, filled with desire to keep learning.”  That’s an intellectual.

Profitable for Teaching

In a rare vote of unity, the Georgia Senate unanimously approved SB 83 about public high schools teaching elective Bible courses. It is a revision of a 2006 law, and clarifies that the courses can include the actual text of the Bible. This is broader than just the “history and literature” of the biblical era, the previous language in the law.

The Supreme Court has already ruled on this. In Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), Justice Tom Clark wrote the majority opinion. The ruling disallowed the mandatory reading of Bible verses at the opening of each school day, even though any child could be excused by a parent. He qualifies the restriction writing, “It might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization. It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”

The Georgia law stands on that secular ground, stating that the purpose of the elective is to “teach students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy.”

The Bible is actually a library of 66 books, letters, and essays written by 44 authors over 1500 years. It is the most studied and authenticated book in history. Its authors told the story as they received and experienced it, an overarching story about the revelation of God, and human origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. So, it insists on its transcendent purpose even if treated as secular literature.

Theologian George Ladd explains, “The uniqueness and the scandal of the Christian religion rest in the mediation of revelation through historical events. History is recorded because it embodies the acts of God. The revelation of God in the redemptive history of Israel finds its full meaning in the historical event of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. The Lord of history, Who stands above history, acts within history for the redemption of historical creatures.”

The Bible records this redemptive history. It helps us make sense of the past, present, and future. It explains why the world is so broken, and why we can hope that it will not always be so. Its worldview corresponds to the world we encounter. The God who inspired it could easily preserve it for us today. So we can agree with Paul, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Peace Cross

Wow, I wish I could have been in the Supreme Court on Feb. 27, 2019! Justice Elena Kagan declared the good news in plain language.

On that auspicious day, the Court heard oral arguments about the WWI Memorial in Bladensburg, MD. The American Legion erected the memorial on private land in 1925 to honor their 49 war heroes. In 1961, the land became state road right-of-way, so public dollars were used to maintain the Memorial.

In 2014, the American Humanist Association took offense. The Memorial, you see, is the quite conspicuous 40 foot tall concrete and granite “Peace Cross.” They sued, referencing the First Amendment establishment clause and its modern interpretations. Hence the recent deliberations.

I pity the legal minds untangling the confusing snarl of prior rulings. In 2005, a Ten Commandments display in a Kentucky courthouse was disallowed, but allowed on the Texas capitol grounds. In 2010, then Solicitor General Kagan argued convincingly that the WWI memorial cross on public land in the Mojave Desert could stand. That cross was so “toxic” that officials covered it with plywood while awaiting adjudication.

One attorney argued that the history and secular purpose of the Peace Cross have stripped away its religious meaning, as though that’s not offensive. Justice Kagan countered, “To many Christians, secularizing the cross is blasphemy.” Then she uttered these powerful words: “It is the foremost symbol of Christianity, isn’t it? It invokes the central theological claim of Christianity that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross for humanity’s sins, and he rose from the dead. This is why Christians use crosses as a way to memorialize the dead because it connects to that central theological belief. Isn’t that correct?” Yes ma’am. I hope you believe it!

Justice Ginsburg tried to frame the dilemma. “From its founding, this was an overwhelmingly Christian country. But now, we’re told that 30% of the US population does not adhere to a Christian faith.” That’s the national context that invites dissent.

The cross is offensive because it contradicts today’s zeitgeist. Cultural doctrines are sacrosanct. You may pick any spiritual path since they all lead nowhere, really. Any truth or feeling you choose is a valid worldview. Follow your heart and trust yourself to find fulfillment. “No” to all that, the cross says. It says you are lost without a Savior, and beckons your trust in Jesus as the only way to the Father, true fulfillment, and eternity. When Jesus says, “I am the Truth,” He excludes other claims. Quite a stumbling block (Gal. 5:11).

Even if this cross doesn’t stand, one will. God’s purpose through Christ Jesus was “to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:20). That peace cross is beyond the reach of the courts.

Meet Your Maker

Gunter Bechly’s views evolved, as they say. And it cost him. If you like science and a true story with conflict and drama, do a web search on this distinguished professor.

In 1999, Bechly received a Ph.D. in paleontology and became curator of insect fossils at the State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, Germany. The museum asked him to direct the Darwin Day exhibit, so he decided on a design to refute Intelligent Design theory. Being a thorough researcher, he read ID proponent Michael Behe’s book, Darwin’s Black Box.  Bechly began to discover scientific answers to his quest for a coherent world view. Bechly “came out” as a Darwin skeptic in 2015, and promptly lost his job as curator. To add insult, Wikipedia erased him (temporarily) as no longer notable.

Bechly read Behe’s evidence that a series of slight, successive mutations, key to Darwin’s theory, cannot produce a living cell. Behe describes the “irreducible complexity” of cellular nanotechnology, i.e. tiny machines that Darwin could not see inside a cell. One example is the flagellar motor with a rotor, stator, drive shaft, bearings, and propeller. It changes direction using a signal transduction circuit that detects sugar gradient as a guide to a food source. The various parts of this nano-machine are junk without complete assembly. Even if it could happen over eons, what is the source of the factory that built a self-building motor?

Bechly observes, “Of the 99% of (Darwinian) biologists, 98% don’t work on the underpinnings of the theory, they simply accept it as true. The few theoretical biologists who work on the underpinnings of the theory have mostly become critical of the neo-Darwinian process.” At a recent Royal Society conference in London, the opening talk focused on the inability of evolutionary theory to explain evidence. Over 1000 scientists have now signed “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.” No consensus exists.

If there is a Creator, He wanted us to exist. It is plausible, then, that He would reveal Himself. And indeed, “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made” (Rom. 1:20). Science led Dr. Bechly to believe in God.

It is a logical fallacy to doubt Darwin because many scientists have. Nor should you believe in the God of the Bible because in the span of human history millions have. But if you investigate and find the evidence convincing, you may well join with the Psalmist: “Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture” (Psa. 95:6-7). Meet your Maker: “There is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live” (1 Cor. 8:6).

Road Less Traveled

Robert Frost enjoyed strolls with fellow poet Edward Thomas. He reflected on a walk in a wood with two different but equal paths. “I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” It’s a thoughtful verse about travelers and choices, probably intended as a light-hearted poke at Thomas.

Jesus also walked with friends and had a sense of humor. But His two roads are quite serious and not equal. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Mat. 7:13-14). One road is attractive. The other is less traveled, more difficult, but rewarding. To be plain, Jesus is the gate and living by faith is the way. Before you believe Him, “Consider the cost,” He said (Luke 14:28).

People have counted the cost of the narrow way. History says Moses confronted Pharaoh, David fought Goliath, and Daniel faced lions. Hall of Faith truth-holders took the narrow road and the world was not worthy of them (Heb. 11). The church in China withstood the communist onslaught of Mao and will survive Xi’s new crackdowns. The church in Syria, Iraq, and Iran has endured bloody cleansing by radicals.

The church in the West faces a more subtle threat, to take the less costly broad way and align with popular culture. Or we can truthfully answer vital questions. Is Jesus is the only way? Is all human life valued? Did God create us in His image? Does God determine our identity, and define morality and holiness? We can be either an echo chamber for, or sanctuary from today’s noise.

In Impossible People, Os Guinness lists three cultural trends worth challenging: Judeo-Christian beliefs and values are repudiated as a barrier to, rather than the key to human flourishing. Freedom is libertine behavior that should be blessed and flaunted, rather than a gift that allows us to resemble our Creator. Alternative philosophies seek to redefine ideals such as dignity, justice, unity, and equality, cutting off their Christian root. These are the clanking machines grading the broad road that would lead travelers to a self-destructive place.

Even if our culture and religious institutions join hands and walk the broad road, you can make “all the difference.” Guinness writes, “Our privilege is to host the absolute presence of God and to live the way of Jesus so that our difficult and lonely task as his followers is to be faithful, and so to be different.” Take the narrow way, the road less traveled.