Science in Christian Perspective



Panel Discussion On Education
Dr. W. L. Bullock, Leader

From: JASA 4 (June 1952): 13-17

*Education Seminar Panel Discussion which took Waee at the Sixth Annual Convention of the American Scientific Affiliation: New York, August, 1951.

Dr. W. L. Bullock: I think that perhaps we'd better get along with some of the practical aspects of education from a Christian viewpoint and I think as we get involved with a discussion, probably some of these theoretical aspects will come right back to us. But the practical problem before us is the problem of presenting Christ in our Christian and secular colleges. A large part of the membership here is in the Christian colleges. Mine is not. Consequently, with all due bias let me skip over the Christian colleges, at least temporarily, and let's take some of the problems that are prevalent on the campuses of the secular colleges or common problems on the Christian campuses.

The main problem on the secular campus is "how far can we go as teachers in presenting Christ to the students with which we come in contact?" That's the question that always comes up whenever a representative of a secular college speaks in an Evangelical Christian Church. How far can he go? How far do you go? How much freedom do you have?

A large part depends upon the teaching field. In the natural sciences, unless we're involved perhaps in the teaching of the classes in general biology which includes a section on evolution or unless we're involved in the teaching of comparative anatomy which is usually centered in evolution, we very often can go our merry way without presenting Christ at all in the classroom or without coming into contact with Evangelical Christianity.

In the social sciences that is not the case very often because in the social sciences, many of you can testify, the philosophy of the teacher is very intimately and sometimes very subtly wrapped up into the presentation of the classes. I think that one of the points that many of us are aware of in attempting to help college students is that most of their real serious difficulties come not in the natural science courses but in the social science courses. My own personal experience has been one in which I had not much trouble. I was a little disturbed but I wasn't very much troubled in a real serious sense to hear my anatomy instructor refer to the events happening millions of years before Noah pushed his bed boat into the Ark. That was a rather shocking statement in the way it was presented but as far as shaking my Christian faith it had no effect whatsoever.

But going into history and English courses where references are made to the Scriptures, we find that the approach is of a different, more subtle and a more serious nature. In those courses where higher criticism is introduced,, the entire faith of the student can be undermined. In my own case we had trouble in an ancient history course in which higher criticism was presented particularly with regard to the Pentateuch. That was before the days of Oswald T. Allis's book on the five books of Moses. That was a very serious problem and most college students of Evangelical background are not aware of the answer to those problems.

But the problem then of presenting Christ in the classroom is a problem, varying with the subject matter which you are teaching.

Another problem is, assuming that we can go a certain way or a certain distance in presenting Christ, what are the media which we as Christian instructors on a secular college campus can act? There are many media. The first that I would suggest is to work with the Christian students. I think that usually there is more often the case of Christian students -and no Christian faculty members than there is a Christian faculty member without Christian students. Those of you who were at our devotions yesterday morning recall the pleasure that some of us had in comparing our experiences in being able to work with Christian students, working through the interest of our fellowship with other groups that are presenting Christ upon the campuses of our nation. Our help to these Christian students can be a very real help, a help in their personal problems, a help in their academic problems, an encouragement for them to present a much stronger and much firmer stand for Jesus Christ among their classmates.

Our presentation of Christ can take place actually in the classroom, perhaps. I think there the approach has to be a little bit cautious. It's rather a hard problem to define the difference between caution and compromise, but we do have to, when we are dealing with other people, adopt a cautious approach. But it isn't very long before the students know where you stand. It certainly didn't take very long in 1948 for the students on most of our college campuses to identify these instructors on the faculty who were supporting Henry Wallace. It didn't take very long before the word got around, and these people usually were not over-cautious and I don't know as we should be that over-cautious either.

Another aspect is in the office, particularly if you have advisory duties; you have students coming in, usually starting out with academic problems. They've gotten a letter from the Dean which has been passed on to you and most often the problem is lack of motivation which is getting to be a rather familiar term. Even here most often the lack of motivation is due to personal problems and sometimes it's rather interesting how these personal problems can lead to a discussion of the spiritual major.

And then we have another means of approaching the problem in a more concrete way, as Christian faculty members, particularly if we have a graduate program, and that is- the encouragement of students to go into graduate work. I think the fine example we have in our Affiliation is Dr. Kulp who has gotten around himself a group of Christian graduate students, and I think those of us who are interested in institutions which are offering a graduate program should do all that we can to encourage part of our Christian students to go into graduate study. I think that being able to go into graduate study in an institution where you know there is a Christian man in your own field is of considerable help.

Mr. Baldwin: When we came to State College, we came because of the fact that the Inter-Varsity was there and our children would at least have a chance to hear the gospel message once in a while and we found that that was the key point of our Christian life there. We found that our churches do not supply the need so necessary to have meetings where we could bring outside people to bring us the gospel message; therefore, on Saturday evenings we have a regular meeting and invite these people. We've had the pleasure of having Dr. Buswell and many others who gave of these fine messages. The group has carried on their own work. We are only here to help when they desire a place to meet and so on. It's entirely a student work, and they have the regular Bible study. The most remarkable thing happened last year in that they had much of their own Bible studies in their own rooms and have invited a student in which will start a group with two or three and then five or six. I suppose there are at least 100 students studying in that manner during the week.

Out of our prayer groups the same thing happens. I think there is one thing which we might realize that on nearly every campus there is a potential Inter-Varsity group, working with someone there. If you know of people who are at a college who are Christians and would like to get in touch with the Inter-Varsity, you should write and get in touch with these headquarters,, and the staff members will contact these students in the school and will help start a group. Also, there are many more groups than you realize; therefore, if you know of a Christian or some fellow who should be contacted on a campus, you should get in touch with the Inter-Varsity. We have many leads that way and have resulted in very much help for the student. We find that many Christians on the campus do not find us for six months to a year or a year and a half later. Yet we have ample publicity but they just don't realize that we exist until we are contacted. So those who are interested in this problem should contact us through the headquarters and they'll see that the names get down so we can contact them.

Another thing that I'm very much concerned with from the secular school like a state college, as Penn State is, and that is the ties that you are up against. As to our particular ties, I think they are rather open-minded and fair but in other colleges---in some state colleges-unfortunate things have happened and they do not permit Inter-Varsity on the campus and I think we ought to realize that tendency. Christian Association has always been very prominent on campuses,, carrying on good work and recognized by the authorities. They are looked to as the chaplain or the secretary to control and to direct the religious activi. ties on the campus and through this group the churches work with the student pastor. Any action of a religious nature will usually come up through the Christian Association. In that way they have control of all effort on the campus and it's rather difficult for groups of the Inter-Varsity to carry out their program sometimes.

And it must be remembered that there are a great many students who are represented on the conservative side in many denominations. Many have their students on the campus and should be represented just the same as the other groups and I think if that's made plain to the university authorities, they will make sure that there is no more discrimination and we should recognize that.

Mr. D. Fetler: I was very impressed by what Mr. Bullock said a while ago regarding the influence that social science courses had on his thinking. I am deeply concerned with this problem because I am convinced that the real attack on Christianity is not in natural science but in social science. One thing that disturbs me very greatly is that schools like Wheaton College and Inter-Varsity organizations and so on do not seem to produce first rate economists as we might expect. I do not understand why the Bible-believing group in this country has almost ignored that field completely. Take Columbia University. We have a rather large Inter-Varsity group. There is not one economist there. In the entire department I know of no one who is a Christian. It's almost as bad with political science and almost as bad with history.

The result of this situation that we have been rather complacent with regard to social science is that we have everybody talking about social problems. Our theologians got into politics or economics by indirection with almost everybody else and the result is that it makes us look foolish in the eyes of science. We are, with respect to social science today-1 mean not this particular group here perhaps but the Bible-believing group as a whole-pretty much in the same situation that we were let's say twenty years ago with respect to geology. Christian people made all sorts of statements about geology and anthropology which were strictly unscientific.

Today we know better. I can assure you we are making the same mistakes today in social science and we are just as ridiculous. We're just as out of place in terms of science when we deal with these economic and political issues.

My second point is this. In teaching I have a problem in trying to bring the gospel to these people. I must say that Inter-Varsity has been ineffective for the following reasons: It's a case of intellectual in-breeding. The Inter-Varsity group at Columbia seldom if ever has an outsider come in. They are always the same people, always clinging together-a kind of mutual self-admiration society. What we've got to do is to reach out to the non-believing people, to the non-Christians and the only way to do this is by learning their terminology and their way of thinking.

When I start to discuss some problem in Christianity, I try to contact in terms of their own terminology, in terms of their own vocabulary and their own conception of mental structures. If you're going to converse with a baby, you've got to talk baby language. If you're going to try to do student work in the academic world, you've got to learn the academic language.

Mr. E. L. Hammer: I was asked to repeat the question, "What do I consider the solution to the teaching of religion in the public school?" Either the Nation's Schools or the School Executive-I think it's The Nation's Schools-has an article on the place of religion in public schools. One page consists of a tabulation by states of whether or not the active teaching of religion is prohibited in that state and then some estimate as to practice, that is whether there may be no practice of teaching religion in the state. I don't know what the count is but glancing over it I got the impression that 50 % or more have no legal restrictions on the teaching of religion in the schools. The cases that we hear about, of course, are played up. They seem easy to generalize on that basis and, say, the teaching of religion was prohibited, then It must be that way all over the country. The solution to it, I think, was very well covered by Dr Bullock,. I think his comments are equally applicable in the public school system. The only difference,, I think, is that in the 4lementary or high school it's a little easier because you don't have this higher degree of education in matters religious on the part of the students, particularly at the teen age. Since there's been some comment about the Inter-Varsity, I'd like to make a comment about the Young Life Program which you may know something about. It may do the very thing that Mr. Fetler was talking about; namely, present their program in teen-age lingo. To you who haven't worked in high school or have been out of high school for awhile, you are probably aware of the fact that you don't always understand what's being said around you.

Particularly, fellows and girls who work with Young Life make it their business to know that lingo, and present Christ in terms which the teen-ager is very quick to understand. As for our crowd in Illinois, the Young Life group, I think I'm correct now in saying that they were officially organized the last year that I was there. Some fellows came over from Wheaton, not far away, and started to work. It was very rapidly accepted by the kids. They were very anxious to hear and to learn because here was a fellow who came in professing to believe in the Christian philosophy, reading the Bible, believing the Bible was true, and so on, who didn't get up and start to lecture, "Ah you can't do this and you mustn't do that and you must do this." He went to a football game with them and after the game went to somebody's house for cokes and potato chips, and they talked. That, I think, has been the most effective way. As far as teaching religion right in the classroom, it's just this matter of making your position known and when the opportunity presents itself to assert that position. I don't think you'll get very far by going out of your way to arouse antagonisms which are bound to arise. Again, it's the problem of caution versus compromise. I certainly wouldn't say compromise. On the other hand, there's no point in saying, "Well, from now on everything I say just carries no weight at all." I don't know if there is a simple solution.

Mr. Baldwin: I want to say this. One thing that we have observed-this has nothing to do with us personally-is the great desire on the part of the students for the gospel and we have had the greatest help from the freshmen. In Penn State we haven't had the freshmen except this last year. They have been off campus, and we've really had an unusual experience. We have gone out on Sunday evenings. The students usually were in their rooms, or a good many of them were, and I've knocked on doors and asked them if they were interested in coming to Inter-Varsity. The conversation got around to talking about the gospel. They've gone out in pairs, maybe ten pairs on a Sunday evening, and came back just amazed and overjoyed with what the Lord has done. I'm finding that the students are just anxious-they are very hungry for this information. They want to know all about it and there have been some amazing results; and that's just the student effort. At Penn State we have grown the last four years from a group of about fifteen, I would say, to around 50 or 60 and we have an attendance that ranges from 80 to 100 in our Friday meetings. We think we have about 50 to 75 In these Bible studies every week and there are new people being brought in all the time.

Our biggest need is for people to come to the campus and speak in the language of the scientists, students, engineers, sociologists, psychlogists and all. I can assure you that there is always intense interest.

Dr. W. L. Bullock: At the University of New Hampshire, during this past year, we ran two of the Moody Institute Science Films. With the last one that we ran the thing that amazed us was the reaction among the faculty more than the students. Out of a student body of about 3,000 we had somewhere between 100 and 150. Out of a faculty population of 300 we had 70 people out to a faculty preview and the faculty of this state institution was more excited about this film than the students were.

Another aspect of this problem of witnessing on a college campus is that we shouldn't limit our witness merely to the students. I think we have a realm in witnessing to our fellow faculty members and it's sometimes amazing to see the receptiveness of these supposedly non-Christian or sometimes anti-Christian instructors on our college campuses.

In that connection I'd like to put in a little word here for another organization. I feel like putting in a plug for something here this morning, a group which is perhaps characterized at least by something such as being a little over-cautious but a group that is working primarily among leaders in the field of education, business, and the legislatures. This is the group known as International Christian Leadership. It works mainly through the establishment of breakfast and luncheon groups, with congressmen, with businessmen and now among educators. We had a little group of four faculty members up at the University of New Hampshire that used to meet one morning every week, at seven o'clock in the morning. Seven o'clock in the morning is a rather rough time along about February. They are a breakfast and Bible study class and we met in the resident dining room at the commons with a program of attempting to reach the leaders in these days of international tension and international crisis. We sort of skip over these people and feel they are too far gone . . . The mere fact that the situation is hopeless ought to be some indication that maybe they're looking for a hope, and we believe that we've got the hope that we can give them.

Mr. F. E. Houser: In regard to Mr. Fetler's remarks about the paucity of social scientists coming out of Christian colleges what can I say but Amen, for unfortunately it's true. I would like to say this though. Mr. Fetler is wrong if he assumes that there are no historians coming out of Wheaton College. I'm not making this merely personal but to point out the fact that we have a competent faculty in history. I can think of-and I've only been there two years-I know of at least four people who have come out and have gone into graduate work in history. I think it's a matter of competent teachers. It's sort of a vicious circle. There won't be competent teachers until the general public is convinced of the importance of social science. The very conflict we have here this morning between individualists and those who recognize the whole is larger than the sum. Until this particular problem is realized on the part of the Christian public, we won't get social scientists. But as a matter of strategy, may I suggest that if there are those here who are convinced that social science is -a useful field, may I suggest that you go to Christian colleges and not secular colleges to teach. Why? Because as a matter of strategy, I think it's more important to reach Christian students whom you can coach into graduate fields in social science who then in turn can go out into the secular fields. But as a matter of efficiency of getting numbers, of getting kids into these various areas, I think that teaching in a Christian college is the most important place because it yields the easiest results.

Since I've been there, I have managed to get two young fellows whom I hope, after they have served their time in the military services, will go into social sciences. As a matter of strategy I think it's important to go into Christian colleges at this point and time because I think you get many more interested candidates for social science degrees who then later can spread out into the secular colleges. This reasoning, of course, does not apply to the physical scientists for I think we have had quite a few products in that field and they've gone to secular fields and there are well equipped and adequate, efficient men in Christian universities. This is not necessarily true of social scientists in Christian colleges.

Dr. G. D. Young: I'd like to get back to this question of progressive education for a minute. I think Mr. Hammer knows me fairly well and he knows that if anybody's trying to build a better mousetrap, I'd like to be in on the ground floor of that too so if there is good in anything and I can adapt that good to my own work I think that he knows that I'll be glad to avail myself of that.

In this question of progressive education there seems to be an awful lot of smoke and you'll agree where there's a lot of smoke there's some fire. Let me start off by mentioning the question of morals. They say this is a terribly immoral age. People can always get up and make a speech on the terrible immoral situation that exists and then quote from some book in 1875. I'm not satisfied with that as an answer to the problem because I know it's true, in the moral field and in the educational field, the moral situation today is terrible no matter what it was in 1875, and even if they couldn't spell in 1875, they can't today either. So we're all interested in that problem.

Now, specifically, such a journal as School and Society brings a terrific tirade by an English professor; the kids can't write English; they had a bad chemistry professor; they can't handle mathematics. The graduate school in certain of our colleges won't receive transfer credits from teachers colleges. We have a school in New York City to train secretaries to spell. Many of the girls cannot file because they do not know their A.B.C.'s in order.

These situations exist. Now, I'm not saying this to be facetious. I'm simply stating a fact. This situation exists. Now, whether it existed any worse or any better a hundred years ago, I suppose statistics should show. I think we would have to have an awful lot of them to convince me, as you might imagine already.

What I am wondering-is there any correlation between the so called progressive system of learning in a living situation and putting down rote memory of the mathematical tables and so forth and so on and putting off into the second and third grade number combinations bigger than 10; letting them in the first grade-little girls do their laundry and hang up wash and so forth and so on because they missed that inn home experience? I'm not running down the system. Is there any relation between that sy9tem of teaching and the criticism of the graduate school outlook and mentality. Isn't there some sort of a compromise? Shouldn't we make use more of the old fashioned rote numbers system and so forth and so on? Should we allow ourselves to swing that way or the other or shouldn't we make some effort to get in between here some place and do a certain amount of training the mental processes?

Mr. E. L. Hammer: I've read enough of the journals of the proceedings of these meetings that I cut out some parts of my paper and one of them was on this very point. And I certainly wouldn't rule out the use of mending a rope. However, my problem now is to get the point across in a few words.

Let me say first of all that I think there's no group more discouraged about what has happened than educators. At a teachers' college, for instance, professors are always very careful when they use the word progressive to say, "Well I'm using it now with a small p" because they know that the term has gotten a very unfortunate connotation. So that progressive education with a capital "P" I'm not in favor of.

Secondly, I think this is an area in which, as I mentioned before, we tend to generalize and say that since progressive education methods have been introduced and since this particular student or even this group of students can't spell, therefore, it's the fault of progressive education and that, as you said before, would require some study in order to prove.

The reason I mentioned the reference to 1800 was simply that it's an unfair accusation to say that since newer methods have been introduced, people don't know how to spell. I would agree with you that the newer methods haven't been nearly effective as we would like them to be but I submit that they in time will prove to be more effective. I think part of the reason they aren't is because the kids who are exposed to this thing in school go home and have it knocked and they don't know what to do. They don't know if the teachers are right or if their folks are right or both or neither and always these things add to the complexity of the problem.

One other thing and that is that in this 8-year study that I mentioned, and other studies have been made, I think that we can show that the student who comes out of the school nowadays actually can spell better and can construct a better sentence and so on. In general they do better on any kind of a standardized test that you want to use. That may not be apparent in individual cases but there are studies that show that there are definite indications that there has been more progress made.

Then let me say this about memory work for example. I think you would agree that it's a difficult situation for a young person in school. I am thinking now of the elementary grades. Should a teacher convince that child that he should memorize names-let's take an exaggerated example now-that he should memorize the names of all of the presidents of the United States in a list, beginning with Washington and coming down to Truman, you know just the

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