Learning to Read a New BookDo you remember when you learned to read? For many of us the answer to that question is "no." We were read to by adults and gradually began to relate the shapes of the letters on the page to what the reader said those shapes indicated, and so by osmosis we came to read, eventually finding ourselves no longer dependent on others to tell us the marvelous things that were contained in the books accessible to us, but actually able to find and enjoy those things by ourselves. As our vocabulary became better, we were able to read more things and read faster. Our worlds expanded as we learned about things that we could barely imagine.
There are some reading this article who can answer the question very precisely. They learned to read when someone took them as an adult and carefully taught them how to read. For most of these folks the inability to read had already brought pain into their lives. Being able to read brought a relief to some of that pain, and opened jobs and independence that was not possible before. I have known adults who considered the day they learned to read as more special than their birthday. One man told me that he considered it the day he overcame ignorance and became a really free man.
The cover of our bulletin for this issue shows a different kind of book. This book does not have letters and numbers that convey its message, but still speaks to us through what our eyes can see and what our brain can understand. God has given us a written book called the Bible through which God reveals His will and a record of what He has done for us. Those who cannot read cannot read this book and have to depend upon others to tell them what the Bible contains. I have known many adults who decided to learn to read solely because they wanted to be able to read the Bible for themselves and not have to depend on someone else to tell them what it said. Someone who cannot read has a special kind of vulnerability because of that inability. Someone can tell them the Bible contains something that in fact it does not say. Ignorance has been a tool that unscrupulous religious leaders have used to control others since man came into existence on this planet.
The book involved with our cover picture also has a true message that can tell us a lot about God and ourselves. Being unable to read this natural book for ourselves puts us in the same situation as the illiterate person we have been talking about in the last paragraph. We end up having to rely on someone else to tell us what it means and how it relates to our lives. Once again we become vulnerable to those who would mislead us and wish to exploit us.
What do you see as you look at our cover? I hope that one thing that jumps out at you is the fact that Earth spins on its axis. As you look at the sky in the picture, you see that the stars have etched paths across the negative. These stars all circle a single point in the sky very close to the North Star. In ancient times people had been taught that Earth is the center of the cosmos and that everything including the Sun and the Moon circle Earth. The motion of the stars around the north or south pole would have shown them that such a view was incorrect, but people did not know how to read the book. Some of this ignorance was caused by religious leaders who wanted their own personal concept of God and how God works to be accepted by others, and even though there was no support in the Bible for their position, they taught others that this is the way the cosmos was arranged. If God is the creator and the author of the Bible the two cannot be in conflict because they have the same author, but an inability to read both of the records that God has given us severely restricts our ability to understand either one. The belief that the world was flat was rooted in this ignorance, prompted by an inability to read either the natural world record or the Bible accurately.
Another book that is shown in this picture is the book recorded in the rock record. If we know how to read the book written in the rocks we can tell that these rocks were laid down by water and wind, not volcanoes. We can look carefully at the rocks and see what kinds of conditions were present on the earth in the past. Looking at some of the rocks, we see that they are made of sand. Looking at the sand with a magnifying glass we can see that the sand grains have been scratched indicating that they were placed in their position by wind. When water carries sand, it carries it so slowly that as the sand grains hit each other they cannot scratch them as these grains are scratched. The bedding planes of the sand layers have the same angles as sand dunes seen all over the earth today. When sand is deposited under water, the water holds up the sand deposit so the angles are much steeper. All of this information is a part of our learning to read.
There is much more that tells the history of this area than can be read in the book. There has been erosion that has carved the rocks making beautiful canyons carved deep into the rocks. Different minerals give different colors telling us more about the conditions that existed in the past. There is much to read in this book.
For too many years people have refused to read both the natural books we have described and the Bible. The result has been unfortunate claims being made that have misled people. This has been done by the media and by religious organizations as well. Two people can read a passage in the Bible and disagree on what it means. This is not because either person cannot read, and it is not because the passage in question is in error. The problem is that when we read a page in the Bible, our own prejudices, background, and education affect our ability to be open to what the passage is saying. It is only if we work to leave our preconceived ideas behind and look carefully at what the passage is saying that we can come to an understanding of what the biblical passage is telling us.
In the same way, we may read the natural book of God's creation without correctly understanding what it is saying. That does not mean we quit trying any more than we could justify throwing the Bible away because we struggle to understand something it says properly. It is the purpose of the Does God Exist? program to assist people in their ability to read both the written record and the natural record of God's activity with man. This is not only wise, but in our day it is essential. We cannot answer the challenges of atheists and skeptics if we do not know what the data is and where they are coming from in their questions. We would encourage our readers to take advantage of the various programs we offer to facilitate all of us learning together. Enroll in one of our correspondence courses or go through our video series. These materials are available on loan and over the web. We are not after your money, and we do not claim to have all the answers, but we have spent a lifetime working to understand the written and natural books that God has given us, and we want to offer whatever help we can to anyone who wants to learn. Write us if you are interested, or use the coupon at the end of this journal. On the web see us at http://www.doesgodexist.org.
--John N. Clayton
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, JanFeb03.