"Does God Exist?" Scholarship Program Reveals a Weakness in the Church

One of the programs offered through the Does God Exist? program is a scholarship program to help Christian young people in post-high-school education expenses. This program is not funded with donated money, but with money left to the Claytons by Phyllis' mother Edith Lawson and John's aunt Connie Parsons. Both of these ladies were major supporters of this work, offering constant encouragement and support. The first scholarships were awarded in the 1999-2000 school year, and they were offered again in the 2000-2001 school year. To qualify, students had to have completed high school and be in some kind of a post-high-school training program. The purpose of the scholarship program has been to increase awareness of the need for apologetics in our outreach to the world of today and to encourage young people to think and engage in work in these areas. There is an enormous need for young people with strong educational credentials in science and logic to get involved in helping people understand how we know there is a God, know that it is the God of the Bible that we are talking about, and know that the Bible is the message that people need to have in order to deal with the problems of life. For many people, this seems to be something they assume everyone believes, but the fact is that there are a lot of questions that Christianity in general has not answered or even attempted to answer, and young people today hit these kinds of questions very early in their educational experiences.

 The first theme we had for participants in the scholarship program was "Why I Believe What I Believe." We received some excellent papers and gave two scholarships to people that we felt demonstrated they had great talent and the ability to do their own thinking. These were reproduced in this journal. In the 2000-2001 program, we gave "Science and Faith Are Friends, Not Enemies" as the theme. The response has not been good, and the nature of the responses we have received throw up a warning flag that I believe the Church needs to listen to.

The first thing that is of interest is that we had small numbers of participants. In 1999-2000, we had 16 applicants who actually completed the enrollment form and wrote the 5,000 word paper. All of these were young people who seem to pretty well understand the challenge. This year, we had three participants, one from Lithuania, one from Africa, and one from North Carolina. These papers were good in mechanical structure, but two of them demonstrated that they did not understand the challenge because the main thrust of their papers was to attack evolution.

 The question here is not whether there is a need to inform young people about the assumptions and destructive possibilities of blindly following the latest evolutionary theory. We have had numerous articles in this journal showing the problems with evolution and how its application to inappropriate areas can be destructive. The point is that the subject of evolution has very little to do with the question of how science and faith are friends and not enemies. If evolution is

Laboritory flasks
Science and Faith are Friends
Not Enemies

perceived by young people as being science, then an attack on evolution is doing the opposite of what the theme for this year's scholarship was to be. Instead of showing science and faith as friends, it is creating a basic hostility between science and faith--something atheists would love to do--but something that is highly destructive to science and to faith.

 One of the reasons I picked this topic for our scholarship program was because during my 41 years as a science teacher I frequently had young people come to me and demonstrate that they felt that science and faith were at odds with one another. I remember one young man who was the son of a minister and was an excellent science student. We were working on a problem in physics that he did not understand; and when he saw how to do it, he was excited. "You know," he said, "I would really like to be a scientist and do this kind of thing as a career." "Why don't you?" I asked. "Because I don't want to be an atheist," he said. This experience happened many times during my career in the public schools, and it is a demonstration to me of the fact that we need to show young people that they can intelligently believe in God and that science is simply the discovery of facts and has nothing negative to say about faith.

 What we had hoped participants in our scholarship program would do is to write about those things that evolution does not explain--the creation of matter, the concept of self in man, the evidence of design in the cosmos, the creative capacity of man, the psychological research being done on the role of faith in healing, and/or the positive evidence for the Truth of God's Word. The problems of faith and pain, faith and poverty, faith and prejudice, and many similar areas make this subject very large and easy to write about. We have articles every month on those subjects in this journal. The perception that science and faith are antagonists is present in many pulpits and in many skeptic journals. Atheists want to claim science as their domain and their friend. Believers need to inform themselves about the evidence and use the evidence to build faith, encourage academic growth, enlarge biblical understandings, and make practical applications to other problems of life.

 Because of the problems we have seen here, we have changed the nature of the Does God Exist? Scholarship Program. We are now awarding the scholarship opportunity twice a year--once in January and once in June. Our topic for this year remains the same--"Science: A Friend, Not an Enemy of Faith." We encourage any high school graduate who is continuing their education to participate. There will be two scholarships for $1,000 each available for the January award. The final paper for these January scholarships needs to be in our hands by December 1, 2001. Applications are available any time from John Clayton, 1555 Echo Valley Drive, Niles, MI 49120.

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