My community lost one of its most interesting characters last year: concert pianist Marshall Butler.
So many people knew him and he touched the lives of so many; I wish I could have known him better. He was a colleague in the Humanities Department at my college [I taught communications and he taught music]; he was a fellow traveler to England in 1983. I had the pleasure of walking all over London with him, he was a dedicated walker. I never saw him behind the wheel of a car; he walked all over Hopkinsville. Naturally, he wanted to walk all over London when we were there. He was 68; I was 32. He walked my legs off.
I visited him a few times at his home. It was in a run-down part of town but when you went inside his house, you forgot the neighborhood. The inside of his home had a debonair quality about it, sophisticated with a bachelor’s flair. That means it looked cultured but don’t look in the dark corners because Marshall did not worry too much about cleaning.
We walked out in the back yard on one visit and I was amazed by his garden. I have always liked landscaping, especially mixing colors and types of plants. He had a beautiful array of plants. I was so amazed that I was emboldened to ask how long it took to get his garden the way it was. I remember what he said: “forty years.”
Not the response I was looking for.
I wanted a quick fix solution. I wanted “instant garden.” I wanted garden in a box.
He explained it took years of experimentation, learning, making mistakes and finally he was able to put some things together. He did not see himself as a horticulture expert.
Why do I lead with this?
I am trying to highlight the role of the mind in the Christian life.
Pastor Hamilton in his Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White speaks of his own encounter with a wise man who put ships in bottles. Instead of explaining to young Hamilton how the process works, the wise man let him try to figure it out on his own.
I think God is like that with our use of intelligence. He is the “wise man” who expects us to figure it out. I think God has given us a mind to use and He wants us to use it. I think He looks down on our efforts to understand the world and He is delighted. If there is a problem, He wants us to tackle it. He wants us to try different ideas to solve problems until we get it right. I don’t think God is pleased by man’s efforts to deny solutions to problems when the problems are real and they need solutions. I don’t think God is pleased when we don’t even bother to use our minds.
Luke 10:27, Matthew 22:37 and Deuteronomy 6:5 all say that we are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.”
To me that means that we are supposed to find a way to solve our problems using our minds.
I find it hard to believe that some would use the Bible as the source to tamp down man’s efforts to learn.
For me, it is all about not being confused about what the Bible is. Pastor Hamilton states “the Bible was written to reveal who God is, and to teach us something about ourselves. It was not written to reveal the fundamental laws of physics, chemistry or biology.”
How does this impact our world?
The most qualified people to evaluate physics, chemistry and biology are physicists, chemists and biologists, not theologians.
I don’t often express my personal stand on issues, choosing to comment on Adam Hamilton’s thoughts more than my own but I see God delighting in the efforts of scientists to theorize, hypothesize and test their theories. I see God delighting in the working of their minds, their God-given gifts.
As Christians we should be thankful for their work and know that it is not our job to evaluate their results. There is a large scientific community out there to do that—scientists evaluating scientists.
All I have to do is believe that God is pleased—looking down on man and taking “delight in our intense desire to know how the ship got inside of the bottle.”