Helen Martin is a Christian who teaches science at Unionville High School in Unionville, Pennsylvania. She has received international recognition for having her students build a computerized tracking station for accessing data from U.S., Soviet, European, and Japanese weather satellites. Last month, the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy named Martin to a 33-member planning group that will establish a nongovernmental body responsible for setting high standards for teachers and certifying those who meet the standards. CHRISTIANITY TODAY asked James C. Hefley, writer-in-residence at Hannibal-LaGrange College, to interview Martin about her philosophy of religion, education, and science.

Can you integrate biblical viewpoints into your teaching without violating the law?

Yes. I start the year by identifying three presuppositions of all scientists: what we see is real; what we see is organized into patterns; and we are capable of understanding patterns, to some degree.

I talk about presuppositions in cosmology, and I tell the students one of my presuppositions. I believe God created the heavens and the earth. That’s where I start in my thinking about the universe. Then I tell them about another presupposition, that the universe came about by chance. I describe the “Big Bang” and other theories. I tell the students I don’t have a problem with these theories because the Creator is bigger than any method he might have used in creating the universe.

Do you ever refer to the Bible?

Yes. When we study the history of astronomy, the oldest of the sciences, I refer to the Bible, the oldest book commonly available in the West. We see what the Bible has to say about astronomy. For example, I read from Psalm 19 and from Job. Job’s friends tell him to curse God. But he looks up at the sky and sees Orion and Pleiades and says, “If God made all that, he is surely in control of the universe.”

How do you deal with the faith of the founders of modern science?

Textbooks often don’t deal sufficiently with science because they don’t show how the thinker or researcher, Christian or not, arrived at a conclusion. Science is a process, and the person who does science comes at it with a series of biases, prejudices, and presuppositions. Further, one scientist builds upon another’s foundation.

Sir Isaac Newton discovered the law of universal gravitation, and he was the first person to adequately explain motion. I tell my students about his religious beliefs. Newton said his theological writings were his most important contributions to the store of knowledge. Albert Einstein said Newton’s religious papers provide a unique insight into Newton’s spiritual workshop. If Newton and Einstein said those beliefs were important, then my class ought to hear about them when studying the history of modern science. Yet I have not seen one high school textbook say Newton was religious.

Article continues below

How do you describe Galileo’s rift with the Catholic church?

I point out that Galileo was a devout Catholic, and that’s what tore him apart. He knew there was no problem with his theology and science. It was other people in the church who superimposed problems.

Has anyone objected to your references to the Bible and the religious faith of scientists?

If there has been a complaint, I haven’t heard it. My students know I am not teaching religion. Frequently they ask direct questions. I believe they deserve honest, straightforward answers. My students feel free to disagree with my presuppositions. I am showing them where presuppositions, religious or otherwise, apply to science.

How did your school’s satellite tracking station develop?

In 1969 I became intrigued by a discussion of photographs taken by satellites in space. Next I heard about a group of students in Scotland that was using radio satellites to study physics. Then in 1982 I read a NASA publication by a high school teacher about building and operating a weather satellite ground station. I saw no reason why my class couldn’t do the same thing. The students raised money from the community and from Dupont, the major employer in our area. A few other schools are involved in satellite tracking, but to my knowledge we are the only one where students of all learning abilities are participating and where one-tenth of the student body is involved.

How does this project relate to your role as a Christian teaching science?

We are learning how to use the resources God has given us. His mandate in Genesis 1 is for man to “have dominion” over and use the creation for good purposes. Our work with the tracking station could have enormous implications for developing nations.

My class was invited to give the keynote address and present a display at an international weather-satellite users conference. A man from a developing nation said he came to the conference just to see our booth. He said his country needs the data we are collecting to increase crop production, monitor pest infestations, and provide warnings of approaching natural disasters. He asked us to help his country set up a tracking station. We submitted a proposal to the American Association for Advancement of Science, requesting that they help our school share satellite weather data with a developing nation. They are considering our request.

Article continues below



Church Growth in America

A recent study found a Baptist church in Indiana to be the largest and an Arizona Assembly of God to be the fastest-growing among churches in the United States.

First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, is the largest, with 19,320 worshipers in 1985, representing a gain of 620 over the previous year. The independent Baptist church conducts a bus ministry that brings some 8,000 people to church each week.

First Assembly of God in Phoenix, Arizona, is the fastest-growing, gaining 2,307 new worshipers in 1985 for a total of 7,688. The church’s pastor, Tommy Barnett, attributes the rapid growth to his church’s bus ministry and the completion of a 7,000-seat sanctuary.

In a list citing the fastest-growing church in each of the 50 states, 32 were Assemblies of God congregations. The list was created from information gathered by Elmer Towns, dean of Liberty Baptist Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia. Towns, who has conducted the church-growth study for each of the past 15 years, said he saw the greatest growth in 1985.

Last year marked the first time Assemblies of God congregations have outnumbered Baptist churches in growth, Towns said. Pentecostal churches, including the Assemblies of God, are growing, he said, “because they usually provide greater involvement by worshipers in the service [and] exciting services.…” He also cited their “single purpose of outreach, the support of Pentecostal television networks,” and the fact that they are building “some of the largest and most expensive sanctuaries in America.”

In contrast, Towns said, “some Baptist churches have not only lost their edge, they have lost their momentum. Many have put good things in place of soul-winning.” Included in those “good things,” Towns said, are Christian schools, stewardship campaigns, recreational programs, and counseling centers.


Strengthening Black Families

At their annual convention, members of a major black Baptist denomination last month urged the development of programs to combat teenage pregnancy and halt the deterioration of black family life.

E. Edward Jones, president of the 4 million-member National Baptist Convention of America, blamed black men for many problems facing black families. Meeting in Cleveland, members of the denomination voted to establish a commission to assist churches in helping young men develop in ways consistent with “Christian and Afro-centric perspectives.”

Article continues below

The church convention also set in motion an effort to strengthen family life, including programs to help parents develop child-rearing skills and creating activities “to keep our children off the fast track that leads to dropping out of school, substance abuse, premature fatherhood, crime, and incarceration.”

“Satan is doing a job on us,” Jones said in a speech to the convention. “His attack on the famly is quite obvious. The black family is deteriorating as divorce rates become alarming. There is a move to disenfranchise black culture and lifestyle.” Jones also cited other problems confronting black America, including higher unemployment and crime rates than are found in the white community.

The convention took action condemning South Africa’s policy of apartheid, calling for economic sanctions against South Africa by the U.S. government and American corporations. The resolution also called for economic and military aid to nations bordering South Africa so they would not suffer as a result of economic sanctions.

The National Baptist Convention of America is the second-largest black denomination in the United States, after the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., which claims as many as 7 million members.


Fighting Child Exploitation

A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate would make it easier for law-enforcement officials to fight the sexual exploitation of children.

The measure, introduced by U.S. Sen. William Roth (R-Del.), would broaden a law that prohibits the interstate transportation of female minors for sexual activity to include males as well. The legislation would punish this activity whether or not a youth was being exploited commercially, as is the case in child prostitution. The bill would also make it illegal to solicit children for sexual purposes, and it would prohibit advertising of child pornography.

Larry Braidfoot, of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission, said the legislation is “an important step in the effort to crack down on child pornography.” He said the United States is the world’s leading consumer of child pornography. U.S. Customs Service officials have identified some 20,000 Americans as purchasers of child pornography, most of it imported from Europe.

The recent report of the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography focused public attention on the relationship between child pornography and the sexual abuse and exploitation of children. Customs officials say the number of child pornography cases has risen dramatically in the last several years, with more than 200 cases in the first seven months of 1986 alone.

Article continues below


Briefly Noted

Amended: A government regulation that required federally financed family-planning clinics to list abortion among options available to women dealing with unintended pregnancies. The amended regulation allows clinics to mention abortion as an alternative, but does not require them to do so, said Jo Ann Gaspar, deputy assistant secretary of health for population services. Clinics that accept federal funds are barred from providing abortions.

Approved: By the Senate Judiciary Committee, a bill that would lift federal antitrust restrictions to permit television executives to negotiate standards designed to decrease children’s exposure to violent programming. The bill, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), will next be considered by the full Senate.

Born: To American women in 1985, more babies than in any year during the past two decades. The National Center for Health Statistics reported that 3,749,000 babies were born last year in the United States.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.