Mere Christians

Dr. Deborah Haarsma (Astronomer + President of BioLogos)

Episode Summary

Why we need mere Christians working in the sciences and other secular fields

Episode Notes

How to worship God while you work, even if you spend more time staring at spreadsheets than stars, how thinking of today as rehearsing for eternity can change how you work, and 3 reasons why we need mere Christians working in the sciences and other secular fields.

Links Mentioned:

Episode Transcription

[0:00:05] JR: Hey, friend. Welcome to the Mere Christians Podcast. I'm Jordan Raynor. How does the gospel influence the work of mere Christians, those of us who aren't pastors, or religious professionals, but who work as teachers, general contractors, and astronomers? That's the question we explore every week. Today, I'm posing it to Dr. Deborah Haarsma. She's a world-class astronomer and the President of BioLogos.


Deb and I talked about how to worship while you work, even if you spend more time staring at spreadsheets than stars, like Dr. Haarsma does. We talked about how thinking of today as rehearsing for eternity can change the way you work. Finally, Deb shared three reasons why we need more mere Christians, working in the sciences and other secular fields. I think you guys are going to love this conversation with my new friend, Dr. Deborah Haarsma.




[0:01:11] JR: Dr. Haarsma, welcome to the Mere Christians Podcast.


[0:01:14] DH: I am so excited to be here, Jordan.


[0:01:16] JR: I know we were just geeking out over all these great scientists that we build on the show, and now we get to add your name to that list. This is awesome.


[0:01:24] DH: Oh, yeah. This is great.


[0:01:25] JR: When did you know you wanted to be an astronomer? Were you a kid? Was this later in life?


[0:01:31] DH: It was actually not until graduate school. I know a lot of astronomers, it's when they're their kids and they're looking up at the stars, or they want to be an astronaut. Now, I loved math and science, but I think we got a book from the library about constellations, and I remember standing in the backyard and trying to find them and it wasn't going very well, and I was getting bug bites. I decided, “No, maybe astronomy isn't for me.”


[0:01:55] JR: I love that.


[0:01:58] DH: But when I got to – well, throughout my time in school, I loved studying math and science, just all the different science areas. For a while in high school, I thought I wanted to do chemistry. Then I decided it didn't have enough math in it, and I really love math. Now, I know some people don't like math, but I wanted more math. I landed on physics, which I just absolutely love, because in physics, we're showing this incredible math that underlies how all of matter behaves, how the very particles move. It's with incredible precision. It's so regular, we can write down all these equations to describe it. They work here on Earth, and then they work out in the universe, and that's what really got me. Studying how physics works out there, when you have the most incredible magnetic fields. You have the gravity of a black hole, or a neutron star, you can't possibly reproduce that on Earth. But when you look out in the universe, you can see it happening, and I just thought that was great.


[0:02:57] JR: That's awesome. What does the day to day of an astronomer even look like? I don't think anyone has any concept of what that life is like. You're not looking at a telescope eight hours a day.


[0:03:10] DH: No. You read in Harry Potter, they go to the top tower, and they look through the telescopes at midnight, and there is some of that, and it's pretty cool to go to the telescope and stay up all night and do all the observations. But then most of the time, you're sitting in front of a computer and looking at the images that you took with instruments at the telescope. It's a lot of computer programming and analyzing data, both things that I really enjoy. Then there's those moments when the image pops up on the screen and you go, “Oh, look at that. Is that real? Is that really the thing that I'm looking for? Oh, there it is. Oh, my goodness. Look at it.” That's pretty exciting.


[0:03:46] JR: Tell us about the work you do today. You're serving as the president of BioLogos, founded by a former guest of ours, Dr. Francis Collins. For those who don't know, tell us about what you and your team are doing at BioLogos.

[0:03:58] DH: Sure. Yeah, about 10 years ago, I switched from being a professor of physics and astronomy at Calvin University to being president of BioLogos. We want to show the church in the world that faith and science can work hand in hand. They don't have to be at odds with each other. That idea is so prevalent in our culture that somehow science has disproved Christianity, or that science is not very Christian and we need to be more Christian than science. For me, I'm a scientist and a Christian, and I see them working together in these beautiful, harmonious ways. Just the idea that they're at war with each other just doesn't make sense. At BioLogos, we're working to show that our Christ-centered faith and rigorous science can work together.


[0:04:50] JR: I'm dedicating my life, Lord willing, to helping Christians reconnect their faith with their work. You're helping Christians reconnect their faith with their science. Why do we live such disintegrated lives at this moment? Why are these things constantly being bifurcated? What's the root of this?


[0:05:08] DH: Oh, my goodness. Well, ultimately, human sinful nature.


[0:05:13] JR: There is go. Genesis through it. It’s always the answer.


[0:05:19] DH: I mean, some of it is just our Western culture. We tend to bifurcate everything, and especially in our modern, polarized world, seems like everybody's aggressively polarized. “Let's put things in two separate categories and every new idea we encounter it has to fit in on one side or the other. Are you with me, or are you against me?” That is just not true to life at all, and it's certainly not true to the gospel.


Yeah, at BioLogos, we want to show like, “Hey, there's better ways to bring these things together than choosing a side and showing the other side is wrong and you're right. Let's just skip all that and go to celebrating curiosity and exploring God's world, God's creation, and discovering what's in God's word and scripture that resonates with what we see in the natural world and can build up our faith.” That's just a much better place to be.


I love the work that you're doing, of showing people how their vocations can all be part of living out the gospel. I think that's just so important. Whatever field we do, it can be a way of living out our faith.

[0:06:27] JR: I think part of the root here is just this lie that we believe God only speaks through his Word. You guys talk a lot about this at BioLogos. He also speaks through the created world that he made. I think that has profound implications for the work that all of us do, not just scientists, right? Do you see a connection there, that if God can speak through the created world, then that is science meaning to the work that we do with the created world?


[0:06:56] DH: Yes. Oh, my. Yes. We see God as the creator. You walk outside, you look up at the night sky, you investigate the creatures in the pond water, or whatever it might be, and you're looking at the very handy work of God. That gives honor to that activity. You're studying something that God has made. Then a theme that you've talked about is God invites us to create along with him, to imitate him a bit. We're made in God's image to think God's thoughts after Him, to follow in those patterns, and then to add our own bits onto it, which is just astounding, if you think of it.


It's insane. God's the all-powerful creator of this incredibly vast universe, and we’re these creatures on one planet, but what God has set his heart on humanity and decided he loves us and invites our participation in what he's doing. That just is a transforming thought.


[0:07:58] JR: I think this is what David's marveling at in Soulmate, right? David begins the song by looking up at the heavens, where he says, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is mankind, that you are mindful of them?” It's like, okay, great. I'm looking at the heavens. I'm looking at me. Lord, I can't believe that you even think of me. But then he goes on to say – he says, “You have made them rulers over the works of your hands.” I think that's part of this all. It's like, not only did God create me and think of me, but he chose me to co-labor with him in ruling over this world. I think that's part of what he's just flabbergasted by in Soulmate.


[0:08:42] DH: Oh, I love that. I had never thought of it that way, but I think you might be right.


[0:08:46] JR: You got me really thinking. I watched a talk of yours on BioLogos that I loved. I'm actually going to be taking my kids through some BioLogos curriculum, which I'm really excited about, that contains one of these talks. You talk about this idea that this is a relatively new phenomenon, that science and faith are at war with each other. Because for centuries, some of the world's greatest scientists were also faithful mere Christians, right? Can you talk through some of the highlights of that long-storied history and some of the great scientists who are also faithful believers?


[0:09:20] DH: Oh, sure. Yeah. You see, it's somewhat in Galileo, he was the first one to point a telescope up at the heavens and see that the moon had craters on it and to see that Jupiter had its own moons orbiting it. He shared that with others, and he saw that as a living out of his faith. He even wrote a long essay on how this fit with scripture. It wasn't just that he happened to be in a Christian culture, and so he was nominally Christian. He really was thinking about it. I really love Johannes Kepler. He just had such a passion and a worship. He was the one who coined that phrase of thinking God's thoughts after Him.


Robert Boyle was an English physicist and also in the 1600s, and he was incredibly devout and wrote a lot of devotionals. He wrote about the spiritual discipline of humility and the humility that you need to do science and how he saw them interrelated. They did not see these things as opposed. It's so strange that today people think, well, Christianity is at war with science, when at its very beginning in the scientific revolution, these scientists were devout believers.


That continued, well, it continues to the present day. There's many scientists today who are devout believers, some of whom you've had on your show. But all throughout that history. Yeah, it's a shame that you get highlighted these certain stories, or certain issues that say that they can't go together.


[0:10:56] JR: Do you actually think that today the perception is science and faith are more odds than ever? Do you think it's actually true, or is this overhyped?


[0:11:06] DH: That's interesting. In a way, it is totally overhyped, because fundamentally, they are not at war. If you look at the principles involved in science, what it takes to do science is a belief that the universe works through these regular, natural processes, and that they are consistent. Well, as a Christian, we believe God faithfully governs the universe. It's his faithfulness that upholds that consistency. These ideas go together, so they're not at war and at that fundamental level.


Then you can talk about particular scriptures where they seem to be intention. That takes extra investigation. We need to dig into scripture, understand what it means, what did it mean in its original context? We need to dig into the science and make sure we're understanding where the evidence is strong and where it isn't. In a large part, those things also, when I dug into them, I found that there wasn't the tension there that I'd been led to believe. In fact, I developed a deeper understanding of scripture and what God was teaching it as I dug into it more.


Then there's this ongoing perception of the conflict in our culture. Some of it goes back to the 1800s. In 1859, Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species. There's conflict at that time. Even then, there were quite a few leading Christians who accepted the evidence for evolution even at that time and even more so today.


I think it's the perception of the conflict that actually becomes more harmful. People just absorb it out of the air. Apparently, surveys of elementary school kids will say, “Oh, yeah. These don't go together.” Where are they even getting this idea? It's not like pastors preach that every Sunday. It's just in the air somehow. Or, somebody growing in a family that isn't Christian, they somehow just absorb the idea that smart people aren't religious. I've heard people just give that as their – that was why they decided not to be a Christian. The tempter might just be using all that, just magnifying it so that people see a barrier where there is not one.


[0:13:12] JR: Yeah. I think it's part of the reason why I'm so interested in the stories of Galileo and Kepler, right? Resurrecting the stories of these mere Christians as a means of showing, no, we can be smart people and apply intellectual rigor to scrutinizing the claims of scripture and finding it to be very satisfactory as we hold it up to that rigorous light. I mean, that's Dr. Collins's story. We talked about Dr. Francis Collins. That's a huge part of his story, right?


[0:13:39] DH: Oh, yeah.


[0:13:40] JR: Was coming to faith largely through science and being able to worship through science. I'm sure you've experienced that. I mean, as you've studied stars and galaxies, I got to imagine, you can think of at least a few moments where you really sat back and felt like you were worshiping God. Is there a story that comes to mind there?


[0:13:57] DH: Oh, oh, yeah, yeah. In my research, I study some of the biggest things in the universe; galaxies and galaxy clusters. A galaxy like our Milky Way galaxy contains a few hundred billion stars. It's incredibly huge. Hard to grasp. But it's not the only galaxy in the universe. There are billions of them and they like to hang out in clusters of a thousand galaxies, or more. I studied those clusters. Looking at all these vast things, it's really daunting. It just highlights the physical smallness of humanity compared to the universe.


I can remember some moments, I don't know. I think, I was an early career scientist. I'm thinking about some of this stuff and just absorb the idea like, wow, we're really just insignificant. Why would God care about us again? Or why does God even matter in this picture of the whole universe? Then I remembered Psalms 103, and it says there that the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. He does not treat us as our sins deserve, or repay us according to our iniquities for as high as the heavens are above the earth. So great is God's love for those who fear him.


As high as the heavens are above the earth, oh, my goodness, that's what I'm studying in my research. I'm measuring that. The universe is incredibly vast from one end to the other, way more than the Psalmists knew before scientific times. God points to that as a metaphor, as high as the heavens are above the earth. Then he doesn't say, “Oh, and then that's how small you are, you puny humans.” Instead, God says, “That's how great my love is.” We're supposed to look at that vastness of the universe and see it as a picture of God's love.


Then the next phrase, it says, as far as the east is from the west. Again, that's the whole extent of the universe. It says, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Now, think about that for a second. God's inviting us to picture the forgiveness of our sins, as if our sins are removed to the ends of the universe, as far as the east is from the west. It's this incredible picture of God's grace. It brings us right back to the gospel. This is how great God's love is and how great God's forgiveness is. I'm getting a picture of that looking out at the universe. Why do I keep loving astronomy? Because when I look at the universe through the eyes of faith, I am learning about God.


[0:16:50] JR: Yeah. It's an opportunity to worship as you're doing that work. I'm thinking about the listener who's not staring up at the heavens all day, right? She's listening. She's like, “Yeah, I stare at spreadsheets and emails and PowerPoints all day.” What advice do you have for her about how she can worship while she does her work?


[0:17:12] DH: A lot of the work of the astronomer is spent also staring at a computer screen and writing code.


[0:17:17] JR:  You can understand, yeah.


[0:17:19] DH: Yeah. I can understand. Although I can worship while I'm doing astronomy, it's not like every moment feels like that. It's stepping back from it and dwelling on some of the bigger aspects of what is going on. In some areas of science, it's somewhat about worship. But in other areas, it might be about service, that what you're doing all day long is using what we're learning in science. Say, about the human body for the sake of helping others, say, in health care. That idea of service is definitely a way we live out the gospel using science.


I think, whatever job you have, you can go for that walk in the evening and take a look up. When there's no clouds and if you're far enough from city lights, you can see bits of the heavens. Sometimes it's just noticing what's around us. I live in the suburbs. I don't get out to nature preserves, or national parks very often. But even just going for a walk and looking at the trees, listening to the birdsong, seeing the angle of the light and the shapes of the clouds, it takes me outside of myself. It reminds me that there is a creator who made a world, where beauty just breaks out all over the place. I can look at that and see that fingerprint of the creator and worship him for it.


[0:18:42] JR: Yeah. I think the universal principle here is having the mental space, taking the time to step back from the work, to think about the work, how God is using the work, and allowing that silence to let you dwell on the magnitude of what God is doing in the world. I just read this great little book, this best weekend called Thanks a Thousand. It's this New York Times reporter, who went on a journey to thank every single person in the world that was involved in making his cup of coffee.


[0:19:18] DH: I love it.


[0:19:18] JR: Yeah, it's fascinating. He eventually had to cap it. He's like, “I think I'm going to have to touch every person on the earth. This is so complex. I'm going to cap it at a thousand people.” It was so interesting, because when you can get that type of perspective of like, “Hey, you person who makes crates at a warehouse that those coffee beans eventually sit on, God is using you in this common grace to provide my cup of coffee.” This guy didn't give any reason to be a believer, but I think just taking the time and space to see the bigger picture, ask God to give you the bigger picture of how he's using your work, that could be cause for worship.


But Rick Warren once defined worship really well, I loved it. He said, “Worship is simply bringing pleasure to God.” And so, you do that, Dr. Haarsma, when you look through a telescope and look up at the heavens, but the woman who's creating a spreadsheet right now as she's listening to this podcast is doing that when she creates that spreadsheet with excellence and love and in accordance with the Lord's commands, right? All of that is bringing the Lord pleasure. All of that is the essence of worship, right?


[0:20:29] DH: It really is. I think it's a little bit the way a parent, or a grandparent watches a child. When they do something and succeed at making their little thing and doing it well, we delight with them. We see their pride in what they're making and it brings pleasure to the parent, or grandparent. When we see them discover new things and delight in them, it's the parent and grandparent appreciates it, too. I think God takes that pleasure in us. He has set His heart on humanity and takes delight in us, amazingly. When we get frustrated with each other and all of humanity, God still finds ways to delight in what we're doing, too.


[0:21:10] JR: Yeah. Yeah, it's good. For the last 10 years, you've been running BioLogos. Crystal clear, how your faith influences what you do within that organization, right? Go back before BioLogos, back to when you were teaching, back to when you were spending time looking up in the heavens for hours upon end, how did your faith shape how you did that work? Not necessarily what you did, but how you did the work in a distinct way. What was different about the way you approach that work than your non-believing colleagues?


[0:21:43] DH: I've thought about this one a lot. When I was a graduate student, I wondered this very question. I had grown up in a wonderful Christian family, great church, gone to a Christian college, believed that my faith should influence everything I do. I get to my secular graduate school, and I see my colleagues all using the same methods that I'm using. I'm like, how is my faith making a difference again? It looks like we're all just doing the same thing. I realized the differences in the fundamental motivations.


I am studying the natural world because I believe it is God's creation. I'm using my mind, because I believe God's gifted that to me. I have to have humility in the face of data. Now, that's something that all scientists do. Part of doing science is you allow your ideas to be corrected by the data that you encounter in the natural world. For me, there's that extra reminder like, “Oh, yeah. I'm a limited person. I'm sinful. I can't just imagine how God created things. I have to look at that data in the natural world as a way to correct my wrong ideas and to learn how God actually made it.”


It’s those kinds of motivations that for me made it a fully Christian activity. I didn't set aside my faith when I sat down to do science. Instead, I had these underlying motivations for how I did the science. That meant so much to me to know that I wasn't somehow trying to put on some neutral hat and be neutral when I was doing science. No, it was for me, fully living out my faith, even though for my science colleagues, it wasn't. It was for them and it was their atheism, or whatever, and we landed on the same methods, but for very different reasons.


[0:23:30] JR: Yeah, and through God's common grace, right? You're landing the same conclusions, but it's the motivation that makes what otherwise might be considered “secular work sacred” for you. Is that what you're saying?


[0:23:42] DH: Yeah. Yup. Exactly.


[0:23:44] JR: I love this. I think about this quote from Spurgeon all the time. He says that I'm not going to get exactly right. But if you're living unto God, I remember that part of the quote, then for the believer, nothing is secular and everything is sacred. It's the motivation that matters. If you're doing your work for your glory, for your fame, for your fortune, yeah, God's not pleased with that. God cares about the motives. He weighs our motives, the Psalms tell us, right? As we're living unto God doing our work in the Lord, for the Lord, powered by the Holy Spirit, then that work is very sacred indeed, right?


[0:24:20] DH: Indeed. Yes.


[0:24:22] JR: You mentioned this phrase a few times. I think it was Kepler who coined it, thinking God's thoughts after Him. Circle back to that. What does that mean? What does that mean for our listeners who are working as mere Christians of the world?


[0:24:34] DH: Right. God invites us to participate in what he's doing. God created us in his image to represent him on this planet and to ultimately, to imitate Christ. In science, I'm always thinking of it, well, God's incredible thought and intelligence behind the universe, and I'm picturing around a whole bunch of physics equations, okay. It's those thoughts. When we discover all those physics things, then I'm seeing, tracing that thought of God and thinking it again after him.


I think in any vocation, when you're building that spreadsheet, when you're doing it to excellence, when you're following good ethical standards and good practices, you are also there following that pattern of God, a pattern of excellence and justice and care. Well, what does it say in Philippians 4, is it, of whatever is good and praiseworthy and think on these things? We're thinking on things that are part of what God is doing in the world, so we're creating a bit along with him. It can be hard to trace that path.


I spent a summer job where I was, well, I only stuck it out for a week, putting price tags on stuff in a warehouse. Then I finally got a desk job somewhere that was felt a little more meaningful. Sticking price tags on products, really, I'd be hard pressed to figure out how that's thinking God's thoughts after Him. Until I remember my coworkers there. Those were friendships that if I'd stuck it out, I might have grown those and been able to speak of God to them and speak into their lives.


[0:26:15] JR: Yeah, it's good. It's good. Let's look ahead to the New Heavens for a second, the New Earth. I think Isaiah 65 and Revelation 22 make it pretty clear that we're going to be working for eternity on the new earth, right? Do you expect to be exploring the new heavens forever? Do you think that you are right now rehearsing something eternal?


[0:26:38] DH: I hope so.

[0:26:41] JR: Be incredible, right?


[0:26:42] DH: I’m so hoping that the new heavens and the new earth have some new physics, and so I can be like Isaac Newton discovering these laws for the first time. That would be so amazing. But whatever it is, even if it's not that different from this earth, there's still more to learn about God's creation. I could do that forever. The depth and richness of God's handy work is a reflection of the depth and richness of God. There's always more to learn about God. Yeah, we get to keep doing this work in heaven.


Maybe some of the other kinds of work I do, the teaching work, maybe that'll be in heaven as well, where I get to explain to others, “Hey, I learned this thing about this galaxy over here. Do you want to hear about it?” I get to tell them about it. Yeah, that would be amazing.


[0:27:28] JR: Yeah. This has had a pretty practical implications for how I think about my work today. I was in a room with some Christian entrepreneurs a few weeks ago, and we spent an hour or so just praying for each other and workshop at a couple of workplace challenges. It was such a meaningful time. It was such a productive time. It was such a – there wasn't a modicum of pride in the room. It was just, everyone's motives were really pure. Somebody is like, “I think this is a picture of eternity. This is a glimpse. This is rehearsing the eternal right here, solving these problems together with Christ as our guide, with His Word as our guide. Just, He's going to be walking with us literally, physically on the new earth.”


That shapes how I think about what I'm doing today, because if I can see this work existing forever, it just makes it a little bit more concrete of doing it unto the Lord. Doing it in a way to where Christ was literally beside me, he would smile at every aspect of the job. It just makes me a whole lot more excited about heaven, because I dreaded the thought of heaven when I was a kid.


[0:28:35] DH: Oh, yeah. The sitting on a cloud with a harp, or something. Yeah. Why would you want to do that?


[0:28:40] JR: Yeah. Hey, before we wrap up, I want you to make a case that Dr. Collins, the founder of BioLogos made in his terrific book. He said, “Believers should seek to be in the forefront among those chasing after new knowledge.” In the sciences, obviously, but in academia. In general, make a case for that here. Why should our listeners, why should mere Christians be at the forefront of culture chasing after new knowledge in the world?


[0:29:09] DH: Oh, yeah. That is such a beautiful phrase. One reason is this is what God has called us to do. It’s one of the first things God called Adam to do is to name the animals and naming and ancient Hebrew culture was more than just designing a label. It was understanding and developing and caring for. Similarly, God plants them in a garden and has the humans caring for the garden. That requires all sorts of knowledge. God invited them to explore the world around them and to grow that knowledge.


Now, human culture has advanced so much in knowledge, it's hard for us to grasp a tiny fraction of what humanity has learned up to this point. Of those pursuing that cutting edge of knowledge, of learning about new creatures in the ocean, or new dynamics in the atmosphere, or the very first galaxies in the universe, yeah, Christians should be there because this is what God has called his people to do. He lets all people do it by his common grace, but we shouldn't be the ones lagging behind. We should be the ones leading the way, because we know this creator of the universe as the lover of our souls.


When we're in that place as the leaders on the forefront of knowledge and culture, we can also be shaping it, making it more like heaven. I love your picture of picturing our work now as being something we might continue to the extent that as we're creating new art and media, or telling new stories, or whatever it might be, we can bring all of this perspective of God's people and God's kingdom to what we're doing at that forefront, and so influence culture in the best ways possible.


Sometimes, I think Christians can be off to the side, and we see what's happening in the culture, say, with new genetic technologies where there's gene editing of human embryos, and you hear about that and you go, “Oh, that doesn't seem right.” There's serious ethical problems with that. Deep concerns there. But how much better our influence if we're right there at the cutting-edge of understanding genetics and bringing our full Christian perspective to it, so that we can be a voice and right in the mix of it. When we're speaking from way on the outside, it doesn't have nearly the influence as not being all that God is calling us to be. Those are a couple of reasons for Christians to be out at the forefront.


Let me give you one more. In our culture, those at the forefront of science and technology often are very secular people, and often they have not met a Christian who they feel is a peer, who is smart and engaging and compassionate. All they see are extreme voices in the news, and then that's their impression of all of Christianity. We need believers in those places just to help make the gospel known there in a more lived out way.


[0:32:14] JR: Have you met somebody? After they got to know you and your obvious credibility as a scientist, just been blown away that you're a follower of Jesus?


[0:32:26] DH: Yes. My research colleagues, I remember one conversation where the conversation started going that way. I said, “Well, I'm actually a Christian.” One other physicist actually said, “Okay, Deb. Stop talking. I want to still be able to respect you.” Fortunately, others at the table said, “No, no, let her talk. This is fascinating.” That's the more common reaction for my secular colleagues when they hear about my faith there, more like, “Wow, that is a fascinating hobby.” As if I said that I went horseback riding every Sunday, or something. But some are, yes, indeed, just blown away by the categories. They just can't picture those categories going together.


[0:33:09] JR: Yeah, but that's why you should be there, right? Because your excellence as a scientist put you in the room where it happens with those at the epicenter of cultural power and influence, right? You're serving before kings. That's exactly why we need to be in the room to shape those conversations. I think about Andy Crouch's book, Culture Making a lot, and just that very simple quote, that simple idea, “Hey, the only way to change culture is to create more culture.” Condemnation on its own won't do it. Sitting on the sidelines and throwing stones ain't going to do it. You want to change culture, you better get into culture and make things more like the kingdom of God, and whatever that sphere of culture is that you feel called to. Amen.


[0:33:57] DH: Amen to that. Yes, I love that book.


[0:33:59] JR: Dr. Haarsma, three questions we wrap up every episode with. Number one, on the whole, and I know this is very specific on a person-by-person basis, but which books do you find yourself recommending most frequently to the most people?


[0:34:14] DH: Oh, my. I often recommend Francis Collins' book, Language of God. Not just because it launched BioLogos, but because it's had such a profound impact on so many people across a pretty wide range. I still recommend that a lot.


[0:34:27] JR: I give that to non-Christians all the time.


[0:34:30] DH: Oh, yeah. Yeah. There's someone at my church who gives it to every high school graduate saying, “You got to read this one. You got to read this.”


[0:34:37] JR: That's a great grad gift. Yeah.


[0:34:39] DH: Yeah. Yeah. It really is. The other one I've been recommending lately is the Centered-Set Church by Mark Baker. I love his picture of the church as being rather than trying to define the boundaries, or just saying, it's a free-for-all. It's saying, we have to keep looking to Christ at the center. If we do that, that's what matters the most. It's just a beautiful tone for a cultural moment.


[0:35:07] JR: Yeah. I haven't seen that, but I'll check it out. Hey, who would you like to hear on this podcast talking about how their faith shapes their work?


[0:35:14] DH: Oh, my. Well, you've had so many great scientists on already. A lot of my heroes and people that –


[0:35:19] JR: Who am I missing?


[0:35:21] DH: Have you had Praveen Sethupathy?


[0:35:23] JR: I have not.


[0:35:24] DH: Oh, he is a geneticist at Cornell University and has just become department chair there. He has incredible research credentials. He has this beautiful testimony of why he picked Christianity. He really investigated the different world religions. He grew up Hindu, and his story of how he chose Christ is really worth hearing, as well as how then that influences his work as a scientist.


[0:35:47] JR: That sounds fascinating. All right, Dr. Haarsma, we're talking to a very diverse audience of believers and a bunch of different vocations. What they share is a desire to do great work that glorifies the Lord. What's one thing you want to leave them with before we sign off?


[0:36:05] DH: Whatever work we're doing, God is inviting us to do that in partnership with him. Even if it seems minor, it's something that God is valuing and desiring, and we can do it for His glory. God will see it even if it feels like the world isn't noticing.


[0:36:25] JR: Yeah, that's really good. I think about what is it? Hebrews 6:10. I'm pulling it up. God is not unjust. He will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them, right? Nothing goes unseen by the Creator God. Nothing. If you can look up at the heavens and more religious, how vast his creation is, read Psalms 8, know that he is mindful of you and sees every detail of your work and delights in every detail that you do for his glory and the good of others.


Dr. Haarsma, I want to commend you for the exceptional work that you do every day for the glory of God and the good of others, for reminding us of how we can worship while we work and bring God glory through the work of our hands. Friends, if you want to learn more about Deb's terrific work, you can do so at Dr. Haarsma, thank you again for spending time with us today.


[0:37:20] DH: Oh, thank you so much, Jordan. It was great to be here and thanks for everything you're doing. It's wonderful.




[0:37:27] JR: When we finished recording, Dr. Haarsma was like, “I'd love to hear a barista on the show. I can't believe we've never had a barista, especially after I just talked about Thanks a Thousand in this book about coffee. Hey, if you make coffee, or work in the coffee trade, I want to hear from you. I want to hear from anybody who thinks they have something meaningful to say about how the gospel is shaping their work. Guys, thank you so much for tuning in. I'll see you next week.