Earlier this year, I attended some workshops for nonprofit organizations in Chattanooga. I got lots of great advice, and there were some things about running nonprofits that finally "clicked." It was a great time to learn from others in the nonprofit sector, and Core Academy will greatly benefit from my time there.
I was also reminded of one other nagging problem: our mission statement. Every nonprofit needs some kind of reason to exist. We need a succinct statement of what it is that we do. That statement should set us apart from everyone else. I've had lots of people tell me about this for the five years that Core Academy has existed. Our current mission statement is "Helping Christians better understand and appreciate science." As a friend of mine said, "That's a terrible mission statement."
He's right. It doesn't really tell you how we're different from everyone else. It doesn't tell you what issues we try to deal with. Most importantly, it tells you nothing about what we actually do. So we need a new mission statement.
I've always said that "what Core Academy does is hard to describe," and that's true. We have a library and archive, make curricula, supervise interns, and host events like the Creation Retreat. That's nice and all, but what ties all that together? What's the point?
I think now, after all this time, I've finally hit on Core Academy's main theme, our raison d'etre.
When I look at the creation/evolution debate today, especially as it is experienced by students, I see a lot of anxiety. There's an immense pressure put on these students. They end up being pawns in a larger cultural power struggle. One side insists that you must be a creationist to be a good Christian. The other insists that being a creationist means you have no integrity and hate science. Everyone insists that the other guy is lying or deluded. Meanwhile, our culture demands that we believe only things that are perfectly rational and based on evidence.
That's a lot of pressure, and that pressure can really warp people. Some people get stuck on weird hangups, like searching for Noah's Ark. I think they are hoping for one big discovery that will vindicate their beliefs. Suddenly they won't seem so crazy. Others fall into a sort of idol worship. They fixate on one person or organization, and support them without question. Still others find relief in attacking others. Maybe they think that their position is only "safe" if all the others have been defeated, or maybe they're just insecure.
And then there are those who are just driven to figure it all out right now. As if some kid is going to solve all the problems and questions that Christians have been wrestling with for more than a century. It's completely unrealistic. With other "big problems," I think there's more of an instinctive understanding that one person can't solve it all. When it comes to poverty, pollution, or world evangelism, we all get it. We know that we can only do "our part." But the creation/evolution debate makes people insist that they can figure everything out, often by themselves. It's crazy.
What's really sad is that all this pressure squeezes out any room for doubt or questions or simple ignorance. There's no place to say, "Hey, you know, I'm just not sure." The uncertain people either decide it's just not worth fighting about and therefore unimportant, or they just leave the faith altogether.
That's a shame, because God's creation is a big deal. How God created is also a big deal, or people wouldn't be fighting about it. So these issues are clearly important. Creation shouldn't be something we just shrug off as unimportant because we don't like the stress or pressure it creates.
So what we really need to do is relax. We need a renewed appreciation of faith in the face of uncertainty. Faith isn't having all the answers. Faith is neither rational nor irrational. Faith is a certainty born of experience with the risen Lord Jesus. We don't have to be afraid of not having answers. That pressure comes from the world and personal pride. Jesus isn't impressed with our "answers" anyway. Jesus is looking for faith. Once that sinks in, once we really understand that, I think we can start to relax.
And that's when the fun begins.
Once I know by faith that there are real answers to all the questions in the creation/evolution debate, then (at least theoretically) we should be able to find them. Even if I can't figure it all out, maybe I can figure out something. I'm a biologist. I'm never going to figure out the "big bang" or radiometric dating, but maybe I can figure out that "created kind" thing. And even if I can't figure that out to my satisfaction, I can be confident that someone might. Because the answers are out there.
I can relax.
So for me, that really sets Core Academy apart. Other organizations want you to buy into their answers so that you can have faith. We want to inspire faith so that you can relax and start looking for answers and maybe even discover some unknown wonder of God's creation. If you're interested in science but tired of all the stress it seems to create, maybe Core Academy is just the organization you're looking for.
Now if I can just boil that down to a pithy little mission statement, we'll be all set.
Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.