St. George and the Dragon
“W oe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Rev. 12:12, NKJV).*
The dragon is not amused. Suffice it to say that he never laughs—not real laughter anyway—the gentle, unforced mirth that rises in all who are secure within themselves, with God, and with His universe.And while the dragon has been plenty busy of late—instigating brutalities in Syria and Ukraine; manufacturing yet more Ebola in West Africa—it is no stretch to surmise that he was particularly unhappy with one small Utah city at the end of August, and with a midsized gathering of scientists and theologians who collectively determined to stem the progress of his kingdom. According to the ancient Christian legend, the dragon has always hated St. George.
All of this may seem an overly cosmic reading of the circumstances surrounding the International Conference on the Bible and Science that gathered in St. George, Utah, August 15-24. Hosted by the Faith and Science Council of the General Conference, and coordinated by the Education Department and Geoscience Research Institute (GRI), the event drew more than 400 of the Adventist Church’s leading theologians and scientists together for 10 days of conversation, lectures, field trips, and inspiration. The conference’s clearly stated purposes included a goal “to demonstrate the biblical worldview as a lens through which to view science and reality, as supported by examples from history, theology, biology, and geology,” and another “to equip teachers to develop an informed faith in the biblical view of earth history and to share that view with their students in a faith-affirming way.”
But when we bring these goals down to the level of what actually happens in hundreds of Adventist secondary, collegiate, and graduate classrooms around the globe, the cosmic nature of what occurred in St. George begins to be apparent. It is no mystery that one of the devil’s most important targets at this moment is the generation of young Seventh-day Adventists now moving through the church’s worldwide educational system. If they can be intimidated by intense cultural propaganda and lukewarm enthusiasm among some who teach in Adventist classrooms into “going quiet” on the significance of faith in the Bible’s account of origins, the broad, smooth path that leads to theological disintegration and disorientation will tempt many of them beyond which they are able. They will move out into professions, trades, services—and even ministry—unsteady, uncertain, and unsure at just the moment when exactly opposite convictions are needed.
The decisive question of the moment is whether this generation of Adventist parents, grandparents, teachers, and leaders can successfully communicate our biblically derived faith—without loss—to the generations that follow us. Nothing in the church’s arsenal of holy weaponry is so potent against the dragon as a thoughtful, honest, and faith-affirming Adventist classroom. Which is precisely why our classrooms are, for all their seeming tranquility, the focus of a cosmic battle more fierce than we imagine. Unseen forces gather there for combat, with eternal consequences at least as real as any we glimpse in dry Iraqi deserts.
This is just the time that Adventist believers, like Elisha the prophet, ought to be praying with all the focus holy faith is granted: “Lord, we pray, open their eyes that they may see” (see 2 Kings 6:17). We pray for teachers—of Bible and biology, geometry and geology, education and environmental science, nursing and nutrition, social science and sola scriptura—that they will be reminded, and if necessary, chastened, by the horses and chariots of fire arrayed upon the mountainside. And we pray for students—of every kind, in every classroom—that they will feel the brush of wings about their desks. We pray that they will discover the confidence of learning what has always been—and will always be true—in this great and cosmic controversy: “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (verse 16).
* Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.