Author Archives: thebookofworks

I Believe in Green

How do you explain green to a tribe of completely color blind people? You can point to a leaf and explain that for you, it has a color, different from gray, but those words will have no meaning for the tribe. They want evidence. You can say “OK, you are scientists, right? You know about the electromagnetic spectrum. Here in the visible light region, we go from ultraviolet to infrared, and in between are all these colors.”

They will look at you like you are nuts. “Of course we know about the visible light part of the spectrum.” And they will show you how (in their version of it) the spectrum includes all the subtle shades of gray. They will patiently explain to you that you cannot see this mythological, supernatural quality called “color” in the microwave or radio wave regions, so it is illogical to assume such nonsense exists in the visible portion.

“Light is light,” you will be told. “When it is bright it’s white, when its dark it’s black, and in between are all the shades of gray. This color nonsense is completely unnecessary to see the world”. You would have to agree, especially if you were old enough to remember watching black and white TV, and having no problem making sense of the images.

You will be asked to furnish proof of the existence of color. You cannot do so according to their standards for proof. In fact simply by providing the radiofrequency for green, you have demonstrated nothing. Its still gray to them.

You think of a great experiment. You find two identical objects which differ only in that one is green and one is red. They see them as the exact same shade of gray. But since you can tell them apart, you demonstrate that you can differentiate the two objects while they cannot.

“It’s a trick” they tell you. “It’s a fraud, you must have marked one of the objects in some way. Since its impossible to distinguish the two objects, you have clearly engaged in some form of deception. Or you were just lucky. Or you have been able to detect a very slight difference in gray scale that our instruments haven’t detected yet. But with further research and technology they will” (and they probably will).

Then they take the offensive. “OK, if you believe in this supernatural idea you call color, which you cannot prove, at least describe it. What exactly is green?. We can tell you that light gray is lighter than dark gray. What is green compared to red? You cant even explain what this thing you believe in is.”

Finally you get exasperated and you just say, “Look, Im sorry you don’t understand me, I cant explain it further. But I know that green exists because I can see it. I wish you could also.”

They will simply shake their heads. And tell you that without evidence, you are dreaming of supernatural things that don’t exist. “You simply believe in Green”.  

As We Forgive Those…

My childhood was not a happy one. It wasn’t my parents—they were fine, and I was never abused or mistreated by my family. They were militant atheists, and I grew up with no concept of God or anything beyond a materialistic world, but that didn’t bother me until much later. The problem I had as a child was where I was living. Brooklyn, New York, is not a gentle place, and it was perhaps even less so in the 1950s and 60s than it is now. The boys in the neighborhood played rough, as boys tend to do, but there was a deeper menacing presence surrounding us as children. Many of the adults we knew were connected in some degree to the pervasive crime families that dominated parts of New York City at the time.

And then there were the gangs. I remember arriving at school one day to find a young man hanging on the fence, where he had been left the night before as a punishment and warning. The police arrived and took him down. He was badly injured but alive, and he refused to speak a word. It was a powerful message to the whole neighborhood. 

Shortly after I reached adolescence, something changed on my block. The guys I had hung out with all decided to form their own gang. I wanted to be a part of it, but my parents put their foot down and forbade it. I tried to defy them, but in the end, reason (and perhaps the hand of God?) prevailed, and I told the guys that I would not be joining them in their exciting plans to spread mayhem through the neighborhood. 

While this was obviously the right decision, I suffered for it for several years. I became the new gang’s primary target. Getting home from school became a terrifying and dangerous daily adventure. No matter how many new routes I came up with to avoid them, I was attacked and beaten several times over the next few years, and it wasn’t until I finally left Brooklyn for college that I had any sense of safety in my life. 

While I no longer felt the kind of fear that had tormented me, what I couldn’t leave behind was my anger. The one time I had gotten the better of my tormentors was when I became so angry that I let loose and actually hurt one of them badly. As an adult, I retained the sense of rage that I felt against the gang, and particularly the leader. I would fantasize about meeting him somewhere and doing him great harm. At different times, I told some of the details of my childhood experiences to people close to me, and each time I received sympathy and understanding. I also would add how angry I felt, and how that anger had given me strength and the iron determination to never be a victim, to always fight for the safety and security of myself and those I loved. I was a pretty tough guy, and I was proud of it. 

I never thought that the way I felt about that part of my life would or could ever change, and I had no interest in it changing. But it did. In my 40s, I was not a believer, but I had managed to go from the strict atheism of my youth to being an agnostic questioner of the purpose of life, and to considering the possibility that science did not actually have all the answers to every question.

One day, I told the story of my childhood to a Christian friend, as an explanation of how I had become such a tough guy. She expressed sympathy, but she added something I had never heard or even imagined before: “You need to forgive them.” The words provoked an angry reaction from me. “Never!” I told her. “I hate them for what they did. If I saw them today, I would kill them!” She looked at me in silence for a while. She then said, “Do you hear yourself? Your rage is killingyou, not them. Let it go. Forgive them. Jesus asked for forgiveness for those who crucified Him. He taught us to forgive our enemies.”

I sat there stunned, and somewhat hurt. I was thinking, “Why doesn’t she respect this anger that is so central to my very essence?” Then it struck me: What kind of person thinks of an emotion like anger as part of their essence? How can I be that kind of person? And then I felt a kind of breath, something I couldn’t recognize, come over me. It happened in an instant, and it left me with a vision of joy and peace washing away the dark anger in my soul. I started to cry, and with great emotion I said the words that could never have come before: “I forgive them” and once out of my mouth, everything changed. There was an immediate sense of relief and lightness as a heavy weight inside me disintegrated and left me feeling—free.

I didn’t become a Christian at that moment. I still had a ways to go on my journey. But it was an enormous step for me to take, and the Holy Spirit was there, waiting for me, ready to hold me and guide me. Some years later, the Spirit again showed mercy and presented me with the experience that removed all doubts and hesitation, and I devoted my life to following the risen Christ. Praise God for His grace that saved a sinner like me. 

This post was first published as an article in More to Life Magazine, Dec 1, 2019.

My Literary Collaborators

I am very excited about the release of my book, and I hope and pray that it gets into the hands of those who need it, those whose lives will be improved by reading it. There are, of course, many other Christian books out there. I’m thrilled that so many great Christian books are being published, some written by friends and people I admire.

I don’t think of these books as competition with my own book, but as collaborations in a common cause to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. In the following list, I have highlighted books authored by people I have met, some of whom I count as friends, and some I have only spoken to once or twice. Either way, I am happy to showcase their work here. All are recently published or coming out soon. My listing them here does not mean I necessarily agree with everything they say, but I do think all these books are well worth reading. In addition to my own, of course!

The first two on the list, by Gregg Davidson and Carol Hill, were released on the same day as mine by the same publisher, Kregel.

Friend of Science, Friend of Faith Gregg Davidson

A Worldview Approach to Science and Scripture Carol Hill

The Story of the Cosmos Daniel Ray and Paul Gould

The Genealogical Adam and Eve S Joshua Swamidass (Coming in December)

A Theory of Everything (that Matters) Alister McGrath.

Confronting Christianity Rebecca McLaughlin

God Can’t Thomas Jay Oord

Faith Across the Multiverse Andy Walsh

Science and Faith Hannah Eagleson

Mere Science and Christian Faith Greg Cootsona

God’s Good Earth Jon Garvey

Christianity and the (R)evolution in Worldviews in Western Culture Joel Edmund Anderson

Bringing the Exodus to Life: Book 1 Phillip Cottraux

Why, How, and When did this Book get Written and Published? (Part 1)

I suppose it’s appropriate that my first full-length blog post on this page has a title that contains several questions, since the book itself opens with a chapter called “The Importance of Questions.” The answers to the (six) questions posed by the title could take the space of another book, but I will try to compress a bit.

As all writers know, writing a book and getting it published are two entirely different things. I don’t have a terribly clear answer as to why I began “writing” this book, other than I have always loved writing (this is not my first book) and at some point I thought it would be good to put many of my thoughts about science and my growing Christian faith on (what has now become metaphorical) paper. I put the word writing in quotes in the previous sentence, because what turned into this book began about a decade ago with putting together a bunch of paragraphs and snippets from earlier writings. From then until my retirement in 2015, the book grew slowly as I added more material, moved stuff around, and began thinking about what I really wanted to say.

With advice and help from my wife (more about her below), I started working on the book in earnest after retirement. I started constructing chapters, threw out a lot, and tried to develop some themes and consistency.

A couple of years later, in the summer of 2017, I began showing the chapters to my wife, Aniko. Although not a native speaker, she is an expert linguist, writer, and editor in English, as well as a brilliant researcher (which is the only reason that some of my initial errors in the science part of the book were corrected). She began to edit the chapters as I finished what I thought was the final version (Ha!). I had another reader/editor, a friend from my church, Mark Meredith, the husband of our pastor (Pastor Martha Meredith wrote one of the endorsements of the book). Mark was and remains a huge supporter of the book and is also a skilled editor with a slightly different perspective on some of the material that either Aniko or I had. During the late summer and fall of 2017, I was sending chapters to Mark, and then giving those edited pages to Aniko for the (as we began calling them, somewhat prematurely) the “final final” versions.

In late 2017, I began to think about the terrifying process of seeing if I could find some way to get the book published. My initial thought had been self-publishing, based on a realistic appraisal of the chances of any new, unknown author finding a publisher or an agent. Those odds have been estimated at around 1%, but I decided to at least give it a try before going the self-publishing route. I found a list of Christian literary agents and began writing proposals. From my experience as a research scientist and then an administrator of the review of research proposals at the NIH, I had learned the most important thing about writing proposals: FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS!!!

This meant writing a different proposal for each agency, since, of course, they all have different requirements for what to include and how. One size definitely does not fit all, and the chance that an agent will even look at a book proposal, which is already quite low, drops to zero if the supplicant does not follow the submission guidelines precisely.

So I wrote about a half dozen different proposals and sent them out in two batches. The first batch of three got one reply: “Thank you—this looks interesting, but I cannot take it on.” I focused on the “interesting” part and was encouraged. The next set of three included one to an agent at the Steve Laube Agency, which everyone on the internet seemed to agree was the best Christian literary agency in the country. I sent the proposal to Dan Balow, a relative newcomer to the agency who specialized in non-fiction, and whose blog I liked. Yes, when pitching to an agent, learn who they are, and what they want. It’s worth the time and effort. At least it was in my case, because on  January 16, 2018, I got a reply from Dan telling me he found the proposal interesting—and could we talk on the phone the next day?

I was stunned, flabbergasted, amazed, grateful, and totally euphoric. (Aniko sometimes says I am prone to what she calls Syperbole—I don’t know where she gets that idea.) The next day Dan and I had a great conversation, and he became my agent. We quickly finished the final edits on the final chapters, sent him a full manuscript, and began the next phase of the publication adventure—waiting for news.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story, coming soon.

Cover Design for The Works of His Hands

I had nothing to do with the cover design for the book, but I love it. The image of a covering being torn away to reveal a starry reality evokes the feeling I had when I was able to strip away the dull layer of atheistic materialism to experience the magical wonders of God’s creation, seen in the light of His Word. I also love the colors of a deep blue against a white background. Kudos to the graphic designers at Kregel Publications!

Release date, and pre-order availability for “The Works of His Hands”.

Kregel Publications has set November 19, 2019, as the release date for the book. Pre-orders are now available (see home page for link). If you pre-order the book, you can leave a name and address on the contact information page, and I will send you a signed adhesive bookplate that you can attach to your copy of the book when it arrives. This offer is only good until the release date.